WWYD on maintaining patterns - homonym/homograph version

We have two naming patterns/traditions. This isn't it, but a good example is that everyone has a virtue name--Faith, Hope, Charity, Felicity, Innocent--and everyone has an honor name, with each child having an honor name from a different branch of the family tree.

The problem is that we've chosen a first name that doesn't meet either criteria and are having difficulty finding a middle name that meets both. Now I'm working through my options of what to do. I am going to be intentionally vague to avoid being forever searchable (so please don't bring over the name if you are able to deduce it), but this is a theory question anyway so that shouldn't matter much.


There's only one branch of the family tree left. There are plenty of acceptable choices but none with a personal connection much less a love, so a name from this list would be given solely to represent that branch of the family tree. I'm actually perfectly fine with that, and it gives me the entire family tree to work with, too.

It would be really nice to honor this branch of the family tree and it would mean a lot to certain people we would like to honor within it by doing so. It also feels wrong to have everyone else having a family connection and this child not, or to double back on a branch before honoring that one. On the other hand, no one in this branch expects us to use a name from it so the pressure is only internal. And a little external as the other kids (and maybe opinionated people in other branches) would point out the lack of family connection, which could be a subtle identity issue for the child depending on personality and life experiences.

Then we have the naming group list, which is dwindling. So if I was naming my kids apostles' names (which I'm not) then there's only Thaddeus and Bartholomew left, neither of which are in the entire family tree from the remaining branch. We could expand the group (from apostles to disciples so Silas, Cleopas, and Urban would be among the added choices) or expand to things connected to the group (to place names where the apostles traveled, possibly, so choices like Roman and Constantine could be included), but no matter how creative we make this expansion, there is absolutely no crossover anywhere with the entire family tree branch that remains.

There is no equivalent to Thaddeus, or to Theodore, or Dorothy, or any name meaning heart, or referring to a love of God, or to any place Thaddeus traveled, or to anything he did (like Baptiste).... And the same is true for the name Bartholomew (in this mythic example). Following? There's no name we've so far identified, even in the expanded lists, that fits in both the naming group and the family group. Ahhhh! Found the trigger! Between expanded and lists I had a word meaning pull, expand, lengthen, like the guy named Armstrong, and that word apparently isn't allowed.

1. Drop the family honor name. (This is possible but not desirable). It's already expanded out completely so there's no way to further broaden this list.
2. Drop the naming group. (I can't in good conscience do this. And I do have a name from the group that works, though I'm not stuck on using it.)
3. Expand the naming group. (I am open to this, but realistic expansions have not so far produced a name we love, much less one with crossover. It is possible on closer inspection we could discern some crossover/connection in meaning or derivation or something, though.)
4. Use two middle names. (This is a possibility. It's hampered by the lack of love so far in the family honor names making the second name feel tacked on, but if there was a good flow this would definitely be in the running.)
5. Drop it all and shrug. Just pick something of signifigance to us that has no connection to either tradition the others share, and don't look back. (I have a name that could work for this but I just can't let go of the naming group so that I find myself automatically adding a second middle name anyway to include it.)

So that's what I thought we were working with until I came across a new possible solution. I found that the first name we've chosen is a bit of a homonym for one that fits in the naming group. They are really two completely different names, and in their original languages they are said differently, but you could legitimately spell them both the same way in English if you wanted. (While neither is readily recognizable by the masses, one is known more in English-speaking countries and would get a bit more side eye than the other over the alternative spelling if you tried to tell people it was the same exact thing as the original, so I'd be more inclined to saying one is a derivative spelling and one is an alternative spelling.) It is conceivable one could say the spelling they share in the same way for either name so in that sense one could say they're homographs (same spelling, maybe same pronunciation, different meanings).

Example: think Áine, Anya, Ana, Anne. It would be acceptable to spell Áine as Anya and even in places to say they have the same pronunciation, but it is not the same name as Ann or Anna. You could walk around tellng people that Áine is the same as Anya and most people would accept it just fine, but every now and again you'd meet someone who would judge you to be an idiot who doesn't know what s/he is talking about and would correct you, at least in their internal monologue. And that tiny percentage, if and when you did occassionally encounter them, would be right. Following still?

