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Baby Name Turf Wars: On Dibs and Due Dates

Baby Name Turf Wars: On Dibs and Due Dates

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I read your advice to someone else on this subject – what if you had your heart set on a name, but a family member who is due before you announces it’s THEIR baby name before you do?

Well, in this case, we are due first and we weren’t sharing our baby name plans because we know that couples often change their minds when they meet the baby. BUT, my SIL emailed me and said, “we’re planning on calling our daughter [due three months after my daughter] X” and when I told my husband, he freaked right out! He actually CRIED when we first said this name out loud (which of course made ME cry). For him, it is the name of our daughter. It is perfect for us, it links up with our middle name choice, with my heritage. It checks all the name requirement boxes off.

A part of me thinks it’s ok for them to call dibs on a name this far in advance if they feel strongly about it, but my husband was pissed that they didn’t wait until they found out what we’re naming our daughter. That seems a little unreasonable to me, the world does not revolve around our daughter!

But, I’ve always said that I wouldn’t let other people’s baby naming plans affect my naming plans, because my mom was going to call me “A” and then her friend called her baby “A” and so my mom called me a shitty 80s name instead! And yet, that friend moved her family away a month later and they have never been in touch since. So what would have been the big deal with naming me “A” in the end? For that reason, my attitude is, if I feel strongly about the name, it’s ok if someone else in my life gives their kid the same name.

In this case, it’s trickier of course, because this child will be family. But here’s the other thing: we will see this child (who is the daughter of my husband’s brother and his wife) maaaaaybe annually (we live in separate countries, and we don’t often visit home at the same time). Our kids and their kids will never have the same sibling-like relationships that I always had with my cousins growing up. It’s not like these kids will see each other regularly, it’s not like this is going to cause huge in-person confusion on a regular basis. In fact, I can not overemphasize how not close we are with my husband’s brother and his wife. We are extremely different and distant (my husband and his brother have never been close, never will be) and the best relationship we could ever hope for is vaguely-friendly-but-mostly-awkward.

For that reason, I’m kind of ok with naming my daughter the same name as my husband’s niece BUT, since we already aren’t close, I don’t want to start a fight by saying “yeah, so, that was our name, too, so uhhh, let’s just both have babies with that name.” I don’t care, but she might really care. I just have no idea.

What do you think? (If it helps, this isn’t the kind of name that gets shortened differently, like Elizabeth can be Liz, and Beth, and Eliza, this name is stand-alone, not the shortening type).

Help me oh wise Amalah!

Oh CRAP, Baby Name Wars!

Ugh, this whole idea of calling “DIBS!” on a baby name. I hate it. Names are important and meaningful and personal and all that, but I AM SORRY, you do not get to claim a name as yours and yours alone, hissing and spitting at anyone who dares trespass on your wonderfully unique preshus snowflake letter jumble.

THAT SAID, I also sympathize with baby name turf wars within families — while most of us are prepared for the inevitable eventuality that we will encounter someone else with our child’s same preshus snowflake letter jumble, it can get understandably weird to realize that the name you chose is ALREADY getting double-duty use within your immediate family, and within just a few months of time. Cousins born within a few months of each other, both girls, both with the same name. Yeeah, I can see how that might raise a few eyebrows and cause some confusion, and possibly a little weirdness that both girls will basically be born with the requirement of including a last initial or middle name to keep them straight whenever family members talk about them. (That’s something that some parents go overly berserk trying to avoid all together, after all.)

(Which: SHRUG, says this late-70s-born Amy Beth, who was not only ALWAYS one of multiple Amys in her class growing up, but often one of multiple Amy Beths. The rest were all Amy Elizabeths.)

(SPOILER ALERT: We all survived and grew up confident in our inherent unique preshus snowflake-ness regardless.)

You have the ultimate advantage here, obviously: You will give birth first. Your in-laws cannot stop you from proceeding with your chosen name. Nor should they. Sure, they probably shared their name choice in hopes of shooing you away from it in case it was on your “list,” but unfortunately for them, it WAS on your list. Whoops. It sucks, but there it is.

