Name Help: A Sister for Ben and SamName 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!

Dawn writes:

We have two boys, and are expecting our third child in August. I was sure it would be another boy, but surprise – it’s a girl!

For a son, we liked Max, but weren’t sure about a longer name. Our sons are Benjamin Hunter and Samuel Emerson. Both middles are family names.

The girl name we planned for years was Kate, short for Katherine. Except our favorite babysitter is Kaitlyn, and we know lots of other girls with Kate/Kay names. I’ve thought about other traditional names, like Elizabeth and Margaret, but I don’t like that they have lots of possible nicknames. Not that I mind the idea of my kid using something else someday, but I like that everyone assumes – correctly! – that Benjamin is Ben and Samuel is Sam.

We don’t have any really great family middles left for baby three. For a boy, our list was Perez, Davis, Brown, Walter, Adam, James, and Scott, but none of them are as obvious/meaningful as the ones we used for our first two children. For a girl, we might use some of these. I love the idea of using my mom’s name, but it’s a very 50s/60s name, as are the names of my mother-in-law and lots of other important women in our lives. One possibility is Irene, my grandmother’s name, but maybe that’s too old-fashioned?

Another thing that bothers me: the kids all have my husband’s surname, which is a common, two-syllable, starts-with-C, ends-with-r name. It never bothered me that there could be other boys called Ben C—–r or Sam C—-r, but with a girl, it’s on my mind a little more.

My mom suggested Mae/May and I love it, but it’s possible we’ll have another baby (or even two) after this, so I don’t want to use a name that means we couldn’t possibly use Max in the future. And I’m not sure I want something that short as her actual name, even though we do like shorter nicknames.

I’m not sure if repeating an initial is a deal-breaker, but I’ve ruled out Beatrice because it seems close to Ben.

Time is running out, and nothing seems right. Where do we start?

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

Dear Dawn –

Years ago, when my mom was expecting her fourth child, I remember her being sure it was another girl. But nope – boy! After three daughters, the only names circled in the baby name book were girl names. My parents had worked out a consistent style for naming girls, but boys … it was as if they were starting from scratch.

It sounds like that’s your position. You can name another son pretty easily, because you’ve been working though your list and agree broadly on a general style.

This suggests that your girl naming style or strategy might be a little different than your approach to naming boys. So rather than applying the same rules you’re using for a naming a son, let’s see if we can start fresh with a list of girl names that might be just the tiniest bit different.

The one rule I’m going to apply is that any nickname suggested has to be pretty obvious and automatic – the equivalent of Samuel/Sam.

Anna – How can it be that classic Anna feels relatively rare – despite appearing in the US Top 100? I rarely hear Anna shortened, but Annie is the obvious – perhaps the only – practical nickname option. Or would you ever consider naming her Anna Katherine and calling her Anna Kate? Just a thought …

Clara – Clara also appears just beyond the current US Top 100, but then, Ben and Sam are in the Top 25. I think Clara makes a perfect sister name for your boys. It’s classic, but has a cool factor. Everyone recognizes it, but it’s clearly a name that belongs to this generation. (Or, you know, the late nineteenth century. Same thing, kind of.)

Leah – Ben and Sam both come from the Bible, though it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the names. Similarly, Leah is drawn straight out of the Old Testament. But somehow, all three names feel brisk and modern, not ancient.

Lucy – The name that immediately came to mind was Lucy. It might be short for Lucille or Lucia or Lucinda, but I like Lucy on its own with Ben and Sam. A perfect example of how a name might not exactly fit the pattern, but can still feel exactly right. If Lucy is close, but not quite the right name, there’s also Mary, Ruby, Molly, Lily, Ivy, or Daisy.

Jane – Or maybe a slim, trim, single-syllable girl name would suit? I love Jane with Ben and Sam. It’s crisp, clearly feminine and sounds just a little bit different while still fitting right in. Or maybe Grace or Claire?

Mabel – You mentioned Mae, so I wonder if Mabel is worth considering? It’s darling on a child, and it’s easy to imagine on an adult. But would another M name rule out using Max in the future? I think Max and Mabel could easily be siblings …

Rose – Or any of the Rose names: Rosalie, Rosemary, Rosanna, maybe? The advantage of Rose is that it shortens (well, lengthens really!) to Rosie, and it’s tough to imagine another nickname catching on.

