Name Help: Sibling for Sophie KaiName Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.

We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!

Megan writes:

We have a daughter named Sophie Kai and I love her name so much that naming her new sibling seems like an impossible task.

I always loved Sophia/Sofia because I travel internationally, both for my work and for a love of seeing new places. My partner and I met while traveling in South America, and we’ve been to four continents together (and counting) since then – three with Sophie!

When I first started spending time abroad, I used to wish my name were Margaret so it was easier to understand. My partner’s name, John, is universally known. That quality is important to me.

We chose Kai because I’ve been lucky enough to spend lots of time in Hawaii and my partner was born there. However, he’s not of Native Hawaiian descent, so names like Meilani feel inauthentic to me. (I’m not sure they’re really our style anyway.)

Kai was the perfect compromise. Again, it’s international, with lots of origins/languages claiming it, but it’s also meaningful, as my work has to do with the environment, especially water.

My partner has suggested Louis/Luis and I feel like that’s our top choice for a boy. Our second is possibly some form of Luke/Lucas. Middle names need some help, because Louis Luke or Lucas Luis isn’t a choice!

On girls’ names we are pretty lost. Maybe our list is just a little obvious? In no particular order, we have discussed:

  • EMMA
  • ANNA
  • EVA

Can you give us some guidance: Louis/Luis or Luke/Lucas for a boy? And what would we possibly name a girl?

Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new daughter!

Sophie Kai is a great name and it checks off every wish on your list. Let’s see if I can sum them up:

  1. A first name that is traditional and widely-known across languages and cultures, with multiple translations.
  2. A middle name that is personally significant.
  3. An overall style that is energetic and upbeat.


Let’s start with boys’ names first.

Between Louis/Luis and Luke/Lucas, it’s really tough to decide. Here are some things to consider:

  • Do you have a pronunciation preference? The ‘s’ is always pronounced in Luis, while Louis varies.
  • Luis tends to read Spanish, particularly in the US. That might be a little bit confusing if that doesn’t reflect your family’s heritage, but it does make for a very portable name.
  • Luke strikes me as the most like John – a strong, masculine classic. It’s widely known, not only because of the Bible but, well, Luke Skywalker. And lots of other famous fictional and real Lukes, too. I feel like you could go to any corner of the earth and Luke would be understood as a given name.
  • Louis is much less common, at least in the US. Luke is more popular, with Lucas in the US Top Ten and Luke not far behind in the Top 40, plus Luca ranks in the 30s.

Because the popularity of Sophie/Sophia/Sofia was part of the name’s appeal to you, I’m going to suggest you stick with Luke. It mirrors your partner’s name and shares some of the best qualities of Sophie, too.

It feels challenging to offer up middle name ideas, since it feels like these should be personally meaningful. But if we stick to the theme of water, you might consider:

  • Luke Caspian
  • Luke Hurley (from an Irish surname meaning flood or tide; also a surf company)
  • Luke Marius (Latin name that might refer to the god Mars or to the ocean, via the word mar)
  • Luke Morrissey (from an Irish surname meaning sea valor)
  • Luke River

I’m partial to something like Luke Marius, but I feel like this will fall into place once you settle on a final first name.


I think all of your names have potential. They match the same qualities as Sophie in terms of being classic names broadly used across cultures.

My thought is that Eva might be the best bet, in terms of something that feels a little less expected than Emma or Anna. And while I love Leah, I share your uncertainty about how to spell it. Compared to the simplicity of Eva, that feels like a potential frustration.

But since none of them quite hit the mark, let’s try some new names, too.



At first glance, Cleo isn’t really like Sophie. It’s not a classic, exactly. But Cleopatra makes it internationally known, and that’s not the kind of fame that will fade. (She became somewhere around 50 BC, and we’re still making movies about her, so …) Plus it shares sounds with Sophie, so I wonder if you’d like it. Sophie and Cleo are just plain fun to say together.


Elena/Helena/Helen is another in the Sophie/Sophia/Sofia club, one that is heard in pretty much every European language, and beyond that, too.


This might be a long shot, but if you love the way John sounds, would June appeal? It’s not anywhere near as portable as most of the other names on this list, but then again, many of our names don’t travel perfectly.


Another pan-European possibility, this one a little less common than the Sophie family.


Of course, how well a name travels depends very much on your destination. Maya is broadly known in English, with roots in Sanskrit, too. And then there’s a Hebrew name Maya that means water.


On a similar note, pretty much every western language has something that sounds a little like Maya or Mila, even if you have to drop the second syllable.


