Name Help: Brother for William, James, ElizabethName 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!

Katie writes:

My husband and I like very traditional, classic names. But we’re naming our fourth child and third son, and I’m worried that it sounds a little … pretentious? Stiff? Boring? We know lots of little kids and I like the names that everyone is choosing better than ours! But my husband says it would be weird to have Will, Jamie, Beth, and Maverick. (Not that I really want to use Maverick.)

All of their middle names are family names. We alternate sides. This baby will probably have the middle name Hunter, my grandmother’s maiden name, or Anthony, my grandfather’s name, but only if the initials don’t spell anything. Our last name is like MacMillen, and we almost named our firstborn William Anthony M- until we realized he’d go through life as WAM. We didn’t like JAM any better for Jamie, either, LOL!

Here’s our list:

Charles – It’s a lot of royal family names, right? Also, I love Charlie for a baby and a kid, and maybe a teenager. But Charles does nothing for me. Chuck? No.

Henry – We know three boys with this name, though I guess none of them are super close to us. I’m not sure how I feel about Henry Hunter.

Max – But Maximilian is crazy, and sort of sing-songy with our last name. I’m not sure if any of the other longer Max names “go” with our other kids’ names, though I think I like Maxwell. Just Max seems too short.

Michael – I love Michael, but Mikey doesn’t appeal AT ALL. But can we really call a sweet little baby Michael all the time?

Thomas – I think this might be the name. Except Will is obsessed with trains, including Thomas. Will it be like we named our son for a talking train? I’m not sure if it ruins the name for me.

My husband is Matthew, and his brothers are Nicholas and Joshua, so those names are out. We don’t want to repeat initials. (Another reason we’re thinking maybe Max and Michael are out.)

If we have a girl, we’d probably name her Mary Katherine, though I’m beginning to have the same worries about girl names, too. Maybe even more! (Katherine would be for me. I’m Kaitlyn, but I’m always called Katie/Kate.)

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

Dear Katie –

Congratulations on your new son!

Let’s start with a few ideas.

Bigger families have different rules.

This is baby four, and it sounds like you’re open to having more children, right? That qualifies as a bigger family. You have a choice: stick with all of your rules, even if it means picking a name you love less. Or be a little more flexible, and maybe find a name that you adore – even if it bends (or breaks) some of your rules.

Patterns matter more.

When you have two kids, no one really worries too much about patterns. Their names both start with E? Oh well. They both share their names with iconic Hollywood screen legends? Shrug. There are only two. It’s not enough to see them as a series, right? But somewhere around the number four, things do change. Ella, Emma, and Edward really might push you to insist on an E name for your fourth child. And if your older three have family middles, then you really can’t drop it now.

But it’s never too late to break them.

If you have a bigger family, it almost inevitably means you’re naming children over a decade or more. How many of your favorite things from ten years ago are still your favorites? Some things endure. And other favorites? Well, we move on. It’s perfectly fine to do this with names, too. What you interpret as a sharp departure in style will probably go unnoticed by most of the world.

So yes, Maverick might be a little extreme. But you could name your son something more current … Cameron, maybe? Harris, Sebastian, Everett … and some people might notice. But after a few months, it would sound perfectly natural.

Now, let’s talk about names.

I’m going to suggest some J names. Because while you could, in theory, have 24 kids before any one in your family needs to share an initial, it’s worth considering whether you want to stick with that rule.

ALEXANDER – A long name that shares Maxwell’s X, Alexander manages to be classic enough to fit with brothers William and James, but slightly less to-the-castle-born.

DANIEL – If you like Tommy, how ’bout Danny?

JONATHAN – A nickname rich possibility, longer than John, but still in the classic camp.

JOSEPH – The first name I thought of, and the reason I think it’s worth revisiting the repeating-initials rule. Joey is darling. Joe is a rock solid name for any age. And Joseph? An unassailable classic.

MAXWELL – I agree that Maximilian is a lot with your surname, and maybe Maximus is just a lot. But Maxwell could be great.

PATRICK – Patrick is handsome in full, but I’m guessing you might not be wild about Pat. But what if you called him Patch instead? It’s sweet on a baby, wearable on a teenager … and I like Patrick in full for a grown-up.

