Baby name consultation: B/g twins need complementary but not matchy names!

Ryan and Maggie are expecting twins — a boy and a girl! They join big brother:

Jay Anthony

Which I love for its masculine simplicity. Nice job!

Ryan writes,

So I’m not sure we have a style when it coming to names yet … maybe our style will become ‘Saintly Simplistic’ 🙂

Our first son we named Jay Anthony. Jay is a family name of several generations (also my middle name) and Anthony (St. of Padua, of course). We liked the flow of Jay Anthony [with our last name].

The first names of the twins won’t be quite as simple as Jay, but ideally they could be shortened to a simple nickname.

For the boy a middle name of Kolbe (for St. Maximilian, who I have a devotion to) is likely [although thinking about it as a first name also]

Boy first names we are considering include: Bennet, Elijah, Samuel, Ian.

For the girl we are strongly considering Robyn as a middle name (after my wife’s father [Robin]) or Josephine (St Joseph)

Girl first names we like include: Mariella, Avila, Gianna, and Rosalia.

So that’s where we are. Confused and lacking creativity. If it was just one baby, I don’t think we would be asking for help/ideas; but the twins are presenting a unique challenge. We want the names to go together but not be “matchy“.”

I love working on twin consultations! And I like that Ryan and Maggie “want the names to go together but not be ‘matchy.'”

Since Ryan said he’s not sure they have a name style yet, I was really interested to see if I would see a style emerge after considering their son’s name and the names on their list. I think the first thing that’s pretty obvious is that they have different styles for boy names and girl names, which is really common.

In their boys’ names, I see Old Testament (Elijah, Samuel), Celtic (Ian), surnames (Kolbe and Bennet), and short names (Ian and Jay).

For their girls’ names, I’d say “Italian,” even though I know Avila is Spanish … so maybe “Latin-skewing-Italian” + “very feminine.”

With such different styles for their boy names vs. their girl names, finding names that go together is indeed a challenge! But such a fun one!

I don’t have any twins of my own, so anything I know about twin naming is learned from others’ experience. But you all know that I’ve done some twin consultations (e.g., here, here, here), and I love trying to come up with names that “go together without being too matchy.” I think there are a few ways a couple can do this:

  • Same first sound. This can definitely cross over into “too matchy,” and most twin parents I’ve talked to don’t care for same first initials (makes labeling things difficult), but doing something like G+J or C+K — where the twins have the same first sound but different initials — is an easy way to incorporate different styles of names but still help them feel like a unit
  • Same ending sound. This is probably easier for twins of the same gender, but not impossible for b/g twins
  • Balanced length. I like the idea of two short first names or two long first names — I think that makes for an obvious shared characteristic without being too matchy. Same number of letters always feels really pleasing to me, even if the names themselves are different styles. I also like a long-first+short-middle for one twin and short-first+long-middle for the other
  • Similar meanings. Some people really get into what names mean, and others don’t, but those who do could have some real fun choosing names that have similar or complementary meanings

Before getting into what names might pair up well though, I thought I’d share the name ideas I had for Ryan and Maggie beyond those on their list. This is based on research in the Baby Name Wizard, which, as you all know, lists for each entry boy and girl names with a similar style/feel/popularity. I looked up Jay, Cole (as a stand-in for Kolbe, as it doesn’t have its own entry), Bennet, Elijah, Samuel, Ian, Mariella, Gianna, and Rosa (as a stand-in for Rosalia), and looked for overlap among their style matches. I also had my own ideas, which included creating my own list of similar names for Avila, as it doesn’t have an entry and Ava didn’t seem quite right. Based on all that, these are ideas I thought Ryan and Maggie might like to add to their list:

Girl
(1) Cate (Caterina)
Since Jay is the only name they’ve actually chosen, I really wanted to be sure the twins’ names didn’t clash with his. I loved seeing that Kate was a style match for it, and it was listed as a match for Bennet as well, and it seemed like a great idea to me right away. Working with the style of name for girls that they seem to like, I thought Caterina with the nickname Cate would be a great idea, as Caterina is the Italian form of C/Katherine (indeed, St. Catherine of Siena’s first name was actually Caterina — Catherine is the Anglo/French form of it). They certainly don’t have to do the full name with the nickname — they can definitely give Cate as the given name (or Kate — Prince William’s wife Kate’s given name is Catherine — she does C for her formal name and K for her nickname), and take St. Catherine of Siena (or any of the Sts. Catherine) as patron — but I thought Caterina nicked Cate would be closer to their style.

