Jaclyn and her husband are expecting their fourth baby, a little girl! She’ll join big siblings:
Which is just such a lovely, elegant set. ((sighing with happiness))
“We have really had a reawakening and increased love for our faith in the last few years, so it’s important to us that that name is a saint (or derivative) or otherwise Catholic in nature…we want someone to hear her name and just know she’s Catholic
We are currently considering Lucia/Lucy, Clare, Gianna, and Azelie/Zelie (though we really want your input on how a Midwestern American would say the name!)
We have always liked Madeline, Eleanor, and Cora as well but they didn’t feel “Catholic” enough. We liked Cecilia but ruled it out as baby has a cousin named that.”
First off, I think Jaclyn’s kiddos’ names are full of faith-y significance! And they’re very consistent style-wise, as are Madeline, Eleanor, and Cora. I’m interested that they don’t think they’re “Catholic” enough — I do know what she means I think, and I have some super duper Catholicky Catholic suggestions below — but at the same time they all can hold their own in the world of saint names: St. Madeleine Sophie Barat is amazing; Eleanor is often given as a form of Helen(a), and St. Helena is wonderful; I’ve seen Cora used recently in reference to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (see the comments on this post especially) — all heavy hitters!
But there are definitely names that are clearly, obviously Catholic to most people. I love how Jaclyn said, “we want someone to hear her name and just know she’s Catholic” — a beautiful hope! I guess there will always be someone who just isn’t familiar enough with Catholicism and its names to get right away that their daughter’s name is a Catholic name, but some that I think are pretty universally known include:
- Therese, Theresa, Teresa (especially Therese, I think, but they’re all great)
- Maria, Marie
- Mary+[something] (Mary doubles tend to come across as nun-like, which I love)
- Rosary (there was a baby on the blog last spring named Rosary and I LOVE it!)
- Rosemary, Rosemarie
- Immaculata, Immaculee
Others that definitely ARE very Catholic, and almost exclusively so, but might be less likely than those listed above to come across that way, just because of having other associations as well or being unfamiliar, include:
- Lucy, Lucia
- Vianney (the Lourdes mentioned above has sisters Clairvaux and Vianney!)
- Karoline (that “K” points right to St. John Paul II)
- Ava when paired with Maria as the middle name or as a double first name — like “Ave Maria”
- Azelie, Zelie (I don’t think anyone else is using these but Catholics, but they’re so unfamiliar that I don’t think enough people know where this comes from)
- Perpetua (I’ve seen Pia and Pippa as nicknames for this, so sweet!)
- Frances, Francesca
And then certainly there are a million other names that have saintly connections, but are so widely used by Catholics and non-Catholics that they don’t have an exclusively Catholic feel. Some people love that they just get to choose their favorite names and not worry that they’re saintly because so many (most?) names that Americans use today can trace back to a saint somehow. But when you want an obviously Catholicky Catholic name, I think a name from the lists above are your best bet.
So the names this family is considering — Clare, Lucy/Lucia, Gianna, and Azelie/Zelie — are all ones I’d consider to have that really Catholic feel they want. Clara/Clare and Lucy/Lucia are especially really similar to other names they like, style-wise.
As for their question regarding the pronunciation of Zelie, I’m guessing the pronunciation zellie, like rhyming with Kelly, would be their best bet. The Lourdes, Vianney, and Clairvaux sisters I mentioned above also have a sister named Zellie, spelled that way, which makes their pronunciation really obvious — maybe that would help? I have seen other pronunciations for it too, which I wrote about here.
It was fun to put together the lists above of names that are likely to be recognized as belonging to a Catholic girl, but of course I’m sure they don’t all fit the particular taste and style of this family. So I went through the Baby Name Wizard, as I almost always do for consultations, and looked up all the names they’ve used and liked, looking for patterns and overlap, and thought these names (which are included in the lists above) are the closest fit:
(1) Grace (or Mary Grace)
Grace seems a great fit for Jaclyn and her husband! It’s similar in style to their other kids’ names, and has such beautiful meanings, from the grace of God to Our Lady of Grace. Lovely! I especially like that I consider Lillian and Olivia to be Marian names (lilies are associated with her, and another of her titles is Our Lady of Olives), and Grace would fit right in with that. It is quite popular though, which they may not like, as the more popular a name the less any one association sticks to it, so I wondered if they might like Mary Grace? They could still call her just Grace, or Gracie, but the full Mary Grace definitely has Catholic cachet.
(2) Mary, or Mary+, or Maria
Mary on its own is being used less and less these days, which makes it kind of a bold yet very traditional and very Catholic choice. Mary could take Molly as a nickname, as Molly started out as a nickname for Mary, as did Polly; the nickname Mae would be sweet too — I’m offering all of these in case Jaclyn and her hubs like the idea of Mary as the first name but not as the everyday call name, if that makes sense.
Putting Mary in front of any names immediately “Catholicizes” it, I think, so I wondered if they’d consider something like Mary Madeline (reminds me of both Mary Margaret and Mary Magdalene, which are such traditional Catholic combos!), Mary Eleanor, Mary Cora … all so pretty! The middle names could be the call names, or both names all the time — it seems a good way to try to work in names they really like but want to be more heavy hitting faith-wise. Mary Elizabeth is another pretty combo, I know one who goes by M.E. (sounds like Emmy, so cute!). Sophia was a name that is really similar to a lot of names Jaclyn and her hubs like — maybe Mary Sophia? Maria Sophia? Which reminds me that Maria is a great option on its own, and Maria Teresa or Maria Therese would be really pretty too.
(3) Elizabeth, maybe nicknamed Zelie?
Another way of getting around the Zelie pronunciation issue is to use it as a nickname for a more common name. It’s kind of a crazy idea! But I did a consultation for blogger Jenny Uebbing a few months ago, and one of her readers suggested Elizabeth with the nickname Zelie, which incidentally I had just thought of myself before even reading it and thought was brilliant, and a reader here recently reminded me of it as well.
Even just Elizabeth on its own would be a lovely choice (or as Mary Elizabeth, as mentioned above) as it’s definitely saintly and Catholic — The Visitation is considered a really pro-life mystery, because of John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb for joy — so I always think of Elizabeth as a really pro-life and even Marian name, in a sense. But I know it’s been used so much that it might not come across as Catholic enough.
(4) Ava Maria
Ava showed up in my research quite a bit as a name that’s similar to others this family likes. On its own it’s certainly lovely, but pretty popular these days, and I think most people would think of Ava Gardner or other associations, but if it’s paired with Maria as a double first name, I think it’s really very Catholic sounding, as Ava Maria sounds so much like Ave Maria. It could even be hyphenated (Ava-Maria) or make it one name (Avamaria or AvaMaria).
Finally, I wondered what Jaclyn and her hubs would think of Magdalen(e)/Magdalyn/Magdalena? It’s the origin of Madeline/Madeleine/Madelyn — they’re all variants of Magdalen(e) — but I think I’m correct in thinking that Magdalen(e) et al. come across as extra Catholic. With Magdalen(e) (or whatever spelling) they could have the nickname Maggie, which is the kind of thing I love — a bolder, more offbeat given name with a more accessible, familiar nickname. (Since they’re thinking of Clare, I was also reminded of this little Clare Magdalene, which is a combo I love!)
And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for Lillian, Olivia, and Henry’s little sister?