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!

Birth announcement: Aurelia-Rose Celeste!

I had the pleasure of posting a consultation for Josh and Mari back in March (the fourth I’ve done for them!) for their baby girl, and I’m delighted to share that she’s arrived and been given the stunning name … Aurelia-Rose Celeste!

Josh writes,

Well, she’s finally here! We had quite a time settling on a name for this little one. Your consultation in the comments were very helpful! We thought for sure she was going to be born yesterday, she held on until 1:20 a.m. this morning and so we decided to name her Aurelia-Rose Celeste. We loved the name and associations with Aurelia but wanted to add Rose for St. Rose of Lima, whose feast is today, as well as for its Marian associations. Thanks for giving us some good ideas!

How lovely is this name?! Aurelia-Rose is so beautiful and feminine, and I love it paired with Celeste. The names altogether have the meaning of “Golden Rose of Heaven” — so Marian! So amazing! I love that Rose also nods to the saint on whose feast the baby was born — so perfect!

Congratulations to Josh and Mari and big siblings Ariana, Audrey, Caleb, Amelia, Anne-Catherine, Charles, Anessa, and Christian, and happy birthday Baby Aurelia-Rose!!

IMG_8956

Aurelia-Rose Celeste


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: Henry Kapaun!

I posted a consultation for Sarah and her husband back in January for their ninth baby — a green bean (gender unknown) who would be their tiebreaker. I’m thrilled to share that Sarah’s baby has arrived — a handsome boy with the fantastic name … Henry Kapaun!

Sarah writes,

I’m just following up to let you know that #9, the tiebreaker, arrived in June! It’s a BOY! Henry Kapaun. He arrived almost a month early, but did not experience any complications and was able to come home on time.

As for his name…

My husband and I were both fairly certain we were having a girl. I *sensed* it prior to my 20 week ultrasound, and he swore that he heard the ultrasound tech slip and call the baby *her*. I didn’t hear it, but believed him anyway. 🙄 We had pretty much settled on “Henry Kapaun” for a boy name back in December (and prior to your name consult and suggestion of “Henry”! 🙌🏻). Henry has been on our short list for a few kids now. It fits our criteria of a traditional, not too trendy name that is also a Saint name. As for the middle name, “Kapaun” was also our middle name choice for a boy for our last two babies (who are girls). We just love the story of Fr. Emil Kapaun and thought he would be a wonderful, heroic person for a little boy to be named after. This choice was solidified when all the 2020 chaos erupted. Fr. Kapaun died in a POW camp in Korea, and for months was unable to celebrate mass or offer the Eucharist to others. He suffered, yet was able to provide blessings, prayers, and hope to other soldiers. His ability to forgive his captors and to focus on the eternal glory that awaited him in Heaven is saintly. We had been unable to regularly receive the Eucharist for the last half of my pregnancy, but I was constantly reminded of the suffering that Fr. Kapaun endured and sacrifices he experienced. Our other “inconveniences” brought on by the pandemic (ie. no running to Target to browse cute baby items, no third trimester pregnancy massages, no pre-baby getaway with my husband, etc.) paled in comparison to his experiences. When I contemplated the life of Fr. Kapaun, I was humbled and forced to focus on the eternal glory that does await us all.

The pregnancy was a difficult one that only grew more challenging towards the end. I was unexpectedly sent for an induction immediately after my 36 week appointment. I am a certified nurse midwife, so typically would have (should have) been filled with anxiety knowing the situation that we were in. Instead, we were filled with a calm and peace. We blessed my hospital room with Epiphany water, said many rosaries, asked for the intercession of *our* special Saints, and experienced a *beautiful* and short labor and delivery. Looking back, *of course* it was a boy. 😇

“The sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed to us.” — Romans 8:18

Isn’t that just a beautiful pregnancy/birth/name story?? And Henry Kapaun is an amazing combination!!

Congratulations to Sarah and her husband and big siblings Cody, Benjamin, Claire, Dominic, Grace, Peter, Caroline, and Zelie, and happy birthday Baby Henry!!

Henry Kapaun with his family (minus one sibling “thanks to a 1000 mile separation and a pandemic”)


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!

Baby name consultation: Boy no. 4 needs a name with meaning and a cute “little brother” nickname

Kelly and her husband are expecting their fourth baby — and fourth boy! This little guy joins big brothers:

Patrick Robert
James Gregory
Peter Thomas

Such fantastic names! So classic and handsome!

