Spotlight on: Pearl

A reader emailed asking about the name Pearl from a Catholic point of view, specifically wondering if it might be Marian?

Pearl is actually very Catholic, but not in that form. It’s most familiar in the form of …. Margaret.

According to behindthename, Margaret is “[d]erived from Latin Margarita, which was from Greek μαργαριτης (margarites) meaning “pearl.”” There are loads of Sts. Margaret, and loads of versions of the name. My favorites include the French Marguerite and Margaux/Margot, the Spanish Margarita, the Welsh Megan, and my most favorite of all is the Irish Mairead. And the nicknames! Some of them are names in their own right, but they can also be used as nicks: Greta, Rita, Madge, Maggie, Meg, Meta, and others. Even Daisy, because the French form Marguerite is also a noun (marguerite) meaning daisy (the flower), and I’ve heard of a couple little girls given the name Margaret and the nick Daisy.

I mean, come on. Margaret has it going on.

One thing it isn’t, though, is Marian. I couldn’t find any title/appellation referring to Our Lady that included “pearl” anywhere (if any of you can prove me wrong, I’d be beyond delighted!). Even the Irish Mairead, which contains the Irish Mary within it (Maire), has no connection to Mary.

So: Pearl. Beautiful, saintly name, and very Catholic, as long as you look at it through Margaret glasses.

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17 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Pearl

  1. I’ve always been happy as a Margaret, and I’ve also known and loved the Pearl connection. It’s my jewelry of choice because of my name. 🙂

    I’d love to see if you have a way to make Poppy work as a saint or “real” name. I’d love it as a nickname, but haven’t found a way to make to work with a full first saint’s name.

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    • Okay a quick search shows me that Poppy’s pretty traditional as a nickname for Penelope, which I love! As far as I know there isn’t a St. Penelope BUT St. Irene’s original name was said to be Penelope. I think that works as a saint’s name then, right? Like Simon before he was Peter? Abram before he was Abraham? Edith before she was Teresa Benedicta? Or I suppose you could maybe make it work for other P girl names: Philippa, Paula/Pauline/a, Perpetua (loving it for Perpetua — that’s a heavy name, and Poppy is so sweet!).

      And unrelated but ohmygoodness, I just saw PÁDRAIGÍN on behindthename — “Irish form of Patricia” — love it!

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      • I like Posy for Josephine a lot, but Penelope has be relegated to my list of “names I love but probably won’t ever use” just because I can’t get it to be “Catholic” enough, lol. If we had any sort of literary theme, I’d totally do it- she’s such a great character in the Odyssey!

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  2. Oh sure, I totally get it! I suppose there’s always Mary Penelope nicknamed Poppy — I think Mary in front of anything makes it Catholic! In fact, I quite like that. Polly is a traditional nick for Mary, and Poppy’s so close that maybe Mary+anything-starting-with-P could conceivably be nicked Poppy? Or a middle ending in a strong P? I’m still loving it as a nick for Perpetua too. Or what about Apollonia? It’s got strong P and O sounds in there …

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    • What about just Mary Poppy or Poppy Maria or something similar? Our last baby was to be named Iris Maria if a girl. I had started out knowing I wanted Maria to be the middle name—it’s my favorite Marian name but I don’t feel it goes super well with my other children’s names (I feel we have an Edwardian English thing going on)—and ultimately settled on wanting a floral first name. Rose and Violet aren’t my favorite, Daisy is our dog, and Camellia risks too much mispronunciation. We came upon Iris and were so happy we did, but then we had a boy!

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    • Wait—I think you are only partially correct about Polly being a nickname for Mary. I always learned that it was Peggy+Molly, in other words, a nickname for Margaret Mary. (Yay, more Margaret!)

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  3. Margaret is a family name, and my mom tried to convince my dad to name me Margot. Sadly, Dad wasn’t going for it! I love the pearl connection with Margaret, and honestly, I’ve always seen Margaret/Pearl as a biblical name (“the pearl of great price” Matt 13: 45-46 referencing the kingdom of heaven). So maybe, if Mary is the Queen of Heaven there is a teensy Marian connection there??? (Never really thought of that until now)

    Poppy is such a sweet nickname! I do think “Mary Poppy” might come too close to Mary Poppins for me, though. Perpetua, however… amazing! And Phillipa is great too.

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    • I’ve always loved that “pearl of great price” bit but never thought to connect it to Mary … I like it! Intention is so important when naming — if parents were to name their daughter Margaret because “Mary is the Queen of the pearl of great price” … that’s a Marian intention for sure! Nice idea!!

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  4. Great conversation here!

    My maternal grandmother was Marguerite Mae (not Catholic either!) but never nicknamed. And, one of my best friend’s soon-to-be-not-baby is Perpetua and they call her Pia. 🙂

    As for Poppy… one of my sisters-in-law has given her daughters a flower middle name in honor of the Blessed Mother with the idea of her girls being presented as a boquet of flowers. So far, she has a Rose, Lily, and Iris. Suppose Margaret used Poppy with a Marian middle name in way of honoring BVM with a poppy flower? Or “Marian” + Poppy.

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  5. Oh here is another lovely biblical pearl piece that I appreciate as a Margaret. In Proverbs 31, many translations use “pearl”- “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.” Some translations use rubies, but pearl is common in Catholic translations. We used this as the first reading at our wedding, which I loved! I don’t hate the idea of Poppy as a nickname for Perpetua…maybe that’s the way to get the Perpetua to go with my Felicity ;).

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  6. For me, Pearl reminds me of Jesus’ description in Matthew of the Kingdom of God as a pearl of great price. I’ve seen commentaries which then draw the obvious conclusion that Jesus himself is the Pearl of great price.

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