Baby name consultant: Isabel, Maggie, Julia, Olivia, or … ?

Jennie and Matthew are expecting their fourth baby, a girl. Jennie writes,

We seem to be stuck at an impasse with a few names we like, but none that we can really agree on … We tend to like fairly traditional names. I really love a lot of the flowery vintage type names, but my husband tends to like the more classical names (not that the two are necessarily mutually exclusive).”

This baby girl will be joining three siblings:

Hannah Claire
Abigail Elizabeth (often goes by Abby, but not always)
Lucas Francis (called both Lucas and Luke)

I love their style! Currently, their top favorites for baby girl #3 are:

Margaret (we would most likely call her Maggie)
Julia (We also like Juliet, but wonder if she would get too many Romeo jokes)

Says Jennie,

Lately, I have been favoring Isabel, although one of my best friends has a daughter with the same name, so I am slightly hesitant to use it. I also wonder if it would fit with the style of our other children’s names?
My husband’s favorite of the list is Maggie. I like it and definitely think it would fit well with our other kids’ names, but I also think it is a tiny bit boring (no offense to any Maggies out there). We like the name Julia, but our kids have a cousin named Julia. She’s a little bit older than they are and lives in a different state, but nonetheless, I’m still unsure if we should use it.

A few names that we like, but that are out for various reasons: Genevieve, Josephine, Emma (and Emily), Amelia, Lily, Madeline, Catherine and any variation of Mary (sad, I know, but my husband has a sister named Mary and refuses to use the name because of her). I also want to try to stay away from another Old Testament girl’s name, despite the fact that there are a few I like.

We are also stuck on a middle name. I was rooting for Faustina, but my husband says “no way.” I also like the more common Grace and Rose, but we would prefer a strong feminine saint name. We were thinking of Avila or Siena. What do you think?

First off, some thoughts about Jennie and Matthew’s current ideas and answers to their questions about them:

Isabel is lovely! It’s my favorite of the Isabel(le/a) names, sweet and sophisticated all in one. Regarding whether it fits with the other kids’ names — you all know that I usually start my consultations with the Baby Name Wizard book as it offers, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in style/feel/popularity. According to the BNW, Isabel definitely fits with the other kids! It’s listed as similar to both Lily and Madelyn, which are similar to all three of your kids’ names. Nice job, Jennie and Matthew! The other kids’ names are all biblical, but then Isabel is too, as it’s a form of Elizabeth. It’s a nice way to take their style in a new direction. I will just caution that since Elizabeth has already been used as Abby’s middle name, namiacs (like me) would notice that you technically used the name twice, but there’s certainly no rule against it, and most people will never know Abby’s middle (unless they/she tells them), and Elizabeth and Isabel look so different that many may never even notice.

Re: Margaret/Maggie, I agree Maggie is just adorable. I wonder, if Jennie worries that Maggie is too boring, if Magdalene or Magdalena would spice it up enough for her? It’s a New Testament name, so like with Isabel, it adheres to their established style while also taking it in a new direction. And Madeline is a variant of Magdalene, so it would kind of like be using Madeline (which Jennie said she liked) but not (since she said they couldn’t use it). Though Maggie could be the everyday nickname, Jennie would have the fun of knowing that the full first name is unexpected.

Re: Julia and Juliet, again, just lovely. Julia’s a New Testament name as well, and Juliet is a diminutive of Julia (though it’s true that it’s usually used on its own), so it’s possible to name the baby Julia and use Juliet as a nickname (which might help with cousins having the same given name), or they could name her Juliet knowing that they’re giving her a variant of a New Testament name, which all ties back into the established style. (And no, I don’t think Romeo makes Juliet un-doable. I love Juliet!)

So really, of their three current ideas, I don’t think they can go wrong!!!

