Baby name consultation: Third baby girl needs a name for a bold, saintly woman

Today’s consultation is from a dad! I love when papas write to me! Mat and his wife are expecting their third earthly baby — and third daughter! She joins big sisters:

Gianna Marie (“after St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Mary“)
Charlotte Josephine (“after John Paul II and St. Joseph; also sometimes goes by Charley or Char“)

And two siblings in heaven:

Augustine Robert (“after St. Augustine and Robert after a friend who passed away around that time“)
Gabriel Mathew (“after St. Gabriel and his Dad“)

So lovely. So saintly. Just wonderful names all around!

Mat writes,

We have discussed our name situation and here is what we have. It’s been much harder to even narrow down the name this time!

While we like the idea of something unique, we don’t want something that is too difficult to pronounce or is really unheard of. Mat has always wanted a baby named after someone who has yet to be canonized or who was a martyr. Ideally, we want a name that emphasizes female strength and empowerment as raising them to be bold, saintly women is something we really value and is a big part of our family culture. We got married on the feast of Maximilian Kolbe so maybe that could go into the consideration.”

(I just love that: “Ideally, we want a name that emphasizes female strength and empowerment as raising them to be bold, saintly women is something we really value and is a big part of our family culture.”)

“Names we like (asterisks are our favorites so far):
Cecilia* (Mat grew up in the Omaha, NE archdiocese so this name has always appealed to him)
Quinn
Lydia*
Felicity*
Lucia/Lucille/Lucy (would be called Lucy)*
Hope*
Elizabeth (seems really common right now)*
Madeline or Magdalene*
Elodie* (Kelly thinks this sounds pretty, though Mat isn’t the biggest fan)

Names we can’t do:
Chiara
Clare
Abby
Agnes
Elle
Adeline
Amelia
Emily
Brittany
Janet
Patricia
Harper
Danika
Nanette
Amy
Grace
Beth
Valerie
Suzanne
Edith/Edie
Dorothy
Zelie
Caeli

Thank you so much for helping us with such an eternal decision!

I love how feminine and full of faith significance their girls’ names are, and I’m confident they’ll end up choosing a name just as perfect for this baby girl! Not least because they have a great list they’re working with already! I thought I’d start by offering thoughts on the names on their list, in case they’re helpful:

  • Cecilia: Great name, obviously saintly, good nickname options. It goes well with both Gianna and Charlotte, nice option! I like the Omaha connection too, that’s a nice little story.
  • Quinn: I love Ven. Edel Quinn and Quinn is a really fun way to nod to her. It’s not as feminine as Gianna and Charlotte, but it’s spunky and fits in with Charlotte’s nickname of Charley well.
  • Lydia: I’ve always loved Lydia, and I love that a little Lydia would have her own color, as Lydia in the bible was a seller of purple cloth!
  • Felicity: This name jumped right out to me as a name that checks all their boxes, including the female strength + empowerment + “bold, saintly women” emphasis they value. I also really like that it offers sort of a third style of feminine name to go with their girls; that is, Gianna is very Italian, Charlotte isn’t as obviously ethnic but is French, and Felicity is neither of those, which is quite nice I think.
  • Lucia/Lucille/Lucy: The Lucy names are great! Lucia fits in well with Gianna’s Italian feel, Lucille is French like Charlotte, and Lucy is like Felicity to me — it’s neither French nor Italian and offers a nice third style option while fitting in well with both Gianna and Charlotte. (Do note that I’m not suggesting they avoid Italian name or French names! But sometimes having the characteristics of current children’s names and those on the list of possibilities pointed out can help parents clarify what’s important to them/what they want in a name.)
  • Hope: I love the name Hope and wish it got more usage! It’s so simple and pretty, and Marian! (Our Lady of Hope.)
  • Elizabeth: They’re right, it is common right now (no. 13 on the most recent SSA list [2018]), but Charlotte is no. 6 and Gianna is no. 80 so it’s not totally out of line with their older girls’ names (top 100 names are in the same general category, I’d say). Lydia, Lucy, and Madeline are also top 100 names (89, 51, and 100, respectively). Here are the others’ rankings:
    — Cecilia: 155
    — Quinn: not in top 1000 for girls; no. 384 for boys
    — Felicity: 354
    — Lucia/Lucille: 183/295
    — Hope: 255
    — Magdalene: not in top 1000
    — Elodie: not in top 1000

