Baby name consultant: Wee Lassie Heckaman

It’s March! In my house, March means Irish — Irish food, Irish music, Irish coffee in my green Claddagh mug (okay, maybe just the “coffee” part of “Irish coffee”), Irish green everywhere for the entire month — so what better way to kick it off than with an Irish-y Irish name dilemma?

Theresa and Sean Heckaman are expecting #8, a little girl, who will arrive via a scheduled c-section on St. Paddy’s Day. Their other children are:

Theodore (Teddy) Stephen Joseph

Joshua David Joseph

Patrick Darrel Joseph (also born on St. Paddy’s Day!)

Joseph Wayne Michael

Miriam Anna Rose

Evalena (Evie) Margaret Marie

William (Liam) Fulton Joseph

Theresa gave a lovely explanation for each one, which I’m not including here for space reasons, but each name is a lovely mix of family and saint names (note also the “Joseph” in each boy’s name and the form of Mary in each girl’s).

Theresa wrote in this comment here on the blog:

I am scheduled for a c-section on March 17th, and we decided to go with the name Rosary Brigid Marie. It’s making me a little nervous because it’s not common and anyone who isn’t Catholic looks at me like I’ve got three heads. I love the nickname Rosie, and can’t seem to settle on any other formal name, so Rosary it is! The good news, though, is that any Catholic who hears it is thrilled 🙂 … I’m having a hard time with the middle names, though. I’m not entirely sold on Brigid, the first draft was Rosary Therese Marie, but that changed when we learned the baby’s birthday, now we have to do something Irish! We’ve always planned on having our girls’ third middle name to be Marie, but we started off with Miriam Anna Rose (figuring Miriam is enough Mary for one name), so I’m not afraid of finding another Mary name, but flow is a problem. Moira and even Maura seem to make it too much of a mouthful. I’m probably overthinking this!”

I’d responded to that comment with:

Theresa! This is gorgeous! And Rosary has a long history of use in other languages — Rosario, for example, is a name used for both men and women in Spanish, and for men exclusively (I think) in Italian. My mom actually has a friend named this, an older Italian man, and he’s always gone by “Soddy” (I assume because the Italian pronunciation is more like ro-SOD-io? With that semi-rolled R?).The entry says about Rosario: “Means “rosary”, and is taken from the Spanish title of the Virgin Mary Nuestra Señora del Rosario meaning “Our Lady of the Rosary”. This name is feminine in Spanish and masculine in Italian.” So I’m totally on board with Rosary, nice job! And Rosie totally makes it not a big deal — friendly, “normal,” accessible nicknames can make just about any formal name okay, in my opinion. … (I do just want to whisper to you though, since you’ve already decided on Rosary and all, that Roisin is one of my favorite favorite Rose names, and it’s sooo Irish!!! It’s a diminutive of the Irish Rois (Rose), and could totally take the nickname Rosie! Roisin Therese Marie? Mmmmmm!) … Also, the Rose names are considered Marian, and I totally would consider Rosary to be so too — does that help with your flow problem? You don’t need to use Marie (unless you want to of course) because Our Lady is already honored. If you still want an M Mary name there, I agree Moira and Maura don’t flow well, because I think the rhythm of Marie is what works — two syllables, with the emphasis on the second. So Maureen would flow quite well I think (or the Irish spelling Mairin, accents over both i’s).”

I encouraged Theresa to email me if she wanted to chat about it some more, and I’m so delighted that she did!

She gave this further info: “Other first names considered for this new baby: Louisa and Beatrice. I have always wanted a Rosie, though. I think the main problem we’re (actually myself since my husband is fine with the current name, Rosary Brigid Marie) is just the middle names and finding something that really goes together well and has an Irish feel.”

So this is what I have to say about all that:

First off, I actually think Rosary Brigid Marie sounds fine and flows well and — honestly truly — sounds like a name a native Irish person would use (at least in Old Ireland): reverent, Catholic, and Irish. A beautiful, gorgeous name for a St. Paddy’s Day baby! And St. Brigid is St. Patrick’s female equivalent, so I really do think they’ve chosen a brilliant name. (I have a long love of all things Irish — my maternal grandfather was born and raised there, in Cobh, Co. Cork, and my own mom has studied the Irish language, and I studied abroad in Galway while in college, and have visited a bunch of other times … it’s all I can do right now to not replace “mom” with “mum” and start saying “thanks a million” and go make some tea. So I hope my sense is right that Rosary Brigid Marie is a good Irishy Irish name!)

But I will always have a suggestion or two (or three, actually, as I always shoot for) when it comes to names, and here they are:

(1) Alternatives to Rosary

Theresa loves Rosie, but not the Rose names. Rosary is pretty inspired I think, and I suggested Róisín already (though I get that might be too much for someone who doesn’t live in Ireland) (pronounced row-SHEEN), but I also wanted to suggest Rosaleen. Beyond Shannon and Sean: An Enlightened Guide to Baby Naming (by the Nameberry ladies) says, “The Irish had imported Kathleen to America in the nineteenth century, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that the true impact of the Irish “een” names began to be felt. These included not only actual Irish names like Pegeen, Eileen and its variant Aileen, Maureen (a diminutive of Maire, the Irish Mary) and Noreen (a diminutive of Nora), but also Josephine, a French name that was very popular in Ireland; Doreen, an Anglicization of the Irish Dorren or Doireann; and Rosaleen, the Irish pet form for Rose. Colleen — an Irish word meaning “girl” but never used in Ireland as a name — hit the New World in the 1940s, peaking in popularity in the early 1960s” (6) (my emphasis).

