It's a lovely name, but...
January 3, 2013 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Are these names too similar?

I am currently 13 weeks pregnant with my second child, and although it's early, my partner has his heart set on a girl's name already. We don't know the sex but want to find out, and at our ultrasound last week, the sonographer was leaning towards girl.

Our first daughter's name is Kira (Kee-rah), and the name my partner loves for this baby is Leah. I like the name, but I feel that the two names sound a bit too similar. He thinks I'm crazy.

Could I please have some opinions on whether you think these names are too similar sounding to use for sisters or not?

posted by dil.emma to Human Relations (62 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I understand what you mean about the ee-ah sound in both of them. I don't think they are "too similar for sisters" in any kind of absolute sense, but if this is going to bug you (and it would bug me), I think it is legit to want to go with another name.
posted by cairdeas at 4:04 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think they're both adorable, and the pairing in a sisterly sense only makes them cuter.
posted by changeling at 4:04 PM on January 3, 2013

They sound sufficiently different to me, and both lovely names. Congratulations.
posted by headnsouth at 4:04 PM on January 3, 2013

I'll vote with him -- you're crazy -- those two names are not very similar.
posted by Perplexity at 4:05 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

How are you pronouncing Leah? If you're using Lay-uh (like in Hebrew) no problem at all. If you're using Lee-ah, I can see it only being an issue when you're calling one of them from the other side of the house, stuff like that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:06 PM on January 3, 2013

You were going to pronounce it "Lee-ah"?

"Lay-uh?" or

Because I think those are all valid pronunciations of the name Leah, and none of them line up very well with "Kee-rah".

At work I helped some (fraternal, though very similar-looking) twins named Eli and Elliot. Their phone numbers differed by 2 digits. Sitting next to one another I had to concentrate very hard to tell them apart. They thought it was sort of funny.

Anyway anecdote is anecdotal: those two had zero issues with similar names (and faces, and birth dates, and phone numbers, etc.) If you want daughters named Kira and Leah, then do it.

Having totally distinguishable initial consonant sounds helps, and the second syllables are similar but still different (ah vs. rah).

What's even more important is making sure that if you don't like a name for your daughter, even one the father has his heart set on, that you talk about it with him and work it out together.
posted by carsonb at 4:07 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think they sound lovely together, but Leah can probably look forward to "This is Kira and Lira, I mean Leah."
posted by looli at 4:07 PM on January 3, 2013 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Pronunciation would be Lee-ah.
posted by dil.emma at 4:07 PM on January 3, 2013

I think they're similar enough that your kids will be really irritated by it as they grow up (plus the Kira/Lira thing) - any chance Leah could be a middle name?
posted by heyjude at 4:10 PM on January 3, 2013

"In matters of taste there can be no dispute," which is to say, if you think they're too similar, then they are.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:13 PM on January 3, 2013

They are too similar. Name your daughter Francisca instead.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:18 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

My friend has two daughters with names that are similar in the same way and he is constantly calling them by the wrong name. I actually have to sit back and think to remember which one is which.

It doesn't seem to bother them, or anyone, but it is what happened.
posted by Dynex at 4:19 PM on January 3, 2013

My mom and dad gave us (four siblings) all names that start with D and all middle names that start with L. They frequently said the wrong name when trying to get our attention because the names were too similar.

And yet, I didn't care. It was even endearing. It's something we all share.
posted by tacodave at 4:19 PM on January 3, 2013

I'd encourage you to not name the child Leah simply because you're going to use an alternate pronunciation. The child will forever be correcting people and spend their school years forcing teachers to guess... frustrating for everyone.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:21 PM on January 3, 2013

I think both names are beautiful and don't sound too much alike.

Then again, a childhood friend of mine has daughters named Ella and Elizabeth, which I find really weird.