An option in regard to Elizabeth is to spell it Elisabeth, which is no. 789, and while a change in spelling only goes so far in making a name feel different, a nice bonus with the Elisabeth spelling is that it’s the spelling of Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur. Have you heard of her? I thought of her immediately when they said, “Mat has always wanted a baby named after someone who has yet to be canonized” — she’s an amazing woman with an amazing story!

  • Madeline or Magdalene: I love both of these. Madeline is more mainstream, as its popularity shows (no. 100 in 2018), while Magdalene is more offbeat (it didn’t rank in the top 1000 in 2018).
  • Elodie: It does sound pretty! Elizabeth/Elisabeth and Elodie can both take the Ellie/Ella nicknames.

I love Mat and Kelly’s focus on holy female strength, and I really tried to keep that in mind while I was compiling the list of ideas for them, as well as the “naming after someone who has yet to be canonized or who was a martyr” bit. And St. Maximilian Kolbe! It was fun to try to find ideas that could nod to him!

You all know that 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 entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I start there because figuring out a couple’s style is a huge part of coming up with name ideas that I think they might like; within that universe is where I try to find/make saint/faith connections. I don’t stick exclusively to the BNW results, but they’re so helpful! Anyway, based on the BNW research and the parameters Mat and his wife offered, these are the ideas I came up with for this baby:

(1) Julia or Juliet
Several of my readers are devoted to Servant of God Julia Greeley, so, like Elisabeth Leseur, she came right to mind when I read that they might like to name a baby after someone who isn’t yet canonized. And then Julia did well for them in my research! It’s a style match for Lydia, Elizabeth, and Madeline. Juliet, which started as a diminutive of Julia and can take all the holy Julias as patron, is a little more offbeat, a little more “something unique” as they said they like, AND it’s a style match for Felicity and Hope! I spotlighted Juliet here, which includes a discussion of patron saints; Julia Greeley isn’t included (I don’t think I was aware of her yet when I wrote it), but you can read more about her here. My only hesitation with Julia/Juliet is that it starts with the same sound as Gianna, and I don’t know if they’d want to avoid that? Otherwise, I love them for them.

(2) Isabel
They have Elizabeth on their list already, and Isabel’s a variant of it, which might make it seem weird that I’m suggesting it here, but Isabelle is a match for Charlotte, Isabella is a match for Gabriel, and Isabel is a match for Madeline, and I chose Isabel as the variant to suggest because I like that it’s neither Italian nor French (like what I said about Felicity and Lucy above).

(3) Eloise or Louisa
Eloise is only a match for Madeline, but it immediately struck me as maybe a combination of or compromise between Lucia and Elodie. Unfortunately its saintly connection isn’t quite so great — it’s a variant of Heloise, and while there’s this blessed, most of what I found when I tried to find whether there was a St. Eloise was the story of Peter Abelard and his wife, which is pretty tragic and not very holy. Eloise made me think of Louisa, which is also very similar to Lucia — and, I think, can also take the nickname Lucy — but it has a different feel, more English or German. I like Louisa with Gianna and Charlotte.

(4) Clara or Cora
They said Chiara and Clare are both names they can’t do, so I would have assumed that Clara is included in that too, BUT they have Elle and Beth on that same list, which didn’t prevent them from having Elizabeth on their list, so I’m taking a chance that Clara’s okay! It’s a style match for Lydia and Lucia, and like Louisa, Clara has an English or German feel, which I like with the Italian Gianna and the French Charlotte. Clara made me think of Cora — a similar sound/rhythm but without the Clare connection. I’ve had several readers name daughters Cora for the Immaculate Heart of Mary and/or the Sacred Heart of Jesus because of cor meaning “heart” in Latin.

