How many twins get matchy-matchy names?

In a comment on last week’s twin names post, Erin said she’d “love to see some kind of analysis on what percentage of twins are given names that are/aren’t matchy-matchy.”

I do know of one analysis like this. It’s 50 years old, so it’s not exactly up-to-date, but these were the findings:

  • 79% of twins overall had similar names
    • 90% of identical twins had similar names
    • 75% of fraternal twins had similar names

Name researcher Robert Plank published “Names of Twins” in the journal Names way back in 1964. This study was mentioned by H. Edward Deluzain in the essay “Names and Personal Identity” in 1996:

Robert Plank, who studied names of twins, discovered that the names fit into three patterns and that the names in two of the patterns show unmistakable similarity. The most common pattern, which occurred in 62% of the cases Plank studied, was the use of names that begin with the same letter. This included such names as Richard and Robert (Ricky and Robby), Joseph and Judith (Joey and Judy), Louise and Louisa, as well as such names as Paul and Paula and Patrick and Patricia. The second pattern involved names that had different first letters but where similar in sound, rhythm, or rhyme. Such sets of names as Tracy and Stacy, Billy Joe and Penny Sue accounted for 17% of the sets of names. Finally, Plank found that only 21% of the sets of names were different enough from one another to be considered dissimilar. Identical twins, who are always of the same sex and who look so much alike people have trouble telling them apart, fare worse than fraternal twins in the similarity of their names. For, as Plank found, almost 90% of the identical twins had similar names compared to roughly only 75% of the fraternals.

Have any of you seen more recent research on similar/dissimilar names for twins?

7 thoughts on “How many twins get matchy-matchy names?

  1. I found this hard to believe until I looked at your popular twin name post again.

    Out of 35 pairs, 32 start with the same letter.

    The other three are ‘Faith/Hope’, ‘Isabella/Sophia’ and ‘Olivia/Sophia’ two of which clearly share a theme or sound.

  2. How interesting! Thanks for digging out that research. Maybe one of these days somebody will repeat the analysis to see if this trend has changed in recent decades, and also to see how the twin numbers compare to non-twin siblings.

    I, admittedly, haven’t known very many twins. But in my small, anecdotal sampling, only one pair had names that fit into one of Plank’s similarity categories: Kathy and Kelly.

    The other twins I’ve known over the years have names similar in style, but not “matchy-matchy”: Vaughan and Caleb; Jason and Megan, Kenesha and Deondre, Alison and Britney, Korey and Marla; Carey and Alex; Marie and Kelly, and my own nephews: Ryne and Keenan.

  3. I was able to come up with of 17 pairs of twins that I’ve known over the years. Of them, 6 had matching names:

    Amber & Anthony
    Roman & Richard
    Hannah & Hailey
    Annette & Ann Marie
    Jodi & Jill
    Darlene & Sharlene

    So, that is only about a third that “match,” and of them, five out of six pairs are now over 25 years old. The younger twins I know mostly do not match (Samuel & Alannah, Chloe and Sofia, Felipe and Santiago). I would surmise that matching names have become less common than they used to be, especially since parents in general have been choosing more individualistic names.

    However, I think trying to identify twin names that don’t rhyme or start with the same sound, but just “have a similar style,” is too subjective to be useful. For instance, some of the previous poster’s examples don’t really seem to be the same style to me at all. Those would be Vaughan and Caleb, Korey and Marla, Carey and Alex, or Marie and Kelly. Nothing about those screams twin or even sibling to me. I would actually call them dissimilar.

  4. It’s a totally fair point that “similar style” is too subjective, Diane. In my head, I count some of these as “similar style” simply because I’ve always heard them together since I knew them on twins. But clearly, an assessment from that frame of reference can’t be particularly objective.

    There certainly are style categories that are a little easier to define, like the obscure Biblical names, or the ‘jaden braden kayden, etc.’ category. But others categories are more fluid and depend on a person’s frame of reference.

    I always think its interesting to see the different approaches some of the baby name books and websites use to categorize names. Some create style categories, some sort by sound or phoneme, or by origin, or popularity or generation or any number of other factors. There’s lots of ways to do it, but in the end, most require some degree of subjectivity. But I’m sure there are ways to come up with simple rules, like Plank did. Theoretically you could use them to build a whole name taxonomy!

  5. @Diane: I agree — if I were going to do a twin name study, I’d focus on first letters and rhymes. (That “Billy Joe and Penny Sue” example in the source article seemed like a big stretch to me.)

  6. Just spotted this in the entertainment news: reality TV person Kim Zolciak and football player Kroy Biermann have just welcomed twins, Kaia Rose and Kane Ren.

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