Baby name consultant: Not-so-normal Catholic names

A mama wrote to me asking for suggestions for not-so-normal Catholic names. I don’t have permission to share her name or her children’s names, but I did want to share my response, and get any other suggestions from all of you.

(1) Last names as first names
I often see in name books certain saints’ last names used as girl’s first names, and often with the note/disclaimer “mostly used by Roman Catholic families” or similar, which I always think is cool. Some of these are: Liguori, Majella, Vianney, Clairvaux, and Piamarta (which I think translates as “holy Martha,” which is kind of cool). The associated saints for those are St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Gerard Majella, St. John Vianney, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. John Piamarta. I’ve referred to the blog My Child I Love You several times before because of their awesome taste in names — two of their girls are Vianney and Clairvaux, and they’d considered Talbot at one time as well, for Bl. Matt Talbot.

There are some saints’ last names that are used for boys, too. Xavier is a great example, although it’s not so unusual anymore. And I think you would want to be a little careful, because some (like those mentioned above) are used almost exclusively for girls, even though they’re male saints’ last names. Some good ones for boys might include: Kolbe (St. Maximilian Kolbe), Campion (St. Edmund Campion), Rice (Bl. Edmund Ignatius Rice), Bosco (St. John Bosco) (Grace just named her baby Bosco!), Jogues (St. Isaac Jogues, said in French like Joe with a G on the end, but in American English I’ve only ever heard it said like Joe with a “GZ” on the end).

There are a whole bunch more here, both in the post and in the comments.

(2) Marian apparition sites
Another kind of name I see used from time to time for girls is the names of places Mary appeared. Like: Lourdes, Liesse, Salette (from “La Salette”), Fatima, Guadalupe (actually used for both boys and girls). Liesse is a new discovery for me, and I’ve just been loving it.

(3) Words (feasts, adjectives, nouns) that give off a Catholic vibe
This sometimes works better within the context of siblings with Catholicky Catholic names, but consider, for girls: Vesper, Eden, Trinity, Pieta. And for boys: Roman, Paschal, Emmaus, Tiber, Creed, Boon. These came from this post (including the comments, nice suggestions offered).

(4) Catholic names from other languages
This would make them “not-so-normal” only from an American standpoint, but that can be good enough. Like, for girls: Belén (Spanish for Bethlehem), Zelie (French, for St. Therese’s mom, who will be canonized next month), Inessa (a Russian [I think?] form of Agnes), Pilar (from a Spanish title for Our Lady), Paloma (Spanish for “dove”), Brid (form of Bridget, said “breed”), Caoimhe/Keeva (just one example of the million unusually spelled Irish names). For boys: Cruz and …. I’m blanking on more! I keep thinking of Xavier, which just isn’t uncommon enough.

(4) Other
Then I just started going through The Catholic Baby Name Book and my own head, trying to find or remember unusual saints’ names I’ve heard, and came up with, for girls: Quiteria (I actually know a mom who was considering this for her daughter), Amata, Keziah/Cassia (biblical), Pia (though I think Piamarta works better because it doesn’t focus so much on the “pee” sound. So unfortunate, because Pia’s a sweet little name).

And for boys: Athan (like Ethan, but not — I believe he was a Welsh saint), Inigo/Eneco (St. Ignatius of Loyola’s birth name; also The Princess Bride!), Ephraim/Efrem (not terribly obscure, but rare), Ivo (more popular in England/Europe I think than here), Aaro (Finnish for Aaron), Eleazar (form of Lazarus).

What do you all think? What names can you add that fit the criteria of “not-so-normal Catholic names”?

52 thoughts on “Baby name consultant: Not-so-normal Catholic names

  1. Some other ideas:

    Avila, Delphine, Isidora, Paschale, Renata/Renate, Rose Philippine, Rose Lima, Rose Maria Benedetta, Sabina/Sabine, Salome

    Dermaid/Dermot, Desmond, Gilead, Irenaeus, Jarlath, John Charles, John Davy, Peregrine, Severin, Soter, I’ve been hearing Titus a LOT lately from a sophomore in high school who runs XC down to babies being named Titus, Urban (a pope and a saint and my 5yo son!), Yves, and one I’m keeping secret in case our baby is a boy because I’m pretty sure that’s our boy name 🙂

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  2. Oh! I forgot Constance which I love but don’t hear too often for kids? I really like virtue names in general. The other Marian names like Stella Maris are also really pretty!

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  3. I always think Roma for a girl is Catholic and unique, which is how you say Rome in Italian, and I think it’s beautiful.

    I know a Pia and have always though that it was beautiful.

    I think maybe it would be cool to look up where a favorite saint was from, and maybe that place name could work? Place names are so big right now, that not many are considered super weird but there are still a lot that are uncommon.

