Name Help: First Name to go with middle name CharlesName 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!

Abby writes:

We are expecting our first child, a boy, in March and would love your help choosing a name! If we were having a girl, her name would be Eliza (my favorite) or Violet (my husband’s favorite).

I like lots of names, while my husband is more selective. We do have some general criteria:

  • Goes with the middle name Charles, which is a family name.
  • Sounds good with our uncommon last name.
  • Does not have a “built-in” nickname, like Abigail/Abby (my name), Joseph/Joe, Matthew/Matt, etc.
  • Not super popular. My husband is a 90s Ryan and wishes his name was less common.

Here are some names on our list, but we aren’t sure are quite right:

  • Eli – Does the “eye” sound in Eli rule out using Eliza or Violet some day? And is it silly to rule out names when we don’t even know we’ll have a girl in the future?
  • Ezra – Maybe too popular? I also don’t want to rule out Eliza for a future daughter!
  • Ian – Just doesn’t quite feel like the one to either of us though we do like it.
  • Mason – I never had this one on my list before, but my husband and sister like it and it now has me thinking.
  • Miles – Not sure Miles Charles sounds right. But we do love the character Miles Morales!
  • Milo – Same concern with the “eye” sound in Eliza/Violet. My husband also doesn’t love this name quite as much as me. I don’t want to miss out on a name we both love equally!
  • Rowan – We do like this, but prefer it for a girl.
  • Theo – Don’t like how people may assume it’s short for Theodore. Also my sister’s favorite name and I don’t want to steal it!

Our last name starts with a hard G and is three syllables.

We may be overthinking here, but would love your help to feel like we have the perfect name!

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

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new son!

Let’s begin with the big picture question: should you reject a name you like today in favor of a name you love for use in a possible future tomorrow?

It depends.

If Violet is the name of a beloved grandmother, or Eliza is the name you’ve given to every doll since you were a child? That’s a slightly different category than, say, Eliza and Violet are the top two names we came up when we first started talking about a family together.

Particularly with family names, our desire to use them will almost certainly endure.

But names we just really like right now? They’re subject to revision.

In this case, it sounds like you probably could choose a name you like every bit as much for a future child. And I don’t think the “eye” sound of Milo rules out Violet or Eliza, though I would say that Eli’s sister probably shouldn’t be Eliza.

So that’s a factor … but maybe not a deciding one.

Let’s start by looking at your current list.



I’m inclined to discard it, if only because it definitively rules out Eliza. You don’t have to, of course – you could certainly name a hypothetical future daughter Violet – or something else entirely. And, of course, you might end up with a mini van full of boys.


I can see that Ezra and Eliza are pretty close, so again, I’ll put this at the bottom of the list.


I wonder if you’re reacting to the fact that Ian has been a Top 100 name since the 1980s? It sounds exactly like your style, but it’s not particularly new or exciting.


Like Ian, Mason has been near the top of the charts for a while. Until recently, it ranked in the Top Ten. Still, I do kind of like it for you. It’s bright and strong and can’t really be shortened.


Miles Charles is okay, but I see what you mean.


I’d put Milo at the very top of your list, though if it’s not your husband’s favorite, that’s a drawback.


I hear you saying you prefer this name for a daughter, but I think it has potential for a son, too, so I’m not sure I want to rule it out.


This would be perfect, but I wonder about the name theft angle? Would you feel guilty? (Conversely, if your sister never has a son, will you feel like this is The Name That Got Away?)



I’m not sure this is quite the sound that appeals to you, but Callum does check a lot of boxes: it’s a complete name, unlikely to be shortened. (Okay, he could be Cal. But I don’t think it’s quite like Benjamin automatically shortened to Ben.) It’s familiar but different. And it leaves plenty of space for Violet or Eliza in the future.


Violet makes me think of Everett. A current name with plenty of style and a traditional sensibility, Everett ranks in the US Top 100 but isn’t wildly common.


Mason and Miles make me think of Hayes, but Hayes has the same not-perfect-with-Charles issue. Would Hayden appeal? While all of the Aidens peaked a few years back, Hayden is actually still gaining in use. It sounds a little more traditional and enduring than, say, Zayden or Kaiden.


Maybe Leo is too close to Theo to really help, but I’ll suggest it anyway. Another bonus: while Theodore is more popular than Theo, leading to lots of assumptions about Theo having a formal name, Leo is most common on its own.


The think about sibling names sharing a vowel sound is this: repeating a vowel sound is fine, as long as the rest of the name is distinct. Eliza, Violet, and Miles/Milo all share the long I and a strong L. Micah, though, only shares the vowel sound.


If Rowan and Ian aren’t quite right, how about Owen?


Another name that feels like it belongs on your list.


My first thought was Tatum, but it’s easily shortened to Tate, so that gives me pause. Tate, though, could be perfect. It’s brief, complete, and current without being especially popular. It’s great with a longer surname, easily spelled and pronounced, and leaves plenty of space for girls’ names with the long eye sound, should that future ever come to pass.

Overall, from your list, I still like Milo best – but I can see it has some serious drawbacks. The same is probably true for Theo, so I think I’d have to put Mason at the top of the list.

But Mason has been very popular in recent years – not Ryan-level, by any means. But that makes me wonder if Tate, from the Fresh Suggestions list, is the better bet? I particularly like Tate Charles.

Readers, over to you! What would you suggest for a first son – nickname-resistant, not super popular, and possibly leaves space to use Violet or Eliza in the future?

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. Sorry, Abby, but Tate Charles is a definite no-go for me. It immediately made me think of Sharon Tate’s murder by Charles Manson’s cult in 1969, and in fact, when I Googled “Tate Charles”, that incident came up as the fourth result.

    I would likewise steer clear of Mason Charles for its similarity to Charles Manson.

    On a brighter note, I *love* some of the possibilities here! These ones particularly stand out:

    Rowan Charles (unless you’re sure that Rowan would supersede Eliza *and* Violet for a potential daughter)
    Everett Charles (though I do think this would be a less-than-ideal combination with Violet)
    Owen Charles
    Leon Charles

    Good luck with the decision!

  2. Do you like Bryce? Bryce Charles G…
    Blaine might suit, too. Blaine Charles G…

    I can easily imagine a family of kids named Violet, Eliza, Bryce, and Briscoe.

    Do you like Briscoe Charles G…?

    Best wishes to you and your family!

  3. My first thought, on seeing that Abby suggested Leo, was how about Leon? It would avoid any rhyming issues with a potential cousin Theo; it fits in with your criteria; would work well with Eliza and Violet; and Leon Charles sounds great.

    Some other ideas: Boaz, Milan, Asher, Wyatt, Eamon, Shiloh, Malachi, Damon, Nico, Reuben, Tobias, Miro, Jabez, Laszlo, Quentin, Xander, or Roman