Birth announcement: Thea Noelle!

Christa and I emailed a bit about names a couple of years ago, and I was so excited to receive an email from her just recently letting me know what name she and her husband had ended up choosing for her baby! They welcomed a little girl and gave her the gorgeous name … Thea Noelle!

Christa writes,

We had a little girl on Dec 19, 2018. We decided to name her Thea Noelle. I really loved the name Therese … but was afraid that people would mispronounce her name for her whole life so when I heard a nickname for Therese being “Thea” I loved it! My husband wasn’t fond of this name … but I kept it on my list. We had come to the conclusion before delivery that our baby’s name (if she was a girl) would be Amelie Noelle. I loved the first name Amelie for all the reasons I discussed above in my email. But when the baby was born, she just was not an “Amelie” — it may have been her dark hair, or just something about her … but my husband looked at me and said “She is a Thea”. The final decider was that one of the Saints listed for December 19 was St. Thea of Alexandria. There couldn’t be a more clear sign in my head because I had went into labor on December 18 … but my baby girl had waited to be born just after midnight around 12:30am on December 19th. We loved “Noelle” because it was French and she was born so close to Christmas.

And there you have it… sorry this is such a delayed explanation of the name we chose. But…better late than never!

Thank you for the gift of this naming ministry! I’m so grateful for your assistance in our road to naming our sweet girl. And two years later we feel the name fits her perfectly!

Isn’t that such a great story?? And HOW COOL that she was born on the feast of St. Thea of Alexandria!! Wow!!

Congratulations to Christa and her husband and big siblings Elodie and Donald (on earth) and Olive, Alouette, Bennett, and Michel in heaven, and happy belated birthday Baby (Big Girl) Thea!!

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: Cool, Catholic, and maybe Celtic for baby no. 4

Mollie and her husband are expecting their fourth baby! This little one joins big siblings:

  • Avila Mary
  • Jack Michael
  • Luke Gabriel

I looooove these names!! I love that Avila is so recognizable (among Catholics anyway), and feels familiar in that it’s similar appearance- and sound-wise to names like Ava and Evelyn, but it’s also surprising in the best way possible. I love, too, that they paired it with the sweet and simple Mary. Avila Mary is such a lovely combo! And Jack Michael and Luke Gabriel are fantastic combos as well! I love how masculine and saintly they are — great names for both boys and men. Mollie and her husband have done a fantastic job!

Mollie writes,

We’re struggling for both boy and girl names. For a girl name, Avila sets the bar that we need something somewhat (but not too) unique, feminine and vowel-y. We don’t want any repeated letters, so we can’t use another A name

Names we liked before we named Avila were Grace, Rosalie, and Natalie

Now that we are trying to coordinate with Avila, we like Vera and Fiona … We’re struggling with Fiona because it’s not a saint and there’s a cartoon character named Fiona that’s an ogre. We’ve always liked the name Magdalene for a middle name or Rosemary (but not sure if that fits since Avila has the middle name Mary). 

As for boy names, Jack and Luke were our top two boy names since we met. So, it was very easy to name them, but now we don’t have any names that we like. We’ve tossed around Mark, Ross, Fitzgerald (my husband’s [middle name is] Gerald, but we don’t like Gerald alone). But really aren’t pulled any particular way yet. Just that we want it to go well with Jack and Luke. We named them after the archangels, which puts us in a tough spot if this fourth baby is a boy because Raphael is harder to match with and who knows how to pronounce it?!

That made me laugh about the pronunciation of Raphael! How do you all pronounce it?

Names that they can’t use include:

  • Nicholas
  • Aidan
  • Noah
  • Michael
  • Casey
  • Griffin
  • David
  • Bennett
  • Samuel
  • Isaac 
  • Allison
  • Caroline
  • Ella
  • Clara
  • Julia
  • Bridget
  • Elaine
  • Maeveen
  • Bonnie
  • Sonja
  • Maya

I was really interested to see what names are on their list for this baby, and was surprised by a few of them — I love being surprised! I thought I’d start by offering my thoughts on them, in case they’re helpful:

  • Grace, Rosalie, Natalie: I was interested that Mollie and her hubby have a sense of names they liked before naming Avila versus names they’re considering now. I agree that Grace and Natalie have a different feel than Avila, but I wouldn’t cross Rosalie off just yet. Mollie described Avila as “unique, feminine and vowel-y,” but I would describe it as “unique, feminine, and Catholicky Catholic with a current feel.” That is, I wouldn’t worry about matching its sound so much (the “vowel-y” quality she mentioned), though I wouldn’t avoid doing so either — rather, in trying to find girl names that feel like natural sister names for Avila, I would look for “Catholicky Catholic names with a current feel.” The “current feel” Avila has is that it’s a place name, which is something I think was rarer for Catholic parents to use in the past but is much more in line with modern thinking. Rosalie has a “current feel” in a different sense I think — it was out of fashion for a while, but is coming back again. This is Rosalie’s popularity chart from — I zoomed way out to get all the years from 1900 in, which unfortunately compromises the ability to read it clearly, but you get the idea:

Rosalie is currently at no. 208, which it hasn’t been at since the 1940s — in fact, it dropped off the chart altogether between 1989 and 2008! Its reemergence feels like a rediscovery — it’s vintage rather than dated. In contrast, Grace entered the top 100 in 1995 and Natalie in 1976, and both have been there ever since. Grace has the additional aspect of having very popular usage as a middle name, which adds to its feel of commonness — “common” is the opposite of Avila! All this to say, I’d suggest keeping Rosalie on the list! If they still do like it, but still don’t like it in the first name spot as a sister to Avila, maybe it can replace Rosemary as a middle name idea — that way they have the “rose” that can nod to Our Lady without the “Mary” that repeats Avila’s middle name.

If they want to find a way to make Grace and Natalie work, I might suggest making Grace part of an unexpected double first name, like Cora-Grace or Roma-Grace or Thea-Grace. Those names (Cora, Roma, and Thea) actually didn’t make the cut for my “official” suggestions below, so I’m happy to given them a mention here — they’re the kind of names I think of when I think of Avila. I’ve seen Cora used quite a bit in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (mostly, but also sometimes the Sacred Heart of Jesus … or both!), Roma is a nice nod to the Church and is place-y like Avila, and Thea means “God” and makes a pretty amazing “phrase” when paired with Grace (actually they all do) … these are all what I would call “Catholicky Catholic names with a current feel”: place names, noun names, “idea” names. And though they might seem overly long for everyday use, those three combos have the same number of syllables as Avila. And for a fresher take on Natalie, I’d suggest Natalia.

  • Vera: I’m not sure I’ve seen any of the families I’ve worked with consider Vera, and the only one I know in real life is in her 70s, so I had to look the name up — it was pretty cool to find that it has a very similar popularity arc to Rosalie, having disappeared from the charts in 1984 and didn’t reappear again until 2009; it’s currently 252, which is where it was in the mid-50s. I really love its entry at Behind the Name: “Means ‘faith’ in Russian, though it is sometimes associated with the Latin word verus ‘true.’” How cool! I could see Vera-Grace also being a great combo. A related name that could be cool to consider is Verity, which means “truth.” My one hesitation with both Vera and Verity is that, since they have a prominent V like Avila, will Mollie and her hubs feel like they have to find a name with a prominent V for future daughters?
  • Fiona: I, too, love the name Fiona! Though I like its symmetry with Avila, in the sense that it’s a five-letter name ending in A, I wouldn’t have included it in the list of names that are similar to Avila, though — it’s missing that “Catholicky Catholic” element. That said, if they just love it and want to make it work, Behind the Name says it’s a feminine variant of the masculine name Fionn, from which comes the name Finnian, and there are a few Sts. Finnian, so they can serve as patron of a little Fiona. BtN also connects it to Gwen, which is a Welsh variant, and there are some Sts. Gwen as well. As for the Shrek connection, it’s interesting to note that The Baby Name Wizard book (affiliate link), which you all know I always use in my consultations, said Shrek was actually the reason that Fiona entered the pool mainstream names — it entered the top 1000 in 1990 and is currently no. 265, which is a pretty sweet-spot position — not too popular, but neither unfamiliar nor rare. It also lets you know that lots of families are using the name, despite the Shrek connection — like this family that I did a consultation for. Fiona really is a great name!
  • Magdalene: I was excited to see Magdalene on their list, since it’s the exact kind of name that I think of when I think of Avila! Magdalene is fantastic, and I’d love to see them bump it onto the first-name list.
  • Rosemary: It’s actually a really traditional thing to give all the daughters in a family a form of Mary in their names somewhere (first or middle). Some have interpreted it in the past as using Mary/Marie/Maria itself for all the daughters (St. Therese and her sisters all had Marie); other families have used variants of Mary (my sisters and I all have a different form of Mary in our names); others have used other Marian names like Rose (some fun examples of different options here; also, my book of Marian baby names is a compilation of all these ideas). So from that perspective, I don’t think there’s any problem with using Rosemary as a middle name for a girl, even with Avila’s middle name being Mary. It could be a nice connection between sisters, and easy enough to do for all the daughters they end up having.
  • Mark: Mark seems so perfect with brothers Jack and Luke — a four-letter name ending in the K sound! I have no quibble with Mark, except possibly that if their first three boys have four-letter names that end in the K sound, would they feel like they have to continue that with future boys? (This is not a big quibble on my part though — you’ll see I included a similar idea in my official suggestions below.)
  • Ross: I love this, too — I love that it continues their boys’ four-letter theme but in a new way and with new sounds. Like Fiona, it doesn’t have a Saint as far as I can tell, but it’s actually a place name that several Saints share, which makes it a nice complement for Avila’s style.
  • Fitzgerald: I love this idea! The connection to Hubby’s middle name and St. Gerard is great, and Fitz is a fun nickname that’s four letters like Jack and Luke, but the fact that it’s a nickname rather than the given name opens up more options for future sons. Other ideas related to Gerard include Garrett, which is derived from Gerard, and Hardy, since Gerard is a combo of the Germanic elements ger (“spear”) and hard (“brave, hardy”).
  • Raphael: It’s almost painful to think of them NOT using Raphael for a middle name for their next boy! Haha! After Jack and Luke’s middle names, it would be so fun! But I definitely don’t think it’s necessary — I think Michael and Gabriel are used so frequently, even together, without Raphael, that I think they can get away with not using it. If they did decide to use Raphael (and with it being the middle name, they can choose whatever pronunciation they like! They’re listed here), some options for future boys’ middle names can include Angel/Angelo/Angelus (Angelus has the nice added layer of being the name of the Angelus prayer) and Seraphim (referring to the order of angels called the seraphim and it’s used as a boy’s name). In terms of matching a name with Raphael, I like both Mark Raphael and Ross Raphael (I’m a big fan of alliteration, though I know not everyone is). Fitzgerald Raphael might be too many unusual names together though?