(2) Clare/Clara/Chiara
Claire is a style match for Cole (standing in for Kolbe), Bennet, and Ian, and Clara is a match for Rosa (standing in for Rosalia)! So I thought one of the names from this family would be a good idea. Claire is a beautiful spelling, but since it’s the French spelling, I thought they’d prefer others better. Clare is the one traditionally associated with St. Clare of Assisi; Clara, with its “A” ending, gets closer to the feel of the Latinate names they like for girls; and Chiara is the Italian variant and the actual name of St. Clare of Assisi (like Caterina for St. Catherine of Siena). I also see a lot of families considering/using Chiara today with Bl. Chiara Luce Badano in mind.

(3) Lucy/Lucia
I thought Lucy felt more like Jay, but Lucia leans more toward the names on their girl list. Either way, I like one of these for this family. Lucy is a match for Rosa, and Lucia for Gianna. Pronunciation issues might bother them: the Italian Lucia is said loo-CHEE-ah, while I believe loo-SEE-ah is the Spanish/Portuguese pronunciation (like Lucia in Fatima); LOO-sha is like the island of St. Lucia; and I’ve heard loo-TSEE-ah as well. All they would need to do is be firm and consistent with their chosen pronunciation, but if that feels like too much of a hassle and they like the name, Lucy might be a better fit for them.

(4) Gabriel(l)a
If they decide to go with one of the biblical options from their boy list, perhaps a biblical girl’s name or feminine variant of a biblical boy’s name would be a good match for it. The boy’s name Gabriel is a style match for Elijah and Samuel, but I didn’t include it in my ideas for boys because I thought it echoed the sound of Jay too much. But Gabriella is a match for Gianna, and I thought that felt like a really good fit. Gabriella (or Gabriela, if they prefer) doesn’t feel biblical — rather, it has a nice Italian/Spanish feel —
but of course it is biblical, being the feminine form of Gabriel, so it would make a nice match for a biblical brother. (Mariella from their list would count as biblical+Italian too, since it’s an elaboration of Mary.)

(5) Leah
Leah was another match for Jay, and I really like it for this family because it’s biblical, like Elijah and Samuel, and they already have its sound at the end of Rosalia, which makes me think they might like it.

(6) Zoe or Zita
I admit that when I saw Jay’s name, my mind immediately went to similarly short names, whether one syllable (like Cate) or minimal letters — you can’t get shorter than Zoe! It’s a style match for Elijah and Ian, which I thought was really interesting. It’s St. Catherine Laboure’s birth name, so she’s a good option for patron. Zoe’s zippy Z coupled with their Italian style made me also think of Zita — the traditional St. Zita’s a great patron, but I’ve also been loving Servant of God Zita, Empress of Austria. This post might be helpful —
it’s a consultation I did for a family who was trying to find a name to match their son Ezra’s — they were welcoming a baby girl only ten months after Ezra, so they wanted the new baby’s name to go with his, almost like twins. They like their girls to have Italian names, and some of their boys have biblical names! Anyway, one of my suggestions for them was Zita, and I link to her story in that post. Funny enough, they have an Elijah, Gianna, and Samuel, and the mom’s name is Robyn! So many similarities to the names mentioned in Ryan’s email!

Boy
(1) Grant
I’m really interested to see what they think of Grant. It’s a style match for Cole, and Bennet, as well as Kate, and also Dean, which is only relevant because Dean is a match for Jay. So I think they might like it! We were actually talking about Grant on the blog recently in regards to this post (be sure to read the comments) — there’s a mom on there who has a Bennett and a Grant (and a Luke), and I know a family in real life who has a Benjamin and a Grant, so I think families that like Ben like Grant. As for a faith connection, one of my readers loved the connection to the words of the Mass dona nobis pacem, which translates as, “Grant us peace.”

(2) Luke
I mentioned the family above who has Bennett, Grant, and Luke, and I thought Luke might be a great idea for this family! It’s a style match for Cole and the Italian Luca is a match for Gianna. It’s one syllable like Jay, and loops in the biblical aesthetic they like.

(3) Miles
I don’t feel 100% confident about Miles, but I have it on here for a few reasons. One is that it’s a style match for Bennett. Also, it has traditional usage in Ireland as an anglicization of the Old Irish name Maolmhuire, which means “servant of the Virgin Mary” — I love Marian names for boys! And the fact that it’s used in Ireland made me think of Ian on their list. Finally, I’ve often thought it can be used as a nickname for Maximilian (rather than the more ubiquitous Max), and since Ryan has a devotion to St. Maximilian and they’re considering Kolbe, maybe Miles would appeal to them. They might even consider Miles Kolbe to be a truncation of Maximilian Kolbe, which is pretty cool.

