Baby name consultation: Cool, Catholic, and maybe Celtic for baby no. 4

Mollie and her husband are expecting their fourth baby! This little one joins big siblings:

  • Avila Mary
  • Jack Michael
  • Luke Gabriel

I looooove these names!! I love that Avila is so recognizable (among Catholics anyway), and feels familiar in that it’s similar appearance- and sound-wise to names like Ava and Evelyn, but it’s also surprising in the best way possible. I love, too, that they paired it with the sweet and simple Mary. Avila Mary is such a lovely combo! And Jack Michael and Luke Gabriel are fantastic combos as well! I love how masculine and saintly they are — great names for both boys and men. Mollie and her husband have done a fantastic job!

Mollie writes,

We’re struggling for both boy and girl names. For a girl name, Avila sets the bar that we need something somewhat (but not too) unique, feminine and vowel-y. We don’t want any repeated letters, so we can’t use another A name

Names we liked before we named Avila were Grace, Rosalie, and Natalie

Now that we are trying to coordinate with Avila, we like Vera and Fiona … We’re struggling with Fiona because it’s not a saint and there’s a cartoon character named Fiona that’s an ogre. We’ve always liked the name Magdalene for a middle name or Rosemary (but not sure if that fits since Avila has the middle name Mary). 

As for boy names, Jack and Luke were our top two boy names since we met. So, it was very easy to name them, but now we don’t have any names that we like. We’ve tossed around Mark, Ross, Fitzgerald (my husband’s [middle name is] Gerald, but we don’t like Gerald alone). But really aren’t pulled any particular way yet. Just that we want it to go well with Jack and Luke. We named them after the archangels, which puts us in a tough spot if this fourth baby is a boy because Raphael is harder to match with and who knows how to pronounce it?!

That made me laugh about the pronunciation of Raphael! How do you all pronounce it?

Names that they can’t use include:

  • Nicholas
  • Aidan
  • Noah
  • Michael
  • Casey
  • Griffin
  • David
  • Bennett
  • Samuel
  • Isaac 
  • Allison
  • Caroline
  • Ella
  • Clara
  • Julia
  • Bridget
  • Elaine
  • Maeveen
  • Bonnie
  • Sonja
  • Maya

I was really interested to see what names are on their list for this baby, and was surprised by a few of them — I love being surprised! I thought I’d start by offering my thoughts on them, in case they’re helpful:

  • Grace, Rosalie, Natalie: I was interested that Mollie and her hubby have a sense of names they liked before naming Avila versus names they’re considering now. I agree that Grace and Natalie have a different feel than Avila, but I wouldn’t cross Rosalie off just yet. Mollie described Avila as “unique, feminine and vowel-y,” but I would describe it as “unique, feminine, and Catholicky Catholic with a current feel.” That is, I wouldn’t worry about matching its sound so much (the “vowel-y” quality she mentioned), though I wouldn’t avoid doing so either — rather, in trying to find girl names that feel like natural sister names for Avila, I would look for “Catholicky Catholic names with a current feel.” The “current feel” Avila has is that it’s a place name, which is something I think was rarer for Catholic parents to use in the past but is much more in line with modern thinking. Rosalie has a “current feel” in a different sense I think — it was out of fashion for a while, but is coming back again. This is Rosalie’s popularity chart from https://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/ — I zoomed way out to get all the years from 1900 in, which unfortunately compromises the ability to read it clearly, but you get the idea:

Rosalie is currently at no. 208, which it hasn’t been at since the 1940s — in fact, it dropped off the chart altogether between 1989 and 2008! Its reemergence feels like a rediscovery — it’s vintage rather than dated. In contrast, Grace entered the top 100 in 1995 and Natalie in 1976, and both have been there ever since. Grace has the additional aspect of having very popular usage as a middle name, which adds to its feel of commonness — “common” is the opposite of Avila! All this to say, I’d suggest keeping Rosalie on the list! If they still do like it, but still don’t like it in the first name spot as a sister to Avila, maybe it can replace Rosemary as a middle name idea — that way they have the “rose” that can nod to Our Lady without the “Mary” that repeats Avila’s middle name.