So those are my thoughts on the names Mollie and her husband are considering — now on to new ideas! I mentioned The Baby Name Wizard earlier — I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they’re considering in that book as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/pronunciation. I did so for this family, keeping a particular eye out for names with a strong faith connection; I also rifled through my mental files for names like Avila, since her name doesn’t have its own entry in the book, and I used my book of Marian names as a resources as well. Based on all that, these are my new ideas for Mollie’s baby:


(1) Carys or Charis

These names, which are pronounced the same (CARE-iss), are the kinds of names I think of when I think of names like Avila. The former is a Welsh name that means “love”; the latter is from the Greek for “grace, kindness.” They’re such pretty names! I like that Carys, being Welsh, has the Celtic feel that they like, as evidenced by Fiona, Ross, and Fitzgerald, and I like that Charis is contained within the word eucharist, which gives it a beautiful added layer of meaning.

(2) Clairvaux

Mollie said that Clara is off limits, but Claire showed up a few times in my research — it’s a style match for Jack, Luke, and Grace — and it made me think of Clairvaux, which has more of Avila’s feel, especially since it’s a saintly place name like Avila (St. Teresa of Avila and St. Bernard of Clairvaux) and it has that prominent V that I think they like (in case they decide they want to go that route). I think Clairvaux would be great because it would bridge Avila’s name with their boys’ names in the sense that Clairvaux is very Avila-ish and the nickname Clair(e) is very Jack-and-Luke. I have a couple of readers with daughters named Clairvaux — here’s one and here’s another.

(3) Cassia

Cassie is a style match for Ross, and it’s one of my favorite nicknames for girls, so I was excited when I was thumbing through the BNW and saw that Livia — notable because it has all the same letters as Avila and also ends in A, so I thought it was a decent stand-in from that perspective — is a style match for Cassia. Cassia has a few fun layers: it’s the name of a form of cinnamon (a spice name! How fun!) and is also the English form of the biblical name Keziah, who was one of Job’s daughters. Biblical + spice with a sweet nickname sounds amazing! There are two possible pronunciations: KAS-see-a or KAH-sha.

(4) Elanor nicknamed Nora or Ella

Ella is a match for both Jack and Luke, but I worry that it’s too similar to the sounds of Avila? But then Nora is a match for Fiona, and since both Ella and Nora can be nicknames for Eleanor, I thought there was something there, but Eleanor itself seemed a little too tame next to Avila? I wondered if changing the spelling to Elanor — which is the spelling Tolkien used in Lord of the Rings — would help? The Tolkien names are often favored by Catholic parents because of Tolkien’s identity as a devout Catholic writer and the Catholic themes in his writing — they’re kind of sneaky Catholic names! I also thought Ella-Grace — like the double name idea with Grace that I mentioned earlier — could be an interesting option.

(5) Violet

Not to add more V names when I’ve suggested that maybe a name with a strong V wouldn’t be a great idea for their next girl, in order to not feel like they’re locked into a theme, but Violet could be lovely here! It’s an entry in my book of Marian names because the violet flower used to be called Our Lady’s Modesty, and represents her humility.

(6) Stella

Speaking of Marian names, and also of Ella above, I also love the idea of Stella for this baby! Stella Maris is one of Our Lady’s titles, meaning Star of the Sea, and I’ve seen Stella as a first name in honor of this title, as well as Stella Maris as a first+middle combo, and the long and lovely Stellamaris and Maristella. Of those, Stella seems like a great sister for Avila!

(7) Kate

Kate is a match for Jack, Luke, and Ross, which means I have to suggest it for this family! I don’t think that Kate is a great sister for Avila, though — they’re just so far apart style-wise. But some ideas to make this work can include Kateri with the nickname Kate, or maybe Kate as part of a double name like I suggested with Grace. Vera-Kate, Roma-Kate, Thea Kate, Ella-Kate, even Stella-Kate could all provide just the sparkle that Avila’s sister needs to match her sister’s stunning name.

(8) Isla

Isla is a match for Fiona, and it’s an entry in my book of Marian names, since “its Marian character comes from the title ‘Our Lady of the Isles’ (Moire ro Naomh nan Eilean in Scottish Gaelic, referring to a state of Our Lady on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland), or any of the devotions in the U.S. and Canada to Our Lady of the Island or Our Lady of the Isle, including churches and institutions in New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Quebec, Canada. There’s also the church of Our Lady of the Isle in Croatia.” It’s such a pretty name! I could also see Isla-Grace and Isla-Kate as being really pretty combos. (One of the Clairvauxs that I mentioned above has a sister named Isla!)


(1) Becket(t)

Given that Jack and Luke both have that prominent ending K sound, as does Mark from the names Mollie and her hubs are considering, I thought Becket/Beckett might be right up their alley. I love that a Becket(t) could go by Beck, which is a great fit with Jack and Luke, but it’s also very Avila-esque, like St. Thomas a Becket. It’s a cool option!

(2) Kolbe

Cole is a match for Luke and Colin for Natalie, both of which are great and maybe Mollie would like to consider them? They’re variants of Nicholas, which is where the patron Saint would come from. But they both made me think of Kolbe, which has that Avila feel as well and could be a really great bridge name between their boys’ style and Avila’s style.

(3) Grant

Grant is a match for Ross, and as soon as I saw it I wanted to suggest it. I’ve actually seen it in a few families who also have a Luke, and one reader of the blog said she considered it because of the dona nobis pacem part of the Mass: “grant us peace.” I love that!

(4) Drew

I really like the idea of Drew with Jack and Luke — I feel like it has a similar feel — but I don’t so much feel that way about the full Andrew. Since they already used Jack — which of course has a long history of usage as a given name in its own right, but started as a nickname for John — I thought maybe they’d be okay just going with Drew as a given name?

(5) Ryan

I felt the same way about Ryan as I do about Drew with their boys — it just feels like it goes! I did a spotlight on Ryan a few years ago and came up with what I think are some great faith connections. I also like its Celtic background for this family.

(6) Owen

Owen is a match for Jack, Luke, and Grace, and I love that its Celtic feel goes along with the feel of Fiona, Ross, and Fitzgerald. Though it has both Irish and English/Welsh connections, I’m a huge fan of St. Nicholas Owen, who was one of the English Martyrs — he’s a great patron!

(7) Charles (Charlie)

How can I ignore the fact that Charlie is a match for Jack and Vera! Normally I would suggest the formal Charles with the nickname Charlie, but as I was thinking with Drew, maybe Charlie as a given name would be more their speed? I’ve also seen Charley bestowed as a given name by people who don’t want to use Charles — maybe the spelling Charley has more of a full-name feel?

(8) Finn(ian)

Finally, since they’re considering Fiona, which is a form of Fionn (Finn), and since Finn is a four-letter name like Jack and Luke, maybe Mollie and her hubby would like to consider this family of names for a boy! Finn as a given name is great, but I’m guessing they might like Finnian better, since it’s an actual Saint’s name. I love it for them!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Avila, Jack, and Luke?

