Calendar Number 21
Calendar Number 21 by Leo Reynolds via Flickr

Here’s a question: how many degrees of separation need to be between you and someone else before you can use the same baby name?

Sisters typically wouldn’t use the same name for cousins, unless it is a family tradition.  I know a set of three brothers who all named their sons Edward after grandpa, but the younger two boys are known by their middle names.  (And, for what it is worth, all three live in different states.)  You and your best friend would probably agree that if she uses Ava, your daughter better be Ruby or Ella or, well, any name other than Ava.

But how about slightly more distant relationships?  Would you:

  • Give your child the same name as a neighbor?  Does it matter if the name is already Top Ten?  How about if the name is a classic, like Katherine or James?  What if you’re renting and don’t expect to be there long?
  • Give your child the same name as a co-worker?  What if your workplace is HUGE and you only know of the repetition because of an announcement in the company newsletter?
  • Repeat a family name used by a distant cousin – as in lives across the country, haven’t seen her since you were kids during the Reagan administration?  Does it change your decision if the kids will be close in age?  Okay, now what if that cousin is someone who lives a little bit closer, and you’ll run into each other at family events a few times each year?

I’m thinking of all these things thanks to a Real Simple column from this month’s edition.  I can’t find the column online, but here’s the gist: cousin A has twin daughters named Sofia and Alexa.  Cousin B just announced on Facebook that she’s having twin daughters, too – and naming them Sophia and Alexie.  Cousin A admits that they’re not close, but she still finds it weird.  Honestly?  I’m inclined to agree, except that if they’re really not close, is it possible that Cousin B didn’t know?

Elsewhere online:

  • Ack, it is another baby Renesme.  This strikes me as a particularly strange source of name inspiration, but maybe I’m overreacting.
  • Oh, but this list makes me happy: siblings for Blossom at British Baby Names.  Basil and Blossom are deliciously daffy together.  And sisters named Daisy, Rose, Violet, May, Lily, Blossom, and Pansy effortlessly bring to mind springtime.
  • This is my new favorite hero name, right up there with Katniss and Hermione.
  • Ludivine is great.  I’m also a huge fan of Ludovic, even if they strike me as not really wearable.
  • Here’s another international variant of John: the Portuguese João.  There’s no end to the great spins on this evergreen name, though I think João is a tiny bit challenging for Americans to master.
  • What do you think of Jex?  A substitute for Max and Dex?
  • Since the arrival of Uma Thurman’s much-named little girl, I’ve mentioned that there was a fourteenth-century Italian use of the unusual name Altaluna.  Mastino della Scala ruled the city of Verona.  He was also, I think, a hard core name nerd.  His legitimate children were sons were called: Cangrande, Alboino, and Cansignorio, plus he had a daughter called Beatrice.  Beatrice and Alboino were named after his parents, and Cangrande was a family name, too.  But his illegitimate kids – of which there were at least five – had amazing names.  There was a son, Freganano, and a daughter who answered to the unsurprising Caterina.  But his other three daughters were Viridis, Altaluna, and Veronese.  There must be a story there …  Or maybe fourteenth century Northern Italian names are just that fantastically different, and I really need to spend more time exploring the era.
  • More reasons to use the stylish Stella: designer and original starbaby Stella McCartney has a new line called Little Miss Stella, complete with a Robert Hargreaves book, an installment in the Little Miss/Little Mister series.  Of course, the Little Miss series were great for their gentle fables, where the characters learned to do the right thing.  The description of this one makes me think that it might be different …
  • Sebastiane’s list of Polish baby names sounds an awful lot like my husband’s side of the family.  I do love a clunky Polish appellation …

Lastly, a housekeeping note.  I was attempting to fix the link structure for posts.  They have always read  I’ve been meaning to transition to something simpler, maybe even  But when I clicked a few settings, I discovered that I’d automatically re-set the entire site.  I’m not quite sure how to go forward from here, but I thought you at least deserved a warning that the number of 404 errors will be sky high over the next few weeks until I figure it out.  My sincerest apologies.  The cheap fix, of course, is to just manually delete the date from the text – so just reads  Thanks for bearing with me.

That’s all for this week.  As always, have a great week and thank you for reading!

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. We are in the middle of this peoblem at the moment. My little pregnant heart has fallen in love with the name Hugh, but a girl in my book club has used it already. I am trying to fall in love with Hugo as an alternative. Being a Jamie growing up in the 70’s and 80’s has left me with an obvious complex. I don’t even want ONE person with the same name as my child!

  2. My BIL and his first cousin are both Chris SameLastName, born within 6 months of each other. There’s no family tie to the name. It’s just annoying and confusing (within the family), when there are a gazillion names to choose from.

    On the other hand, my one daughter shares her name with a former co-worker of mine (I loved the name long before I ever met the coworker and she was a “former” before I had my children) and the other shares her name with the daughter of another coworker. I was slightly worried about the coworker’s reaction, but we weren’t close and didn’t move in the same circles either in or out of work enough to make it an issue.