Kelly writes,

I am so excited to have this consultation done as we have been at a total loss for names, even after prayer and extensive research of names. We are expecting baby boy number four … We love classic, strong, traditional names. We’d love to find a name that goes with our other boys but that also isn’t too popular and has meaning behind it. We have chosen Francis as the middle name after St. Francis De Sales … Andrew, Joseph and John are out … Names that we have considered are William, Edward (Teddy), George (doesn’t sound as great with our last name), Henry, Maximilian (doesn’t necessarily fit with the others). I’d love to find a name that also has a cute nickname given that he’ll be the youngest of the pack.”

Okay! *Rubs hands together* 😀 Kelly and her husband have a great list, but I’m eager to see if I can help them find a name they really love!

I love that they’ve chosen Francis as the middle name, for St. Francis de Sales, one of my favorites. I wonder if Kelly and her husband might like to consider it as a first name though? Especially since Kelly said they’d love to find a name that has a cute nickname since their little guy will be the youngest of a pack of boys. Frankie strikes me as that kind of nickname, so cute!

I do love the other the names they’re considering! Here are my thoughts on them, in case they’re helpful:

  • William: Will, Liam, and Billy are all great nicknames that could go well with the other boys
  • Edward/Teddy: Super cute, I agree! I love St. Edward the Confessor
  • George: I agree that it’s not great with their last name
  • Henry: I love Henry, such a sweet name
  • Maximilian: I can see what Kelly means about Maximilian not being the best fit with Patrick, James, and Peter — if they’re considering it because they love St. Maximilian Kolbe, maybe they’d like to consider his birth name, Raymond, instead? Patrick, James, Peter, and Raymond go together a bit better I think, and Ray’s a cute nickname

I also noted that Kelly would prefer a name that isn’t too popular, so I looked up the popularity of the names they’ve already used and those they’re considering, to get a sense of what kind of popularity we’re talking about. These are the numbers based on the most recent data (2018):

Patrick: 189
James: 4
Peter: 211

William: 3
Edward: 169
George: 127
Henry: 16
Maximilian: 448

So Kelly and her hubs have a mix of names that are quite popular (James, William, Henry), and others that are outside the top 100 (Patrick, Peter, Edward George, Maximilian). In my suggestions below, I included a mix as well. Here are the numbers for the names I’ve already suggested:

Francis: 480
Raymond: 299

I didn’t forget that Kelly also wanted to have a name with meaning, so I definitely took that into account when looking for names that I thought she and her hubby might like. You all know that I always start consultations 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 did that research for Kelly, and looked for names among the results that had a good faith meaning. Based on all that, these are my ideas:

(1) Michael
I was pretty influenced by their oldest son’s name: Patrick with brothers James and Peter says “classic Irish Catholic,” which is the theme I had in my head the most when looking for names for this family (though not exclusively). Michael is one of those names! It’s no. 14, which is similar to Henry and less popular than James and William. Michael Francis is so handsome, and Mikey is an adorable nickname.

(2) Timothy
Timothy is one of my favorite names in the “classic Irish Catholic” theme. And being that it’s also a New Testament name, it seems like it can really strengthen the tie among all Kelly’s boys’ names. I love the nickname Timmy! Timothy is right in that sweet spot at no. 165.

(3) Charles
Because Patrick isn’t a biblical name and James and Peter are, I definitely wanted to include some names that aren’t biblical. Charles is a match for this family’s style, and has been used quite a bit recently by Catholics wishing to honor St. John Paul II (his birth name was Karol, which is the Polish for Charles). There are also loads of other Sts. Charles, it’s a great, saintly name! And Charlie is so darling. Charles is no. 52.

(4) Oliver
Oliver has shot up the charts recently and is currently at no. 5, which is nice for their James, since his name is so popular at no. 4. It’s also got that nice Irish connection like Patrick, with St. Oliver Plunkett being a great patron; they could also consider it to have biblical connections if they wanted, with the Mount of Olives and the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane being two prominent examples. I love Oliver Francis, that’s stunning. And is anything cuter than Ollie?!

(5) Martin
I like Martin quite a bit — I would definitely consider it classic, strong, and traditional. I love the nickname Marty too, I can definitely see a youngest brother being called Marty! Martin Francis sounds wonderful together. Martin is no. 272.

