Name Help: A Twin Brother for MichaelName 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:

My husband and I are hoping you can help us decide on names for our twin boys due in May.

We first landed on the name Michael for our boy name. It is my husband’s father’s name, and we both like it.

Now that we know we are having twins, we are having a difficult time deciding on the second boy’s name.

Here are a few of our considerations:

  • We have a short, Anglo-Saxon surname, so I think the given name should be compatible with that.
  • Is it weird to give one son a family name and not the other son? We love the name Vincent, for example, however that name has no family ties.
  • Also, while Vincent is a classic name it certainly isn’t as common as Michael. Not sure what the “rule” is here— I don’t want the names to be too matchy, but I do think the names should flow together.
  • In that same breath, a few people have suggested Gabriel or Raphael as names for the second twin, but that is a bit on the nose for my liking.

Here is a current list of first and middle names on our radar but we are open to – and desperately need – suggestions!

Family Names: David, Ernest, Jesse, Joseph, Michael, Samuel, Sebastian, Zachary

Names We Like: Christopher, Everett, Ezra, Isaac, Jasper, Vincent

Zachary is my husband’s name. Is it strange for to name one twin after the father? We also considered naming the second twin Zachary but calling him by his middle name, but that raises additional questions.

Here’s the story behind Christopher. When we were trying to conceive my mother-in-law had a dream that there were two little boys in our family, one of whom was named Christopher. I didn’t think much of her dream … until we found out we were expecting twin boys!

In addition, several friends unprompted have suggested the name Christopher to us. Aaaand … my name was supposed to be Christopher – my parents thought I was a boy up until birth!

All this to say — perhaps the second twin is trying to name himself! I love the name Christopher but my husband is lukewarm.

Michael (and Zachary for that matter) is such a common, traditional name. I like the idea of pairing it with a classic but perhaps uncommon middle name (such as Ambrose?) to jazz things up a bit.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your twins!

Let’s start with some of your questions before we dive into names.


Plenty of parents give their firstborn a family name – sometimes because of custom, but often because they just want to. Future children receive names the parents just plain like. And that’s fine. Maybe it creates a little bit of jealousy. Or pressure to live up to being James Edward Smith IV. But mostly? My guess is that it fades into the background pretty quickly.

Twins, though, do feel a little different. And I generally think that if one twin is going to receive a family name, the second should, too. But it doesn’t have to be perfectly balanced. One son could be FamilyNameFirst NameYouLoveMiddle, while the second might be NameYouLoveFirst and FamilyNameMiddle.


As you’ve noted, family names carry different weights.

Being named after your parent is immediate and obvious. It’s inescapable, especially when you reach a certain age and can be confused for each other.

On the other hand, my son is named for his grandfather – and no one knows unless we specifically mention it. How would they, unless they know your extended family?


While you’re right to avoid anything too matched, looking for balance feels like the right instinct.

Happily, there are lots of ways to balance out your boys’ names. I’d consider Eleanor and Louise perfectly matched, even though Eleanor is a Top 25 name and Louise doesn’t crack the current Top 500.

Take Vincent and Michael. They have different roots and histories, but they work well together – two traditional favorites that have stood the test of time.


My first thought is this: you’re on the right track. Michael is a family name you both agree on. And while Mike is a dad name, Michael is fresh and handsome for a son. Pair it with an interesting middle name, like Ambrose or Ernest or Everett, and you’re there.

I’m tempted to push you to choose a name you both like for your second son – Everett, Ezra, Isaac, Jasper, Vincent –  with the middle name Zachary.

It ensures that both boys have a family name. But giving the weightier family name – dad’s – to the second son as a middle? That feels like the right balance to Michael. Plus, Z is a cool middle initial!

The name that leapt out from your list was Isaac. Michael MiddleName and Isaac Zachary.

Except … they could be Mike and Ike. They don’t have to be! The non-name obsessed might never notice. (And I grew up down the street from the place Mike and Ike candy originated, so I might be more Mike-and-Ike aware than many.) But it could be. It wouldn’t be a dealbreaker for me at all, but I can see that it might rule the names out for many parents.

Still, lots of names work in this loose framework. We’ll get back to that in a minute …


So … is Christopher a family name?

Obviously, it fails the most specific test: there is no immediate family member with the name. Or any form of the name. (At least of which you are aware.)

And yet, the story behind Christopher beats out the stories behind Michael and Zachary and any other family name you’ve mentioned, right?

It’s a significant name, even if isn’t specifically found on your family tree.

Christopher pairs nicely with Michael. They’re both rock solid classics that enjoyed a burst of popularity in the later half of the twentieth century, before mellowing in use. Now they just feel like traditional names.

I wonder if your husband hesitates because Christopher feels more likely to be shortened? I know one young Christopher, who never uses a nickname. And really, we live in an age when lots of children answer to Oliver, Julian, or Isaiah – no nickname, thanks.


If not one of the names on your list, would you consider:


There’s something dashing about Anthony. It’s traditional, familiar, and yet relatively uncommon.

JONAH #128

A Biblical name that splits the difference between buttoned-up Joseph and current favorite Ezra.


A popular name for ages, but somehow Jonathan still feels uncommon.


Is two M names too much? Michael and Matthew are perfect brother names, distinctive despite the shared first initial.

PETER #214

Gen Z grew up with Peter Parker, making this a superhero name – as well as a classic.


Never out of style, Thomas is darling when shortening to Tommy. But it’s even more handsome when used in full.


I’m still tempted to put Michael Everett (or Ambrose or another name you just love) and Isaac Zachary at the top of the list.

But it’s not perfect, so maybe …

  • Vincent Zachary and Michael Ambrose – I like the way their middle initials are A and Z.
  • Everett Zachary and Michael Vincent – I think they’re a good mix of familiar names, even if the styles vary slightly.
  • Samuel Zachary and Michael Sebastian – Samuel makes a great brother name for Michael … except since Samuel is nearly always Sam, it probably encourages us to shorten Michael to Mike. I chose Sebastian because it sounds great, and pulls all four names from your family list.
  • Ezra Zachary and Michael Ernest – But maybe it’s too much Z in Ezra Zachary?
  • Jonah Zachary and Michael Ambrose – That might be my second favorite, behind only Michael and Isaac.
  • Michael Christopher and Jonah Zachary – I really like using Christopher as a middle name, especially because you’ll get to tell that amazing story.

Okay, I think you have lots of great options. Let’s open it up to others!

Readers, what would you name a twin brother for Michael? Do you have any fresh ideas for first or middle names?


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. A huge thank you Abby & everyone for your suggestions! This is so immensely helpful. After reading Abby’s post last week, my husband and I landed on Michael Vincent & Christopher Zachary as the front runners. I’m tickled to read everyone’s comment a week later to see how many of you also love this combination! Another sign, perhaps? 😉 I love what Abby has to say about Christopher–while it’s not technically a family name, it’s a significant name.

    Also–I adore the nickname “Kit” for Christopher. I’ve always said that “Mickey” would be a cute nickname for baby Michael (still love the name Michael, but it seems like such a big name for a little babe!)

    Thanks again for offering your suggestions and opinions, all!