Sorrowful Mystery Names

This week is the perfect week to check out my post on names for the Sorrowful Mysteries — I so often find that the names of our faith provide a wonderful meditation on holy things. As with the Joyful and Luminous Mysteries posts, be sure to check out the comments as well.

I’m signing off until next week, when I’ll have some birth announcements to post and other namey things! I hope you all have a very holy Holy Week and a wonderful Easter!


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: Jeffery Sherwood!

I had the privilege of doing a consultation and birth announcement for Lily’s first baby, and a consultation for her second as well. She’s let me know that her baby boy was born over the winter and was given the perfect name … Jeffery Sherwood!

Lily writes,

Your consultation was great, and helped us come up with his name. My husband didn’t necessarily consider the name going together until he read the consultation. He wanted to use [his name] Jeffery and was open to the middle name being the child’s name we call them. And that follows the same pattern we have with Twiggs. I asked for the family tree and the name Sherwood jumped out at me. I thought it sounded like a name that would go well with Twiggs … [So he is named] Jeffery Sherwood [called] Sherwood or Wood … or if you are Twiggs you call him baby brother … [and] Woody which I think is cute too.”

Siblings Lucy Twiggs and Jeffery Sherwood, called Twiggs and Wood/Woody and including such special family names, are just a perfect sister-brother pair!!

Congratulations to Lily and her husband and big sister Twiggs, and happy birthday Baby Sherwood!!

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Jeffery Sherwood with his big sister ❤


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 (on Monday!): Did Mom name the girls and Dad the boys?

I meant to post this last Friday and forgot, and I’ll be off the blog this coming Friday in observance of Good Friday, and I don’t have a consultation to post today, so Fun Friday Question on a Monday it is!

In last week’s consultation, we read about how Mom would be choosing the baby’s name if they have a girl, while Dad would be choosing if they have a boy. I’ve known of other families who have done this, and I’ve always been intrigued by it. So my question is a simple one: Did you do this in your family? Did your parents? Do you know of others who have done so? Is it usually a fairly peaceful process in your experience/observance, or do you know of situations where the parent who didn’t get to choose really hates the name the other parent chose? Do you have any examples of extreme style mismatches in a family because of this practice? (You know I love a well-matched bunch of sibling names, but I actually also really love to see siblings with an eclectic bunch of names!)

I hope your Holy Week has started well!


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: Willow and Willa

I’ve been planning for months to post this spotlight on the Friday before Palm Sunday, but being only a day late, and being before Palm Sunday, is, in this time, a real success on my end!

I read a charming piece at First Things a while ago by Brian Doyle called “Willow Sunday,” which was about a Palm Sunday during his growing up when his parish couldn’t afford palm fronds and used willow branches instead. Already my mind was clicking about the possibility of Willow for a Palm Sunday baby if I belonged to a parish that had a story like that when I read this bit in an article by Fr. Francis X. Reiser called “History of Palm Sunday”:

“The various names for the Sunday before Easter come from the plants used — palms (Palm Sunday) or branches in general (Branch Sunday; Domingo de Ramos; Dimanche des Rameaux). In most countries of Europe real palms are unobtainable, so in their place people use many other plants: olive branches (in Italy), box, yew, spruce, willows, and pussy willows. In fact, some plants have come to be called palms because of this usage, as the yew in Ireland, the willow in England (palm-willow) and in Germany (Palmkatzchen). From the use of willow branches Palm Sunday was called Willow Sunday in parts of England and Poland, and in Lithuania Verbu Sekmadienis (Willow-twig Sunday). The Greek Church uses the names Sunday of the Palm-carrying and Hosanna Sunday.” (my emphasis)

Willow Sunday is actually a name for Palm Sunday! (The Catholic Encyclopedia notes this as well.) I love the idea of Willow for a baby girl born on or near Palm Sunday!

Of course, I couldn’t do a spotlight on Willow and not include Willa, which at least one of you used in part as a nod to Willa Cather (which I swooned about when I first heard it and still do). Behind the Name has Willow as being from the Old English word welig, while Willa is a feminine form of William. I personally would consider both Willow and Willa if I wanted to name a baby girl after a William; similarly, I would consider both Willow and Willa if I wanted to name a baby girl after Palm Sunday. Do you agree? I love that both the holy Williams and Palm Sunday add some real Catholic oomph to these names!

What do you think of Willow and Willa? Have you named a daughter Willow or Willa, or would you? If so, is it because of Willa Cather or father/grandfather/uncle William, or did you already know about the Palm Sunday connection?


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!

Names for the Luminous Mysteries

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you’re all doing well!

