This name's not 'taken', right?

Arthur has been my top pick for a little while if my baby due in June turns out to be a boy.  A couple I know just had their baby and named him Arthur.  I see them 8-10 times a year -- think book club -- and don't see them outside of that.  Knowing their older boys, they will use the full name whereas I'm fine using a nickname, especially if both boys attend the meetings.  A couple of friends in the group seem to assume that Arthur is "off limits" now, but I don't see a problem.  I don't see the two families every really socializing or becoming friends outside the book club.  What do you think?


Of course, baby could turn out to be Ruth instead, but I'd like to have names lined up this time for either eventuality.



April 30, 2016 2:40 PM

IMO names are never "taken," not even by a first cousin, let alone by a random acquaintance who is likely to be a very tangential part of your life for a short period of time.  I remember many years ago we had a baby boom in my department, three little girls born close together, and all named Katherine in one spelling or another.  No one raised an eyebrow, and there was no confusion.  If Arthur is your first choice, go for it.

April 30, 2016 4:56 PM

I don't think it will matter. I say go for it and use Arthur if your baby turns out to be a boy.

May 1, 2016 8:24 AM

Thank you ... it's easy to start second guessing myself.  It also feels a bit unsettling to have basically decided on names and still be several weeks out.  Still trying to pick a middle name for Ruth, but if it's a boy, we're going with Arthur James (unless we change our minds in the next few weeks .. hahaha).



May 2, 2016 3:47 AM

Glad you are reassured. I totally agree with the other comments.

A few weeks before my son, August (nn Gus), was born I met another family that travelled in the same circles that I do who had an infant Gus. I briefly considered rethinking our name choice, but finally decided I would regret not using the name I loved. For the first year, there were two babies names Gus at many gatherings and it was not a big deal. Then they moved across the country, and I would have been doubly regretful if I had decided against the name as they are not even around any more!

May 2, 2016 11:12 AM

I know the feeling. I feel strange about my girl choice, because there's a woman who occasionally works in my department (a few times a year) which that name, which is very unusual. I'm sure my coworkers will all think it's strange. But it's not really worth giving up the perfect name for, is it? You could be in a new book club and I in a new job in a few years, and it would have been silly not to have used the best name.

Good luck!

May 2, 2016 3:58 PM

I don't think it's taken, but if you think it might smooth things over, you might have a little speech prepared

"I was SO excited when I heard you named him Arthur because that has always been our boy's name, and I was afraid for a while  that I was the only one who loved it! We'll call him Artie at book club!" 

Or something along those lines....I should add that I am just not a very social person. My sister and sil, however, both are in groups that have many extended, "Tentacles," in their lives-like they also see some of the people at get togethers, bdays, PTA events etc....I still don't think the name would be taken, but sometimes a little smoothing goes a long way with a fellow new mom, especially if you can let her know in a subtle and positive way that you didn't, "Steal," her idea.

Our older son is called Jack, and it is almost funny how popular it is these days. I went to pick him up from school the other day, and the only other boy in the office was Also called Jack! 

But I truly think if we had used another name I would just feel sad when I heard it now. I honestly don't even care for the name that had been the runner up! And you definitely shouldn't let your choice be dictated by someone else's. 

May 2, 2016 5:47 PM

I'd say go for it! Especially since you aren't close friends outside of book and you said you've loved that name! 

By mk
May 2, 2016 5:48 PM

As Miriam said, no name is ever "taken." I can't imagine even caring if some random member of my book club named their kid the same name as mine. Even if you become friends, does it matter if your sons have the same name? I would think no.

May 3, 2016 12:40 AM

This has actually happened in my social circle. I attended a very small graduate program with a cohort of 16. Over the years we've mostly kept in touch and some of us see each other a few times a year, some more frequently. When we were in grad school only two people had kids and now most of us do. In that group there are two Desmonds, two Sydneys and two Matildas. It's even more interesting given that we live in a place that tends to have very creative outside-the-box name styles.

