Hi Duana,

I am pregnant with my first. We’re not going to be finding out the baby's sex. While my partner and I agree on our boys’ names, I'm struggling with the idea that some of my top picks for girls will be too matchy-matchy with my own name. 

I have fallen in love with the name Tessa. I also love Tess for short and like that both are stand alone names and she could choose which fits her best. My name is Alyssa (uh-liss-ah) and I worry that our names might sound too similar with the -ssa ending. My alternate name obsession is Odessa, yet another -ssa name. I don't want to be to matchy-matchy and for my daughter to feel like she has her own identity (I personally disagree with naming children after people - I feel it can put pressure to live up to the name).

I would greatly appreciate your input!

Yours in maternity,


Ha! This is a great question and one that we’ve never had before, which is kind of ironic because… when you think about it, there are only a few endings to girls’ names. Like… four. Which is why I was so tickled to come up with the above title – not only does it fit thematically, but like, actually…alphabetically! 

This is, I think, part of what makes gender neutral** or newly constructed names so appealing, the idea that they don’t have any baggage, whereas there are associations (whether shared or not) about the traditional endings of female names. Super-uber broadly, I can think of four categories via sounds  – and while you may not agree with my assessments of what they denote, I think you’ll see what I mean: 

Female names that end in ‘a’ tend to seem like they’re trying to impart a delicacy or demure femininity. Clara, Anabella, Tiana – they all have, or are aspiring to have, a bit of regal glamour to them. 

Whereas names that end in the ‘ee’ sound, whether with a y, ie, or otherwise, tend to be associated with friendly cheerfulness. Jamie, Emily, Kelly, Valerie. 

The names that end in the ‘een’ suffix (partially out of date but coming back) like Aline or Josephine or Nikoline, which of course literally is derived from being the ‘little’ version of the corresponding male name, can seem sort of reserved and demure… 

And names that end in a consonant, like Eleanor or Agnes or Brynne or Kim – they seem to be more inclined to denote a tomboy-esque vibe, and I would be travelling far away from the roots of this question if I theorized about why; that’s for another time. 

But my point in listing those is that you’re actually a little more hamstrung than you think when it comes to a name that does or doesn’t resemble your own – that is, if you think your child’s name can’t have the same suffix as yours, then for you we not only eliminate Tessa and Odessa (GOD I LOVE ODESSA) but Melissa, Clarissa, Jessa, Marisa, Issa, Vanessa, Bess …you get the idea. 

Which, frankly, I think is way too strict. Sure, the name Tessa ends the same way yours does, but… broadly, so do a hell of a lot of names. I don’t worry that they’re going to feel matchy, both because of your intended “Tess” nickname and because the vowel sound in Alyssa is totally different than the one in Tessa. Which goes double for Odessa – everyone’s going to be thinking about that big, bold, O sound at the front, and absolutely nobody’s going to be thinking about the fact that the last three letters are the same as yours, any more than you do when your friend Katie names her child Gracie or Elodie, or when someone named Molly names her daughter Riley, or etc. Right? 

I know this wasn’t the question, but I have to point out that this question is a stark contrast to the generations-old tradition of men naming their children and grandchildren after them, from Michael to Mikey to Mickey to Mikhael and back again. Nobody ever thought that was too matchy. (Or in the case of a lot of the letters I receive, they did, and were shouted down about it. Neat.)

As for your concern that your daughter may feel like she’s just a copy of you – she will be a fully-formed kid with her own personality before she ever puts together the similarities in your names, and even when she clocks that they’re not dissimilar, she’s likely to think it’s a cool thing that you share, or, for all we know, she’ll assume all her friends have names that sound similar to their parents’ names, too. You could, of course, go with Teresa as a formal first name just to avoid this situation, but if Nathan, father of Devon and Ronan, isn’t thinking about this, why should you?

Most importantly, both your name and your daughter’s name, whichever one it turns out to be, are going to feel strong, feminine, and utterly reflective of your great taste – anyone who thinks differently (and I promise you’re the only one in this scenario) has too much time to think about these things.  

Please let us know!

**Thank you to everyone sending in which names are gender neutral (or not) where you live – would love to hear more about this and I’ll round ‘em up on Friday!