(6) Kenneth
I wonder what they would think of Kenneth? Kenny is such a great, friendly nickname, and there are two Sts. Kenneth — one Irish and one Welsh. Kenneth is no. 226.

(7) Kevin
I wasn’t surprised to see Kevin listed as a style match for Patrick — like Patrick, it’s a classic, strong, traditional Irish name, and it’s a saint’s name as well. I know of Kevins who go by Kev, which is pretty cool, and I could see Kevvy being a brother nickname when he’s small. Kevin’s no. 125.

(8) David
Finally, David is a style match for this family, which struck me as having a good feel because it’s biblical, like James and Peter, but Old Testament, which gives it its own thing. And my grandfather, who was born and raised in Ireland, was named David, so that felt like a great connection for Patrick (again, totally subjective here, but my consultations are always a mix of research and gut feeling!). Davy is one of my favorite nicknames, I love it. David is no. 122.

Those were all my ideas for Kelly’s baby boy, but after I sent them to her she responded with another question that she’d be delighted to get your thoughts on as well:

Thank you so much for these wonderful ideas! This truly has been so difficult, I never thought naming could be this tough! Hah We are leaning towards William given that it like Patrick, it isn’t biblical, it goes with the other boys, and it was a popular Irish immigrant name (my husband’s great-grandfather). There is another name that randomly came up that I was going to get your thoughts on, Grady. Grady seems unique, but not totally out there and also has the Irish attachment. It also has the meaning noble, like Patrick. Does William Grady (call him Grady) or Grady itself work with the other boys? Does it seem too far off the beaten path? I wish there was a saint association with it to tie it together.”

I told her that I love William, just because it’s great, but I love her reasons behind it too. And I love Grady! I had it on my own list back when I thought I could sway my husband toward more Irishy names, haha!

I took a quick look on CatholicSaints.info for any saintly connection for Grady, and found that one of the priests who is part of the Irish Martyrs was John O’Grady; here’s another entry that mentions him — he’s not canonized, but that could be a nice faith connection for Kelly and her husband to consider (and perhaps she and her family could take it on as a spiritual exercise to pray for his cause for canonization — it appears there isn’t much known about him, including the date he died — maybe their prayers could help bring his holiness to light!). I’m sorry I could find anything more direct!

As for fitting with the other boys, I think Patrick, James, Peter, and Grady sound fine together. Certainly Grady is a different style, which might feel a little jarring to people who really pay attention to those kinds of things (name nuts, mostly!), but the fact that it’s his middle name remedies that nicely — Patrick, James, Peter, and William are exactly perfectly matched. If any of Kelly’s older boys have offbeat nicknames for their names, that would loop Grady in a bit more too, but even if not I think it’s fine! And it opens up some more possibilities for future boys’ names, if they were so blessed.

And that’s all I got! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of Patrick, James, and Peter? What do you think of Grady, either as a given name or as a middle name that he’d go by?


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!

Spotlight on: Hildegard

My CatholicMom.com piece for August posted on Wednesday and I don’t want you to miss it — I know we’re all in need of some peace as the new school year looms (or has already started for some of you)! Check it out: A Litany of School Saints: Protection and Help for the Academic Year.

This name spotlight is a little different from my others, in that it’s more about how to honor this saint without using her name! A reader wrote:

Would you ever consider doing a post on names to honor St. Hildegard of Bingen? She is such an amazing saint, and we would love to honor her in naming our baby, but maybe there are other parents out there, like us, who just can’t quite bring themselves to name a little girl Hildegard. (For those who can, good for them! But I’m not quite there!)

I totally agree, she is such an amazing saint!! And while I have a soft spot for Hildy/Hildi/Hildie (either as a nickname for Hildegard or as a given name in her honor), I do of course totally get what this mama means in regards to the full Hildegard. It’s a little heavy!

Before getting into other names that might honor her, though, I want to talk about Hildegard itself for a minute. According to Behind the Name and the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources, Hildegard is made up of two elements: hild/hiltja, meaning “battle” and gard/gart , meaning “enclosure, protection; yard, garden.” Of those two, the first element seems the most “St. Hildegard,” both in terms of sound (Hilda/Hilde would seem natural to most people if you were to tell them that it was in honor of St. Hildegard) and in terms of meaning (“battle”! What an amazing and unexpected meaning for a girl and a woman! Such a warrior name! Perfect for one of the only female Doctors of the Church!). Other spellings and variants include the English Hylda and the Italian Ilda and Elda.