So getting from name A to transliterated spelling to name B's and it's alternative spelling equaling the same name enough to give name A in honor of name B is a tad bit more than a [reach] on paper, but one is free to claim whatever connection one desires in honor names, and the explanation we have for choosing the name doesn't actually affect the name itself and would meet all of our internal criteria, so it's an option to say the first name is in honor of someone with a homonym-ish name from the naming group. But is it a good option?

The first name isn't changing. So if I choose to associate it with the homonym-like name from the naming group, we could then choose a single middle name from the family list and we'd be set. The question is, considering the two names have no connection except the ability to be spelled the same way in English, is it too much of a stretch to be able to choose it in good conscience?

We could say Anna is for Ananias or that Áine is the same name as Ann and 99.5% of people would just accept it as true, but we would know they're different names with different histories and usages. At this point, I have three middle name slots (family, group, just for love) and can't even choose one.

Help me think out loud, please. Would you try to use it or drop it, or would you go for a stretch to make it work?


February 16, 2017 1:52 PM

So sorry. The rest was caught in the spam filter and apparently top level posts can't be edited to add more. I sent a message to the mods who've kindly posted it for me. And whichever mod noticed I forgot to include the final section and did so for me gets an extra thank you!

February 16, 2017 2:15 PM

Welcome :) I feel like obsessive attention to detail is something that you appreciate!

February 15, 2017 11:08 PM

I realize the entire post isn't up yet.  But going on the information posted so far, I think the question is really deciding which is most important to you-keeping the patterns, or going with a name you love.

How many kids are we talking about?  You posted 5 names, but I'm not certain if that is for illustration purposes, or meant as placeholders for 5 actual names.  I think the longer a pattern is used, the harder it is to break.  So if in reality this is only something like your 3rd child, I'd be more inclined to just go ahead and break the pattern.  If this baby is really your 6th, I might lean towards trying harder to find a virtue name for the 1st name.  

However, I do think that the virtue name would be less significant to carry on than the family honor name.  It's also possible the first name being considered has equal meaning for you as the virtue names you've aready chosen.  In that case, I'd vote go ahead and skip the virtue requirement, regardless of which # baby this is.  

As for the middle, I think I'd give up on trying to find a middle name that meets both criteria.  For one thing, it seems like it would be too limiting to meet both criteria with just one name.  Even if you did find one, it kind of seems not worth the effort since the virtue element will be more or less hidden from most people.  Most people will hear the names of all the siblings and assume the pattern was broken on the last one anyway.  I'd probably just pick an honor name from whichever branch of the family whose turn is next.

Another option that you didn't mention (so I assume you haven't considered) would be to give this baby 2 middles.  Something like Perferred First, Virtue Middle, Honor Middle perhaps?


February 16, 2017 1:54 PM

It didn't occur to me until after reading your post that I could try to edit it in to the reply. I did so and found the spam trigger so it is all up there now. We're past 2/3 in the pattern, and the order of the naming group or family name is changed up for whatever works but both names are frequently used at home and the connections well known and discussed as part of their story.

I think the rest is answered there. I'm eager to see what you think!

February 15, 2017 11:49 PM

I can't fathom why 'stretch' would trigger the spam filter. Weird. At any rate, I think your proposed solution is a good one, and that in fact, 99% of the people you meet either won't be aware of the pattern or will accept your explanation at face value. And those that think about it more deeply are likely to be either puzzle lovers, who will appreciate the great lengths you went through to follow the pattern, or name enthusiasts, who will also love the story. Since this is clearly a name you have considered carefully and are bestowing with great love, I can't imagine the child will feel anything other than blessed to have the name.

That being said, the only other solution I can think of to combine the two patterns in the middle name is to find a modified sort of portmanteau name that works for both. For example, if the family honor name was Renee and the theme was birds, you could conceivably use Wren to meet both criteria. 

Good luck! And congratulations. Please keep us posted. This is an interesting problem.

February 16, 2017 12:45 AM

Especially since it allows 'lengthen'!

I was thinking about who would or wouldn't be aware of the pattern. Most everyone is aware, but it is strongly divided over which they care about so that there is little (or, probably no) crossover of people who care about both.

So the group of people who would care about the naming group name (the one we could use the first name to double as) would vaguely know or fully recognize Name B (the homonym name). Almost none would know name A in the form we've chosen so it will be a frequent question of what it means, where it comes from, who it is after.... We will have to explain to them that it is the same name as X, which I expect to come up with a healthy amount of frequency.

