Baby name consultation: “Short and cute” vs. “flowery” for a girl, surname-style for a boy

Happy feast of Mary, Mother of the Church! And at the same time, in sorrow I share this Prayer for Racial Justice, and the call to participate in this 19-day period of prayer and fasting (from today to the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) as an act of reparation to God for the sin of racism in all its forms. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us. St. Michael, pray for us. Sacred Heart of Jesus, bless us and keep us close to You.

Trish and her husband are expecting their fourth baby — a little green bean! He or she joins big siblings:

Donovan Kolbe (“we liked last names that were first names for boys and Kolbe had special significance since my husbands grandfather escaped from the Warsaw ghetto as a boy“)

Genevieve Louise (“I love very feminine names for girls, while my husband likes short and cute. I sold it to him by saying we could call her Evie, which we did for a few years but she is now asking to be called Genevieve (YAY). Louise was after my husbands grandmother“)

Veronica Caeli (“we call her Caeli … we knew we wanted a Caeli, but didn’t want her to forever be spelling it … so made it a middle name so she can choose“)

Are you as swoony as I am over these names?! 😍😍😍

Trish writes,

My husband and I have different tastes and had a VERY difficult time coming up with our son’s name … I have a list of names for this baby but my husband pretty much doesn’t like any of them because they are “too flowery.” He would like Emma or Claire but they’re too common for me. I think Gemma is a good compromise and he likes it, but is Gemma a different name than Genevieve? I really don’t like super common names. Even Mary! Sorry to Our Lady but every other family has a Mary and I just can’t.”

(“and I just can’t” — haha!)

Names Trish and her hubby have discussed include:

Xavier
Leo
Oliver
Jerome
Gemma
Eloise Grace (“but can we do an Eloise with an Evie Louise??“)
Emmeline
Annalise
Seraphina

And Trish specifically said, “I hope you can bridge the gap!!!” which, as I told her, is one of my very favorite things to do! (In fact, my very first CatholicMom.com column [five years ago!] was about this exact issue!)

First off, I’ll say that I really love that they both like Gemma, and normally I’d think it would be a perfect compromise, but for Genevieve! I mean, Genevieve starts with the sound *jenna*, and Gemma is *jemma* — they’re SO close! If they always called Genevieve “Evie,” then perhaps it wouldn’t be too problematic, at least on an everyday basis. Of course, that said, if Trish and her hubby just really love Gemma and the similarity between Gemma and Genevieve doesn’t bother them, then it’s certainly not the end of the world to choose Gemma!

I’m interested in the divide between Trish and her husband over girl names — he likes feminine, shorter names (Evie, Caeli, Emma, Claire), while Trish has feminine, longer names on her list (Emmeline, Annalise, and Seraphina). I see a lot of potential here!

I actually think Emmeline is a perfect compromise name here — it’s got Emma in it, from Trish’s hubby’s list, and a little Emmeline could easily and naturally go by Emma and/or Emmy. Annalise and Seraphina are similarly good I think, because Anna/Annie and Sera are less “flowery” names and I think they would qualify as “short and cute,” as Trish described her husband’s taste (I also think Sophie could work as a nickname for Seraphina, which I also suspect Trish’s husband might like). Another name that might also be a good compromise is Clairvaux. It’s pronounced clair-VO, like St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and having the Clair- at the beginning means a little Clairvaux can go by Claire with no problem. Two of my readers have daughters named Clairvaux! I definitely think Trish should check them out (here and here) as both families have name taste similar to hers, I think.

As for Eloise Grace, I wouldn’t think it would be a problem unless they regularly tack Louise onto whatever they’re calling Genevieve. That is, do they regularly call her Evie Louise? Or even the full Genevieve Louise? If so, I do feel like Eloise might be too similar. But if Louise rarely shows up when they’re referring to Genevieve, then I think it’s fine. It also reminds me of a friend of mine who gave both her first and second daughters the middle name Catherine, but the older daughter’s middle name was for her grandmother Catherine, and the second daughter’s middle name was for St. Catherine of Siena. And I know more than one family who used a certain name as a middle name for one child, and liked that name so much they used it as the first name for a subsequent child. I say all this to say, even if Trish and her hubby use Louise with some regularity and still want to use Eloise for their next daughter, other families have done similar and even crazier things and the world didn’t fall apart. They can easily say for those who wonder that Louise was for Hubby’s grandmother and Eloise is just because they like it, or whatever. And actually, Louise and Eloise aren’t linguistically related! Louise is a feminine form of Louis, while Eloise is a variant of Heloise.

Another name that I thought they might like to consider is Elise — very similar to Eloise but even more different from Louise than Eloise is. It’s a short French form of Elizabeth, which opens up lots of great patron saints. Or Elisa, which flows better with Grace than Elise, I think. Or Elodie? That’s also a really pretty name.

There’s no problem at all about not liking the name Mary! Many Catholic families feel similarly, both because of name fatigue from all those years of Mary as the Number One Girl’s Name as well as a preference for more unexpected names (and not at all because of any disrespect toward Our Lady), which is in large part why I wrote my book of Marian baby names! There are so many gorgeous, legitimately Marian names that aren’t Mary — names that fit all different tastes in names! I included some in my list of suggestions below.

As for boy names, I think they’ve got a great list! I’m surprised there aren’t more surname-type names on there, since Trish had said that she and her hubs like last names that are first names for boys. Xavier is the only name on their list that fits that criteria, though it’s been used as a first name for so long that many people don’t know that it started as a last name. Leo and Oliver are great, and I regularly see them on lists of names considered by parents I do consultations for, but I rarely see Jerome! I admit though, when I was looking for boy names for this baby, I focused mostly on finding last name type names.

Okay, on to my suggestions! You all know that I start each consultation by looking up in the Baby Name Wizard the names the parents have used and those they like/are considering as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I also looked through my book of Marian names for ideas for both boys and girls. These are what I came up with (a few extra for girls, given that girl names are particularly problematic for this couple):

Girl
(1) Ave
I feel like Ava is the kind of name Trish’s hubby would like — “short and cute” — but changing it slightly to Ave makes it both much more uncommon and more obviously faithy. It’s said like AH-vay, like in Ave Maria. I’d love to see such a short first name paired with a longer middle — because Ave means “Hail” (Ave Maria=Hail Mary), it might be weird to put it with a non-Marian middle, so maybe something like Ave Immaculata? That strikes me as a combo Trish might really like, and I think Ave might be the kind of name her husband would be okay with. I could also see putting Ave and Maria together as Avemaria, that would be amazing.

(2) Isla
I was actually inspired to add Isla by one of the Clairvaux families I linked to above — they have another daughter named Isla, and Isla’s an entry in my book for the Marian title Our Lady of the Isles. It’s “short and cute,” and so pretty!

(3) Pia
This is another name in my book, it’s the feminine form of Pius/Pio, and in the Salve Regina Our Lady is specifically referred to as pia, which is translated in the English version as “loving,” though it’s technical translation is more along the lines of “pious, devout, dutiful.” Actor David Henrie (of Wizards of Waverly Place fame, which I never watched but he’s got loads of followers), who’s actually a devout Catholic, recently named his daughter Pia, and I love seeing her sweet face and name in my Instagram feed! If Trish could convince her husband to use a longer name, I think Pia could also work as a nickname for Seraphina and Philomena and Phillippa.

(4) Liesse
This is yet another name in my book — it’s French for “joy” and refers to Notre Dame de Liesse (Our Lady of Joy). Isn’t it such a pretty name? It can definitely be used on its own, and if Trish wanted to lengthen it, Marie-Liesse isn’t uncommon (especially in France).

(5) Maristella
I know Trish said she doesn’t care for Mary, but what about something like Maristella? It reminds me of Genevieve and Veronica (and Emmeline, Annalise, and Seraphina) because of its length and femininity (which probably means her hubby won’t care for it, oh dear), but both Maris and Stella can be nicknames for it, as well as some other creative options like Mia, Mari, Molly, Missy, Milla and Mella (I could see Trish’s husband particularly liking Mia and Molly). Maristella is a reversal of the Marian title Stella Maris (Star of the Sea). Two Sancta Nomina readers have daughters named Maristella: here and here.

(6) Mercedes
I know Trish’s husband is freaking out at this point that I’m including all these ideas he won’t like! So sorry! I just really love the idea of compromising by using a longer, less familiar name like Trish likes with a familiar, “short and cute” nickname more like her husband’s taste. Mercedes is in my book — it means “mercies,” and is for Our Lady of Mercy or Our Lady of Mercies. It’s a Spanish name with quite an interesting (and very Catholic!) history — I posted more about it here. During the Jubilee Year of Mercy, quite a few of my readers chose names related to Mercy for their children, and not only did Mercedes get some usage, but so did Mercy itself. I thought maybe Trish’s husband might like Mercy? It can stand on its own, or it can be a nickname for Mercedes. Sadie can also be a nickname for Mercedes, which I also thought her hubby might like. Lots of options!

(7) Tessa
Again, Tessa seems to me like the kind of name Trish’s husband would like — I would definitely call it “short and cute.” I actually thought Trish might like it too! Or maybe this could be another possible compromise, where they could use the given name Therese or Teresa and call her Tess or Tessa. I mentioned Marie-Liesse above, which makes me also think of Marie-Therese — I just love how the French do that! And I think doing a double first name (with or without the hyphen) automatically gives the name a more unusual character, which Trish prefers. So maybe Marie-Therese plus a middle name, called Tess or Tessa?

(8) Zara
Finally, Zara: in my research for this family in the Baby Name Wizard, I actually didn’t find a whole lot of ideas that I thought would work for them. But Zara is a style match for both Gemma and Xavier, and it’s short and cute while also being uncommon, so I thought I should definitely include it in my suggestions. I actually did a spotlight post on it a while ago, as I’d discovered that it’s a feminine short form of Zechariah — I loved finding that connection! Zechariah is a name I’ve often thought would be great for a boy as a sort-of nod to the Visitation, since he was Elizabeth’s husband and John the Baptist’s father; a little Zara could claim that same connection.

Boy
(1) Tiber
Okay, moving on to boy ideas. So I totally latched onto the fact that Trish said she and her husband like last-names-as-first-names for boys, and I always include place names in that category (especially since so many last names started as place names, and so many saintly place names have a last name feel, like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, etc.). And any time I know one of the parents is a convert, I immediately think of Tiber! Tiber is for the Tiber River in Rome, and many of you know that when someone converts to Catholicism a fun thing to say is that they “crossed the Tiber.” (There are even t-shirts that say “Tiber Swim Team” with the year the person entered the Church, like these.) Anyway, two of my readers have used Tiber for their boys and I love it! I think it’s so cool and so meaningful, but in kind of a stealthy way! Check them out here and here.

(2) Fulton
Another name that came right to mind when seeing Donovan Kolbe’s name is Fulton! Fulton was actually Fulton Sheen’s mom’s maiden name, so a legit last name, even thought it’s so tied to him as a first name.

(3) Owen
A name that did well for this family in my research was Owen, which I love because of course it’s a first name, but it’s also St. Nicholas Owen’s last name (he’s amazing)! So it reminds me a lot of Donovan in that they both have good usage as first names.

(4) Elliott
Elliott’s another one that did quite well for them in my research, and like Donovan and Owen, I love that it has usage as a last name (poet T.S. Eliot is one example) while still being a familiar but not too common first name. It’s actually a variant of Elijah, which gives it both a faith connection and a specifically Marian connection (via Elijah’s connection to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which I discuss in my book).

(5) Campion
Camden was listed as a style match for Donovan, which made me think of the similar and saintly Campion, for St. Edmund Campion. Isn’t Campion a cool name? I’ve always had a soft spot for the nickname Cam, and I love St. Edmund Campion, and I love how brothers Donovan and Campion sound!

I also encourage Trish and her hubby to check out my posts on saintly surnames — there are so many great options for those who love the surname style!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Donovan, Genevieve (sometimes nicknamed Evie), and Veronica Caeli (called Caeli)?


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!

22 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: “Short and cute” vs. “flowery” for a girl, surname-style for a boy

  1. Kind of random, but I noticed that their three kids’ first names all involve a V somewhere in them and I thought that tied them together in a unique way. V is a less usual letter (one of the tricky ones to use in Scrabble lol), so it just seemed a bit notable. (The names also all have N’s but that’s less notable.)

    It’s tempting to suggest other names with a V in there, Victor/ia, Vianney, Avila, Vincent, not sure how well they go stylistically though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Erin mentioned the V connection and I noticed it also. I think it might be nice to continue the “tradition” with this baby’s name.

    For a girl I like Valerie Grace. As Veronica currently goes by her middle name Caeli, there wouldn’t necessarily be confusion with two daughters with V names.

    I also like Avaliese or Aveliese, pronounced ay vuh LEECE, with the middle name Claire. Nicknames could be Ava, Ave, Avis, or Liese.

    For a boy I like Vincent or Victor.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My favorites from Kate’s suggestions: Clairvaux, Fulton and Owen

    My favorites from your list: Annalise, Leo and Jerome (As a bookworm, I get all heart eyed when I see Jerome being considered. I even heard it on a girl once nicked Romy)

    For boys, the first that came to mind was Garrett. It doesnt scream Catholic, but is related to Gerard.
    *Garrett Xavier
    You could use Rhett as a nickname if you need one.
    Or maybe a Catholicky surname in the first name slot.
    *Kapaun Jerome
    *Cassian Leo

    Others that came to mind: Beckett, Campbell, Phineas/Finnian, Sullivan, Rowan

    If you really want to keep the V theme going: Sylvester, Bonaventure, Vardan, Vianney and Avila all fit the bill.