(5) Rose, Rosa
I thought the female Doctors of the Church would be a great place to look for name inspiration for this family, and while I’m swoony over the nickname Hildi and would recommend Hildegard for that reason, I didn’t think it was quite their style. But Rosa is a match for Lucia and I thought of how roses are so connected to St. Therese, and I love the sweet, spare feel of both Rose and Rosa, so I thought they deserved a mention. There are some other holy Roses too, and of course Our Lady: Mystical Rose, the rosary, golden roses on her feet at Lourdes and roses in the tilma at Guadalupe, etc.

(6) Catherine or Siena
St. Catherine of Siena, another Doctor of the Church, always strikes me as the definition of holy female strength, and since Catherine is a style match for Cecilia and Elizabeth, I thought it would be a great option for Mat and his wife. I didn’t want to leave out Siena as an option, though — being a place name, it has a surname feel, like Quinn, that they might like (though is it too similar to Gianna?).

(7) Avila
Speaking of place names, what about Avila, for Doctor of the Church Teresa of Avila? I quite like that it’s Spanish, which is cool that they’d have an Italian name, a French name, and a Spanish name.

(8) Mary Kolbe or Maria Kolbe or Maria Immaculata
I spent a bit of time reading about St. Maximilian Kolbe for ideas to suggest. I love that Mat and his wife were married on his feast day! Both Mary/Maria and Immaculata rose to the surface immediately as feminine names that are so heavily connected to him. For one thing, he took Maria as a second religious name, which is pretty cool. Another is that St. Max named his group Militia Immaculatae — I’m a huge fan of Immaculata as a middle name! I like both Mary Immaculata and Maria Immaculata, and can see Mim being a really sweet nickname for them. They could also do Mary Kolbe or Maria Kolbe, which could be really cool as a double first name maybe? Or a first+middle, of course.

(9) Frances/Francesca/Franciszka or Faustina
My last idea has a bunch of connections for what Mat and his wife are looking for, I think. Both St. Maximilian Kolbe and Servant of God Julia Greeley were Franciscans (Conventual and Secular, respectively), so I liked the idea of Frances or Francesca as a way to nod to either of them. I also liked it for St. (Mother) Frances Xavier Cabrini — the first American citizen to be canonized. Francesca is the Italian variant, which I love (Mother Cabrini’s also known as Francesca), and then I thought to look up the Polish variant too: Franciszka is lovely! Still on the Polish kick because of St. Max, I wondered if a well-known, female Polish saint might be a good nod to him and immediately thought of Faustina. I often see Faustina used by families who have daughters with names like Gianna and Charlotte. (I’m also now wondering if they might like to consider Cabrini as a first name?)

And those are my ideas for Mat and Kelly’s baby girl! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of Gianna and Charlotte?


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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Birth announcement: Perrin Fae!

I posted a consultation for Kortnee from Studio Senn back in September, and she’s let me know her baby girl has arrived! She and her husband gave her the gorgeous name … Perrin Fae!

Kortnee writes,

We welcomed baby girl last Friday and I thought I would follow up to let you know what we decided on for a name!

We landed on Perrin Fae! While we both loved Peregrine for awhile (and feel very called to ask his intercession these days as we know so many who could use his prayers), we ultimately decided maybe it wasn’t the right fit for our naming style. However, we still really liked the nickname she would have had and decided that was a good way to honor Saint Peregrine and give her a namesake. We used the traditional spelling you mentioned. Even though it’s masculine historically, if feels feminine to me since I know a woman with that name.

The boys are smitten with her and no less than a dozen times a day I have to peel Becket away from her.

