Name 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!
We have twin sons, Nathaniel Biagio and Theodore Severino. They go by Nate and Theo. Their middle names are from my big, Italian family. They’re not honor names, just ones we found and liked. (My great-aunt researched our family tree way before ancestry.com was a thing.)
Our last name is one-syllable: R0ss.
Now we’re expecting again. If this baby was a girl, she would’ve been Josephine Loredana, called Josie or maybe even Posy.
Instead it’s a boy, and we’re feeling stuck.
We don’t want to use Nicholas, because both Nick and Nico seem too close to their brothers’ names. Alexander is our current front-runner, but my husband’s name is Allan, and we’re not sure about the repeating Al- sounds. (I know it would probably be fine. But it still feels taken.) We like all of the Leo names, but Leo and Theo! I like Zachary, but Zack not as much. And I considered Jonathan, nn Jack, but my husband likes nicknames that are obvious. Bennett is my nephew, so Ben/Benjamin is out, too.
Can you help us find more names where we like the long and the short?!
Please read on for my reply, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Lyssa –
Congratulations on your new baby!
It’s so easy to feel like we’ve set a pattern, so I feel like the first thing to say is this: it’s okay to break the rules! Sometimes The Right Name doesn’t check every box, but still works for your family. (And those box-checking names? They could be very much the wrong fit.)
In fact, a few of the names that came to mind struck me as maybe wrong, even though they’re right on paper. Dominic feels aggressively Italian if you’re planning to use another heritage name in the middle spot. But then Cameron felt a little too brisk and modern, compared to traditional Nathaniel and Theodore. And Rafael and Gabriel are both great choices – except are Rafe and Gabe just plain too close to Nate?
I narrowed my list to eight possibilities, though I definitely have a favorite or two!
Charles called Charlie – I concede that Charlie isn’t exactly short, and Charles is far from long. It’s one of those names where the informal version and the formal version are both two syllables. And the exact same number of letters. But still. I think, style-wise, that Charlie sounds like Nate and Theo’s brother, plus it has the same dressed-up/dressed-down format.
Andrew called Drew – I know repeating an initial A is a concern, but maybe less so if his everyday use name starts with a D?
Edward called Ned – I suppose your Theodore could grow up and choose to go by Ted. Which risks your sons sounding like characters from a Dr. Seuss story. But if you’re willing to chance it, Edward called Ned feels like an intriguing possibility. Or, as with Charlie, there’s Eddie, too – which can be quite charming.
Ezekiel called Zeke – Some of Alex’s appeal is the X factor. Zeke sees that X and raises you a Z, possibly an even cooler member of the alphabet.
August or Augustine called Gus – As with Andrew called Drew, a longer name for Gus probably starts with an A … but Gus sounds nothing like your husband’s name, so maybe that works out just fine.
Lucian called Luke – I suspect your husband might not be super into Lucian called Luke, if only because it changes a soft ‘c’ into a hard ‘c’ sound. There’s also Lucas called Luke. I do think it’s great with Nate and Theo, another high energy name that sounds at home on a baseball diamond or a professional setting, as good for a child as it is for a man.
Maximilian called Max – No question Maximilian is a big name. Plus, like Theodore and Nathaniel, it feels traditional and rooted, without being too common. My favorite part? Max is the obvious, immediate, go-to nickname. Maxwell is another formal-name option, and, as with Charles, I think it matches the general style of Nathaniel and Theodore, even if it’s a little short. But if you’re going for the syllables, Maximilian is an obvious choice.
William called Will – I can hear Nate, Theo, and Will together effortlessly. William is, again, on the shorter side, but I think it’s worth it to get to such a strong nickname that should please your husband with its status as an obvious, default short form.
My favorite for you is Max. (Please don’t tell me your grandmother had a schnauzer called Max!) I’d use it with Maximilian, but Maxwell could be every bit as pleasing. Like Theo and Nate, it’s a modern favorite for our sons – familiar, but not wildly overused. (Though, because there are so many formal versions of Max, it feels more common than the data might suggest.)
If not Max, I’m drawn to Charlie and Will. The formal names – especially in the case of Charles – might not feel as long as Theodore and Nathaniel, but they fit in the same general category. I especially like Charlie with your older sons’ names.
You didn’t mention a middle name for this son, but it occurs to me that you might already have a favorite. Trying out each of these with your favorite middles and surname might be the best way to choose a finalist.
Readers, what am I forgetting in the long-short boy name category?
Tobias nn Toby
Cathy Fingeman says
Anthony, nn Tony, the quintessential Italian boy’s name!
Andrea Young says
I didn’t read all the suggestions so sorry for any repeats:
Sebastian nn Bastion
Ezekiel nn Ziggy
Malachi nn Kai
Abraham nn Abe
Orlando nn Lando
Horatio nn Tio or Harry
Morris nn Moss
Good luck!! I love your style!!!
Megan Kuchta says
Rafael called Rafa
Joseph Lorenzo. Joey or Joe instead of Josie. Assuming you’re not reserving Josephine for a potential future daughter.
I LOVE August/Gus from Abby’s list. Otherwise, what about:
Edwin nn Winn (Maybe that’s a little bit off beat compared to the others, but Nate, Theo, and Winn sound so sweet to me)
Donavan nn Van
Jameson nn Jamie or Jay
Timothy nn Tim (too close to Theo?)
