Harlan or Renan?

Hi all,

We are expecting our 3rd and last child in about a month, but we have been going back and forth with our names! We can't seem to decide! At first we picked out Ender Keanu, but my in laws ended up naming their baby Ender, so then we decided on Harlan Keanu (Harley for short), but then we came across the name Renan. Our other kids are named Kaya and Rohmer, which are fairly uncommon names, and we feel like both Harlan and Renan can work. Here's a pro and con list to sum it up. 

Harlan Keanu (Kay-AH-noo)


  • goes well with Kaya and Rohmer
  • Cute nickname "Harley"
  • easy to pronounce



  • May not remain uncommon
  • just unsure about it in general


Renan Keanu 


  • extremely unique, but still down to earth (in our opinion)
  • Cute nickname "Ren"
  • goes well with Kaya and Rohmer


  • not sure if we want it pronounced "REE-nan" or "Reh-NAHN"
  • If it's pronounced Reh-NAHN, people will most likely mispronounce/misspell it. Also, I'm not sure how much I like the pronunciation with Keanu.
  •  I don't really like how both our boys will have R names and our girl will have a K name


It would be great if you could tell us your opinion on the names! Thanks!



July 9, 2018 4:30 PM

Of the two, Harlan is my favorite full name but I like the name and nickname Ren best. 

In my mind I say Harlan with a Southern accent, no doubt due to the show Justified.

I would have pronounced Renan  as REN-an, so that could get confusing, but isn't insurmountable.


July 9, 2018 4:43 PM

I prefer the name Harlan because I think it sounds better and it prevents your boys from having names that both start with R. I have never heard the name prior to this post, so it is safe to say that it's pretty unique.

July 9, 2018 5:54 PM

I think Harlan goes best with your other too and I wouldnt have another R name

July 10, 2018 5:27 PM

I read Renan as REE-nan -- like renal or Kenan (Thompson) -- so there's another way that people wouldn't get your desired pronunciation. Overall, I prefer Harlan, since it's familiar but uncommon, whereas Renan is completely unfamiliar and leaves much more ambiguity in how to say it.

By EVie
July 10, 2018 6:55 PM

I read Renan the same way—"renal" jumped into my head instantly. I'm also wondering where on earth it came from, if there isn't an established pronunciation?

That said, I'm also REALLY not a fan of Harlan. I find the sound kind of aggressive and unpleasant (possibly through associations with words/names like harlot, harlequin and Harley, and the lingering old cultural perceptions of Harlem). And I find the connection with Harlan Ellison (whom I'm guessing you're actively referencing, given your interest in Ender as well?) is hugely problematic, especially in this cultural moment. The guy publicly groped and humiliated a fellow writer on stage as she was accepting an award. I don't care how great a writer he was, that's not a legacy I'd want attached to my child.

July 12, 2018 4:22 AM

I think both are fairly uncommon so I wouldn't be concerned about popularity.  Harley is not as uncommon so if you were going to use the nickname Harley and that bothers you take it into consideration.

Lots of good points from previous posters.  I would pronounce Renan 'Reh-nan' on first sight, the renal association did not occur to me until pointed out.  I think Harlan has less pronunciation ambiguity and the advantage of not sharing an initial with your son, but I don't have a strong preferece for one over the other.

July 31, 2018 1:38 AM

Renan also brought to mind "renal." I don't like it.

Harlan is better, but I'm also not wild about it.









July 31, 2018 12:36 PM

Of the two, I'd encourage you to go with Harlan.  My name isn't pronounced the standard way (I use a long E, rhymes with begin) and it has caused no end of trouble.  Thus, I'm not enthusiastic about a name that you aren't sure how to pronounce.

Neither of these names is really my style, so I'm not sure my opinion is the one you want to hang your hat on.  If you are going to call the child Harley, why not name them Harley?

How about Ronan?

I'm guessing from the comments above that these names are from a book/movie/tv show I'm unfamiliar with.  Are there other names that grab you from this series?