Only a tiny percentage of these people would know or care the additional connection to being a part of a pattern among sibling names, and those who don't know would have no reason to ask as pointing out it is Name X will be sufficient. Those who do know of our naming group pattern, including our kids who are well-educated on the connection, will immediately call us on the two names being completely different with different names, spellings, meanings, origins.

I haven't floated the idea among them to see how the homonym explanation would be taken as I'm not yet sure what I think of it myself.

February 16, 2017 12:05 AM

Gah, I want specifics so I can research etymologies... :-)

I think you can absolutely use a sound-alike or look-alike name as a connection to an honor name. People do things like Renee in honor of Raymond, which share a first initial and pretty much nothing else, and nobody blinks an eye, so something like Theodore in honor of a Theodoric-derived name (like Derek) shouldn't cause any raised eyebrows.

February 16, 2017 12:32 AM

Is there a private message feature I haven't yet seen? Maybe a quick edit in and out without reference?

While your example works for family honor names, it doesn't work so much for the naming group. It would be like naming your kids Hope, Charity, Felicity, Innocent, and then Faye, saying it is in honor of Faith for the last one. I can do derivatives and alternative spellings and shared meanings, but for the naming group I can't really do a Renee for Raymond style name.

February 16, 2017 2:22 AM

Well, fe with an acute accent is Spanish and Portuguese for faith, and Fay, Faye, Fae are all pronounced the same as fe, but are all derived from the same root as fairy. So is that what you are talking about? Two names with the same pronunciation but entirely different origins, so that Faye could stand in for the virtue name Faith by way of Fe?

February 16, 2017 12:31 PM

Yes, Fe and Faye conceivably both being able to be represented as Fey in English when the others are Hope, Charity, Felicity, and Innocent is a great example

February 16, 2017 2:37 AM

You can send a message to the mods, which will include HNG, via the email set up for reporting problems (same one you used to report the problem post). 

I confess I'm a fan of the lateral naming connection; for example, I consider my daughter's middle name to be a nod to both my oldest brother and my SIL. It means green (actually the word green in a different language), which is my brother's favorite color, and my sister-in-law's name is a shade of green. To me the connection is very definite, but other people think even Marie to honor a Mary is too remote, so it's hard to say what's "close enough" for you.

February 16, 2017 12:38 PM

Thanks nedibes! I wish I could find a direct connection like your Green for the naming group but it has so far been elusive. Any variation or deritive or clear association would be acceptable (Dolores, Soledad, Mercedes, and Rose all in honor of Mary, for example.) But there does have to be a clear meaning or etymology connection between the names themselves. Mark for Mary because they both are 4-letter Christian names that start with Mar- would not work at all.

And I'm getting a lot further out than that by saying Name A can be transliterated into English with this spelling and Name B could be transcribed in English with the same spelling, even though they're completely different names pronounced differently and not really spelt in that middle-ground spelling anyway. It feels more like Mark for Mary than Rose in honor of Mary.

I sent a background info email to the mods as suggested. Great idea!

February 16, 2017 2:19 PM

[Full disclosure: I'm a mod, so I've seen your actual names. I hope this post is oblique enough without being too oblique!]

How would you feel about the concept of two names, superimposed on one another?

For example, the name Rosalind is not etymologically related to the name Rosa at all. I could easily imagine using the name Rosalind, first syllable pronounced Rozz, acknowledged to have a horsey "meaning" and perhaps in honor of the Shakespearean character...but with the understanding that it also sort-of-secretly "contains" the entirely separate name Rosa, after, say, great-grandma Rosa, first syllable pronounced like Rose and with an etymology related to the flower.

Usually we line names up one after another, but I don't see why we can't also conceptually stack them on top of one another, when they're too similar to actually use as first and middle (avoiding, for example, the apparent redundancy of Rosalind Rosa Lastname). The explanation for anyone particularly attuned to name etymologies would be "This is Rosalind, nicknamed Roz. we named her Rosalind, because our first date was to a production of As You Like It, and because it "includes" the separate name Rosa, after my great-grandma. We've decorated her nursery with horses and roses in a nod to both her names/both aspects of her name)."

For family names, have you looked at cross-gender names at all? The first part of the name of the family member you mentioned being especially close to happens to coincide with the last part and common nickname of an appropriate "virtue" name.

