Name HelpName Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, 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!

A. and her husband have a son named Gavin, and they’re expecting another boy in April.

She writes:

My husband chose our son’s name, Gavin (although he apparently has a bad memory because he claims it was my choice).

The name was an outlier and doesn’t fit our naming style, so we’re kind of getting stuck now that we have another boy on the way.  A girl would have likely been named Clara.

Our surname sounds like Oldman, but without the D in the middle.

Here are some names we’re agreeing on that don’t sound too off the wall with a sibling named Gavin (unlike, say, Alasdair or Aurelius):

  • Elliott
  • Sebastian (although my husband wants to nn him SeaBass, so … no)
  • August, Augustus
  • Oliver
  • Lachlan

They’re all OKAY, but we’re still having trouble.

I guess the name Gavin seems a bit dated to me, and the names we agree on that fit with it seem too trendy? I’m not sure. I just want to have a nice little sibset where no one feels like the oddball. Help!

Read on for my reply … and please add your thoughtful suggestions in the comments!

Hi A. –

Congratulations on baby #2!

A few years ago, neighbors of ours announced that their top boy name was Gavin, and my reaction was – ooh, dated!

And then I checked the numbers, and realized that I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Gavin’s Brother: 21st Century Favorites

Gavin peaked at #30 in 2008.  It’s been a Top 100 name since 2000, and ranked #49 in 2013.  In some states – Wyoming, South and North Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota – Gavin has reached the Top Ten in recent years.

In other words, Gavin is pretty much at his most popular right now.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table...

My opinion of Gavin has shifted since then.  Now I think of him as a Round Table name, somewhere between vintage Arthur and modern Kai.  And his popularity in Wyoming and the Dakotas lends him a touch of cowboy cool, too.

Why did I see him as dated?  Maybe because Gavin McLeod capably captained The Love Boat in the 1970s, and Gavin Rossdale is dad to Kingston, Zuma, and Apollo.  But I was wrong.  Gavin was rare back then, and current now.

Which means that Gavin pairs beautifully with lots of the names on your list.

Gavin’s Brother: The Current Shortlist

Let’s take a closer look:

  • Elliott – Elliot – one ‘t’ – and Elliott both ranked in the 240s in 2013.  They’re definitely on the upswing, but even combined, they’re less popular than Gavin.  And yet, I think they make good names for brothers.
  • Sebastian – Gavin and Sebastian match well, too – except since there’s a potential nickname that you heartily dislike, I think this one should be crossed off your list.
  • August, Augustus – Gavin and August match well; Augustus is a little more elaborate and so maybe not quite as compatible.  So I’d rank August the better choice – though only slightly.
  • Oliver – Another great match with Gavin.  I really like the shared ‘v’ sound in the middle.  Like Sebastian and Gavin, Oliver is a Top 100 choice in the US.
  • Lachlan – Pretty rare in the US, but catching on – it entered the US Top 1000 in 2013.

And yet, none of these are quite the name, right?

Gavin’s Brother: More Possibilities

I wonder if we should try to choose a name without matching Gavin.  Since Clara is your favorite name for a girl, I wonder if you’d like Jude, Jasper, or Felix?

Or maybe something a little more out there?

  • Donovan – A surname name, but one that feels like a given name.  It has the three-syllable rhythm of Sebastian, but is less common.  (Ranked #281 in 2013.)  Donovan also shares the ‘v’ in Gavin, as well as Oliver from your shortlist.
  • Kieran – Too modern?  Kieran sounds like a new name, but it’s actually an Irish saints’ name meaning “little dark one.”  If Aiden can be a sensation, there’s no reason to neglect Kieran.
  • Foster – It’s a preppy surname name, new to the US Top 1000 in 2013.  Gavin and Foster, Foster and Gavin – when I say them together, somehow it makes Gavin feel a little bit more buttoned-down, and less home-on-the-range.  Another similar name?  Fletcher.
  • Ezra – Gavin and Ezra, Ezra and Gavin – it’s not the kind of sibset that springs to mind, but say it a few times, and they start to sound surprisingly right together.  Maybe that’s because the ‘z’ and ‘v’ are interesting, ear-catching letters.
  • Finnian – Finn names are catching on, but Finnian has yet to crack the US Top 1000.  Chances are that you’ll come across a Finn or three, but Finnian – also spelled Finian – is pretty rare.

