Baby name consultation: First baby boy — Edward or …?

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

Mary writes,

My Mr. thinks the priority should be names with meaning. I agree this is important, but I tend to think, if a particular name sounds good to us, maybe it’s because an obscure saint associated with that name is “picking” our baby through us. Or maybe our baby is meant to be the first saint with that name!  Also, when I’m considering a name,  I weigh the likely nicknames. My Mr. thinks this is not very important and it drives him crazy.

Case in my point: My husband REALLY likes the name Edward. Edward the Confessor is his confirmation saint.  But “Edward” doesn’t have positive associations for me [including]:

  • A tragic boy with scissors for hands
  • A glittery Twilight vampire
  • A King of England who abdicated to marry a divorcee

Aside from that, the go-to nicknames are no-go: Teddy (already taken in my fam), Ned (my Mr. thinks of the Simpsons character), Eddie (calls to mind gangsters and slick tough guys.)  I DO really like the nickname “Fred” but not sure if it is too much of a stretch with Edward. Maybe if the middle name was Francis?

Our last name is English/Anglo-Saxon.

Other names he likes:

  • George 
  • Louis
  • John
  • Nicholas

He highly favors saints who were Kings or soldiers, or fought battles against heretics … Martyrs, not so much.

I like traditional Britishy names but I’m maybe a bit more adventurous:

  • Albert “Bertie”
  • Henry “Harry”
  • Ambrose “Bo”
  • Ferdinand “Andy”
  • Peter (love love love. But unfortunately when I married my husband he had just adopted a dog named “Pete”)
  • Leopold “Leo”
  • Nathaniel “Neil”
  • Thomas (but his brother has a puppy named Tom)
  • Cyrus “Cy”
  • Frederick “Fred”

My husband considers these too “weird” (Albert, Ambrose, Ferdinand, Leopold) or not Catholic-meaningful enough (Henry, Nathaniel, Cyrus)  

I’m hoping you can either

  • help me learn to like Edward (any good book characters you know of? Heroic movie edwards? Modern real life good guys?)
  • ID a nickname for Edward that I can live with
  • Come up with a different name altogether that my husband will go for

Or

  • if it has to be Edward, maybe more of a creative or unexpected middle name?

It’s so fun for me to work with first-time parents! The disagreements Mary and her husband are having about names for their little boy are not uncommon, and I think might get better with future children as they fall into what the style of their kids’ names will be, as started by their firstborn, if that makes any sense.

Regarding the fact that Mary said her hubby prefers to choose a name that already has meaning for him, while Mary’s open to picking a name that she simply likes, and let the saintliness follow: I wrote an article about this very thing! You can find it here: Finding your patron saint (or being found). Another that directly relates to this is Name definitions vs. name meanings. I definitely think that God works that way (He uses our taste/style/preferences — which He gave us — to lead us to Him)!

Fortunately, the names Mary and her husband like are not that far away from each other — they’re all good, solid names that have good usage in England. I think this is likely simply a matter of finding a way to work with each other and find a compromise they can both live with. I think it’s important that neither one of them think that their opinion is the only one that matters, but there are different ways of finding the right balance. For example:

  • If it’s very important to Mary’s husband that Edward be part of their baby’s name, but Mary absolutely can’t stand it for a first name, the middle name spot seems to be the perfect place for it. Then Hubby’s beloved patron saint has his place, but the first name spot is open for a name that Mary doesn’t have as many negative associations with.
  • Perhaps they as a couple would prefer the kind of set up where one of them picks this baby’s first name, while the other one gets to pick the next baby’s. Or Dad gets to pick the boys’ names and Mom gets to pick the girls’ names. These kind of ideas don’t have to be all or nothing — you could decide that one of you picks this baby’s first name, but the other one gets veto power for a name you really can’t stand. Or you could decide that Dad picks the full name but Mom picks the nickname. Maybe whoever picks the first name concedes the middle name to the other parent.
  • Some couples find name conversations to be so contentious that the best way to a peaceful resolution for them is to cross off any name that either parent really can’t stand, even if that name is the other parent’s favorite.

