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 a baby on the way and are looking for names to pair well with our son, whose name is Ember Rio.
Our last name begins with a Z, and our preference is to stick with nature names.
Please read on for my response, and leave your helpful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Jaclyn –
Ember Rio is a great name for a son! It clearly nods to the natural world, but it sounds like a first and middle, not two word names.
I’ll start with a name list, and then see if we can mix and match some great combinations.
Nature Names for Boys: Animals
Parents have embraced animal names like Bear, Wolf, and Hawk in recent years. I think the one with the most potential is Fox. Thanks to names like Felix and Max, Fox feels more like a name than some of these – even though Wolf has history galore. It’s also just entered the current Top 1000, which makes it just slightly familiar.
Nature Names for Boys: Rugged Terrain
Names like Canyon and Ridge possess a certain rugged, outdoorsy quality. I particularly like Ridge. It’s just inside the current US Top 1000, but it feels distinctive. Like Ember, it’s obviously borrowed from the natural world, but it feels less obvious than, say, Hawk.
Nature Names for Boys: Water
Ocean, Bay, and Lake all come to mind, but I wonder if they’re too close to River? Harbor, Shelter, and Cove also feel very wearable.
Nature Names for Boys: Green and Growing
We tend to leave botanical names for the girls, and that’s a mistake. There’s Hawthorn, Sage, Alder, Elm, Birch, Grove, Branch, Forrest/Forest, Oak, and a handful of other options that wear well for boys. I really like Hawthorn with Ember.
The Scandinavian name Leif is often pronounced Leaf in the US. That might make either spelling an option.
Nature Name for Boys: Sky
Night sky names appear throughout the list of popular girl names. There’s Luna and Stella, along with many a rarity. While fewer night sky names come to mind for boys, there are a few. The constellation Orion sounds very much like a brother for Ember. Cielo is the Spanish word for sky – and also heaven – making it an interesting brother name for Rio.
Nature Names for Boys: Kinda Sorta
Would you consider a place name that evokes a rugged, outdoorsy feel, like Colorado? Mountain name Everest has also seen some use. I really like Journey, especially in the middle spot, with Ember Rio, too – while it’s not quite a nature name, it has a similar vibe. An ever rarer possibility with a related meaning might be Quest.
Kodiak is an island in Alaska, as well as the name of a bear native to the region.
Ari means eagle in Norse and lion in Hebrew. Would that appeal?
Calder reminds me of caldera, as in the craters at the top of volcanos. Too much of a stretch?
One of the challenges is finding something that pairs well, without sounding too much like a sentence.
- Hawthorn Bay
- Fox Hawthorn
- Ridge Cielo
- Alder Sage
- Forest Sage
- Kodiak Orion
- Fox Orion
- Quest Kodiak
- Leif Orion/Leaf Orion
- Leif Kodiak/Leaf Kodiak
- Ari Everest
I keep coming back to Fox Hawthorn and Ari Everest, but I love so many names on this list.
Readers, it’s your turn. What nature-inspired name would you name a brother for Ember Rio?
How about Aster Ren. It is equally charming for male or female. Aster means Star which connects to Ember and Ren means water lily or lotus which is not only a flower, but is water related and begins with an R like Rio.
Charlotte @ To Harriet Louise says
From the suggestions I love Ridge and Hawthorn. Going from the sky/space names… what about Cosmo? I looove the idea of brothers named Ember and Cosmo. I think my favorite option would be Cosmo Ridge. Ember Rio and Cosmo Ridge; Ember and Cosmo. Plus the shared R middle names might be a sweet connection. (Also, if they’re into nicknames, I really like the nn Moe.)
Other names I like with Cosmo – Cosmo Birch, Cosmo Dune, Cosmo Phoenix, Cosmo Ranger, Cosmo Wren, Cosmo Hudson, Cosmo Beckett, and Cosmo Fern (I like this one a lot – the sound of it is great to my ears, and I like the balance of each boy having unisex names that seem to be used more often for girls – Ember and Fern). I like the sound of both Cosmo Ash and Cosmo Blaze, but the downside is that they could sound like nouns rather than names. Cosmo Frost is another.
Other ideas – August, Robin, Hue, Lark, Gale, Hayes, Spruce, Blaze, Haven, Moss, and Jay (as in blue jays…)
August Ridge: Ember and August; Ember Rio and August Ridge.
August Stone: Ember and August; Ember Rio and August Stone.
August Ash: Ember and August; Ember Rio and August Ash.
Gale Augustus: Ember and Gale; Ember Rio and Gale Augustus.