THEODORE – Along with Henry, Theodore is one of those classic names that feels traditional and stylish at the same time.

But if I none of these appeal – or if I haven’t convinced you to re-think the letter J – then let’s look back at your original list. Because Thomas? Is pretty much perfect.

We, too, went through a train phase that felt endless. We tripped over tracks. We spoke of “confusion and delay.” But a) the phase doesn’t actually last forever and b) one of the strengths of classic names is that no one else assumes you named your kiddo for a tank engine. That means your train-loving kiddo gets to enjoy his new brother’s name … but very few adults will assume you were thinking of the Island of Sodor when you chose it.

So I’m tempted to put Thomas Anthony MacMillen at the top of my list. From my suggestions, I wonder if you’d like Alexander? But if I could talk you into Jonathan – Johnny, Jono, Jack, Nat, Nate! – that might be my favorite of them all.

Readers, what names would you suggest for Katie’s new son?

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 think Charlotte would be adorable for a little girl! But, since you’re looking at boys names right now. If you love the name Anthony, then why not switch it up a little and have an honorary baby name as the first, and another name for the middle?

    So, I would consider:


    Charles (strictly Charlie)


















    Leopold (Leo) or Leonardo

    Maxim, Maximilano, Maximo, Maximus

    Good Luck, and I hope this helps!

  2. I almost suggested Malcolm (nn Mac), until I remembered your last name. Bummer! Mac MacMillen might be tough to wear.

    Thinking of other classic but slightly more unexpected choices, what about:

    Ambrose Hunter
    Clark Anthony (Bonus: initials CAM could make for a cute built-in nickname!)

  3. Was thinking about the sibs in Parenthood—three very classic names: Adam, Sarah, Julia and then a wildcard: Crosby. Just to say there’s something about giving that 4th baby something fresh and different. No doubt your parenting style has changed some over the years, no reason your naming style can’t evolve too. There are some great suggestions here for slightly less classic names. I like Sebastian and Cameron. I’d also suggest Casey, Murphy, Miller, August, Fisher and (why not) Crosby. But classic is classic for a reason. Tom is a great name. I also really love Daniel and Patrick and Francis or the super classic John.

  4. Andrew! Andrew Hunter, nun Drew or Hunt.

    Or Jonathan. Jonathan Hunter, nn Johnno/ Jona/ Jack / Jacko.

    Your kids’ names plus these are the names of my siblings and me – and we all liked our names and nickname options and still do as adults. And nobody ever mentioned they found the sibset stiff, formal or too British royals!

  5. All the options above are awesome, love Alexander. Below are are some others that may fit. Hope it helps!
    Nathaniel / Nathan
    Edward / Edwin
    Augustus / Augustine

  6. I think Thomas is a great choice. Thomas Hunter M. or Thomas Anthony M. — either works well.
    From your list, Henry is an excellent choice as well. Henry Hunter M.

    I also like:
    Andrew — possible nn of Drew (rather than Andy). Andrew Hunter M.
    Edward — nn could be Ed, Eddie, Ward. Edward Anthony M.
    Philip — I love the nn Pip! Philip Hunter M. Philip Anthony M. is good, except for the initials PAM.
    Nathaniel — nn Nate, Nat, or Nathan. Nathaniel Hunter M.
    Samuel — nn Sam or Sammy. Samuel Anthony M. — his initials would spell out his name!

  7. I love your children’s names! I’m biased, with a William and Edward myself. And they don’t go by nicknames so there have been a few prince references. I thought it would bother me but it doesn’t, and depending what direction we go with a family name for our 3rd, that name might be slightly royal too. I think that’s a risk with strong, classic names. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing! Classic names are beautiful! From your list, I like Thomas and Henry the best. Henry was one of our top choices for this 3rd baby and I know what you mean about knowing quite a few, but it’s such a great name! And so great with your sibling set. I personally love Henry Hunter MacMillen. Swoon! But I also love alliteration. Thomas Hunter is great too, and I have always loved Charlie. I think since your children go by nicknames, it’s not quite so obviously “royal”. I also love Abby’s idea of Alexander. Alexander Anthony is a beautiful combo too. Best of luck. Lots of great choices, you can’t go wrong!