Name Help: A Sibling for Greta AlvenellName 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!

Rae writes:

We are expecting our second child in early January and I keep feeling like none of the options we like as standalone names quite fit with a sibset.

Our first child is Greta Alvenell and I honestly love so much about her name. I love that Greta is feminine without frills, easily recognized without being popular, has a straightforward spelling and pronunciation, and also that it doesn’t lend easily to nicknames.

The middle is our loose, creative homage to my grandfather Alvin.

This baby is a surprise so we need boy and girl options.

Names we both agree on but are definitely not exclusively looking at include:

  • Duncan, Amos, Angus, Marius, Ansel, and Bram for a boy.
  • Beatrix, Marlo, Agnes, Aster, Flora, and Tabitha for a girl.

For a middle something also based on a family name would be nice: Espey, Jean/Gene, Kay, Jon, Elizabeth or Katherine.

Would greatly appreciate any and all suggestions – thank you!

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your second!

Greta Alvenell is absolutely gorgeous. And as an honor name for Alvin, it’s just perfect. Are you sure you need help?!

I jest.

Because often it’s when we’ve gotten it just exactly right for our firstborn that naming her sibling feels impossible.

Two things leap out at me.

First, your list feels far more rare, and maybe even a little more daring. Greta feels like a neglected classic, a name that we all know – even if few of us are choosing it for our children. It’s a reliable Top 1000 choice. This time, though, only one of the girls’ names  and one of the boys’ appear names in the current US Top 1000. (Though that’s not the only – or even the best – measure of familiarity.) Amos and Flora would be great choices, but I’m not sure if I’d automatically make them the frontrunners.

Second, nickname-proof/easily spelled-pronounced is challenging, and some of these fall a little short. I’d say Duncan, Agnes, and Flora are the names that don’t lend themselves to an automatic/obvious nickname, though even Agnes is often Aggie. More on that below!


Let’s start with your current list for boys.

  • Bram is one of my favorites, and it meets lots of your criteria. However, it’s very rare in the US. I can imagine it being misheard as Bran by anyone who watched Game of Thrones.
  • Marius and Ansel strike me as easy to mis-hear. Maybe it’s because they’re uncommon, or maybe the sounds are just a little too vowel-heavy.
  • Angus and Amos feel like possibilities. And yet, I’m not sure if they feel like a match with Greta.
  • While Duncan is outside of the US Top 1000, it feels nicely familiar. Like Greta, Duncan has plenty of strong, distinctive sounds.

So from your list, Duncan gets my vote.

I’ll add a few more ideas.


A handsome, traditional choice that has the same sort of vaguely European vibe as Greta.


A short name with a strong sound, Curt could be spelled with a K. So that’s a negative. But Curt – or even Curtis – is one of those names we all know, but seldom hear.


Trading Marius’ M for the D of Duncan somehow makes this name feel a little more mainstream.


Often considered a nickname for Dashiell, Dash ranks in the US Top 1000 – while Dashiell does not. That makes Dash a name with lots of twenty-first century energy, but a feeling that it’s not completely novel.


A nature name, Heath saw some use in the 1960s and 70s, thanks to a popular television character. It’s remained familiar, thanks to figures like the late Heath Ledger.


Are surname names on your radar at all? I like the style of something like Thatcher with Greta. It’s strong, distinctive, and yet familiar, too.

I’m not sure any of these top Duncan, but I really do like the sound of Greta and Conrad.


Since Beatrice is more popular than Beatrix, I suspect that could be a hassle. Likewise, Marlo will probably be mistaken for the more popular Marlowe.

Aster feels maybe a little out there.

And I’ve yet to meet a Tabitha who wasn’t Tab/Tabby at least some of the time.

That leaves Agnes and Flora. Both are great! Flora is more familiar, though, so I’d put it at the top of my list.

Greta and Flora could be perfect together.

Let’s see if anything else clicks.


With several possible meanings and origins, Alma is a distinctive name that really only has one spelling and pronunciation.


I do love Marlo’s O-ending, which got me thinking about other options. Margot is too popular; that’s even more true for Willow! While there are lots of options, Cleo feels like the best fit with your list.


