Baby name consultation: Name needed for a little sister in an established Mary+ theme

Dana and her husband are expecting their second baby, a little green bean! He or she joins big sister:

Mary Elise

Which I love — Mary Elise is so lovely and feminine and sweet, and I love that it ties together Mary and Elizabeth, which makes it a very “Visitation” name to me!

Dana writes,

We are expecting baby #2 at the end of January. We don’t know what the gender will be, but we know that if it’s a boy, we will name him after my husband, Michael Gabriel, so we don’t need boy names. But we are stuck on girl names! Our daughter is named Mary Elise, which we looved and agreed on right away, so other girl names don’t quite seem to measure up!

We also plan on naming all of our daughters “Mary (something)” as their first name, which is a Filipino tradition (my husband’s background) and I love it! Though we also plan on just calling each daughter by the second part of her name. All that to say, I guess the name should flow with Mary, but maybe not? Because she probably wouldn’t go by “Mary ” very often, if ever.

In general, I think we prefer traditional names, with an obvious Catholic/religious feel. We seem to like a lot of saint names or biblical names. Neither of us is very keen on modern names. We’re also hoping for something that isn’t too common but not unheard of (which is one of the reasons why I like Elise so much). And we’d love to have a name with nickname options! Anyway, I hope that’s helpful. Here are two names that we are leaning toward:

Madeleine- probably at the top of our list right now, has a French feel like Elise does, probably go by Maddie.
Theresa/Therese- I’m thinking Mary Therese sounds better than Mary Theresa? Probably call her Tess or Reese.
Catherine- has to be with a “C,” per husband’s request, would call her Catie/Cate. For some reason I much prefer it with a K, though!

Names that I like but my husband doesn’t:
– Christine/Christina
– Evangeline – love the meaning and the French sounding name
– Regina
– Grace- again, my husband knew a Mary Grace…
– Frances

Names that my husband likes but I’m not a huge fan of:
– Jane
– Bernadette

We’ve also considered Margaret but aren’t sure about it. Also Laura but not sure how it could be tied to the faith, or if it flows with Mary.

I was reading old blog posts of yours and came across the name Immaculee. We both really like the name, but it seems a little too Catholicky to me, if you know what I mean haha. Just thought I’d throw that in the mix. Maybe you have some nickname suggestions that would make it a little less obviously Catholic? Not a big fan of “Layla” and Leia is a little too reminiscent of Star Wars 😛

Names that are off the table for one reason or another:
– Claire
– Caroline
– Cecilia (this rhymes with our last name, haha!)
– Josephine
– Rose
– Zelie
– Elisabeth/Elizabeth (Elise is a derivative of this)
– Michaela (too close to Michael if we ever have a boy)

That’s about all I can think of! Also, I know I mentioned that we’ll name a boy after my husband, but even if this isn’t a boy, if we ever have a boy, the first one will be named Michael Gabriel (just as an fyi if that helps for sibling/style matching).”

I love so much that Dana and her husband want to continue the Mary + [something] theme with their daughters! It’s a traditional Catholic custom, so I’m not surprised that Filipino families have taken it as their own! I also love Michael Gabriel, such strong patrons!

Dana’s question about whether the given name should flow with Mary is a great one. Since she said her daughter will likely never go by Mary MiddleName, but always by MiddleName, it certainly isn’t as important. The question reminded me of a post I did a while ago called “Repeating Mary,” in which I included stories others had told me of families they knew (or sometimes their own families) where all/most/many of the daughters had a form of Mary in their names, and one of them said, “The obstetrician that delivered me had a very large, very Catholic family, and had six or seven daughters all named Mary. Of course, they weren’t JUST named Mary, they were Mary X, but one of them was Mary Mary!” I laughed and laughed over that one!

So yes, I think Dana and her hubs can be free of the worry that the chosen name might not “go” with Mary as well as they might like. Of the names she mentioned that they’re considering, I think Laura might be the only one that inches toward that issue (which Dana herself had mentioned), but even still, I actually think Mary Laura sounds fine.

As for the other names they’re considering, a few thoughts:

— Madeleine: Gorgeous, French, great patron saint, great nickname. I love it!

— Theresa/Therese: I actually like both Mary Therese and Mary Theresa! Tess is one of my favorite nicknames, and Reese is so sweet as well!

— Catherine: The “C” spelling is the French one, so I like Catherine as Elise’s sister (despite being a Katherine myself)! That said, Catherine called Kate is traditional: for two examples, Princess Kate is Catherine, and I grew up with a Catherine who went by Kate, so they could totally do Mary Catherine called Kate or Katie if they want! That might be a nice way of finding a compromise between Dana’s preferences and her hubby’s preferences?

— Christina/Christine: I love these as well.

— Evangeline: Ditto.

— Regina: I wonder if the Regina variants Reina (RAY-na) or Reine (REN) might appeal to Dana and her husband? They both mean “queen,” like Regina.