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: Combine family and style in fourth boy’s name

Katy and her husband are expecting their fifth baby — and fourth boy! This little guy joins big siblings:

John Ryan “Jack”
Amelia Margaret
Timothy Robert “Tim”
Andrew Thomas

Fantastic names. They’re all solid and attractive, and I also keep chuckling at “Tim” for her 3-year-old (as opposed to Timmy) — it’s such a serious nickname for a little guy! I find serious names on little ones to be so charming. Katy and her hubby have done a great job!

Katy writes,

I’d describe our naming style as Classic/Apostolic with a hint of early-20th-century-British feel. For boys, we like names that are timeless, masculine and friendly; names that we feel will suit them well in all ages and stages of life. My husband feels that we need to stick to a biblical name in line with the Apostles/early church missionaries for all the boys’ names to flow. While I’m certainly willing to consider apostolic names, I would also really like for us to explore names that are still classic but have a bit of a British literary feel. (I majored in English Lit!) We have a very common last name, but as it is Welsh in origin, it automatically lends well to classic, 20th century British names. Ideally, we’d also like to choose a name that has a saintly connection but is not too popular right now.

One challenge [we have is] … a large extended family full of males; Hubby has 9 uncles and numerous male cousins. So, as you can imagine, it’s tough not to repeat names. Although they were not named after extended family members, our third and fourth children … have first AND middle names that also belong to [family members]. After our fourth was born, we could sense all of our parents had some hurt feelings … that we didn’t choose either of our dad’s names.”

I’m sure many of us have experienced similar situations! Though Katy and her husband wouldn’t normally have thought to choose family names on purpose, they certainly don’t want their dads (James and Patrick) to feel hurt:

To that end, we’ve discussed ‘James Patrick,’ as a double, like a ‘Mary Double.’ I’d rather not use ‘Patrick James,’ as this is Hubby’s dad’s name exactly … I know ‘James’ is a super popular name in the U.S. right now, so I like the idea of doubling it up with Patrick so it’s more of a standout. But ‘James Patrick’ would be a lot for a kiddo to say when introducing himself, and I don’t particularly love initial nicknames like ‘JP.’ (Although I do love Saint JPII!) Plus, I feel like we can’t use James without Patrick and visa versa without hurt feelings.

I’d really like our new son to have his own identity! Anyway — I’d love to know … if ‘James Patrick’ as a double first name is Catholic Baby Name overkill.”

(“Catholic Baby Name overkill”! Is there such a thing?? 😂😂😂)

Other names we’ve discussed:

– We both love the name Albert. However, we don’t want to use it as a first name since we already have two kiddos with ‘A’ names. So we’re strongly considering Albert as a middle name.

– Charles/Charlie seems like a logical fit for our crew, which is a classic and manly name with some boyish charm. But, for whatever reason, we don’t feel excited about it.

– Hugh, which I really love! But I can’t sell Hubby on it.

Lawrence nn Laurie, like Theodore Lawrence in Little Women! But, again, can’t sell the husband on it — I think he’d settle for Lawrence as is if I really pushed for it, but the “Laurie” nickname is too much of a style departure for him. I loved the post you did last year that outlined modern nicknames for Lawrence! But nicknames like ‘Law’ or ‘Rence’ definitely aren’t our style. (But maybe you have a different perspective.)

– Louis, but again, we don’t feel excited about it.

Names we can’t or won’t use:

Dominic (Hubby is discerning a calling to become a lay Dominican, but we don’t feel like the name fits our style)
Ernest (love this name, but it’s the name of our cat!)

Alrighty, so I have some thoughts on how Katy’s hubby “feels that [they] need to stick to a biblical name in line with the Apostles/early church missionaries for all the boys’ names to flow,” as well as Katy’s hope to “explore names that are still classic but have a bit of a British literary feel,” but first I’ll address the idea of James Patrick.

Many people have deep seated feelings of love-shown-by-honoring-family-with-names, and it’s a very traditional practice in many cultures (examples: Irish, English, Italian, Scottish) and so has deep roots in many people’s psyche, so I think it’s really wonderful that Katy and her hubs are trying to be sensitive to that. I really like Katy’s proposed solution of James Patrick as a double name, and I definitely don’t think it’s “Catholic Baby Name” overkill, haha! If Mary Clare and John Paul can do it without raised eyebrows, James Patrick should be just fine. I think they might run into some trouble enforcing it, which they’ll have to decide if they’re up for dealing with or not, but if they’re up for it, great! I’d love to meet a little James Patrick.

That said, I wanted to try to think of additional ways that they could give their baby “his own identity,” in case some fresh ideas are helpful:

  • Nickname Jay: I’m assuming Katy’s dad goes by Jim, given that that’s the standard nickname for Jameses of a certain age, so coming up with a different nickname could be the way to let her little guy have his own name space. Jay is my favorite idea for this family in this vein — I think it fits what Katy said they like for boys: names that are “timeless, masculine and friendly.”
  • Nickname Jamie: I have a friend who is James always and everywhere except with his family, who calls him Jamie, and it comes across as the sweetest, most affectionate nickname.
  • Nickname Rick(y): I’m sure Katy’s father-in-law Patrick doesn’t go by Rick or Ricky, so maybe using it as an unexpected nickname for Patrick (even with Patrick being the middle name) could be their son’s alone?
  • Nickname Paddy: Again, I’m guessing it’s very unlikely Katy’s father-in-law goes by Paddy — it’s not everyone’s style, but I find it sweet.
  •  Using different variants: Like James Padraig or Seamus Patrick, if they were into Irish names (Iago is the Welsh variant of James, oh my!). Jacob and James are variants of the same name, so Jacob should work as an honor name for a James in theory. Maybe Jameson or Patton (son of James, and an English surname derived from Patrick, respectively).
  • Nickname Junior or Chip (or similar): Patrick and James are actually Katy’s husband’s two middle names (or maybe middle and Confirmation name?), so they could possibly think of using something like Junior as a nickname, or Chip (like “chip off the old block”). I think those kinds of nicknames (others: Red, Sonny) have such a friendly feel. (I also wrote about Junioring a non-firstborn here.)

So based on the emotions tied up in the naming of this baby, I was a little hesitant to discuss the other names Katy and her hubs like, or to offer new ideas, because I don’t want to make their decision more difficult! But I have always enjoyed name conversations, even if I was sure what we would name our baby, so I’d like to go back to Hubby’s thought that they need to stick with biblical names (specifically Apostles or early Church missionaries) in order for the baby’s name to fit with his brothers’ names. I definitely don’t think he needs to worry about that. You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they like in the Baby Name Wizard (affiliate link) as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity (informed by a computer program developed by the author — it’s uncannily accurate!). Names that are similar to John, Timothy, and Andrew include names like Charles, William, Robert, Henry, and Christopher — none of which are biblical (though an argument could be made for Christopher to be technically biblical, in terms of the idea of the name/who it refers to) — which tells me (and I felt this anyway, before looking up the names) that John, Timothy, and Andrew have been used in so many circumstances and cultures and given to so many boys/men, both famous and not, that the biblical association is not the primary association for most people. In a family with John/Jack, Amelia, Timothy, and Andrew, I would find names Charles, William, Robert, Henry, and Christopher to be a natural fit. Especially since their real overarching theme is “saintly,” and all of those names fit. I know William, Henry, and Christopher are on the list of names Katy said they can’t use, and they’re already considering Charles, and Robert is already Tim’s middle name, which actually leads me to another idea for them: maybe instead of thinking that each of their boys so far has a biblical *first* name, and specifically one that’s an Apostle’s or early Church missionary’s name, they could reframe their thinking as, “each of our boys has at least one biblical name,” and if they reframe their thinking that way, they can see how it would be natural to move to, “each of our boys has at least one biblical name in either the first or middle name spot.” So then something like Charles James could be argued to fit into what they’ve already done: a biblical name in the first or middle spot, and a first name that’s stylistically consistent with their other boys’ names.

As for Katy’s hope to “explore names that are still classic but have a bit of a literary British feel,” it was so fun to see Albert, Hugh, and Lawrence (Laurie!) on her list! So unexpected! I love that Katy said both she and her husband love Albert, and it seems like the perfect middle name — a way of placing their stamp on their baby’s name. Also, Katy mentioned that her husband is discerning a call to the Dominican Third Order — St. Albert the Great is one of the very best Dominican Saints! Something like James Patrick Albert could be really wonderful. As for the other names:

  • Charles/Charlie: I one hundred percent agree that this “seems like a logical fit for [their] crew.” I also like that it’s not a biblical name that still fits really well with their other kids’ names, which can open up more possibilities for them for the future. However, if they can’t get excited about it, then let’s keep looking!
  • Hugh: Aw, I love Hugh too. One of the names that showed up a few times in my research is Hubert, which is such a perfect combination of Albert and Hugh that I wondered if they’d like to consider it? There are a few holy Huberts.
  • Lawrence nn Laurie: What girl doesn’t love Laurie from Little Women?! But I think most men (or most men I know, anyway) would have a hard time with Laurie for a boy these days, so sad. Yeah, I agree that Law and Rence aren’t this family’s style. I wonder if they could combine some of their ideas here, like Lawrence with the nickname Lou, for example? Like Lawrence and Louis together? I also like the idea of Rory for them as a nickname for Lawrence — especially with Jack and Tim, Rory would feel natural to me, as all three have a vaguely (and with Rory not-so-vaguely) Irish feel.
  • Louis: I wonder if Katy would feel more excited about it if they changed the spelling to Lewis? Doing so totally amps up the British literary feel, and I thought this bit from this birth announcement post for a little Lewis might be helpful — the mom wrote that she “always disliked the name Louis, and I still do!! Isn’t that so weird? But Lewis is completely different to me. So balanced, with the consonants in the front, middle, and end, and no danger of being a ‘Louie.’ Even Lew is different from Lou — so literary and all.” And Lewis is the medieval English form of Louis, so it totally counts for any Sts. Louis that Katy and her hubs might have a particular devotion to.