(And again: Hildy/Hildi/Hildie! SO sweet! For a real-life sweetie pie named Hildegard, see Haley Carrots’ little girl!)

However, if none of these are quite right, I think these other ideas can work:

— Sibyl: The mama who wrote to me had already thought of Sibyl as an idea, since St. Hildegard of Bingen is known as the Sibyl of the Rhine, and I think it’s definitely a St. Hildegard-specific name, if you want it to be. A great option! Other spellings and variants include Sybil, Cybill, Sibylle/Sybille, Sybella, Sibilla/Sibylla, and the intriguing Norman variant Sébire (though I’m not totally sure of pronunciation).

— Rhine: While Rhine is a place name that’s not objectively specific to St. Hildegard, Sibyl of the Rhine makes it subjectively so. In this sense, Rhine could be for St. Hildegard in the way Siena is for St. Catherine and Avila is for St. Teresa. Its sound is similar to Ryan and would make a really fun and different way of honoring her.

— A name to do with “ten”: One of the interesting things I discovered in my research is that St. Hildegard is traditionally understood to be her parents’ tenth child (apparently only seven children are recorded, but perhaps her parents were counting miscarried children, as so many of us do?) and as such was dedicated to the Church as a “tithe.” How interesting! Maybe a name having to do with the number “ten” would hit the right note for some families? Dixie, for example, is thought to have derived for the French for “ten.” (I’ve also loved the idea of Tennyson for a tenth son! I can see it working nicely for a girl too! It doesn’t have “ten” in its meaning, but the Ten- makes it obvious!)

— Bernard, Eugenius, John, Benedict: Men with these names played important roles in St. Hildegard’s life and afterlife. St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Pope Eugenius both encouraged her in her writings; Pope John XXII beatified her; and while Hildegard was popularly regarded as a saint since the fourteenth century, Pope Benedict XVI made it official (a process known as “equipollent [equivalent] canonization,” which I’d never heard of before) and also declared her to be a Doctor of the Church. Bernadine, Bernadette, and Bernarda are feminine variants of Bernard; Eugenia is for Eugenius; Joan, Jane, Jean, Joanna, Gianna, Giovanna (and more!) are some feminine variants of John; and Benedicta, Benedetta, Bettina, Benita, and Benoîte (and more!) are for Benedict.

— Two further arguments for a Benedict name: St. Hildegard was a Benedictine; also, since Benedict means “blessed,” I’ve often thought it can be used in honor of all the holy people (I included it in my book of Marian names for that reason).

— Names with similar meaning: I looked for other names that had a similar meaning and found a few possibles. The one that I think is closest is Blair — it means “plain, field, battlefield,” which is so similar to Hildegard’s “battle” + “enclosure, protection; yard, garden.” Others include Clotilde, Matilda, and Romilda, all of which have that “hild” element contained within (the “ild” part in all of them). And the fact that “garden” is included in the meaning of the “gard” part of Hildegard makes me think of flower names, which would really provide some nice, feminine alternatives.

I know a lot of these ideas might seem too far afield from Hildegard, but I also know that some families might find them to be the perfect solution to the dilemma of wanting to name a daughter after St. Hildegard but not finding Hildegard to be their style. (And if you want to name a son after St. Hildegard, many of these can work for boys too!)

Please share with me your ideas for naming a baby after St. Hildegard without using the name Hildegard! I’d also love to hear from any of you who have named after St. Hildegard, or know someone who has. I want to hear all the details! Happy Friday everyone!


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!

Baby name consultation: Nicknames for Lawrence (and some other ideas too)

M. and her husband are expecting their first baby, a little green bean (=gender unknown)! 🌱 She writes,

We very recently found out we’re expecting again. I’ve had 3 previous losses, 2 very early and 1 at 11 weeks, so we are cautiously hopeful. I am a huge name nerd and we have been discussing names for years. We aren’t planning to find out gender so we want to have a name picked for each.

Our girl name is set — Maria Grace. My Mom and I are both variants of Mary and all of my Aunts and many cousins have the middle name Marie. I wanted to continue the Marian tradition with a little girl. I’m a chemist and my husband is in IT, so the name is also a nod to Marie Curie and Grace Hopper.

