Baby name consultant: Saintly mid-century name needed for Baby #3, a girl

Frances and her husband are expecting their third baby, a girl! Their other two children are:


Great, solid, saintly names! She writes,

I like that the names we’ve chosen so far are unambiguously Catholic, classic, well-known saint names that are rarely used today. I love when I get comments like, “Oh, you never hear that anymore!” We’ve noticed that we tend to favor names that peaked half a century ago and are no longer popular.

If it had been a boy, our top contender was Gregory. I also really liked the name Joachim while my husband thought it was too unusual. We both liked Joseph but I’d rather not pick a name that’s in the top 100.”

Did you all catch that? Frances likes Joachim! My life is complete! 🙂

But since we’re having a girl …”

Names that they like but can’t use for various reasons include:


All of which are such a bummer, because they feel exactly right, don’t they?

We’ve talked about permutations of Mary (e.g., Marian, Marianne, Miriam, etc) but are sort of on the fence about them … I’m less interested in names like Seraphina or Evangelina, which although beautiful, aren’t associated with a well-known patron saint and also feel a bit too modern to my ears. I don’t want to have to search too hard to find the saint that goes with the name … So I’d love to get your perspective! Am I overlooking the perfect saint? What would you suggest given our parameters and the names of our other children?

This was fun to work on, it’s not often I get to dig deep into the mid-century names!

Regarding Margaret, I wonder if Frances and her husband have considered any of its variations? Greta is my favorite, though Gretchen is cute too. (I actually really like Gretel, which could even be a nickname for Margaret or a pet name for Greta, but I’m thinking the fairy tale association might be too overwhelming?) They have the benefit of really getting away from the sound of Margaret … but it’s probably the sound of Margaret that they really like! I’ve always been intrigued by Marguerite as well, though I think that might be too close to the sound of Margaret. Or Magdalene? Margaret’s peak of popularity was in 1916, and Magdalene peaked in the 19-teens as well. I almost included Martha in my suggestions below, but I thought the Mar- made it too close to the sound of Margaret, but I wanted to mention it here anyway.

Regarding Mary names, I wonder if they’ve considered Maria? It peaked in 1966 and was #115 last year. It’s such a lovely, feminine name. Or is it too close to family member Marie’s name?

In coming up with other suggestions for this little baby girl, I really focused on names that were most popular in the 50’s and 60’s and that were out of the top 100 last year, and that were obviously saintly, and I came up with five that I thought struck me as just perfect:

(1) Jane
Jane peaked in 1945 and was #945 last year. It could honor a John (and there are so many awesome Sts. John!), or it could be for St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who was a close friend of St. Francis de Sales and started the Order of the Visitation of Our Lady. I’ve always liked Jane, its simplicity and elegance is so appealing.

(2) Monica
I think Monica is actually my favorite suggestion for this family. I love it as a sister to Theresa and Paul, and St. Monica is just an awesome saint. It peaked in 1973 and was #538 last year. (Readers: Do you think Monica has too much Friends association? Someone suggested recently that it does, which surprised me.)

(3) Regina
I spotlighted Regina just the other day, and I think it would be really great for Frances’ little Miss. I don’t hear any little Reginas these days! Of course it’s a beautiful Marian name, very traditional and classicly Catholic. It peaked in 1964 and was #525 last year.

(4) Angela
Angela peaked in 1975 and was #191 last year. I feel like it’s the “old” version of Seraphina, where parents who liked the connection to the angels back in the day would have used Angela or similar, where today they might lean more towards Seraphina. Angela could also be Marian, as in the title Our Lady of the Angels, or there’s St. Angela Merici and St. Angela de la Cruz (the latter was canonized by St. John Paul II).

(5) Bridget
After several years of climbing in popularity, Bridget peaked at #112 in 1973 before dropping off pretty drastically, so I think its popularity arc is pretty close to what Frances and her husband like. Bridget’s definitely saintly, with either St. Bridget of Sweden or St. Brigid of Ireland (also known as “Mary of the Gael”) as patrons.

