Name thieves

Reader Anna posted a story to my Facebook wall today — one of Abby’s Name Sage posts on Nameberry that had gotten quite a bit of feedback: Baby Name Theft? Sibling rivalry over a name.

This is the issue:

I have always loved the name Josephine, called Josie or Jo. My sister likes it, too. She doesn’t have kids yet, but really wants them. To be considerate, I asked if she was okay with us using Josephine for this baby. She said it was fine.

My husband and I decided to use the name. [Their older daughter] calls her sister Josephine, and we’ve been referring to the baby by name, though we haven’t officially announced it.

Just recently, my sister told me that she’d changed her mind, and she wants to keep Josephine for herself. Now she’s not speaking to me.

We don’t want to change the name. It fits for many personal reasons, and it’s the name we both love. Yet now when I hear it, I feel frustrated and sad.”

Oof! So maddening! So unfair! So ridiculous! I’m certain all of us can understand the mama’s perspective (who’s actually pregnant, actually expecting an actual baby who actually needs an actual name in the actual near future), but I’m sure even the most laid-back among us can imagine the sister’s perspective as well. What a dilemma!

I love that the expecting parents showed consideration and asked the sister for her permission (for lack of a better word) — we did this also with one of our boys. I hate that the sister said okay, and then changed her mind after the decision was already made. I hate that the sister isn’t speaking to the mom. I hate that the once-beloved, perfect name now evokes anger, frustration, and sadness.

I posted once about naming “dibs” and included a bunch of links that I thought were useful. Given that we add the element of faith to our name discussions, I think we might all agree that relationships are, objectively, more important than names? This is something I try to keep in mind myself, though I know I’m more laid back about this particular issue than a lot of other namiacs. I also feel like we can all intellectually agree that no one owns a particular name, so the idea of “name theft” is somewhat misleading. There are also a zillion other names (and Abby had some awesome suggestions for this couple). I also don’t at all mind the idea of first cousins having the same name, and I think I would love the challenge of coming up with different nicknames.

But. I also know that this can be a hugely emotional topic (especially for emotional pregnant ladies! I’m sacrificing my body, my hormones, my sleep, and my comfort for this baby, let me have my name!), which can override any objective understandings of anything. And relationships are more important than names, but it doesn’t sound like the sister in this situation agrees, and it’s hard to have a good relationship with someone who refuses to play by loving-relationship rules, and who insists on behaving in a way that feels traitorous, petty, and selfish (and I can see how both the sister and the mama could feel this way about the other). But then we’re supposed to rise above and do the right thing regardless. Gah! What a mess.

My dibs post is almost two years old, so let’s revisit it — what are your thoughts/reactions to the Nameberry post? Any personal stories you’d like to share?

Prayers please, and a name reveal

Do you all remember Sylvia of this consultation and this birth announcement? She blogs at Tales from the Mommy Trenches, and I just discovered that not only is she pregnant with her fifth beautiful babyanother girl! — but also that her sweet baby has a congenital heart defect and Down Syndrome (that post about receiving the results of the blood test that said the baby does indeed have DS was titled “Joy” ♥♥♥).

If you read the above links, you likely saw that Sylvia and her husband have named the baby, and I could not think of a better name:

We will still be following our family tradition of calling her by her middle name, and her middle name is Regina. She is named after the Queen of Heaven, and I have dedicated her to Our Lady. Scott and I decided that her first name will be Matilde, named after my mother and grandmother. Matilde means “brave in battle,” so it seemed appropriate. It is good to have a name so that I can start praying for her by name.”

A perfect addition to sisters Gloria Ruth, Victoria Rose, Elena Wren, and Sylvia Rhea!

I’m sure this beautiful family would appreciate any prayers you can offer for them and for little Regina! 🙏🙏🙏

New article up at CatholicMom!

My October column posted today! Check it out: Reclaim the Name.


I drew heavily from my Reclaim the name post of a while ago in putting together the ten names I listed in the article that I’d like to see be reclaimed, and though there were quite a lot to choose from, I focused on the most Catholicky Catholic ones. A couple of the names actually *are* well used — just that I hear some people have a hard time getting past particular associations that I would love to see overridden. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the ten I chose, and any others you would add!

Birth announcement: Rosalee Maewyn!

The mama from this consultation sort of sneakily snuck in a little comment on the post today sharing that she’s had her baby! Her little girl has been given the goooorgeous name … Rosalee Maewyn!