Boy names have been harder, with our last pregnancy, we had kind of settled on Nicholas Daniel, but neither of us were in love. Other names in the mix were Isaac, Charles, Anthony, Bernard and James. We wanted something that as he grows up, has a lot of nickname opportunities to fit his personality. My worry was that Nicholas Daniel dated too much into the 90s when Nicholas was most recently popular.

While we were trying to conceive this little green bean, I had a dream about a little boy, Anthony James, and grew attached to the name. It’s still a contender, but it doesn’t feel perfect.

A bit randomly I was scrolling a list of names that have never been out of the top 1000, and saw Lawrence. We both really liked it immediately! It just felt right in a way other names hadn’t. But is it an old man’s name? I know ‘old’ names are coming back, but I’ve not heard Lawrence mentioned for a baby ever. We wanted a harder middle name sound and think Lawrence Kolbe had a great flow, with great patron saints as well. We’re about 94% certain this is our boy pick (and open to suggestions).

And after that novel of explanation, the main point of us wanting the consultation: I loathe the nickname Larry for Lawrence and it seems like that’s the most accepted one. I would love suggestions for nicknames! I’m trying to make Rory fit because I adore the name but it’s not intuitive. Does that matter?

I absolutely love their girl name — Maria Grace is a gorgeous combo and sounds perfect for this family, for the reasons mentioned and also, of course, its Marian-ness. Beautiful!

As for their previous boy names, I think Nicholas Daniel is very handsome! Nicholas is exactly as M. described it — lots of nicknames to fit any personality — and I would include “classic” and “saintly” as well. I wouldn’t let its 90s popularity bother them — it entered the top 100 in 1972 and hasn’t left since, coming it at no. 74 in 2018 (the most recent year the data is available), so even though its top ten years were in the 90s, it’s a consistent, solid favorite. I continue to hear of babies named Nicholas — my husband and I considered it as well!

The other names they considered — Isaac, Charles, Anthony, Bernard, and James — are all similarly classic and saintly! Anthony was a top ten name from 2006-2008, and James has been since 2014 (no. 4 in 2018), which I think put them in good company with Nicholas. I love M.’s “dream name” as well — Anthony James is very handsome!

BUT! I mostly love Lawrence Kolbe!! What a fantastic name!! Please let me alleviate M.’s worries right away — I think Lawrence is wonderful for a little boy born in 2021! She’s right that it’s had an “old man” feel up until recently, but as she said, “old” names are definitely coming back. My eight-year-old actually had a Lawrence in his class in preschool — he went by the full Lawrence all the time, and his sister was Penelope, which is very popular currently, so I always felt like his parents had their fingers on the pulse of what’s up and coming.

I think M.’s question about nicknames for Lawrence is perfect, and so fun. As soon as she said Rory I LOVED it — I very much want them to name their son Lawrence Kolbe and call him Rory! That is simply wonderful!! I know that it might not seem intuitive, but when I was compiling a list of alternate nickname ideas, I remembered Laurie from Little Women, and Rory is absolutely not that big a leap from Laurie (or Lawrie). It reminds me of Bob for Robert, for example, or Daisy for Margaret, or Tony for Anthony, or Betsy/Lily/Buffy for Elizabeth — all traditional nicknames for the given names that don’t start with the same letter as the given name and in many cases aren’t intuitive at all. I say, go for it! (In fact, I’d included Lawrence as a possible patron saint for a little guy named Rory in this post!)

However, I can always come up with more ideas! I looked through the entry for Lawrence on Behind the Name for ideas, and came up with the following:

(1) Lars
This is a Scandinavian and German form of Lawrence, and makes an easy nickname.

(2) Lenz
Another German variant of Lawrence, and cool with that ending “z.”

(3) Rens, Ren
Rens is a Dutch variant, and I’ve actually seen Ren used as a nickname for Lawrence.

(4) Enzo, Renzo
Enzo and Renzo are both Italian short forms, and Renzo has Spanish usage as well.

(5) Larkin
What a sweet name! It’s a Medieval English diminutive of Lawrence.

In addition to those, Rence, Law, Laz (I think this is a very Australian construct — giving nicknames that end in Z, like Baz for Barry, Shaz for Sharon, etc.), and Law are all doable. A crazy but maybe really cool idea could be Lolek — it’s the nickname St. John Paul II went by as a child, I believe it’s a diminutive of his name Karol, which is the Polish for Charles, but it makes total sense for Lawrence Kolbe, and gets an extra saint reference in there! (Here’s a little guy named Lolek whose [belated] birth announcement I posted to the blog.)

