Baby name consultation: Not-popular boy name or Italian girl name for baby no. 3

Allegra and her husband are expecting their third baby, a little green bean (=gender unknown)! This little bean joins big sibs:

Anthony David (“Anthony is for my late father, who passed away when I was about 3 years old, who in turn was named for St. Anthony of Padua. We are all Italian if that wasn’t clear 😉 My father went by Tony, which I like, but I just don’t see it in my son so he goes by Anthony. He’s also not even 3 yet, so we’ll see. David is my husband’s middle name“)

Giuliana Catherine (“Giuliana was my girl name choice for Anthony. I’ve liked the Italian spellings of the variants of Giulia/na for a while, so no other reasoning than I just like the name. I also (theoretically) like the nicknames for it, except G, but again we just still call her by her full name so far (she’s about 1.5). Catherine is a family name (my maternal grandmother) and one we both liked. For Giuliana’s patron we chose St. Catherine Laboure“)

Such great names! Yes, they’re not unusual, but they’re classic and saintly and so handsome/beautiful. And such great family connections for both of them!

Allegra writes,

For Anthony I never even considered popularity because I wanted to name him after my father, and then around when we had Giuliana I realized just how many Julianna’s there are, and how I accidentally gave both my kids popular names, even though I claim to like unusual ones.

This is the first time we’ve decided not to find out the sex until birth. My husband isn’t as passionate about baby name discussion as I am (huge shock, I’m sure!) so we’ve only had pretty casual conversations so far, but here are some names we have discussed.

For boys:
Luke (my second choice with Anthony, but I dislike how popular it is)
James (not Jim or Jimmy)
Max (for St. Maximilian Kolbe, but we don’t care for Maximus or Maximilian … any other formal name suggestions? I don’t like nicknames as legal names)

We are growing in our love for St. John Paul II as a family, but we aren’t crazy about the actual name, so any way to tie him in would be great. Overall I worry that our boy name ideas are too boring/popular/plain. I like how unusual my name is but I find it harder to come up with stuff for boys that I like without it being so popular.

For girls:
-Margaret (going by Maggie) — This was actually one of my top choices before I even had a due date, maybe before this pregnancy, and then I found out my due date is the feast of St. Margaret of Antioch! We also have a dear family friend Sister Mary Ann (“Aunt Sis”) whose birthday is 7-22 and initials are MAG and who has the nickname Mags or Maggie, so it’s kind of a subtle way to honor her.
-Maria (or other Blessed Mother names). My husband’s grandmother is also named Mary.
-Grace (again popularity concern)
-Thalia (I actually wouldn’t use this, because it feels too Greek and we are so Italian, but I really like it)
-Sabrina was on my list for Giuliana, but I’m not as crazy about it anymore.

Names we can’t use (niece/nephews) are Joseph, Peter, Filomena, and Angelo. Other saints we like (aside from JPII and Kolbe) are St. Thomas Aquinas (not crazy for Thomas), Sts. Therese/Zelie/Louis (but our dog is Zelda, hah), and St. Padre Pio.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about how Allegra said she would like to have a less popular name, but the names she likes (especially for boys) are more popular than she’d prefer. I thought this post might be helpful, which discusses how the popular names of today aren’t even close to being as popular as the popular names of the past were; this is also great.

I was really interested to see that in 2016, Anthony was no. 30 and Luke was no. 29. Very well matched!

James is also a great name, but I don’t think Allegra will love that it was no. 5 in 2016. It’s funny to me that she said she doesn’t care for Jim or Jimmy, but prefers James, because most of the little boys with James-type names that I know of go by the full James. That said, I do have a friend who named her son James and calls him Jimmy, and there’s a Jim on my 7yo’s basketball team and a Jim in my 3yo’s nursery school class! Jim! I chuckle every time I hear it, because it sounds like such a man’s name to me. Anyway, all that to say, I totally understand that Allegra prefers James to Jim or Jimmy, but Jim/Jimmy are actually a much more unusual choice (but maybe also starting to rise in popularity?).

An idea for James, if Allegra and her hubs liked the idea of a nickname other than Jim/Jimmy, is Jake. Jacob is the Hebrew form of James, so Jake for James has an actual linguistic connection. But then I was thinking how they like St. Maximilian Kolbe, and I thought something like James Kolbe would be very handsome, and would make even more sense of the nickname Jake. (This is assuming that they even like the nickname Jake, which maybe they don’t! And maybe they prefer a Max first name to Kolbe as a middle! So I hope they just ignore these suggestions if that’s the case. 😊 )

As for Max, the formal Max names I know of besides Maximus and Maximilian are Maxim and Maxwell. I have some other ideas for formal names for Max below in my official suggestions as well.

There are several ways to honor St. John Paul that don’t involve using John Paul. His birth name was Karol, which is the Polish for Charles, so any of the names of that family can work: Charles, Carl, Carlo, Karl, Karol for boys and Caroline, Karoline, Karolina for girls. If they use the K spelling, those who are familiar with JP2 would like get it right away, which is fun. I actually really like the idea of Karolina for this family — it’s long and feminine like Giuliana. But I think Carolina is the Italian variant, so maybe they’d prefer that.

His childhood nickname was Lolek, which I believe is a Polish diminutive of Karol, and I’ve seen Lolek used by some families! We even had a discussion of the possibility of Lolek as a nickname of sorts for Luke in this comment; since Allegra has Luke on her list and doesn’t love its popularity, maybe using Lolek as a nickname for Luke will give it that unusualness she hopes for? That same comment suggests Emilia as a nod to JP2, as it was his mom’s name. That could be lovely for this family too! Emilia also has Italian usage! I actually know a super Italian family who named their daughter Emilia because it’s so Italian.

I love the girl names on Allegra’s list, and I’m amazed by all the Margaret/Maggie connections!! It seems like such a great fit for them!! My only thought was, would they like to consider the Italian variant Margarita? Either way, Margaret/Maggie sounds like *the* name for Allegra and her hubs!

Maria, Grace, Teresa are all beautiful, and Thalia and Sabrina surprised me! I like being surprised! I have an idea regarding Thalia in my ideas below.

As for saints Allegra and her hubs like, I have seen boys named Aquinas, and I know one of them goes by Quin. I know they have Teresa on their list, which certainly counts as an honor for St. Therese; I’ve also seen Rose names given in her honor. I could see some Rose names being nice for this family! Rosa and Rosalia are two Italian versions that they might like. Louis for a boy is not popular (no. 289), so they might like to consider it for a first or middle name, or maybe Louisa for a girl? Zelie and Zelda do seem too similar! St. Zelie’s given name was Marie-Azelie, so maybe some version of that instead? Many people say that Azelie is the French for the azalea flower; if they like the azalea idea, maybe they could do an Italian version? The dictionary says the Italian for azalea is azalea, so maybe Maria-Azalea? I love coming up with nicknames formed from the first and middles — Maria-Azalea could be Maizie or Mariza or Malea or Mia …

The blogger Ana Hahn has a Joseph Pio, and I thought putting Pio in the middle was so interesting! It could help “liven up” a first name that Allegra thinks is otherwise too popular/common? Luke Pio? James Pio? Ooh, if they’re into initials, James Pio could be JP, which could also be a nod to JP2!

Alrighty, on to my suggestions. You all know that I start my consultations by looking up the names the parents have used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I did so for Allegra, looking up Anthony, Juliana (standing in for Giuliana), Luke, James, Max, Margaret, Maggie, Maria, Grace, Teresa, Talia (standing in for Thalia, which wasn’t as close a match as I’d hoped), and Sabrina. Based on that research, and my own ideas, these are my suggestions for Allegra and her hubs:


(1) Gabriella
So my original first idea here was Caterina, which I was super psyched about and thought it was perfect for this family,* and then I re-read Allegra’s email and saw that Giuliana’s middle name is Catherine! Gah! I’d totally forgotten! So I changed my first suggestion to Gabriella. Though I was very influenced by Giuliana’s name when coming up with girl ideas — the Italian-ness of it makes it hard for me to think of non-Italian names! — and Gabriella certainly fits in with that, I also like that Gabriella isn’t *uber* Italian, I know a bunch of Gabriellas that aren’t Italian. So it might be a really nice way to start moving their girl style away from “super Italian” without it feeling out of place.

*I thought I’d include what I’d written about Caterina, just in case they’re okay using it for a first name even though they already used Catherine as a middle: “When I saw Catherine/Katherine/Kathryn as style matches for Anthony, Margaret, and Teresa, and Kate as a match for Maggie, I thought Caterina (possibly with the nickname Cate) was perfect! St. Catherine of Siena’s name was actually Caterina, as she was Italian, which makes for a really nice saintly connection.”

(2) Natalia
I was so excited when I started looking up the names included in Allegra’s email and discovered that Natalie is a match for Anthony and Natalia for Juliana! I thought Natalia was such a great suggestion for this family, not only because it’s a style match for their older two children, but also because it nicknames neatly and easily to Talia! Like Thalia on Allegra’s list! Perfect!

(3) Chiara
Claire is a match for Luke and Grace, but of course I felt like I had to Italian it up! Chiara is the Italian form, and like with St. Catherine being originally Caterina, St. Clare of Assisi was actually Chiara, so she can be patron. But more recently, there’s Bl. Chiara Luce Badano, who I often see parents naming daughters for — she’s a great, modern patron for a little girl. I did a spotlight on the name here.

(4) Veronica
Veronica’s a match for Anthony, and its long femininity makes it a great sister for Giuliana I think! Such a gorgeous name, and one that I consider exclusively Catholic (though I know it has non-Catholic usage), since she’s never named in the bible but rather her name has come down through tradition. I did a spotlight on it here.

(5) Maristella
This is inspired by the “Maria (or other Blessed Mother names)” on their list, as well as, of course, Giuliana’s Italian-ness. Maristella is from Our Lady’s title “Star of the Sea,” which is rendered as Stella Maris and Maris Stella, which can be used as-is for a girl’s name, but I usually see Maristel(l)a and Stellamaris. Maristella is so lovely!


(1) Michael
I know Allegra said she doesn’t love that the names she likes tend to be fairly popular, and Michael’s one of those names that sounds uber popular because it was the no. 1 boy name for so long. It’s still a top ten name (no. 8 in 2016, less popular than James), but as that article I linked to above shows, it’s not nearly as huge as it was. It’s a style match for Anthony and Maria, but beyond that, I thought it could get them to Max as a nickname. Michael Xavier or Michael Alexander, for example, make the nickname Max really obvious. (Any M name paired with Xavier or Alexander could get them to Max, of course — Matthew comes to mind as another great example.)

(2) Nicholas
Like Natalia, Nicholas is a match for both Anthony and Giuliana! I love that! And its diminutive Cole is a match for Luke. I think Nicholas has that same Italian feel that Anthony has (by which I mean, Anthony and Nicholas can be used by any heritage, but there’s something about them that feels really right on a boy of Italian heritage). As mentioned, Cole could be a nickname, or Nico (which was actually a match for Talia), or of course Nick/Nicky.

(3) Dominic
Dominic also has that Italian feel of Anthony and Nicholas, and like Nicholas can take Nic(o) as a nickname. Or, Dom(my) can work — my dad had a friend Dominick nicknamed Dommy growing up, and I always thought that was really cute.

(4) Nathaniel
Moving away from the Italianate names, Nathaniel is a style match for Giuliana and Nathan for Luke! I like them both, though I like Nathaniel for this family better because its length is nice with Anthony and Giuliana (though of course Luke and James are short and I think they’d go fine too).

(5) Victor
My last idea for Allegra and her hubs is Victor. It’s a match for Anthony and Maria, and is a name I’ve had on my own list for a long time. I wrote about it being a great Jesus name here, and the post I did on nicknames for Victor has always been — and continues to be — my second most-viewed post ever! Every single day I have visitors that reach my blog because of some variation of the search term “nicknames for victor.” Isn’t that crazy?

And those are all my ideas for Allegra and her hubs! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Anthony and Giuliana?


21 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: Not-popular boy name or Italian girl name for baby no. 3

  1. I love Gabriella for a wee girl, and it has some lovely nn potential – Brielle, Bri, Ella.
    I also like Vincent for a boy, or maybe Vincenzo to give it a more Italian feel. -nn potential is there if you want it- Vinnie, Vince even Zo if you used Vincenzo spelling- but either work beautifully as full names .

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lots of great suggestions. My thoughts relate to the popularity issues. Kate, you hit right on what I was thinking about James. James is a very popular name – much more so than Luke or Anthony. A while back I came to the realization that James is the most perennially popular name. It has not been lower than #18 in the 140 years of SS data.Joseph and William are close but have been #20 or lower. Names I thought really popular like John and Michael had lower popularity periods. But James is such a classic name and even if it is popular, naming diversity still makes is not as common as in past when its rank was high.

    I was surprised by the comment of Guiliana being very popular. I hear it occasionally on little girls (but almost never with the Italian spelling) – it is barely cracking the top #200 right now. I wonder if sometimes we just become more conscious of a hearing a name we thought was unusual once we name a baby. That happened for me. Margaret/Maggie is more popular and climbing after a drop. I thought it would be even more popular than it turns out to be since I feel like that is the one I hear A LOT in my young girl circles.

    I love Veronica and Gabriella for the criteria. I still very much associate Gabriella as Italian – even though as you mention it has become a staple American name as well. 30+ years ago that was not the case – it was still more ethnic. Gabrielle would have been the more common variant before Gabriella.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And from your list I am actually now thinking Chiara is the most Italian and I think fits with Guilianna best. I know a few – it is growing in popularity in the Catholic circles recently due to the mentioned Bl. Chiara Badano (and also Chiara Petrillo) though it is still not commonly used in the US at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adding on to the above comment, I know a little girl with very Italian parents named Lucia Carmela (pronounced Loo-sha or Loo-chee-a) ❤
      My sister-in-law uses very Italian names and her daughter is Serafina – I looked it up and the saint associated with this name is also known as St. Fina. So cute!!
      (Her other kids are Nell0, R0man, Brun0, Fil0mena and Faust0)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I know a young man named Mario Pio. He goes by Pio, but I like both those names and they are certainly Italian.

    Also like Marcello.
    How about Giovanni?
    Vincenzo nn Enzo or even Enzo on its own!

    For girls:
    Gioia (Joy!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Every time I hear a Luke hesitation, I think of your comment that Jude is the less popular style match to Luke, not that they are interchangeable, but that they really line up in style. Jude Vincenzo would be amazing together, but perhaps with Guliana two “j”names together would be a no-go. What about Max(-well, -imilian, -imus) Jude?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If I were Italian, I would *so* use Mario. It was on our short list for our second son, but because our first son’s name is H@nsel middle-name Paul (my “John Paul” as Hansel is a variant of John) we thought Mario (Luigi) would be too much with Hansel (Gretel), lol.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This family’s style is the Italian version of our English names 😂. Loooove them all! Also, our Julianne has recently started telling me she wants to be Juliana at age 4, causing me to second-guess our discernment on her name a little 😩

    Liked by 1 person

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