Give Your Twins Unique Names

Twin Boys SleepingLast week, Slate published a slew of articles on twinstwin birth rates (skyrocketing), twin studies (bunk), twin speak (possibly harmful), and so forth.

One of the pieces, “Dorothy Burlingham’s Twins” by David Greenberg and Maida Greenberg (son-mother, not twin-twin) included this interesting quote:

But if laypeople still frequently perceive twins as carbon copies, psychologists no longer do. How-to manuals for raising twins stress the need to treat them as individuals, starting with not giving them rhyming names and not dressing them in matching outfits. These are basic steps, but important ones, and they have not been always widely followed.

After I read the article, I consulted several books on twins. Looks like authors/experts agree that rhyming names–and themed names in general–are a bad idea for twins (and other multiples).

The writers of Having Twins–and More, for instance, say that parents of twins should stress individuality over twinship, and that matchy-matchy names are often regretted. “An individual’s name is key to his or her identity, so choose names carefully. Although twins are part of a pair…their names should be clearly their own.”

The folks at Twin Service Consulting concur, suggesting expectant parents give twins “distinctly different names.”

And yet, parents are drawn to patterns. Just look at the most popular twin names of 2010. Most of the top 50 pairings within each category have something in common, such as:

  • Same first letter, like Jayden & Jordan
  • Rhyme or near-rhyme, like Gabriella & Isabella
  • Theme (e.g., location, virtue, season) like London & Paris

Cutesy pairings may be the trend, but they won’t help during the separation-individuation process.

Ideally, each twin should have his or her own distinct identity, starting with a unique first name. So, if you’re expecting twins, choose twin names that are dissimilar, i.e., non-rhyming, with different initials.

[If you already have like-named twins, and they’re still young, think about transitioning one or both to a nickname or middle name.]


  • Noble, Elizabeth, Louis G. Keith and Leo Sorger. Having Twins–and More. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.
  • Scheinfeld, Amram. Twins and Supertwins. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1967.

Image: Twin Snore by Izzard

8 thoughts on “Give Your Twins Unique Names

  1. I don’t have twins. I’m related to twins, though, a Pete and a Steve. I know they both have the long E sound but they never seemed like a matched set. Other twins I know: Sam and Charlie; Max and Rosie; Harper and Leo (girl/boy); Dawn and Angela. None of them are at all matched. I think it’s better that way, I agree.

    The one set of triplets I knew, from North Africa, were Hiram, Biniam, and Salam. That was not good (as their teacher). Neither were the twins, American, named Rallon and Rollon. GAH. Or Darrel and Darnell.

  2. And another reason – for the sake of other siblings. My mother always felt excluded from the closeness of her younger sisters, “June” and “Jane,” and then her whole life was reminded of it every time their names were recited.

  3. I am a twin. My name is Elizabeth Anne and her name was Rebekah Sue. We were known as Becky Sue and Beth Anne.

    One set of names that I like for boy/girl twins is Olive and Fred.

  4. I have identical twin girls, with completely non-matchy names. I have two sets of twin cousins, Linda and Debra & Heather and Holly.

    A lot of “common wisdom” about twins has gone the way of the do-do bird now that ultrasounds have taken the surprise at birth of having twins away and fertility treatments have given rise to more twins/multiples. I think a lot of the historical matching names came because parents didn’t know that they were having twins and had to come up with a second name on the spot.

  5. I am a twin. My sister and I were named Rose and Rosa. It is difficult growing up as a twin when you are a child in school. With a ryhming name or a name that is so close the twins will never receive their own identity. They will be called Twin or one name like us Rose. When I became an adult I changed my first name. Having the same name or ryhming name cause a lot of grief and loss of identity. It is hard being a kid now a days. They don’t need anymore pain or grief. This is from a twin whose mother thought it would be cute, but didn’t realize it was a curse, that took years to overcome.

  6. I am an identical twin and we were named Jennifer and Julia. I never resented our names at all nor did our names influence our identity’s. We are twins, people love twins, and yes they say stupid things and ask stupid questions, but I really dont think anything would have been different if we were named Frankie and Jane. I think all twins get called “the twins” or have their names combined “julifer” so people dont feel embarrased if they are calling you by the wrong name.
    Everyone has an identitiy, even if part of that identity is ‘Us” rather than “Me”… I see nothing wrong with that at all. In a time where the world is so caught up in “Me” its refeshing to have some people cuaght up in “Us”.

  7. I don’t think twins’ names are as important to their separate identities. I feel as long as they are raised to embrace who they are and are treated as individuals and not “the twins” all the time is more important. I do agree that I don’t care for the names that are so close that the child doesn’t know which one you are calling for,for example; such as Rose and Rosa, or June and Jane. I am a grandmother to twin girls and we reviewed a lot of names as we wanted something unique but not so different that they were hard to pronounce, etc. They are Ryder and Rylei and their names fit their personalities perfectly. They are just now 2 years old and are very close. If they have a third child, boy or girl, their name will start with “R” also so they will not feel left out or separate from the twins.

  8. I’m a identical twin … I have a sister . We were born on June 26 ! Our names are Alexia && Alexia !! Those are the perfect twin girl names

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