Those are my ideas for nicknames for Lawrence, but M. also said they were open to suggestions, and their name dilemma and taste, as well as M.s profession as a chemist and her hubby’s work in IT (and the fact that M. used “about 94%” to describe their level of certainty about Lawrence Kolbe as their frontrunner — 94% is very precise! I love it!), reminded me of two consultations I did previously: one for a family who loves science and technology (I’d suggested Charles for Babbage and Hopper for Grace for them!) and one for a family who wanted a science or nature reference included in each of their children’s names (I’d suggested Nicholas for them, after Tesla; this family specifically wanted alliterative first+middle combos, so Nicholas Neri was my full suggestion — it’s unexpected-but-saintly middle name reminds me of Lawrence Kolbe!). So I looked back at those consultations to see what other boy names I’d suggested and thought these might be nice additions to M.’s list:

(1) Gerard
This had actually been inspired by the character of Ged in the fantasy/sci-fi Earthsea series, and I’d previously seen Ged suggested as a nickname for Gerard, and St. Gerard is amazing, so I love the idea of Gerard nicknamed Ged — very like Lawrence nicknamed Rory! For reference, Gerard hasn’t been in the top 1000 since 2002 (I find that so surprising!).

(2) George
George is one of the first “old man” names I observed come back into fashion — a friend of mine named her son George ten years ago and I remember being surprised, and now I know so many little guys named George! Fr. George LeMaitre was the priest who came up with the Big Bang Theory, and the nicknames Geo and Geordie have that unexpectedness that Rory for Lawrence and Ged for Gerard have. George was no. 127 in 2018.

(3) Reginald
Reginald’s inspiration for that science+nature family was theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (they wanted a theologian’s name in addition to a science/nature name), and Reginald jumped out at me for M. and her husband when I was looking back through those consultations, as I think it has a really “Lawrence” feel. I don’t have any cool nickname ideas, but if they like Reginald, I could certainly try to come up with some! (And if any of you know of any, I’d love to hear them!) Reginald was no. 831 in 2018, which I find fascinating. Old is definitely new!

And those are all my ideas for this little bean! What do you all think? What nicknames for Lawrence and/or other name(s) would you suggest if they have a boy? Please keep M. and her baby in your prayers!


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!

Fun Friday Question: Catholic names for pets

Happy feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe!! He will always be one of my very favorites, and I know so many of you feel the same way.

I’ve been charmed recently by the names I’ve heard on two new dogs: a friend of mine and her family recently got a dog they named Ignacio, because they loved the idea of calling it Nacho but wanted a faith connection (Nacho is a diminutive of Ignacio!), and Simcha Fisher and her family recently got a dog they named Santino, called Sonny (of course there’s The Godfather reference, but I also just love Santino [“little saint”], and Sonny is such a great nickname).

We don’t have any pets, but I’ve often thought that if we were to ever find ourselves the owners of a German shepherd, how could we not name it Benedict?? (Because Pope Emeritus Benedict is German! And the former shepherd of a worldwide flock!) And wouldn’t Ratzinger be great for a cat? (Gotta zing them rats!) Maybe Patrick as an ironic name for a pet snake? (Because of how St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland.) Then there’s the whole Dominican “hounds of heaven” line of thinking — St. Dominic’s mother had a dream “that a dog jumped from her womb holding a torch and set everything around them on fire,” and then St. Dominic was conceived. I love that the Dominicans have been known as the “hounds of heaven,” and how cool is it that Domini canes means “dogs/hounds of the Lord” in Latin, which sounds just like the Latin for the Dominican Order, Dominicanus?! Obviously, it’s completely necessary to get two dogs: a German shepherd named Benedict, and another dog named Dominic. Makes perfect sense to me!

I asked about pet names several years ago, in the wake of the death of my brother’s dog, and one of you commented that Gertrude would be great for a cat, since she (St. Gertrude of Nivelles) is the patron of cats. I’d never heard that before, but indeed it’s true!

What names-with-faith-connections have you used for or heard on pets that you think are particularly clever? Or what ideas do you have for future pets?

Have a great Friday!! Happy name day to all the little Maximilians and Kolbes!!


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!