Mary and her hubby might come up with yet a fourth strategy that works better for them as a couple! And a really good reminder is that it might not be possible to agree on one name that they both think is 100% perfect — rather, success might mean finding a name that they both can simply live with — a name that neither one of them hates. I think they can be really hopeful that whatever name they end up giving their little guy will eventually become so intertwined with himself — his personality and how much they love him — that the name will really sparkle for Mary and her hubby.

That said, I want to talk about nicknames for a minute, because I’ve often thought that nicknames are a great tool in baby name compromising. My very first article for CatholicMom.com five years ago included this topic! You can find it here: Patrick vs. Polycarp. Not only do I think it’s important to consider the likely nicknames, like Mary said (even though these days non-family members are far less likely to nickname someone than in the past, it still does happen), but a great nickname can make an un-liked given name much less problematic. Mary’s already thinking the way I would be — thinking of unusual nicknames for more normal first names, or more familiar-feeling nicknames for more unusual first names. I think it’s a great strategy!

Up to this point I’ve been talking about naming (especially a first baby) more generally, but I want to get into Mary’s particular specifics as well. I admit I love St. Edward the Confessor, and while Edward isn’t my favorite name, my love for the saint could sway me if my husband really wanted to use it. But I don’t have the issues with it that Mary does, so let’s talk about those for a second: I would encourage her to not worry too much about Edward Scissorhands or Edward Cullen, as those references are becoming less and less familiar as time goes on, and the abdicating king is more on people’s minds currently, I would think, because of The Crown, but otherwise I don’t think people in general think too much of him — Edward is the kind of name that doesn’t really have one or two particular associations that stick, because it’s such a traditional name with such a long history of usage by lots of different men (real and not real) with lots of different reputations. That said, calling a baby by the full Edward would reinforce those connections for anyone who had them in mind — using a nickname really dispels any of those associations.

Since Mary listed the nicknames that don’t work, I’m assuming that Edward is not a complete impossibility. Teddy, Ned, and Eddie either don’t work or aren’t their style, but I wonder what they might think of Ward? That’s a pretty cool nickname that is so different from Edward (despite having the same last four letters) that it feels like a different name altogether, which might be perfect here. I scoured my favorite naming sites for ideas on other Edward nicknames, and didn’t find a whole lot; one idea that I thought might have a possibility is to switch from Edward to Eduardus (I know this is a bold move, but since Mary described her taste as more adventurous, I thought I’d throw it out there) — St. Edward the Confessor is known in Latin as Eduardus Confessor, and a funny tidbit is that actor Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria had their fifth baby about two months ago, and they named him Eduardo and she often refers to him as Edu. Edu! So cute! Eduardus nicknamed Edu would be really interesting and adventurous! And specific to St. Edward the Confessor! I saw that Edek is a Polish nickname for it, which is interesting, and they could also do initials (i.e., E.J. for Edward Joseph). Another idea would be to pick a nickname that’s unrelated: for example, I know a John who goes by Gus, a Gerard who goes by Sam, and an Xavior who goes by Sam, so why not just pick a nickname they like?

From that perspective, Mary’s idea of Fred is totally fine for Edward just as is! But I particularly like her idea of incorporating Francis for the “Fr” part, added onto to the “Ed” of Edward, but instead of putting Francis in the middle, I think Francis Edward would be a fantastic combo that makes perfect sense of Fred. While Francis is particularly perfect because of its “Fr,” I think any F name with Edward as a middle would make sense of Fred as the nickname. Felix Edward or Finnian Edward, for example. Or Frank Edward instead of the full Francis. Or even Philip Edward or Phineas Edward (you can still use the “F” spelling of Fred, even with a “Ph” given name). I really like this idea, nice job with it!

I was interested to read that Mary said her husband “favors saints who were Kings or soldiers, or fought battles against heretics” — I did a post a while ago on what I called Warrior Saints, in which I included saints who were soldiers. Her Mister’s names of Edward, George, Louis, and Nicholas are all in there, as well as Leo (like Leopold/Leo on Mary’s list). I looked up saints who were kings, and loved seeing Hubby’s St. Louis IX in addition to his St. Edward the Confessor, but also names from Mary’s list! Like St. Ferdinand III of Castille, St. Henry II, and St. Leopold III. These would probably be where I would look to find compromise names or “overlap” names — Hubby might think that Leopold is too weird, but it fits his preference for a saint who was a king, and has a great nickname in Leo, which also happens to be the name of a soldier saint, so he gets things he wants and Mary gets things she wants (the name she likes, and a great nickname). Or maybe, if Leopold is just too bold for him, maybe the given name should be Leo, and they could take both St. Leopold and St. Leo as patrons? Or maybe Edward Leopold, called Leo, where the “crazy” name is tucked away in the middle spot and Mary’s hubby’s preferred name is in the first name spot, but they could agree to call him Leo. But I know that for some people, that would be too much Name Fuss — Mary and her hubby will have to decide how much name fuss they’re willing to put up with.

Speaking of Name Fuss, I just have to suggest this one idea that could be really really cool: Edward Andettere. In Old English, St. Edward the Confessor is known as Ēadƿeard Andettere, which is the Old English for Edward plus “Andettere,” which I was fascinated by, as I’d never seen that word before. After a bit of googling, it turns out Andettere means “Confessor” in Old English, how cool! I’m not sure how it’s pronounced (I emailed someone who might know and will update this when I hear back!), but I love that Mary already has Ferdinand with the nickname Andy on her list … what about Edward Andettere nicknamed Andy?! Ahh! I love it! What a really cool and specific convergence of her hubby’s love for St. Edward the Confessor and Mary’s more adventurous taste!

Okay, let that stew for a minute while I offer some thoughts on the names that Hubby thinks are too weird:

  • Albert/Bertie: Albert, both with and without the nickname Bertie, is one of those quintessentially British-feeling names. I’m not sure what’s weird about it — does her husband mean old-fashioned/out of date? It’s currently at a low point in popularity in the U.S. — it’s been declining slowly but surely since its peak of popularity in the early 1900s — but it’s still a top 500 name, being ranked no. 474 in 2019. That means it’s more popular than Frederick (no. 475), for example, as well as Francis (482), Pierce (490), Corey (492), Maximilian (503), Lawrence (536), Fletcher (622), and Brendan (639) (I chose those names because I thought it was surprising that Albert was more popular than them).
  • Henry/Harry: Henry is definitely Catholic enough! I did a name spotlight post on Henry a while ago because, unfortunately, there are others who think it’s not Catholic enough. I had to show them that it is! Also, St. Henry II was a king! In fact, he was the Holy Roman Emperor and the last of the Saxon dynasty of emperors.
  • Ambrose/Bo: Ambrose isn’t weird among Sancta Nomina readers! This family has a son named Ambrose; this family has a son with Ambrose as a middle name; and my husband and I considered it as well. I love Bo as a nickname for it! I’d thought of Sam and Bram as good possibilities as well.
  • Ferdinand/Andy: I would consider this name to be the boldest on Mary’s list, as I’ve never met anyone in real life with the name Ferdinand and it was only given to twenty baby boys last year. But St. Ferdinand III of Castille is amazing! He was a king and soldier — her husband should love him! And the nickname Andy is so easy and friendly for everyday usage.
  • Peter: Argh, so frustrating when names are off the table because they belong to pets!! I’m glad Mary included it in the list here though, as it was helpful to me in my research.
  • Leopold/Leo: I’m a huge fan of the name Leo, and lengthening it to Leopold is so fun (but I’m also a huge fan of adventurous naming, haha!). St. Leopold III was a great king! Leopold was given to 103 baby boys last year, and Leo alone is currently pretty popular at no. 40 (7454 boys so named last year).
  • Nathaniel/Neil: I love Neil for Nathaniel! Nathaniel is a New Testament apostle name, so while the biblical names don’t always come across as “Catholicky Catholic” as other saints’ names, they certainly are Catholic-meaningful. I wonder if Mary and her husband would be interested in the name Bartholomew? It’s generally thought that Nathaniel and Bartholomew are the same person, and Bartholomew has a really British feel to me and a lot of cool traditional nicknames, like Bart, Batt, Bates, and Bartlett (surnames like Bates and Bartlett are derived from Bartholomew!). There are a bunch of Blesseds and Saints with this name as well.
  • Thomas: Double argh re: the pets’ names!!
  • Cyrus/Cy: St. Cyrus of Constantinople and St. Cyrus the Physician both have great stories, and there are two other Sts. Cyrus as well. Cy’s a cool nickname — perhaps they might also like to consider Simon with the nickname Si?
  • Frederick/Fred: I love the idea of Fred as a nickname for F___ Edward or Ph___ Edward so much that I just can’t love Frederick as much! Haha! But otherwise Frederick’s a great name, and there are a few holy Fredericks.

