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.
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”?