But, it's never been an issue and it's barely mentioned. Sometimes one of the kids will be refered to as Mom's Name's Desi or Other Mom's Desi but no one has accused anyone of stealing. I think it's kind of cute actually, one more thing we have in common as a group.

Hopefully your situation will be similar.

May 3, 2016 2:30 AM

This happened to my mom when my sisiter was born, except that she was the namer who got there first.  My sister was born, several months later a casual friend (about the same connection you seem to be concerned about) had a girl and gave her the same name.  When my mom met the baby and was introduced and heard the name, she went; "You're kidding!" and the other mom just replied, "yep, we just loved that name!" my mom answered "you have great taste". 

And that was it.  I can tell you that she genuinely wasn't bothered by it.

If you do have more children, siblings will, inevitably, at some point in their life, mimick each other.  Which will terribly upset the one who is being copied.  You will hear "MOM! He's copying me!" thousands of times in your life.  I always reply "It's a compliment." I know you aren't actually copying this family.  But this is really just an endorsement that they have great taste

May 3, 2016 2:33 AM

I've been thinking over the idea of a "taken" name. 

In the case of Arthur, it's an established name with a long history. Your acquaintance certainly does not own it. (Small tangent, I personally believe that kids who share grandparents, no matter how often they see each other, should not have the same name. That's not a universal opinion, though.) Definitely compliment your acquaintance on her fabulous taste in names. 

My three best friends are married to men named Mike. Our conversations always include "My Mike",  "Megan's Mike", etc. and it's all fine. Just be prepared to occasionally say "my Arthur" in conversation and "Arthur LASTNAME, it's time to go" on the playground. 

As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that the name in question really makes a difference in how I would respond. A little boy at my church was just named Javelin. The intent of a name like that is to be unique, so I would suggest it is off limits because it ruins the selling point of uniqueness. But in the case of a name with history that everyone has heard of, go for it.

By EVie
May 3, 2016 11:08 AM

I agree with you about the kids who share grandparents thing, except maybe in cases when there are a ton of siblings in the family and you end up with dozens of first cousins--in that case, it can become more difficult to avoid duplicating, and also less significant. My dad was one of nine siblings, and there are about 30 cousins in my generation. We actually did manage to avoid duplicate names among the cousins, but I don't think it would have mattered if we hadn't--there were too many of us for our grandmother to keep track of as it was (I doubt she could have picked me out of a lineup). On my mom's side of the family, though, it would have been somewhat awkward to have a duplicate, as there are only seven of us and that grandmother is very close to everyone. 

May 3, 2016 11:32 AM

In my cultural naming tradition, since children are named for deceased family members, children who share the same (deceased) grandparents will automatically have the same names.  For example, my grandfather's oldest brother had a son Ya'akov (Jacob), and my grandfather's oldest son was also named Ya'acov (my Uncle Jack).  In this case there was no confusion because my Uncle Jack came to America as a toddler, and his older cousin escaped from the train to Auschwitz, fought in the forest with the partisans, survived the war and moved to Argentina.  But if my grandparents had stayed in their miserable little village (and thank heaven they didn't), the two would have been distinguished by nicknames or by father's names (Dovid's Yankel).

May 4, 2016 8:12 PM

the two would have been distinguished ... by father's names (Dovid's Yankel).

... which of course is the origin of patronymic-style surnames (Johnson, Peters, etc.). (Miriam knows this, but other people might not.)

May 4, 2016 12:57 AM

I agree with everyone that names aren't ever "taken", although in my small family I would not want to have children sharing grandparents to share names... but I also strongly agree with your point that there's a sliding scale of how striking the duplication will seem, based on how unique the name is.

I think Arthur is interesting because it's a name that feels much more unusual a choice than it actually is... and I think often a non-NE's internal sense of "how unusual is the name I picked for my child" doesn't correspond to actual usage rates in the current crop of babies being born, but it's out of date, often by an entire generation. So, someone picking Arthur, especially for their first child (before they get to know the current crop of little kids by immersion in that community), might find the duplication more eyebrow-raising than it actually is, statistically (especially when you consider that people in similar demographics share naming styles, so it's not entirely random).