Gavin’s Brother: Narrowing Down the List

I think it is safe to strike Sebastian because of the potential nickname issue.

That leaves:

  • Elliott, August, Oliver, Lachlan from your list
  • Donovan, Kieran, Foster, Ezra, Finnian from my list

One other thought: are names like Alasdair and Aurelius really your style?  If so, it might be worth exploring those names.  I think Gavin and Alasdair could work together.  You’ve mentioned that having siblings’ names match is important, but there’s more than one way to match – popularity, national origin, similar meanings.

So I think the final question is really back to you – do you want to go with a name slightly more daring and less expected?  If so, I think there are plenty of possibilities, all of which would sound like a brother for Gavin – and maybe a name that’s more satisfying for you.

What you suggest as a name for Gavin’s brother?

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. Another vote for Everett, Levi, and Callum. They all go so perfectly with Gavin! My favorites from your list are Elliot and Oliver. Other suggestions… Leo, Archer, Cormac, Elias, Jude, Milo, Seth, and Miller.

  2. Elliott – I feel like Emmett or Everett would sound better with your surname?

    Sebastian – I like this, but I don’t like SeaBass(!). I like Baz. Or Seb, if pushed.

    August – I love August.

    Oliver & Lachlan I do not like.

    So Gavin and August, of your choices, and Sebastian if your husband promises not to behave. 😉

    Other ideas:
    Cyrus – Sort of the feel of August + Sebastian minus some issues? Gavin and Cyrus. A bit quirky but not bizarre.
    Levi – Levi and Gavin work really well together for some reason, to my ear. And both have a relaxed quality I like. I also like Eli, but the shared v’s are nice.
    Callum – I think Callum is a natural fit for Gavin but you said Gavin’s not your style so I don’t know if this works…?

    1. If the most mentioned name was the winner it would be Callum. I just noticed three of us said Callum, lol! Levi is really great with Gavin too, but Gavin and Callum is the winner in the thread!

      1. Interesting observation. I’m one of the three posters who suggested Callum, but I neglected to try it out with your surname: Callum Ol(d)man. I not sure that works, with the first syllable of each name ending in ‘L’ — Cal/Ol — and the second syllable of each ending in “m” or “n” and almost rhyming when I pronounce them: um/man (“mun”).

        BNW sees Gavin’s style as Celtic, nickname proof, and “the -ens”. For sound, I also like names with a ‘v’ somewhere in the middle and would choose that over another naming ending in -en/-in/an since that’s so trendy right now. I think it’s a stretch to pair names like Sebastian, Elliott and August with Gavin — they seem too much what BNW describes as “ladies and gentlemen” style to fit with straight forward guy’s name Gavin. Oliver could be seen to work because of the repeating “v”, but maybe not so much if he were usually called Ollie.

        Although these aren’t all favorites of mine, I like the *sound* of:
        Gavin and Trevor Ol(d)man
        Gavin and Everett Ol(d)man
        Gavin and Reeve Ol(d)man
        Gavin and Levi Ol(d)man
        Gavin and Davis Ol(d)man

  3. What about Mcallister? It gives your husband the sound of “Alisdair” (means son of Alisdair) and gives you a cool edge to the name. They could be Gav & Mc (Mick)…

    Good luck!

  4. I think Lachlan goes best with Gavin from your choices. Gavin has a certain feel to it and names that just sound like they would naturally be Gavin’s brother are…

    Gavin and Ethan
    Gavin and Dylan
    Gavin and Caleb
    Gavin and Logan

    Now if you wanted to do something a little different that still works but isn’t quite in Gavin territory…

    Gavin and Callum
    Gavin and Connell
    Gavin and Leland
    Gavin and Cormac
    Gavin and Reeve
    Gavin and Vaughn
    Gavin and Asher
    Gavin and Spencer

      1. I knew a Karsten and I always wanted to call him Cardston (the name of my hometown). Another option is Keston–it is a little more country than Karsten but also a little more streamlined. I like it.