Name Help: Stepsister NamesUpdate: “This is long overdue! Thanks so much for the help. We almost named her Caroline McKenna, but I kept coming back to Maeve, but my husband wasn’t sure at first. But he eventually warmed up to the idea. And so she’s Maeve Caroline. The name suits her to a T!”

Kari writes:

My husband has two wonderful daughters from his first marriage. The girls’ names are Morgan Elizabeth and Mackenzie Marie. They’re in middle/high school and live a few hours away, but we try to see them as often as possible.

We have a three year old son together, William Joseph. It’s the name of both of our fathers, and it is the only name we ever discussed when we were pregnant the first time. Both grandfathers died before Will was born, so it was even more important to use those names. We didn’t even argue about which name came first because I have a brother who is a junior.

Now we’re expecting again. It’s a girl. She will complete our family, and we are so excited!

It turns out that my husband really, really likes names like Morgan and Mackenzie, and wants a similar style name for our daughter. I do not.

His list: McKenna, Harper, Marlowe, Maven, Quinn, and a bunch of other last name/word names that he brings up every once in a while. McKenna is his top choice – he likes the idea of all three sisters having M names.

My list: Alice, Adelaide (but NOT Addie!), Josephine (except too much with son’s middle?! maybe not good with our last name?), Cora, Edith, Violet (too popular?), Georgia (too Southern? awful with our last name.)

We might use Carol, his mom’s name, for a middle.

I’m not due until the end of January, but where do we even begin?! He says we should just wait to meet the baby and see what she looks like, but what if we can’t agree then, either?

Our last name is three syllables starts with J and ends with son, but we’re not related to Scarlett. 😉

Read on for my response, and please leave your helpful suggestions in the comments.

Dear Kari –

First, congratulations on your new baby!

Second, you are absolutely correct. When a couple has three or four favorite names, any of which they’d be happy to use, but none of which seems like The Name, waiting to meet the child isn’t the worst idea in the world.

But that’s not your situation at all, is it? You have a fundamental disagreement on style, and a short list of exactly zero names. Waiting until the last minute to make a choice is not likely to result in easy agreement.

Before we dive in, let’s look at your questions – because there are two separate issues here.

  • How much should half siblings’ names factor into naming decisions?
  • Where do you begin when your styles are miles apart?

Half-Siblings, Step-Siblings, and Other Sibset Considerations

In some cases, matching half-siblings names is a no-brainer. Maybe you love your stepkids’ names, and might have chosen them yourself. Or they satisfy certain preferences – maybe your partner really wants to stick with Irish names or nature names or some other style.

But often, that’s not the way it happens at all.

If your children are close in age or will live in the same household, matching matters more. After all, their names will likely be said together more often. A little bit of coordination can be a positive.

In this case, your children will grow up some distance away from their half-sisters, with more than a decade between them in age. There are plenty of practical reasons why their names don’t have to sound like part of the same set.

Clash of Styles

If you and your husband agreed on Alice or Edith, you’d be all set now. The problem is that there’s one more hurdle: you don’t actually have a list of names!

Let’s look at a few approaches – and a couple of names that might work:

  • Caroline – You seem to prefer more traditional names; family names have been a place you can compromise. If Carol is on your middle name list, maybe Caroline could be a first name possibility? Charlotte is another member of the Carol name family that might be worth consideration – though it sounds a little less connected to Carol.
  • Marlo, Margot – He likes Marlowe, which feels more like a sister for Mackenzie and Morgan and less like a sister for Edith. But could you both agree on Marlo? The different spelling tweaks the style slightly. If not Marlo, Margot shares much of the same sound, but has a very different vibe.
  • Molly, Mila, Mabel, Martha, Miranda – If you stick with the shared first initial, might your husband be open to something that’s more your style? It’s tough to eliminate 25 letters of the alphabet, but it might be the best path to compromise.
  • Hadley – While your husband prefers modern names, some of them do have associations that make them feel more traditional. Hadley Richardson became Hemingway’s first wife, and the subject of a best-selling fictionalized biography, The Paris Wife. Harper, of course, brings to mind author Harper Lee. There’s also Jordan (from The Great Gatsby), Greer (as in actress Garson), and other writer, actor, and artist names, first and last, to consider.
  • Alix, Eden, Wren, Sage – Could there be a modern name that still appeals to you, like Sage or Wren? Or maybe a name like Alix, that looks modern and invented, but has deep roots?

I also wonder if there are any family surnames that might work? Sometimes a surname name feels very different if it has a personal connection.

My favorite idea, by far, is Marlo or Margot. It seems like the middle point between your styles, and still connects this new baby to her older siblings – without completely compromising your preferences!

Okay, now it’s time to open it up to readers: what would you suggest to Kari and her husband?

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 just wanna add my vote to whoever and suggested taking “McKenna” off the list considering you already have a “McKenzie.” I’m a teacher, and I have a student named McKenna who is frequently called “McKenzie” and it drives her bonkers! Even with the age difference, being constantly called by a sib’s name really chafes some kids. Plus, and this is just my opinion, McKenna and McKenzie are just too matchy-matchy.

    I second Maura–I think it’s a beautiful name. Classic, but not overused. Also love Maude, Marian, and Margaret. I’ve always loved Margaret with “Greta” as a nn!

  2. Btw I forgot to add on my comment before that if a m name is chosen id agree to compromise on if the my name sounds best as the first name she goes by a none m nickname but if the m name is put as a middle name she goes by either her middle name or a m nickname so that it isn’t overly like her sisters yet is simmuler so in example I gave before if you chose Margaret and Caroline as names the if You named her Margaret Caroline she would go by something like Cara but if her name was Caroline Margaret she would go by something like margo

  3. My advice is simple. Make a list of names that are the type of names your husband likes that you can tolerate in this case M names and surnames as first names and have your husband make a list of your type of names and he could live with such as in your case traditional names, now trade list. Each pick a name off the others list. Now play with the order of the names with your last name and see which makes most sense. For example let’s say he chose Margaret off your list and you chose Caroline off of his list then you need to say is Margaret Caroline and your last name sound better together or does Caroline Margaret sound better with your last name. That way you’re both happy with the name and both got a little of what you want.