So Katy and her husband have a lot of great ideas! But of course, I can always come up with more ideas! Using the research I did in the BNW that I mentioned above, as well as the Name Matchmaker tool on for the names that don’t have their own entries in the book, and then some other ideas that just seemed right for this family, these are additional ideas they might like to consider for this baby or for future babies:

(1) Philip nicknamed Pip

This is definitely my favorite idea for them outside of the names they’re already considering! It meets Hubby’s criteria for a New Testament name and it — but especially the nickname Pip — meets Katy’s criteria for a classic name with a British literary feel.

(2) Paul

Paul doesn’t have the British literary feel like Philip/Pip does, but it certainly fits the biblical theme and I like that it’s one syllable like John, after the longer Timothy and Andrew.

(3) Nicholas

Nicholas is another New Testament name that can fit with British/literary a la Nicholas Nickleby, for one. Nick is a great nickname that fits in well with Jack and Tim, and Cole and Colin can also work as nicknames if they wanted, and have more of a British-y feel I think.

(4) Alexander nn Alex, Sandy

Like Nicholas, Alexander is a New Testament name and it’s such a pan-European name that it can have whatever heritage one wants it to! I was also drawn to Alexander because of its nickname Sandy, which isn’t used so much anymore for boys, but was traditionally a boy’s nickname and might be more palatable than Laurie for Lawrence (I know a little Alexander nn Sandy and it’s super cute).

(5) Edward nn Ted, Ned, Ward

Edward totally has the British feel I think Katy likes, and Ward was also a style match for some of the names they like, which can be a nickname for Edward, so I thought that might be great! Ted and Ned are other Edward nicknames that they might like that I think can have a very British feel.

(6) Theodore

Speaking of Ted, Theodore seemed to me to maybe be a nice bridge between the biblical names and the British names … it’s not biblical in the sense that it doesn’t appear in the bible as a name, but Theophilus does, which I think adds a biblical sheen to Theodore if they want it to because of the shared “Theo,” and of course its meaning “gift of God” can be biblical, or “biblical adjacent,” maybe, like Christopher.

(7) Gilbert

I enjoyed seeing Gilbert show up as a style match for Katy and her hubs — they already have Albert on their list, and I suggested Hubert as well, so maybe they don’t need another -bert name to consider, but Gilbert’s entry at Behind the Name really made it seem like a name they would like: “The Normans introduced this name to England, where it was common during the Middle Ages. It was borne by a 12th-century English saint, the founder of the religious order known as the Gilbertines” (there are other saints with the name as well). What a very English name! And there are few nickname I love more than Gil!

(8) Jordan

Finally, I was working on this on the feast of Bl. Jordan of Saxony, the second Master General of the Dominican Order (after St. Dominic), and one of his sermons is said to have brought St. Albert the Great into the Dominicans, so I thought it was perfect to finish this list with a nod to him! I know Jordan has a very modern, secular feel to it, but I love that it’s actually an old and very religious (and very Dominican) name.

And those are my ideas for this family! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother for John/Jack, Amelia, Timothy/Tim, and Andrew?

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: First baby is coming soon!

I know we’re all horrified by the effects of the winter storm on Texas — Sancta Nomina has many readers from Texas, and I’ve been praying for them and everyone who is suffering from the snow and cold, power outages and food shortages. Being from the snowy northeast, I know well how scary winter weather can be, even in a place with the infrastructure and familiarity to deal with it, never mind for those who don’t have the same experience and resources. Please continue to pray for them! I also made a donation in the name of the Sancta Nomina community to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston with the request that it be used where it’s needed most. 🙏🙏🙏

Courtney and her husband are due next week (!!) with a little green bean 🌱 (gender unknown)! Courtney writes,

We like simple and classic names. Ordinary spellings and names that will age well as they grow up. I am a teacher, so finding names is challenging. Ha! And my husband comes from a huge extended family who tries not to repeat names. So as you can see, we are kind of stumped. We don’t know what the gender is

Girl names we like:

  • Emma Catherine
  • Lucy Ann
  • Charlotte (Charlie) (“we don’t typically like ‘boy names’ for girls but that’s the exception”)

Boy names we both don’t say no to (ha!):

  • Lane
  • Miles
  • Jack

Names we like but can’t use:

  • Leo
  • Milo
  • Cora
  • Gemma
  • Sophie
  • Wyatt
  • John
  • Jacob
  • Nolan
  • Annie/Annabell
  • Max

I agree, this was a challenge! “Simple and classic names” is a great category, and “ordinary spellings” is a kind thing to think of for one’s baby! At the same time, it’s the simple, classic, ordinarily spelled names that are perennially popular, and with Courtney being a teacher, my expectations are very low that I’ve actually been able to come up with an idea that she and her hubby haven’t already considered and decided against. But I’m always happy to try!

First, I love their ideas of Emma Catherine, Lucy Ann, and Charlotte nicknamed Charlie — they’re all lovely and feminine, and even Charlie has taken on more of a spunky feel to me these days, rather than boyish, since it’s used so much currently as a nickname for the ultra-feminine (even princess-y!) Charlotte. Similar ideas in the Charlotte/Charlie vein that they might like to consider for the future include Madeline nicknamed Maddy and Georgia nicknamed Georgie.

Jack and Miles are fantastic boy names, and I was so surprised by Lane! I LOVE being surprised by names on parents’ lists! The Baby Name Wizard (affliate link) — which you all know I always use in my consultations — categorizes it as Country & Western, which is similar to Wyatt on the list of names they like but can’t use, and also reminded me of the feel I get from Jack and Miles, Emma and Lucy, Charlie for a girl, and Annie/Annabelle on the list of names they like but can’t use — it all makes sense! Two of my ideas in my list of “official” suggestions below were inspired in part by this feel, and another that was on the Country & Western list that doesn’t feel quite right for this family as an official suggestion for this baby (but maybe for the future?) that I’d like to mention anyway is Casey (Bl. Solanus Casey would be a great patron!).

I thought, too, since Courtney and her hubby are first-time parents that it would be good to include the most recent (2019) rankings for each name, as compiled by the Social Security Administration, so that Courtney can see how likely it will be to encounter a child with the name in the classroom, for example (though also note that popularity is not nearly what it used to be, and I would hope they wouldn’t let popularity discourage them from choosing a name they really love!). Here are the names mentioned so far:

  • Emma: no. 2 (after 5 years at no. 1 and being in the top 3 since 2003)
  • Lucy: 48
  • Charlotte: no. 6 for the second year in a row (entered the top ten in 2014)
  • Madeline: no. 97
  • Georgia: no. 205
  • Lane: no. 258
  • Jack: no. 19 (John no. 28 and Jackson no. 17)
  • Miles: no. 75
  • Casey: no. 527 for boys (no. 897 for girls)

As for my list of official suggestions, I’ve already mentioned the Baby Name Wizard — you all know that I lean on it heavily in consultations, as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity — I looked up the names Courtney and her hubs are considering and the additional ones they like but can’t use, and came up with this list, none of which are on their lists of names they can’t use:


(1) Claire, Clara

Claire is a match for Emma, Charlotte, Miles, and Jack, so I think it’s a good bet they might like it! Clara is a pretty variant that’s a match for Cora, so I wanted to be sure to suggest it as well. Claire is no. 55 and Clara is no. 95.

(2) Molly (or Mary?)

Molly’s a match for Lucy, Jack, Annie, and Max — such a sweet name! You might already know that Molly started as a nickname for Mary, and is still sometimes used that way, so they could consider that route as well. Molly is no. 161 and Mary is no. 126.

