Baby name consultation: A sister for Lucy and Zelie, but big brother’s name has influence too

Melissa and her husband are expecting their fifth baby — their third daughter! This little lady joins big siblings:

Graham

Joseph (called Joe/Joey)

Lucy

Zelie

Such a lovely bunch of names!!

Melissa writes,

I was convinced this current baby was a boy, so I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around another girl! … I love the names Lucy and Zelie and just don’t love any other girl names as much! I also want to stay away from names ending in “e”, but I tend to be drawn to those names! 

Names we like but I’m not sure:

  • Isla — this is probably my favorite so far but it seems trendy and popular. Not sure if it goes with the other names. 
  • Claire or Clara — my husband likes Claire but not Clara! My best friend from childhood is a Claire, and I like the idea of changing it up by adding the A. 
  • Nora — I think it’s pretty but husband doesn’t like as much. 
  • Frances — I like this but am scared to use it for some reason. 
  • Amelia — I like it but don’t love it. Husband isn’t the biggest fan. 
  • Vivian — kind of like this, but husband isn’t a fan! 
  • Lillian — this is a family name, but I don’t love Lily, which I think people would call her. 
  • Matilda — love the idea of Tilly, but not sure I want another name ending in “e”. My son Joseph also goes by Joey sometimes. 

We have lots of cousins, so here is a list of names I don’t want to duplicate! 

  • Katherine or Katie
  • Anna 
  • Elizabeth 
  • Margaret (goes by Maggie)
  • Adelaide (goes by Addie)

This was fun to work on! Graham, Joseph, Lucy, and Zelie are great names — it was fun to see Graham in there, as I frequently see Joseph, Lucy, and Zelie in the families I work with (and I love each of those names!), but I rarely see Graham — I’m always delighted by an unexpected name! I felt pretty confident about the names that are style matches for Joseph, Lucy, and Zelie, but was really interested to see what names would be revealed as style matches for Graham in my research.

You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already 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 find it to be uncannily accurate! I used Graham, Joseph, Lucy, and Zelie, as well as Isla, Claire, Clara, Nora, Frances, Amelia, Vivian, Lillian, and Matilda. All such beautiful names!

Before sharing my new ideas, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the names Melissa and her hubby are considering, in case they’re helpful:

  • Isla: Isla is a beautiful name! This mama, who I had the privilege of doing a consultation for, has three daughters named Adelaide, Clairvaux, and Isla, so I chuckled when I saw that Claire is a name Melissa and her hubby are considering and Adelaide is on their list of names they can’t use because they’re cousin names (the fact that Melissa included it as a name they can’t use tells me that she thought I might have suggested it, and/or that she might otherwise like to consider it if it wasn’t already taken). So yes, I think Isla would fit in fine with the other children! It was also pretty cool to see that a style match for both Graham and Isla is Fiona — having a name in common like that tells me that Graham and Isla are pretty well matched, even if it doesn’t explicitly say so in the BNW (the style matches for each entry are restricted to 5-8 names, so not all the style matches will be listed). I will say that Lucy and Zelie come across as super Catholicky Catholic (at least to me, who sees all names through a Catholic lens), while Isla doesn’t have that same feel. It does have fantastic faith connections! Marian ones, even! I wrote a book of Marian names, and Isla is an entry in it! So it can definitely work, and it’s so pretty, but I can see why Melissa wondered if it goes with the other names. I actually love that it’s more closely connected to Graham, because Graham feels like a bit of an outlier (not in a bad way, and not a bad thing!), and using Isla loops him back in. One last thought: Melissa said she’s worried that Isla is trendy and popular, which I do understand. I thought it would be good to look up the actual numbers: Isla was actually in the top 1000 in both 1905 and 1908! Wow! But wasn’t so again until 2008, when it roared onto the scene at no. 623 (likely due to actress Isla Fisher, I’m guessing); since then, it’s continued to climb and is currently at no. 57. So it’s had a quick ascent, which gives it its trendy feeling, but Lucy and Joseph are both more popular at nos. 48 and 24, respectively, so I wouldn’t say it’s overly popular for this family. (Zelie isn’t in the top 1000 [but Zaylee has been since 2015 and is currently no. 735], and Graham is no. 180, so this family’s names are kind of all over popularity-wise — which is great! It means there are a whole lot of names that would be comfortable in their family.)
  • Claire or Clara: So funny to me that Melissa’s hubby likes Claire but Melissa prefers Clara! They actually do have separate entries in the BNW, with different style matches, so there is a different feel to them both. Interestingly, Claire is a style match for Graham, and Lillian from Melissa’s list is a match for Clara. Since I mentioned it above, I wonder what they would think of Clairvaux? It would be another way of changing it up, like Melissa said she liked the idea of doing, and adding a patron saint (St. Bernard of Clairvaux), and it could still take her husband’s preference, Claire, as a nickname. Claire is no. 55; Clara is 95; and Clairvaux is not in the top 1000.
  • Nora: I love Nora too. It can be a nickname for Eleanor and Honora — might either of those appeal to Melissa’s husband? I was also interested to see that the similar Nola is a style match for Isla — maybe that one letter change would make a difference? Nola can be a nickname for Finola/Fionnuala, or it can stand on its own. It’s also been used secularly as shorthand for New Orleans (New Orleans, LA = N.O.L.A.), so they could maybe think of it as an honor name for St. Joan of Arc, since she was nicknamed “The Maid of Orleans.” Nora is no. 29; Eleanor is 27; Honora is not in the top 1000; Finola and Fionnuala aren’t in the top 1000; and Nola is 606.
  • Frances: Aw Frances, how sweet! But I totally get that Melissa’s “scared” as it does have an older feel than her other kids’ names. I also think its nicknames are part of its appeal, and if she doesn’t love the idea of an “ee”-ending nickname, than Frannie and Francie and Frankie would be out. Frances is no. 438.
  • Amelia: I would be inclined to cross this off of their list, since Melissa said she doesn’t love it and neither does her husband. I wonder if switching to the Emilia spelling would help? It’s the name of St. John Paul’s mother, whose cause for canonization is open! I think Amelia is probably way more popular than they’d like, at no. 7, while Emilia is no. 42.
  • Vivian: I’d say the same as Amelia — I would consider crossing it off the list. V-heavy names that families who like Vivian often like include Evangeline and Genevieve — both of those have the similar faithy feel as Lucy and Zelie to me, and Evie and Vivi are such cute nicknames (but they end in that ee sound, gah!). Vivian is no. 96; Evangeline is 275; and Genevieve is 168.
  • Lillian: I love that Lillian’s a family name, and I thought, if Melissa didn’t want it to be reduced to Lily, maybe it would be best as a middle name? Also, thinking of Isla and Lillian, I wondered if she might like Lila as a first name, in honor of Lillian but without the risk of Lily, or Lila as a nickname for Lillian that she would enforce through firm and consistent correction of others if they call her Lily? I think the sound of Lila — rhyming with Isla, having the long I instead of Lily’s short I — would move everyone’s mindset away from Lily. Lillian is no. 37; Lila is 227.
  • Matilda: Oh yeah, Tilly’s darling. I don’t have a good suggestion here! It’s a pickle! Matilda’s no. 447.

Okay, on to my new ideas! As mentioned, these are a result of my research in the Baby Name Wizard — looking at the style of Melissa’s children’s names as a whole and trying to find names that would fit in with that — but also I gave a lot of weight to Lucy and Zelie specifically, together, and what names would feel like their sister, with special excitement for names that also loop Graham in a bit more (handsome Joseph goes with a broader range of names). Based on all that, these are my ideas:

(1) Gemma

I think Gemma is such a slam dunk for this family! It shares with Graham the style match of Fiona, which means they’re style matches for each other, even though they weren’t listed as so, and Isla is also a style match for Gemma! So it’s already firmly in the world of names Melissa and her husband like, and I like that it specifically matches up with Graham. Additionally, and this really is what sealed it for me, it matches up exactly well with Lucy and Zelie in terms of the names that I see Catholic families of today considering. It’s two syllables, like them, but doesn’t have an “ee” nickname. St. Gemma Galgani is much loved and makes a great patron! Lucy, Zelie, and Gemma are fantastic sister names! (Also, the little Isla mentioned above was almost Gemma!) I quite like Gemma Lillian, lovely. Gemma is no. 198.

(2) Stella

I like that Stella is a style match for both Nora and Matilda — it brings in two of the names Melissa and her hubs like in a way that’s similar to Lucy and Zelie. And it’s a Marian name! It refers to Our Lady’s title Stella Maris (Star of the Sea), and I like that it doesn’t have a natural “ee” nickname. If they decided they might like a longer name, I love both Maristella and Stellamaris. But I prefer just Stella for this family! Stella is no. 39. I don’t love it with Lillian, but Stella Claire is lovely! If you’re into name meanings, it has the nice added layer of meaning of “clear star,” since Claire means “clear” and Stella means “star” (could be great for a Christmastime baby?).

(3) Elise or Alice

I was so interested to see that Elise is a style match for Graham and Claire, and the similar-but-different Alice is a match for Lucy and Frances! I’m not sure which one I like better for this baby girl — on the one hand, Elise is French like Zelie, and I love that it’s an Elizabeth variant (but then again, maybe it would be too similar to cousin Elizabeth?); on the other hand, I like that Alice is a match for Lucy and has Graham’s gentle Brit feel. Elise is no. 207, and Alice is 73.

(Bonus) Ave

The Mini Consultation is for three ideas, but I had this fourth idea that’s a little offbeat, so I thought I’d include it as a bonus. I mentioned Evangeline earlier, and its sweet nickname of Evie; additionally, Evelyn is a match for both Amelia and Vivian, which made me think maybe an Eve- name might appeal to Melissa and her hubs. But Eve, Evelyn, and Evangeline all lend themselves naturally to Evie, so if they’re trying to avoid that, I wonder what they’d think of Ave? Like in Ave Maria? I’ve never seen it used as a given name, but I included it as an entry in my book after hearing about a little girl named Ava Maria, in honor of Our Lady. Ava is certainly lovely, but it made me wonder if Ave would be doable, and I think it is! I think it can definitely hold its own with sisters Lucy and Zelie.

And those are my ideas! What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of Graham, Joseph, Lucy, and Zelie?


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!

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Name data: U.S. and U.K.

I can’t believe I haven’t yet posted here on the blog about the 2019 name data that was (finally!) released by the Social Security Administration a couple of weeks ago! (The first few weeks of school always have me in a dither — it always takes me until Thanksgiving every year to finally feel like I have my bearings.)

You’ve probably already seen, but here are the new top ten names:

Screenshot from the SSA baby name site

Of note, Emma dropped down a spot from no. 1 (after 5 years in the top spot), and Ethan replaced Logan. Abby from Appellation Mountain did a few good posts that you’ll want to read (here, here, here for starters — and more! Scroll through her most recent posts to find them all!).

I did post on Instagram a quick thought after taking a first look through the new data, since I was delighted to see that 55 of the girl names that rose the most and 23 of the boy names that rose the most are in my book of Marian names! Here are a few that jumped out at me:

I keep meaning to spend more time with our own data — and I still plan to! — but I had cause to peruse the new data from the U.K. for a consultation I’m working on — you’ll definitely want to check that out too! Elea at British Baby Names discussed the top 100 names in England and Wales and the most popular names by mother’s age; she also shared the top 1000 names in England and Wales and the top 1000 names in Scotland. Such fun info! Here are the top ten for England and Wales:

Girl

  1. Olivia
  2. Amelia
  3. Isla
  4. Ava
  5. Mia
  6. Isabella
  7. Sophia
  8. Grace
  9. Lily
  10. Freya

Boy

  1. Oliver
  2. George
  3. Noah
  4. Arthur
  5. Harry
  6. Leo
  7. Muhammad
  8. Jack
  9. Charlie
  10. Oscar

Similar to ours, and different, too! The two outliers — Freya and Muhammad (the most popular spellings of both names; Freyja, Mohammad, and Mohammed all made the top 1000 as well) — came in at no. 200 and 336, respectively, in our own data. There’s a little Freya in one of my boys’ classes this year, which is the first time I’ve ever encountered the name in real life.

I’m curious, though, about your perception of “British” names — what names would you say come across as the “most British”? On the above lists, Harry and Arthur are the only ones that I might put in that category, and only depending on what their siblings’ names are. Some others that fit that category for me (again, often dependent on siblings’ names) are Lewis, Alistair, Imogen, and Gillian. Do you agree? Happy Thursday!


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!

Birth announcement: Titus Joseph!

I’ve had a few namey conversations with Kaylene — owner of Azalea Rose Shop on Etsy (fantastic faithy things!!) and the lady behind Magnify 90 (feminine genius, baby!) — and she’s let me know her baby has arrived — a boy, given the simply wonderful name … Titus Joseph!