What an amazingly beautiful combo! I’m extra excited too that Rosalie was one of my suggestions — I’m so delighted it was a helpful idea!

If you remember, this sweet girl is Baby No. 11 and her parents didn’t want her name to repeat any of her siblings’ initials — I’m so impressed at how well they’ve done! She joins big sibs:

David Zachary
Caleb Daniel
Jesse Robert
Ethan Wyatt
Kathryn Cecilia
Aaron Mathias
Tobias Xavier
Bridget Darling
Phoebe Noelle
Levi Thaddeus

Such a handsome bunch of names! Congratulations to the whole family, and happy birthday Baby Rosalee!! (Be sure to check our her adorable little face over on her mama’s blog!)

Baby name consultant: Mary, music, and ends-in-a

Mary Dove and her husband Gerry are expecting their seventh baby, a little girl! This little lady joins big sibs:

Maria Paloma (“which is Mary Dove in Spanish, she goes by Paloma“)
Isabella Maria (“goes by Bella, Bellita, Izzy“)
Juliana Marie (“Jules, Juice Cup, Julie Dear“)
Nicholas Matthias (“Nick, Nicko, even Nicodemus which I almost wish we named him because I have come to love it, he was named after Gerry’s Confirmation name, since he didn’t want a Jr.”)
Dominic Karl (“Dom, Domo and Domodemus; Karl is after my dad, Dom was almost Donovan but Dominic felt right“)
Augustine Raphael (“Gus, Gusto, Auggie; Raphael after Gerry’s dad“)

Just an amazing bunch of names! (And those nicknames! “Juice Cup”!😀 ) I love them all, but I especially love that Maria Paloma has her mom’s exact name, just translated into Spanish — particularly interesting in light of our conversation about girls named after their moms the other day. (Also, the fact that Gerry “didn’ want a Jr.” makes it sound like Mary Dove would have been okay with that — further evidence for the idea that many of the boy Juniors are Mom’s idea!)

Mary Dove shared lots of fun namey info:

I’ll start with me, since my own name needs some explaining. My name is Mary Donovan Z. My mom nicknamed me Mary Dove (like Mary Beth or Mary Jo) and it stuck. My family and close friends call me Mary Dove or Dove. I am part Irish/Scottish and German. My husband’s name is Gerry (Gerald) Micheal, he is European Spanish/Mexican and English/German. I like to have names that reflect family heritage and also the person’s appearance

A couple of things we do with our kid’s names, the girls have a Marian name in their names and the first name ends in the letter a because it flows with our last name (but having a name ending in A is not an absolute). 2 of our kids have blue eyes and freckles and burn in the sun (yup, that’s the Irish) and the other 4 have various light skin tones but tan and have green/grey/hazel eyes. 3 are slender and 3 are stocky (aren’t genes cool!!)

The boys have middle names that are family names. We also use nicknames a lot.”

I just died over Mary Donovan –> Mary Dove or just Dove. So great!

Regarding names for their Little Miss,

[W]e will probably use Monica, as that is a family name and though not Marian, I think I might count it as Marian-ish. Gerry is partial to Felicity. I kinda like Pia (because I love Padre Pio). I prefer actual saint names but have considered the names Hope and Grace, too … [also] perhaps a variation on Bridget [after Mary Dove’s sister] … we are a bit of a musical family and was wondering about musical type names. My sisters and I had an a cappella singing group as teens and I play (though not really much now) the harp, Scottish bagpipes, and piano. My girls all play piano and each a string instrument (cello, violin and viola) my husband is learning guitar and Ukulele! (How cute is that? If you have older kids, the Ukulele is the cutest little instrument and quite easy to learn!) I like the name Cecelia but that seems to be the quintessential Catholic music name and plus I have a friend whose daughter is named Cecelia. Are there any other musical names out there??

And a name that Mary Dove really likes but can’t use as it’s the name of her niece:


Alrighty, I’m going to jump right in with a few quick thoughts about the names Mary Dove and her hubs are currently considering: I love Monica, and I’m interested in her Marian-ish idea — I assume she means because it’s the name of a holy mother? I admit I’ve never heard that argument given before for the name Monica! But if her name calls Our Lady to mind for them, who am I to say it’s not Marian-ish!