Keep in mind, too, that while, to you, your daughters will always/often be thought of in the aggregate, and you will often be saying, writing, and remembering their names together, they will be completely separate individuals. This is something that just isn't going to matter to them, if it ever even occurs to them. They will be separate people pursuing separate lives, and 99% of people they meet outside of preschool will have no idea that their name shares vowel sounds with their sibling's name.
posted by Sara C. at 4:22 PM on January 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

They don't sound all that similar to me, and I wonder if you're partly because they look similar on paper with the four letters+"a" ending. Perhaps if you spelled it slightly differently it would make you feel like the names were less interchangeable?

I also think it's important to remember that while she'll be Kira's sister forever, but will likely not live in the same house/be packaged as "Kira and Leah Smith on 20 Mulberry St" for more than 20 years, tops. My mother almost didn't name me my name because it has "Ann" in it, which was my cousin's name (we grew up down the street from each other and thought of each other as sisters when we were kids), and that strikes me as ludicrous, since as adults we live in different states and have completely different lives.
posted by zoomorphic at 4:23 PM on January 3, 2013

Also, I think it's outrageous to avoid Leah because you're using an "alternate" pronunciation (you're not -- every Leah I've ever met has pronounced it Lee-ah), or because it's a name with different pronunciations. It's a lovely name that 90% of people are going to immediately know how to pronounce. She will probably have to clarify the spelling every once in a while, but so does everybody.

My siblings and I have totally different nothing alike at all names, and our parents still call all of us by the wrong one every once in a while. This is going to happen if you have two children. BFD.
posted by Sara C. at 4:28 PM on January 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

It's the first sound that determines similarity to the ear, which is the important thing here. One starts with a hard sound, the other a soft sound. I don't think you're crazy -- they're more similar than John and Matt, for example -- but they don't sound too similar.

(The beginning consonant thing is what makes it so confusing -- I know fraternal twins names Kira and Kendra and I'm forever forgetting who's who.)
posted by DoubleLune at 4:29 PM on January 3, 2013

Taking the Aussie accent into consideration (I'm assuming you're Aussie from your location), is Kira pronounced keir-ra, as in it rhymes with weir-ra, not key-ra? If that's the case, I think the accent and pronunciation are dissimilar enough to not be a problem.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:29 PM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: Yes, malibustacey, "Keir-ra". Wasn't sure how this question would go with the Aussie/US pronunciation differences. Thankyou for helping to clarify.

Great range of responses so far, you've given us a lot to ponder. Thankyou!
posted by dil.emma at 4:35 PM on January 3, 2013

I'm a kiwi and they sound very very similar to me. I'm kind of shaking my head in surprise at all the people saying they are different. So maybe your local accent is relevant?
posted by shelleycat at 4:36 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Too similar for what? Confusion? In my opinion, they are quite different names from each other and both very lovely.
posted by Dansaman at 4:36 PM on January 3, 2013

Although I would also say keir-a.
posted by shelleycat at 4:38 PM on January 3, 2013

My name is four syllables and so is my sister's name. Our names not only rhyme, they also share most of their letters. And it's perfect! The names are great! Having a similar name to your sister can be nice.
posted by kellybird at 4:40 PM on January 3, 2013

Oooh. If your kids are Kay-ra and Lee-ah, that's totally different.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:40 PM on January 3, 2013

I'd say too similar.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 4:43 PM on January 3, 2013

I'm sitting here saying them out loud to myself and they think they sound different enough. They're both pretty names and I like them a lot! (I'm from the U.S. and would, on first sight, pronounce Kira to rhyme with Mira - as in Spanish for "look" or Mira Sorvino.)

I also think it's charming that both names have four letters, but that's me being a weirdo.
posted by Aquifer at 4:45 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think they're too similar, though you will have people pronouncing Leah as "lay-ah" (I would pronounce it that way when I saw it written down). And my sisters and I have names that are absolutely, completely dissimilar and my parents and grandparents still go through all the names before getting to ours -- having similarish names doesn't cause the problem.
posted by jeather at 4:47 PM on January 3, 2013

> And my sisters and I have names that are absolutely, completely dissimilar and my parents and grandparents still go through all the names before getting to ours -- having similarish names doesn't cause the problem.