Thank you for helping us think through this naming process! It was much harder this time around!

I love Perrin Fae!! What a gorgeous name that fits in perfectly with this family’s naming style!!

Congratulations to Kortnee and her hubby and big brothers Fulton and Becket, and happy birthday Baby Perrin!!

Perrin Fae with her big brothers ❤


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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Baby name consultation: Baby no. 11 needs a heavy-hitting middle name! Also: are sisters Heléna and Eleanor problematic?

Happy feast of the Epiphany!!

Thank you all for your replies to my Friday question about naming in foster-to-adopt situations! I’m still working through your comments, and hope to compile and condense them all into one post — stay tuned!

Today’s consultation is for Desiree and her husband, who are expecting their 11th baby — a tiebreaker!! This baby girl joins five big sisters and five big brothers:

Olivia Marie (“she is our niece whom we took in when she was 11, so I had no part in naming her“)

Andrew Pick IV (“family name carried on“)

Maximilian Augustine (“I love strong saint names and both of these saints are extremely meaningful for us“)

Heléna Thérèse (“after St Helen of the Cross and she was born on the feast of St Thérèse, so that was a no brainer“)

Tomás Delahanty (“the Gaelic version of Thomas, named after Saint Thomas Aquinas. His middle name is my husband’s middle name“)

Dominic Giles (“named after St. Dominic whom we both have a devotion to. Middle name is after our dear priest friend who married us (who is also a Dominican) Fr. Giles“)

Finnegan Patrick (“solid Irish first name (husband is Irish) his middle name is my husband’s first name“)

Kai Sophia Maribel (“I wanted a sweet Hawaiian name [and] Kai resonated with me. Sophia my husband picked because it was “sweet” and Maribel is for Our Lady 💙”)

Camilla Flannery (“named after my dear, late Grandma Millie (we call her Millie also) middle name after one of my favorite catholic novelists/poets, Flannery O’Connor“)

Karolina Faustina (“she was born in the year of mercy, so naturally I named her after JPII (Karol) and she was born on the feast day of our Lady of Czestochowa, so I wanted a solid Polish Saint — Faustina was perfect“)

These are such a great bunch of names!! So many great saintly connections, and I love that Ireland, Hawaii, and Poland are represented!

Desiree writes,

We are pretty set on naming her after my MIL — Eleanor.

I loved Emmanuella for the middle name but my dh kind of shot it down ☹️ I want a strong saint/catholic/religious name for the middle since Eleanor isn’t a big saint’s name. I LOVE the idea of Caeli for the middle but husband is again iffy.

I’m not super into all the standard/popular catholic names that everyone uses (although the saints themselves are WONDERFUL) ie: Gianna, Elizabeth, Clare — those types of names are just too basic for me.

I’d love a name that is unique, strong, yet feminine and just makes you go WoW, esp since Eleanor is more old world. Hence my two choices were Emmanuella and Caeli.

My husband wants to use my name in the middle, but I’ve never loved my name and it’s not exciting to me at all.”

You all know I LOVE bold Catholicky Catholic names, so I dove headfirst into coming up with ideas for a middle name for Eleanor and didn’t even notice the thing you all probably noticed right away. In fact, I didn’t notice it all until Desiree emailed me after I’d already sent her my ideas to say,

I just completely by accident came across your blog post from 5 years titled “Eleanor=Helen after all” and I’m semi-freaking out right now. lol I have a Heléna. Will I have two girls with essentially the same name if I name current baby Eleanor??

How did I miss that??

We’ve discussed Eleanor and its connection to Helena a few times — my most recent post on it is even entitled “Eleanor: Take 37” because when I wrote it, I felt like I was rehashing something that had already been rehashed and rehashed. That post shared the most recent information I’d come across — that Eleanor is almost certainly NOT a Helena variant, which is usually upsetting to parents of Eleanor who intended to give their daughter a Helena variant. So funny that that same upsetting bit of info may actually be a positive for Desiree and her husband!!