(4) Garrett
Like Grant, Garrett is a style match for Kate and Dean, both of which are matches for Jay. It’s also got a Celtic feel like Ian, and it’s a variant of Gerard, who’s not only a great saint, but an Italian one, which can be a cool, subtle connection between their boy and their girl.

(5) Xavier or Isaac
I’m including these two together because of the prominent “Z” sound they both have. Isaac seems like a great addition to their list, since it’s biblical like Elijah and Samuel, and is one of the few boy names that begins with “I,” like Ian. It’s a style match for Samuel and Miles. Additionally, its nickname Ike reminds me of Jay. Xavier is a saintly surname like Kolbe, with good first-name usage, and I would say it’s a style match for Avila as well. According to the BNW, it’s also a match for Mariella (in its Spanish version, Javier), Elias (which is a variant of Elijah), Gabriel (which matches up with Elijah and Samuel), and Maximilian.

So those are my ideas that Ryan and Maggie might like to add to their list. Some pairings that I thought might go together include:

Kolbe and Cate(rina) — the shared first sound with different initials is great, I think

Kolbe and Clare/Clara/Chiara — not only do they share the same first sound, but Kolbe and Clare/Clara have the same number of letters! And if I met twins named Koble and Chiara, I would assume their parents were uber Catholic

Kolbe and Avila — same number of letters, and ditto the uber Catholic feel. Also, though Avila’s not technically a surname (it’s a place name — St. Teresa of Avila), it has that feel, which goes well with Kolbe.

Bennet and Chiara — same number of letters

Elijah and Lucia — same ending sound

Elijah and Mariella — same ending sound, and both biblical

Elijah and Avila — same ending

Samuel and Gabriella — both biblical, and both have “el” at the end

Samuel and Mariella — ditto

Ian and Zoe — not only are these both three letters, but Ian is a variant of the biblical John, and Zoe is a variant of the biblical Eve — a couple of great connections there!

Ian and Gianna — Ian is a variant of John, and Gianna is a feminine form of John, so normally I’d caution a family against using both. BUT, when we’re talking about boy/girl twins, my opinion is exactly the opposite. I think it could make the perfect connection without being matchy at all. Any of the Sts. John can be Ian’s patron, and St. Gianna Beretta Molla is perfect for Gianna.

Bennet and Mariella — I consider Benedict to be a Marian boy’s name, since it means “blessed,” so since Bennet is a variant of Benedict, it might pair perfectly with a Marian girl name.

Grant and Avila — same number of letters

Miles and Avila — ditto

Ian and Avila — I like that they both start with a vowel

Isaac and Avila — ditto; and same number of letters

Grant and Gianna — though normally I’d say matching initials isn’t ideal, I like this pairing because the G’s say different sounds

Garrett and Gianna — ditto; also St. Gerard and St. Gianna were both Italian

Bennet and Rosalia — both Marian

Miles and Rosalia — ditto; also Miles ends in the “Z” sound, and the “S” in Rosalia makes the “Z” sound

Isaac and Rosalia — the shared “Z” sound

Isaac and Zoe — ditto; also Ike and Zoe have the same number of letters (they could also do Zac and Zoe but that’s probably too matchy)

Isaac and Zita — ditto the “Z” sound

Xavier and Zoe — the ZAY-vyer pronunciation would be especially pleasing to me here, and the coolest initials ever

Xavier and Zita — ditto

Ian and Lucy — there’s a nice British Isles feel going on here

Isaac and Leah — both biblical

Samuel and Leah — ditto

Elijah and Leah — ditto; if they did Eli instead of Elijah, then Eli and Leah are sort of the reverse of each other sound-wise (and Eli’s got three letters like Jay, which is a nice connection between brothers)

Grant and Clare/Clara — same number of letters

Miles and Clare/Clara — ditto

Garrett and Rosalia — ditto; also the Italian connection

Garrett and Majella — they didn’t have Majella on their list, but it’s so similar to Mariella, and is St. Gerard’s last name … would Garrett and Majella be amazing together? Or crazy? And also, Maiella is the Italian version of his last name, which they might like even better than both Mariella and Majella in honor of him. (I posted last year about a visiting priest who did a mission at my church last Lent, and he told us that he’s a twin, and his mother gave the name Gerard as a middle name to both he and his brother, for St. Gerard Majella, because she’d prayed to him throughout her whole pregnancy.)