(3) Elizabeth (Elsie, Elise, Eliza, etc.), Isabel(le)

There were so many Elizabeth names in the results for this family that I definitely wanted to include them! Elizabeth itself is a match for John; its nicknames/short forms Elsie is a match for Charlie, Elise for Miles, and Eliza for Cora; and the Elizabeth variants Isabelle is a match for Charlotte and Isabel for Sophie. So many Elizabeth names! One of the nice things about Elizabeth is that it’s such a “simple, classic name” but has so many nicknames and short forms that you can easily choose one to fit your taste. Others that I love for Elizabeth include Ellie, Libby, Lizzie, Lily, Betsy, and Beth, and there are loads of others. Elizabeth is no. 14, Elsie no. 247, Elise no. 207, Eliza no. 119, Isabelle no. 117, and Isabel no. 135.

(4) Sadie

Like Molly, Sadie started its life as a nickname of another name — in this case, Sarah — but has come to be used as a given name in its own right. I enjoyed seeing it listed as a match for similarly sweet names Lucy, Cora, and Sophie. Sadie is no. 87, Sarah is no. 81, and Sara is no. 163.

(5) Faith

The only name Faith was a match for was Wyatt, but I really loved that, since Wyatt is one of those quintessential Country & Western names, and Faith is one of my favorite, underused Catholic names. It’s familiar but not even in the top 100 at no. 125 (though it was a top 100 name from 1999 to 2016).


(1) Owen

Owen is a style match for Emma, Charlotte, Miles, and Sophie! Owen can be a form of Eugene and its soundalike Eoin is a form of John, so some people take Owen to be a form of John, but my favorite patronage is the amazing St. Nicholas Owen! Owen is no. 21.

(2) Benjamin

Benjamin is a match for Emma and Charlotte and Ben is a match for Annie. I love the name Benjamin! Lots of other people do, too — it’s no. 7 and has been in the top 10 since 2015.

(3) Luke

I’m interested to see what Courtney and her hubby think of Luke, as I think it straddles different styles they like! It’s a match for Lane and Jack, and its variants Luca for Gemma and Lucas for Jacob. It’s Country & Western while also biblical and saintly, a great option! Luke is no. 32, Luca no. 87, and Lucas no. 8.

(4) Samuel

Samuel’s a match for Emma, and Sam — one of the best, friendliest nicknames for boys in my opinion — is a match for Lucy, Charlie-for-a-girl, Jack, Cora, and Annie. Such a great name! Samuel’s no. 22 and has always been a top 100 name.

(5) Elliot(t)

My last idea is a little more of a risk, maybe — Elliot (that spelling, though I also love the literary Eliot and the longer Elliott) is a match for Miles and Milo. I love that Elliot is a medieval diminutive of Elias, which is the form of Elijah used in many languages. A biblical name that doesn’t come across as biblical! Elliot is no. 173, Eliot is not in the top 1000, and Elliott is no. 160.

And those are all my ideas for Courtney’s little bub! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for Courtney and her husband’s first baby?

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Saintly place names

In the past, I’ve tended to include Saintly place names in lists of Saintly surnames, but my mind was clicking recently about place names specifically, so I wanted to see how many we can come up with. There are two categories: (1) what I’m thinking of as the “of” categories (St. So-and-so of Somewhere) and (2) places that have faithy associations.

“Of” names (with their Saints) (in no particular order)

  • St. Bernard of Clairvaux
  • St. Joseph of Cupertino
  • St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of Avila
  • St. Joan of Arc (d’Arc)
  • St. Francis of Assisi
  • St. Augustine of Hippo
  • St. Pio of Pietrelcina
  • St. Ignatius of Antioch
  • St. Ignatius of Loyola
  • St. Thérèse of Lisieux
  • St. Elizabeth of Hungary
  • St. Margaret of Scotland
  • St. Rita of Cascia
  • St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bernardine of Siena

And of course there are all the Marian places (Our Lady of Fatima, etc.).

Other place (or place-associated) names (in no particular order)

  • Roma, Roman
  • Tiber
  • Magdalene (of Magdala)
  • Eden
  • Belén (Bethlehem)
  • Isla
  • Nazaret (Nazareth)
  • Olivet (Mount of Olives)
  • Gethsemane
  • Judea
  • Jericho
  • Cana
  • Canaan

I’ve seen a lot of these used for babies, and others not used at all … some probably aren’t name-worthy (like Hippo), while others I haven’t seen at all but could be perfect for the right family (maybe Pietrelcina? It’s related to Peter [it literally means “small stones/pebbles,” as far as I can tell]).

I know there are loads more — what would you add to these lists? Happy Monday!

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: Which direction to go in for Baby no. 2?

Michelle and her husband are expecting their second baby, a little green bean (gender unknown)! 🌱 This little bub joins big sister:

Victoria Gianna (“We chose her middle after the obvious, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, but also after pope Saint John Paul (Italian: Giovanni Paolo) and St. John the Apostle. Her first name is dedicated to the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Victories (celebrated today as Our Lady of the Rosary) and to our Lord’s victory on the Cross over sin and death … We teach her that her first name honors both, Jesus and Mary and her middle name honors the Sts. Gianna Molla, John Paul II, John the Apostle and also St. Anna, the mother of our Blessed Mother. Her birth day coincides with the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and choosing a Marian name (Our Lady of Victory) was important to us.”)

Isn’t Victoria Gianna such a pretty combo? I’m amazed and thrilled by how many patrons Michelle and her husband were able to pack into their daughter’s name!

First names they’re considering for a girl include:

  • Emilia, Emmelia ( nickname Em, Emmie, Millie, Mila, Lia) with possible middle names Zelie (ZAY-lee pronunciation) or Magdalene Rose 
  • Aurelia Rose Celeste (“meaning golden rose of heaven … St. Aurelia Petronilla was cured by St. Peter himself! … [But] my baby’s first cousin is named Olivia Rose and I concern myself that it will be sound vastly similar and overlapping“)
  • Beatrice, Beatrix (nn Bea, Beasy, Bees, Trixie), maybe Beatrix Evangeline
  • Chiara Marie
  • Esther (“lovely sound but we may be a bit slow here in attaching to it“)
  • Eva (“lovely, short sound but is it too short for us?“)
  • Frances (“love the Catholic history and the sound but we may feel reserved“)
  • Evangeline Marie
  • Josephine
  • Katherine, Kateri, Catherine, Caterina
  • Karolina (“the spelling reflects the Polish given name of JP II, Karol. Are we ready for that slightly unconventional K spelling?“)
  • Lucia/Lucy (“I love the sound of name, though I think I see its popularity rising within the community(s) that we visit around here. Lucy is my mom’s middle name“)
  • Madeleine (“not sure what pronunciation they will end up attaching to this one“), Madalena, Magdalene
  • Maristela (“these names beginning with M are so beautifully Marian and saintly but then we worry that it will sound more of an alliteration when paired with our last name“)
  • Perpetua (“like the early Christian martyrdom ties but don’t know if we will be entirely comfortable using it as first name. Also, one of our daughter, Victoria’s, many many nick names is Perpeta/Popeta!“)

Boy names include:

  • Rafael, Raphael (Rafe, Raph, Ralphie), maybe with double middle name Charles Joseph (“I am drawn to this name because of the many saints that I have asked intercessions of during my long healing journey ranging from my post partum days to achieving this pregnancy, St. Raphael was one of them“)
  • Benedict, Bennett, maybe Benedict Aquinas Joseph (“St Benedict and Pope Benedict, but I may not feel drawn towards it entirely as a first name“)
  • Charles Maximilian Joseph
  • Karol Joseph (“Karol was St John Paul II and his own father’s given name. Lolek was JP II’s nick name growing up“)
  • Maximilian (“We love the strong historical, Latin/Roman Catholic origins but then again, the alliteration forming bit with our last name concerns us“)
  • Joseph (“We honor St. Joseph here as well as St. JP II and Pope Emeritus Benedict, who has long been a great teacher/champion of the Faith for [my husband], as well as me“)
  • Fulton (“Hubby reiterated that he loves this name. Venerable Fulton Sheen has been one of his greatest hero and responsible for bring him closer to his Catholic home. I love Fulton Sheen much, but am I ready for this as a first name?“)
  • Athanasius (“I think we both find this name delightfully saintly but Hubby says, and I agree, it’s also quite a mouthful“)
  • Augustine (“A great hero of a saint for Hubby’s conversion, but are we ready for the name?“)
  • Beckett/Becket
  • Dominic 
  • Gabriel (“I do find it hard to associate with the nn Gabe for a boy, maybe because of my strong memories of Gabe from the Office?“)
  • George (“St. George, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati“)
  • George Maximilian Joseph
  • Gregory (“Pope Gregory the Great … I find it hard to associate with the nn Rory for a boy“)
  • Ignatius
  • Jonah
  • Judah
  • Kolbe
  • Marius
  • Magnus

And Saints they would be happy to honor:

Mary and St. Anne — I asked for their intercession all along the weeks, months and years leading to my pregnancy.

So Anna-Maria has great significance for me as I pondered and recalled on this name this past Advent.  I find the hyphenated version serves as a reminder to what unites Anne and Mary, an intimate union of the Old and New Testaments. “Through them are brought about the prophecies of Israel and the proclamations of the Church. Through these two Jewish women in the line of David — one whose Hebrew name means “grace,” and one who is “full of grace” — comes grace upon grace.”

