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?! 😍😍😍
“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:
Eloise Grace (“but can we do an Eloise with an Evie Louise??“)
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):
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!