I came here to say this, except that my two brothers do have similar-sounding names (more similar than Kira and Leah) and it's never caused them any problem. But yeah, our mom would go through all three names and then say "Uffda!" (she was Norwegian-American). Don't worry about it.
posted by languagehat at 4:50 PM on January 3, 2013

I don't know why, but I get hung up on Kira/Lira for some reason. Something about their similar shapes in proximity wants to rhyme them, despite different letters and sounds.
posted by itesser at 4:52 PM on January 3, 2013

You are not crazy. If I was naming my own kids, I'd also feel that this pair of names is too matchy-matchy, just because of the two syllable ___-"ah" commonality. On the other hand, I probably wouldn't pick up on the matchiness at all if I was introduced to two sisters with those names. Congrats!
posted by fussbudget at 4:54 PM on January 3, 2013

I am your future daughter: My name is Lana and my sister's name is Cara... and we love that they are similar. It makes us a team of sorts.
posted by LZel at 4:55 PM on January 3, 2013

I'm completely confused by this:

is Kira pronounced keir-ra, as in it rhymes with weir-ra, not key-ra?

'Key' and 'weir' have the same vowel sound: it's a long 'ee'. And OP already said:

Our first daughter's name is Kira (Kee-rah)

I'm an Aussie, and those names are pronounced, as standard in Australia:

Kira = KEE-ruh
Leah = LEE-uh

Never heard of a Leah in Australia pn LAY-uh (although I'm sure they exist), and doubt OP will have any problems there.

So: they share the same first vowel sound and a similar second vowel sound, and are both 2 syllables, with the stress on the first syllable.

Personally, I'd go for something more distinctive, because when I see siblings with names that similar I always think their parents are a little....lacking in imagination? But hey, who cares what I think? They're beautiful names, and it's fine.
posted by Salamander at 4:56 PM on January 3, 2013

Lots of people pick similar sounding names for their children. I think that's fine. And I don't think these names are so similar that they'll frequently get mixed up.

However, if it will bug you in the long run, definitely talk about other possible names. You don't want to give your kid a name that you don't like.
posted by asnider at 4:57 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

This might be a regional thing, Salamander, I don't know where in Australia you are, but I live in the same state as the OP and the ee sound in both names is pronounced differently. In Leah, it's a shorter ee than in Kira. I can't think how to describe it properly, but it's like Lee-a vs Keeeera.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:02 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just said them aloud to see how it sounded and ended up saying KEE-ruh and LEE-ruh, instead of LEE-uh. Lovely names, but I'd say too similar.

My childhood nickname was Ade, and my sister was Cait, and we were forever aggravating my mother because we could never tell who she was calling for. Thank god my brother was Nat and not Nate.
posted by Specklet at 5:03 PM on January 3, 2013

Maybe Leah could be a middle name, like someone suggested. I can see the whole Kira/Lira debacle, too. I grew up having my name entwined with my brother's. It didn't help that the first letters were the same, and the middle of the name was the same: Rachel got contorted into Richel, and Richard got twisted into Rachard for years. (It didn't scar me permanently, but it got annoying after a while.)
posted by wolfgirl at 5:05 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just as a data point, my sister's name shares almost no sounds with mine (think Gemma & Margalo) and throughout growing up I got called her name all the time. My dad cycled through our names, our step-mom's name, and the dog's name, ending with "whichever one you are!" In high school I simply learned to answer to Gemma from a few people. So I think being sisters will be more confusing namewise than how similar their names are.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:18 PM on January 3, 2013

I have a nephew named Ian who has a younger brother named Liam. They are sufficiently similar to cause confusion when yelling at them from the other room. I say Kira and Leah are too samey.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:20 PM on January 3, 2013

My name is Kiera (pronounced like Kirin beer, not kee-air-ah.) I think the problem with Leah is the two syllable nature of it combined with the similar -ah ending. If it were just Leah with one syllable, or pronounced like Princess Leia, I don't think it would be too close. (My parents call me Kay, Kiera-Lira-Lynn, and a host of other things, so you may be able to use a nickname to better differentiate between the two names.)
posted by xyzzy at 5:35 PM on January 3, 2013

malibustacey9999- Ooooh, thanks. I get it now!
posted by Salamander at 5:38 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think it's a wonderful name and they don't sound too similar to me, more endearing. Go for it.
posted by ibakecake at 5:48 PM on January 3, 2013