So you have every freaking right in the world to name your daughter the name you picked, but your SIL’s email does mean you’re going to have to talk about your plan. With her. Be honest. Admit that this is awkward, but yeah…that’s also the name you and your husband picked out. You’ve had it picked for awhile and it’s the only name that you ever considered (and I don’t know, you use the name out loud already and have already ordered monogrammed crib blankets or something). Let her know that 1) you aren’t going to change your plans, sorry, but 2) you are 100% completely okay and cool with her using the name as well, and would be happy to laugh and tell the story about how you both came up with this “perfect” name independently. (In other words, to clear her name as a potential copy-cat down the line.) I don’t think it’s really THAT unusual — think families where there’s an emphasis on using family names to honor parents, grandparents, etc. It’s common to see multiple cousins with the same beloved name or versions of the same name. No biggie, unless the neurotic parents-to-be make it a biggie. 

At that point, the ball is in her court. Yeah, she might get super bent out of shape or upset. But she’ll need to get over it, frankly. One email does not equal DIBS, nobody’s “stealing” anything here, it’s just a coincidence, etc. If she’d kept her mouth shut about her name choice she just would have been in for an unpleasant surprise when your daughter was born; now she has to decide if it bothers her if your girls have the same name or not. Props to you for NOT being bothered by it, by the way, but of course we can’t order other people to feel how we feel about this sort of thing. Even if those other people have identical taste in baby names.

Just promise me you won’t hide from the potential conflict and spring this on her in a few months after your daughter’s birth, at which point she’ll probably flip COMPLETELY out and assume you “stole” the name. Deal with this now, even though you aren’t close. By NOT talking about it you’ll likely guarantee that you will NEVER be close. And two little girl cousins, who will be so close in age and could possibly grow up to be wonderful friends, will be the biggest losers in that scenario. NO NAME, not even one that caused spontaneous husband-weeping, is worth that, in my opinion.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Anne

    June 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    My brother and my cousin have the same name, and we lived less than a mile apart and he was at our house nearly every day growing up. (My dad picked us all up from school together.)

    My cousin is younger and wound up having the nickname – LM – short for Little Matt. It’s caused some confusion over the years, but it’s really no big deal.

  • Kacie

    June 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    In this situation, I think it is fine to go ahead with the name you chose for your daughter, and if they do the same name too — also ok.

    I’m guessing you all share a last name? If so, I think it’s reasonable to have different middle names. Hopefully THAT is not an issue.

    But yah. You are due first, and just because they announced the name first doesn’t mean ANYONE has dibs. 

    I hope it doesn’t cause drama. It shouldn’t. But have a chat with SIL soon.

  • Christina

    June 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    My SIL and I are due pretty much at the exact same time. We know the sex of ours and knew what the name would be even before the kid was conceived. She doesn’t know the sex of hers and claims not to have a name picked at all. I had a minor freak out about what if we pick the same name because the name we picked is her (and my husband’s) grandfather’s name. Then I remembered that I’m Greek and I have 3 Uncle Spyros and 5 Aunt Marias. They’re all really close and everyone has survived.

    • Jenelle

      June 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      Whenever I hear stories about “baby name wars” I think of the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the dad is introducing all the cousins; “And this is my sister Nikki and her kids Nick, Nicolas, Niko, and Nikki. And my brother Nick and his kids Nick Jr., Nikki…” They all seemed t get along fine.

  • hp

    June 3, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    My son was born in October. In December, my husband’s cousin named their new son the EXACT same name. It isn’t in the top 10, but is common enough (although not a family name). We all deal. The middle names are different though.
    Did it peeve me? Yes. But I’m an adult and I will deal. The worst part was when we were told that my husband’s cousin “asked if we would mind.” At that point (once the annoucement went out), there was no “asking”–it was “telling.” So we couldn’t say we minded because then we would seem like we were petty.
    All that to say–email your SIL and let her know. Not letting her know is passive-agressive and mean.

  • Carolyn

    June 3, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I think if they already had the name picked out (but just hadn’t told anybody about it) then it makes sense to tell the SIL that it’s also the name you’d picked out. But when I read it, I’d interpreted it as that they HADN’T chosen a name yet, but when they heard the SIL name choice, it seemed like the perfect name for their own baby. That somehow feels shadier, even if the end result is the same. But this is entirely why we didn’t tell people our name choice until the baby was already born – the decision should be made by the parents without any extra influence or pressure. As soon as you start telling people, it gets complicated!

    • Sarah Beth

      September 10, 2015 at 11:31 am

      I read it the same way, seemed like they decided on the name once they heard the SIL name and fell in love with it. Which is super shady. 

