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 love all the suggestions- I just have to add Nina!
    Nina Bay or Nina Bright first came to mind.

    I love Lucas for a boy

  2. Based on the middle name you chose for your daughter, with its connection to Hawaii, I think that the name Koa (like the Hawaiian Koa tree) would be great.

    Sophie Kai and Elena koa or Luke Koa etc. is pretty cute!

  3. I feel like Greta has the same spunk as Sophie. And since you love Margaret maybe that is a reasonable compromise?

    Margaret Eva. Nn Greta

    Eva as a first has the pronunciation issue. Ee-va or eh-va — 2/3 of the world uses the later. But as a middle who cares?

    For the boys, Louis has the same pronunciation issue. Plus it still irks me that Lou is the British term for the toilet, so “Louie” sounds all kinds of wrong (especially for a prince!). Lewis is my preference, but I digress.

    Personally I’d go with Luke or Lucas.

    Lucas Graham nn Luke? Graham feels close to an anagram of Meghan.

    Lucas Koa could work if this is the last babe. Otherwise you might find naming number 3 hard with Sophie Kai.

  4. I Luke is perfect as brother to Sophie. They share the same streamlined and classic but on-trend vibe. My favorite options for sister names: Eve, Nora, Liv, Clara.

  5. Lewis to avoid the Luis/Louis issue
    Lewis Cole
    Lewis Zane
    Lewis Knox

    You could do Louise for a girl.