She writes,

He was born last night and he was a surprise but the closer we got to deliver the more I felt he was a boy and he was 😍😍😍 I cried such happy tears for my son to get a little brother and me to have a healthy baby chunk! 10 lb 3.1 Oz 21.5 in long

The meaning of Titus is perfect for him, and I love the book of Titus, and I felt like it went with all our other names. My dad’s initials are TJ and our older son’s are JT so it’s fun 💙

Joseph as a middle came to us later in pregnancy because of growing devotion to St. Joseph plus the OT connection with Joseph. My husband is amazing at caring for our family so it’s another nod to him being the St. Joseph to our family (my husband can fall asleep like nobody else as well LOL — recall the sleeping St. Joseph!) And my hubby finished out our basement with his construction skills so baby had a space upstairs! And my grandpa’s middle name is Joseph and my dad’s middle is Joe. Strong name for a big strong baby!

I just love that! “Strong name for a big strong baby!” Yes indeed! I love all the layers of meaning as well!

But wait: there’s more! Titus Joseph joins:

Gianna Clare (“my sister’s Confirmation saint — so a clever way to name a baby after her without being obvious and my husband’s legal name is Clarence so we took the Clare — plus I love Franciscan spirituality“)

Jackson Thomas (“two family names, both sides grandpa and great grandpa were either a Jackson or a Thomas — and we’ve taken Thomas the Apostle as his patron for Divine Mercy and “My Lord and My God” connection“)

Zelie Kay (“I had a great gramma Zella, and St. Zelie was a major player in my spiritual maturing, and it’s just so cute! Plus Kay for me — which my Kaylene comes from my grandma Darlene Kay“)

+Beatrice Rita (“We also have a little saint Beatrice Rita whose name just appeared from the Holy Spirit when we lost her last May 😭 Titus and Beatrice couldn’t have coexisted had she been born. Titus is beyond blessed to have his sister intercessor“)

What wonderful names, all! I love the reasons for choosing each one, they’ve done a wonderful job!

Congratulations to the whole family, and happy birthday Baby Titus!!

Titus Joseph with his sisters and brother ❤ (They’re all wearing shirts from Azalea Rose Shop!)


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!

Odds and ends: Marian edition

School started for my boys yesterday, and we’ve been praying the Litany of School Saints I compiled for CatholicMom last month — it’s been a source of peace for me, and I wanted to share it again in case it’s helpful to you!

Happy feast of Our Lady of Sorrows! I know several of you have a devotion to Mary under this title, and I included a few names connected to Our Lady of Sorrows in my book of Marian names. You can read more about this beautiful title and feast day here.

This past Saturday was the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, which you know is a special one for me! You may have seen over on Instagram, but I wanted to share here as well that I made a donation in honor of Our Lady’s name on behalf of the Sancta Nomina community to the Sisters of Life. Thank you all for joining me in my love for these beautiful names!

Finally, I’ve been meaning and meaning to write about kind of a big deal: Pope Francis added three titles to the Litany of Loreto! For those unfamiliar with the Litany of Loreto, here is a good explanation:

This litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary was composed during the Middle Ages. The place of honor it now holds in the life of the Church is due to its faithful use at the shrine of the Holy House at Loreto. It was definitely approved by Sixtus V in 1587, and all other Marian litanies were suppressed, at least for public use. Its titles and invocations set before us Mary’s exalted privileges, her holiness of life, her amiability and power, her motherly spirit and queenly majesty.” (source)

Additionally,

The Litany owes many of its praises to the Greek Akathist Hymn, which was first translated into Latin in Venice around the year 800. The other titles and praises addressed to Mary are found extensively in the writings of the early Church Fathers of the first six centuries.

Over time a number of titles for our Lady were removed and added to the Litany. Originally the Litany had fifteen additional titles, such as Our Lady of Humility, Mother of Mercy, Temple of the Spirit, Gate of Redemption, and Queen of Disciples. Recent history has seen the addition of five titles. The last four titles of the Litany which refer to the the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, the Rosary and Mary as the Queen of Peace are of recent origin … The Litany is used especially during May services, the month traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also used at Benediction and some congregations use it in the Divine Office. The Litany is approved for public use and carries a partial indulgence.” (source)

Many of the names in my book of Marian names came from or were inspired by the Litany of Loreto, and when I heard that Pope Francis had added new titles, I was thrilled! (You can find the Litany in English and Latin here.)