  • Tai

    June 3, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Ugh, the baby name wars. My partner’s cousin is not remotely pregnant, but freaked out when she heard the middle name we’re using for our baby, because she MIGHT want to use that IF she has another daughter.

    My partner told her to stuff it. We don’t own names, and I don’t give a damn if they use that middle name for their future potential child. She’s still fuming about it and will whine to anyone who listens that we ruined “her” name.

  • Alison

    June 4, 2013 at 1:13 am

    I just had a light bulb moment.
    What if you went ahead and did not use this name because you wanted to avoid the whole conflict issue and then when your SIL has her daughter 3 months from now, she has changed her mind and not used it either???  You can’t rely on her using or not using it in the future.

    Speak up and tell her your plans. 

  • brie.

    June 4, 2013 at 5:38 am

    my sister’s name is andrea, my cousin’s name is andrew, they are both known as ‘andy’ it was never an issue. we grew up in the same town. 

    now my sister’s partner is also an andrew, it’s really not that bad, we just refer to them as the andy’s – it’s a name, not an identity…. 

    i was worried that my cousins might want the same names as we do for our baby – i doubt it will happen, but if it does, meh, it happens….

  • Meg

    June 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Oy. My SIL and I were due within two weeks of each other (she was due first) And within days of us telling everyone we were expecting, they started calling us to claim their names. None of which were on our list, but then when they found out what they were having they called again, and then when they found out our baby was the same gender they called again, and it annoyed my husband so he started joking that we were really starting to like their name, which made them call in a panic even more. I finally made him tell his brother that we didn’t plan to use their name and never had, but they needed to lay off. At the same time another SIL was pregnant and used a name I’d thought about (my grandpa’s name) and she apologized when she realized, but I said, “Hey, I might never have a boy. If I want to honor my grandpa I’ll use it as a middle name.” It was not necessary for them to check with us before they picked their name, and if we use it later I dont think they’ll care. Names are important, but everyone needs to be adult about it and deal with the fact that their name may not be unique unless they name their kid something the kid won’t want to put on a resume.

  • Kat

    June 4, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    The name thing is so silly. We went round and round on names, and ended up picking Oliver for our boy. My SIL was a few months ahead of me with a girl, who she chose to name Olivia. My husband and I loved the name Oliver, but we switched because it wasn’t a family name and there are SO MANY NAMES. All of which are important and precious and fitting. It wasn’t the same name, and honestly, it wouldn’t have been a big deal if we went with it, it just would have meant dealing with everyone stumbling over their names (we see them about once a month). So we picked a completely different name that wasn’t even on our radar to begin with because it’s just easier. And we both thought the name thing would cease to be as all important and consuming once we had a baby. Because then the baby is the most important thing, not really what he’s called.

  • Oh Crap

    June 5, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Original letter writer here! Amalah, thanks for answering! It didn’t show up in my reader, but my husband was googling “name wars” and it came up and he was like “is this us!?!” I was expecting you to flame us because in the past you told the person in this situation to let the name go. Maybe because she was hoping to turn the other person off the name, I dunno.

    To clarify, yeah, in rereading, it does sound like one commenter says, that we liked the name only after we heard my SIL say it. It was already at the top of our list, but had only made it there recently. When I first read her message, I was like, “ugh! We have to think of a new name!” But when I told my husband, that’s when he freaked out and insisted that this is our daughter’s name. I had felt strongly about it, too, but for fear of conflict I had kinda instantly turned off the name, until I watched my burly husband shed a tear over the name he wants to give our daughter!

    So, no, we definitely didn’t come to like it simply because they said it out loud, I would never ever do that! I just didn’t want to write another paragraph in my letter to Amy and in the trimming down, some of the story got lost.

    • tracy

      June 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      My first cousin and I have the same name – she is 2 yrs older than me – 
      I once asked my aunt if she was mad that my mom chose the same name, and she was like “what? why would I care about that?”
      So, my cuz and I are good friends, and its never been a problem – 
      In fact, as a child, I was thrilled that we shared this bond!

  • Jimmy

    June 5, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I grew up the fourth of five kids.  My mother rarely, if ever, managed to correctly say the name of the kid she wanted to address when calling for us.  I was Fritz, Herald, Ferdinand before I was ever just Jimmy.  I was also a mash-up of my big-brothers’ names that eventually led to “Chri-Don-Stev-Jimmy!”  