Anyway, name him Arthur, but I'd probably make a comment like what JnHsmom suggests to make sure that there are no ruffled feathers.

May 7, 2016 11:25 AM

I am in a similar situation!

I am the oldest of five girls, and at the start of each of my mother's pregnancies, before finding out the sex of the baby, my father was convinced they would have a boy and they would name him Max.  So, five baby girls later, when it became apparent that he would not have a son named Max after all, I decided that if I was blessed with a son of my own one day, his name would be Max.  

When I met the man who would eventually become my husband and told him the story, he loved the name just as much as I did!  (This in itself felt like a sign, since we seemed to disagree on almost every other name for our future children!)  For years, we looked forward to the day little Max would meet the grandfather who inspired his name.  

I confided all of this in a very close friend who I met through work.  And I was absolutely devastated when, about a year later, she announced that she was expecting a baby boy and planned to name him Max.  Then, to complicate matters even more, she and her husband asked me to be his godmother.

While I am honored to have been chosen for such a special role in this child's life, my heart has been heavy ever since.  My husband and I are torn between the regret we would feel in not using this name so dear to each of us, and the "weirdness" of having a son and godson with the same name.

So, is everyone definitely sure that names can't be "taken"?  :-P

May 7, 2016 2:31 PM

Yes, absolutely sure. If the name in question were something like Hrothulf or something then they might have a legitimate beef at how it might be a little weird to have two little Hrothulfs running around (because what are the odds?), but Max is a very common, well-known name that it would not surprise anyone to find repeated by chance alone. I might for your ease as the mother and godmother consider a middle name that pairs particularly smoothly with Max so you could use it a double name when trying to distinguish the two Maxes (like, theirs is Max Jayden and yours is Max Edward or whatever). Otherwise, I'm sure you'll come up with another way to distinguish them, too - I really would try to make it a fun special shared thing and not try to focus on the "weirdness".

May 8, 2016 5:24 PM

What a great perspective!  Thanks for the reassurance!  :-)

May 7, 2016 2:47 PM

Well, your friend is definitely sure that names can't be "taken," because you confided your choice, and she "took" it, knowing upfront that you intend to use it if you give birth to a son.  If one day you are blessed with a little Max, your friend will have no beef.  And there are a myriad of ways of distinguishing between and among people with the same name, so there is not likely to be a problem with confusion.

May 7, 2016 5:16 PM

This is a really good point. Even if the name WERE Hrothulf, your friend went ahead with it anyway knowing that it was likely to be the name of your future son, and thus there should be no awkwardness whatsoever. You can just go straight to making a Max club with special ID cards and handshake.

May 8, 2016 5:37 PM

Very true!  As an elementary school teacher, every year I have at least one pair of children who share the same name.  (Some years two or three pairs!)  You just make it work.  :-)

May 7, 2016 5:09 PM

Honestly, I think it's a little weird that she is using Max, but I think the sentimentality of the name FAR outweighs the weirdness. You'll seriously regret it if you give up the name that means so much to you. 

Max is common enough that your Max would pretty much be guaranteed to meet another Max by the time he is 5. 

May 8, 2016 5:34 PM

Very good point!  No matter what we name him, he will meet other people with the same name in his lifetime.  I was named for my maternal grandmother, who I shared a very close bond with.  Being her little namesake was never any less special when I met other people with our name.  Hopefully our little Max feels the same way! 

May 7, 2016 10:25 PM

Is it possible that your friend doesn't remember the conversation? She may have remembered talking about the name Max with someone, but not the specifics. Or the conversation might have filled her with all sorts of positive emotions--two friends talking about a baby with a lovely name--that even if she doesn't remember the details, you managed to imbue the name with such positive qualities that she used it.

