Baby name consultation: Short+sweet, easy to pronounce, Celtic feel

Caitlin and her husband are compiling name ideas for a future baby (they’re not currently expecting), which is a really fun kind of consultation to work on! Their current children are:

Liam Christopher (“I have loved the name Liam since I was 10 (and apparently so had every other woman that gave birth in 2014!) and always wanted to use it if I ever had a little boy. I almost balked because it had gotten so popular but in the end knew I would regret not using it. He is a Liam through and through! Christopher is my husband’s first name.”)

Clare McKenna Constance (“My husband and I happened to be married on St. Clare’s feast day and the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Poor Clares. We then honeymooned in Ireland where we thought how cool it would be to use a geographic, Irish name somehow, so our girl’s first name is for both St. Clare and County Clare. McKenna is my maiden name that I have long thought of using as a middle. My husband and I liked that our first boy has a name from him and our first girl has a name from me. Constance was a last minute addition. My Grandmother (first name Constance) passed away while I was pregnant with Clare. It is also a strong family name as I additionally have an aunt and cousin named Constance. Her 3 names suit her very well as she is full of personality and a red head to boot! We joke that 2 names would not have been enough to contain all that is Clare! We are not big on nicknames but we often use her full name as a sort of nickname.”)

You all know how I feel about Irish names!! I love Liam and Clare together, and I love their name stories!

Caitlin writes,

First of all, we are not currently expecting but if and when we do have more children we are pretty stumped. Our son and daughter have “the” boy and girl names so it’s been very hard to find other names that fit just as well … It has taken naming two children to see that we do have a bit of a naming style. We seem to like “short and sweet” (ideally 1-2 syllables and not too long letter wise), easy to pronounce names. We definitely prefer “softer”, not-harsh sounding names. We like nicknames in theory but in practice prefer to name our children what we plan on calling them. I go almost exclusively by Cait and my husband by Chris so we rarely hear the sound of our full first name! I am from 2 large Irish American families and definitely tend to be drawn to Gaelic/Celtic/Anglo style names but that is not a requirement. My husband is son to 2 first generation Italian immigrants but we are not drawn to most Italian/Latin/Spanish sounding names. We like to use the middle name as an honorific. We probably would not use a top 5 first name unless we LOVED it, like we did Liam.

There are a couple of things we like in theory but not so far in reality, like nicknames. We also like the idea of flower names for a girl but don’t actually like a lot of the shorter flower names and/or they are too popular. We would also like to use a girl’s name that would honor Our Lady but are not big fans of most Mary/Mari/Maria names. Despite that, the idea of using a name like “Marigold” (as it means “Mary’s Gold”) in the middle spot is actually growing on me. It feels a little indulgent for our style but I think it could be anchored by a more familiar first name. One thing I would like to hear your thoughts on, if anything comes to you: we as a family have a devotion to Our Lady under the title “Star of the Sea” or Maris Stella and would like to somehow use a name that is a nod to that. As I mentioned we don’t love most “Mari” names (there are also just sooo many “Mary-Something”/Marias between my Irish family and his Italian family) and don’t like the name Stella very much. I wouldn’t be opposed to using “Maristella” as a middle but again, it just seems a little too extravagant for us. Is there any way you can think of that could reference this title of Our Lady without actually using either word?

On to some lists!

Names we do like, for inspiration:
Girls: Lucy, Chloe, Ruby, Zelie, Gemma, Nora, Isla
Boys: Eamon, Ephraim, Finn (probably my favorite but my husband has a hopeless association with a very silly golden retriever named Finn), Jude, Theo, Oliver

Names we do like but can’t use:
Girls: Brigid, Lily(we just know too many!), Alice
Boys: Asher, Milo, Colm (just a little to clunky to say, I wish it wasn’t!), Calum, Leo (too close to Liam)

Names we dislike OR Family names we can’t repeat:
Girls: Joanna, Sophia, Audrey, Catherine or any variant, Anne, Lauren/Laura, Theresa/Therese, Julie , -ianna names (Gianna, Lillianna, etc etc)
Boys: Samuel, Connor, Matthew, Patrick, Andrew, Noah, Jonah, Ryan, Neil, Nathan, Juian, Stephen

Past and Present Pet’s names we obviously can’t use 😉
Reily, Lacey, Fiona, Bailey

Saints we would honor, likely in the middle spot somehow:
Joseph( also a big family name/my husbands middle name and I love Josephine as a girl middle), Nicholas, Anthony, Bernadette, Raphael, Pius, St. Therese, Rocco, Benedict, Bruno, Therese of Lisieux, Francis, Laurence, Our Lady

My problem with all of the Saints we would like to honor is that I don’t actually like any of their names! My husband doesn’t share this problem and would probably be fine with using any of these for a middle name as is, but I would like to try to find creative homages if possible.”

Alrighty, so I really like that Cait feels they’ve been able to whittle their style down to “short and sweet,” easy to pronounce, “softer” names, and that nicknames aren’t as big for them as they might have thought — I relied heavily on these guidelines when coming up with ideas for them.

I also like that they’re considering Marigold and Maristella for the middle name spot! They’re great names, but if they feel uncomfortable as first names, the middle spot would be a great place for them.

I gave some thought to their “Star of the Sea” question and had a few ideas:

  • Marina: Marina means “of the sea” AND it’s sometimes used in Scotland as an anglicization of the Scottish form of Mary, Màiri. So you can get the sea + Mary + Gaelic/Celtic/Anglo all in one name!
  • Another “star” name: There are several girl names besides Stella that mean “star” or similar, including Estelle (the French form of Stella), Esther (Persian), Seren (Welsh), Steren (Cornish), and the literary name Elanor (from Lord of the Rings – it means “star sun” in Sindarin, and it was also the name of a flower in the LOTR universe, and Samwise’s first daughter). Of those, I particularly like Elanor for them, since they already have Nora on their list of names they’re considering, and Nora can be a nickname for Eleanor/Elanor. Something like Elanor Marina could mean “star + of the sea,” if they felt the connection was strong enough to honor their devotion
  • Another “sea” name: There are other girl names that mean “sea,” as well, including Meri (Finnish), Mira (Indian, Hindi), Muirenn (sea+white/fair in Irish). I’m intrigued by Muirenn, because of their Irish sensibility … Forvo says it’s pronounced like “MUR-in”, as does Baby Names of Ireland I’m quite taken with Elanor Muirenn!

Before I get to my new suggestions to add to their (awesome) list of names, I had a few thoughts about them, and about the saints they’d like to honor (but t they don’t like their names):

  • I wonder if they’d consider Flynn instead of Finn? It’s so similar to Finn, but might be different enough that the dog association would be lost
  • I was so surprised to see Ephraim on their list! It’s almost completely unfamiliar to me! It doesn’t seem easy to say and spell to me, but I love seeing wildcard names on a couple’s list, so I loved seeing it here! Funny enough, Laura Wattenberg (author of the Baby Name Wizard, which I rely heavily on in my consultations as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity) wrote in her latest blog post about “55 Biblical Names Reaching New Heights” and Ephraim is one (it’s currently at no. 884; it entered the top 1000 in 2013 after not having been in the top 1000 since 1914). It didn’t inform any of my suggestions below, as I felt it was so different from their other ideas, which tended to be more similar to each other than not. But it did make me think of one name that I thought I’d mention here, in case it strikes their fancy: Malachy. There’s the Old Testament prophet Malachi, which gives Malachy the same biblical feel as Ephraim, but
  • Malachy is an Irish saint’s name and an anglicized form of some heavy-duty old Irish names
  • Cait said they can’t use Milo — I wonder if Miles would be different enough? I’m a huge fan of Miles! Both it and Milo have traditional usage in Ireland as an anglicization of the Old Irish name Maolmhuire, which means “servant of the Virgin Mary”! Irish, Mary, and male, all in one name! Also easy to say and spell, short and sweet
  • Josephine for a girl’s middle seems a great way to honor St. Joseph, if they don’t care for Joseph for a boy
  • I have an idea for Nicholas in my official suggestions below
  • For Anthony, I wonder if they would like any of the variants like Antonio or Anton? Or maybe Padua as a middle name?
  • I believe St. Bernadette’s given name was Marie-Bernarde, so maybe just Marie could sufficiently nod to her? (And Our Lady of course, a two-for-one!)
  • Pio and Pia are variants of Pius, maybe they’d like to consider one of them?
  • St. Therese was Marie-Therese, so Marie could be for her too (and Bernadette and Our Lady, whew!). I see Rose names given in her honor frequently as well — I quite like Rose or Rosa for this family, though I know Cait said they don’t care for a lot of the shorter flower names. I have another idea below for honoring St. Therese
  • Bennett is a medieval form of Benedict that I see pop up fairly frequently on lists of names parents are considering
  • Unfortunately I can’t think of anything great for Raphael, Rocco, Bruno, Francis, or Laurence! But I do have some ideas for Our Lady below

Okay, so I looked up the names Cait and her hubs have used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard, and added some ideas of my own. Based on all that, these are my ideas:

Girl

(1) Maura, Moira, Molly
This is one of my Marian ideas — an Irish form of the name itself! I think Maura might be the best option for them, as it’s easy to say and spell. Moira is a pretty option too, though I know pronunciation varies depending on who you’re talking to. And I love Molly for them — it’s a style match for Lucy, Ruby, and Nora. (Using Maura or Moira would knock Nora off for the future, unfortunately.)