I posted names for the Joyful Mysteries last week; here’s a link to my post on names for the Luminous Mysteries. I’m working on a name spotlight that I hope to have up tomorrow too! Stay tuned! TGIF!


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: Girl name needed for baby no. 6 (British-y/Irish-y/Celtic-y)

Mary Beth and her husband are expecting their sixth baby, a little green bean (=gender unknown)! This little one joins big sibs:

Reese Joseph (“Joseph is a family name that runs through both sides of our family as a middle name. He is named after St. Joseph, protector of the holy family. Reese means ardour or enthusiasm and I think that fits his personality well.”)

Finnian Michael (Finn)We picked Finnian for both the Irish saint namesake as well as the nickname derived from it. We loved the nickname Finn and worked backwards from there, finding a saint that would match that. It was either Finnian or Finbarr so for us the choice was easy. Michael is in honor of the great Archangel as well as honoring my deceased brother.”

John Thomas (sometimes called Jack)John is named specifically for St. John the Apostle (the one whom Jesus loved!) but there are really so many great saints out there with that name that we couldn’t go wrong. It is also the name of a beloved Grandpa (who was named John but often went by Jack). Thomas is for St. Thomas Aquinas – and our John is really such a little philosopher at heart.”

Lucy Rose (“We picked Lucy because it is pretty, and light, distinctly feminine, but also fits better with the shorter names of our first three than say, Philomena or Benedicta. I loved that St. Lucy was such a beautiful model of purity. Rose is a nod to our Our Lady of Guadalupe and to St. Rose of Lima. She is also named after my Grandma Rose Lucy.“)

Gabriel John (also referred to as Gabey, Gabe) (“I have always loved the name Gabriel but never used it on any of our boys previously. I hadn’t even considered it for this child until one day in adoration I asked God what the name of this child was supposed to be (we knew he was a boy) and shortly after I began praying the joyful mysteries. Once I got to the Annunciation the name clicked in and it became number one on my list. After discovering that my husband had no qualms with the name and that it’s meaning is “God is my strength”, we never looked back. Also he was born 4 days after Christmas and I think that Gabriel fits so nicely into the season. His middle name was picked for St. John Vianney and also is my husbands middle name.”)

I loooove all of these!! Of course I couldn’t help but notice that the style of names changed somewhat as their family grew, which Mary Beth addresses:

Our style has become refined over the years in regards to our children’s names. When we started with our oldest, we were young and newly married – and hadn’t thought much about the names that our children would have. Over time we’ve come to see how important the naming of a child is – a name that will stay with them for all eternity!

I love seeing how a couple’s taste in names changes as life goes on — it’s so fun to see where they started and where they are now! Some couples change a lot and some change very little; some start with more conservative taste and become bolder, and some do just the opposite. Working with the population of families that I do, I’ve also seen quite a few couples who’ve had conversion experiences or whose faith has deepened as time goes on, and their babies’ names often reflect that. One of my favorite things is helping find names that loop in the siblings with the outlying names, that provide bridges between the styles while still having great faith connections.

Mary Beth continues,

We love names that are clearly masculine for boys and feminine for girls, especially since Reese’s name has since gained in popularity for girls. We also sneak in family names as much as possible. We require that at least the first name is a saint’s name, biblical name or Marian name.

One interesting twist to our naming process with this child is that we have agreed that my husband get’s to name this child if he is a boy and I will pick the name if she is a girl (we each have veto power however if we really hate the name). Hubby prefers straightforward names, simple names, masculine names (for a boy). I prefer longer names, beautiful names, names with meaning and history.

For this baby (#6) we found out that I was pregnant on the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the due date is one day after the Assumption of Mary in August (exactly one year after our family consecrated ourselves to Mary’s Immaculate Heart!), so I feel like Our Lady’s fingerprints are all over this child. We would love to give him or her a Marian name (either first or middle) to honor that. Your book has given me some great ideas as well as solidified some names for me that I had already been considering but did not know of the Marian connection.

Names I like for girls (in a loose order of preference):

Esther: I love the sound of this name, that there’s 2 syllables (one syllable has been done a lot in our family and yet I worry that 3 syllables is a stretch). I also enjoy that this name is well-known enough but not popular today. Esther is one of my favorite bible heroines and the name of a very sweet aunt. Essie as a nickname is precious. Husband thinks it’s ok.

Felicity: I like that it means happiness; also the uncommonness and the sound of the name. While I love the name I’m not sure of a good viable nn for it, since Lucy and “Lissy” sounds too similar. Name is growing on Hubby.

Clementine : I love this name — Marian and family connection! And how cute is Clemmie? I have a bit of an attraction to certain literary names that I grew up reading, especially British ones. For instance, I would love to have a Louisa as a nod to Louisa May Alcott, but it would not jive with Lucy. Hubby gives thumbs up.

Ruth : A favorite bible heroine but also just like the name and the simplicity goes with our family’s style. The simplicity makes it an easier sell for my husband.

Margaret : My mom’s name who I would love to honor. Not sure about a nickname? I don’t care for Maggie, Gretta, Marge or Molly. I could see using Etta but I don’t know if it’s too far-fetched.

Hope : I don’t have much reason for liking hope (except for the attributable virtue) but I haven’t been able to shake the name ever since hearing of an acquaintance with the name – it’s just so pretty! I read in one of your posts that Hope could be named after Our Lady of Hope – which I love! Hubby approves.

Elisabeth : It is pretty common but so lovely and classic, biblical and British (I love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). We would have to do some work to find a nickname for it because my nn is Betty and Lissy sounds too similar to Lucy. I do like Liesel for nn but awfully close again to Lucy.

Mary : Obviously a great name! – and has a triple family connection since it’s my first name, my mother’s middle name and our Blessed Mother’s name. Maybe overused since it’s my first name, although I often go by a nickname. If used it would likely be a middle name or a first name in a case where we call her by her middle name (as in Mary Clementine but called Clementine).

Middle names:

Immaculata
Maristella or Stellamaris
Regina
Henrietta
Marie
Verity
Frances
Therese
(any unused first name/)

Alice [is] also [a] contender … [it] is more Hubby’s preference (I have hesitations on the name since I don’t like the nickname Ali and I didn’t know there was a saint Alice but in the meantime I have found one) … I do find that each other’s preferences will sway the other to some degree so we might not want to cross [it] out.”

I’m not surprised that Mary Beth said that she has an affinity for British names, as her children’s name have a definite Irish/Celtic/British Isles feel to me. I love it! Reese and Finnian are most obvious; John Thomas is a huge name in my Irish family, and even though Jack is so popular now, it always ultimately makes me think of an Irish boy/man. I love St. Lucy, but when I hear Lucy my first thought is always Narnia! And I’ve often suggested Gabriel to families with an Irishy sensibility, citing actor Gabriel Byrne as a great example of Gabriel’s usage in Ireland. So that’s really where my mind went when coming up with ideas for this family.

It’s an interesting twist that Mary Beth’s hubs gets to choose the name for this baby if they have a boy, and MB gets to name a girl! I’ve known other couples who have done similarly, but I’m most surprised by the fact that it sounds like they didn’t do so with their previous children! (That would make an excellent basis for a Fun Friday Question …)

You have to know how excited I am to read, as Mary Beth says, “Our Lady’s fingerprints all over this child”! And I’m so glad that my book was helpful to them! A few of the ideas I had for this baby are in my book, so I’m a little worried that, since MB didn’t have them on her list, she’s already decided against them, but maybe a good argument in favor of them is all that’s needed?

First though, these are my thoughts on the names Mary Beth likes for a girl:

  • Esther: I do love it! And I love her reasons for loving it — the fact that she has a personal connection with the biblical figure and that it’s a family name. I admit it seems to me a little mismatched with her other kids, but the family connection definitely trumps that I think, and I agree that Essie is darling! (Hmm … but maybe too much like Lucy?)
  • Felicity: I love it too, and I think it goes great with the older kids. Nicknames often seem to be problematic for parents considering Felicity! Lucy and Lissy are too similar, I agree, but there are others, like Flick and Flicka, Lily, Fin, Zita, Fee, Felly, and Liddy — these were all discussed in the spotlight I did of Felicity a while ago.
  • Ruth: I love Ruth, and I think of it as similar to Esther, so normally I might think of it as a mismatch for the other kids, BUT the only Ruth I know in real life is native Irish! And of course she goes by Ruthie, which of course they’d have to call her, it’s the sweetest!
  • Margaret: Oh man, I would have a hard time not choosing Margaret if I were Mary Beth! Her mom’s name! And a fantastic match with the older kids! I think Etta is totally fine and not too farfetched at all! Other nicknames for it that she didn’t mention include Margo, Madge, Mae/May, Mamie, Meg, Peggy, and Rita, but my very favorites for this family are Maisie and Daisy! Maisie is a Celtic (Irish&Scottish) diminutive of Margaret, and Daisy is a traditional nickname for it (since the French form of Margaret is also the name of the daisy flower in French: marguerite) — I think both would be amazing with the other kids! I could also see something like Margaret Eve nicknaming to Maeve, which I think would be really cool (I have Daisy, Eve, and Maeve in my book!).
  • Hope: I agree with MB, there’s something about Hope! Yes, it can be for Our Lady of Hope!
  • Elisabeth: I love this spelling! Elizabeth/Elisabeth has SO MANY nicknames! Some of my favorites are Betsy (probably too close to Betty?), Libby, Liddy, Ellie, and Tess, but they’re all so great! Elisabeth can also shorten to Elise, which is so pretty.
  • Mary: Oh yes! I like Mary Beth’s plan to have it be a middle, or a hidden first name.
  • [Alice: I don’t think people tend to nickname Alice? I mean, Alison seems very nicknameable — I feel like most Alisons go by Ali at least sometimes during their lives, but Alice has a more distinguished feel (while also being so sweet), I don’t know, I don’t think I’d ever find myself casually nicknaming an Alice. Maybe Ali’s used more than I thought!]