May 8, 2016 5:22 PM

I think you're right!  I probably talked up the name so much that when it came time to name her son, it was the first thing that popped in her head :-)

May 8, 2016 1:04 PM

Use Max! 

If this name was taken by anyone, it was taken by YOU! 

The fact that your friend got pregnant prior to you doesn't give her more claim to it. 

I think it's odd that she used it, but perhaps she didn't remember the story, or perhaps she is just not a very sentimental person. 

In any case, you should use it! 

May 8, 2016 5:38 PM

Thank you ALL for such positive feedback!  Hubby and I can definitely rest easier now :-)  

May 12, 2016 10:39 AM


I believe that there's no such thing as an "off limits" name.

Choosing a child's name for his/her Lifetime is a great responsibility, so the parents' First Choice for their child should never, ever be discarded because another child carries that name.  

In years to come, a parent surely doesn't want to tell their son, "Our first choice for your name had been 'Arthur', we loved everything about it and thought it the very best of male names, but we gave you a lesser name because our book club thought we should."

"Arthur" is an incredible name in absolutely every way that makes a name stellar.  I hope that you keep it for your son.

May 12, 2016 1:57 PM

I disagree that a name can never be off limits. I know my sister's first choice name for a daughter and while I, too, love the name, I'd never think of using it. If she has a daughter, she'd then have to give her a name that she loves less because we're a very close family and it would be very odd for her child and my child to have the same name. The only way I'd consider using her favourite name is if she were done having her children and didn't have a girl. 

If I hadn't known about her favourite name for years before having my daughter, and only found out during my naming process, then I think that it would have been fair game. But as it is, no, that name is off limits.

May 12, 2016 2:35 PM

To me it is the most natural thing in the world for the children of siblings to have the same name.  In my tradition it is entirely normal for first cousins to be named after their common (deceased) grandpa or grandma.  If the first grandson is named after dear dead grandpa Moshe, that in no way precludes the next grandson from being Moshe too.

In families that don't have this particuar naming custom, I would imagine that giving two first cousins the same name would be a matter of negotiation.  Even in families that don't have any particular naming customs, it is common to name children after their grandparents or great-grandparents.  If one sibling decides to name a child after a particular grandparent, I don't see why that should foreclose the possibility of another sibling honoring that same grandparent with his or her child's name.  I don't see calling dibs on a mutual grandparent.  OTOH if parents-to-be don't want to use the same ancestral name as the one given to a niece or nephew, well, there are always multiple ancestors from which to choose.

I can see though if it is customary in a family to use "thin air" names (i.e., non-family names plucked from the whole universe of names), then I can see that it would be awkward for the second-born cousin to be given the same name as the first-born cousin.

May 12, 2016 3:02 PM

I wouldn't blink if the Hebrew name were the same, but in cases where the English, secular name is not identical to the deceased family member's I don't see why a different name can't be chosen. It's a matter of how each family negotiates the situation. For example, my Hebrew name was given in honour of my great grandmother, Sheva (pronounced SHEH-va, not SHEE-va). I have two first cousins named after the same great grandmother, but we all have different variants of the name (Sheva, Batsheva, and Elisheva), though I wouldn't have found it to be terribly strange had overlap with these cousins. Had they been named Karyn, however, it would have been really, really weird. 

But again, each family is different. 

May 12, 2016 5:10 PM

In my view (and historically) the Hebrew name is the one that counts, and it is very common to have cousins named after the same ancestor as with you and your cousins.  A secular vernacular name if one is given at all can be anything, and there is no necessity for it to connect in any way to the Hebrew name.  Cousins named after the same ancestor can have wildly differing secular names, or they can all have the identical name as the one their ancestor used.  In fact, in my family as I looked back through the decennial census records, the English names kept changing.   Sometimes my paternal grandmother was Celia, sometimes she was Ida.  My maternal grandmother was listed with several names, all starting with the S sound.  My great-aunt was sometimes Gussie and sometimes Goldie.  None of the older generations ever used their English names for anything other than government records, and even then they didn't seem to use the same name twice.  I generally didn't learn their English names until I read their obits, where I learned that Tante Zlateh was Jenny and Tante Chassie was Fanny. Go figure.  While my American-born, law school educated father was called Ed/Eddie/Edward by friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, he was almost never called that by familly.  His family of origin called him Ellie (short for Eliyahu), my mother called him by a nickname derived from our surname (think Frankie for someone named Frankurter), and my sister and I called him Daddy. 

