Name Help: Cousins Sharing 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!

Sara writes:

I’m pregnant with my third child, a sister for William and Edward.

For both boys, we would have used the name Hattie Elisabeth after my beloved grandmother and great-grandmother.

I have loved that name for as long as I can remember, and luckily my husband agreed (especially since he doesn’t like many (any!) other girl names).

Two years ago, his sister named her third daughter Harriet. She sometimes calls her Hattie as a nickname. All of her daughters have formal names and nicknames, and they go by both.

I figured it was off the table for us. But when I found out this baby was a girl, I became so sad thinking that our daughter wouldn’t be Hattie as we had always dreamed.

My husband still wants to use the name. He says it’s not actually Harriet’s given name, no one “owns” a name, and we only see his sister and children a couple times a year. I convinced him to ask her about it. While she was nice in her response, she hopes we look elsewhere.

So we are trying, but struggling.

I’ve been scouring the internet trying to figure out if I’m a terrible person if we indeed go ahead with it.

I would not care if the tables were turned, but I know some people are very territorial about names.

Thank you so much in advance!

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

Hi Sara –

First, congratulations!

This might be controversial but … I think you should name your daughter Hattie Elisabeth.

And then I think you should brace for potential family drama.


If it were important to you that your daughter’s name be unique within your family, you’d have no choice – your niece is named, and that cannot be undone.

Except you don’t mind sharing.

And it’s easy to see it the opposite way. Your sister-in-law used your all-time top name, the name that you’d planned since your first pregnancy – or even earlier.

If there were simply a name you loved, I might encourage you to consider alternatives.

But it’s also a name that connects your daughter to her mother’s family – her great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother. That’s powerful.

And it’s a name that your husband loves equally, which adds even more weight to the name.

You’ll love your daughter no matter what name you choose, and you’ll grow to love her name, too.

But it’s a sacrifice for you to choose something other than Hattie, and it’s not clear to me that you need to make it.


Questions like this come up all the time. My guiding principle is that relationships matter more than names.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be guided by your loved ones’ wishes.

Everything in your message suggests that you’re taking the high road. You could insist that she’s at fault, and defend yourself. Except that’s not what you’re saying at all. You and your husband have gone out of your way to be thoughtful and sensitive about the potential conflict.

That’s what matters.

I can appreciate your sister-in-law’s feelings, as I imagine she chose Harriet partially because it wasn’t very common and didn’t want her daughter to share.

And yet … names repeat.

It might be the tiniest bit confusing at family holidays. Or maybe your daughters will both adore sharing a name with a cousin.


The internet may very well tell you that a) you’re a horrible person and b) my advice is terrible.

Your sister-in-law might be less than thrilled. It might be a sore point for years to come.

But … that goes both ways! You might feel resentful for years to come, too.

Is it worth using your long-time favorite, richly meaningful name, even if it means your sister-in-law possibly holds a grudge?

Because you can control the name you give your daughter. But you cannot control your sister-in-law’s reaction. That’s tough, because no one wants to make the birth of a baby a contentious moment.

If you can live with her reaction – and any potential damage to your relationship – then I’d proceed. And to be clear, you’re not at all a bad person if that’s the way you feel.

Because it sounds like your daughter’s name is already Hattie Elisabeth … even if it would be easier if you could find something you liked instead!

Okay, readers … am I off-base on this one? How would you react if you were the sister-in-law … or the mom-to-be?


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. I can’t believe my own daughter’s name is the one being discussed here! Ours is Harriet who always goes by Hattie. It was important to me to give her a big formal name to match her siblings. We considered several other ways to get to Hattie, but ultimately I didn’t want a Hadley or Katherine-inexplicably-called-Hattie, or Hadassah.

    You’ve quietly and politely waited to see if you’d ever have the opportunity to use your beloved name, and now you do! Plus your husband likes it too, a minor miracle! I don’t see what the big deal is with cousins both being Hattie, and I think there’s a good chance they would love sharing it. They presumably have different last names, and also different initials, and they won’t ever be in school together. My parents copied my 6-months-older cousin’s middle name for me, and while I think my aunt was miffed initially, my cousin and I enjoyed the special cousin link. Just don’t do anything annoying like refer to your niece as “Big Hattie.” I’d stick with calling her Harriet, or if she starts going by Hattie predominantly, then refer to her as “Cousin Hattie” or “Hattie + Middle Name” to avoid confusion.

    If you think your SIL can be gracious about it, I would forge ahead with Hattie Elisabeth. I think it would feel like an unsatisfying compromise to switch your special name out for Hattibeth or Sadie or Hadley. I would have your husband be the one to deliver the news to his sister (after the birth, when it’s a done deal!) so you don’t have to deal with her initial reaction, and invite your husband’s family to use their own special non-Hattie nickname such as Betsy. The only way I would give it up is if his family is so petty that you think his sister and their parents will hound you about this endlessly. My MIL has openly despised 2 of my 3 kids’ names, but even she shut up after enough of her Facebook friends gave positive feedback to convince her that the names were ok choices. Once the child is born, there’s a lot less room to criticize the name, and people with decent manners and personal boundaries will quickly accept it.