If they want to find a way to make Grace and Natalie work, I might suggest making Grace part of an unexpected double first name, like Cora-Grace or Roma-Grace or Thea-Grace. Those names (Cora, Roma, and Thea) actually didn’t make the cut for my “official” suggestions below, so I’m happy to given them a mention here — they’re the kind of names I think of when I think of Avila. I’ve seen Cora used quite a bit in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (mostly, but also sometimes the Sacred Heart of Jesus … or both!), Roma is a nice nod to the Church and is place-y like Avila, and Thea means “God” and makes a pretty amazing “phrase” when paired with Grace (actually they all do) … these are all what I would call “Catholicky Catholic names with a current feel”: place names, noun names, “idea” names. And though they might seem overly long for everyday use, those three combos have the same number of syllables as Avila. And for a fresher take on Natalie, I’d suggest Natalia.

  • Vera: I’m not sure I’ve seen any of the families I’ve worked with consider Vera, and the only one I know in real life is in her 70s, so I had to look the name up — it was pretty cool to find that it has a very similar popularity arc to Rosalie, having disappeared from the charts in 1984 and didn’t reappear again until 2009; it’s currently 252, which is where it was in the mid-50s. I really love its entry at Behind the Name: “Means ‘faith’ in Russian, though it is sometimes associated with the Latin word verus ‘true.’” How cool! I could see Vera-Grace also being a great combo. A related name that could be cool to consider is Verity, which means “truth.” My one hesitation with both Vera and Verity is that, since they have a prominent V like Avila, will Mollie and her hubs feel like they have to find a name with a prominent V for future daughters?
  • Fiona: I, too, love the name Fiona! Though I like its symmetry with Avila, in the sense that it’s a five-letter name ending in A, I wouldn’t have included it in the list of names that are similar to Avila, though — it’s missing that “Catholicky Catholic” element. That said, if they just love it and want to make it work, Behind the Name says it’s a feminine variant of the masculine name Fionn, from which comes the name Finnian, and there are a few Sts. Finnian, so they can serve as patron of a little Fiona. BtN also connects it to Gwen, which is a Welsh variant, and there are some Sts. Gwen as well. As for the Shrek connection, it’s interesting to note that The Baby Name Wizard book (affiliate link), which you all know I always use in my consultations, said Shrek was actually the reason that Fiona entered the pool mainstream names — it entered the top 1000 in 1990 and is currently no. 265, which is a pretty sweet-spot position — not too popular, but neither unfamiliar nor rare. It also lets you know that lots of families are using the name, despite the Shrek connection — like this family that I did a consultation for. Fiona really is a great name!
  • Magdalene: I was excited to see Magdalene on their list, since it’s the exact kind of name that I think of when I think of Avila! Magdalene is fantastic, and I’d love to see them bump it onto the first-name list.
  • Rosemary: It’s actually a really traditional thing to give all the daughters in a family a form of Mary in their names somewhere (first or middle). Some have interpreted it in the past as using Mary/Marie/Maria itself for all the daughters (St. Therese and her sisters all had Marie); other families have used variants of Mary (my sisters and I all have a different form of Mary in our names); others have used other Marian names like Rose (some fun examples of different options here; also, my book of Marian baby names is a compilation of all these ideas). So from that perspective, I don’t think there’s any problem with using Rosemary as a middle name for a girl, even with Avila’s middle name being Mary. It could be a nice connection between sisters, and easy enough to do for all the daughters they end up having.
  • Mark: Mark seems so perfect with brothers Jack and Luke — a four-letter name ending in the K sound! I have no quibble with Mark, except possibly that if their first three boys have four-letter names that end in the K sound, would they feel like they have to continue that with future boys? (This is not a big quibble on my part though — you’ll see I included a similar idea in my official suggestions below.)
  • Ross: I love this, too — I love that it continues their boys’ four-letter theme but in a new way and with new sounds. Like Fiona, it doesn’t have a Saint as far as I can tell, but it’s actually a place name that several Saints share, which makes it a nice complement for Avila’s style.
  • Fitzgerald: I love this idea! The connection to Hubby’s middle name and St. Gerard is great, and Fitz is a fun nickname that’s four letters like Jack and Luke, but the fact that it’s a nickname rather than the given name opens up more options for future sons. Other ideas related to Gerard include Garrett, which is derived from Gerard, and Hardy, since Gerard is a combo of the Germanic elements ger (“spear”) and hard (“brave, hardy”).
  • Raphael: It’s almost painful to think of them NOT using Raphael for a middle name for their next boy! Haha! After Jack and Luke’s middle names, it would be so fun! But I definitely don’t think it’s necessary — I think Michael and Gabriel are used so frequently, even together, without Raphael, that I think they can get away with not using it. If they did decide to use Raphael (and with it being the middle name, they can choose whatever pronunciation they like! They’re listed here), some options for future boys’ middle names can include Angel/Angelo/Angelus (Angelus has the nice added layer of being the name of the Angelus prayer) and Seraphim (referring to the order of angels called the seraphim and it’s used as a boy’s name). In terms of matching a name with Raphael, I like both Mark Raphael and Ross Raphael (I’m a big fan of alliteration, though I know not everyone is). Fitzgerald Raphael might be too many unusual names together though?