Tobias nn Toby
Seeing as both of your older boys have a th somewhere in their names why not call this little fellow;
Arthur nn Artie
Balthazar nn Baz
Bartholomew nn Bart (I know the Simpson but give it a chance)
Garth nn Gar
Gethin nn Hen or Tig
But if your not feeling the names above then what about Gabriel (nn Gabe) or Jasper (nn Jazz)
I know it is super old school but are we ready to bring back Salvatore nn Sal?? I feel like it is time. This could be the family 🙂
Oliver first came to mind for me but Ollie seems less “California-cool” than Nate and Theo. Next up was Callihan, nn Cal, but the long name seems too nontraditional for you.
It really seems to me that you want a New England name with a California nickname. Edward mostly fits this bill, but I’d probably go with Ward as the nn instead of an Ed variant. Ward hangs better with Nate and Theo, while Edward feels really comfortable with Nathaniel and Theodore. Edward is missing 1 syllable to be perfect. Nonetheless, Edward Giovanni R0ss would be quite dashing.
Sebastian fits the syllable criteria but seems lacking in the intuitive nickname. Italians abbreviate Sebastiano to Seba not Bash. (But Theo is also shortened Teo, so perhaps this point is moot?)
There is Julian nn I guess Jules? Julian R0ss is pretty awesome.
Gregory nn Greg fits the three syllable, traditional to California-cool, Italian/American, requirement. Nathaniel, Theodore, and Gregory. Nate, Theo and Greg. Gregory R0ss.
Maybe Gregory is my favorite? No. It is still Edward nn Ward. But Gregory nn Greg is close up there.
Best of luck!
Are you hoping for more children and wanting to save Josephine? If not, it strikes me that Joseph nn Joe fits would fit in really well.
What a beautifully named family!
I think there are some wonderful suggestions already on the table, but here are a few more:
Harrison called Harry
Frederick called Freddie
Franklin called Frankie
Abraham called Abe or Bram
I’m definitely on a presidential kick today, but I won’t go as far as suggesting Rutherford. Although nn Ford is quite handsome.
My first thought was Maxwell or Maximilian. I also like the suggestions of Tobias/Toby, Samuel/Sam, and August/Gus, and would add Elias/Eli.
So many suggestions in Abby’s post and the comments are great! Is Jonathan (or Johannes!) called John out then? I’ve met a Lukyan (he was Russian), so if they really liked Luke, that could be an option. I agree that Samuel called Sam would be really good here. Anthony called Tony would work – it pulls in the “th” that the other brothers share! Tony really has the same sounds (albeit mixed up) of Nate and Theo too!
Erin Beth says
Lots of great suggestions already. Some of my favorite ideas for you:
Sebastian nn Bash
Dominic nn Dom
Dashiell nn Dash
Edmund nn Mundo
Henry nn Hal
Julian nn Jules
Augustine nn Gus
Vincent nn Vince
For what it’s worth, I have a Theodore (Theo) and a Maxwell (Max). Sebastian (Seb), Samuel (Sam), Malcolm (Mal), Calvin (Cal), and Oscar (Oz) were on our short list at one time or another.
How about Henry nn Hal? I only say this because I have a Nathaniel (but he’s a Nat rather than a Nate) and that was our strongest other name contender.
I really like Maximillian or Maxwell with the nn Max, and also Em’s suggestion of Sebastian.
You might also like:
Bartholomew — Bart
Christopher — Chris, Topher
Frederick — Fred, Freddie/Freddy, Rick
Gregory — Greg, Rory
Jeremiah — Remy, Jer/Jerry (not my favorite nn)
Oliver — Ollie
Timothy — Tim repeats the T of Theo, but style-wise fits with Nathaniel and Theodore
Franklin or Francisco nn Frankie
Evander nn Evan or Van
Alonzo nn Zo or Lonnie
Jean C. says
I looooove August/Gus for you! My favorite version of that name is Augustus, but that doesn’t work very well with your last name. Augusten is also an option.
Samuel/Sam feels like he might be a brother too. Or maybe Walter/Walt—and I like the suggestion of Peter too.
Mitchell – Mitch
Gabriel and William strike me as excellent choices, and I suggest Peter/Pete. (I have a friend with a Nathaniel/Nate, Theodore/Theo, and Peter/Pete. And Elizabeth/Lily.)
Julie G says
Ok, i just went down a 20-minute rabbit hole about the number of syllables in the name Charles. My opinion is that it is just 1 syllable and the info i found mostly agrees with me. That being said, my favorites are Charles, Gabriel and William.
C in DC says
Jedidiah, nn Jed or Jedi. Zaccheus nn Zeke (avoids the Zack problem). Josiah nn Joe. Constantine nn Stan. Carleton nn Carl or Tony. William nn Liam or Lee. Malachi nn Kai. Malcolm (with or without a nn).
Maybe bring one of the long Italian names to the first spot: Francisco nn Frank. Bernadino nn Dino. Giovanni nn Gio or Vanni. Mauricio nn Reece. Clemente nn Clem or Tay. Anthony or Antonio. Dominic nn Nick. Nicholas nn Cole.
There’s also the -son route: Anderson, Johanson, Jameson, Jemison, Henrikson, Charleston, Stevenson, Smithson, Edison, etc. All have the built in nn of Sonny as well as the first syllable nn (Andy, Joe/Hans, Jim, Jem, Henry, etc.)
Sebastian nn Seb/Sebby or Bash
Congratulations! I love the names Lachlan (Lach/Lachie), Timothy (Tim), Alfred (Alf/Alfie), and Tobias (Toby).
JK Garrison says
Congratulations! I love Maximillian/Max.
A couple of others to consider: