Baby name consultant: Less common, meaningful name for third baby boy

Shannon, from the blog We, A Great Parade, and her husband are expecting their third baby and third son! This new baby boy will join big brothers:

Alyosha Daniel
Moses Emmanuel

Amazing, right? Handsome, unusual, and full of faith significance, love them. 👌

Shannon writes,

Our first son was adopted at 11 months old from Uganda … We chose Alyosha because of the main character in The Brothers Karamazov and also loved that it means “defender of mankind”. We chose Daniel because we wanted a solid, simple Biblical name to balance out the unusual first name. At the time we were Protestant, but now that we’re Catholic I like that his name is somewhat related to St. Aloysius.

Our second son (first biological baby) is named Moses Emmanuel … We chose Moses obviously because of the Biblical character but also because we just really liked the name. And I’ve kind of loosely made St. Moses the Black his patron 🙂 We chose Emmanuel because he was born during Advent.

So… we love names that are less commonly used but that also bear significance because of a person (even fictitious) that they represent. While we do love saints names, we couldn’t just pick a random one simply because we liked it. We would want the person to reflect a trait that is particularly dear to us, OR for the name meaning itself to do so.

We are devoted to the teachings of the Catholic Worker, so people like Dorothy Day or Peter Maurin are ones we have kept in mind in addition to saints. We’re trying to steer away from Biblical figures at this point since we already have a Daniel and a Moses. Additionally, since our oldest son is adopted and a different race than the rest of us, we ideally would like to avoid using the letter M in the first name … since that would subtly group together the biological boys and leave him out. That may be something we change our minds on, but is where we’re at right now.”

I really enjoyed thinking of Shannon’s three boys and her and her husband’s lovely desire that Alyosha not feel left out name-wise. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to learn more about Servant of God Dorothy Day, one of the four Americans Pope Francis mentioned in his Address to Congress in September, and Peter Maurin, neither of whom I’d known much about before Shannon’s email. All in all, this was a really great dilemma to work on!

Names that are currently on their list include:

Oliver (“I think it’s super cute, we love that it symbolizes peace, and my family is Irish so naming after St. Oliver would be a kind of homage to that… BUT we don’t know anything about him really.”)

Theodore (“Again a really cute name, great meaning (gracious gift), but again don’t know much about the saint“)

Brien (“only as a middle name… my maiden name is O’Brien and I’d like to pass it on“)

Maurin (“after Peter Maurin… we both love this one but we run into the problem with the M. Peter is just too common for our tastes. Any creative ideas for a nickname maybe?? We’ve also thought about Day for Dorothy Day, maybe too short and awkward though. Or Aristide which is Maurin’s first name, but my hubs says Aris is too weird“)

Basil (“my husband likes saint Basil, and favors this name, but I’m afraid it would come across as hipster to the majority of the world, along the lines of Sage, Juniper, Willow, etc“)

Tevye (“the Yiddish version of Tobias, another person we don’t actually know much about. My husband likes this one too but I’m not sold because it doesn’t mean anything special to me“)

Okay, a quick comment on some of the ideas on their current list before jumping into my ideas:

I love Oliver, and I totally agree that it’s super cute. St. Oliver Plunket is a great saint for a boy, especially an Irish boy, and one of the things I’ve learned about him recently is that he wrote about Divine Mercy — what a meaningful tidbit for a baby born during this Jubilee Year of Mercy!

Theodore’s a great name too, but it feels a little tame for this family’s taste. I could see them liking the variant Fyodor more, but is that too much Karamazov Bros.? At the same time it could be really great — Moses and the new baby have the biological connection; Alyosha and the new baby would have a Russian/Karamazov name connection.

