Baby name consultation: Middle name to honor Grandma (or both grandmas?) as well as Mother Mary (or other Saint?)

Happy end of February, everybody! I hope your Lent starts out well and continues strong! Enjoy today’s consultation by Theresa Zoe Williams. ❤

Mama Ana writes in needing help with a middle name for her baby girl, Isabel, and their last name rhymes with “jewel”. She says,

For the middle name I would like to either honor one of my grandmothers or do a Marian name or a saint’s name. We don’t want any “R” or “B” names because of initial problems (IBS/IRS). I’ve listed some of the names we like, but I really want there to be meaning behind her middle name. My grandmother’s names are Mara Lucia and Margarida. (Not seriously considering Mara or Margarida though, just would maybe like a connection to those names/them).”

Her husband’s grandmothers’ names are both Mary.

Names they like but aren’t “the one”:

  • Mar (“I love this name, it’s the first three letters of all FOUR of our grandmothers’ names, and it means sea and I feel like there could be a connection to Stellamaris. Husband is concerned it’s too far out there“)
  • Marian
  • Maris
  • Marie (note: I think Mary and Maria are too traditional for us)
  • Lucia (my grandmother’s name is pronounced the Portuguese/Spanish way, but I love the Italian pronunciation)
  • May/Mae/Maeve
  • Rose/Lily (both suggestions from my mom, which I like but don’t want R and Lily is too many L’s with Isabel and Sewell)
  • Malia (my husband nixed this one, but I love Hawaiian everything so loved this when I saw it in your book)
  • Therese (not sold on my name, but love the saint)

Lastly, she mentions,

I am Brazilian so one of the reasons Isabel is a great name is because it works in both languages. I think I care less about the middle name working as well in both languages — mostly because I’m out of ideas, though.”

Some thoughts on ones they like but don’t feel like “the one”:

Mar– I love that this is the first three letters of all four of their grandmothers’ names! That makes it so special and connected. It means “sea” which is a beautiful meaning. I can understand why Ana’s husband thinks this is a little out there but I don’t think it is! The middle spot is also a great place to get a little wild and more out-there without going overboard. I think this name fits that niche nicely. This name really informed the rest of my choices for them.

Marian– Feels a little dated to me and maybe not as romance language inspired as Isabel. I love that this ties the child to all of her great-grandmothers and to Mary, though.

Maris– This is a great, underused name! Isabel Maris has a beautiful flow. I love that this connects directly to Mary, Maris Stella, too.

Marie– Seems a little bland for them. It’s a lot more common in the English speaking world as a middle name than it might seem. They said Mary and Maria were too traditional for them and I would lump Marie in there, as well.

Lucia– I love that this is another connection to a great-grandmother. Isabel Lucia has such a romantic flow and vibe. There are all kinds of saints Lucy and Lucia to choose from as patrons, too.

May/Mae– This is a contracted form of Mary and very much cool and on the rise. Isabel Mae is beautiful. (I’m only slightly biased here; my oldest daughter is Ruby Mae).

Maeve– I wanted to talk about this one separately because it’s actually not etymologically related to May/Mae at all! It’s an Irish name meaning “intoxicating”. It’s a really fantastic name on the rise! But it didn’t really strike me as them.

Rose/Lily– Beautiful names but I agree with Ana’s assessment of both. These did give me an idea, though.

Malia– I love that this is the Hawaiian form of Maria! Gives it such a fresh vibe. But, if Ana’s husband nixed it, then it’s out. This did give me a great feel for their style, though.

Therese– Great name, fantastic patron, but I feel like this pulls them out of their preferred style and wants and desires for a name.

On to some new suggestions! Most of these came as ideas from the names they already like and from all four grandmothers having Mar- names.

(1) Marissa/Maristella

I’m including these as one because they both came as ideas from Maris. Marissa is an embellishment of Maris that makes the name more romance language inspired. Isabel Marissa is very cute and flowy. Maristella is the smoosh name for Maris Stella and when Ana mentioned she likes that connection, I instantly thought of this name. Isabel Maristella is unmistakably Catholic cool. I really especially love Maristella for them. I think this is an embellishment Ana’s husband could get behind that ties in Ana’s love for Stella Maris and all four of their grandmothers.