— Grace: If Grace is problematic from an association standpoint (is the Grace Dana’s husband knew an ex-girlfriend? A horrible boss?), it’s probably best to cross this one off the list?

— Frances: This one has been growing on me so much recently, it strikes me as both dignified and sweet (especially the nicknames).

— Jane: Mary Jane is certainly a classic!

— Bernadette: I love the French-ness with Elise.

— Margaret: Mary Margaret is another classic! I love Margaret’s many nicknames: Meg, Maggie, Maisie, Daisy, Greta, Rita.

— Laura: There are actually a few holy Lauras they can turn to as patron! Two saints and two blesseds. Alternately, I was wondering if they’ve considered Loretta? Behind the Name says Loretta may be a variant of Lauretta, which is an Italian diminutive of Laura, so Loretta could take the Laura patrons if they wanted. Or, I’ve always known Loretta to be a Marian name, after Loreto, where the Holy House of Nazareth is, as well as the name of the Marian prayer Litany of Loreto. My grandmother was Mary Loretta, and she went by Rett or Retta; I also recently did a consultation for a family who was considering Loretta with Lola as a nickname.

— Immaculee: I love this one too! Dana’s right, it *is* very Catholicky! Choosing a nickname that makes it less obvious is a perfect solution, and what I would have suggested if she didn’t already mention it. Imma is one I’ve seen — so similar to Emma, and maybe Imogens go by Imma as well? Or Immy? I actually think Dana’s idea of Layla is brilliant, I’m going to remember that one to suggest to other parents who might be interested in Immaculee! I could see Mae working, or Leah/Lea/Lia (rather than Leia; I think it can work even though the LEE-a pronunciation is different than im-mac-yoo-LAY … although — are Elise and Leah too much “lee” sound?), or Mac/Mackey (I have a girl cousin who goes by Mackey and it’s SO CUTE on her!). Figuring out a “mashup” nickname from Mary+Immaculee might be a great idea here too — maybe Mimi or Mim. Or ooh, maybe Molly? Molly’s a variant of Mary anyway — it started as a diminutive of Mary, and I do know someone named Mary who goes by Molly — and I especially like it with the M of Mary and the “lee” of Immaculee. And Molly is a style match for this family according to my research! (More on that below.) I’d love to know what other nickname ideas you all have, especially if you’ve heard them on Immaculees in real life.

So I think Dana and her hubs have a great list! If they were to choose a name from one of these, I think they’d be happy with it! But of course, I can always come up with more ideas! I did my usual research, where I look up the name 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. Based on that, these are my additional ideas for this baby, if a girl:

(1) Camille
Camille wasn’t as great a style match for this family as some of my other suggestions — in fact, it’s a match for only one of the names that they like — but that one name is Elise, so I thought that counted for a whole lot! Camille is such a pretty name, and it’s French, like Elise, which is so pleasing. Despite its feminine vibe, it’s actually both a masculine and feminine name in French, a form of Camilla, so patrons include both the male St. Camillus of Lellis and the female Bl. Camilla Gentili. Cammie is a sweet nickname.

(2) Annette (or Anne, Anna, Hannah)
I kept coming across Anne names in my research, and while Mary Anne is a classic, I felt like maybe they’re looking for something a little more … sparkly? I could be wrong! And Mary Anne is great! And Anne is the French spelling, and it’s a trim, sophisticated name with the awesome nickname Annie. But when I saw Annette listed as a match for Regina, it just felt pretty cool to me. Mary Elise and Mary Annette. They could still use Annie as a nickname, or just Anne. Anna and Hannah were other Anne names that were listed as similar to some of the names they like, and Mary Anna and Mary Hannah are both lovely as well.

(3) Abigail
Abigail is a match for Gabriel and Madeleine, and Abby is a match for Kate and Maddie, so it made sense to include Abigail in this list! I think Mary Abigail is an unexpected pairing, and Abby is such a sweet nickname. There is a St. Gobnata, who is also known as Abigail, and there’s Abigail the Matriarch from the Old Testament, who does have a memorial feast day according to the Church.

(4) Hope
A Mini consultation is normally for three names, but I wanted to be sure to include Hope in the list, so they got a bonus name! I was surprised at what a great match it is according to the BNW, being listed as similar to Elise (which is such a big deal I think), Kate, and Grace. My one tiny reservation is that Hope with their last name, which begins with a P, could run together if they’re not careful about enunciating. My name is Kate Towne, which has been heard as Kay Towne by more people than I can count through my life, so normally this kind of thing wouldn’t bother me when suggesting names to parents, except that Ho P___ could be problematic. Maybe not! Careful enunciation could solve the problem! (I introduce myself as KaTE [space] Towne, emphasizing that T in what feels like an unnatural way and offering just the slightest pause between first and last names, but it works!) I just want to be sure to warn the parents of that possibility.

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of Mary Elise, who will go by her middle name exclusively?


