Baby name consultation: First baby, a boy! Literary/Irish-y/saintly name needed

Lindsey and her husband are expecting their first baby, a boy!

Lindsey writes,

Help! My husband and I are expecting our first child at the end of June/beginning of July. We live in Boston and are having a ton of difficulty coming up with a name! We already had the name picked out if we were having a girl, so we are of course having a boy. We’re Catholic and would like to have a Catholic influence in the name, though we don’t necessarily require that it be the first name.

General criteria:

— We don’t want it to be a common or popular name, but we would like it to be a name that most people will have heard at some point. Ideally, we’d like it not to be in the top 100 or near that so that he won’t have to run into the issue of being “Matt LastInitial.”

— I tend to like old-fashioned/classic names and have somewhat of a preference for English/Irish/Gaelic/Celtic/Latin names, though my husband doesn’t want anything too Irish. We also, however, tend to like some more unique, trendy sounding names like Sloan, Bligh/Bly, &c.

— We’d like something that would have the possibility of a nickname if that’s something he’d like or could stand on its own.

Likes but Not Requirements:

–I’m a huge bookworm and like the idea of having a literary inspiration in the name, but I’d rather the perfect name than to force this.

Below is a list of names that we like and have been considering:

Ambrose
Edmund
Simon
Blaise
Frederick
Calvin
Byron
Ciaran
Charles (I like the nickname Charlie more than I like Charles, but I question whether Charlie is appropriate for an adult)
Baron
Fulton
Sebastian (though it’s a bit too common for us to use)
Nathaniel (I feel it may be a bit too common for us to use)
Damian (may be a bit too common for us to use)

Of the above list, Ambrose and Edmund top out as our favorite right now (and though they continue to volley back and forth for top seed, Ambrose seems to be the current preference), but we are struggling with those and with them all:

–If we went with Ambrose, we can’t think of any middle names that would flow well with our last name. [Some family names include] (Daniel, Thomas, Benjamin, Joseph, Robert, Gabriel, Calvin, Francis).
–If we were to have a daughter in the future, we would likely name her Rosemary after my grandmother, and I wonder whether the “rose” in Ambrose and Rosemary would be harmonious or tacky. That being said, there’s no guarantee that we will have other children or that we would have a girl even if we did.
–While we like Edmund, I cannot stand “Ed” or “Eddie” as a nickname, and while I could consistently reiterate that his name is Edmund, I know I would likely be fighting a losing battle of him being called Ed or Eddie.

We are 31 weeks along and have been struggling with this for months and thought it was finally time to reach out for help since we’re not getting anywhere ourselves. We’re hoping for feedback on our top picks as well as any other name suggestions you may have for us to consider. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

I love working with first-time parents! I’m so excited for Lindsey and her hubby that they’re expecting their first baby, I remember those days well. ❤

I totally understand not wanting a common/popular name. It is true though that the popular names of today aren’t even a fraction as popular as the popular names of the past. Also, it’s possible to live in a “name pocket” where a particular name, which might not be popular according to the national Social Security data, is actually really popular where you live. There’s more info here.

I’m with Lindsey on loving English/Irish/Gaelic/Celtic/Latin names, but I admit I’d never heard of Bligh/Bly before! So funny to me that she included it as an example of a “unique, trendy sounding name” — are any of you familiar with it? Maybe it’s a regional name?

Like Lindsey, I also love literary names, so I tried to keep that in mind as I was doing my research for her and her hubs.

Regarding the list of names they’re considering, a few thoughts:

