Name 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!
I need help naming identical twins who are coming around the end of June. We do not know if they are boys or girls, but definitely they’re the same sex.
Our first daughter was stillborn. We planned to name her Marguerite, nicknamed Daisy, for a girl, and possibly Cassius (family name) for a boy. But then her name came to me in a dream right before she was born: Anna. Her name won’t really be part of the sibset in most situations, but it does matter to us.
Our two-year-old is named Elsa. We were not aware of Frozen before we chose the name, and were a little taken aback by the association, but have not yet met other Elsas so I don’t think it’s as trendy as I worried it would be. We also did not know of the Elsa-Anna connection but it has made the name particularly special to me. The two runners-up for Elsa were Nora and Lydia.
Rather than a traditional middle name all our children have my last name and then their father’s, so we’re just looking for firsts. Both names are long. Their father’s long last name starts with a B and ends with -en, so we’re looking for names that are shorter, don’t start with B, and don’t end in -n.
- Names that can travel a bit – easy to pronounce in different languages.
- Unusual but not strange in English.
- Not unisex, but strong.
- Not super-modern.
- I like German/Scandinavian names a lot, and both of our girls’ names fit in in those countries.
- Not too singsongy with Elsa. (A problem with many of my likes, with the repeating -a ending.)
On our list already …
- For girls: Greta (I especially like that it is a form of Margaret like Elsa is for Elizabeth); Ingrid (too much “grrrr” with Greta?); Thea; Clara or Clare; Flora; Lena; Marta; Margot; Astrid; Tess; and Blythe or Britta (but Bs!)
- For boys, Casper (high favorite, family ties, but what goes with it?); Leopold (too weird?); Walter; Hugo; Philip (husband doesn’t like); Alfred; Alban; Arthur; Archer (family ties); Lars (too Swedish?); Calvin (but Cal and Cas/Cap?); Pascal; Felix; Rufus; Gideon; Gilbert.
Please read on for my response, and leave your helpful suggestions in the comments.
Hi Whitney –
Congratulations on your twins!
Swistle often gives this wise advice about naming twins: choose your next two favorite names, as if you’re naming two children in two separate pregnancies. Which makes all the sense in the world, and I think it’s great advice. Except. I don’t think I could do it. I think naming twins must be a little bit different. I think I’d want a subtle link between the two names, but also be more sensitive about avoiding names that are too obviously matched.
Still, I’m going to take Swistle’s approach here, and hope that we can find links afterwards.
Let’s start with the girls.
It sounds like you’d like to avoid two more -a ending names. I hear what you’re saying about multiple, two-syllable, a-ending names sounding singsongy. But is it really a dealbreaker? Emma, Ava, and Mila; Ella, Sarah, and Laura. I can say lots of similar combinations without it feeling like overload. And you seem to be drawn to a-ending names, right? So it seems like a shame to discard them all.
Well, except for one. Let me suggest Thora, because it’s a strong name for a girl that rhymes with Flora, shares Thea’s Th, and is a strong, Scandi name. It comes from Thor, as in the comic book hero, but more importantly, the Norse god.
That leaves Ingrid, Astrid, Tess, and Margot from your original list. Ingrid and Astrid are great names with Norse roots – though I’m not sure if they’re too close for twin names. Tess is short for Theresa, and Margot is short for Margaret, so I wonder if that adds some appeal. Clare is another non-a ender. The French spelling Claire is much more popular at the moment, but both are spare, sophisticated picks for a daughter.
Let’s see if we can add a few more suggestions:
- Iris – Iris is in the current Swedish Top 100. (So is Siri. But twins named Iris and Siri? That might be too much … Or not.)
- Esme – Not Scandi – at all. Still, a great name with a different ending – though perhaps too close to Elsa.
- Maeve – Again, this one is Irish rather than Scandinavian, but I think the sound is distinctive and might appeal.
- Rose – Straightforward and easily transported into other languages.
- Pearl – The same idea as Rose.
- Sylvie – Okay, Sylvie is French – again, not Norse. But it’s a complete name that feels similar to the names on your list.
- Daphne – A name from Greek myth with ties to the natural world.
- Ivy – Short, sweet, and complete – though not especially popular in Scandinavia.
I looked at the most popular names in Sweden and Norway for inspiration, and here’s what leapt out at me: more than 30 of the Swedish girls’ Top 50 ended with a, and most of those where two syllables. The numbers are similar for Norway. So … it’s no surprise you’re drawn to all of those a-endings!
Let’s talk about combinations for a minute:
- Tess and Greta – Tess is not currently in the US Top 1000. (Though Tessa ranks just outside the Top 200.) Greta ranks around #600 – not too common – and, as you say, is short for Margaret. Tess and Greta seem like good matches.
- Iris and Thea – Iris and Thea are both stylish in the US – though not very popular – and in Norway and Sweden. Elsa, Iris, and Thea are Scandinavian, but not in a too obvious way.
- Margot and Clare – If avoiding the a-ending names feels important, I really like the idea of Margot and Clare – with the caveat that Claire is in the current US Top 100, so perhaps that’s too popular for you to consider?
- Margot and Daphne – My suggestion if you find the prospect of popular Clare/Claire problematic. I’ve always thought of Daphne as sprightly and fun. (Credit to this piece of Django Reinhardt music, probably.) Many of us think of the Scooby Doo character, which isn’t necessarily a positive. But I do feel like Daphne’s mythological roots and ties to the natural world balance out the animated character.
I’d love to hear what readers think of Ingrid and Astrid. Are they too Scandinavian with big sister Elsa? My instinct is yes – that’s the kind of combination that will have people asking you if you’re from Sweden.
Now, on to the boys. It seems like your style is even bolder when it comes to boys – many of these are not in the current US Top 1000! Though they’re all generally familiar as given names.
In this case, I’m not sure we need to add anything, especially because there’s no conflict with a-ending names.
It also sounds like Casper is the name to match, with the nickname Cas.
So what goes with Casper?
- My first choice would be Felix. They’re both complete names that don’t really require nicknames. And I think they have a similar vintage style, and Felix is nicely German and Scandinavian, too. One drawback? While Casper isn’t in the Top 1000, Felix is currently in the Top 300 and rising. Still, Elsa, Casper, and Felix are great together.
- Archer is my second choice. While I’m drawn to the sounds of Casper and Felix from a style perspective, I noted that Archer also has family ties. If Casper and Archer are both family(ish) names, that’s a compelling reason to use the two names. Cas and Arch are easy short forms, if you’re inclined to nickname. As with Felix, the only issue is popularity. Archer ranks right around #300 in the US right now, and is gaining.
- Back to style considerations: Hugo seems like a great brother for Elsa and Casper. It’s in the current US Top 500, and likely to climb, but that’s less popular than Felix and Archer – for now. It’s also easily worn in northern Europe, which is another plus.
- In the fourth spot, I’d suggest Rufus. Rufus is a favorite of mine, but I put it on this list for another reason: Rufus isn’t in the US Top 1000. Just 20 boys were given the name in 2014, which is … crazy! (In 2014, it took at least 205 births for a boy’s name to rank in the US Top 1000. Another name that isn’t on your list, but is similarly rare? Linus.
That’s not to say that other names on your list aren’t great fits, but these jumped out at me.
Readers, what would you suggest to Whitney for her twins? How do you feel about additional a-ending names if the twins are girls?