Name Help: Middle NamesName 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!

Zoe writes:

We need some help finding the right middle names for our new son.

His first name sounds like Owen, but is much less common.

We initially chose the middle names River Fox. My husband loves fishing, so River felt like it was “meant to be.”

I’m happy with his first name and with Fox, but River just doesn’t feel right.

Our other Son is sounds-like-Hudson (but much less common) Ezra Wolf.

We love unusual names but try to ground them with an older, recognizable name in the middle.

I absolutely adore Bodhi and would use it in a heartbeat. But Bodhi clashes with sounds-like-Owen due to the strong O sound in both.

Other names I like but my husband isn’t sure include Arthur, Dexter, Digby, Ephraim, Hugo, Huxley, Moses, Orson, and Orwell.

Any help is appreciated!

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new son!

It sounds like the issue is this: you had a winning formula for your firstborn’s name. Unusual first, more serious middle, truly daring bonus middle. The pattern makes sense.

But your second son has two daring middles, without the benefit of more traditional name to anchor it all.

We could argue that River has caught on in a big way, and will almost certainly feel traditional in another generation or three. But we’re talking about today, and River still seems novel.

Does that sound right?

While changing a name is never easy, this seems like a fairly straightforward puzzle.

We’re looking for the equivalent of Ezra, which means:

  • A time-tested name, one you might’ve heard across many centuries.
  • Something immediately familiar, even if it’s not a chart-topper.
  • One that flows nicely with sounds-like-Owen and Fox.

It does strike me that your husband is probably giving something up, so I wonder if the best approach is to find two or three names that you love equally, but give him a little more say in the final decision?


From your current list, I think Arthur, Dexter, Ephraim, Hugo, Moses, and Orson might be the better bets. Digby and Orwell are great – but a little less broadly familiar.

I’m divided on Huxley. It’s certainly an established surname, but it’s trending now. Will it feel sufficiently traditional to fill that spot? Does the repeating ‘x’ in Huxley and Fox appeal … or repeat too many sounds? My inclination is to drop it from the list, not because it isn’t great … but because it shares some of the shortcomings of both River (a too-new name) and Bodhi (repeating sounds).

My personal favorite is Arthur. Like Ezra, it’s an old-school name that feels fresh and stylish by 2022 standards. And it’s a nice bring between sounds-like-Owen and Fox.

But … are the initials OAF a dealbreaker? I can’t decide.

My second favorite is sounds-like-Owen Hugo Fox. Another classic with a current vibe, perfect for anchoring an unexpected first and bold bonus middle. And while the O sound repeats, it’s far more subtle – and pleasing – in this combination.


Bodhi is such a great name!

But … the repeating sound is strong. Too strong, I think. It’s a little sing-songy when said together.

Beyond that consideration, I also wonder if Bodhi feels less like Ezra. While there’s plenty of history and meaning behind it, Bodhi has only emerged as a given name in very recent years. That puts it closer to River and Huxley than, say, Arthur or Hugo.


EZEKIEL – Like Ezra, Ezekiel combines a cool sound with Biblical roots. And I think the extra syllables help balance out a two-syllable first name and short middle name Fox.

HENRY – Too traditional? It has the ‘ee’ ending of Bodhi, but seems more like a rock solid anchor of a name.

ISAAC – Another Biblical possibility, but perhaps even more on the classic side.

MILO – Maybe not quite as conventional as Arthur, but Milo is a mainstream favorite with plenty of history.

THATCHER – If Dexter isn’t quite right, would Thatcher appeal?

ZACHARY – Or even Zachariah, for a more dramatic choice? Zachary feels like a staple name for a son, big in the 90s and still plenty familiar today.

From my list, I’m still stuck on Ezekiel. Sounds-like-Owen Ezekiel Fox. It’s more of a conventional given name than River, and a perfect parallel to Ezra. Plus the syllable count makes the overall rhythm of the name appealing, too.

Readers, over to you! What middle names would you suggest for sounds-like-Owen ____ Fox?

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. Just leaving an update : we went with Bodhi , my heart could not let it go. I thought about it at every angle and took a whole year to really work through it. He had to have Bodhi as a middle name , its him and always has been , iv finally been able to put aside the worry about it rhyming because we couldnt find any other name that just felt right. I appreciate the time and advice given to us so thankyou all.

  2. Actually love Ingram , I think mainly for the meaning as it matches our love of all things Norse and iv seen it also has a meaning “Raven of Anglia” we live in East Anglia lol. It low key reminds me of In-grown lol but I am quite sentimental and like to find meaning in everything. Iv seen it could have a possibility of having nickname Ingo which I would maybe use over the full name and that in turn has meaning “protected by Yngvi (Ing-Vee) which is another name for Frey/Freyr a norse god. So quite a lot to think about this evening lol. Thankyou.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear that!

    I was thinking of another name for a few hours and the only name that I came up with was Ingram. Ingram is like a cooler version of Graham and I love the meaning — “raven.”

    I wish you all the best to find the perfect name!

  4. So fun to see your replies! I’m sorry to hear about the water connotation.

    Aksel made me think of Ansel! Love the protector meaning.

    Rupert as a bearish name? Barrett?

    Abner, Asher, Ira, Levi, Mitchell, Pascal…

    1. I love Rupert it was on our friends baby list and she didnt use it for her son…I think I’d have to ask her permission lol. I love that it’s a bear name and a cheeky link to Harry Potter. Another love of mine.
      Also love Ira as similar sound to Ivar that I like. I loved Levi but went off it and it doesnt suit my sons personality.
      I like Barrett, my maiden name was Jarrett and my dads name starts with B so it’s a mash up but I reckon my hubby will dislike it. (I’m such a pain)

  5. I actually think River works really nicely, and if it’s meaningful to your husband, I’d use it. It’s a solid choice, although not with a long history of use as a name, but as a common word it carries a lot of symbolism.

    I thought of Jordan as a good counterpoint to Ezra – from the Jordan River and meaning “descend” or “flow down”. However, it shares the same ending as “Owen” so maybe is too repetitive. Lachlan means “land of lakes” but also has the -n ending problem.

    Rafferty? It means “flood tide” – not quite the same as river, but the sound is similar, and it sounds great in with “Owen”and Fox.

    I also like the suggestion of using the name of a particular river that’s significant to your husband, if there is one that would work well as a name.