Name Help: Competing with my BFFName 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!

Courtney writes:

My oldest childhood friend and I had our first babies around the same time, during all the craziness of 2020. We talked about names, and, at the time, realized that we both had the same favorite name for a boy: Henry.

But we both had daughters, and luckily, we didn’t have the same favorite girl names. My husband and I have Sophia Rose, and they have Claire Elizabeth.

Since then, my friend and her husband have moved across the country. And while we still text and catch up frequently, it’s not the same, especially with kids and work and a time zone difference.

Now we’re both expecting again, and this time we’re due within two weeks of each other! Even though we had a delivery surprise with our first, we found out in advance that we’re having a boy.

We plan to name him Henry Matthew, but I keep thinking back to those conversations my friend and I had on my deck that long, weird summer while we waited for our babies.

What’s the best practice here?

  • Should I ask her if they’ve chosen a name? I’m not sure if they’re finding out gender in advance or not, but we’re both beyond our 20-week ultrasounds.
  • Do I just tell her we’re going to name our son Henry? Even though we’ve decided, we haven’t told anyone, not even the grandparents/close friends.
  • What if she has her baby first and names him Henry – do we have to choose another name?

I feel kind of bad about this, but if she had her baby second, and it was a boy, too, I think I’d feel like it was weird if she named him Henry, too. But I know that doesn’t make any sense. We know other little boys named Henry – just not as close to us.

For the record, I know I can’t ask her to not use the name.

And yes, I probably sound crazy, but this is keeping me up at night.

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your second!

And oh, this sounds like it could be awkward.

Let’s walk through this, because there are multiple possible outcomes, many of which would turn out absolutely fine for everyone involved.

  1. Your friend may have another daughter. In fact, your friend may already know she’s having a second daughter.
  2. Your friend may now have a different favorite name for a son. After all, it’s been three years. And, as you say, Henry is pretty popular. Maybe her cousin/boss/husband’s college roommate named their son Henry and she feels like it’s off limits. Or possibly they’ve just moved on.
  3. Your friend may have a list of three or four possible names and might not mind dropping Henry. Sometimes a reason to rule a name out feels welcome if you’re having a hard time deciding.

I’m also wondering about a hard fact of adult life: this friend has moved pretty far away. Unless they know it’s short term, and they’re definitely coming back – like a PhD program or a temporary work assignment – there’s a good chance your children won’t know each other well.

In three out of four scenarios, you never have to have a difficult conversation:

  1. Your friend has a daughter. No conflict.
  2. Your friend has her baby first; it’s a boy and she names him something other than Henry. No conflict.
  3. You have your baby first and name him Henry; she also has a boy, and names him something else. Maybe a little bit of potential discomfort, but probably no real conflict.
  4. You have your baby first, and your friend also has a boy, and also names him Henry. Okay, so maybe that’s where there’s potential conflict.

But here’s the thing: you can’t control what your friend does, but you CAN control how you react to it.

I’m not sure if Emily Post has anything to say about it, but here’s my take on your questions.

First, you absolutely can ask if your friend has chosen a name.

It really depends on what your relationship is like now. And remember, someone can answer that question with a “yes” or a “we have two or three favorites” and still decline to share the names.

Second, yes – there’s no harm in revealing that you’ve chosen a name.

But only if you’re sharing freely, with no expectation that it will alter her behavior. Could it? Of course! But she might also laugh and say, “Oh that’s our name, too! It will be so fun if we both have a Henry.” You can decide to share your happy news, but it doesn’t give you any more control over her actions. And there’s always a slight chance that she’ll be hurt. (After all, you’ve conceded that you’d rather she not choose the name, right?)

And lastly, you don’t have to choose another name for your son … but neither does she.

That’s the good news/bad news. There’s a chance – maybe one out of four? – that you both end up with a Henry. And when you do see each other, you result to things like “your Henry” and “my Henry” to distinguish your sons.

While that might not be your preference, I think it will be okay. After all, families often have two people with the same name. (My brother-in-law and nephew share the same short, traditional-but-uncommon first name. Think Curt. And while I sometimes have to say “little Curt” or “your husband Curt” to clarify, it’s not a hardship.)