Hawthorn Gale: Ember and Hawthorn; Ember Rio and Hawthorn Gale.
Gale Hudson: Ember and Gale; Ember Rio and Gale Hudson.
Robin Ridge: Ember and Robin; Ember Rio and Robin Ridge.
Robin Bay: Ember and Robin; Ember Rio and Robin Bay.
Robin Orion: Ember and Robin; Ember Rio and Robin Orion.
Robin Gale: Ember and Robin; Ember Rio and Robin Gale.
Hue Hawthorne: Ember and Hue; Ember Rio and Hue Hawthorne.
Orion Hue: Ember and Orion; Ember Rio and Orion Hue.
Hue Everest: Ember and Hue; Ember Rio and Hue Everest.
Jay Alder: Ember and Jay; Ember Rio and Jay Alder.
Cosmo Moss: Ember and Cosmo; Ember Rio and Cosmo Moss.
Haven Ridge: Ember and Haven; Ember Rio and Haven Ridge.
Spruce Hawthorn: Ember and Spruce; Ember Rio and Spruce Hawthorn.
Hayes Orion: Ember and Hayes; Ember Rio and Hayes Orion.
Jay Hudson: Ember and Jay; Ember Rio and Jay Hudson.
Hayes Hawthorn: Ember and Hayes; Ember Rio and Hayes Hawthorn.
Haven Colorado: Ember and Colorado; Ember Rio and Haven Colorado.
Ari Oak: Ember and Ari; Ember Rio and Oak Ari.
Moss Hawthorn: Ember and Moss; Ember Rio and Moss Hawthorn.
Everest Hayes: Ember and Everest; Ember Rio and Everest Hayes.
Gale Hudson: Ember and Gale; Ember Rio and Gale Hudson.
Haven Oak: Ember and Haven; Ember Rio and Haven Oak.
Ari Moss: Ember and Ari; Ember Rio and Ari Moss.
Lark Ridge: Ember and Lark; Ember Rio and Lark Ridge.
Gale Canyon: Ember and Gale; Ember Rio and Gale Canyon.
Forest Lark: Ember and Forest; Ember Rio and Forest Lark.
Everest Oak: Ember and Everest; Ember Rio and Everest Oak.
August Blaze: Ember and August; Ember Rio and August Blaze.
Spruce Calder: Ember and Spruce; Ember Rio and Spruce Calder.
Blaze Hawthorn: Ember and Blaze; Ember Rio and Blaze Hawthorn.
Everest Gale: Ember and Everest; Ember Rio and Everest Gale.
Welp this is too much fun so I think I better cut off my novella here before it turns into a full-fledged novel. 😉
The Mrs. says
How about Arrow? It’s very close to Aaron. Ember and Arrow.
And for a little lady:
Fira could work for a girl… it has a connection with Ember. Mira and Kira are familiar, so Fira wouldn’t seem unknown. Fira Brook would be a feminine equivalent of Ember Rio.
Fira Selene would give the meaning of “Fire Moon”.
Zephyrine has a warm breeze to her.
Eartha is a rich, glamorous moniker.
Oceane has the romance of the water.
Amanda Grayson says
If I was Ember Rio’s mother– or more appropriately, grandmother– I think I would put forth Auran Sky. So you would have something like ‘Glowing River’ (Ember Rio) and ‘Golden Sky’ (Auran Sky). You could also try Auran Cielo which parallels the pattern you have with Ember Rio.
Maybe Parker Wolf.
the Mrs. says
Spruce is a lot like Bruce… so it seems wearable. And something like Felix would be Helix.
How about that combo? Ember Rio and Spruce Helix.
That’d be my vote for another gentleman. 🙂
Have to think about a little lady.
Jasper or Zephyr Cove–they would share the -er ending and aquatic middle names. Orion sounds great with Ember though, and Alden is a handsome name.
Ridge Cielo is my clear favorite. Kai and Koa are on my Names I Love list, but I like the solid noun to go along with Ember.
Tamarack (or Larch for that matter), Frost, Tundra, Cairn
If you ever have a girl, I quite fancy Samara which means, among other things, the wing structure on certain seeds most notably maples.