(2) Marina/Mariana

These give off the same vibe to me, so I’m including them as one. They like Marian but I thought maybe the embellishment Mariana might fit them better. It’s a combination of Mary and Ann, so Mary and her mother, and I thought that was cool for this child. It still has the Mar- beginning to tie Isabel to her great-grandmothers. Since they like Stella Maris and names with connection to the sea, I thought they might like Marina. Isabel Mariana and Isabel Marina are both beautiful.

(3) Marigold

They like flower names Rose and Lily but they don’t quite fit and neither of them has the connections to their grandmothers. What about Marigold? Literally meaning “Mary’s gold” this is a flower name that doesn’t break any rules or repeat too many Ls. It’s hip and cool and brings a whole different spin into the game. Isabel Marigold is cool, covertly Catholic, and connected to everything they love.

(4) Mari

Mar may be too out there and Mary, Maria, and Marie are all too traditional, so what about Mari? Spunky and fun, this name is just another form of Mary but shorter, spunkier, and more romance language. Isabel Mari is spunky and fun.

(5) Marisol

This is a contraction name honoring the Spanish title for Mary, Maria de la Soledad. It also has the meanings of “sea” and “sun” which is fresh and fun. I love Isabel Marisol and I think it can still link back to Mary, Stella Maris, even if it seems like a little bit of a stretch.

(6) Mariae

This is a Latin form of Mary literally meaning “of Mary” or “belonging to Mary”. Their love for a Mary name and the name Mae reminded me of this name. It would make Isabel’s name very unmistakably Catholic, but that’s not a bad thing! My youngest daughter’s second middle name is Mariae and her patroness is Stella Maris. Isabel Mariae is gorgeous!

(7) Cristina

Something a little different for my last suggestion. I was researching Brazilian saints to get some inspiration and came across Venerable Isabel Cristina Mrad Campos. She was a young woman in college to be a doctor when a worker at her apartment attempted to rape her and then stabbed her fourteen times for refusing him. She is set to be beatified sometime this year. I thought that this was such a cool connection, since they’ve chosen the first name Isabel already and Ana is Brazilian. Cristina is a gorgeous name, meaning “Christian”. Isabel Cristina is beautiful and Cristina works in both languages seamlessly! If they’re going to stray from a Mar- name, this is my choice.

These are my thoughts. What do you think?


I’m back on hiatus from doing consultations (though check back from time to time, as I hope to open up a few spots here and there as I’m able), but Theresa Zoe Williams is available to help you! Email her at TheresaZoeWrites@gmail.com to set up your own consultation! (Payment methods remain the same.)

For help with Marian names, 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). It’s perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

5 thoughts on “Baby name consultation: Middle name to honor Grandma (or both grandmas?) as well as Mother Mary (or other Saint?)

  1. Long story short, my dad’s mom was Maryann, my mom’s mom was Mary Elizabeth. My mom named me Mary Elizabeth Ann. There were too many Mary’s in the family. My first birthday picture, I was Marybeth. My second birthday picture, I was Betsy. My third birthday, my mom thought of Mea, the acronym of Mary Elizabeth Ann. I always joke that I am the Irish Mia. 🙂

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  2. Another Brazilian! Yey!!!

    My favorite combo is Isabel Mar – a nice balance between common and unusual. It “reads” very Catholic to me, because most words names in Portuguese refer to a title of Mary (Conceição, Aparecida, Sol… Most have Maria da/do/de in the front). A future kid could have Luz as a middle name; honoring Mara Lucia and OL again :D.

    Malia was my first thought, it’s a shame your husband doesn’t like it, it looks like a smooshed name (Mara + Lucia).

    Probably too crazy, but I know a kid with the middle name Mahal, because of all the love imagery concerning it. It means “palace”.

    Other ideas – Luce, Rita, Greta, Daisy, Mercedes, Mariah, Margot, Mariam, Miriam, Malu and Martina.

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  3. Isabel Marta. Another Mar, but a name of her own.
    Isabel Anamar. Mom + grandmas all at once!
    Isabel Maren
    Isabel Marcia
    Isabel Celeste
    Isabel Victoria

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  4. (Also, Theresa, you mention this family’s real surname when you list the names Rose and Lily. I don’t think you intended to, because you start by using a rhyme instead of the real name.)

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  5. A little bit it of the box, but how about:

    Isabel Em (for all 4 grandmother’s beginning with M)

    or

    Isabel Emma (for M and Grand*ma*)?

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