I was interested by Maurin. If it weren’t for the M, it seems like it would be a perfect name for Shannon and her hubs — offbeat because of it being a last name, and the name of a man they admire. Shannon asked about a nickname — Maury and Manny were the first two that came to mind. But that pesky M — I agree that maybe an M name wouldn’t ideal for this baby (unless they change their minds on that, and then of course I’d support their decision 100%!) … then I thought of Aury, which is a little bit of a stretch but not THAT much of a stretch. I looked it up to be sure it wasn’t considered a girl’s name (since I know how fussed any of my boys would be if they had what they consider a “girl’s name,” especially if the other brothers had explicitly masculine names), and though I couldn’t find much about Aury, what I did find ( had an entry for “Aury Estela,” a girl’s name, and behindthename had a user-submitted entry saying Aury is a boy’s name … had Aury listed as a boy’s name as well, but no other info) leads me to think there’s enough evidence that it’s not overwhelmingly considered to be feminine and therefore could easily be used for a boy. I kind of liked the idea of a given name Maurin — starting with an M like brother Moses — being called Aury on an everyday basis, which starts with an A like brother Alyosha. I thought that could be a really nice subtle connection between all the brothers, and not so obvious that they’d feel locked into anything if they were to have more children.

I like the idea of Day, and I saw it used recently as a middle name for a girl (for Dorothy Day) — so cool! As a first name it’s certainly short, but so is Todd, for example, so I don’t think that’s problematic. I guess I’m having a hard time thinking of it on a boy, since the two people I associate with the name are Dorothy Day and that little girl I know with the middle name Day … but of course last names are a great source of first names for boys … I’d love to know what the rest of you think of Day as a first name for a boy! I would love it as a middle name.

I have similar issues with Basil as Shannon does — I love it, and I think it’s a great, underused saint’s name, but I hate that most Americans would only think of the herb. I looked up its alternate versions in other languages, and wondered what Shannon and her Mr. would think of one of the Eastern European variants like Vasil or Vasyl? I assume they’re pronounced to rhyme with Basil, and the V and B are so similar that it’s almost exactly the same name sound-wise, but it loses the herb/hippie feel.

I was surprised by Tevye because it’s a biblical name and Shannon had said they wanted to stay away from them. So then I assumed she meant they wanted to stay away from biblical names that *sound* biblical to Catholic Americans, which I think is easier to work with than “no biblical names,” and I employed this in one of my ideas below.

Okay! So onto those ideas! You all know that I almost always start a consultation by looking up the names that the parents have used and the ones that they like in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Taste like this family’s, which is more creative and offbeat, tends not to be served as well by the BNW, but I did get some ideas from it, as well as from my own mental archives:

(1) Julius or Julian/Julien
The BNW actually came through in a big way with this first suggestion—Julius was listed as similar to both Moses and Theodore! And Julian is a style match for Oliver! So of course I had to suggest these names. But then—I was researching Peter Maurin a little bit and discovered that he was born in the village of Oultet within the community of Saint-Julien-du-Tournel! What! I got goosebumps when I read that!

(2) Ciar(an)
I was thinking of various ways of naming Shannon’s third boy that would make sure Alyosha didn’t feel left out in any way, and one of the ideas I had was to make sure this baby boy had a name completely different from either of his brothers’ names in terms of first letter and linguistic origin/variant, just like Moses and Alyosha are totally different. It’s one of the reasons I like Oliver—it’s Irish/Celtic/British, which is totally different from Alyosha and Moses. But then I was also thinking that—and I hope this doesn’t seem insensitive at all—both of her other boys share the color black—Alyosha in his skin and Moses in his patron saint of Moses the Black. So I kind of loved that Ciar means black in Irish—it ties into the really subtle shared black characteristic of her boys while still being its own name totally different from the other two. Ciar is a name on its own (said like KEER), and the more familiar Ciaran (KEER-in, more commonly spelled Kieran) is technically a diminutive of Ciar.

(Along with this same line of thinking, it’s pretty cool to know that Maurin is related to Mauritz/Maurus/Maurinus, all of which mean “dark skinned,” so if Shannon and her hubs do decide to go that route, that have that connection between all the brothers.)

(3) Jasper
Jasper was listed as a style match for Oliver, and it’s also a gemstone that can be black, tying into the idea I presented with Ciar(an) above. Black jasper is not very common, but it was cool to read that the “name blackstones refer to any number of stones, including jasper, that are dyed black and polished for jewellery.” Jasper is the name traditionally given to one of the Three Wise Men (you might also see its variants Casper and Gaspar given for that same Wise Man—they’re all the same name).

(4) Form of Peter
This is the idea I mentioned that Tevye, being biblical but not obviously so to most English speakers I think, inspired, as well as Peter Maurin of course. Shannon said they’d considered Maurin’s first name Aristide and its variant and possible nickname Aris, but I wonder if they’d considered any of the Peter variants? They aren’t obviously biblical to English speakers, but would still honor Maurin pretty explicitly. Pierre would be a great one, since Maurin was French; Piers is an English variant; Peadar is Irish and is said more like PAD-der (patter).

(5) Clement
Clement was inspired both by the Jubilee Year of Mercy, as it means “merciful,” and I’m a big fan of the idea of naming babies born this year with some element of mercy in their names!, and also by the fact that Shannon’s due in May, which is the month devoted to Our Lady, and Clement can be considered Marian (as she’s described as clement [=merciful] in the hymn/prayer Salve Regina, for example).

But after I’d already decided to suggest Clement to them for those reasons, I came upon this quote of Dorothy Day’s in regard to the Catholic Worker: “Our rule is the works of mercy,” and one of its tenets is “daily practice of the Works of Mercy.” What a meaningful name Clement would be for this family on so many levels!

(6) Cyprian
Along the same lines as the “black” idea above, I thought maybe the name of an African saint would be cool, and I immediately thought of Bl. Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi. Cyprian’s a cool name and unusual, I really like it for this family.

(7) Roman or Tiber
I liked Roman as an idea for this baby initially because it has a long O like Aloysha and Moses, another subtle connection between the brothers, and the reason I liked that particular name-with-a-long-o is because I always think of Roman as a Catholicky Catholic name, as it calls to mind (for me) the Vatican, the Pope, Roman Catholic, etc.

Thinking along those lines also made me think of Tiber, which is the name of a river in Rome, and the phrase “crossing the Tiber” refers to someone converting to Catholicism. It’s a really cool name with a really cool meaning for convert parents. (Check out an adorable Tiber here. 🙂 ).

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What would you suggest for Alyosha and Moses’ little brother?


113 thoughts on “Baby name consultant: Less common, meaningful name for third baby boy

  1. “Tevya” screams “Fiddler on the Roof fanatic!” to me, so personally I wouldn’t go with it. (Unless you really are Fiddler on the Roof fanatics!)

    One thought I had was Tobias. It’s a Bible name, but since it’s from a book that isn’t in Protestant Bibles, it’s not as well-known. And it’s a saint’s name as well.

    I also thought of Vincent, after St. Vincent de Paul.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love your suggestions of Roman and Tiber for this family! 😍

    Clement is also great!

    I also would encourage them to give Basil more consideration because the name is not usually pronounced like the herb (I have met quite a few Basils in my life of all different backgrounds and only one pronounced it like the herb), and while it is unusual, I don’t think it’s so uncommon that most people would have a hard time with the non-herb pronunciation. My guess is a lot more people have heard of it than one might expect.

    Also love JoAnna’s suggestion of Vincent.

    Another idea is a last name of another great Saint, perhaps someone else whose social justice ideals would inspire this family as Dorothy Day & Peter Maurin do. Or maybe Benedict, as St. Benedict Joseph Labre is the patron saint of the homeless. Bl. Piergiorgio Frassatti, St. Peter Claver, Bl. Oscar Romero, or St. Damien of Molokai come to mind as other saints/blesseds whose stories may appeal to them as naming inspiration, either first or last names. (Though Molokai in honor of St. Damien would have the “M” problem.)