(2) Eva
Eva is a style match for Theo, and funny enough, I already had it on my list for Cait and her hubs for three reasons: first, I was trying to think of Irish names that could be easily anglicized, and Aoife was one of the first I thought of; second, Eva can be considered Marian in that Our Lady is considered the New Eve; and thirdly, because in the traditional hymn Ave Maris Stella there’s this stanza:

O! By Gabriel’s Ave,
Uttered long ago,
Eva’s name reversing,
Established peace below

Since the name Eva is used in the hymn, I thought maybe they could consider Eva to be a nod to Our Lady, Star of the Sea.

(3) Maisie
Maisie is a traditional nickname for Margaret, as it’s a diminutive of Mairead (the Irish Margaret). Though it’s often used as a nickname, it’s also bestowed as a given name — it was no. 574 in 2016 on the SSA chart.

(4) Tess(a)
This is my other idea for honoring St. Therese. Tess is a common nickname for the Teresa/Therese names, and like Maisie it can also stand on its own (it was a top 1000 name from 1983 to 2013). Tessa is also lovely, and feels more complete to some parents — it was no. 229 in 2016. (They could also consider the Irish Treasa!)

(5) Grace
Grace was a big style match for this family, being similar to Clare and the Lucy/Ruby/Nora/Molly names. It’s easy to say and spell; there’s the darling Gracie as a nickname if they’d like; and it honors Our Lady as well! It could go really well with heavy hitting, offbeat middles like Marigold and Maristella, though maybe that would be too many Marian names? I also like Grace Bernadette and Grace Josephine (Mary and Joseph in one! Beautiful!).

Boy

(1) Jack, Sean, Shane
These were my first ideas for them before I finished reading Cait’s email! I know they have John, Ian, Owen, and Evan on their list of names they don’t like/can’t repeat, so maybe they meant to add Jack, Sean, and Shane as well … but I had to suggest them just in case! All of them are easy to say and spell and nod to Cait’s Irish heritage.

(2) Henry
Henry is a style match for Clara (standing in for Clare, since Clare doesn’t have its own entry), Lucy, and Theo. I think it definitely has a British Isles feel, and there are loads of great Sts. Henry to choose from! I did a spotlight of the name here.

(3) Colin
This is my idea for Nicholas, and I had it on my list for them before I went back and re-read Cait’s email and remembered that Nicholas is one of the saints they love but don’t love his name. It’s easier than Colm and similar to Calum, but I didn’t see it on any of their “can’t/won’t use” lists. It’s got usage as an anglicized form of some Gaelic names, but for this family I prefer the separate usage derived from a medieval diminutive of Nicholas.

(4) Rowan, Rowen (Rohan?)
I’ll be interested to see what they think of Rowan/Rowen! Rowan did surprisingly well for them in my research, being similar in style to Gemma, Isla, and Finn. It’s more unisex than some parents of boys like — in 2016 it was no. 182 for boys and no. 239 for girls — but the spelling Rowen might help (visually anyway, even though it’s said the same as Rowan), as it’s no. 658 for boys and not in the top 1000 for girls. Another option that’s similar is Rohan, which can be said like Rowan, or it could be said RO-han, like the Riders of Rohan in LOTR. It’s got exclusively masculine use as far as I can tell — it was no. 742 in 2016, given to 327 boys and less than five girls (if any; the SSA only lists names given to five children or more in a given year).

(5) Casey
My last idea for Cait and her hubs is Casey. Like Rowan, it has unisex usage; unlike Rowan, the gap between the boy and girl usage is much larger: it was no. 560 for boys in 2016 and no. 857 for girls. The recent beatification of Bl. Solanus Casey has put it on the radar of quite a few parents, and he’s the first Irish American Blessed, which is awesome for Cait’s heritage. I think it’s short and sweet, and easy to say and spell.

There were a few other ideas I considered adding to the list, which I ultimately decided not to for various reasons, but I thought I’d include them here just in case: Greer, Maeve, and Julia for girls; Rhys, Alec, and Blaine for boys.

And those are all my ideas for this family! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Liam and Clare?

