A total name post

Okay, it’s not a total name post — it’s the two-part story of Bosco Patton‘s birth! BUT it includes some namey stuff (like how he was almost named something different! And how his initials are BIP! Which, I know, we could all figure out on our own, but I hadn’t thought of them at all, and seeing them typed out made my namey heart sing. BIP! So cute!!) so … I just love birth stories, but wouldn’t feel justified linking to them here if they didn’t have some name connection, so thanks Grace for thinking of us!! 😀

(I will say … the oooonly quibble I have is that we don’t know what their chosen girl’s name was. I know I know, it’s their secret and I get it.) (But I’d love to know. 😉 )

Bosco’s Birth Story (part one)

Bosco’s Birth Story (part final)


Girl names turned surnames

I’ve written before about boy names that have “gone girl” but I’ve compiled a small list of names that started out as feminine first names that then became surnames, and I think (though I could be wrong) that last names as first names historically tended to be given to boys? Can anyone verify that? (I know the South has different traditions regarding last names as first names for girls.)

I’m sure there are much more than this, but these are just what I happened upon while reading Reaney & Wilson this morning:

Annas, Anness, Annis, Anniss are all from Old French Anés, which was “the vernacular form of Agnes”

Annatt, Annett, Annetts, Annott are from Ann-ot, which was a diminutive of Ann, which was a pet-form of Annes (Agnes)

Ebbetts, Ebbitt, Ebbutt may be from Ebbot or Ebbet, which were diminutives of Ebb for Ibb, which was a pet-name for Isabel

Emmatt, Emmet, Emmett, Emmitt, Emmott, Emmert, Emett, Hemett all from Emmot, which could be from a place in Lancashire, but also “Emmot was a very common pet-name for Emma”

Ibbelot, Iblot from Ibb-el-ot, a double diminutive of Ibb, which could be a pet form of Isabel (also of Ilbert)

Ibbott, Ibbett, Ibbitt, Hibbit, Hibbitt, Hibbott, Ibbs, Hibbs can all come from Ibb or Ibb-ot, which is a diminutive of Ibb

Ibell, Hibble, Hible from Ib-el, a diminutive of Ibb

Ibson means “son of Ibb”

Ibbelot, Iblot are from Ibb-el-ot, which is a double diminutive of Ibb

Libby, Lebby were surnames from pet names of Isabel

Libbet, Libbett from Libb-et, from Libb, which was a pet form of Isabel

The thing I love most about these is their possibility as fresh-seeming nicknames or variants of Agnes, Emma, Isabel, and Elizabeth for girls (I’ve actually heard of a woman named Elizabeth who goes by Libbett), and variants for honoring female relatives for boys (like, naming a boy Emmett after Grandma Emma or Hibbs after Grandma Elizabeth or Isabel). What do you all think?

Spotlight on: Atticus

(I put all the giveaways in the mail this morning — look for them at the end of this week/beginning of next! And please let me know if yours doesn’t arrive!)

You’ve all likely heard the news by now, right? Beloved Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird — who actually had a whole bunch of babies named after him (name story given here, several noted in the comments here, and quite a few celeb babies who may or may not have been named for the character but there’s a high likelihood he was at least part of the inspiration) because of his goodness, and who inspired a baby name book (one of my faves: A is for Atticus: Baby Names from Great Books by Lorilee Craker) — has been shown, in Harper Lee’s new book released today, Go Set a Watchman, to not be the virtuous man we all thought him to be. (Disclaimer: I haven’t read the novel, so all my info is coming from what I read in various places, but mostly here: Review: Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Gives Atticus Finch a Dark Side.)

What a devastation for so many parents! My husband and I ourselves even considered Atticus when naming our boys, in large part because of the reputation of goodness and justice it carries because of the Mockingbird character. For us, however, a literary character, no matter how beloved, couldn’t have been the only reason to choose a name, and so I had cause years ago to look up whether Atticus is a saint’s name, and therein lies the balm for the parents of little Atticus-es: Atticus the Saint!

Parents who named their children for a good man in Atticus Finch can rest assured that St. Atticus is even better a person to be named for: he was real, for one thing, and has already finished the race and won the crown. From CatholicSaints.Info:

Atticus supported the Macedonian heresy (i.e., the Holy Spirit is not God), opposed Saint John Chrysostom, and worked against him at the Council of Oak in 405. When John was exiled fromConstantinople, Atticus assumed the bishopric in 406. He eventually realized his error, repented his opposition, and submitted to Pope Innocent I‘s rulings. He remained as bishop, but a virtuous and orthodox one, and an opponent of heretics.”

His feast day is January 8. (I do believe he’s profiled in Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints, Second Edition by Matthew Bunson, though I haven’t read it myself.) (It’s definitely on my wishlist!)

You know me — I have to have a good nickname figured out before deciding on a name — and Atticus confounded me for a while. I didn’t care for Atty because of its similarity to the feminine Addy (though I’ve seen some parents of Atticus-es saying they use Atty), but then in various places I’ve seen Ace, Gus, and Kit — all of which I think are great!