  • Ambrose: Love it! We considered it for a couple of our boys, and I’ve spent some time thinking of nicknames as a result. Sam, Bram, and Brody are my favorites, and Bram would give them a literary tie-in. Brody would make extra sense if Ambrose was paired with a D middle name. I don’t hate Ambrose Daniel, and Ambrose David is another combo I quite like. Of the other family names that could possibly be used as a middle, in the interest of whittling down the list, I might cross off Gabriel (Ambrose Gabriel is a lot of “br,” though Gabriel is one of my very favorite names) and Calvin (all I think of is John Calvin, which is unfortunate, because it’s a cool name otherwise. With Ambrose being SO saintly and Catholic, if I were to see Ambrose Calvin it would make me scratch my head! But few people know others’ middle names, so it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker). I like some of the names on their list of first names as potential middles for Ambrose … Ambrose Ciaran is particularly appealing to me, because it’s got the Irish Lindsey likes but I’m assuming it’s not *too* Irish? I also love Ambrose Edmund, what a heavy hitting name! It might be a good way to work Edmund in if they can’t feel comfortable with it as a first name. As for Ambrose and Rosemary … I’m not sure! If Ambrose always went by a nickname that didn’t contain Rose, I’d say it’s fine. But if he was Ambrose or Brose all the time, then maybe that would be too much Rose? I do think Lindsey’s wise to remember that “there’s no guarantee that [they] will have other children or that [they] would have a girl.” I wrote more about the issue of whether to use a beloved name now or save it for later here.
  • Edmund: I think that if they called him Edmund all the time, it’s quite likely that he would eventually be shortened to Ed or Eddie by someone — maybe even himself! But if they picked a different nickname and enforced its use, they may be able to avoid Ed/Eddie. Ned and Ted are both traditional nicknames for the Ed- names, I wonder if either of those might appeal? Another idea, tapping into Lindsey’s love of Irish names, is Eamon — the Irish variant of Edmund. There would be no chance of Ed/Eddie with Eamon! But I also get that, while it’s technically the same name as Edmund, at the same time it isn’t (and likely too Irish for Lindsey’s hubby?).
  • Simon, Blaise, Frederick, Byron, Baron, Fulton: All pretty cool.
  • Calvin: See my comments in the Ambrose bullet point above. Although, since it’s a family name, I can see that it might just be too important to not use. I do love the nickname Cal.
  • Ciaran: Love it! So surprised it’s not too Irish for Lindsey’s hubby though!
  • Charles/Charlie: I think this is an excellent choice for a boy, specifically because Charles offers so many nickname possibilities to fit different personalities and stages in life. Charlie is adorable on a little boy, and I don’t think it’s inappropriate on an adult at all. In fact, I know a little boy whose given name is Charley, so he’s going to be Charley his whole life! But if Lindsey’s son feels like he’s not a Charlie when he grows up, he can be Cal or Chaz or Chuck or the full Charles. It’s a great name!
  • Sebastian, Nathaniel, Damian: The recently released 2017 name data might be helpful here. Sebastian rose two spots to no. 22, so I can see why Lindsey thinks it might be too popular for them. Nathaniel’s been steadily decreasing since 2000 though, and is currently at no. 112, and Damian has been going up and down but never more popular than no. 98 (in 2013) and is currently no. 119 (up five spots from 2016), so I don’t think either Nathaniel or Damian are too popular. I love them both!

So those are my thoughts on their current list — I think it’s a great list with loads of great contenders, and I’m not sure adding more ideas will be helpful! But I did do my usual research for them, in which I looked up all the names Lindsey and her hubs 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 looked up all the names on their boy list, as well as Rosemary, and have several ideas that might appeal to them (I hope they don’t muddy the waters rather than making things more clear!):

(1) Philip nicknamed Pip
I told Lindsey that I kept the idea of a literary name in mind while doing my research, and I was thrilled to see Philip as a result! It’s handsome and classic and not too popular at all — it’s currently no. 425 — and while it’s not popular, it is familiar. And isn’t Pip the cutest nickname for a little boy?? And literary! It’s probably not a nickname that can last his whole life, but the full Philip as well as Phil are Men’s Names. I even worked with a Philip who preferred to be called Flip, so not all men hate cute nicknames, and I like that Philip offers options.

(2) Atticus
Atticus was actually solely due to Lindsey’s liking of literary and Latin names, and wasn’t a result of my research at all, but I was looking up Atticus earlier for something different and it occurred to me that it might be perfect for this family. There’s a St. Atticus, and I’ve seen Atty, Gus, Kit, and Ace all used as nicknames for it. Atticus is no. 350.

(3) Bennett or Benedict
I’m actually kind of surprised they didn’t have Benedict on their list! It’s got good familiarity in England (Benedict Cumberbatch) and it’s Latin for “blessed” and super saintly — it fits right in with so many of the names on their list! Its medieval diminutive Bennett, though, was an actual style match for them — per the BNW it’s similar in style to Edmund and Calvin, and I consider it to be similar to Fulton (Fulton doesn’t have its own entry in the BNW, but it’s a surname-turned-first-name with strong Catholic roots, and while Bennett started as a first name I believe, it’s also a common surname). And its literary! The Bennet sisters! Bennett is no. 123 and Benedict is not in the top 1000.

(4) Tristan
I’m interested to see what they think of Tristan! It’s a style match for Sebastian, it’s no. 121, and it’s literary — it’s got a lot going for it! It can also be considered a Marian name, as its meaning is related to “sorrow” and Our Lady of Sorrows is one of her titles.

