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 are expecting a daughter in March, and after looking at EVERY name ever, there’s only that we both really like: Alice. Her middle name could be Margaret, Mary, or Ruth. Maybe even Mary Ruth/Maryruth? Or Louise if we don’t use it as a first name.
Our son is named Oliver Ryan. We love his name. Even though I know it’s popular, we don’t hear it as much as I thought we might.
I thought we were all set, but when I say the names together fast, I wonder if they’re too close?
Our runner-up names were:
- Jane, but we don’t like it with our last name, which starts with N, and the names run together. (It sounds like nickel-with-an-s, but spelled differently.)
- Hannah, which used to be my favorite name, but now feels kind of unexciting to me. (But maybe I’m overthinking it?)
- Louise/Louisa, but my husband dislikes the “weez” sound, even though it’s a family name for us.
My husband is still all in on Alice, but I don’t want to get it wrong!
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on your new daughter!
It sounds like you were all set to name your daughter Alice, until you said Oliver and Alice together five times fast.
So … how close is too close?
Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, but there are some ways to think about it.
In many ways, the names are distinct. They don’t share the same first initial, origins, meaning, or ending sound. They’re not connected by pop culture or history in an obvious/weird way. (You could never name Juliet’s brother Romeo, but I can’t think of any Oliver/Alice connections.) And the names don’t rhyme.
One factor, however, gives me pause.
Are you nickname people?
I’m nickname people. So no judgment here.
But if you routinely shorten Oliver to Ollie, would you end up with Ollie and … Allie?
You don’t have to, of course. Alice shortens to Lissy, too.
And plenty of people go through their entire lives without a nickname. They’re not mandatory, and many parents prefer to avoid them.
I bring it up because Oliver and Alice are perfect together.
Ollie and Allie? They’re a pair of animated koala bears. Cuddly and cute, but maybe too cute for actual humans.
Of course, plenty of us have too-cute-for-actual-humans nicknames for our children when they’re under five.
And your kids might independently come home from school or soccer practice or summer camp with a nickname you never planned.
It sounds like you’ve considered every name under the sun, including most of the classic possibilities that would be great with Oliver.
But I want to suggest one other category: Lou- names without the weez!
If Louise/Louisa is a family name, would another Lou name be worth considering?
Vintage and traditional, a Top 100 favorite not likely to be shortened at all.
A romance language take on Lucy, every bit as enduring as Louisa and Louise.
Okay, there’s still a weez in Eloise, but the sound is just a little bit different, so maybe it’s worth a mention? Then again, you might end up with Ollie and Ellie, so maybe this isn’t an improvement!
A vintage, French favorite with a little bit of midcentury appeal, too.
A SISTER FOR OLIVER
Overall, I’m not sure I’d put aside Alice. It’s your favorite name; it’s great with your surname; and it works with your middle name options.
But if you do still feel hesitant, I wonder if Lucy would be an option? It’s weez-free, traditional, and there’s no overlapping sound shared with Oliver.
Oliver and Alice aren’t close for me, at all, unless we take into account the whole Ollie and Allie nicknames. And seriously — I’ve once heard of twins Oliver and Olivia. Oliver and Alice is perfectly fine.
Mandie L says
I love Oliver and Alice together. They don’t strike me as “too similar” at all, but the “classic literary charaters” and “vintage” vibes make them pair together nicely.
I like Oliver and Alice together and don’t think they are too close. My only feeling is that if you have any more children you have to be ready with another name that begins with a vowel and L or at least has the letter L in it.. For example Elias, Elijah, Elliott, Eliza, Elizabeth, etc or Nathaniel, Cecilia, Julia, Penelope…
I think Alice is perfectly usable as a sister to Oliver, but I wonder if you’ve considered an alternative like Elise? I think the flow is a little better with Oliver and Elise, because the stress is on the -lise rather than the Al/El.
Alice is one of my very favourite names, but I had to let it go because we named our firstborn Lewis, and Alice and Lewis definitely don’t go well together as siblings. (Same thing with Lucy, another favourite). But I think Oliver and Alice would be fine if you really think Alice is your favourite name.
Oh, I just had a thought – if you went with Alice Margaret or Alice Mary as a combo, you could call her Alma, which would be sweet.
I’d say go with Alice and make it clear she’ll use her first name–she’ll probably end up going by it anyway. Even then to me the nickname thing isn’t totally unusable and I think the two names go together excellently.
They’re not too similar! I think the V and C sounds are enough to make them seem different.
You could do Ollie and Ace to avoid Ollie and Allie, but in reality, most Alices use their name in full.
(As a side note, my brother has a name that sometimes sounds similar to mine and, while it can be confusing on occasion, 99% of the time we don’t even think about it.)
The nickname thing is the only wildcard. Even if you aren’t nickname people, your kids and their peers might eventually land you with an Ollie and Allie. Most of the Olivers I know are definitely Ollies, but the few Alices I know are just Alice. The Allisons I know, however, mostly in my generation – are almost all Allies.
But it would be disappointing to settle if that’s THE NAME, so maybe you could guide people in a proactive nickname for Alice, like AJ for Alice Jane or LaRue for Alice Ruth.
Considering an initial type nickname such as “AB” or “AJ” definitely feels like solid advice without having to give up the name “Alice”. It’s a perfectly good name and I agree that there may be run-ins with the similar first syllable sounds Al- and Ol- but honestly… you can make it distinctive with nicknames!
Oliver may end up as “Ollie” and Alice may end up as “Al” or “Ally, or even “Lizzie” (normally used for Elizabeth!) or “Lissa” to some! Your child may break the traditional nickname rules eventually for preference, or something may occur in their lives to deviate a nn.
Options are available, rest assured for you to keep “Alice”. But initials can help just fine too. AJ, AP, AB, AD (ends up with an accidental nickname “Addie”!), et cetera.
Alice can be a winning choice regardless.
Best of luck! Do what feels good!
I’d say don’t use Alice. When I was naming my son, I was reassured on a baby name site that James and Gabriel weren’t too close. And I now apologize several times a week to both of them because when yelled through the house James and Gabe sound incredibly similar.
Alice! I vote you stick with it!
Go with Alice. It doesn’t sound close to Oliver to me. Of your middle favorites, I favor the beautiful combination of Alice Margaret.
Alison Doherty says
I say go with Alice! I think it goes perfectly with Oliver and Alice Louise or Alice Ruth sounds perfect to me!