(Please don’t worry if you have an Eleanor! I wrote this post for Nameberry a few years ago in which I argue that intention often matters more than the details when it comes to naming, and a little Eleanor named for St. Helena was the inspiration for my article.)

All that said, however, I do think it’s true that people who know something about names might see sisters Heléna and Eleanor and think their parents gave the same name to two daughters. Even if that were true, it doesn’t need to be a deal breaker necessarily — on the one hand, some people won’t know of the possible connection between the two names; on the other, Desiree and her hubby can just own it and acknowledge to those who ask (if there are any) that they know there might be a connection, but they’ve done some research and found the evidence to be weighted on the “Eleanor does not equal Helena” side. And that, even if it turns out there is a connection between the two names, it was more important to them to explicitly honor Desiree’s mother-in-law.

Other ways of working with this include using a nickname for Eleanor that isn’t obviously Helena-related, like Ellie or Nora. Or they could put Eleanor in the middle spot. Or they could spell it Elanor, which is how Tolkien spelled it and in his books it’s a Sindarin word meaning “star sun,” which is the name of a flower, and Samwise’s oldest daughter is named Elanor after the flower.

What do you all think? I know Desiree and her hubby would very much like to hear your thoughts on whether or not sisters named Heléna and Eleanor are problematic.

Back to Desiree’s original question about a middle name for Eleanor: What names would be on a list of “strong saint/catholic/religious” names that are “unique, strong, yet feminine and just makes you go WoW”?

Her ideas of Emmanuella and Caeli are both amazing! They gave me great direction in terms of what other kinds of names to suggest.

First, though, I have to admit I’m kind of with Desiree’s husband on using her name! Eleanor Desiree sounds wonderful together and I could see it pairing nicely with a lot of other names as well; I love the idea of their baby girl having that connection with her mama; and I think Desiree is objectively a pretty great name! The meaning of “desired, wished for” is a lovely one for a child. Desiree is a feminine form of the male name Desideratus, and there are three Sts. Desideratus that I found; this one is my favorite. In fact, Desiree is the French form of the feminine form Desiderata — maybe Desiree would prefer to use that? Eleanor Desiderata? Could be perfect!

Of course I can come always come up with more ideas! You all know that I almost always start consultations 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. That strategy didn’t work so well for this family though, not least because Emmanuella and Caeli don’t have entries! But I’ve done a few posts that I found helpful, and of course my book of Marian names has a lot of fun ideas. These are what I came up with:

(1) Archangela
Archangela was actually my first idea, before I did any research, and it was 100% inspired by Eleanor. In that “Eleanor: Take 37” post, I shared a reader’s email about Bl. Archangela Girlani, whose birth name was Eleanor. A legitimate non-Helena holy Eleanor that can be used as patron! Anyway, I love the name Archangela — what a heavy hitting name, with THREE archangels as patrons! Eleanor Archangela is lovely!

(2) Immaculata, Immaculée
I love to tell the story of how it was meeting a little girl whose middle name is Immaculata that inspired me to start compiling non-Mary Marian names, which eventually turned into my book! You can’t get more heavy hitting than Immaculata! A variant of it is Immaculée, which could be nice because it’s French, like Desiree’s name, and ends in ee, like her name. There’s also a current famous Immaculée — Immaculée Ilibagiza, who has written about surviving the Rwandan genocide. Eleanor Immaculata and Eleanor Immaculée are both beautiful.

(3) Mariae (or …?)
I spent a little time looking up names that have a similar meaning to Desiree’s name, as a way of nodding to her hubby’s wish to use her name, while not actually using it. One of the meanings that’s been theorized about Mary is “wished for child,” which is perfect! Even if that isn’t what Mary means (and it seems likely that it’s not), how can you wrong with a Mary variant?! One of my favorites is Mariae, which is the Latin genitive version — it literally means, “belonging to Mary.” Eleanor Mariae is stunning. There are so many other Mary variants they could consider as well!