Hopefully my comments are helpful! Before moving on to my additional suggestions for this family, Mary had specifically asked me for any good book/movie characters or modern real-life good guys named Edward — my favorite is probably Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility (played by Hugh Grant in the Emma Thompson version, fantastic). Another really positive association I have with the name is Prince Edward Island (Anne of Green Gables!). The Wikipedia entry for Edward lists a lot of famous Edwards, which is fun to peruse.

Okay! On to my new ideas! Between Mary’s husband’s list of names and hers, they already have a lot of really great ideas, so I hope that adding more here is helpful and doesn’t just muddy the waters! You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents like in the Baby Name Wizard (affiliate link) as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. As mentioned, I also looked up saints who were kings and soldiers, and I also took a look through the recent birth announcements on British Baby Names, which is always a good resource for parents who love English names. I also took a look through the book of Marian names I wrote (not an affiliate link), as I love a good Marian name for both boys and girls. Based on all that, these are my additional ideas for Mary’s baby boy:

(1) Charles

Charles was a big style match for them, being similar in style to Edward, Louis, and Henry. It’s kingly (Bl. Charlemagne and Bl. Charles [aka Karl], Emperor of Austria), and soldier-y (a bunch of holy soldier Charles-es!), and English, with a bunch of fun nickname options.

(2) Alexander/Alistair

One of the things I love about Alexander is that it’s a style match for one of Mary’s husband’s names (Nicholas) and one of hers (Nathaniel), which could make it a perfect compromise name! There are seven Sts. Alexander who were soldiers, and some great nickname options, like Ace, Alex, Lex, Sander, Sacha/Sasha, and Xander. Or maybe they’d like to consider the super-British variant Alistair?

(3) Theodore

Theodore is a match for Henry, Leopold, and Frederick, but isn’t as “out there” as Leopold and Frederick, which might make it perfect. It has a great meaning (“gift of God”), and there are some soldier saints named Theodore as well. (There was even a Theodore Edward listed in the birth announcements on British Baby Names recently!) Mary already said Teddy doesn’t work, but they could use Theo as a nickname.

(4) William

William is a match for Hubby’s John and Edward and Mary’s Henry and Thomas, and there’s an awesome St. William of Gellone who was a soldier, as well as some Blesseds who were soldiers as well. Will, Billy, and Liam are great options for familiar nicknames, and some more unusual ones include Wilkie and Wilkins. William even has a Marian character, as the flowers Sweet William and Wild Sweet William used to be known as Mary’s Rose and Our Lady’s Wedding, respectively.

(5) Robert/Bo

When I saw Bo on Mary’s list as a possible nickname for Ambrose I immediately thought of this consultation I did for my brother and sister-in-law — my sister-in-law loves the name Beau/Bo, so I spent a bit of time discussing different ways to get to it (including Ambrose!). Also check out this birth announcement for a little girl who would have been named Robert nicknamed Bo if she’d been a boy (because of the middle name, but I definitely think it can work for Robert!). And then Robert is a style match for Edward and John, so maybe Hubby will like it and Mary can use Bo as the nickname! I don’t believe there are any Sts. Robert who are kings or soldiers, but there are quite a few holy Roberts nonetheless.