I love the name Felicity, and I wondered what they’d both think of Felicita? It’s a legit variation (Italian) and retains their ends-in-a pattern. And speaking of Felicity/Felicita, of course I always think of Perpetua too, and I’ve heard of several little girls recently named Perpetua who go by the nickname Pia, which is a name Mary Dove said she likes — maybe they’d like to consider that as a way to use Pia, and it could also be a nod to St. Pio? Also, Our Lady is described as “pia” in the Salve Regina, so it can be a Marian name too. Maybe Monica Pia? And then they get a Marian name, their St. Pio name, and Monica all in one? (Though Mary Dove’s clever Juliana heard “onomatopoeia” when she heard Monica Pia — deal breaker? Or kinda cool?)

Before I get to my other ideas, I have to say I’m a bit stumped about the music question! I looked up patron saints of music, as there are usually several saints for each category/condition/etc., but there was only one listed besides Cecilia — St. Arnulf of Soissons, which didn’t strike me as terribly inspiring (though he himself is pretty awesome). I did see that a Frisian (from Wikipedia: “The Frisian languages are a closely related group of Germanic languages, spoken by about 500,000 Frisian people, who live on the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. The Frisian languages are the closest living language group to English languages“) variant is Anne, used for both girls and boys and said AH-nah, so I thought maybe Ana or Anna would work as a nod to St. Arnulf? Or are they too close to Anneliese?

I looked up patron saints of singers and had a little more success: St. Andrew the Apostle, King David, and St. Gregory the Great (Gregorian Chant is named after him) are all patrons of singers. Of those, Andrea would fit in well with the other girls’ names (and it’s a style match for Monica!), and I’ve seen Andra and Andrina as well. Greer is used as a feminine form of Gregory — it’s from a Scottish surname derived from Gregory, which is a nice nod to Mary Dove’s Scottish heritage. I don’t think it would work as a first name for this family, but maybe as a middle?

I had the most luck with “saints who were singers” — there are a lot of them (the full list here); these were three of my favorite ideas for them:
— Bl. Anne Pelras (that “Anne” again!)
— Bl. Chiara Badano (looooove Chiara for this family! It’s Italian instead of Spanish, but ends in -a and is so lovely, like the other girls)
— Bl. Marie-Gabrielle Trezel (Gabriela would be a perfect fit!)

And then I had the idea of Aria — as it refers to “song” or “melody” in Italian, and ends in -a, and is beautiful — and looked to see if there was a holy Aria, and there is! St. Aria of Rome! (The Game of Thrones character Arya Stark, said the same is Aria, is good to be aware of though, as some might think the name was inspired by her.)

Okay! I did a full round of research for girl names, where “research” means, as you all know, looking up all the names they’ve used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard, which is an awesome resource as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I also went through my own mental files, and here’s what I came up with:

(1) Jacinta
Bl. Hyacinth-Marie Cormier is one of the blesseds who was a singer, and Jacinta — which I’d already had on my list for them! — is a feminine variant of Hyacinth (and actually Hyacinth can be used as a female name as well — see the Pioneer Woman’s best friend Hyacinth). I’d say it jah-SIN-tah, the English way, and I assume Mary Dove’s Juliana is said with an English J? But they could also do hah-SEEN-tah, it’s gorgeous either way. And it’s also Marian-ish, since Bl. Jacinta Marto was one of the Fatima children.

(2) Lilia, Liliana, Lilli
Lilies are associated with Our Lady, and so the Lily names are Marian. Lilia’s one of my very favorite variants, and Liliana’s another (and is actually a style match for Juliana — but maybe two names ending in -ana is too much?). Lili and Lilli are German variants that are specifically diminutives of Elisabeth (as Lily is a traditional nickname for Elizabeth), which is cool, but like with Juliana/Liliana, are any of the Elizabeth variants too much with sister Isabella? I think no, since one could choose a Lily name just because of the flower or Our Lady without any intention of connecting to Elizabeth. (Lillian is also a style match for Isabella, and Lily for Bella).

(3) Magdalena
I love this variant of Mary Magdalene’s name — it ends in -a like the other girls’ names, and has the beautiful nickname options Maggie (which has an Irish feel), Maddy, and Lena.

(4) Victoria, Veronica (or Cora?)
Victoria is a style match for several of their names — Juliana, Nicholas, and Sebastian — and I’ve recently been loving it as a nod to Our Lady of Victory. I’ve also seen the nickname idea Cora for it recently, which not only makes Victoria feel a bit fresher, but can also be a nod to either the Immaculate Heart of Mary or the Sacred Heart of Jesus (“cor” in Latin means “heart”). It made me think of Veronica, which is another gorgeous V name and a great saintly connection. I actually think Cora could also work as a nickname for Veronica, as well as Vee and Via (but not the Nic- names, of course, because of Nicholas. The traditional Ronnie feels a little dated to me, but if they like it that’s another nickname option). I’m also loving just Cora, as a given name!