    The point is, the name confusion will happen no matter the names involved.  My siblings and I didn’t have names that sounded alike, and still the over-tired parents in my life stumbled over all of them because that is parenting.  I wouldn’t let the worry of name confusion hold you back.  

  • Julie

    June 5, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    I totally agree with Amalah’s advice on this one, and I’d love a follow-up from this letter-writer at some point. I had a baby girl last year, and we kept her name a secret from the day of our 20-week ultrasound until the day she was born…and I was TERRIFIED that at some point in between, a close friend or a family member would announce that they’d be using “our name.” Now, on this side of things, I see how NOT A BIG DEAL that would’ve been, but I’m also glad that nobody DID end up using it before our daughter was born.

  • Corinne

    June 5, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Honestly, this is part of the reason why we’ve been very public about possible name choices (Cassandra Marie for a girl – I’ve had this name since I was 15 years old).  Not to call dibs, but so that if at some point, someone we know names their child the same thing we want to name a future child, no one will think we stole it.  I don’t care about having multiple people with the same name, I just don’t want to deal with the resentment that comes with accusations of name stealing.  

  • Rachel

    June 7, 2013 at 4:10 am

    Yeah, I have to say….this is absolutely fine! Cousins with the same name will somehow survive. According to my dad, when my aunt (his younger sister) got married, she tried to call dibs on certain names. He basically told her she was being ridiculous, and that he’d name his own kids whatever he wanted, regardless of what names she’d ‘called’ or even already used.

    All this to say…my parents have 3 children. All of us have cousins with the same name. And it was never that awkward or weird or bad.

    I agree, you should say something to your sister-in-law, but calling dibs on a name just makes me roll my eyes. It’s just a name! You’ll be sorry if you use something you love less for such a silly reason.

  • Bethany

    June 8, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Something similar happened to my mom when she was pregnant with my brother. She was pregnant at the same time as her sister but due two months earlier. When she told her sister the name she and my dad had chosen, her sister freaked out because she also wanted to use that name. My mom caved and named my brother something other than her first choice. Two months later, her sister gave birth… and used a different name than the one she had “called dibs” on.

    I agree that you should talk to SIL but still stick with the name you love. If they end up with the same name, it’s no big deal, especially because they’ll only be together once a year-ish.

  • eva

    June 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I have two cousins named Paul (my mom’s two sisters both named their sons the same!). Two of my cousins are naemd Allison. Two of my cousins named their daughters Emma. They all have different middle names! And the world did not end:)

  • Julie

    June 27, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I’m dying for an update from the letter writer on this!

  • Carrie

    July 3, 2013 at 1:40 am

    I completely disagree. First and foremost, you both must consider the ramifications for your children. I can’t tell you how many times incorrect information has shown up on a credit check related to a relative with my same name. If someone had spoken up about possible baby names beforehand, and for example, both agreed that “the” name was off the table and alternates were to be chosen? In the end, unless these names have explicit sentimental meaning (honoring a loved one), I see no reason why you both can’t open a baby name book and explore other options. Second, you absolutely must discuss this with your relatives before your child is born. You cannot blindside family – what if the tables were turned? What if she gives birth prematurely and she “takes” your name…would you truly, honestly still use “the” name? I sincerely doubt it. I think you only claim not to care because you have the upper hand in being able to name your child first.

    • rachel

      July 9, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      Um wow. I think you need to calm down a little. Names are not one-time-use and there could easily be someone out there with your exact same name who you are not related to.

      Also, with regards to “(considering) the ramifications for your children,” did you miss all the comments by people who have the same name as their cousins and thought it was super fun? Read through the comments!

  • Allison

    July 4, 2013 at 2:47 am

    My cousin and I are two months apart and have the same first name and same initials. We loved it, it was a special bond that made it more fun to hang out together (when a parent yelled for a good  thing, we both went; if it meant trouble, we pretended that it was for the “other Allison”).  I truly think that the only person who cares is the parent, the kids will be fine and have no issues… Unless you create an issue for them.


    August 20, 2013 at 5:38 pm


  • Ambaa

    October 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    My friend had a potential girl’s name that she was thinking about for her future daughter. 

    Then I got a dog and named the dog that (unknowingly!)