There were two other names that didn’t make my final cut but I wanted to list them quickly anyway, just in case: Patricia and Deirdre. (Patricia didn’t make my final cut because it begins with a P like Paul, though I think it would be a great fit otherwise, and the same-first-initial thing is a small quibble; Deirdre had the right feel and popularity arc, but I thought it was probably just too Irish.)

So those are my ideas! What do you all think? What would you suggest for the baby sister of Theresa and Paul?

Frances also specifically asked if I could ask you all to pray for her and her unborn baby, as well as for her husband and other children. I know you will. ❤ St. Anne, please pray for Frances and her family!

113 thoughts on “Baby name consultant: Saintly mid-century name needed for Baby #3, a girl

  1. What immediately popped into my head when I read Theresa and Paul (which btw I’m obsessed with, vaguely dated names seem to be my favorite) was Rosemary. Every time I tell people I love Rosemary, they’re like “what? really? that’s dated!” Rosemary peaked
    mid-century like Theresa and Paul, and it’s gorgeously Marian. To me, it’s also undeniably Catholic.

    Bridget is another one of my favorite names, so I was happy to see you suggested it!

    Another name that came to mind the more I thought about this was Christina. It’s a little bit more recently popular (1970s and 1980s) but I still think it’s really cute!!

    You suggest Jane, but what about Joan? I love both, and the nicknames Janie and Joanie are really cute. I like with Joan the St. Joan of Arc connection.

    Two more that came to mind were Sylvia and Miriam.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Ooh, this is pretty much my favorite category. As a name hobbyist I find that the fresh, trendy names lose ther sparkle to me very quickly, and I’m drawn to the quiet, underused, slightly dated classics. I think they’re so sweet on little children, too. And since I have a little Martha (named after a Marta, and all related to a Margaret) I put another plug in for Martha!!! Therese will very likely be a second daughter’s name, too. I’m sad that Rita won’t work for you, since that’s one of my favorites, and definitely underused of late. But Kate has given you so many great suggestions here. I love Joan as suggested by Grace, too! I’d say learn more about the saints behind these names and maybe you’ll be drawn to one for your child’s patron. Prayers for you all!!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. How about Agnes? Short and very Catholic. Hardly ever used. We have a Caecilia and an Anastasia and will probably stick with the Canon, and use Agnes if we have another girl.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A friend of mine recently named her daughter Edith, after Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). It’s a beautiful, classic name and not high in popularity at all (627 in 2014).

    Continuing with that theme, another strong Catholic name is Benedicta, and it’s not even in the top 1000!

    Another thought I had was Veronica, which was ranked 375 in 2014.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. New commenter here and I’m so happy to find a Catholic baby name site! My husband and I dearly hope to have children of our own to name and if we are blessed with them, I’ll surely head back here for advice!

    Two names on my own list that I think would work for you are Helen and Irene. I know their popularity peaked earlier than the 50s and 60s, but a little Helen or Irene would definitely elicit the same responses as Theresa and Paul do.

    I love the suggestions of Joan, Martha, and Rosemary, too! So very sad that Rosemary doesn’t work with my own last name as it would otherwise be #1 on my list.

    Liked by 4 people

      • I will add that Cecilia was not a popular mid-century name at all. It has never been popular really (in the #200-300s mostly). And is currently slightly more popular than it has been in last 150 years. My mom’s name is Cecilia (born 1930s and on St. Cecilia’s feast day). She did not ever know another Cecilia growing up, or really even as an adult. Has run across more baby Cecilia’s in recent years through my (and my sister’s) friends.

        It is a great name though that has grown on me – terrific saint. I will be honest and say that I didn’t like it growing up as it was so different/unusual compared to my friends’ moms (Susan, Betty, Patricia, Ann, Diane, etc.)

        Liked by 5 people

      • Oh that’s funny … I didn’t look it up but it has a similar feel to me as the mid-century names so I assumed it was the same … but you’re right, according to the BNW it peaked in 1904 and it wasn’t much of a peak at that — pretty steady over the past century.


  6. Mid-century…that’s me. Mid-century names are so not popular names now. I just did a throw-back inventory to all my numerous cousins and grade school classmates to add some suggestions. If I knew at least a few and it is on the SSA top 100 mid-century, it will qualify. LOL

    So many of the names of that era are not female saint names, but might be OT or feminine forms of male saints. Many of the classic, actual female saints that are big from that era are on their can’t use list (Ann, Mary, Margaret, Catherine, Clare, Elizabeth – tons of the names from that era are variants of those names).

    So, from those suggested already Monica and Jane are favorites of mine and fit the criteria perfectly. I also like Joan, Angela, Martha, and Rosemary which were mentioned.

    Another great name, that to me is like Monica, is Helen. Very Catholic, classic, well known saint. In the top 20 until 1960 (peaked in 50’s). Now dropped to 400s.

    Less well known saints (or ones who were biggies but now are more downplayed) but are big mid-century and classic names: Dorothy/Doris, Barbara, Louise/Lois

    More obscure saints (which it doesn’t sound like Frances and husband at looking for) but are classic and mid-century: Irene, Denise, Patricia, Cynthia/Cinthia, Jeanne (which was mentioned – but I associate it with feminine of St. Patrick – and Denise and Irene fit as well as a feminine of male saint)

    Many popular mid-century girl names were Biblical (OT) or at least scriptural references, but not saints names, so don’t know if those would be considered: Deborah/Debra, Judith/Judy, Susanna/Suzanne/Susan, Sharon/Sherry, Gloria. These contrast in popularity with the OT names like Rebecca, Rachel, Sarah, Hannah which have retained a current popularity – and honestly I knew more Debbies, Susans, Judy’s, Sharons growing up than Rebeccas, Rachels, and Hannahs – seems those later names started coming back in the 80’s big time and are still popular. Which does that mean the time is now ripe for the Debbies, Susans, Judy’s, Sharons. Just met my first baby Judith/Judy a few months ago – have not heard one of those forever. Thought it was so sweet.

    Still thinking…

    Liked by 5 people

  7. How about Barbara? It’s almost ready for a comeback, and is a great patron! Apparently it’s even in the top 10 in central Europe:

    It’s definitely a great match with Theresa as well. Not that she needs one, but some nicknames (besides Barb) are: Babs, Bonnie, Bess, or even Bettie.

    I love the suggestions of Louise, Sylvia, Gloria, and Judith.

    There’s also Dolores, which is a lovely tribute to Our Lady of Sorrows. Tons of nickname potential there, too.

    Or a Mary-Something name! Very mid-century.
    Mary Rose
    Mary Frances
    Mary Margaret
    Mary Jane
    Mary Helen
    Mary Louise
    Mary Pat
    Mary Beth

    Liked by 3 people

  8. The first name I thought of was Jeanette. I know several women of my mom’s age range (note: mid-century) named Jeanette. It’s like Jane, but has a bit more flair like Theresa and would have a patron of St. John and St. Joan.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jeanette was most popular in the 30’s and 40s. I have two aunt Jeanettes, born in that time frame. Also an aunt Janice (1940s), cousin Jeanine (1950s), sister-in-law, Jeanne (1960s). Those variations on John were popular mid-century girl names and as Kate mentioned there are so many different St. Johns. And St. Jane Frances de Chantal is really Jeanne-Francoise. We also have a recent saint who is awesome – St. Jeanne Jugan (founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor, canonized in 2009).

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Just have to say that Paul and Theresa are probably my two favorite names ever! Paul is my oldest son and Theresa I’ve never gotten to use because my husband doesn’t care for it with our last name (and I suspect it’s not a favorite of his). I do think Mary would have been perfect, but if that’s eliminated I like the idea of Rosemary. Joan and Helen are also both great suggestions! I know Marie is out, but what about Annemarie?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. So many beautiful name suggestions. These are my very favorite kind of names. Would add Agatha. Like Theresa and Paul, it is one of those instantly recognizable names that are “unambiguously Catholic, classic, well-known saint names that are rarely used today.” It peaked in the 1900’s. I know some find it rather austere, but its meaning is anything but! It means ‘good, kind person’.

    In addition to the related and previously mentioned Jane, Joan, and Jeanne, would Frances consider my namesake Joanna/Johanna? I have the Biblical Saint Joanna in mind. Joanna peaked in the 1980’s and Johanna in the 1880’s.. Funny how a different name spelling that has the same pronounciation – in English, that is – can be popular during such different eras. I believe it’s one of those names that would get the comment of “Oh, you never hear that anymore!”. Yet like Paul and Theresa, it’s an easily recognizable, classic name, nothing too obscure or fussy.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Another vote for Agnes! My daughter Agnes is 5, and we meet them around town from time to time. All Catholic girls, with very different personalities, so the name seems versatile. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ee-aw-A-na (aw as in raw, with the w silent, and A as in far). I’m Greek, and it’s a very common girl’s name, but it’s highly difficult for non-Greek speakers to pronounce. They usually pronounce it yee-oh-AN-a, rounding and solidifying the vowels.

    Ioana is also a name in Romania, with a single n. But the various international variations of the original Hebrew name are far more English-friendly. I’ve never come across Iohanna; it’s really pretty! It seems like a hybrid of Greek and Hebrew, as the original Hebrew name contains an “h” or “y” sound at the beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What about Vivian? It peaked in about 1920, and while it is slowly growing in popularity again, I think it just barely entered the top 100 in 2014.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. None of my suggestions are original after reading the comments, but I was going to say Joan, Edith, and Agnes.

    I also love the suggestions of Barabara, Helen, and a Susan variant!

    Kate, I agree with you about Monica hitting just the right notes, and I also love, love Martha.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I’m on board for Ruth!

    Or Rebecca.

    And I think that Patrice or Patricia (Patty? Trixie?) would work well with the sibset, except that the “tric” is pretty close to Theresa.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. First off, I looooove Monica with this sibset. And I agree that Veronica also is a great fit. Unmistakably Catholic, great “big” Saints, and just lovely names.

    Also, a thought just popped into my head… What about Rose? St. Rose of Lima? Mary’s flower? The rosary? Not sure what era it ranks in, but I imagine its rankings aren’t that different from Helen. It has a nice vintage feel, and it’s rare to meet a baby Rose.

    I also love the ideas of Rosemary, Rosemarie (this has totally been on my list for my own babies), and Martha. Martha has really grown on my recently (as well as the Spanish Marta). Also, I once heard of a little girl named “Martha Rose,” – how lovely is that???

    Joan also seems to really hit the right notes. My favorite version of Helen is Helena or Elena, but those might feel too modern (although I often see St. Helena listed with that varient instead of “Helen.” But I think either is plenty recognizable). Irene is pretty amazing too.

    Another thought… Carol was popular then, and nowadays could be a tribute to JPII. But I am not sure it would scream “obviously Catholic.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Martha Rose is gorgeous!! I love the suggestion of “just” Rose too, for all the reasons you mentioned (fwiw, it peaked in the early 1900s). I think you’re right about Carol — perfect peak (1945), a great tribute to JP2, but not “obviously Catholic” … would Karol make a difference?


      • And what I love about the Martha Rose story (saw it on a naming forum) is that I think Martha was an honor name, and they intended to call her something like “Rosie.” But when she was born, the full “Martha Rose” just seemed right, and they started calling her that or occasionally just “Martha.” I love it when the name kind of chooses the child!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Getting back to Karol, since it is Pope St. John Paul’s feast day (in my time zone anyway).

        I was looking at usage/popularity stats on for Karol and Karole. The Karol variation existed alongside the significantly more popular Carol/Carole during it’s midcentury heyday. Carol was almost 200% more popular at peak, then both fell out of favor overall, but look at the blips in the stats in 2005 (the year JPII died). Karol reached its all time high of 315 (previous high for year was 257 in 1958). Following 2 years still elevated in comparison to previous 3 decades and Karole variation back on chart (5 baby girls) for first time in a dozen years. Then another jump in 2012 which was the year following his beatification. Wonder if this year, when stats are released, we will see a bump again since it is it would be a year following his canonization in Oct. 2014? Definitely reflects the John Paul II effect in Catholic naming.

        (I hope my screen shots upload…)

        Liked by 1 person

      • I loved seeing the jumps in popularity associated with him! I think I’m going to do an honor-names-for-JP2 post soon and I’ll add your screen shots in there, they’re really telling.


  17. This topic is fascinating – not that I love mid-century names – but they are very familiar and I am nostalgic, so have me thinking. So forgive me if I go on too much. I think this would make a great separate discussion/article.

    When Margaret, Mary, Ann, Elizabeth, Catherine, Marie and similar names aren’t included it doesn’t leave much that stands out as Catholic that fits the 50-60s peak. I was born in an era where there were far fewer female saint name options than male (there still are, but you all are just WAY more creative and look for symbolism and links to make it Catholic – and good ole JPII did do a lot to give us more female saint options). In our day, if we (Catholic girls) weren’t Margaret, Mary, Ann, Elizabeth, Catherine, Marie, Teresa, Barbara, Dorothy, Joan, Bernadette, or something OT biblical, then many had a feminine variant of a male saint. Carol, as mentioned, is that for any of the Charles saints (and there several). My mid-century peers in that category: Jacqueline (James), Sandra (Alexander), Denise (Denis), Andrea (Andrew), Patricia (Patrick), Jean/Jeanne, Janet/Jeanette, or Joanne (John), Paula (Paul), Julie/Jill (Julius), Vicki (Victor), Laura/Lori (Lawrence), Roberta (Robert), Michelle (Michael), Christine (Christopher) – though some have female saints, but less well known or downright obscure.

    Other highly popular names were variations of a female saint (but don’t seem on surface to be very Catholic), like Karen (C/Katherine), Betty (Elizabeth), Donna (Madonna). I do find it fascinating that so many of the full given names of the era are actually to us now, nicknames. Stacy, Tammy, Connie, Wendy, Nancy, Lisa, were far more common than Anastasia, Tamara, Constance, Gwendolyn, Ann/Hannah, Elizabeth. It is a defining characteristic of popular mid-century names — diminutives, nicknames, and variants as given name on birth certificate. So instead of giving a more traditional name and then going by the nickname which is popular today especially among readers of baby name blogs it seems, the shorter nickname was the given name. More so with girls than boys. And while boys were sometimes given a nickname as a given name (Bobby, Ricky, Danny) the full name was generally higher on the popularity charts than the variants mid-century (some exceptions like Larry more popular than Lawrence). Hey and since Frances didn’t need suggestions, we haven’t even touched on typical mid-century boys names: Scott, Jeff, Keith, Dennis, Dale

    Another thing I find intriguing, many of the names that are being recommended here which are so lovely, really are much older names – peaked a century ago, instead of half century. Those are the ones more people seem to be attracted to and are regaining appeal (Ruth, Edith, Dorothy, Louise, Vivian, Irene, Rose, Helen) or those that gained popularity midcentury but highest popularity later (70s-90s), (Monica, Veronica mentioned here).

    How come midcentury classic, Deborah/Debbie isn’t getting the lovin’…? LOL I don’t think real midcentury names are coming back too much yet. Maybe

    Liked by 1 person

    • My mother (born 1954) is Deborah/Debbie. I only know of one child my own children’s ages that is named Debbie! I think it really does still seem dated, like Sandy and Lisa. I think some names have to skip two or more generations for their general appeal to return…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, I think that’s exactly right — Laura Wattenberg (Baby Name Wizard) has written about this — I believe the idea is that our parents’ generation’s names are considered dated to us, and our grandparents’ generation’s names (and older) start to feel fresher. I actually quite like the full Deborah — nice and biblical, I love the h at the end — but it doesn’t seem quite time for a comeback … and when it does, I wonder if parents will prefer a different nickname? That’s a fun idea … maybe … Dorah?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Deborah “… and when it does, I wonder if parents will prefer a different nickname?”

        What about Bebe? I didn’t know it, but just saw that Deborah means “bee” in Hebrew. Also the most common nickname is Debbie, which ends in the “bee” sound. So I think the double BEE nickname works.

        [From babyNamesPedia]The name Bina is used as a translation of the Hebrew Devorah, from the Yiddish bine (“bee”).

        Liked by 1 person

    • Great points! I agree that we still are contending with the phenomenon of names “needing” to skip a generation to feel fresher. Yes, Deborah is a great example. I think it could be really sweet on a baby, but it does sound more dated. In thinking of my mom and aunts and uncles, the most popular female name by far is Mary (as discussed earlier). That could be very wearable on a baby today (but Mehta conflict with some of the criteria here).

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I guess the real question here is… Do the parents want to stick strictly to mid century names, or is a mid-century “feel” enough? Based on their current children’s names, I sense they like classics with a mid-century feel. Lisa or Sandy, while mid-century, might not fit their criteria?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s true … definitely saintly with a popularity peak about 50-75 years ago is how I read it … so Lisa and Sandy, though they have saintly roots, aren’t *saintly* like Theresa and Paul ….


    • Yes, I think there is a definite difference between mid-century classic and mid-century trendy which were more of the nicknamey type names. I do think mid-century trendy is more of a defining feature of that era. If you hear those names (Lisa, Sandy, Tammy, Debbie, Susan, Sherry, Linda, Nancy) you pretty much link to that time frame. Whereas the traditional ones currently can transcend the eras more easily.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. To clarify, I don’t think Debbie, Sandy, Lisa are the style this couple are looking for. Those have been thrown out more for curiosity sake – as they are very particular to that era. Which is why I am interested in discussing them in general and their Catholic connection (separate post? hint, hint) rather than actually suggesting them.

    Coming from that era, I just know that when you remove Mary, Marie, Catherine, Margaret, Elizabeth, Ann you don’t have so much to work with. Those names and their variations made up a considerable chunk of Catholic-y names.

    So back to specific suggestions for this family, I have been thinking a lot. Catherine is out but is Kathleen an option? It is clearly still saintly and is a VERY mid-century variation (at its peak between 1940 and 1975). It was popular until the Caitlin/Katelyn variations took over as a go to name in the 1980s onward.

    Also Bernadette. It is very Catholic. It was never extremely popular overall (only briefly under #200) but its peak was mid-century. It is one of those names that defined you as Catholic in that era – as rarely would it have been bestowed on a non-Catholic girl. It is hardly used now – and still pretty much means you are Catholic…lol

    So, my suggestions/preferences that are distinctly mid-century classic and saintly in the style of Theresa and Paul: Barbara, Judith, Kathleen, Bernadette, Angela, Jane, or Joan. Or if combo names are okay even though it would incorporate names they can’t use (separately?): Rosemary/Rosemarie, Annmarie, Roseann/Roseanne, Marianne. Also Sharon and Regina which are Catholic but not saintly, per se.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I can’t wait to see what this family’s final choice will be! I’m still mulling their puzzle over in my mind now and then. My latest two ideas are:
    -Virginia (after Our Lady, of course), And
    -Gloria (after the song of the angels at the Nativity, and that we sing at the Resurrection)

    Liked by 4 people

  21. That’s funny that you are still thinking about this family – me too! Both of those are great options. I had mentioned Gloria as well, since I had several Glorias as classmates. Classic mid-century and has those great Catholic connections you mention.

    I have a great story from this weekend. I went to a museum exhibit of throwback toys (50’s, 60’s, & 70’s) – so much fun and nostalgia. Anyway there was this young mom and a little girl about 2 or so there also. She kept calling after the little girl when she would wander off or get into something – “Barbara” “Barbie”. She was generally right ahead of me at several exhibits so at one point I commented to the mom about what a great name that was and is was so fitting to see it in use again and that is was nostalgic like the mid-century toys on display. She told me her other daughter is Linda. How great is that – so very mid-century throwback. She obviously was into that naming style. Very cute.

    Liked by 2 people

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