May 12, 2016 7:15 PM

I always wonder if I would have been as flexible with my English name as people tended to be then. Even if it weren't the name that I used in my daily life, I still feel like I would have cared what the name was and how consistently it was used. But that's my general personality. What you describe sounds perfectly normal to me, though, based on what I know about the names in my family in generations past.

May 12, 2016 8:52 PM

I think that the generations born in Europe felt alienated from both their civil given names and their surnames which were imposed upon them by the empires in which they were barely suffered to live.  I know from my own family, as well as others, that they changed both names at the drop of a hat.  Perhaps there is some similarity with those African-Americans who feel alienated from what they consider to be slave names and readily change them and give their children names which differ substantially in style from the names of the grandparents and great-grandparents.

May 12, 2016 9:41 PM

I can definitely see how there could have been that influence. It's so far removed from my own experience that I can't even imagine it. However, I can understand changing a name more easily than I can being flexible with which name you're going by that day. Celia? Sure! Sylvia? Okay. Sybil? Why not? It's close enough. 

May 12, 2016 10:35 PM

My mother's maiden name was Becker.  But on some documents it was Baker, which is of course the translation of Becker.  Other times it was Backer or even Bakker.  The name was originally imposed by a hostile goverment, so noone really cared about it.  The idea in many families that it is important to carry on the family name was just irrelevent to my family and people like them/us.

As for my grandmother, she wasn't really flexible about her name.  She was always Tzipe.  It didn't matter to her what she told the census-taker.  She may not even have remembered in 1930 what she told the census taker in 1920.  She never actually used any of the "document" names in daily life.

May 12, 2016 2:09 PM

The only time I would say that there is a firm law is for siblings. I can't support siblings having the same name, although I know it has been done (I do know a family that has two daughters named Mary, but they combine Mary with their middle names to distinguish the kids, and then there's George Foreman). Other than that, I would say each family needs to negotiate its own rules. Some families (and cultures) celebrate repeating names while others don't.

May 12, 2016 2:14 PM

Exactly. I don't think that you can say that names are never taken, just like you can't say that they're always taken.

EDIT: You just reminded me of a family I know in which the oldest son is named Luc (Jr) and the next son was named Jean-Luc (inspired by the skier Jean-Luc Brassard.) Their mother insisted on both names and the father agreed, even though he's really sheepish about it when people ask his sons' names and probably would have chosen other names had it been solely up to him. But they call the oldest Junior and the younger one Johnny, so the actual repeated name doesn't come up often. 

May 12, 2016 4:49 PM

This reminds me of the "celebrities" Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes (I don't actually know who they are).  Their two daughters are Esmeralda Amada and Amada Lee.  According to the gossip press: "Amada is the name of Eva's grandmother, and means 'beloved' in Spanish. It's also the name of the character the actress played in the 2007 movie We Own The Night."

May 12, 2016 3:27 PM

I agree with this, although I know in generations past when there were much larger families, a smaller pool of names, and more childhood deaths it was different.

When I was in college I had a job reading the files of families "in the system." One stood out because with about four brothers, the first was named something like John, the second something like Angel, and the last (the baby of the whole family at the time, which included at least a couple of sisters) was Angel John, apparently called "little Angel". Like they just ran out of ideas for names and couldn't be bothered to come up with anything original. I remember thinking at the time that this was the first of many literal abuses that he had suffered at his parents' hands.