St Joseph — Hubby and I consecrated ourselves to him on May 1, 2020

Servants of God Emilia and Karol Wojtyla, parents of JP II — I have asked for their intercession since their sainthood process began in March 2020

St. Josemaria Escriva — It was during the late afternoon of his feast day, Friday, June 26 2020 that I got the earliest cautious but positive confirmation of my pregnancy from a HCG/progesterone blood test that done the day before. This was the first time I got such sweet news in the many many months preceding this event.

St Gerard Majella and St Gianna Molla (kept their third class relics close to me during the months preceding and during pregnancy)

St Louis and Zelie Martin, St Teresa of Avila, St Therese of Lisieux – I sought their intercession during the above months

Jesus and Mary — Feast of the Sacred Heart — we consecrated our daughter, Victoria, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 19 2020 and the next day was the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

I just love how thorough and thoughtful Michelle and her husband are in regards to babynaming!

Before sharing my new ideas for this family, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on the names they’re considering, in case they’re helpful:

  • Emilia/Emmelia: I love both of these! Emilia in honor of St. John Paul II’s mother is wonderful, and I love it with both Zelie as a middle name and Magdalene Rose. The spelling Emmelia is lovely too, and St. Emmelia is a great patron — mother to so many Saints!
  • Aurelia: Aurelia Rose Celeste has such a beautiful meaning — I wonder if they might like to consider a combo that can have a similar meaning, but move the name away from Olivia Rose sound-wise? Maybe something like Chrysantha Caeli or Chrysantha Celeste? Chrysantha is a shortened form of the flower name chrysanthemum, and it means “golden flower”; Caeli is Latin for “of heaven” (like in Our Lady’s title Regina Caeli, “Queen of Heaven”), or Celeste can fill that role. I love how Chrysantha looks and sounds, and possible nicknames Chrysa or Chryssy (even spelled Chrissy) make it very user friendly and can even give it a slight nod to Jesus. I might be allowing myself to get too excited about this idea, I just love it! It does lose the St. Aurelia Petronilla connection, though, unfortunately. And Aurelia really is lovely.
  • Beatrice/Beatrix (Bea, Beasy, Bees, Trixie): I love Beatrice and Beatrix, and they have such darling nicknames! The meaning is just wonderful as well. Michelle said that she wasn’t sure about this name at first, but I loved discovering that it’s a big style match for their name taste, based on my research in the Baby Name Wizard! (affiliate link) (You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up in the BNW the names the parents have already used and those they like/are considering as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity.) Beatrice and Beatrix are matches for Aurelia, Evangeline, Josephine, and Maximilian! Beatrix Evangeline is a really great combination with lots of meaning.
  • Chiara: Chiara is absolutely beautiful, and normally I’d be enthusiastically in favor of it (I love Bl. Chiara Luce Badano), but with their older daughter being Victoria Gianna, I wonder if they want to follow right away with another uber-Italian name? Not that Victoria on its own comes across as very Italian — in fact, it’s not the Italian variant of the name — but its -a ending followed immediately by sister Chiara would indeed make it seem very Italian. If they don’t mind or if they like the Italian vibe, wonderful! I have no quibble! But I thought if they used Chiara now, which is so VERY Italian, and would seem to convey that they intend their children (or at least their daughters) to have very Italian names, it might seem a bit jarring to use Esther, Frances, or Madeleine later, for example. (If they want to lean into the Italian vibe, this is easily remedied by switching those names to their Italian variants: Ester, Francesca, and Maddalena. Then they all work together!) One way that they could still use this name in another form is Clara — it goes as well with Victoria as it does with Madeleine, in my opinion. I also had the thought that if they decided to use Chiara as the first name after all, maybe they’d like to consider Lucy as the middle name, which could be a nod to Michelle’s mom and also very similar to Bl. Chiara Luce Badano’s name! Or maybe Clara Lucy?

I want to interrupt my bullet points here just to talk about the Italian names thing for another minute, to make sure I’m articulating myself well. So as I said, Victoria isn’t Italian — it’s actually sometimes considered a fourth addition to the three “classic English girl names” (Catherine, Elizabeth, and Margaret), which would allow it to fit in nicely with the less ethnic-feeling names on Michelle’s list, which are most of them (or they could be — e.g., Madeleine is the French version and would be quite at home with Marie-Helene and Jean-Pierre, but it’s had so much usage among English speakers that its Frenchness has been much muted, and so it can fit in well with non-French names as well). And in fact, Victoria’s actual Italian variant is Vittoria. So a girl named Victoria can have sisters with all kinds of names, and all of the names on their list would be lovely with it. But pairing it with Gianna, and then following it with Chiara, definitely emits a very Italian feel. I hate to discourage them from using a name they love! I quite like the idea of using Chiara as a middle name with a less Italian first name, which would mirror Victoria Gianna in a very pleasing way I think. Madeleine Chiara, for example. Okay, back to my bulleted list!