(4) Maristella
Speaking of Mary variants, Maristella is another of my favorites — it’s a variant of Stellamaris/Stella Maris, and I think Eleanor Maristella sounds really beautiful.

(5) Madonna
I know, I know. But I really really want us to reclaim this beautiful Marian name! I think the middle name spot is the perfect place to start — like this mom did, naming her daughter Indigo Madonna, with this reasoning: “I just love the title of Madonna for Our Lady, and I’ve always wanted Catholics to take it back after it’s been so pop-culture secularized.” I love Eleanor Madonna!

(6) Avila, Ave
I was excited to see Avila in the list of names having “desire” in their meaning on Behind the Name! It’s not totally a sure thing, but “desired” is possible. Regardless, it definitely has that Catholicky Catholic vibe, and Eleanor Avila has a cool rhythm. I like it! Ava was also included in that list, which didn’t seem quite right for Desiree, but it reminded me of Ave (like, Ave Maria), which I have in my book as a possibility for a given name. Eleanor Ave is unexpected and beautiful!

(7) Emmaus, Edessa
I’m not sure these are totally right for what Desiree’s looking for, but I love how they each sound with Eleanor, so I thought I’d include them! Emmaus is from the story of Jesus meeting His apostles on the road to Emmaus — I have a friend who used Emmaus for her baby, which opened my eyes to the possibility of it being used as a given name. Eleanor Emmaus. Then, Edessa is from the Marian title Our Lady of Edessa, and I think it’s such a pretty name. Eleanor Edessa.

(8) Assumpta
Assumpta comes from Assumption, of course — it’s a beautiful and little-used Marian name these days. But one of the main reasons I wanted to suggest it is because Desiree and her hubs made a point to work some Irish sensibility into their kids’ names with Tomás and Finnegan’s names, and Assumpta is listed on Behind the Name as the “Latinate form of Asunción, used especially in Ireland.” How fun is that? I like Eleanor Assumpta.

(9) Cruz
I’m not sure they’ll love this one, but I love that Cruz (Spanish for “cross”) can refer to the Cross of Jesus, and also to Our Lady at the foot of the Cross. Eleanor Cruz is pretty cool.

(10) Perpetua
Finally, Perpetua can refer to the beautiful Marian title Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and also to the second/third century martyr who is an amazing patron for a little girl and is in the Canon of the Mass.

And those are my ideas for a heavy-hitting middle name for Desiree and her husband’s baby girl! What do you all think? What names would you add to this list? And please weigh in on the Heléna/Eleanor question!


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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Happy Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus! (And redemption of Black Friday Special No. 3)

I just posted a [not fun] Friday question a few minutes ago, completely forgetting to wish you all a happy Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus! I’ve written several things about His Holy Name, which I link to in this post, and I also just discovered that the diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina has the Holy Name of Jesus as one of its patrons! (The other is the Sacred Heart of Jesus — those are some heavy hitting patrons!) So happy patronal feast day to all you Raleigh-ites!

Today is also the day that I start accepting consultation requests from those of you who took advantage of my Black Friday Special No. 3. I look forward to hearing from you!


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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

[Not Fun] Friday Question: How to approach naming in a foster-to-adopt situation?

Happy New Year to you all!!

This is the latest in my “Fun Friday Question” series, but it’s more sobering than fun, hence the title. A reader asked,

As foster parents, I often think about what we would do if we adopted from foster care (which we hope to do at some point). With the kids being older, changing names often doesn’t seem like a possibility or in the best interest of the child, but I worry about their names setting them apart from the rest of the family, since our kid’s names are more traditional and our girls names especially follow a pattern and we’ve very intentionally included saint and family names in our children’s names. I’m curious what other people do in similar situations. Maybe we should have given less matchy names so that adopted children would be able to blend in easier (too late for that now, but should that have been a consideration earlier on). Or since we have no idea if an adoption will ever happen, is it best that we used the names we really wanted. How should plans to adopt from foster care affect naming of biological children? What are some ways to help incorporate an adopted child’s name into the family without changing it? How should someone respond to comments of one child’s name not “fitting in” with the rest?