So those are my thoughts on the names Mollie and her husband are considering — now on to new ideas! I mentioned The Baby Name Wizard earlier — I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they’re considering in that book as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/pronunciation. I did so for this family, keeping a particular eye out for names with a strong faith connection; I also rifled through my mental files for names like Avila, since her name doesn’t have its own entry in the book, and I used my book of Marian names as a resources as well. Based on all that, these are my new ideas for Mollie’s baby:

Girl

(1) Carys or Charis

These names, which are pronounced the same (CARE-iss), are the kinds of names I think of when I think of names like Avila. The former is a Welsh name that means “love”; the latter is from the Greek for “grace, kindness.” They’re such pretty names! I like that Carys, being Welsh, has the Celtic feel that they like, as evidenced by Fiona, Ross, and Fitzgerald, and I like that Charis is contained within the word eucharist, which gives it a beautiful added layer of meaning.

(2) Clairvaux

Mollie said that Clara is off limits, but Claire showed up a few times in my research — it’s a style match for Jack, Luke, and Grace — and it made me think of Clairvaux, which has more of Avila’s feel, especially since it’s a saintly place name like Avila (St. Teresa of Avila and St. Bernard of Clairvaux) and it has that prominent V that I think they like (in case they decide they want to go that route). I think Clairvaux would be great because it would bridge Avila’s name with their boys’ names in the sense that Clairvaux is very Avila-ish and the nickname Clair(e) is very Jack-and-Luke. I have a couple of readers with daughters named Clairvaux — here’s one and here’s another.

(3) Cassia

Cassie is a style match for Ross, and it’s one of my favorite nicknames for girls, so I was excited when I was thumbing through the BNW and saw that Livia — notable because it has all the same letters as Avila and also ends in A, so I thought it was a decent stand-in from that perspective — is a style match for Cassia. Cassia has a few fun layers: it’s the name of a form of cinnamon (a spice name! How fun!) and is also the English form of the biblical name Keziah, who was one of Job’s daughters. Biblical + spice with a sweet nickname sounds amazing! There are two possible pronunciations: KAS-see-a or KAH-sha.

(4) Elanor nicknamed Nora or Ella

Ella is a match for both Jack and Luke, but I worry that it’s too similar to the sounds of Avila? But then Nora is a match for Fiona, and since both Ella and Nora can be nicknames for Eleanor, I thought there was something there, but Eleanor itself seemed a little too tame next to Avila? I wondered if changing the spelling to Elanor — which is the spelling Tolkien used in Lord of the Rings — would help? The Tolkien names are often favored by Catholic parents because of Tolkien’s identity as a devout Catholic writer and the Catholic themes in his writing — they’re kind of sneaky Catholic names! I also thought Ella-Grace — like the double name idea with Grace that I mentioned earlier — could be an interesting option.

(5) Violet

Not to add more V names when I’ve suggested that maybe a name with a strong V wouldn’t be a great idea for their next girl, in order to not feel like they’re locked into a theme, but Violet could be lovely here! It’s an entry in my book of Marian names because the violet flower used to be called Our Lady’s Modesty, and represents her humility.

(6) Stella

Speaking of Marian names, and also of Ella above, I also love the idea of Stella for this baby! Stella Maris is one of Our Lady’s titles, meaning Star of the Sea, and I’ve seen Stella as a first name in honor of this title, as well as Stella Maris as a first+middle combo, and the long and lovely Stellamaris and Maristella. Of those, Stella seems like a great sister for Avila!

(7) Kate

Kate is a match for Jack, Luke, and Ross, which means I have to suggest it for this family! I don’t think that Kate is a great sister for Avila, though — they’re just so far apart style-wise. But some ideas to make this work can include Kateri with the nickname Kate, or maybe Kate as part of a double name like I suggested with Grace. Vera-Kate, Roma-Kate, Thea Kate, Ella-Kate, even Stella-Kate could all provide just the sparkle that Avila’s sister needs to match her sister’s stunning name.