    So she had to think about whether she was okay with her daughter having the same name as my dog!

    (When the time came, she and her husband found a better name, anyway).

    My husband has a name that he really wants to use for a son, but he’s concerned because there is a cousin with that name. It’s a distant cousin who is now 14 years old and we aren’t even pregnant yet! I’ve tried to tell him that that is NOT a problem! I might show him this post to reassure him.

  • Zhay

    November 8, 2013 at 3:34 am

    Just to add another perspective, even babies with different names in their immediate families, could end up with having the same name as the family grows and changes. My husband’s sister and sister-in-law (his brother’s wife) have the same first name. It requires a bit of clarification when speaking of them, but it’s not a big deal.

  • Puppy Spit

    February 5, 2014 at 12:39 am

    In our family we have: Melissa, Alyssa, Marissa, Carissa, 2 Steve’s, a Maddie and a Matty (which sound EXACTLY the same when said aloud so we call them DD and TT) and  3 Pete’s 
    The worst that happens is Auntie Melissa gets called Auntie Alyssa because the kid thinks she and her Aunt have the same name… and they both love their “same” name

    In addition, I was named after my mom so I know all about the credit files getting crossed despite the fact that my name is an extended version of her’s and we have a different middle initial… go figure…

    To sum this all up: it can definitely be something to bond over for family members. as a kid having a common 80’s name with a common ethnic last name I was used to sharing my name. I always wished I was related to them though so we could pull a Parent Trap mixup. Instead I got some fun nicknames to differentiate us

  • Kelly

    February 20, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    I am having this issue right now. I’m 29 weeks pregnant with a girl and my sister is exactly 0 months pregnant with no boyfriend and the possibility of not having another child down the line. Apparently when she was pregnant with her daughter from a previous marriage she wanted to name her Isla but her husband refused and my niece ended up being Avery. Oh, and never once told any of us this…(Actually, when i was pregnant with my last daughter she claimed that “Arianna” was “HER” name and I couldn’t use it…)

    Well, a month or so ago my hubby heard the name Isla and LOVED it immediately. This is the guy who HATES every darn baby name suggested to him and can think of every bad nickname possible. My mother has made it VERY clear to me that it would be *THE END OF THE WORLD… DUM DUM DUUUUM* if we even considered using that name and my sister has said many many times she would never forgive me and I’m lucky that she isn’t more upset that my daughter has the same middle name as she does (My Grandma’s name btw…and it’s a MIDDLE NAME and not even spelled the same). Sigh. And really, what the heck are the chances that even if she does end up having another baby with someone else they’ll have a girl? Or that he will agree to “her” name? 

    So what do we do? Piss off my family or pick another name that we don’t love quite as much JUST IN CASE? I feel your pain OP…

    That being said, I graduated high school with 3 girl Kellys and 1 boy Kelly. Never an issue at all.

  • Sam

    March 2, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Hi I just wanted to let you know that the spelling is precious, not preshus.

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      March 2, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      Thank you. The “preshus” is misspelled by design. It’s “humor spelling.”

  • honey

    May 7, 2015 at 4:41 am

    Name your baby whatever you want, no one owns a name. my mum gave me her nme and two of y cousins hve same name.

  • Isabelle

    February 13, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    I know this is so old… but in my family actually happened, and my mom didn’t found out that she had given her daughter (my sister), almost the same name as my cousin (she was born two months before my sister), until my sister was almost one year old. The name was basically the same, but had different spellings. She was relieved that, as we used to live far away from my uncle, his wife and children, my sister would’nt have to share her name. But life is kind of ironic, and when my sister and cousin were 6 years old we moved to the city my uncle lived, and they were school classmates from grade 2 to grade 12, and ten years in the same classes. My cousin uses her middle name since forever because she hated her first name (I believe she still does), and not because of my sister (they actually love each other as sisters), but because is a hideous name that even my sister dislikes, and she also goes by her middle name sometimes. In our home there was never confusion, as both have different last names and are called by different nicknames, but in school, being always in the same classroom, teachers used to confuse them. There could be way worse, as a friend who had the same middle name as her sister, or sisters all named after the Virgin Mary (I knew of a devout catholic family whose daughters were name Mary Hope, Mary Grace and Mary Faith, that’s awful as if someone just called Mary Lastname, it could be anyone of the three).