(5) Natalia
Natalia also did quite well for them in my research, being similar in style to Juliana, Nicholas, Dominic, and Sebastian. I love the name Natalia, and I think Nat, Natty, Talia, Tally, Nia, and Lia are all sweet.

(6) Britta, Breda/Brida
My last girl idea for this baby girl is Britta, 100% inspired by Mary Dove’s sister Bridget, as Britta is a variant of it (and it ends in -a!). I love Britta, and another awesome tidbit is that it’s a style match for Pia! I’ve also seen Breda and Brida as variants/anglicizations of the Irish Bríd, which I believe is said “breed” and is an Irish contracted form of Brighid, which is of course a variant of Bridget.

And those are all my thoughts/ideas for this baby girl! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for this beautiful family?

Prayers please!

A mama I did a consultation for has let me know her baby has been born, and while I haven’t yet secured permission from her to post the birth announcement, she did tell me she’d like prayers for her baby:

[The baby] was diagnosed with a heart defect this week.  Could you please ask your readers to include him in their prayers, that the hole in his heart would close naturally and that he wouldn’t need surgery?

Please keep this little guy and his mama and the rest of his family in your prayers!

Naming after women

I spent a few minutes in the Baby Name Wizard discussion forums this morning as I ate my breakfast, and saw a comment containing a sentiment that I see with some regularity over there and that kind of irks me every time I see it:

I think it’s totally lovely to honor a mother with a name for a change (I know lots of men who name their sons after themselves, either as juniors outright or using variant forms or middle names, but very few women who do so).”

I don’t even disagree with the comment! I know it’s more common for a dad to have a son named after himself than for a mom to have a daughter named after herself. And the commenter herself is one I highly respect, as her thoughts are *always* well balanced and fair. But I feel testy and defensive when I see things like “honor a mother with a name for a change” and “lots of men who name their sons after themselves” — probably because I feel like it’s a tentacle of a whole “down with the patriarchy!” thought process that usually includes the “old men in white hats in Rome.” Blah.

Anyway, my contrarian Rome-loving self immediately thought of lots of examples, old and new, of people (babies and olders) being named after women. My mom, for one example, was half named for her mom (I saw “half” because her mom’s name was Anne, and my grandfather wanted to name my mom Anne — imagine that! A man! Wanting to name his baby girl after his beloved wife! But my grandmother wanted to name her one of the names-of-the-day: Susan. So they compromised with Susanne). My sister has my mom’s name as one of her middle names. My paternal grandfather was given his mom’s maiden name as a first name. Before I had so many boys, I’d always planned to work one or more elements of my name into one or more of my daughters’ names.

Moving farther afield from moms naming daughters after themselves, my youngest son’s first name is for my mother-in-law and his middle name for my mom. Julianamama shared that she knows a dad with a great devotion to St. Margaret who named his son Garrett after her! (I died when I read that! Brilliant!)

I’ve done two posts (On my bookshelf: A Dictionary of English Surnames and Girl names turned surnames) highlighting how various surnames are originally metronymics (identifying a person by his or her mother), or diminutives of female first names that became surnames, or perhaps arising from religious devotion to a female saint — like Marriot (from Mary), Ebbetts (from Isabel), Scollas (from Scholastica, specifically for St. Scholastica, according to Reaney & Wilson), and Emmett (from Emma). All of these would be fine and interesting for a child to be named, and they’re all feminine in origin (even if the parents don’t realize it or it wasn’t their intent). And I did a couple posts on current men religious who took their Mother Mary’s name as part of their new religious names: Eleven new Dominican priests and Men Who Love Mary: MFVA (a whole Order of men who take Mary as part of their new name! And one had Therese as well!), never mind all the male saints with Mary in their names: St. Clement Mary/Maria Hofbauer (depending on what you’re reading), St. Maximilian Mary/Maria Kolbe, St. Anthony Mary Claret, St. Jean Marie Vianney, St. Josemaria Escriva … who else?

I’d love to know what stories you all have of moms naming their daughters or sons after themselves or similar family stories, and whether you know any Brothers or Priests with female saints’ names, or boys who have taken a female saint’s name for a Confirmation name. It’s not all oppression, people. (I’m done ranting now.🙂 )