The announcement was timed to coincide with the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (June 20), and was explained thusly:

According to directions, the invocation, ‘Mother of mercy’ is to be inserted after ‘Mother of the Church’, ‘Mother of hope’ after ‘Mother of Divine Grace’ and ‘Solace of migrants’ after ‘Refuge of sinners’

In an interview, Archbishop Roche explained that these invocations ‘respond to the realities of the time that we are living’.  Speaking to Vatican News, he said that many people across the world who are afflicted in many ways, not only by the Covid-19 pandemic, but also forced from their homes because of poverty, conflict and other reasons, are invoking Our Lady.” (source)

Archbishop Roche also made a point to say that these titles are not new — they’ve long been used by the faithful. I also discovered that St. John Paul II had added two himself! He added Mother of the Church in 1980 and Queen of families in 1995.

The new titles in Latin are:

Mater misericordiae (Mother of mercy)

Mater spei (Mother of hope)

Solacium migrantium (Solace of migrants)

Mercy, Mercedes, and Misericordia are already in my book for Our Lady of Mercy/Mercies, as is Hope and its variants for Our Lady of Hope, but I quite like the idea of adding Solace if I were to ever have the opportunity to do a second edition! Are there any other name possibilities that jump out to you?

Happy Tuesday!


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!

Disrespectful to use names for God?

Happy Labor Day everyone! I always think how the baby shower my family through for me when I was pregnant with my first baby was held right around now, and had “Happy Labor Day!” on the cake. Such a funny long-ago memory that doesn’t seem that long ago! My boys keep asking me what Labor Day is, so I finally looked up so I could be precise with my answer; this is what I found, in case it’s helpful for you:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” (source)

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming!

A reader asked a fantastic question:

I really like the name Theo. I am concerned that Theo translates almost directly to the Greek word for God. Should I be concerned that it is in any way disrespectful to use as a standalone name?

I love these kinds of questions, because the intention behind them is so lovely and respectful! There is a history of not using certain names because it was thought to be disrespectful to do so. Our Lady’s name was one such; Rev. Patrick Woulfe wrote in Irish Names and Surnames in 1923:

[Mary as a given name] was very slow in creeping in to the Western Church. It is only about the middle of the 12th century that we find the first instances of its use in Europe, whither apparently it had been brought by the devotion of the crusaders. Even in Ireland, there were few Marys until comparatively recent times. I find only a few instances of the use of the name before the 17th century. At present one-fourth of the women of Ireland are named Mary. The ordinary form of the name, however, is Máire, Muire being used exclusively for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and, therefore, the most honoured of all names of women.”

(I wrote more about the name of Mary in Ireland here.)

Back to Theo, I posed a question on the blog a while ago about why the name of Jesus isn’t used by English-speaking parents for their sons, and one of you responded with a link to this article, which contained this:

How come English-speakers don’t name their children Jesus? In observation of the commandment against misusing God’s name, English and American Protestants have historically taken a more conservative view on religious names and reserved the name Jesus for the son of God. In England, Mary was considered too sacred a name for common use until about 1300, and it wasn’t until the past 100 years or so that naming a baby after an angel ceased to be sacrilegious. Around World War II, many Protestants started giving their sons names like Michael and Gabriel; before then, the bearers of those names would have been identifiable as Irish Catholics or German Lutherans.

On the other hand, Jesus has been a common first and last name in Iberian countries since at least the 14th or 15th century. For many Catholics from Spanish and Portuguese cultures, naming a child is considered a way to honor God rather than a violation of a commandment. (Similarly, Catholics differ from Protestants in their interpretation of the commandment against worshipping images.)

I think that last bit — “For many Catholics from Spanish and Portuguese cultures, naming a child is considered a way to honor God rather than a violation of a commandment” — is the key here. Unless a parent’s intention were to name his or her son Theo because they believed their son to actually be God, I would imagine any connection to the meaning of Theo in the choosing of it for their son would be only one of reverence.

How would you respond to this reader? Do you agree with my opinion that using “just Theo” isn’t disrespectful? Have a great Monday!

Articles I’ve written on related topics:

Names “foreign to Christian sensibility” at CatholicMom.com

Good-Intention Baby Naming at Nameberry


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!