Rosaleen is sweet and old-fashioned (in the best way possible) and Irish. I love it. Also, when I’m considering Irish names (as I would have loved to have given my boys names like Padraig and Tadhg but my husband has not a drop of Irish blood and his style is “Bob”), I consider the kinds of names that traditional Irish parents might choose — which may or may not be super duper Gaelic-y Gaelic but almost certainly will be saintly or otherwise heavy-hitting-Catholic (one of my native Irish friends when I was in school there was John Paul — along with a thousand [or more?] other boys his age, as he was born just after JP2 was elected pope). This all brings to mind a friend of mine from years ago named Rosemarie, who is also native Irish, and represented the Gaelic-speaking part of Ireland (the Gaeltacht) in the 2001 Tralee Festival (read about the Festival here and here). I love Rosemarie, and have had it on my list for years, through all these boys of mine.

(2) Alternatives to Brigid

I’m thinking of the second middle as the most obvious nod to the baby’s birth/feast day. Brigid is great — as I mentioned above, she’s St. Patrick’s female counterpart, and even has a cross named after her. Very Irish, very saintly, just lovely. Another idea is Bríd (said breed), which is a contracted form of Brigid and might be helpful if a one-syllable name would work better in that spot. BUT, if other super-Irish ideas are wanted, how about:

  • Catriona — said kah-TREE-nah (like Katrina), an Irish form of Katherine
  • Kathleen/Caitlin — the Heckamans could do Kathleen, that spelling, or Caitlin, which in Irish is said exactly like Kathleen! They’d have an uphill battle trying to get people to say a first name Caitlin as Kathleen, but in the middle they can do anything they want
  • Eilis — said EYE-lish, the Irish form of Elizabeth

I particularly like the idea of a C/Katherine or Elizabeth variant for them, as they haven’t used either one yet with their other girls, and they’re such big Catholic names.

(3) Alternatives to Marie

I know Theresa said they aren’t worried about finding a suitable Marian name, but I thought I’d throw a few good Irish options out there anyway, especially since they’d originally planned on Rosary Therese Marie — if the Marie were to change to an Irish form, they could go back to using Therese if they wanted and still have an Irish-y name:

  • Máire — Beyond Shannon and Sean says this is “the true Irish version of Mary.” They say it’s pronounced like Marie; behindthename says it’s pronounced MOY-ra; babynamesofireland says it’s pronounced MY-ra. That says to me they can choose the pronunciation they want!
  • Some other “Mary equivalents used in Ireland” (according to Beyond Shannon and Sean): Carmel (after Our Lady of Mount Carmel); Dolores (after Our Lady of Sorrows); Máirín – said like Maureen, an Irish diminutive of Mary; Maureen (anglicized form of Máirín); Molly (a diminutive of Mary)

What do you all think? Can you think of any other ideas that might be helpful for Theresa and Sean for their little Irish Catholic baby girl?? Are there any Irish readers out there who can verify my Irish thoughts or tell me I’m full of bologna/blood sausage?


10 thoughts on “Baby name consultant: Wee Lassie Heckaman

  1. 1. I love Rosary. Love. It. Gorgeous Catholic name, and perfect nod to Mary. I agree that it is plenty Marian. 2. Love Rosary Brigid Marie. Seriously, you don’t need to change a thing. It’s perfect to me. That said, Kathleen/Caitlin is a name I’ve always loved too and also works. 3. I love that you have a Patrick born on St. Paddy’s day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a mother of two Irish named girls, I think this name is beautiful!! I love how Rosary itself is different and unique but than a more common and cutesy nn Rosie makes the name very easy and loveable. I think the Brigid Marie is wonderful as well. Bridget or Brigid has always been one of my favorite names while my husband remembers his grandmother saying it was too ‘common’ and won’t use it on our girls but I think it is wonderful and has such a beautiful holy saint behind her name! Also I don’t think it is a mouthful at all and flows very nicely. The only thing I would consider, having a baby born on St. Paddy’s day, would be a female variant of Patrick; but you already have your Patrick, so consider it Irish enough! Congratulations!

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  3. Going to bat for Brigid! I have loved my name all my life — it’s easy enough for people while still being unique, and has strong consonance without any really hard sounds in it. Sometimes I do get weird spellings or pronunciations, but people get it right fairly quickly. And it has the benefit of making me feel connected to my cultural heritage without being a trickier Gaelic name. (And my parents planned to name me Kathleen until I was born.)

    I also love-love Rosary/Rosie. So unique without being “out there.”

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  4. […] For their girl ideas, I love so much that they’re considering Rosary!! I love it!! Rosie is so sweet too. It’s a fair point she brings up about how the name might affect her daughter in secular culture going forward; it might help to consider that she can go by Rose if she prefers, even on college and job applications, or go by her middle name (though it’s true that any time her legal name would be required, it would be seen) (I worked in Admissions in college and definitely saw applications of students applying under their nicknames). Here is a real-life Rosary, if it’s helpful, and here are her siblings’ names. […]


  5. I just came across this post via your latest post, but I also wanted to mention that somewhere a very long time ago I came across the name Bridgeen in a book of which I cannot remotely remember the title. I could have sworn it was a saint book, but every time I go to google the name Bridgeen absolutely nothing comes up to validate that it’s even a real name at all, let alone the name of a saint. Anyway, I’ve always loved it. It has a very Irish-y sound, and it’s just a little off-beat– part trendy made-up name, part classic name. So maybe someday, if it ever strikes a chord with the right person or somebody looking for a Brigid alternative, they can bestow it on a child and make it a real name!

    Liked by 1 person

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