I love Avila and Siena (and Faustina, Grace, and Rose) as middle names (or first names) for girls, absolutely wonderful, all! I like the sound of Isabel Avila, Margaret Avila or Margaret Siena, Magdalene Siena, Julia Siena, Juliet Siena. Some other strong feminine saints that they might like to consider include Therese (of Lisieux), Edith (Stein), Edel (Quinn), Chiara (Luce Badano), Maria (Goretti) … I’m sure I can think of a million more if none of these was quite right …

As for new suggestions – I basically just looked up all the names they’ve already used and those they said they like (including the ones that can’t be used) and tried to find names in the overlapping areas. These were the results (I always shoot for three suggestions, but came up with five):

(1) Olivia
Olivia was the only name that was listed as similar to Hannah, Abigail, and Lucas. How cool! It’s not biblical as a name, but certainly there are loads of lovely references to olives in the bible, which to me make a nice connection with the other kids’ names. A mama I did a consultation for recently named her daughter Olive in large part because of how much she loved Psalm 128:3: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your home, Your children like young olive plants around your table.” (She actually used the middle name Faustina, and loved the connection between St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy, and the writings of St. Oliver Plunkett, who she took as the baby’s patron, which talked about divine mercy.)

(2) Caroline or Charlotte (nicked Callie?)
Charlotte and Caroline were all over the spreadsheet I made of my research for this baby! They, as a name family, had hands down the most similarity to the names Jennie and Matthew like than any other name. Even the nickname Callie was included, showing up as similar to Maggie. I love these names because of their connection to St. John Paul (born Karol=Charles), and I know a bunch of people who have considered and/or used Karoline or Karolina, so that’s an option as well.

(3) Helen(a) or Eleanor (nicked Ellie or Ella?)
Helen, Helena, and Eleanor all share similar sounds and nicknames, so I’m grouping them together here. They all did quite well in my research, as did Ellie and Ella. St. Helena is a great patron saint for a little girl too, so if you didn’t care for it in the first name spot, maybe in the middle, since she was a strong female saint?

(4) Sofia/Sophia or Sophie
I started with Olivia, because it was the only name that fit all three of the other kids’ names’ style, and then listed the name that had the most similarity to Jennie and Matthew’s entire name list (Charlotte/Caroline), then the second most (Helena/Eleanor), and now the third most – both Sofia and Sophie scored high for this family, with Sophie being just a bit closer to their style. As with Olivia, Sophie isn’t a biblical name, but it is a biblical idea – there’s even a book of the bible named Wisdom. St. Madeleine Sophie Barat is also a great saint, so maybe Sophie as a middle name if they didn’t care for it as a first?

(5) Miscellaneous
There were a bunch of names that did well for Jennie and Matthew, but not well enough to include in my top suggestions. But I wanted to list them anyway:
— Chloe (New Testament)
— Cecilia/Celia (great saint)
— Lydia (New Testament)
— Evangeline (biblical idea, and has similar feel to the names they like but can’t use — Genevieve and Josephine)
— Violet (can be considered Marian, maybe a nice workaround for the Mary issue?)
— Grace (they’d thought of it as a middle, but maybe they’d like to consider it for a first name? Also Marian)

** Between when I emailed Jennie back with my ideas and today, she wrote me this:

One recent development is that the name Olivia is currently really growing on me. And I like the combination of Olivia Benedicta because “Benedicta” means blessing and I believe the Benedictine order has an olive on their crest, so the two names go together. Also, our daughter’s patroness would be St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) whom I really like and admire … my only reservation about Olivia is its huge popularity. Help!

I loooooove the idea of Olivia Benedicta!! What a great combo!! I would absolutely encourage Jennie and Matthew with this choice — I love the much-beloved and familiar Olivia paired with the heavy duty Benedicta, just wonderful!!