  • Esther: Esther is a beautiful name, and Queen Esther in the bible is a wonderful character, but Esther does feel a bit different than most of the names Michelle and her hubs like, which could be why they’re having a harder time coming around to it.
  • Eva: Eva, too, is beautiful, but it has a difference as well — the more I think about it, the more I think that the names they like best for a girl are long names, and I think they’d be happiest sticking with those. That doesn’t have to mean short names are out, though! Hyphenating or connecting two names can give nice length to an otherwise short name. Eva-Maria for example, or Evamarie. Or they might like to consider a longer name that’s a variant of Eva or related to it, like Evelina, and use Eva as a nickname. Or — Evangeline, which is already on their list!
  • Frances: I agree with Michelle, Frances has great history and Catholic meaning! But I think it feels a bit plain for the kinds of names I think they like best. I could see them liking its Italian variant Francesca or German variant Franziska or Portuguese variant Francisca more. I also think a Frances might feel like her name is a little underwhelming next to big sister’s long and lovely Victoria.
  • Evangeline: Evangeline is a wonderful addition to their list — great meaning, beautiful name. The fact that they can use Eva as a nickname, which is also on their list, makes it feel like a great two-for-one option!
  • Josephine (nn Zuzu, Zozi, Zozia): I love that they’re considering Josephine — using a Josephite name would be so great in this Year of St. Joseph, and in light of how Michelle and her husband consecrated themselves to him last May 1. How wonderful! I love the nicknames Michelle said she likes, too — they’re so fun and unexpected! Josephine can also work to honor St. Josemaria, since his name is literally Joseph+Mary. A first name + middle name combo of Josephine Maria would hammer this home even more, while keeping St. Joseph and Our Lady front and center.
  • Katherine/Kateri/Catherine/Caterina: These are all beautiful, and Katherine/Catherine would be great as a sister to Victoria in that classic-English-names way. I also love Victoria and Caterina together, if they decided to lean into the Italian-feeling names. And I do love St. Kateri and her beautiful name, but like with Esther and Frances, it just feels … not quite their style. But I love it as a middle name idea!
  • Karolina: I think Karolina might be one of my favorite ideas here for this family. I love the K- spelling — I know a few families who have named daughters Karoline or Karolina with that spelling, which immediately signals a devotion to St. John Paul II, which I think is so great. It easily fits in with feminine and elegant sister Victoria, but doesn’t pigeonhole their style into any one particular heritage, since Karolina (like Victoria) is used across lots of different languages/cultures.
  • Lucia/Lucy: Lucia and Lucy are both just lovely! I think Lucia can have the same issue as Chiara that I mentioned earlier — that possibly overly Italian feel, especially if they use the Italian pronunciation loo-CHEE-ah. As with Chiara and Kateri, I would love it in the middle name spot. Lucy is great to me because it’s Michelle’s mom’s middle name, though I admit I don’t think it’s quite right as a first name for them, just based on the feel of most of the names they like.
  • Madeleine/Madalena/Magdalene: All of these variants of Magdalene are marvelous! Though I do think Michelle’s wise to be wary of the pronunciation issues of Madeleine. There are some who do say mad-e-LINE — the spelling Madelyn should fix this problem, but I think the Italian Maddalena (if they decide to go the Italian route), or Magdalene itself, or perhaps even better as a combo of the two with Magdalena, will make them happier in the long run. 
  • Maristela: Oh yes, I totally understand the appeal of the gorgeous Maristela, and also that Michelle isn’t a fan of alliteration with their last name! For what it’s worth, I quite like alliteration, and find Maristela M___ to be lovely. However, I know that’s a controversial opinion, and if one doesn’t like alliteration, then one doesn’t like alliteration! One way to use this beautiful name with its patronage of Our Lady, Star of the Sea is to switch the elements around and use Stellamaris. I’d like to mention a long, beautiful, Marian name that doesn’t start with M, that they might like to consider: Immaculata! I love the name Immaculata, I think it’s so lovely and so specifically Marian!
  • Perpetua: Perpetua’s a funny name in that it’s an old Roman name, but has such good usage in England that the only Perpetuas I’ve ever heard of (other than my friend’s little girl) are English! One was a character in Bridget Jones, for example. But for Catholic purposes, St. Perpetua is one of my favorites, and I love that it can also connect to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is a particular devotion of the Redemptorist Order, and St. Gerard Majella was a Redemptorist priest, so they could maybe think of it as including him as a patron as well! All that said, the fact that Victoria has Perpeta and Popeta as nicknames (so cute!) says to me that Perpetua’s probably best in the middle name spot.
  • Raphael/Rafael (Rafe, Raph, Ralphie): I really love that Michelle asked for intercession from St. Raphael, and I love the nickname ideas — Ralphie keeps making me chuckle, I love it!
  • Charles/Karol: I love that we can honor St. John Paul II with the Charles names, it’s nice a nice option! Michelle mentioned Lolek — I wonder if she would consider using that as a nickname if they named their son Charles or Karol?
  • Benedict/Bennett: I too love the meaning of these names and our wonderful Pope Benedict. It would make a great middle name if they couldn’t come around to it as a first name!
  • Maximilian: As with Maristela, I really don’t mind Maximilian M___ — especially for boys, alliterative names sound superhero-ish to me, which can be fun! — though I could see that Max M___ wouldn’t be ideal. I’m glad Michelle included this as a name they like, as it was helpful in my research.
  • Joseph: Joseph seems like a no-brainer for this family, from Michelle and her husband’s devotion and consecration to St. Joseph, to the baby being born in the Year of St. Joseph, to Joseph being a family name on Michelle’s side. It would be wonderful in the first name spot or the middle spot, wherever they feel most comfortable with it.
  • Fulton: I admit, Fulton jumped to the top of my list of favorites for this family when I read that Michelle’s husband loves this name. I think it’s striking that this is the only name she said this about! However, since Michelle’s not sure about it, maybe she’d prefer to consider it in the middle name spot? Or, maybe she and her hubby would be open to considering Ven. Fulton Sheen’s given/baptismal name, which was Peter? (Fulton was his mother’s maiden name and what he went by always, as far as I can tell.)
  • Athanasius: I love how Michelle and her hubs characterize this name: “delightfully saintly” but, indeed, “quite a mouthful”! I agree! It would be awesome in the middle name spot!
  • Augustine: I definitely think Augustine is easier to handle than Athanasius, however I will say that we very nearly named one of our boys Augustine (for the same reason — he was a great influence on my own husband’s conversion) and decided against it at the last minute because of pronunciation issues. au-GUS-tin and au-gus-TEEN are both well used, and not only do people tend to strongly prefer one or the other, but they also tend to strongly believe that their favored pronunciation is the correct one and the other is incorrect. We felt it was too much of a possibility that we’d be constantly annoyed by others “mispronouncing” our son’s name — since Madeleine holds a similar difficulty for Michelle, I would think they’d want to consider this aspect of Augustine before deciding to use it.
  • Becket(t): I’m a bit surprised by Becket/Beckett on their list! It’s definitely saintly, and it shares Bennet’s and Fulton’s surname style, but while Fulton especially has a real reason for being on their list, Becket(t) seems outside the style of name they really seem to prefer.
  • Dominic: Dominic is wonderful for this family, it seems just right to me. I also love that Our Lady of Victory was the original title for Our Lady of the Rosary and same feast day, so Victoria and Dominic have a connection.
  • Gabriel: Michelle’s comment about Gabe from The Office made me laugh out loud! I hope they don’t let that reference interfere with what is otherwise such a great name. I’ve seen Gib, Gil, and Eli used as nickname for Gabriel, if that’s helpful.
  • George: George has a similar feel to me as Catherine, Frances, and Charles, and I think it goes quite well with Victoria as well.
  • Gregory (not Rory): I love the name Gregory as well, and have suggested Rory as a nickname in the past because, while a lot of people seem to like Gregory — a handsome, sophisticated, saintly name — the nickname Greg strikes many as outdated in a negative way. If they don’t like Rory, however, I’ve often thought that Gus could work, if Gregory was paired with a middle name that had a prominent S. Maybe Gregory Charles? Gregory Athanasius?
  • Ignatius: I’ve seen Iggy, Nate, and Nash used as a nickname for Ignatius, all of which I think are great!
  • Jonah, Judah: I’m including these two together, because they seem similar to me — both Old Testament J names ending in -ah. Jonah is the more familiar of the two, while the Jud- name that I usually see used is Jude, so Judah feels a bit fresher!
  • Kolbe: Hmm … earlier I’d said that Becket(t) didn’t seem quite this family’s style, Bennett and Fulton on their list notwithstanding. But with Kolbe on here too … maybe they’re more into surname-type names than I’d thought?
  • Marius: I like the idea of Marius a lot — a very masculine Marian name!
  • Magnus: Since Magnus means “great,” I’ve often thought it would be a fun middle name for a Pope St. the Great first name, like Gregory Magnus for Pope St. Gregory the Great! Or Charles Magnus for St. John Paul the Great! (But then, Charles Magnus is basically the same name as Charlemagne, isn’t that weird?!) Or to be even more explicit, John Paul Magnus!

I wasn’t actually sure if I’d be able to come up with any names that were new options for this family! They have so many gorgeous names on their list, and I wondered if my only contributions would be offering my thoughts on the names on the list. But fortunately, I do have some new ideas! My research in the Baby Name Wizard book was the foundation; I also use the Name Matchmaker tool on, as some of their names aren’t included in the book (Perpetua, Magdalene). And I took into account the Saints Michelle said they love. Based on all that, these are some more names they might like to consider:


(1) A Lily name (Lilia, Lillian, Liliana)

Since Michelle said they’d love to honor St. Joseph, but aren’t totally sure that Josephine is their style, I wonder if they might like to consider one of the Lily names, since lilies are one of St. Joseph’s symbol? Lily doesn’t have the best flow with their last name, but Lilia is a really pretty variant. Lillian is a less flowery option, and Liliana is longer, like the names they tend to like, and they could consider the -ana ending to nod to St. Anne if they’d like.

(2) Susanna

Speaking of Lily names, and also names that nod to St. Anne, and also the fact that Michelle listed Zuzu as a possible nickname for Josephine, Susanna came immediately to mind. It means both “rose” and “lily” in Hebrew, which can work for St. Joseph via the “lily” meaning, and also Our Lady, as lilies and roses are both symbols for her. The -anna ending can be for St. Anne, and Zuzu is a traditional nickname for Susanna!

(3) Cecilia, Caecilia

Cecilia is a match for Josephine and Catherine, and it’s lovely and long and feminine like Victoria. Such a beautiful, saintly name! I also remembered this family, who used the original Latin form of Cecilia for their daughter: Caecilia. Behind the Name says its pronunciation is kie-KEE-lee-a, but I think Cecilia’s pronunciation could be used with that spelling if they wanted.

(4) Julia, Juliana, Juliette

Julia did quite well for this family in my research! It has the same sophisticated feel as Victoria, and lots of Saints to choose from for patron. If they wanted to lengthen it, Juliana can add the St. Anne connection, and Juliette has a pretty French flair (I actually spotlighted Juliet(te) here).

(5) Philomena

My last girl idea is more along the lines of Aurelia, Magdalene, and Perpetua — a lesser-used but almost exclusively Catholic name. Philomena has some great nickname options as well, like Fia, Fila, Fina, Lola, Menaand Minnie.


(1) Tobias

I was really interested to see what boy names would rise to the top in my research as good suggestions for a son for Michelle, and was excited to see Tobias as one of them! It’s an Old Testament name like Raphael, Jonah, and Judah, and in fact Tobias is part of St. Raphael’s story in the book of Tobit; it’s also a style match for Evangeline. Such a handsome name!

(2) Thaddeus

Thaddeus is a style match for Raphael, Benedict, and Edmund! I love that it’s a New Testament name with the weighty feel of some of the Old Testament names, and is a lesser-used way to name a baby after St. Jude. Thad, Tad/Taddy, and Ted/Teddy are all great nickname for Thaddeus!

(3) Thomas

Michelle has Becket(t) on her list of possible first names and Aquinas on the list of middle names they like, but I wonder what they’d think about Thomas? It can hang with Charles/George/Gregory as well as Benedict/Dominic/Gabriel (and Victoria of course!).

(4) Leo, Leander

Gregory and Magnus made me think of Leo, as Pope St. Leo the Great is another with “Great” in his name. Leo Magnus would make this connection explicit, as would the combination, Leo Maximilian — since they have Maximilian on their list, maybe this would be a great way to use it? Leo could also serve as a nickname for Leander, which is in the Raphael/Benedict/Maximilian/Dominic family of names, and St. Leander of Seville was actually friends with Pope St. Gregory the Great!