Luke and Clare — both one syllable, like Jay

Luke and Cate — ditto

In general, I would say I prefer Robyn as a middle name for the longer girl names, and Josephine for the shorter ones …

And those are all my ideas and thoughts for Ryan and Maggie’s twins! What do you all think? What name(s) or combos would you suggest for Jay’s little brother and sister?

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20 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: B/g twins need complementary but not matchy names!

  1. My first thought was a saintly pair like Francis (Frank) and Clare/Chiara.
    I also like Garrett/Gerard and Mariella/Majella — and since the Italian pronunciation of Majella sounds like May-Ella, you could also do something that plays on those names/sounds. In any case, I’m of the mind that Mariella is “close enough” to Majella, since there’s really just one letter difference (‘j’ is basically interchangeable with ‘i’ in Italian).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great twin naming tips Kate! Here are a few pairs I’ve come up with:

    Ezra and Anna

    Zachary and Olivia
    (Zack and Liv)

    Theodore and Bernadette (Ted and Nettie)

    I thought Bernadette might appeal to them because it sounds similar to Bennett

    Alec and Ella

    Or Alec with any name that has an L sound. Like: Alicia, Cecilia, Elizabeth, Lourdes, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post. I enjoyed the list of ways to choose twin names that go together. I like the pairs of Samuel with Mariella and Isaac with Rosalia . Well done. Some boy name suggestions I had – Zachery, Fisher, Jeremy, Ethan and Adrian. Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this consultation, and as I twin I think you’re spot on with how to make names complementary but not overly matchy. I would caution against Kolbe and Cate, though. Because Kate is the more common spelling and it shares an initial with Kolbe (a name that is also likely to be frequently misspelled), I think people will always mix it up.

    I absolutely love so many of these twin pairs, but Kolbe and Avila is my favorite

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Twin names are so fun! The 3-letter option really stands out to me, especially to include the big brother! Seems their boy ideas so far all have a 3-letter option (Ben-Bennet, Eli-Elijah, Sam-Samuel, Ian). I also thought of “Lia” for Rosalia and “Gia” for Gianna. I have a friend with a “Mia” for Maria Francesca which I think is so pretty and could even work as a nickname for Mariella. Not sure if they like nicknames, but I think it could help unify the styles. So maybe something like Ian/Lia, Sam/Gia, or Eli/Mia. Ella and Rose/ie/a are also cute and short nicknames for Mariella and Rosalia. Lots of fun combos!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really like your suggestion of Leah. Familiar yet somehow unexpected, and it does seem to bridge the several styles they have going on (if they care about that, haha).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Eliott Kolbe and Sienna Robyn – both twins would get saintly last names and 3 syllable first names plus 2 syllable middles

    Reuben Kolbe and Kateri Robyn (nn Ben and Kate)- initials RK and KR

    Bennet Kolbe and Avila Josephine (nn Ben and Ava) – 3 letters like Jay

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi all! Longtime reader but first time poster! I had to chime in today as the name Avila is being considered (and I have an Avila Rose). We always tend to shorten names…we mostly call our daughter Avvie for a nickname…and sometimes just Av (“Aaaaav”), but I don’t feel like either nickname will be used outside our family. Avila seems like a difficult name for a nickname…especially a one syllable nn to match Jay.

    One other word of warning, Avila is constantly pronounced like “Aveela” (we pronounce it like “AAA-vih-lah”). This has produced some guilt on my part as I hope my little Avila will not become frustrated with people not being able to pronounce her name on the first try.

    Of course, I still love the name(very princess-y and feminine…and St Teresa!). One deciding factor for us was that we saw it can mean “desired”. We thought if we can teach her that she is desired by God, there really could not be a more important lesson for her!

    For this couple, as much as I want Avila to work, I REALLY like the combo of Luke and Clare to go with Jay! I can’t wait to hear what they choose!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Also I’ve known at least half a dozen Cates over the years so I don’t think the C spelling is so uncommon that it would mix people up or be too matchy with Kolbe.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Xavier and Zita is just too cool- definitely could have their own super hero sibling comic!
    (Have your kids read Zita the Spacegirl? Highly recommended even though you don’t have girls (yet?!))
    I also love Ian and Zoe as style matches for Jay 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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