Tessa – Ben, Sam, and Tess are practically perfect together, and Tessa is just enough formal name. Strictly speaking, Tess and company came from Theresa. But today, Tessa feels right at home on a child, while Theresa fees dated.

Overall, my favorite is Lucy, followed by Rose. Neither follows your rules perfectly, but I think they may fit Ben and Sam exactly right.

As for middles, I think lots of these work well – Davis, Perez, and Brown, certainly – but maybe James and Scott, too, depending on the exact combination. I love Lucy Davis LastName best of all.

Readers, over to you – what would you name a sister for Ben and Sam?

Image by Ghandy Arturo Carbonel Torres from Pixabay

Name Help: A Sister for Ben and Sam

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What do you think?


  1. Your daughter will surely appreciate not being one of a million Kate/Kaes. If you love Max so much, why not use it for your daughter? Maxine Perez has a nice sound, and you can call her Max. Benjamin, Samuel, and Maxine sound strait from the Roaring 20s.

  2. I would go with Margaret nicknamed Mae. I don’t think any girl names have automatically-assumed nicknames the same way so many classic boy names do (and even then, I know brothers named Benjamin and Samuel who do NOT shorten them). My daughter is Margaret, and it’s not a big deal to state what her nickname is. If we don’t state it, people assume she just goes by Margaret rather than guessing a nickname.

    I also wouldn’t reject Katherine->Kate over a current babysitter with a similar name, if that’s your primary hesitation. And I would point out “Katherine” as another example of a lack of “go-to” nicknames for girls. Were I to guess, I would think Katherine would go by Katie.

    I would also throw in for your consideration Annabelle->Anna; Adelaide or Adeline or Addison->Addie; Alexandra -> Alex; and Eloise or Eleanor or Elizabeth->Ellie. Or a nice nicknameless name could work: Lucy, Laura, Hannah, Grace, Ava, Sophia, Zoe.

  3. Why don’t you use Maxine nn Max? The only downside is that if you see yourself having more kids in the future Max is out for any boys. But if you aren’t worried about this or she’s your last then that isn’t a problem.

    So I’m guessing you want a strong , no nonsense nickname with a longer name. I’m also getting late 90’s vibes.

    Suggestions –

    Alessandra nn Sandy
    Jennelle nn Jenn
    Andrea nn Andy
    Natalie nn Nat
    Nicole nn Nicky
    Danielle nn Dani
    Melissa nn Mel
    Jacqueline nn Jackie
    Cassandra nn Cass (She could be Sandy too)
    Whitney nn Whit
    Meghan nn Meg
    Mikayla nn Mika
    Vivian nn Viv
    Kimberly nn Kim
    Melanie nn Mel
    Joanna nn Jo
    Vanessa nn Ness
    Adriana nn Ana

    I also want to suggest Lindsay , Renee and Jenna but I can’t think of nicknames for those.

  4. I love Clara (Clare), Tessa (Tess), Mabel (Mae), and Rosalie or Rosemary (Rosie) for your little one. Congratulations!

  5. If you really love Mae, you should use it! But you could definitely find a longer name that shortens to Mae, so as to fit in better with Ben & Sam. HOWEVER, it wouldn’t be obvious that Mae is the nickname, which is what you liked about Benjamin “Ben” and Samuel “Sam”.

    So you could find another nickname for Katherine. But, again, none would be as practical as Kate/Katie, except maybe Kathy, which is pretty dated, or Kat, which is less traditional in sound than Ben or Sam or Kate.

    Otherwise, I would go with Grace or Abigail from the suggestions. They match really well with Benjamin and Samuel, and they come with the most obvious of nicknames: Gracie and Abby/Abbie. Couldn’t be simpler!

    1. Oh! And I forgot to add:
      If Grace and Abigail are too popular for you, Susanna “Annie” is one I would suggest. It might not be the most obvious of pairs, but it could work as well as Katie does for Katherine.

  6. A couple ideas…

    Cynthia Irene – Cindy – Ben, Sam and Cindy. Similar vibe to Katherine and Beatrice, and Cindy seems like a possible peer for Mae.

    Joy Davis – Ben, Sam, And Joy. If you want a three letter mini name like Mae, what about Joy? Can’t beat the meaning.

    Josephine – Ben, Sam and Jo. Very little women, again it fits the Katherine/Beatrice vibe. Jo sounds tough enough to hang with two big brothers. And Jo is the dominant nickname.

    Best of luck!