    1. I should also mention that I pointed out, with a certain vehemence, to a good friend of mine that naming his son John and calling him Jack or even just naming him Jack seemed like rather silly choices, given that his two closest friends each had toddlers named Jackson.

      1. Hmmm … since two boys are already Jackson, I wonder if friend #3 feels like one more Jack can’t hurt …

      2. My five-year-old nephew is Jackson, this summer my cousin also named her son Jackson. My SIL was really bent out of shape about this, but later we learned baby Jackson was named after a family member who had died young… It’s stories like this that really opened my eyes up about how no one owns a name.

        (Both of my kids share names with older, distant cousins, but that’s the danger of picking a classic name from your family tree.)

  3. I think Malala is gonna take off this and next year once the stats are out. Esp since Layla is so hot, it also benefits from the Makenzie/Makayla phenomenon. I don’t think people will care about it’s meaning, in fact, I’d bet many won’t even connect it to *the* Malala. It will just surreptitiously bounce around in their minds and they will think they invented it themselves. Expect a lot of Malaila/Malayla/Melayla hybrids.

    I wouldn’t hesitate to reuse a name but my son is named for my father and any subsequent children will also likely be named after a first degree relative. I’m still stuck in the middle ages where all your daughters are called Elizabeth and go by various nicknames. 😉

  4. I don’t think I’d use a name already used by a friend of mine, nevermind my brother or sister. That would be just stupid imo, there are so many names out there, just pick something else.

  5. The question of whether to use a name already given to the child of an aquaintance is something that we’ve been debating lately. One of our favourite names is already “in use” so to speak by some friends of ours. However, we’ve decided to put it on our list after all since we have basically no other mutual friends with this couple and live in different countries, let alone cities (we do stay in fairly regular contact via facebook due to similar interests).

    Malala is a very worthy hero name, although the young champion did write in one of her blog posts that her name means “grief stricken” ( It’s another piece of information that might cause English-speaking parents to think twice before giving the name to their offspring. Still, its decidely pretty and meaningful both in its history and its current usage.

    1. That is so interesting. I clearly wish I had found that particular blog post when writing my post, and will need to add this in right away to keep it relevant. Thank you!

  6. I think it’s a bit weird to have two names in common with another sibling set. I had James within weeks of another family friend having a James, and it didn’t bother either if us. However, when they had their daughter Violet, I permanently took her name off our list. It would just be weird. I think that’s why the twin sets question from Real Simple hit a nerve for me.

  7. I have a fairly consistent top pick for each gender, and I wouldn’t care if both of my brothers, my best friend, my neighbor, my co-worker, and everyone else I know all used it, I’d still name my child that without guilt or compunction. And if they did the same, then good on them for their good taste. 😉 But then like Sebastiane, a good portion of my favorite names are slightly less than common (though my very top boy names are fairly popular).

    Ooh, Malala is lovely. And Ludovic is one of my favorite boy names! Love the nickname Ludo. I’m slightly obsessed with the idea of triplet boys named Leonardo, Ludovic, and Levi (Leon, Ludo, and Levi).

    And I like Jex, but I was more intrigued with Baynard, which I think pairs up nicely with another of my faves, Bertram (Bard and Bram).

    Finally, I don’t dabble too much in Polish names, but there is one that has a little piece of my heart: Wisława.

    Great post. Happy Sunday.

    1. HA! Now that is a great answer. And I think I feel the same way about my favorite names.

  8. I would have to agree with Emily, though I have always liked obscure names and I really doubt if someone would use the names I plan to use, even then, I wouldn’t be upset.

    You should read Boccaccio’s Decameron, lots of interesting Medieval Italian names in there 🙂

  9. Call me crazy, but I don’t understand the hangup over siblings, cousins, friends, coworkers, etc using the same names for their children. Becoming angry or upset when your sister wants to name her daughter Charlotte (and you already have a daughter named Charlotte) or when your coworker names her son Rafferty (and you just announced your plans to name your son Rafferty) is really kind of weird to me. You don’t own the name Charlotte or the name Rafferty. What’s the justification for being upset?

    1. People want to feel unique, that they were the first to think of something. This is hard to get over, especially when it’s choosing a name for your child. Have I had this happen to me? No. I don’t think I’d be upset, but who knows. People don’t always react rationally, though that should be a goal.

  10. Mastino della Scala was indeed a hard core name nerd! His children had fabulous names. Love, love his daughters’ names.

    I would advise against usuing João. My poor uncle gets called all sorts by his English friends – they just can’t seem to grasp the pronunciation of the ‘ão’. It is a bit tricky if you aren’t used to it, I guess.

    1. I went to graduate school with a very handsome João, and I did learn how to say it. Mostly. But he was Brazilian, and fantastically tall and just carried the name fabulously. I tend to agree with you about it being tough to wear in the US.