And, as you say, the world is filled with Henrys. My son also has a popular a name, and spent a season on the same sports team with a kid with the same name. While there was a little bit of “Alex the goalie” versus “Alex on defense” it was never an issue. We know plenty of families with an Alex, sometimes both Alexes are in the same place together, and it’s never an issue.

So, yes – your son is named. And Sophia and Henry are great together!

The only question is whether you want to talk to your friend in advance, knowing that she can’t change your mind … but you can’t change hers, either. And it’s possible you’ll have some hurt feelings, either way.

Given your long history and close relationship, I’d be inclined to reach out and tell her that you’re planning to use Henry for your son’s name. I’d acknowledge that you know it’s possibly a sensitive subject. But hopefully it doesn’t need to be a friendship-ending one.

I’ve never been in quite this situation, though, so let’s open it up to the readers for input.

Readers, what would you do in Courtney’s situation? Talk to the friend in advance? Or let it go and see what happens?

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. I think best practice is to assume the best of the other person and carry on. Do whatever you would normally do with your name announcement. You can each feel whatever you feel about the names in private and then congratulate each other as you would normally. It will probably work out better than you’re imagining!

  2. I agree with Abby and the other commenter. I would tell her, and keep it positive! “We’re still loving the name Henry for a boy! What names are you thinking about? It would be so sweet if they shared a name!”
    No need to flat out telling her you’re using the name if you haven’t even shared it with family, but definitely don’t waffle on the name and make it sound like you’re unsure. Talk up the positive side of things!

  3. Your Henry might decide he’s a Hank. And her Henry (IF she has a boy and IF she names him Henry) might be nicknamed ‘Bubba Bear’ by Claire.

    The difficulties here are really much less than you might imagine. I agree with Abby 100%. Excellent advice!

  4. This a fun question to mull over. I don’t think you’re competing, because there are no winners or losers here. You’re going to name your son Henry Matthew. That’s set. So what is the fear here? That she’ll have a baby first and name him Henry, and then think you are copying her? Or that you’ll name your baby Henry, then she’ll have a boy and also name his Henry, as you’ll be disappointed? Like Abby says, you can only control your reaction and your choices. If it were me and I knew nothing would sway my decision, I wouldn’t say anything. Unless the topic naturally comes up as you’re talking throughout your pregnancies. You both separately had the idea of the name Henry, so no one is stealing anything.

    I’ve been an avid avoid-all-shared-names when choosing a name for my kids, and was kinda frustrated when a mutual friend chose a nickname for her baby that is my child’s name, only six months after mine was born. But that was because she literally told everyone she only felt comfortable using that nickname because I’d make it seem ‘wearable.’ And whenever our kids meet (which was far more often from ages 1-4 than now) the kids actually think it’s awesome to share a name.

  5. I know two childhood friends who both named their daughters Allison. It was never a problem between them. The parents got together a lot more than the girls and when they were together the individual personalities of the girls never made it difficult to know who we were talking about.

  6. Oh .. And another situation
    5 your friend has a boy first and names him Henry.
    Personally I think it shows your close link that you love the same name. I wouldn’t give it a second thought if she chooses Henry.
    I once taught a class with 3 Riley’s, 3 Kaitlyn’s, 3 Jacks, a Jake, a Jessie and a Jayden, plus Tyler and Tayla all in one class. Even when it’s every school day you find a work around.
    There is no guarantee that your little Henry will be the only Henry at school.
    Just use it.
    I would be inclined to keep it very positive, tell your friend in secret that you are still loving the name Henry and ask if she is too? Add if she is then it will be perfect to have 2 little Henry’s.
    Funny but true story, my 3rd daughter wasn’t named for several days. I couldn’t settle on a name because my favourite had been recently used by an acquaintance. I decided in the end that it didn’t matter they wouldn’t cross paths much or know each other. Strange thing is, they did meet and became friends because of the shared name!

  7. Have you considered that it might be cute that the sons of two friends who grew up together are both Henrys?
    You shared so much trough your childhood, it would be cute that, after all these years, you shared this, too.
    Specially after her move, it could be a nice way to stay connected (like, calling her and saying “so my Henry just decided his favorite song is Baby Shark, so I’m hearing that non stop, how is your Henry doing today?”).
    I think the fact that you share a favorite boy’s name could be a way to make you feel closer to each other, instead of driving you two apart. After all, it just means you and your friend have similar tastes, which is perfectly normal!