A brief name with bold style, Faye might be spelled Fay or Fae, but the four-letter version is the most common, by far.


A homespun name that mixes traditional vibes with plenty of warmth, Martha is another one of those names everybody knows, but nobody chooses.


Since Aster is a word name, would you consider a vintage gemstone name, like Opal?


A cousin to Sylvester and Silas, this French form of Sylvia has caught on in the US in recent years.

I love the sound of Greta and Sylvie best of all, but it’s easy to imagine any of these working beautifully for your family.

Maybe Sylvie Jonquil, to play off family name Jon? Or Flora Aspen, since Espey refers to aspen trees in German. (I think! Surnames can be tricky, and if your family is Scottish, it could be something else entirely.) I like Duncan Espey an awful lot, too.

Readers, over to you – what would you name a sibling for Greta Alvenell?

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. Hi everyone!! Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses ☺️ Agnes Theodora (an honor name to Theodore Espey my FIL) was born last night! Her nns will be Thea and Dory in a similar fashion to how we got to Greta Alvenell (nns Nell/Nelly)

  2. Hi! Love the name Greta and the unique middle name. For boys…I will second Hugo (my older nephew’s name) and add Casper (my younger nephew’s name). I think they both go well with Greta. Felix, Bruno, Henry, Linus, Carsten…these are some boy names that work well, I think. Also, for girls, I like Solveig (ok…I know it’s a little out there), Eloise (my niece’s name), Sophie, Calla, Ingrid, Elsa, Verena (one of my character’s names in a fantasy novel I just finished for kids 10-12), Sabina (another character) and Sascha (another character).

  3. Do you like Malcolm? He’s got one spelling, isn’t terribly popular, and doesn’t need a nickname.
    Malcolm Gene

    For a little lady, what about Fern? Fern Espey?

    The suggestion of Martha is excellent. Every Martha I have known has been SO NICE.
    Greta Alvenell and Martha Espey

    Carl? How does he feel in your family? Greta and Carl.

    Ada might work. Ada Espey is sweet!
    Greta and Ada

    Blanche is lovely.
    Blanche Espey and Greta Alvenell

    Irene!!!! Irene Espey and Greta Alvenell. Ooh! I love this combo.

    Do you like Hugh? Greta and Hugh? If you’re extra daring, there’s Homer.

    Congratulations and best wishes!

  4. Flora is lovely. Also Florence?
    My mind went straight to Heidi.

    With Espey … Pick up ESPE and make it Vesper?
    Gene could also be Geneva

    Heidi Vesper and Greta Alvenell
    Vesper Kate and Greta Alvenell
    Heidi Geneva and Greta Alvenell
    Geneva Kate and Greta Alvenell

    I’m liking Amos
    Also suggesting
    Jonas for Jon
    Eli for Elizabeth
    Evan is a form of Jon as a middle option
    Felix sounds like it’s strong and is easy to say and spell yet spunky

    Hugo Eli and Greta Alvenell
    Amos Eli and Greta Alvenell
    Jonas Eli and Greta Alvenell
    Felix Jonas and Greta Alvenell

    Love to hear what you choose.

  5. I actually think Marius is quite straightforward, and though not common, is certainly familiar. I’m having trouble hearing how it could be misheard, but maybe it’s different in my Australian accent. I’m thinking Mario with a muted ending and an s.

    I wonder if something with the initials SP could work as a nod to the family name Espey … Silas Paul?

    Espey also made me think of Elspeth, which I think is quite lovely alongside Greta, but also makes for a nice interesting middle name alongside Alvenell. There is also the added bonus of it being an Elizabeth variant.

    Genevieve would also be a lovely middle name to honour Jean/Gene.

    Greta Alvenell & Elspeth Genevieve?

    Greta Alvenell & Flora Elspeth?
    Or Clara Elspeth I think I like them better.

    I know I’m leaning into girls names here, but I also love the suggestion of Estelle. Greta and Estelle are beautiful together … Greta Alvenell and Estelle Genevieve?

    All the best!!

  6. Zora