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  4. Falling under the foreign names category, there are a lot of really epic Scandinavian Catholic names. A lot of Scandinavian names are sort of ugly sounding to American ears (I don’t know if there are a lot of takers for Sigurd or Bogdis) but some are pretty awesome. Bjorn is one of my all-time fav boys’ names and is a form of Bernard. Also for boys: Gunnar (the Scandinavian form of Gunther), Magnus, Anders, Isak, Rasmus (so cool, right?), and Sander. For girls: Agneta, Elin, Katrin, Inga, Dagny (one of my classmates is named this; it means “new day.”), Ingrid, Thea…I just think they are such cool, kicky variations on the regular English versions.

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    • I love all of these! We very nearly gave our second son the middle name Gunnar (family name), and we’ve tossed around Rasmus/Erasmus as well (another family name). I also like Magnus, and Sander’s probably my fave of the Alexander versions/nicknames. I love Katrin too, and Dagny’s interesting! Thanks for this!

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  5. What do you think of Lisieux for a girl nicknamed Lise? Or Lisel if she had an “L” middle name, like Lisieux Lousia? I’ve been thinking about this for a while but haven’t received any positive feedback on it yet–it certainly is unusual but I think it’s beautiful! A way to name a child after St. Therese without having to use a variation of “Teresa!”

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  6. Our new neighbors are Greek Orthodox. The father is actually the priest at the local Orthodox church, which I think is neat. Some of the family names are unique and have lovely meanings.
    Marika: Greek nickname for Maria
    Kyriaki: The name means Day of the Lord. Kyriaki was a greek martyr. The girl in this family goes by Kiki.
    Demetrius (or Dimitri): Christian martyr of the 4th century. He’s one of the patrons of soldiers.

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  7. Place name ideas: We know a Cupertino – they call him Cooper.

    I have a neice born on August 20 named Claire. I know they didn’t do it purposefully or even know, but I think that is cool that is Bernard of Clairvaux’s feast day. Helps me remember.

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  8. I love Pia!! One of my friends has a daughter named Perpetua and she is nicked Pia. I also have a cousin and second cousin girls with the name Ravenna. The first is actually Ravenna Pia and she goes by Rae sometimes, and the younger goes by Renny.

    I love Caeli as a not-normal Catholic name. You could give the CH or the CK for beginning of Caeli; I know two girls with same name and different pronunciations. I think Regina is pretty out of the ordinary, too.

    For boys, I am leaning toward Basil, Lucca, Todd*, Jude, and Andrew. You just don’t hear many Andrew’s these days. Or am I wrong??

    *https://books.google.com/books?id=96u9tHR9-QC&pg=PA555&lpg=PA555&dq=St+Todd+catholic+saint&source=bl&ots=omIOFztseI&sig=i2Mi0fb1XagL4g0L4Jz2czpbegc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAmoVChMI74WwkrmLyAIVVy-ICh2pMQip#v=onepage&q=St%20Todd%20catholic%20saint&f=false

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  9. Two names I’ve only heard on this blog: Rosary and Cana.

    (Love, love, love Cana and would totally use it, if I didn’t have an Abel… Abel and Cana? No can do.)

    Otherwise I just pick names I love from “Still Dusty” type name lists, then Google it for a related saint. I’m always surprised. For example, I found patron saints for both Arthur and Lewis.

    And I love all the Marian links that Kate finds, so names like Pearl and Aurora on game-on, yay! An acquaintance even made Mabel into a Marian name by using it as a contraction for Mater Amabilis. So many options with that tactic.

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  10. Last names (or place names) as first names: Some I like that have been mentioned on the blog, but not in this post and figure should be mentioned here – Becket, Casey (St. Thomas Becket, Bl. Solanus Casey)

    What about these as possibilities? (boys) Newman, Stein, Drexel, Claver, Jansen, Kirby, Bing, Fisher, Kemble, Mason, (girls) Chanel, Cascia, Claret, Bessette, Garnet, Lacy/Lacey
    For Bl. John Henry Newman, St. Edith Stein, St. Katharine Drexel, St. Peter Claver, St. Arnold Janssen, St. Luke Kirby, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. John Fisher, St. John Kemble, Bl. John Mason, St. Peter Chanel, St. Rita of Cascia, St. Anthony Mary Claret, St. Andre Bessette, St. Thomas Garnet, Bl. William Lacy/Bl. Brian Lacey

    Words (feasts, adjectives, nouns) that give off a Catholic vibe: I have heard Ave, Kyrie, Pax

    What about these as possibilities? Fiat, Curia, Chrism, Memorare, Litany, Ember, Divina, Matin

    And what about Church Councils? Trent, Nicea

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