(8) Isla

Isla is a match for Fiona, and it’s an entry in my book of Marian names, since “its Marian character comes from the title ‘Our Lady of the Isles’ (Moire ro Naomh nan Eilean in Scottish Gaelic, referring to a state of Our Lady on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland), or any of the devotions in the U.S. and Canada to Our Lady of the Island or Our Lady of the Isle, including churches and institutions in New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Quebec, Canada. There’s also the church of Our Lady of the Isle in Croatia.” It’s such a pretty name! I could also see Isla-Grace and Isla-Kate as being really pretty combos. (One of the Clairvauxs that I mentioned above has a sister named Isla!)

Boy

(1) Becket(t)

Given that Jack and Luke both have that prominent ending K sound, as does Mark from the names Mollie and her hubs are considering, I thought Becket/Beckett might be right up their alley. I love that a Becket(t) could go by Beck, which is a great fit with Jack and Luke, but it’s also very Avila-esque, like St. Thomas a Becket. It’s a cool option!

(2) Kolbe

Cole is a match for Luke and Colin for Natalie, both of which are great and maybe Mollie would like to consider them? They’re variants of Nicholas, which is where the patron Saint would come from. But they both made me think of Kolbe, which has that Avila feel as well and could be a really great bridge name between their boys’ style and Avila’s style.

(3) Grant

Grant is a match for Ross, and as soon as I saw it I wanted to suggest it. I’ve actually seen it in a few families who also have a Luke, and one reader of the blog said she considered it because of the dona nobis pacem part of the Mass: “grant us peace.” I love that!

(4) Drew

I really like the idea of Drew with Jack and Luke — I feel like it has a similar feel — but I don’t so much feel that way about the full Andrew. Since they already used Jack — which of course has a long history of usage as a given name in its own right, but started as a nickname for John — I thought maybe they’d be okay just going with Drew as a given name?

(5) Ryan

I felt the same way about Ryan as I do about Drew with their boys — it just feels like it goes! I did a spotlight on Ryan a few years ago and came up with what I think are some great faith connections. I also like its Celtic background for this family.

(6) Owen

Owen is a match for Jack, Luke, and Grace, and I love that its Celtic feel goes along with the feel of Fiona, Ross, and Fitzgerald. Though it has both Irish and English/Welsh connections, I’m a huge fan of St. Nicholas Owen, who was one of the English Martyrs — he’s a great patron!

(7) Charles (Charlie)

How can I ignore the fact that Charlie is a match for Jack and Vera! Normally I would suggest the formal Charles with the nickname Charlie, but as I was thinking with Drew, maybe Charlie as a given name would be more their speed? I’ve also seen Charley bestowed as a given name by people who don’t want to use Charles — maybe the spelling Charley has more of a full-name feel?

(8) Finn(ian)

Finally, since they’re considering Fiona, which is a form of Fionn (Finn), and since Finn is a four-letter name like Jack and Luke, maybe Mollie and her hubby would like to consider this family of names for a boy! Finn as a given name is great, but I’m guessing they might like Finnian better, since it’s an actual Saint’s name. I love it for them!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Avila, Jack, and Luke?


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! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

11 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: Cool, Catholic, and maybe Celtic for baby no. 4

  1. The name Caeli Marie popped into my head right away as I was reading their girl’s name. I love the Catholic idea of including a Mary name. It’s got that Irish feel, Caeli meaning heaven but also coming from the Regina Caeli. It is pronounced Chay-lee. I also like Caeli Magdalene.
    For boys, I thought the idea of Beckett was very clever. Beckett Raphael sounds amazing. And the nn Beck is very cool. My other ideas are Matt Raphael and Edward Rafael nn Ted. Not sure which spelling of Raphael they might want. It seems like a really cool theme to have a short first name or a short first nickname. I also like how Luke is one of the Gospel writers, Jack is a nickname for John, who is also a gospel writer. Since they’re on the fence about Mark, I thought maybe Matt would be a good fit?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For girl names:
    I don’t think it’s at all unusual for a family to use the more unique name in the first name slot for one child, and in the middle name slot for another. That is to say, if you’re wanting to have a “Catholicky name/more universally used name” balance for your girls’ names, something like Grace Clairvaux fits as well as a sister to Avila (for me) as Clairvaux Grace.