February 16, 2017 2:45 PM

I will admit to having zero knowledge regarding your "virtue name" category. However, I want to reiterate that cross-gender (cross-sex? Just because I can. Take THAT, spam filter!) are a really great option. My Hebrew name is after my great-grandfather, while my daughter's English middle name and first Hebrew names are after my late father-in-law. Both feel like important ties to beloved relatives and never once did it ever feel odd to me that I was named after a man.

February 16, 2017 3:11 PM

It's an esoteric niche category of names that would be immediately google-able if I mentioned it. It's a common enough category (like literary names) but we chose an uncommon subcategory (like Danish poets).

There are still plenty of viable options from the category, but they don't have crossover with the family names (they aren't, but a good example would be the family being First Nations which has little crossover in sound or pronunciation or meaning or word with the Danish poet category).

If I could find a decent name in our naming group that also included reference to any member of the family group, I would be pretty thrilled. I just mentioned the possibility to my husband and he was immediately intrigued as well.

February 16, 2017 3:22 PM

I'm sorry for being unclear. As a moderator, I know what the true category is, but do not possess any personal knowledge of said category and so can be of little help in that regard. (Sorry, really curious non-mods!)

February 16, 2017 3:40 PM

Ah! Is there a list of mods? No problem at all on my end. I'm very grateful for the help!

February 16, 2017 3:42 PM

HungarianNameGeek, nedibes, Elizabeth T., lucubratrix, and I are moderators. 

February 16, 2017 4:08 PM

You're welcome. We've all mentioned being a moderator at one point or another, but nowhere was there any sort of list. We tried to be rather low-key about it until this spam blocking "feature", since mostly what we did was delete spam and duplicate posts, and occasionally add forgotten text to primary posts. 

February 16, 2017 4:17 PM

I completely understand. What a headache. You're all awesome and on the ball!

February 16, 2017 3:37 PM

Karyn, I was named after my grandfather who was far from beloved. In fact, I never heard a single good word about him, but lots of bad ones. However, he died a few months before I was born, and my mother felt bound by tradition and superstition to give me a form of his name. I always felt some of her hostility to him rubbed off on me.

February 16, 2017 3:41 PM

And that proves my point: When it comes to honour names, it's preferable to name your child after a beloved relative than be bound by rules or tradition.

February 16, 2017 3:42 PM

Great point! More important to love the connection than to have an etymological connection.

February 16, 2017 2:57 PM

I would be completely open to both!

I am wracking my brain thinking of the name! I know a name with the first three letters of the family name as the last three in it; it is same-gender and very close to the "virtue" name group but firmly excluded from it. But a cross-gender name whose nickname ends in that... I am so excited to figure it out!

February 16, 2017 3:05 PM

It's the first four letters of the given name/last four letters of the "virtue" name...and in archaic spelling, the full names are actually just one letter off from anagrams of one another. If you can't think of it, I can give more clues :).

February 16, 2017 3:31 PM

When you say cross-gender, do you mean giving a girl a name like Paula or a name like Paul?

Because I might know which name you mean if you mean the latter. And if so, it won't work because it's confined to a particular reference that's not applicable to our naming group.

Edit: no, the name I'm looking at has two letters off. If I put in those 4 letters in the name finder, will it come up?

February 16, 2017 4:14 PM

I mean like naming a girl TEResa after grandpa PeTER (this one is more of an overlap than that, but that's the general idea). I'm afraid it might be the name you're thinking of that won't work--it's more known for a related name than itself, so that might put it outside your actual naming group (I don't know much about the specifics of your group, so I'm not sure what exactly is "in"). By modern spelling, it's two letters off, but the distinction between one set of those letters would have been obscured in "archaic" spelling.

February 17, 2017 11:18 PM

I follow now!

It wasn't the name I was thinking of, either.

February 16, 2017 10:10 AM

I think the new option you proposed is your best route. That way the child won't feel left out, the family can't complain, and you use a name you really love. And if someone tries to point out that they're two totally different names, well, it's your child and your name.

February 16, 2017 12:26 PM

The family won't complain either way. It's the equivalent of walking into a Hispanic church and telling them your name is Faye like the fairies and that means Faith like the virtue that would get the rightful side eye. I can claim whatever I want but it doesn't mean I'm right.