I looove Mary Beth’s list of middle name ideas!! Immaculata, Maristella/Stellmaris, Regina, and Marie are especially perfect to honor Our Lady with a non-Marian first name, while Henrietta, Verity, Frances, and Therese would be great as a middle name for a Marian first name.

Alrighty, as you all know, I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each name, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. As I mentioned before, I also really had my eye out for Irish-y/Celtic-y/British-y type names, not only because I get that vibe from Mary Beth’s kids as a whole, but also because as I mentioned I really try to loop in any siblings with names that are kind of outliers, and her oldest two — especially Reese — are starting to have that feel. And I looked through my book as well! With all that in mind, these are my additional ideas for this baby, if a girl:

(1) Beatrice or Beatrix
I’m not sure which I like better here, Beatrice or Beatrix! I have them in my book — they mean “she who blesses, makes happy, delights,” which is an amazing meaning for a little girl, and a great connection to Our Lady! Bea is a great nickname, and I like Tris and Trixie too! Beatrice is a style match for both Clementine and Alice.

(2) Juliet
Julia is a match for John and Juliet for Felicity and Hope, and of them, I like Juliet quite a bit for this family, but they’re both lovely! I did a spotlight of the Julia names a while ago, complete with patron saints. The Juliette spelling is French and frilly, but the Juliet spelling is more in keeping with the older kids I think.

(3) Annabel(le)
Annabelle is also match for Felicity and Hope, and I immediately thought of Annabel in my book: it arose in Scotland in the middle ages as a variant of Amabel, which is a variant of Amabilis, which is part of the Marian title Mater Amabilis (Mother Most Amiable)! I think it’s so lovely, and Annie as a nickname sounds perfect as Lucy’s sister!

(4) Susanna
Speaking of Annie: Anna, Hannah, and Susannah all were results of my research as well, and of them, I thought Susanna might be perfect! It’s also in my book, as it means both “lily” and “rose” in Hebrew, which could make for a nice connection with sister Lucy Rose! Susannah has a heavier Old Testament feel (more along the lines of Esther and Ruth), while Susanna is New Testament and saintly — and in fact, St. Susanna’s feast day is August 11! The same month this baby is due!

(5) Miriam
Lovely Miriam fits right in with Esther and Ruth, and it’s Marian to boot! Mary Beth’s husband likes some Old Testament names too, so I like that Miriam might appeal to both of them. Miri and Mimi are sweet nicknames as well.

(6) Maura or Moira
Speaking of variants of Mary, since we’re (or, at least I’m) talking about Irish-y names, I wonder if Mary Beth might like to consider one of the Irish forms of Mary? It would be a neat way of connecting her first name, her mom’s middle name, and of course Our Lady in a new way in her daughter’s name. I love both Maura and Moira!

(7) Nora
Nora isn’t as obviously faithy as some of my other ideas, but it kept tugging me as a perfect fit for this family! Though it’s got good usage as a given name in its own right, it’s a short form of either Honora or Eleanor, either of which could provide a patron (Bl. Archangela Girlani’s birth name was Eleanor, and there’s a Bl. Eleanora as well; Venerable Honora Nagle would do also). A name like this might be best paired with one of the heavy hitting Marian middles, like Nora Maristella or Nora Clementine.

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of Reese, Finnian, John, Lucy, and Gabriel?


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!

Joyful Mystery Names

Happy feast of the Annunciation, one of my favorites!!

It seems a perfect day to share again my list of names inspired by the Joy Mysteries of the Rosary! Not only are there a bunch of names in my post, but the comments!! Definitely be sure to read them — the Santa Nomina readers are amazing!!


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!