    A Catholicky place name paired as a double name with Grace (or Mary or even Kate) could be really fun. Belen, Siena, Olivet
    *Grace-Belen Rosalie

    I love the idea of Rosemary as a first name. With Romy as a more unexpected place nickname option.
    *Rosemary Isla
    *Vera Magdalene

    Stella made me think of Estelle which I feel fits beautifully with Avila if the “one step removed” doesnt dilute the Marian connection for you.
    *Estelle Rose

    For boy names:
    Mark Raphael pretty much wins for me, but Fitzgerald would break away from the one syllable, four letter given name pattern while being packed with family meaning. Plus, Fitz is just awesome.
    *Fitzgerald Ross

    I second Owen and Drew, although I’d probably go with Andrew to open up future options a bit. There are a LOT of great one syllable names though!
    *Owen Raphael
    *Andrew Mark

    I actually love the idea of Blaise for you. It bridges the boys’ names and Avila. I even really like it with Raphael.
    *Blaise Raphael
    *Seth Raphael
    *Ezra Becket
    *Paul Angelus

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  3. I love it that you suggested just Drew because: I have a little Luke. When I was a tween/teen, both Drew (never Andrew) and Jackson (so close to their Jack) were high on my list of future baby names!

    Isla and Violet have both been on my lists as well, although recently I’ve been favoring the variants Viola and Violetta. I’ll probably never get my hubby on board with any of these, though.

    And I also know a family with both a Grant and a Luke!

    I’ll throw in one more boy name from my own lists that might fit. Dominic? Not as short as Jack and Luke, but still ends in the same sound.

    In my opinion, if they did decide to bring Raphael (“rah-fie-ell” to me) in as a middle name, they will be able to consider the archangel set “completed” and move on to totally unrelated middle names for additional boys, if they want. I would love to see them use it!

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  4. I hope they use Raphael in the MN spot if it is a boy! How wonderful! I like the previous poster’s suggestion of Blaise as a bridge name between the current siblings. Owen and Finnian are good too.

    For a girl Zélie seems as current as Avila. Also suggesting Pelagia (Pella), Imogen, and Esprit.

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  5. For a boy, I love Mark Raphael, because it’s another Evangelist ending in a k sound + the other Archangel. The pronunciation wouldn’t worry me, since it’s a middle name.

    I really like the ending in K theme so:
    Patrick
    Nicholas or Dominic nn Nick
    Zeke
    Clark
    Frederick

    For a girl, I love Magdalene, Stella Maris and Rosalie (I agree that Avila and Rosalie is a great match!).

    I suggest Siena, another saintly place name that’s vowel-y. And it’s similar to Fiona, sound-wise!
    Siena Magdalene
    Siena Rosalie
    Siena Grace

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  6. How about Veronica, which could always be shortened to Vera?

    My great grandmother was Rosa, which I think was probably after her grandmother Rosalie. There was also a Rosanna in the family. Any would be pretty as variants.

    I think Siena is also very pretty.

    I pronounce Raphael as Ray-fee-ul and would shorten it to Rafe. Maybe Raphael would make a nice first name instead of a middle name.

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  7. In Italy Vera is not common but it’s my cousin’s name and I also have a friend with that name. To give you an idea sibling names are, respectively, Luna and Alberta. So I would say it’s for parents who like to be a bit different! I really like it.

    I like the suggestion of Siena above, and I would like to add Majella to it. I also like Isla, here in Scotland it’s super popular for obvious reasons while fiona is a very middle aged name (I still like it and would find it cute on a little girl). I also looove Rosalie and think Cora is adorable. Stella is also nice, I think they have so many good options for a girl!

    Rosalie Vera
    Cora Magdalene
    Siena Rose
    Majella Rose
    Stella Rose
    Isla Rose

    For a boy they could keep the theme going with names like Samuel and Daniel. I personally prefer Raphael but I do agree that pronunciation can be tricky. I like Finn! They could make the theme “one syllable names” which gives them plenty of options. One name I like for them is Ezekiel nicknamed Zeke. Jack, Luke and Zeke are pretty amazing.

    Finn Raphael
    Finn Daniel
    Blaise Daniel
    Ezekiel Paul

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  8. I came to suggest Siena like so many others. Siena Rose and Siena Rosalie are my favorite combos.

    Complete the angels with a feminine name— Rafaella or Serafina. I like the combo Rafaella Grace. Serafina has the similar FI sound as Fiona with no ogre imagery.

    Mariah? Mariah Grace?

    There are often style differences in a family between the boys and the girls. This seems this way in your family. Jack, Luke and
    — Rhodes. It fits with the boys’ names and is similar to Avila because it is a place.
    I love the suggestion of Grant

    Like

  9. Cassia is also a translation of the Greek Kassiani. In the eastern church St Kassiani is a big deal, as she wrote the Hymn of Kassiani, sung during Holy Week. She was a prolific hymnographer, hundreds of years before St Hidegard.

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