A big problem is that we don't LOVE any of them. There's nothing that says, "THIS is our kid" so far. And we're okay with that as long as we are comfortable with the choice. We think maintaining the connections conveys that message to the child the most. But we can't find a way to maintain the connections that sounds good and reasonable.

Thank you for helping me think it through!

By Eko
February 16, 2017 10:59 AM

Does the family name really have to be a name from the unused family tree branch? Could you find a name in one of the already honored branches that fits the naming group and that you love? I think meaning and personal name preferences trumps fairness amongst relatives and different branches.

February 16, 2017 12:30 PM

We can just leave it off but it feels like we’re actively excluding them to consciously make that choice. We’d need to be choosing in favor of something we love and not choosing against including them. If we did find something we loved that didn't leave room for the family name, we'd choose the name we love. We haven't found something we love, though. And I really want to maintain the naming group pattern whether or not the family honor name is included.

I would not circle back around to an already used branch before using that one, though. I'd skip it (which is neutral) before doing that (which would be seen as intentional exclusion).

February 17, 2017 5:47 AM

I like your stretch solution, frankly... however, I am a big believer that the meaning the parents want to imbue the name with is far more important than the actual derivation of the name, and if you picked Anna thinking of Ananias, I think that's what really matters. 

Also, the other most obvious solution to me is that in your place I would seriously consider dropping the family honor name, or at least not using this particular branch of the family. We felt strongly about family honor names for our kids, and alternates sides in the sense of "parent1's side" and "parent2's side" but we didn't break it down further into grandparental symmetry. That level of resolution really didn't seem important, at least not for the grandparents who are still happily married and therefore actively sharing a family, still. I think one can make an even stronger case for skipping the patrilinial branch if their surname is already represented, too.

February 18, 2017 6:37 PM

Thank you! I think you hit a nail on the head: "the meaning the parents want to imbue"

I could tell people that Áine is for Ananias, but I didn't believe it or want to do so myself. That was a helpful realization.

February 17, 2017 7:18 AM

I'm a curious non-mod, and also someone who doesn't really do name games and cares very little about name meaning, so I'm not your core audience, but to me the only decent options are:

a) Go with your homonyms. If you get the side-eye from name experts just say "I know, I KNOW, but it gets a little difficult after (however many) kids. We thought this was an excellent workaround.

b) Two middle names. Two middle names was invented for situations like this. Be happy you live in a country where you can have two! (I don't). Flow isn't everything.

February 17, 2017 11:09 PM

Thank you! This was exactly what I needed. Just the simple WWYD.

I think you're completely right: either embrace it or go with two names. I didn't like one option and my husband didn't like the other, but by having this conversation I was able to see where there was room for movement and discovered it's in the two name side which I do believe is what we're going to pursue. I appreciate you helping me think it through!

February 17, 2017 9:23 PM

I would and have used a obscure meaning or slight connection to get the family connection I was after...I would love to give you actual help on your names but since I have no clue what the names are I'll give you the example of what we did and how I twisted things to get a name I was happy with.


i have three boys all carry middles of family members we loved who have passed. first names all 5 letters ending in N.  baby number 4 boy name all ready to go...it's a girl. so we know this is our last and have 3 relatives we want to honor...Jennifer May, Katey Lee, and Naomi (both grandmothers one american one japanese). we narrowed it down to two Kamea a Hawaiian name that the Ka for Katey and the Mea to Mia to May but it didn't end in N and I couldn't get comfortable with it.

and Kaylynn-Kay for Katey  and Lynn for a maeaning that related to beautiful somewhere and then somewhere I came across Jennifer being fair, fair as in fairest to beautiful. the big problem Lynn a grandmother who I had no desire to connect any child too.  play with spelling ended on Kalen.  

a few years later I come across the celtic name calen and all its various forms....new meaning slender, fair, ok pairs well with Jennifer still begins with K to honor Katey no connection to Lynn, and added bonus another celtic name two of the three boys have welsh/gaelic names.  it's like I fought so hard to find a name that could work for all and it evolved into an even better fit. 

I guess I'm saying have faith in what feels right...the name is out there and you'll find it.

February 17, 2017 11:13 PM

This is a great example! Thank you!

I was having a conversation just like this when I think the right name came in just the same way. I'm letting it sit to see what we think over time, but it sure feels right in just the way you describe. Thank you for sharing your experience! It's affirming.