    For a girl, Adelaide or Adeline nicked Ada, Felicity, Delphina, Helen, Agnes, Maeve
    *Adelaide Gianna
    *Maeve Annalise

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I also think that there could be a lot of options that both Trish and her husband would like, because so many long, flowery, feminine names can really have cute, short nicknames and I personally really love flowery girl names just as well as cute and sweet. Your suggestion of Seraphina nn Sophie almost made me swoon! And it made me instantly think of Josephine, which certainly can also be nicknamed Sophie, and has also a bunch of other cute nicknames like Josie, Posie, Joey, could be something like Fina too. Perhaps it would be their thing.
    Emmeline would be really fabulous with the siblings, and Eloise too, I see the Eloise/Louise problem similarly to you that it’s generally not a problem but if it does bother them or if Evie does go by Louise sometimes perhaps indeed a different El name of those you have suggested would be better instead. Or how about Elowen called Winnie? Or, to continue with the V theme, Elvira called Ella/Ellie/Liv/Via, though sadly as far as I know neither Elowen nor Elvira has a patron saint which sucks, but she could be the first. Plus, Elvira’s etymology is unknown but one of the suspected meanings is “all true” which I think could be really meaningful for a Christian girl. I’m not sure though if Elvira Grace is a particularly good combo with all the r’s so close to each other.
    Since other people commenting have noticed the V connection between the siblings (which I hadn’t while reading the post! :O but it’s so fun), out of their options I think Xavier would work perfectly for a boy since it both has a V like the other siblings’ names and is a surname name like Donovan Kolbe. Oliver would be fantastic too and made me think about Olivette for a girl which could use almost the same nicknames as Olivia plus it has Olive in it so either Oliver or Olivette could be a reference to Olive garden or something like this as olives are frequently mentioned in the Bible in different contexts. Perhaps Olivette is too out there though.
    Your suggestion of Ave made me think of Avila, which is pronounced with an AH and not an AY but who says Avila couldn’t be nicknamed to Ava especially that it has all the letters?! 😀 Or Aveline, whose sound I actually prefer, and it does contain Ave. But something like Ave Immaculata, Ave Stella Maris, Ave Regina etc. would be beautifully Catholic.
    Pia is just so incredibly cute, also as a nickname for something longer indeed.
    And Mercedes nn Sadie is very unexpected and creative and made me think of Milagros nicknamed to Mila.
    For a boy, how about something like Claver (as in st. Peter Claver), or Vianney, or Casey? Im afraid I don’t have as many ideas for a boy, as I am not as much into surname names, but I think your ideas would go brilliantly with the other kids, and especially Fulton and Owen.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like Leo, Xavier, and Eloise best from Mom and Dad’s list and Isla, Owen, and Marie Therese, Therese, or Teresa n.n. Tessa (I prefer long name + nickname w/the siblings’ names.) best from Kate’s list.
    For girls, I wonder if they’d like Jeanne-Claire? (Jeanne pronounced Zhawn) It fits w/Genevieve’s French name, it includes Claire, and they could nickname her J.C. if they want! I also like Victoria after Our Lady of Victory, but it’s probably way too close to Veronica! Maybe as a middle name?
    For boys…. I’m not good at boy’s names. Maybe Simon or Nathaniel?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. For a boy:
    Seton
    Bosco
    Gerard
    Becket

    For a girl, since the long-name-with-nickname hasn’t worked out great for dad’s taste last time, I wouldn’t do it again. So maybe a name that’s already short, but still feminine and unusual for mom:
    Eden
    Lucille
    Siena
    Alma
    Zelie
    Bridget

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A friend of a friend named a daughter Petra and I thought it was ADORABLE! Short and cute, highly feminine imo, and not at all common.
    I also loooove Eloise though. I don’t like how it flows into our last name (begins with S) otherwise I would have been trying to convince my hubby of it years ago. I would love to see this family use Eloise!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What about Emmanuelle nn Emma instead of Emmaline? I thought Bennet for a boy, which you’ve suggested before. What’s shorter and cuter than Ben? They’ve probably thought of it already but Emmett? If that’s not too common.

    What about Gemma Grace, and if it turns into a problem with Genevieve you call her Gigi?

    Elise made me think of Elsie? I think Vesper would have some of the sounds they seem to like but might be too out there. Jasper?

    Laurence (Laurie)
    Ellis (which I think in English comes via Elias?)
    Charles
    Christian
    Roman
    Oscar
    Jeremiah (Jem)
    Ambrose
    Linus
    Lewis (If Louise isn’t too close)
    Gideon
    Jude

    Alice
    Isadora nn Ida or Izzy
    Georgiana (Georgie)
    Beatrice (Bea! so short and cute!)
    Matilda (Milly/ie, Tilly,)
    Camilla (also Millie)
    Cora
    actually, Zora?
    Arabella
    Honor
    Kezia
    Juniper/Junia
    Estelle

    Liked by 1 person

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