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

34 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: Name needed for a little sister in an established Mary+ theme

  1. I’ve always considered my name to be a feminine form of Lawrence and taken St. Lawrence as my patron. I’m named after my Irish Catholic great-grandma so it never occurred to me that Laura wasn’t a Catholic name. I know several large Catholic families with daughters named Laura.

    I also prefer Kate with the K, but I wanted to point out that the Catherine spelling is more popular among the French so maybe that would persuade you to the Mary Catherine side.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Madeline, but paired with Mary it essentially is naming your child Mary Magdalen (Madeline is French variant of Magdalen). I happen to love the name Magdalen as a stand alone name, but I thought I would mention this in case it would be “too much” in the end for you!

    You have so many great choices! Would you consider Martha? Martha and Elise are such a sweet pair. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am a Mary Teresa so think it is a nice pairing. I love Tess as a nickname.

    I love the name Elise and I have a daughter Leah. If I would have had another daughter Elise was in the running. There is something similar to the names – probably why I like them both. Also like Lauren and Elena which were always in the running. I think I have an “eL” thing for girls names.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a really lovely tradition to include Mary in all daughters’ names. I absolutely adore Elise, and Mary Elise flows very nicely!
    I like Mary Madeleine, Mary Therese (sounds better to me than Mary Theresa as well, though that could be just because I prefer Therese to Theresa, I love the idea of Reese as a nickname), I slightly prefer Catherine to Katherine but Kate/Katie looks much better than Cate/Catie, and Catherine matches Elise better. I’m not incredibly keen on Mary Christine/Christina but they flow very well together, and there is both the reference to Mary as well as Christ.
    I loooove Evangeline, such a pity that Dana’s hubby doesn’t like it.
    Mary Grace, Mary Frances, Mary Jane, Mary Bernadette and Mary Margaret all look nice.
    I like your idea of connecting Laura to Loreto, or using Loretta instead of Laura. Personally I really like blessed Laura Vicuńa, I think she could make a great patron saint. And of course there is also st. Lawrence.
    Immaculee is absolutely sweet and lovely but would also feel a bit too Catholicky to me to use it. I think Immy/Immie is a cute nickname.
    I think I love Camille the most of your ideas, it is such a gorgeous name and flows well with Elise as a sibset! Actually I’d once written a short story where there are two sisters – Evangeline and Camille – so maybe that coould be the alternative for Evangeline that they both would like.
    Mary Hope is gorgeous!
    How about Mary Sofie/Sophie? Or Sophia, though this might be too popular for their style. If the nickname would be a problem, I love Vivi as a nickname for Sophia names, or if Vivi sounds too unrelated for them maybe just Fifi or Fee. Maybe Mary Helen(a)/(e) (I adore the nickname Hellie, unless Elise ever goes by Ellie), Mary Celeste, Mary Delphine, Mary Lucille, Mary Colette, Mary Constance, Mary Louisa (or perhaps Louisette?), Mary Emmeline, Mary Charlotte, Mary Fleur/Florence, Mary Agatha, Mary Matilda, Mary Celine, Mary Joy, Mary Annabelle/Amabel (as another alternative to Anne?), Mary Stella, Mary Hazel, Mary Aveline, Mary Lucia, Mary Ruth, Mary Adeline, Mary Cordelia.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Initially I LOVED Mary Annette. I think it’s a perfect sister name! Now that one of the commenters mentioned hearing Marionette I keep hearing that when I say it in my head though. I also really like the comment of Mary Collette which has a similar feel to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great consultation. I’ll add Mary Caroline. Well known but not regularly used. Not obviously Catholic perhaps but definitely with a built in Saint connection (Karol). Love it with Elise and nicknames abound- Carol, Caro, Linnie, Carrie…. Not sure if it’s actually french but it definitely has a similar vibe to Madeline without the popularity of Maddie.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I know Dana! and just texted her about rhyming names, because we’ve got one of those with our last name, too. But incidentally I think our rhyming name would go really well with Mary, so I wanted to suggest it – Mary Louise! I also think Laura is great as a sister to Elise. St. Laurence could be the patron or maybe Our Lady of Victory, since laurels are a symbol of victory and that’s what Laura means!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mac or Mary Mac would be my suggestion for an Immaculee nickname. I’ve heard of women named this, though it was probably shortened from Mary McKenzie or Mary McKenna, etc. It’s about as Catholic a name as you could come up with and Mary Mac sounds a little more down to earth/cute. There is a woman named Immaculee Illbagiza who wrote about her experiences in Rwanda.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you to everyone for all of your suggestions- these are awesome! Kate did a wonderful job (as always) with our name consultation and we love the suggestions she came up with, especially the idea of Loretta/Lauretta for Laura and Annette! We know several baby Abigails so will probably have to pass on that one 😉 But we really love all of these ideas- I feel like we have plenty of options now for any and all future daughters, haha!

    Liked by 1 person

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