(6) Philip

I’m so sorry that Mary loves Peter but can’t use it, so I was hopeful I would find something similar, and I think Philip might be it. It’s a style match for Peter, and as I mentioned earlier, I think they could use Fred as a nickname for Philip Edward. However, they might also want to consider Pip, which is so fantastic for a little guy and so British (like the main character in Great Expectations).

(7) Walsingham

This probably falls more in the category of a “creative or unexpected middle name” for Edward. Our Lady of Walsingham refers to an apparition in England, and I actually tried to convince my husband to consider Walsingham with the nickname Walt as a first name for our youngest! Edward Walsingham would be pretty cool.

(8) Adrian

St. Adrian of Nicomedia was a soldier, and is also a patron of soldiers! Adrian has a really British feel, and its variant Hadrian calls to mind Hadrian’s Wall in England.

(9) Caspian

I know this is a tricky suggestion, but if Mary and/or her husband don’t care for it as a first name, it could be another great option for a middle. Prince Caspian is a fictional character — a prince and a soldier — in the Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis, which gives it a particularly British flavor. Edward Caspian would be really cool! (In case it helps, read about the son of one of my readers, named Caspian!)

(10) Hugh

Finally, I saw Hugh in the list of birth announcements on British Baby Names and thought it would be a great addition to Mary’s list. I checked the list of soldier saints, and there is a Bl. Hugh Canefro!

Those are all my ideas for Mary and her hubby, and she also asked if you all could weigh in on how likely Edward is to turn to Eddie, and if Edward suits a little boy. I’m interested to hear your opinions and experiences about that, and also what other name(s) you would suggest for Mary’s baby boy!


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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

6 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: First baby boy — Edward or …?

  1. What a fun read. Alexander sounds very suitable! As for nicknames, I know an Edward who gets Woody as a nickname. Good luck with it all!

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  2. Gosh, we have a Nathaniel (he loves that he is named after an original apostle and that his name is in the Mass – Bartholomew is the Apostle Nathaniel). It’s a super Catholic-y name for our family. But I also LOVE the name Edward… it’s not as common to me as some of the other names listed (used to be more common, but not anymore), and Edward the Confessor is not only a fantastic Saint, but not super obscure at all in my book. I actually attended a St. Edward’s for elementary school and belonged to a St. Edward the Confessor parish. It also has a cool vintage-y and British vibe to it. My devout Polish Catholic grandfather went by Eddie/Edward, and he was legendary… everyone loved Eddie (his full name was Ignatius Edward). So yeah, Edward is a favorite of mine. Edward Ferris is also in Jane Austen’s “Sense & Sensibility”… he marries Marianne. As a lit major who loves Austen, Edward brings that character to mind readily. There is a great, more recent S&S version where Edward is played by dreamy Dan Stevens. It’s worth a watch just because it’s a great movie, IMO.

    Good luck! All the names listed are solid, strong names.

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  3. I LOVE using Ward as a nickname for this Edward because my oldest and I just finished reading The Prince and the Pauper where it ended with Tom Canty becoming the King’s Ward.
    I looked up the meaning online and found this:
    verb
    1.
    ARCHAIC
    guard; protect.
    “it was his duty to ward the king”

    I then had two thoughts:
    When you think this child will most likely to be the oldest, then he will “guard; protect” his younger siblings! So perfect!
    And: This baby will “guard; protect” the Perfect king, Jesus!

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  4. Fun post! Maybe Edwin? St Edwin was a king and Win/Winnie might be a cute/cool nickname. We have met a pair of twins born in the uk who are Theodore and Edwyn…so Teddy and Eddy. Supes cute.

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  5. I love Edward! But maybe also consider Edwin or Edgar. I really like Edgar and it’s so rarely used.
    (Also, will you please do a post on Kateri and Jay Schwandt, the parents with 14 sons who just had a baby girl as their 15th child?)

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  6. My cousin has a Gregory, a nice classic that isn’t overused.

    I also like Stephen. I was looking at the lyrics for Good King Wenceslas. and it mentions that it happened on the Feast of Stephen. Wenzel is the Old English version of Wenceslas. Maybe a middle name option?

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