(5) Frederick, Everett

I wouldn’t have come up with either Frederick or Everett on my own for this family, but they both did so well in my research that I couldn’t not include them here! Frederick is a match for Victoria (!), Beatrice, Frances, Josephine, and Magdalene, and Everett is a match for Aurelia, Beatrice, Magdalene, and Bennett. Isn’t that so surprising? There are actually several holy Fredericks that one could look to for a patron, and Everett is derived from Everard, of which there are several holy men so named as well.

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for Victoria Gianna’s little sister or brother?

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Patron Saint of nicknames? (!)

A reader sent me the following amazing email:

I just finished reading a biography on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and it turns out she comes from a family of nicknamers: ‘Catherine was a peaceful baby and like all the Seton children instantly received several nicknames.’

It wasn’t so much Elizabeth’s family that gave nicknames, but her husband’s, so she became a huge nicknamer after she married him. She continued to nickname everyone she kept correspondence with and some of the Sisters of her order after his death, but these are her family nicknames that I thought were so fun.

Elizabeth Seton herself was called Betsy throughout her childhood and when she met her future husband he began calling her Eliza.

Their 5 children all had nicknames:

Anna Maria: Annina

William: Will, Willy, Bill

Richard: Dick, Ricksy

Catherine: Kit/Kitt/Kitty, Kate, Jo (short for Josephine, one of Catherine’s middle names, possibly Confirmation name)

Rebecca: Bec

Her husband’s sisters all went by nicknames:

Henrietta: Harriet, Hatch (She was never Henrietta, though, just Harriet, so Hatch was the nickname for Harriet)

Eliza: Zide

Cecilia: Cecil

One girl who was a student of SEAS was not given a nickname, however. Her name was always the full Mary Diana. For some reason that name has such a fun ring it’s been on repeat in my head for the last few days. I had never heard of Hatch or Zide, and love how spunky they are. I know how much you like nicknames, so I thought you’d enjoy this info! I think St. Elizabeth would make an amazing unofficial patron saint of nicknames 🙂 “

I did indeed enjoy this info! And I love the idea of St. Elizabeth being the “unofficial patron saint of nicknames”! Apparently coming up with nicknames is a holy endeavor. 😉 I can see what this reader means about Mary Diana too, that is a lovely combo.

Have a great Wednesday!

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Baby name consultation: Formal names for the nickname Sonny

A reader wrote to me asking:

I really love the name Sonny. But! I’ve yet to find a formal name I like that could be the official name… and now I’m wondering if I even need that? Especially if I can find a good spiritual connection to the name… apart from the obvious “son.” lol is this making sense? Do you have any thoughts?

Do I have any thoughts? Always!  😂😂😂

I LOVE the nickname Sonny!! The first name that comes to mind is Santino — Sonny on The Godfather was Santino nn Sonny, and Santino means “little saint,” which is fantastic! HOWEVER, I know some might be like, “Ew! The Godfather!” I get it! (Another funny reference: Mario Lopez and his wife named their youngest son Santino and call him Sonny!) For what it’s worth, there was a little guy in one of my boys’ preschool class named Santino nn Sonny, which I’d never seen in real life before then, and I just died of happiness, SO cute. (He was not obviously Italian.)

I’ve also thought that Sonny could be a great nickname for Solanus! I wrote about it here; I think it’s a fantastic option. Bl. Solanus Casey is amazing! There are some people who are hesitant about using Solanus as a given name because of the last four letters, so if you like this idea but not that detail, you could consider Solano instead — Bl. Solanus’ religious name was actually Francis Solanus, and it was bestowed in honor of St. Francis Solano, a 16th/17th century Franciscan.

I’m also thinking, since Jesus is THE Son, maybe Sonny would be a nice nickname for a Jesus name? Like Joshua, Christo, Emmanuel … I’ve always loved Christo/Cristo but thought it might be hard to work with and/or seen as disrespectful in English-speaking locales (though it’s used in other languages) — having a nickname like Sonny could make something like Christo/Cristo do-able as a legal name without the hassle maybe?

I really think Sonny could also work for any S name, especially if it has an N in it (Stephen, Solomon, Sebastian, Simon, Simeon), or any name containing or ending in -son (Samson or any number of surnames — maybe one in your family tree?), or really any name at all! Sonny is one of those Junior/Red/Chip-type nicknames that can be completely unrelated to the boy’s given name — it might be perfect if there’s some family member you’d love to honor but who has an unfortunate name, or a nickname for a Junior. Using Sonny as the exclusive call name means the given name can be anything at all. You know? 

Do you agree? What other names do you think would be good formal names for Sonny? Do you know anyone named Sonny, and if so — I’d love to know about his given name and how he got his nickname and whether he likes it!

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

More info on Václav (Wenceslaus)

Continued prayers today, on the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, for an end to abortion, and for all of its victims. ❤ ❤ ❤

I was so surprised by the number of comments I got on my spotlight on Wenceslaus! So pleasantly surprised! Two in particular had more info on the Czech version, Václav, and I wanted to be sure you all saw them:

Václav is still reasonably popular here in the Czech Republic. Pronounced vahts-lahv (the c in Czech always makes the ts sound, unless it is č, which is ch; c never makes the k sound – only k makes the ck/k sound).

I’ve met quite a few, from tiny to old. My husband’s grandfather was Václav, and I think that if we had another son, Václav would be a real contender. (It might take some adjusting for my Midwestern US family, but probably easier than the likes of Vladimir!), Of course, Václav Havel gives the name awesome modern hero weight as well.

I really like the nicknames Vašík (vah-sheek) and Vašek (vah-shek). According to my husband (I bombarded him with Czech name questions this morning…):

Vašík is for little boys, probably until age 8 or 9.
Vašek is for young men, probably from 8 or 9 until about 30 or so.
Then he would likely become Venca (vents-uh) and stay that way.

That’s not a hard/fast rule, but it is generally how the name Václav would evolve. Plus, you’d be Václav on official documents/announcements, but as my husband says, no one would ever actually call you Václav!
Czech names and nicknames are truly fascinating!

Wenceslas Square is a main square here in Prague, called Václavské náměstí in Czech (but English speakers often still just call it Wenceslas Square – it is widely called both names here). It is much more modern than many areas you’ll find in Prague (like the Old Town Square). It’s packed full of history, of course, including Soviet tanks rolling down the street in the ’68 Prague Spring. These days its lined with modern, global stores, so is popular for shopping (and apparently it has quite a shady nightlife, particularly on one end…). Yet, the huge statue of St. Wenceslas (svatý Václav) on horseback still looms over it all – famously sculpted by Josef Václav Myslbek. There are 4 other Czech patron saints surrounding him: St. Ludmila, St. Agnes of Bohemia (I’ve mentioned her here before – fascinating story!), St. Prokop, and St. Adalbert. The inscription reads: St Wenceslas, Leader of the Czech Lands, our Prince, do not let us die nor those yet to come.

Of course, September 28th is a very important Czech holiday, so yay for school/office closings on that day (otherwise, there are no celebrations, of note surrounding it). Interesting, the Czech culture is said to be one of the most atheist cultures in the world, yet they hold very tight to saints’ name days and many otherwise religious traditions/holidays.

And then a follow-up:

And to add – my husband loved the tidbit about Václav probably being derived from věnec! He didn’t know that, but said that makes sense. He says that in everyday Czech, it is really used to refer to a wreath, rather than a crown.”

I LOVE learning more about names of other countries/cultures/languages! Have a great Friday and a great weekend, everyone!

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

New CatholicMom article, and info on Chinese and Japanese names

Happy Thursday everyone! A few things of interest today:

My January CatholicMom article is up! “Naming Your Baby After St. Joseph” was informed by a couple of blog posts I did recently to help expectant parents (and Confirmation candidates?) work St. Joseph into their babies’ names (or their own) during this year devoted to him.

Please share with anyone who think might be interested!

And I read two interesting articles recently:

Why 1.2 billion people share the same 100 surnames in China” on I was surprised to find that, though language and limited racial diversity play a role, technology is actually a huge reason why there are, currently, as few surnames in China as there are:

“… people with rare characters in their names, which aren’t compatible with existing computer systems, can get left behind — pushing many to change their names for the sake of convenience, even if it means abandoning centuries of heritage and language.”

“Abandoning centuries of heritage and language” is such a painful thing to read!

And there was this, which I found shocking:

Japan asked the international media to change how we write their names. No one listened” (also on CNN). I’m amazed that in this day and age, when there is more sensitivity than ever to one’s personal preferences about his or her name (whether it’s one’s given name, or a new name chosen later on), and that aside from names, cultural insensitivity is completely unacceptable, English-language media sources are refusing to switch to writing Japanese names with the surname first, as is their local custom and request.

For now, most media outlets are unwilling to make a change if no one else is, creating an inertia loop whereby inaction begets inaction. CNN Business could not find any major publication which refers to the Japanese prime minister as “Abe Shinzo,” and no outlet which responded to a request for comment suggested such a switch was imminent.”

There are some other factors at play — like the fact that Japan itself switched to the Western style of “family name (surname) last” in the late 19th century when communicating in English — but even still, wow.

My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!