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40 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: Short+sweet, easy to pronounce, Celtic feel

  1. Elanor Marina 😍 I love that so, so much. It manages to be a reference to some of my favorite literature- Tolkien (plus it reminds me of Elinor from Sense and Sensibility), Shakespeare (Marina is a character from Pericles, Prince of Tyre) and T.S. Eliot (he has a poem about the Shakespeare character.) All the swoon

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is Maeve on their list? It’s one I love but never used. I endorse Nora as well – lovely, short, easy to spell! (That was why I liked Clare for my first daughter as well. ) And it’s derived from Honora (plenty of saints with Honorius etc) or Eleanor.
    For boys, I like Finian, Killian, and Sullivan. And Felix. And how about Rafe for Raphael? Brenna or Brendan for Bruno?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Some thoughts, both firsts and middles!

    Good match:
    Alban
    Dominic
    Ransom
    Boone “good”
    Rafe, Rafferty [Raphael]
    Cole, Colman, Colette [Nicholas]
    Lorcan, Larkin [Laurence]
    Becket [Benedict, St Thomas]
    Piers/Pierce [Francis of Assisi (born Pietro), Pius]

    Marian:
    Rosemary [plus it means “dew of the sea”]
    Rosalie [Mystical Rose; Therese]
    Merrick, Murphy “sea-warrior” [Our Lady]
    Quinn [Queen of Heaven]
    Joy [Cause of Our Joy; maybe for Joseph too?]
    Morgen [Morning Star]

    Maybes:
    Arthur/Orson/Benno “bear” [Bernadette]
    Rockford [Rocco]
    Ferran, Martin [Anthony of Padua (born Fernando Martins de Bulhoes)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Here’s something fun: my cousin has 7 kids, they are Irish (via the other side, not mine) and she has a Liam and a Claire. All of these kids are grown adults (basically the only Liam I know over age 10), so the generation is off, but I’ll give the other 5 to you anyway: Tom (Thomas), Margaret (no nn), Katie (Katherine), Christopher, John. I don’t know all the middle names, sorry.

    I be really like Maren for a star of the sea reference for this family. And my daughter’s middle name is Francine, which I consider a nod to St. Francis AND all the French saints like St. Therese & Co.

    I like your idea of Sean for a boy, but they also can’t go wrong with John like my cousin used.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We have an Ephraim and it is the best name (I’m so biased I will have to write in if we have any other boys because when we had our 4th child we only had a girl name… thankfully upon birth we discovered she was a girl. I was so worried because what goes with Ephraim??? (Liam, apparently!!)).

    All that being said, Ephraim and Liam share many similar sounds which would make it a no-go for me. But it is an awesome name, and he’s a great patron saint.

    This is quite a ramble, sorry. I got so excited!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Whenever I see Celtic in title, I get excited, we have six with Irish names, a girl Quinn Margaret, a girl Teagan Elizabeth, a boy Cullen John, a girl Nevin Katherine, a girl Rowan Mary and a boy Declan Peter. Good luck and God Bless!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Nora and Finn sound lovely! What great options!

    Grace, Molly, Tessa, and Jack go well too. Good suggestions!

    I really like Anne/Annie for them. Anna could work too. Isabelle was really popular in Ireland in the 1800’s. If it isn’t too long and/or popular Isabel sounds sweet with Clare. And Owen for a boy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love Maire (MY-ree) for a girl.

    I agree that Flynn is a better choice than Finn.
    I am so…tired…of…Finn.
    Nice name, but overused, sadly.

    That happened with my son, Aidan.
    The name fits him perfectly,
    BUT every kid we know is Aiden, Jaden, Braden, Kaden, Hayden
    and now with adapting it for girls as Aedyn,
    we have come to regret the name a bit.

    Peace!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The suggestion of Grace seems spot on. I have a Clare and love the name Grace so much.

    I also just love that information about the Marian hymn which notes the connection between Ave and Eva. I love learning things like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think Roisin (rosheen) nn Rosie would be a dashing way to get a flower name in there and have a name that stands up in style to a spunky redheaded big sister. Even nicked Ro? Liam, Clare and baby Ro.

    In the same vein, wouldn’t Rory be sweet for a boy? I like Rory Joseph so much!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I have so many thoughts! I have a niece named Clare and two nephews named Liam. The other family Irish names are Finn (Joseph Finlay), Maura, Gavin, Rory (girl), Maeve, Brogan, Ryan, Grace, Sean, Brian, Colleen, Andrew, Eamon (my son, whose name I love but it’s been hard for others to accept in terms of spelling and pronunciation!), Declan, Maggie and Brendan.

    I love Rowan, but would need to use it as a girl’s name since it can go either way and that’s my rule for names like that.

    I know I’m biased but Irish names are so great!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I nannied twins named Liam and Claire! Both had double middle names I think they were Claire Bailey Sue and William “Liam” Bayless __ something. I liked how the middles matches with the bay part too.

    Liked by 1 person

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