Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. We discuss readers’ name questions. 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!
We’re expecting our second son in one week and are still struggling with a name. His brother’s name is Henry Otto (both family names). Our last name is short, one syllable, and starts with a K.
We are considering the name Oliver – calling him Ollie – for a first name, but don’t have a middle name.
Our choices are:
- Augustus – Our top choice. August is a family name.
- Elijah – Husband’s middle name. Too many Ls?
- Hudson – Worried there is an actor with that name.
- Rex – Do multiple syllables sound better with a single syllable last name?
- Fox – Grandma hates it
Please read on for my response, and leave your helpful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Hilary –
Congratulations on your new son!
Let’s address a few of your questions first.
There’s no rule that says a short surname requires a longer first or middle. In fact, we can all think of examples like Brad Pitt, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Max Planck. Two short names together can be quite memorable.
And yet I’m not sure if these are the short names I’d shortlist. Rex repeats the meaning of your surname. And Fox, when combined with your surname, almost sounds like a unfortunate verb. I don’t think these are deal-breakers. I’m forever wary of “x sounds like y” reasons for dropping a possibility. Still, these don’t seem to be your favorites, so maybe it’s just fine to move on.
Likewise, nothing says that a long name is problematic. I quite like Oliver Augustus. Is it a lot of sound? Sure. But we routinely meet boys with names like Cameron Alexander and Elliot Sebastian – same syllable count, or even more.
Let’s look at the rest of your options, and consider a few related ideas, too:
Hudson – If Hudson were your very favorite name, I’d tell you to disregard Oliver Hudson. Yes, he’s a successful actor from a family of successful actors, suggesting he’ll stay in the spotlight. But it’s not quite like being Humphrey Bogart K*** or Robert DeNiro K***. Both Oliver and Hudson are common given names for boys in 2018, and Oliver Hudson isn’t so famous that we all recognize his name immediately. That kind of low-grade famous is usually not problematic over the course of a child’s life – but, of course, you don’t know for certain if Oliver Hudson is a future Oscar winner – or if he’ll become embroiled in a scandal. So if it’s not your absolute favorite choice, this is as good a reason to strike Hudson from your list as any.
Hayes – I really like Hayes with Oliver, and I like the flow of Oliver Hayes K***.
Fritz – I’d put Fritz just behind Hayes in terms of overall appeal.
Elijah – You’d mentioned a worry about repeating ‘L’ sounds. It’s tricky, because that often comes down to personal preference. My sense is that names with subtle repeating sounds are memorable and feel quite stylish. I’d take Annabelle Louise over Annabelle Marie, and Timothy Martin over Timothy John. So Oliver Elijah works just fine to my ear. The other thing that stands out: if your older son has two family names, it might be nice for Oliver to have at least one.
Eli – If you’re still not sold on Oliver Elijah, would you consider Oliver Eli? Strictly speaking, Eli and Elijah are not directly related. But the sounds are there. For better and for worse, you still have the repeating ‘l’ sound. I very much like the idea of the vowel ending of Eli, too – Oliver Eli mirrors Henry Otto in that sense.
August – But maybe this is the most straightforward solution. If you’re concerned that Oliver Augustus is too long, how about Oliver August? Oliver August K*** sounds just right together, and gives your second son a family name, too.
So my vote goes to Oliver August or Oliver Eli, but I’m curious to hear what others will think. Is Augustus too long? Are single-syllable middles too short with a single-syllable surname?
Readers, what would you suggest for Oliver MiddleName K***?
Marilyn Smith says
I like biblical names how about oliver mathew? We could also put Timothy with oliver. Eli or Elijah fit pretty good as well. Congras have fun with the names.
Definitely Oliver August.
I admit that I almost always vote for family names, but in this case, I like Oliver August(us) K*** a lot, and I think the initials “OAK” are cool!
I agree with many other commenters–Oliver Augustus/August is fantastic and by far my favorite. I also like Oliver Hayes. Oliver Eli or Oliver Elijah are great, but if your son will largely go by Ollie, Ollie Eli sounds like a tongue twister. I’m not sure that is enough of a reason not to use one of those names, but something worth considering.
Jean C. says
My very favorite boy name is Augustus and I hope you pick that! But if it feels too long, I think August by itself sounds great too.
C in DC says
You have a lot of royalty going on, especially in your elder son’s name. If you want to stick with that theme, I love Oliver Augustus or Oliver Fritz. Other possibilities in that vein that seem to match your style: Franz, Ferdinard, Frederick, Edward, Edmund, George. Magnus,
hahaha did you know Franz Ferdinand is a singer? I know they are written as two separate names, but couldn’t help but laugh since she mentioned the actor (which I didn’t even know of).
I too love Oliver August/Augustus.
Word of caution (and it maybe just be how much I watched the cartoons growing up)-
Hayes with your last name very much sounds like Popeye saying “Hazing” to me. Now, I’m probably weird that I hear that, and it’s not often his whole name would be used verbally, but that was my initial reaction when saying them.
Amanda L. says
I agree with others who have said to go with an honor name even if it doesn’t “flow” perfectly. Most people don’t really use the full name all that much, anyway.
I have a Winifred Sandy – her first is a name we loved and that fits really well in our sibset, and her middle, while not really my style, is in honor of a beloved grandmother who passed away while I was pregnant. It felt a little clunky at first, but after a few months it just clicked – it became obvious that this name suits our little girl so well, and the flow just kind of started happening. I’m thankful that I didn’t cave and choose something different in the middle for the sake of “style”.
RaeAnn Jent says
My vote goes for Oliver Hayes. It sounds great and would allow both sons to have opposite initials. Henry Otto and Oliver Hayes work well together! Oliver Augustus is another awesome choice. Good luck with your decision.
Christina Fonseca says
I suggest you go with your top choice. I think Oliver Augustus sounds great.
Erin Beth says
My favorites in terms of “flow,” in order, are Oliver August, and Oliver Eli, and Oliver Hayes. I like a one or two-syllable middle name best with Oliver.
My favorite is Oliver Fritz and it carries on the old fashioned German name theme with Henry Otto.
I’m loving Abby’s suggestions of Oliver August and Oliver Eli. Both are incredibly handsome and sound just right for a brother to Henry Otto. It would be nice to use a family name or a spin on one since your elder son has two honour names.
A few other miscellaneous ideas which seem like they fit your style:
Love Oliver August or Oliver Elijah. These seem like the best flow with your last name and have family ties that make them more meaningful. Both sound classic and strong. Best of luck finding the perfect middle and congrats!!
Oliver Augustus has a great flow. It sounds quite elegant, yet not stuffy.
My thought is honour / family names trump flow any day. You have a few awesome contenders! I love both Augustus/August and Elijah (and I love all the vowels and Ls). If for some reason you’re still open to random choices, I like an H to flip the initials of your first son, so how about Hugo?
We have a one-syllable last name and I wasn’t a fan of one-syllable middles next to it, but if it was a super love or meaningful, I’d probably make an exception.
My vote is for Oliver Elijah. Love it alone and next to Henry Otto.