As for “much-beloved” — Olivia is indeed super duper uber popular right now — take a look:


So popularity is definitely an issue. My usual fallback in such cases is to suggest the name Livia. It’s so similar to Olivia, but much much less popular. Though it looks like Olivia with the O hacked off, it’s actually a name in its own right, with a long history of use going back to ancient Rome. It also has some Irish connection, in that the River Liffey, which flows through Dublin, has been personified in literature (a character in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake) and art (a sculpture in Dublin) as a woman named Anna Livia, a play on the river’s name in Irish: Abhainn na Life. Livia also allows for the great Olivia nicknames of Liv and Livvy. I think people might have a tendency to think I’m crazy when I suggest Livia instead of Olivia — like, will it really make that much of a difference?? — but it does to me, so … there you go! 🙂


Another name I sometimes to suggest to those who love Olivia but not the popularity is Avila — it’s got similar letters and sounds as Olivia and I think it could take the nicks Liv and Livvy AND it’s on Jennie and Matthew’s list as a possible middle! But it has a very different feel than Olivia, and while an argument can be made for Olivia having biblical connections via the abundance of olives in Scripture, there’s no biblical connection with Avila, and so it takes it that much farther away from the style of big sibs Hannah, Abigail, and Lucas. It’s also quite similar in appearance to Abigail. (It hasn’t been in the top 1000 in recent years, so no popularity graph to show.)

In this case, though, where one of the things that’s appealing about Olivia to Jennie is the olive connection, neither Livia nor Avila would likely work, since they have no connection to olives. So then I would suggest Olive itself. It’s risen somewhat rapidly in popularity over the last few years, but is still fairly uncommon:


It too can take the nicknames Liv and Livvy (you all know how I am about nicknames! And Liv/Livvy is my favorite part of Olivia — they’re just so sweet! So being able to retain the nicks even while using a different name would be a plus for me).

So those are all my ideas/thoughts/suggestions! What do you all think? What comments do you have about the current ideas (including Olivia Benedicta), and what other suggestions do you have for Jennie and Matthew?


36 thoughts on “Baby name consultant: Isabel, Maggie, Julia, Olivia, or … ?

  1. I personally don’t like Olivia Benedicta together because of the two A endings–it makes it a little sing-songy to my ear. Olive Benedicta has a better flow, to me at least, and is just super cute and retro-sounding to boot!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. How about Margaret as a full name for Maggie?

    Honestly, popularity isn’t a huge consideration for us when choosing names. We named our oldest son one of the top 5 boy names and we’ve yet to meet another kid in his age group with his name. You could look at the popularity of Olivia in your state; it could be less common in your area than it is in others.

    Or what about switching the two and going with Benedicta Olivia? You could still nickname her Livia or Liv or whatnot, but if the popularity of Olivia becomes an issue at some point she could go by her first name.

    other first name and/or middle name suggestions:

    Juliana (as an alternative to Julia or Juliet)

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A flowery vintage strong name? I immediately thought Viola.

    But then I saw the possibility of Avila for a middle name, which sent me to Spanish forms of Theresa. I always find Theresa a bit dowdy) — but Tereysa, Tarasia, and Tareza are all lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like Olive Benedicta. It sounds so pretty! I have an aversion to Olive for humans (though I think it’s a super cute name) because it’s my cat’s name! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I love the idea of Olivia! What about maybe Violet? I think that would be really cute, and could go with some of the middle names they like (Violet Faustina would be gorgeous! and because Violet is more common, it could balance out the uniqueness of Faustina).

    I really think though that Jennie and Matthew cannot go wrong with any of their ideas or the ideas give here. They clearly have wonderful taste in names 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If Olivia is the name that speaks to them, they should use it despite the popularity. It just means lots of other people share the same great taste. Besides, their other children have fairly popular names too. I think Olivia Benedicta is lovely and with the sentiment behind it, you can’t go wrong.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I think they have found a great combo in Olivia Benedicta and should use it! There other girls have popular names so I think Olivia fits in beautifully. The name Olive has a very different vibe.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I adooore Olivia Benedicta, and I love the exuberance of double -a endings! Olivia isn’t much more popular than the other children’s names. In sum, I second all the encouragement from above!! 😀

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Hi everyone, this is Jennie (the mama to baby girl yet to be named). Thank you so much for all your advice and suggestions! It’s been so helpful to get Kate’s analysis on our baby name dilemma and I’ve loved to hear your feedback and encouragement on the names we’re considering. We will certainly keep you posted when the little miss arrives and on what name we eventually decide upon. God bless!

    Liked by 3 people

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