(5) Pierce
Speaking of male Marian names, ever since one of my readers shared that she knew a little boy named Pierce after Simeon’s prophecy that Mary’s heart would be pierced by a sword, I’ve loved the idea of it (and included it in my book of Marian names!). It’s actually a style match for Blaise, and has an English feel. If they didn’t feel tied to the Marian connection, it’s a form of Peter, so St. Peter can be patron. Pierce is no. 522.

(6) Neil (or Niall?)
I wonder what they would think of Neil? It’s a style match for Calvin, and comes from the Gaelic Niall (which itself could be a good option?). Could be cool! Neil is no. 619 and Niall’s not in the top 1000.

(7) Cormac, Colman
Cormac was actually the style match here, being listed with Kieran (standing in for Ciaran, as Ciaran doesn’t have its own entry in the BNW), and I thought it was a great possibility for a couple who’s split between loving Irish/Gaelic/Celtic names and not wanting them to be too Irish. Mac is an awesome nickname possibility. Cormac made me think of Colman, which I think of the same way — it’s impeccably Irish, but isn’t hitting you in the face with it. Cole is an easy nickname. Neither Cormac nor Colman are in the top 1000.

(8) Conrad
Speaking of two-syllable C names, Conrad is a style match for Edmund and Frederick! We seriously considered Conrad for our youngest and intended to use the traditional nickname Cord (or Cordy). There are a couple Sts. Conrad, and it’s no. 577.

And those are my ideas for Lindsey and her husband! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for their little guy?


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady, is now available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon! It’s a perfect for expectant mamas, baby showers, and just because. 🙂 If you feel moved to leave a review on Amazon, it would be greatly appreciated!

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22 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: First baby, a boy! Literary/Irish-y/saintly name needed

  1. Your mention of Bram prompted me to look up if that was Bram Stoker’s full name- Abraham! What a fun nickname.

    What about some James Joyce love? Irish, literary. Ulysses! I know a little guy with an Irish dad with Ulysses as a middle because of Joyce.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love all these names! English/Irish names are our favorites.

    My vote is Calvin Charles! But I’m partial to it since it is the name of our eldest. He actually goes by Charlie, but he has lots of nick names. We like to call him Cal Chuck sometimes too. I can’t wait to hear what they name the baby!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think Walter might be a good fit for this family. The nick name Walt is very adorable, but also ages well. It is a well known classic name, but not one you see often. There are some saint and blessed Walters too. I don’t know why I thought of this, but my gut told me that if you like Ambrose and Edmund, you might like Walter too.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think people are far less likely to bestow nicknames now. Many kids go by their full names so your worry about Edmund being shortened might not be as much of an issue as you fear.

    I agree with Kate that Calvin brings to mind John Calvin but I live in an area with a large Christian Reformed population where Calvin is a popular name in Protestant circles and that might not be the case everywhere.

    Best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would suggest Becket for St. Thomas Becket, or Beckett for Samuel Beckett, the playwright. Or pick one spelling and take both references. Very English, easy to spell and pronounce, but definitely not very common!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a Charles Kieran.

    He mostly goes by Charlie but sometimes calls himself Charles. The name suits him perfectly and i like that there are a multiple nicknames for Charles .

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Abraham/Bram, Malcolm/Mac, and Gilbert/Gil came to mind as I was reading your list.
    I don’t think people default to nicknames now. My daycare required parents to fill out a form that included acceptable nicknames for the kiddo. If course, kids are opinionated. You could influence nn choices. I really like Ned as a nn for Edmund. It’s my fav from your list. Ambrose/Rosemary seems too close to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My 2 cents here, Stay away from Ambrose mainly because of ever having a girl in future “Rosemary”, I love Rosemary but not crazy about having the same name Rose in both names, also stay away from Edmund for the reason you just don’t know for sure but I would think people will shorten it to Ed or Eddie. from the list of remaining names you have, I like Blaise Joseph and he could be BJ! love that nickname for boys, or Charles Thomas, or what about Liam? Also, another option or idea for you to think about, what we did for some of our kids we chose some Saint names that feast days were around the birthday of our child

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I get not wanting the nicknames Ed/Eddie, because, to me, the best part of the name Edmund is the soft “und” sound at the end.
    Maybe they’ll like Theodore or Arthur?
    I think Ambrose sounds great with middles like Michael, Paul, Kyle, Matthew and Luke.

    Liked by 1 person

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