My husband and I are sort of in a debate and I think you are the one who could help us. Although we're not expecting our third child (yet...that I know of!) we have already been going through the lists of names that we had for our previous two children and debating whether they would ever be 'useable' for us. The problem is endings. We have a son named Samuel, and my husband likes the name Nathaniel/Nathanael; I do as well, but I feel like another 'el' ending sounds odd. Same with girl's names - our daughter is Clara, but all the names we like for girls (Anna, Louisa, Fiona, etc.) are soft-a ending names.Is there a limit? I mean, how much of one ending can a family handle? Maybe you could do a poll?Thanks!
Oh, interesting! I think it would be difficult to come up with a number answer ("Two. Two is the limit") because there are so many factors:
• How many children are in the family
• Whether the matching endings are given sequentially or with other children in between
• Whether the matching endings have been given to all the children born so far, or if other endings have also been used
• How similar/different the names are in other ways
• How unusual/attention-catching the particular ending is
• Whether the children with matched endings are all of the same sex
• Whether the matching endings sound exactly alike
• Whether the matching endings are spelled exactly alike
• Your particular family's feelings on how appealing it is to have matchy names
• Some other hard-to-pin-down factor that we know when we see/hear it (but which may vary from person/family to person/family)
If you had, say, five children, and two of them had names ending in an -en sound, but those children were first and fourth, and one of the children was a boy and the other was a girl, and the ending was spelled -en in one case and -yn in the other case, and one of the names had two syllables and the other had three and the consonant sounds were completely different---then it seems like it's no big deal, and you could even use an -in/-an/-en/-yn name on an additional child without a fuss.
If on the other hand you had two girls named Isabel and Annabel, that already seems like too many -bel endings---and I'm not sure it would help to separate them by several other names. Unless of course you LIKED the matching: there are, after all, plenty of families naming sibling sets Madalyn and Madison, or Ella and Emma.
I think what matters most is whether it feels too matchy or attention-grabbing when you're saying the list of kids (the definition of "too" will vary from person to person). Samuel and Nathaniel sound rhymey/sing-songy to me because of the similarity of the M and N sounds before the -uel/-iel, and also because of the similarity of the -uel and -iel sounds themselves. I MIGHT use both names in a family with a lot of children, if there were several children in between: Samuel, Clara, William, Emma, Nathaniel, for example.
For comparison, a name like Paul, while it ends in L like Nathaniel and Samuel, gives me no such urge to increase separation. Samuel and Paul have completely different sounds: the -l ending sounds different, the letters before the -l ending sound different ("yool/yul" vs. "awl"), the syllables are different, everything is different. It also helps that there'd be another child in between: Samuel, Clara, and Paul just sounds like everyone has a pleasing L-sound to tie the names together.
The repeating -a ending seems almost like a non-issue. Many, many names end with -a, and it's not very ear-catching or distinctive. With the example of Clara and Anna, they don't sound rhymey even though they have the same number of syllables and same emphasis: the letter-sounds before the -a ending are completely different, as are the rest of the sounds in the names. If you wanted to increase the difference, you almost couldn't do better than Clara and Fiona/Louisa: different end-sounds, different syllables, AND different emphasis. If I encountered a family with daughters named Clara, Fiona, Anna, and Louisa, I might notice that they all had -a endings (which I wouldn't consider negative), or I might just notice that they were a great sibling group.
If a combination does bother you, there are often options: Samuel and Nathan instead of Samuel and Nathaniel; Clara and Anne/Annabel instead of Clara and Anna.