What do you all think of Atticus? Does the new Harper Lee novel tarnish it for you? If so, does its saintliness redeem it? Do you know anyone who named their son Atticus, and if so, what do they think of all this hubbub?

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?

Reading round-up (middle name edition)

I was asking you all about middle names (here and here and your comments were so helpful and interesting!) because I wanted to write about them for my July CatholicMom.com column — it turned out to be a much bigger animal than I expected! My column will be posted on Wednesday — I’ll post the link here when it’s up — and I’ll be interested to see what you all think.

In the meantime, I came across some really interesting articles while trying to do some “quick” research of what I thought was a fairly straightforward topic:

Why Do We Have Middle Names? which provides a brief intro to the history of middle names in America.

Despite the warning at the top of the page that “This article has multiple issues” I found the Wiki article on middle names to be helpful as well, and the list it provided of famous people who go by their middle names especially interesting.

Also fascinating was this one, about middle initials that don’t stand for anything, and middle initials/names that have been entirely made up: The Quick 10: People With Fake Middle Initials.

In Why Bother With a Middle Name? by the Name Lady, I liked this bit particularly:

In some cases, middle names can perform clear functions. Families with common surnames rely on them to help distinguish their children at school or on legal forms. Middle names can also serve religious roles, such as linking the child to a saint as a role model for a godly life.

For other families, the middle name is a chance to honor personal connections. Some use the middle name slot to pass on a family surname, or pay homage a relative or personal hero. Others use it to reflect their children’s cultural heritage. For instance, American families of Chinese ancestry may choose an English first name and a Chinese middle name for a child.

And then there’s simply style. A middle name can make the full composition sound elegant for formal occasions. It can be a place to play, to experiment with a more daring and unconventional choice than you’d choose for a first name, or send a kind of secret message to your child. And some parents just love names and don’t want to stop at only one!

In other words, middle names serve all of the many, many roles that names in general serve, except identification. If you don’t value any of those roles, you can skip the middle name altogether…but don’t expect your child to thank you for it. Necessary or not, middle names have become so standard in the United States that kids without them can feel slighted.”

The comments on this post provided some good insight as well.

I’m always super interested in personal experience, so I liked this from the Catholic Answers forums: Does your child not have a middle name?

This was not entirely on the topic I hoped for (only the first paragraph or so was about names), but I loved it anyway: What That Middle Initial In My Dad’s Name Could Mean. I can’t get it to load right now (?), but there was a fascinating bit about (if I remember correctly) the bishop’s dad’s middle initial being “H” but there being confusion over what it stood for. One document said Henry, another said Harry, and his baptismal certificate said Hieronymus, which is Latin for Jerome … so maybe his middle initial was actually J? Fascinating, and a lovely tribute to his dad.

I thought this was surprisingly well written for someone who’s not a name writer: What’s In a Name? It includes a list of “naming features that might cause confusion” given that “Most Americans have three names: given-middle-family (which are called “first-middle-last” ). This means most officials and and clerical information-takers in the United States expect clients, patients, and customers to follow this pattern. When internationals present their unique names, the Americans are flummoxed because there are standard boxes to fill in, but the names don’t cooperate. Additionally, sometimes American names can create problems.” He also provides a list of do’s and don’t’s regarding others’ names, which I thought was quite good.

This is for more of a chuckle at the question asked than for the information provided: Do Catholic people have middle names? I think the asker was totally genuine and unsure, but calling us “Catholic people” and wording the question as “do they have to go through confirmation or something to get one? I don’t think they have middle names on their birth certificates” suggested a somewhat benevolent kind of other-ness about us that’s not something I usually find being assigned to me. (I mean, I often [almost always?] feel different from those I interact with because of my faith [likely a lot of you too, right?], but not in the way this article made me feel — almost like we’re a curiosity.) The answers are fine, and the one about Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox naming practices was quite interesting. (It would be great for the asker to stumble upon our little community here — she’d learn everything she’s ever wanted to know about Catholic naming practices! 😀 )

This was probably my favorite of all the articles I read: The power and peril of the middle name. It was both cheeky and informative, a really interesting read. It mentions the name “Gideon Oliver,” which I immediately fell in love with as an amazing combo (though I have zero knowledge of George Osborne, the Brit politician/current First Secretary of State who was named Gideon Oliver Osborne at birth, so perhaps it would be unwise to give a child his exact original first and middle names without researching what kind of man/politician he is? Just in case). (Nicknamey me also immediately went to the possibility of “Geo” as a nickname for “Gideon Oliver” … love it!) And whatever you think of our President, this quote attributed to him made me laugh out loud:

I got my first name from my father, and I got my middle name from someone who obviously didn’t think I’d ever run for president.”

(Barack Hussein Obama, in case you couldn’t remember his middle name.)

Finally, if any of you hold any sway with the SSA, can you please request that they start keeping track of middle names?? I think they’d be at least as revealing as first names, if not even more so, and likely a more diverse list as well.

This has been an interesting subject to research and learn more about this week! Please feel free to continue adding your stories/experiences, I love reading them all!