    Finally, I do like Day as a first name and I think it would be a really cool way to honor Dorothy Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a fun one! I love love Moses! And Cyprian is a great suggestion. I’m totally thinking an Africa theme would be kind of cool and meaningful, so along those same lines what about Drexel? St Katherine Drexel opened lots of schools for Native and African Americans, including Xavier University. Xavier may be good too? I still think Cyprian is my favorite though. I agree that Day is a tad feminine, but I can also imagine some men being able to pull it off. Be sure to update us!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I love all of these suggestions! Especially how in depth all of the connections are. I can’t wait to hear what this little guy ends up being named! I think Julian has my vote because of the unexpected connection to St. Peter Maurin, but they are all so good.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Vasyl is pronounced “vah-SEEL”. My grandfather had the name, and he also went by Vasily “vah-SEE-ly” or Basilio in Spanish. It’s sometimes spelled with a W instead of a V.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I realize they indicate a no Biblical name preference, but I like the idea of a Biblical name because I think it is something that would tie all the boys together. Even Aloysha to me feels like the biblical prophet Elisha, so the whole name set so far has a strong OT feel. So I also like Tobias (prefer to the Tevye form).

    I do like Julius and Julian too, having some ancestors on both sides in my grandparents generation.

    I figure since she doesn’t want hipster (reason against Basil) that Jasper would be out as well.

    Their names are bold – and Cyprian is the boldest of the suggestions.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I love Julius or Julian for this family! Other names that I can think of are Alexander, Dominic, Nicholas (I know someone mentioned it), Jonathan, Bosco and Jerome.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Looove nico! nico alone is my favorite, but nikolai is also super cool. Nicolas feels a bit tame next to your first two. I also love basil (baz!) and piers. My dad’s name is piero if you want to go the Italian route 🙂

    alyosha, moses and nikolai are amazinnggg.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I haven’t had time to scroll through all of the comments here yet (today was just such a Monday if that makes any sense), but has anyone suggested Blaise? It’s kind of like Basil (I actually went to school with a Basil, he was Basil Jr. too!) and Shannon’s family seems cool enough (read: way cooler than me) to pull off the name Blaise! And it doesn’t come with the pronunciation issues that Basil has!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I seriously doubt the coolness thing, haha! I’ve brought up Blaise a time or two but my husband has a negative connotation with someone he knew as a kid. Booo. If only names came with mental clean slates!

      Liked by 3 people

      • I always feel this way too, but then I’ve had friends who have used a name I’ve had negative connections with and them having a little one with that name has wiped away those negative thoughts. So I try to tell myself when it’s my kid, I’ll like it even more. My boys are Abram Vincent and Samson Gabriel.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh my gosh I love your ideas! I like the ‘black’ connection in Cier and Maurin. Very neat. I can’t wait to find out what they name him!!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Another suggestion, since the person behind the name is of great importance, you can sign up for a daily email of a saint of the day. I’ve found so many names that I would not have considered before because the saint had an amazing story. I found myself connecting with some more than others which led to further reflection.

    Love all the suggestions so far. I don’t have anything new to add but can’t wait to hear the update!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I am so rooting for joachim!!! it’s hebrew (“god prepares”) like moses but not biblical, and relates to the catholic worker dedication to the works of mercy because st Joachim is the father of mary, the mother of mercy 🙂 joachim day is wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Also, I forgot to mention that I ❤ ❤ Dorothy Day and I'm so happy to see that Shannon and her husband love her too!! She's so amazing. Social justice is a huge thing for the Jesuits as well, so we learn a lot about Dorothy Day and we have our very own Dorothy Day Center for Social Justice here on campus. I got to read her autobiography for one of my classes and it was really awesome. I recommend it to everyone 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  14. A baby Anne on our list last time was Malcolm, nn Mac/k. I have an old coworker who named her son Mack a few years ago and it is so darn cute on a real live little boy! Also, St. Columba is the patron Saint and he was pretty cool.


  15. Regarding the name Peter, maybe Piotr, Pyotr, Perkin is an option.

    Or a name with a similar meaning as Peter (rock, stone) a make Peter Maurin his patron.

    Names meaning ‘stone, rock)

    Rock – Roque
    Eben (short for Ebenezer)
    Jagur (biblical place name, meanig ‘pile of stones’)

    Liked by 1 person

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