welcome Willow Jordan and Wren PalmerUPDATE: They’re here! K writes “We couldn’t let go of the idea of honoring Sophia and Helen, but also felt like changing the names to make them flow better wasn’t the same. Then a friend suggesting using their LAST names for our daughters’ middle names, Willow Jordan and Wren Palmer. We love their names so much, and I really like we did something more daring than Elizabeth and Marie. Thanks to everyone for their encouragement!”

K writes:

We are expecting twin daughters in September, but we expect that they could arrive in August, or even sooner.

My partner and I agreed on Willow as our girl name. Our boy name was probably River (or maybe Finn). We didn’t have a second girl name idea, but a friend suggested Wren at the baby shower, and we fell in love with the idea.

We love to hike and camp and be outside, so we don’t think Willow and Wren are too much together. But it would be good to hear from others.

We would also like some ideas for middle names.

My partner and I have a new last name, made by combining sounds from both our surnames. (It sounds like Cartley with an H.) So there’s not a last name from either of us that we’d want both girls to share.

We have considered:

  • Elizabeth and Marie – No reason. Just names that lots of people have as middle names.
  • Sophia and Helen – Two very important people in our lives, but we don’t like the way Helen sounds with Wren or Willow, and we do like the way Sophia sounds with both. (And we wouldn’t use Sophia without Helen, if that makes sense.)
  • River and Finn – Because we probably won’t have any more children, maybe we could use our boy names? I like Wren River and Willow Finn, but my partner isn’t convinced.

Everyone has ideas, and we now joke about it. (Willow Bert and Wren Ernie. Willow Gertrude and Wren Bertha.) But it’s getting closer now, and it’s making me anxious to not have this settled.

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new arrivals!

I wonder if the challenge is this: we tend to think of twins as a matched set.

Should we? Probably not.

But our brains like handy shortcuts. And so, even though I know without a doubt that the twins in my family are completely separate individuals with different preferences and personalities … I still mentally think of them as “the twins.”

Choosing names like Wren and Willow reinforces that sense of being a pair – shared initial, similar style, both meanings drawn from the natural world.

And yet, I think they’re perfect choices. They’re great sibling names, and it seems like they fit your lifestyle, too.

But it feels like you’re trying to do something similar with their middle names – find a coordinating set of names. If that works again, fabulous! In this case, though, it sounds like it’s upping the difficulty level.

Instead, let’s think about it as two separate fill-in-the-blank challenges.

  • Wren _____ Cartley-with-an-H
  • Willow ____ Cartley-with-an-H

Now let’s see if we can fill in the blanks with names that are compatible, but not paired in any obvious way.

I’ll separate my suggestions by style, more or less.


  • Wren Eleanor and Willow Vivian
  • Wren Caroline and Willow Katherine
  • Wren Amelia and Willow Evelyn


  • Wren Avery and Willow Kenley
  • Wren Eloise and Willow Esme
  • Wren Haven and Willow Blair


  • Wren Arietta and Willow Adair
  • Wren Callisto and Willow Clemence
  • Wren Cosima and Willow Delphine

I think the first question is this: Does one of those categories broadly appeal to you more than the others?

There are some positives – as well as some downsides – to every choice. And the designations between classic/current/daring are a little arbitrary.

I’m particularly drawn to middles that balance the syllable count: three syllables for Wren and two for Willow, for example.

But hopefully looking at those lists gives you a sense of what feels like the best direction for your family.

In brief:

  • Classic Middles ground the very current firsts you’ve chosen. Katherine and Evelyn could be from nearly any decade, and that timeless quality adds a strong, enduring quality to your daughters’ names.
  • Daring Middles really make those first names standout. Chances are your daughters will meet another Wren or another Willow, but probably not another Wren Cosima or Willow Adair.
  • Current Middles split the difference. Many parents tend to choose more Classic Middles, regardless of their first name style. So the odds of meeting a Wren Eloise are closer to the chances of meeting a Wren Callisto.

And, of course, if you realize that you prefer three-syllable middle names that begin with E, well, Wren Eloise and Willow Evelyn are gorgeous. Nothing says you have to pick both middles from the same category.

If all of this has your head spinning, I’d suggest sticking with the more classic choices.

Which brings me to my final suggestion: would it be possible to alter the names Sophia and Helen just a little?

Because if that’s an option?

  • Wren Sophie and Willow Helene
  • Wren Helena and Willow Sophia
  • Wren Sophia and Willow Elena

I think Wren Sophie and Willow Helene are my top choice, if only because it alters both names slightly, and somehow that makes it feel more equitable. Or possibly Wren Helena and Willow Sophie, because it alters both names and gives Wren that one extra syllable.

If tweaking the honor names isn’t an option, I’m most drawn to Caroline and Katherine, or maybe Eloise and Esme, especially if Caroline and Katherine feel a little too traditional.

Readers, over to you! What would you suggest as middle names for Wren and Willow?

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. Wren Sophia and Willow Helena

    would just be perfection in my mind!
    If you don’t mind adding a letter to Helen’s name, that is.

    They just sound wonderfully modern, yet classic. Matching but not too much, different initials but the same flow and style.

    All the best whatever you decide!

  2. I would avoid word middle names with word first names.

    I love Willow Sophie and Wren Marie.

    Some other ideas:
    Willow Charlotte and Wren Victoria
    Willow Macy and Wren Fiona
    Willow Madeline and Wren Alyssa
    Willow Meredith and Wren Tallullah

    I find Willow sounds better with consonant-heavy names and Wren sounds better with vowel-heavy names.

  3. Also if you get cold feet on Wren, I would also like a season or month name with Willow.

    June Sophie & Willow Helena
    Summer Helena & Willow Sophia
    April Helena & Willow Sophia
    Mae Helen & Willow Sophia
    Lane Sophie & Willow Helena
    Fia Wren & Willow Helena