    1. I totally agree. You’ve spent countless years dreaming up the perfect name, hoping you’d get a chance to use it. And, God is good! He’s given you one of the biggest blessings, and a chance to raise a child with the name you adore, and have fussed over, wanting her to feel a connection to her grand and great-grand- mothers. While now, you feel like you have to plan out every last detail of a name, and you would think this should be the easiest name ever, you’ve been faced with an obstacle. You’re passed the stage of looking for rhymes, jokes, and ways for your princess to be picked on from her name. You know exactly what you want, but feel that it isn’t reachable. And you, and your husband BOTH agree on a name. To me, that seems like it was meant to be her name!

      Now, to go forward with the name, it’ll have to depend on a few conditions…

      1. How close are you with your family?
      2. Is Harriet a good girl to be associated with?
      3. Will you be together so much that it’ll be a burden to call your daughter a pet name, and have you SIL call her daughter Harriet, or a non Hattie nickname?
      4. Just trying to cover all bases here: What if something bad happens to Harriet, or the girls don’t end up getting along. Would you be okay with the confusion involved with having the girls share a name?

      And lastly, would any name mean more to you than bringing your daughter home with the name Hattie Elisabeth? Could any name really replace that for you? And, If you only have one daughter, would you be okay with never having a Hattie Elisabeth?

      Sorry, I know that this is a lot all at once, but have you considered trying to give your daughter 3 names? A first, and two middle? Or adding a hyphen in the middle of the middles? You could always give her an honor name from your DH’s side, or maybe even bumping the honor names to the middle with a hyphen, and then giving her a unique name from a list you had also considered, but just hadn’t be more special that Hattie, and Elisabeth? And, maybe you decide to keep a list with your hospital stuff, but leave it un-finalized until you meet her?

      To be quite honest, when you get her in your arms, and meet her, God will show you the way. Even if you end up reading the list to her during a middle of the night feeding, and decide based on a babble after she hears a name, you’ll work it all out. There will be no way for a shared name to overshadow the joy of bringing home a baby for the first time. There might be a sore spot, but that’ll be up to your SIL to keep it all in check and just focus on how happy you are, instead of her possible disappointment. It isn’t something you should be concerned about while you are trying to focus on your indescribable happiness.

      I you still feel unsettled, mention it to her again, and then table the whole conversation. Let her know you are trying to respect her opinions, but also are not willing to lose the honor of the name you chose. In the end, the girls might enjoy the special connection! But, if they dont, you’ll have to realize, that even if you plan to call her Hattie, you might not end up calling her that. And, if she doesn’t end up Hattie Elisabeth, As life goes on, you’ll still find a way to honor your grandmothers.

      Another thought, is there a street, or place name that could work that relates to one of the grandmothers? I know that my great grandmother lived on Camelia Court, so if you were me, you could name her Camelia if you also liked the name.

      Last thought- I promise-
      Such a special name isn’t fair to write off such a beautiful name because of a cousin’s pet name. And, though it seems really big right now, it’ll all work out, and everyone will just come to know your daughter as Hattie, or Elaine, Rose, Beatrix, Ophelia, or whatever you choose.

      Just dont change your dream because of someone else’s.

  2. Can I suggest you try approaching your SIL about this again? In the time since she was last asked, she may also have been thinking about it some more and may have either softened her opinion (realised it’s actually not too bad) or decided that she definitely doesn’t want a similarity and regrets not being clearer when last asked.
    As with those who mentioned this above, it’s not ‘their’ name to own so you are free to use it if you choose. However, I also agree that you don’t want the birth of your daughter to be marred by potential family conflict.
    And in the scheme of things, you are not going to love your daughter more or less based on what her name is. I had to give up the name I always loved dearly for a daughter, because my husband truly disliked it. I tried many many times to dissuade him and reasoned why this name was ideal (honor elements etc) but he was set on his views and in the end I decided that peace in our relationship was worth more to me than a name. Six years later and I still feel a slight twinge of sadness that I didn’t get to use the name I loved… but that sadness is just for a name and not for a person – if that makes sense. I would not change a thing about my daughter now, including her name.
    I wish you all the best.

  3. I don’t think I saw anyone suggest hyphenating and always calling her Hattie-Elisabeth, like Emily Elizabeth from Clifford the Big Red Dog. I suggest the hyphen so it’s clear the intention is that she will be called Hattie-Elisabeth. Normally, I probably wouldn’t suggest this, but you mentioned both names are important honor names, so it seems reasonable. Also, I think Hattie-Elisabeth is adorable. Additionally, it will give you the opportunity to use an honor name from your husband’s family as the middle name. It may seem like a lot of name to hyphenate the first name and still use a middle name, but i think that will solidify the idea in everyone’s mind that your daughter is Hattie-Elisabeth, not just Hattie. I would still talk to your SIL, kindly and firmly letting her know that you are using Hattie-Elisabeth because it has always been important to you, but that your daughter will be going by Hattie-Elisabeth. I think that;s compromise enough.

  4. I have several “same-named cousins” in my family, and I promise it’s not a big deal. I didn’t even realize this was an issue for people until I joined name communities online.