I think you won't have a problem when talking about or to each child individually, but I bet when you introduce them to people together you'll have a few moments of "this is Kira and Lira" or "this is Leah and Keela. D'oh!" On the other hand, those are pretty cute mix ups and may become treasured family nicknames.
posted by MsMolly at 6:05 PM on January 3, 2013

It strikes me as a tongue twister. +1 to the "Kira and Lira-- oops!" prognostication.
posted by salvia at 6:47 PM on January 3, 2013

Initially, I thought, "What, no, that's crazy!" But I realized that I was thinking Kai-ra, not your pronunciation of Kee-rah. Which, yes, is very close to Lee-ah, so no, not crazy.

If this bugs you, please do think of alternatives. However, I think you can take solace in knowing:
a. the names are spelled very differently, so it looks less matchy than many sibling names tend to.
b. You are nowhere close to being the Duggars.

posted by estlin at 7:13 PM on January 3, 2013

They're too close. You'll get Kia and Lira.
I know a guy named Colin who had a brother named Nolan. He got called Colon a lot.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:22 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think they are close. Not like identical twins with rhyming names close. But I would probably avoid. A few degrees away from naming boys Ryan and Brian or Brad or Thad.
posted by whoaali at 7:23 PM on January 3, 2013

You can test it out amongst yourselves (you, hubby, friends, whoever else you get to help you with this) and see if you find yourself twisting them up a lot. Every time you find yourself mentioning Kira's name instead mention them both at the same time (as will happen often to the parent of two siblings). If you trip over them or it sounds weird after awhile or it's perfectly fine, you'll know.
posted by bleep at 8:44 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

They're both going to sound like EEE-AH when you're calling them from a distance. But there's so much more to a name than calling from a distance. I'd say if you both loved the name, then I wouldn't worry at all about the similarity, but if you're not loving the name, find a name you love. It's worth loving your kid's name.
posted by judith at 8:48 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the names are both too similar (for the reasons above) and too different. Kira sounds modern, minimalist, and unconventional, while Leah is literally from the Old Testament. It doesn't sound like they share an aesthetic.

Of course, none of this matters unless you feel that it does. They're both good names.
posted by gentian at 8:52 PM on January 3, 2013

Surely I can't be the first to suggest you call her Jadzia.
posted by zadcat at 10:26 PM on January 3, 2013

If it bugs you, don't do it. I find the names just a little too similar, because "la" and "ra" seem sort of similar to me. (But I did study Japanese for a bit, so I might be extra focused on those syllables. What I find a bit cumbersome for my tongue is saying "Kira and Leah". The names on their own are okay. But imagine yourself calling, "Kira! Leah!" and "Kira and Leah!" Or saying to people over and over, "Kira and Leah...." Now, part of that may also be that, in my family, we've learned that it is easier to refer to a sister whose name ends with a if you start off with the sibling whose name does not. "Nancy and Leah" is easier than "Leah and Nancy". Something about a bit of a stutter when you say "Leah and". And we tend to opt for the non-final-A sibling at the start for that reason. But if you go with Kira and Leah, you don't have that option.

Of course, they are lovely names. And most of their lives, your children will not be together. But, for the time that they are, it's okay to take time with choosing their names.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:53 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if the mixing up of syllables is something that happens to us more as we get older, or if this happens to kids too, but I can definitely see people (like me) mangling the two names and resulting in "Lira," "Kila, or "Kia." After a few years of this, I can definitely see the girls rolling their eyes when they're being introduced, as some hapless grown-up apologetically mixes up their names once again.

I'm guessing the fact that they sound similar isn't deliberately part of the appeal for your partner? Otherwise you could consider variations, like Lara.