In this case, it’s Teresa/Theresa/Therese that feels like the more classic, widely translated choice. But since Tessa is far more current, it’s the version that sounds most like a sister to Sophie.


Again, Zoe is a broadly-recognized name, even if it’s not at Sophie/Margaret/Elena levels. I’m hesitating only because it’s visually shorter than Sophie – by a lot – but shares lots of sounds with Sophie, making me wonder if that means it’s perfect, or a little too close?

Overall, I keep coming back to Maya and Elena. I love the middle name Bay, if you’d like to continue the water theme. (It’s not on my boys’ list because it’s a little too brief with Luke.)

Sophie Kai and Maya Bay, maybe? Though all of the names on the boys’ list have potential, too. Maya River, maybe?

I also noticed that there’s a lake in Maui called Violet Lake, and I love the sound of Elena Violet – though I don’t know if that feels notable to you personally.

From your girls’ list, I’m still all about Eva. I’m tempted to suggest something like Eva Caspian, or maybe another body of water with meaning to you and your partner?

Readers over to you! What would you name a brother or sister for Sophie Kai?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I think you have a great list of girl’s names!

    It strikes me that Emma, Anna, and Eva would all sound lovely with Lia (or Lea) as a middle name:

    Emma Lia
    Anna Lia
    Eva Lia

    They all seem well balanced with Sophie Kai!

    Some other names that came to mind (either as first or middle names):


    For boy names, I like the sound of Louis (which I tend to read as “LOU-ee”) and Lucas alongside Sophie.

    Some possibilities for name combinations:

    Louis Kanoa
    Louis Reef
    Louis Rain

    Lucas Noa
    Lucas Bo
    Lucas Nalu

    But my favorite idea is a middle name taken from your travels! I love how personal your first child’s name is for you and your husband.

  2. The name story of your first is really sweet. I actually think “Luke” works with sister “Sophie” as they’re both international yet approachable/familiar. A few recs would be…

    + Luke MAREN/MARREN — I believe this is a water-related name.
    + Luke FRANCISCO — if the “São Francisco River” has any reference to anywhere you’ve been in your travels.
    + Luke RONAN

    For a girl sibling’s middle name, my first thought was…

    “Sophie Kai & Marina Eve”.

    Vice-versa — “Eve Marina”

    Hope this helps and it gets easier!

  3. Eva is the perfect cross-cultural choice (a family member of mine, who does a lot of travel, chose the name for their daughter for exactly that reason!) so that gets my vote.

    Some other ideas for a girl: Lena, Marta, Tamara, Naomi or Noemi, Vera, and since you like Louis for a boy – Louise or Louisa?

    Coral could be a possibility for a middle name. I also thought of Waverly (containing wave).

    For a boy, I think Louis is pretty perfect and spot-on with Sophie – both French names, but with an international flair. Lucas also works beautifully. I think I would go with Lucas nn Luke so that he has options depending on what country you happen to be in.

    For a middle name, I want to suggest Finn. It has always struck me as the perfect complement to Kai. Brief and breezy, used in multiple languages, easy to say and spell, and tangentially related to the ocean in the sense of fins belonging to marine animals. Louis Finn or Lucas Finn would be great!

  4. What about Meridian as a middle? It’s a little intense, but super cool, and represents your families love of travel. Maya Meridian, maybe, or Elena Meridian?

  5. Elena was the name that came to mind as I first started reading your letter. It seems to be universally popular without being ubiquitous in a negative way.

    You might consider:
    Ava Alexandra — you mentioned Eva; do you pronounce that with a long E or long A sound?
    Isla — a long i sound, but pronounced differently in Spanish.
    Julia or Juliet

    For boys, I keep thinking of French-sounding middle names to pair with Louis:
    Louis Philippe, Louis Marc, Louis Georges, Louis Pierre . . .

    Louis Pax — Latin for peace, although you would want to check to determine any other uses of Pax beyond the Latin meaning. I like Pax because it has a similar vibe as Kai.

    Best wishes to you!

  6. For girls what about…

    All of those names feel very versatile and easily recognizable.

    What about Leo for a boy? Leo Lucas or Leo Louis sounds great! Leo and Sophie!

  7. Violet as a first name could work! It’s similar to Sophie in the Violet/Violetta/Viola camp. Sophie and Violet are so sweet!

    Some other ideas:

    Anya (or another Anna variation – Sophie and Annette would be so cute!)

    (I think my comment didn’t go through, but sorry if I’m doubling up!)