I have fictional twin brothers named Sage Rio and Kale Mar. Seeing Ember Rio made me think of them, and Mar as a possible middle name. As for a first name, I personally love the names Canyon and Hawthorn. Hawthorn Mar seems cool and naturey without feeling like a word name. I do also agree with others that Orion and Ember to work exceptionally well as a sibset without seeming like you are trying to be all matchy matchy. Orion Mar could work as a little brother’s name to Ember Rio
This also has my dubious meter firing its alarm, but I love nature names so much that I can’t resist the discussion (for the enjoyment of others in the discussion and myself)
I have been polling both Everest and Ari for a few months and people like them much more than I had expected, so I think Everest Ari / Ari Everest would be well received.
Ash….perhaps too matchy though
Ha – yes, Amity! I overrode my meter on this one, too. Because … nature names for boys, swoon.
Hello all. Thank you so much for the suggestions, My husband and I have so much more to consider now. Just a couple of clarifications. Ember is the first name. Rio is the middle name. We don’t know the gender of baby #2 so all combo options are a go.
Kindling is one I like but it might be too matchup with Ember. Kick is another great name, not necessarily a nature name, but I think it still fits the I style.
Oh I like this one! You’re brave enough/have a partner willing enough to consider some of my biggest guilty pleasures!
I think Rowan is an awesome match for Ember. Both Nature name/unisex. Em & Ro.
My favorite middle name for you is also one of my favorites – Arroyo! Rio is the Spanish word for river, obviously, and arroyo is the Spanish for brook/stream. I love the sound and cool kid vibes this name gives off and it complements Rio perfect (maybe too matchy? I like the connection between brothers). The only thing with arroyo is I heard someone say that on the southwest US border it is sometimes used as a slang word for Ditch. I don’t live there so I can’t confirm but if true that’s a bummer 🙁
Others to consider: Ash, Ace, Rhodes (place name and nature name like Rio), Shaw (dweller by the wood), Sayer (Woodcutter)
Sky, Skyler, Oak, Oakley, Ridge, Canyon, Lake, Leaf, Lynx, Ocean, Tempest, Bay, Baylor, Everest, Quest, Kai, Koa, Bodhi, Briar, Sage, Sailor, Blaze, Branch, Moon, Jupiter, Azure, Quasar, Galaxy, Teal, Navy, Onyx, Zephyr, Wave, Waverly, Zenith, Whisper, Breeze, Rain, Sleet, Snow, Hale, Sequoia, Willow, Pine, Cedar, Cypress, Stone, Cliff, Reef…etc, all work well on a boy.
Cedar Bay, Onyx Ridge, Lake Willow or Zephyr Koa, are some name combos
Ember (and Rio) to me is solidly unisex, so I’d stick with a clearly unisex name for baby brother. I love Journey, Cove, Sage for you. How about Haven or Heron? Some combos:
(I would feel remiss not to say… and Abby feel free to delete if you find this offensive…the combination of the first and middle name calls to mind a Simpsons-esque prank call. Hopefully that’s not the case. I would suggest avoiding any word names along the lines of Bud, Bloom, Fount so as not to compound the potential for immature comments, yes, like mine.)
Renee, I had that thought, too – and I haven’t heard back from the original person who emailed, so I hesitated to schedule this one. And yet, I don’t always hear back for a gazillion reasons – so I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt.
If I’m wrong? Oy.
She replied in comments above and said she doesn’t know the sex of baby 2.
Do you get a lot of prank emails?
Honestly? I don’t know. I don’t *think* so, but every once in a while I have one that just doesn’t feel genuine. This one fell on the right side of probably-legit to me – and I’m so glad to see that Jaclyn has commented, so apologies for doubting!
I keep hearing Ember Rio as Embryo.
What about Cayo? The Spanish pairs nicely with Rio, and it’s a great nature name!
Stefanie, that’s a great suggestion!
Jamie Addy says
I included some fire-inspired names as I think that would make a sweet connection between names.
Ember Rio and
Other options that I couldn’t pair up in a satisfying way:
Amanda L. says
I love the idea of pairing Orion with Ember! They both glow, both have kind of a camp out/bonfire vibe, and for me personally they both evoke feelings of “home”.
This may be too matchy, but what about using Mar as a parallel to Rio?
Ember Rio & Orion Mar.
My favorite “nature” name for a boy is Peregrine. (It was my boy choice for my 2 month old daughter, although the nature connection wasn’t our reason for liking it, I was planning to use “Hawk” as a nn). I don’t know that it works as a first for you but maybe as a middle. Also picks up that “Journey” vibe.
Nice point about the glow factor on Ember and Orion!
Ember Rio & Ridge Sky
I think Ember and Ridge have the same vibe.
Ember Rio & Alder Sky
Ember and Alder are matchy and cute!
Just to balance it with a few more unisex and girls’ names, how about: