Saintly names

In light of the announcement of Kim and Kanye’s baby boy’s name (Saint), which has sent the internets into a capital-T-tizzy, thought I’d reblog the post I’d done on the name Saint over a year ago.

As I commented on Twitter, I think the selection of Saint is evidence of a yearning for holiness, which is a wonderful gift to give one’s child. 😇

Sancta Nomina

I just read the birth announcements of Saint Lazslo (born August 20), son of Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz, and Ophelia Saint (born August 1), daughter of Foo Fighters rocker Dave Grohl.

I was struck by the use of “Saint” in both names (and especially as a first name) — I’ve never known that word to be used as a given name in English (and I admit I’m a little surprised to see it being used by celebrities who, as far as I know, have not been loud and proud about any religious affiliation. Never mind that “Saint” is a pretty Catholic term — I have heard non-Catholic Christians refer to all of faithful Christendom as saints, but at least in my experience it’s generally more heavily weighted toward Catholic). However, there are common names in other languages that translate as “Saint” or “holy” (which is what “saint” means):

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Baby name consultant: A little green bean to join a solid, saintly set

Jessica and her husband are expecting their fourth baby, a little green bean (=gender unknown)! Their other children are:

Stephen Joseph
Paul James
Theresa Rose

You can’t get much more solid than those names! Beautiful!

Jessica writes,

I love reading your baby name ideas, and now I’m in need of some help myself … My husband really likes Brady for a boy’s name because that is his mom’s maiden name [but] I don’t think it matches our other names. For boys, I like Leo and Dominic. Samuel is a possibility, but I don’t like Sam or Sammy. For girls, I like Gianna, Lucy, Cecilia, Elizabeth (for middle name). Madeline Sophia is a name I’ve always liked, after St. Madeline Sophie Barat … My dad is Kenneth, but I haven’t figured out a first name I like with it to use it as a middle name … [Also] My husband’s mom’s family is Irish.”

Names that can’t be used include:


Alrighty, first off, my thoughts about their current list:

I was most intrigued by Brady — I totally get how Jessica’s husband feels (it’s SUCH a cool thing to have a family surname that can work as a first name, especially one as important as a mom’s maiden name), but I also totally get how Jessica herself feels — Brady as a first name is a very different style than Stephen, Paul, and Theresa. If both Jessica and her husband liked it and were on board with it, then who cares, but since Jessica doesn’t like that it’s so different in style, my favorite thing to do in situations like this is find a compromise that both parents can live with. Like:

  • Brady as a middle name. I think this is the most likely possibility, and works for either a boy or a girl.
  • Brady as a nickname (even just as a family nickname/just used at home), perhaps by mashing up first and middle names that are better style matches for their other kids’ names than Brady is. Like: Brendan Henry, Ambrose David, or Brian Andrew. Each of these first+middle combos has a strong Br- in the first name and a middle name that could make Brady as a mashup nickname make sense, and I think Brendan, Ambrose, and Brian all fit the style of their other kiddos’ names better than Brady. (I know David’s on their no-go list, I only included it with Ambrose as an example.) (Ooh, maybe Ambrose Edward?) (Fun coincidence [or not?? 😉 ] — today’s the feast of St. Ambrose!)

The second thing I particularly noticed was that Jessica would like to use her dad’s name, Kenneth, somehow, but she’s struggled to find a first name that works with Kenneth as a middle. I know two guys named Kenneth Brian, which I think is a handsome first-middle combo, so I thought I might suggest that as a possibility, as both Kenneth and Brian fit the feel of the other kids’ names well I think. Otherwise, I think some of my suggestions below might work as first names that can take Kenneth as a middle.

I love Leo and Dominic, as well as Samuel (though I do think Sam and Sammy are somewhat inevitable, more so perhaps than with other boys’ names — there’s just something about Sam/Sammy that everyone loves! That said though, if they’re firm and consistent and immediate about correcting people, it might work.)

Their girl’s list is gorgeous, I love all the names on it. Madeleine Sophie is a favorite combo of mind as well, gorgeous! (If they decide to use this combo, Sophie the Giraffe would be a perfect toy for her, as it was named after St. Madeleine Sophie Barat!)

I do of course have some other suggestions for Jessica and her hubs based on the names they’ve already used for their other little ones and the names that are on their current list:

(1) Catherine
One of the first things I almost always do when starting a consultation is look up all the names (already used and on the list of possibilities) in the Baby Name Wizard book, as it has the awesome feature of listing, for each entry, boy and girl names that match the entry in terms of style/feel/popularity. Once I make a list of all those names, I look for overlap — names that are listed as similar to more than one of the names the parents like. Catherine was the big winner for Jessica and her hubs, showing up in one spelling or another in the lists for Joseph, Paul, James, Theresa, Cecilia, and Elizabeth. (The Catherine spelling was the most common for them, like St. Catherine of Siena, followed by Katherine and Kathryn; there’s also Katharine, like St. Katharine Drexel.) It’s a great name (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Katherine! 😀 ), and it has a bunch of great nicknames: K/Cate (which I go by exclusively), K/Catie, K/Cat, K/Cathy, Kay, even Casey. I thought Brady went particularly well as a middle for the super saintly Catherine (and, because I love to think about things like this, Catherine Brady would make sense of the spelling Cady, which I love!). (Jessica and her husband should, of course, just ignore me with the nickname/mashup thing if they think it’s/I’m crazy! Haha!)

(2) Sarah
I was surprised that Sarah was such a big hit for them, but it really was, listed as similar to Joseph, James, Samuel, Lucy (in the form of its traditional nickname Sadie), and Elizabeth. Sarah is a beautiful name with an awesome biblical namesake and enviable meaning (“princess”). I know a Sarah Elizabeth, which I’ve always thought was a pretty combo. Sarah-Lucy is striking me as an unexpected and appealing double name, if they’re into that kind of thing. Or Sarah-Kate. I really like Sarah Brady too, as a first+middle combo. I don’t know if they care about repeating initials, but it’s funny — I purposely didn’t put Thomas on the boy list, even though I thought it was a great match for them, because they already have a Theresa, who’s the next child up from this baby, and not only were the sounds the same and the initial, but with the first two letters of both names being the same (Th-) it seemed a little much. But I don’t mind Sarah as a sister to Stephen, probably because St- strikes me almost as an entire letter of its own, different from just S- (I know, my namey brain is weirdly wired!). Also because there would be two children between them.

(3) Rebecca (nicked Ruby?)
I’m worried that Jessica and her husband may be tiring of my love for nicknames (!) but this is the last one I’ll do for the girls, promise! 🙂 (I just like to make sure they have lots of options and ideas.) Rebecca was already a style match for this family through Stephen, Joseph, and Samuel, and then I saw that Ruby was matched up with Rose, Leo, and Lucy, and it reminded me that I know of a little Rebecca who goes by Ruby — when I first heard that, I thought I would die of name happiness! Even if Jessica and her hubs don’t care for Ruby as a nickname for Rebecca, or at all, I still think Rebecca is nice for them — it has a similar feel to me as Sarah, and it’s a substantial name that grows well from girlhood to womanhood.

(4) Anne or Anna
The BNW says Anna’s a better match for them, and I do love it, but I’m kinda feeling that Anne might be more their speed. I love Anne (Anne of Green Gables! And dear St. Anne, who’s the patroness of the blog), it’s solid and substantial, and even sophisticated in its simplicity. The only downfall with either Anne or Anna is that I think it would make Gianna unusable if they wanted to consider it for a future daughter. I’m loving the idea of Anne Cecilia, pretty! Or Anne Lucia (instead of Lucy)? (Or maybe they don’t want to use their first name possibilities as middles? I understand that — I’m the same way. I have very distinct first name and middle name lists.)

(5) Gemma or Veronica
Despite my heavy reliance on the BNW to make sure I’m on the right track style-wise, Gemma and Veronica were inspired by a friend of mine, who has what I think is similar taste to Jessica and her husband. Veronica especially has a similar popularity arc to Stephen, Paul, and Theresa, and is a gorgeous and really saintly name. I’ve always loved Gemma, beautiful name and great patron for a girl. I also like that it’s like the more familiar/mainstream Jenna, but not. (Like with Anne/Anna I think Gemma would disqualify Gianna for any future daughters.)

(1) Gregory
Gregory was well represented in the BNW for this family, with a popularity profile similar to Stephen, Paul, and Theresa. Its saintliness and manliness is impeccable as well, being a Pope St. the Great like Leo. As the BNW puts it (I love this!): “Popes, saints, and Gregory Peck! Can a name get any more distinguished?” It would absolutely be my tippity top suggestion for this family — the ONLY thing holding me back from unreservedly putting my #1 stamp of approval on it is that it can’t take the middle name Brady. (Well, I guess it can, if they were okay with Greg Brady jokes I do quite like Gregory Kenneth. So handsome!

(2) Patrick
Patrick pretty much ties with Gregory in my estimation. I really love it for this family, for a couple of reasons: It’s similar in style/feel/popularity to the other kids’ names (saintly, mid-century peak of popularity); it’s Irish, which is a nice nod to Jessica’s husband’s family; and it takes the middle name Brady really well. Patrick Brady is a really swoony combo!

(3) Martin
Martin was a style match for Stephen, Paul, and Theresa, and St. Martin de Porres is one of my personal favorites, so it seemed an ideal suggestion for this family. I also love the nickname Marty, but the full Martin is very handsome. Martin Brady sounds great imo.

(4) Henry
As I’ve posted about before, I love Henry, it’s such a sweet name for a little guy, and totally fits a man as well, and when I saw it listed as similar to Rose, Samuel, Lucy, and Cecilia, I was excited to suggest it for Jessica and her husband. I don’t love the rhythm of Henry Brady; I don’t mind Henry Kenneth or Henry Dominic; I really like Henry Patrick.

(5) Anthony or Vincent
Anthony and Vincent are super solid, super saintly names. Jessica and her husband’s ideas of Dominic and Gianna reminded me of them both, because, like Dominic and even more so Gianna, they can have an Italian feel, but within a Catholic family with saint-named sibs, ethnicity melts away and they can work for anyone. Like Stephen, Paul, and Theresa, they’re timeless, but also not currently popular. I think either one could be a great fit for this family. I like Vincent Brady and Vincent Kenneth; I don’t think Anthony Brady works as well, but I like Anthony Kenneth a lot.

So those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little brother or sister of Stephen, Paul, and Theresa?

A baby needs our prayers

One of our faithful readers, Sarah, is worried about the health and safety of her little one, with whom she’s only a few weeks along. She’s particularly interested in St. Jude as an intercessor, since he’s the patron of impossible causes; St. Rita is as well, and has been a powerful intercessor in circumstances I’m privy to; and of course, our dear St. Anne is special to us and I believe we are special to her. Please pray for Sarah and her baby!

Spotlight on: Jude

Laura recently asked for a spotlight on the name Jude, one of my favorites and I know a lot of you love it, too.

I had a sense that Jude is one of those “new” Catholicky Catholic names, in that it wasn’t used too much until recently, and I looked it up on the SSA site and lo, I was right:



Pretty crazy popularity chart, right? Like, what’s the spike between 1955 (#954) and 1957 (#799), especially since it didn’t even make the top 1000 in 1956? Why did it decrease so much from 1977 to 1978? Why the huge jump from 1999 to 2000? I’m not going to research all that — I might be at the computer all day! — but I suspect the 1999-2000 jump is likely due to actor Jude Law, and the Beatles’ Hey Jude was released in 1968, which corresponds to a jump up. Thomas Hardy also wrote the novel Jude the Obscure in 1895, and a movie of it was released in 1996. (Did anyone see it? It’s completely unfamiliar to me.)

But for us, as I wrote here, Jude is the apostle Jude Thaddeus, the saint of desperate situations and impossible causes, hospitals, and hospital workers (all of which fits right in with the related but also separate association of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which was a direct result of a prayer to St. Jude by Danny Thomas). gives this snippet about St. Jude:

Son of Cleophas, who died a martyr, and Mary who stood at the foot of the Cross, and who annointed Christ’s body after death. Brother of Saint James the Lesser. Nephew of Mary and Joseph; blood relative of Jesus Christ, and reported to look a lot like him. May have been a fisherman. Apostle.

Wrote the canonical Epistle named for him. Preached in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia with Saint Simon. Healer. Exorcist. Could exorcise pagan idols, which caused the demons to flee and the statues to crumble.”

(Kind of sounds like he’s the perfect guy to turn to right now, no? Impossible causes and desperate situations … preached in Syria … exorcist …)

I hadn’t remembered that he was the brother of James — kind of cool for a family with a James to consider using Jude for another boy. I kind of love that it’s at a real peak of popularity right now too, because I feel like it’s one of those names that might have been considered … soft … for a boy not too long ago, but there are a decent amount of little boy Judes right now, so I think it’s a good time for Jude.

I really like the Baby Name Wizard entry for it too, saying it has “a pioneer style and a strong religious heritage that gives it impressive gravity. It also has a simple sound that keeps it unpretentious. The one other choice with that that same style combo is Luke, which has been a steady hit for decades. Jude is a less common alternative that is finally realizing its breakout potential.” I like that: Jude is the Luke less traveled.

A small mention should be given to the fact that Jude has some usage among girls. Martha Stewart’s granddaughter is Jude, one of Bridget Jones’ inner circle (female) is Jude, and it’s not uncommon as a nickname for Judith, though Judith is at an all time low, hovering right near the 1000 mark. Jude as a given name for girls isn’t even on the charts, so it’s a very small consideration. I would imagine that parents of boy Judes would want to avoid the possibility of it turning into Judy, but I don’t think Judy would be a huge deal, since itself is not common for girls these days anyway.

Jude can also be used as a nickname for Julian — I’ve seen it done so, and I suspect it’s because the Hey Jude song was originally Hey Jules, written for Julian Lennon when his parents split up.

What do you all think of Jude? Would you name your son Jude, or have you? Do the little Judes you know like their name? If you love the saint and would love to name a boy after him, do you prefer Jude or Thaddeus?

More about names from Billie Letts

I posted a little the other day from Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts, and there’s another passage from it that I thought you’d all enjoy:

“… Two months had passed since Willy Jack had dumped her — and she had done nothing. She hadn’t looked for a place to live, hadn’t figured out how to make a living. She hadn’t even picked out a name for her baby.

Then she remembered a list of names she had started on the day she and Willy Jack left Tellico Plains. She pulled the spiral notebook out of her beach bag and flipped to the back. The list was still there — one page for girls, one for boys. Felicia, Brook, Ashley. Novalee made a face as she read them. Rafe, Thorne, Hutch, Sloan. Names she had taken from soap operas. Blain, Asa, Dimitri. Moses Whitecotton had told her to find a strong name, but the names on her list weren’t strong. They just sounded silly.”

(Also: Willy Jack. Fantastic name for his mostly despicable character.)

(I have a hard time hating the name Novalee though, I love the character too much.)

A birth story, and the importance of giving your baby a good name

Mandi at A Blog About Miscarriage has just posted the most wonderful birth story! Her little David is one of our own — I was honored to do a consultation for her while she was pregnant, and to offer nickname ideas for the little man once he arrived — and his birth story is amazing. Suffice it to say, I now know how the mess from a car birth is cleaned up! 😮 I’m also so moved by the healing God allowed Mandi to experience through David’s birth. He is so good, and knows exactly what we need. ❤

Speaking of births, I read Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts over the Thanksgiving weekend, and loved this bit about baby naming:


“Name’s important,” [Moses] said. “Keeps track of who you are.”

“I guess so.”

“That’s right. Name’s an important thing. You picked a name for your baby yet?”

“Not, but I got some I’m thinking about.”

“Well, take your time. Can’t rush a thing like that. Name’s too important to hurry.”

“You know,” she said as she popped the Life Saver into her mouth. “I’ve been thinking about Wendi, with an i, or maybe Candy, if it’s a girl.”

“Get your baby a name that means something. A sturdy name. Strong name. Name that’s gonna withstand a lot of bad times. A lot of hurt.”

I know we all totally get it. The names of our faith absolutely help us know who to turn to in the bad times.

I hope Advent has started in a wonderful and blessed way for you all!