Or just change Kira to Kara. Sorry, kid.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:04 PM on January 3, 2013

For me the sibling test is: Will these names sound the same being shouted up the stairs? And I think in this case the answer is yes, because they have the same vowel sounds. If you love both names, I don't think they're deal-breakingly similar, but…they sound a lot alike to me.
posted by Charity Garfein at 11:05 PM on January 3, 2013

It is not possible to name your children in such a way that your judgement will not be sniffed at by a significant number of your friends and/or relatives. You will call your kids by the wrong name or flub up the pronunciation of their names on a regular basis. Your kids will both personally hate their own names for at least a little while for reasons that you cannot even fathom. Other people will mispronounce your kids' names and will get defensive and blame you instead of just simply apologizing and correcting themselves.

If you just don't love the name Leah quite enough, that's totally okay, you don't have to have an "objective" reason. Otherwise, Kira and Leah are fine as a pair of names. It is not uncommon to name siblings with some sort of very loose theme, such as the same first letter, rhyming, etc. They are way less cutesy than rhyming examples noted above such as Brian and Ryan. And even though the easiest way to transcribe the pronunciation is to use EE in that first syllable, there is still a shade of difference in the sound.

This may be all moot depending on nicknames that may emerge. Your grown daughters, affectionally known to all as Kiki and El, may laugh themselves silly to know that you were so concerned about their similar-sounding names. Or likewise, it may be a family joke for your son to point out that he was almost a girl named Leah.
posted by desuetude at 11:15 PM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mia and Leah sound too similar, but the r in Kira changes the sound just enough to be sufficiently different from Leah.
posted by Linnee at 11:27 PM on January 3, 2013

As someone with a sibling with a similar name*, I advise against it, especially if they're close in age. Also, seconding Charity Garfein's sibling test suggestion. It's easier to just find a new name you'll love more.

*My brother and I are less than a year and a half apart. My name is Erin. His is Erik. I wish I were kidding. I still call my parents assholes (lovingly so, but still) for doing this, and it fails the yelling test miserably. Mom would yell at us and all we'd hear is "Eeeriiii-" and we'd assume she was calling the other. People assumed we were fraternal twins. Frustration all around.
posted by sephira at 6:31 AM on January 4, 2013

I don't know your lifestyle, but consider that when you are shouting at a distance for one of your daughters to come, the consonantal differences in the names may not be enough to distinguish them.

What sephira just said.
posted by gauche at 6:35 AM on January 4, 2013

My friend has two daughters with names that are similar in the same way and he is constantly calling them by the wrong name

Happens all the time in families no matter how dissimilar the names are. It's not about the sound, it's about the proximity of people and your closeness to them. My father spent half his life confusing my and my mother's names, and they're nothing alike.

I think Kira and Leah sound nice together.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:13 AM on January 4, 2013

My mother used to call me Beau a lot. My name is Dean. Beau was the dog. It happens.

I don't think Kira and Leah are too similar. My only issue would be if I read someone's name as Leah, I would have to ask "Is that pronounced Lee or Lee-ah?".
posted by Diag at 1:41 PM on January 4, 2013

Go for it. I had a similar feeling when I named my second - First is Nathan, second is Evan. People have called one or the other Ethan, but not very often and not since the second was an infant.

I call them by each other's names, and the dogs' name (Horton, to be extra confusing), all the time. It's just an exhausted parent thing. I just cycle through names until the correct one is reached. I don't give a crap.
posted by kpht at 2:37 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

though you will have people pronouncing Leah as "lay-ah"

Unlikely. I'm a Lay-uh, and I don't think anyone has ever pronounced it like that before I've introduced myself, and usually not even after that. It's almost always lee-uh, occasionally lee.

I've got two girls and constantly confuse their names. And I don't think that Matilda and Ilana are very similar. (They get a lot of Matilda-Ilana-Matilda as I try to figure out which name to use.) So in terms of are you going to confuse their names, the answer is almost certainly yes.

Kee-ruh and lee-uh are probably a little closer than I would have chosen, but I don't think they're too close. It wouldn't be problematic.
posted by leahwrenn at 3:17 PM on January 4, 2013

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