I know there are a bunch of you who have fostered and/or adopted — I hope you offer your thoughts/experiences!

My initial thoughts, for what they’re worth, are: I think it’s so loving that this family is grappling with this question! What a wonderful thing, to try to do everything possible to enfold a child into the family.

I would think that using the names they want for their biological children makes the most sense, especially since — at least for this reader — there’s no guarantee that “an adoption will ever happen.”

Some ways of incorporating an adopted child’s name into the family without changing it could include bestowing a nickname similar to those of the other children (e.g., if they all have Skip/Buddy/Princess-type nicknames, it would be fairly easy to come up with something similar; if all the biological children have Spanish names, maybe a Spanish nickname for the adopted child’s name or similar could work).

As for questions about one child’s name not “fitting in” with the rest, I’d try to come up with some go-to reply, like, “Yes, isn’t it lovely?” Or, “It has such a great meaning that totally fits his personality,” or … ? Something that doesn’t focus on its difference, but rather its strengths, and maybe avoids the fact that it doesn’t match the other siblings’ style? Or maybe embracing its difference is better? I know you all will have some great ideas!

Have a great weekend!


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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Year in review: 2019 (scrabbling back)

Happy New Year’s Eve everyone!! 🎉🎉🎉

I look forward to doing my Year in Review posts every New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day — it’s SO FUN to look back on all that was accomplished in the last year!

I’m describing 2019 as the year of “scrabbling back,” since much of it was devoted to healing physically and mentally from the baby’s birth in September 2018, which meant my efforts on the blog were slow and erratic, especially in the beginning. Worse, I had to keep putting off returning to baby name consultations — I knew you all understood, but it was so painful to me to know there were mamas (mostly, but papas too!) who were hoping for help naming their sweet babies, and I couldn’t do so! But I gained steam as the year drew to a close — take a look!:

Henry James
Felicity Victoria Kathleen
Michael Dominic
Greer Eileen
Ev@nd3r H@wth0rn (alt characters used for privacy)
Christian Gabriel
Noelle Katherine
Perpetua Carolyn
Bridget Marie
Reina Grace
Basil Anthony Philip
Christopher Rex called Rex
Damian Nicholas Elijah and Isaac Anthony Cosmas
Basil Grace
Linus John
Helena Faustina James
Clement Joseph
Lucy Adelaide
Peter Joseph
Sunday Josephine
Hildegard Edna Marie
Abigail Violet
Genevieve Immaculee Grace
Solan Peter and Magdalen Anne
Helena Mary
Cecily Germaine
Cl3m3nt Mich@el
Theodore Luke
Rosemary Ruth
Ariston Blaise
Finnian Agustin
Benedict Reid
Elizabeth Ríonach called Liesel
Alden Edward
Maria Therese called Maite
Penny Annalise Mariae
Lincoln David

Speaking of St. Anne, she’s been our patroness since almost the beginning, and this year I also dedicated Sancta Nomina (blog + social media + all associated work) to Our Lady — I should have thought to do so before!

What a year it’s been! I am, as always, so grateful for this little space, and for all of you. I love how wholesome and good it is here — it is such a great antidote to all the bologna, isn’t it? I know 2020’s going to be an amazing year! The word I got for 2020  by Jen Fulwiler’s Word of the Year Generator was THRIVE*, which seems perfect following a year of “scrabbling back”! I hope you’re looking forward with as much hope and joy as I am! Happy Eve of the Feast of Mary, Mother of God!!**

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

*Be sure to try out her Saint Name Generator as well! (I got Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati!)

**Don’t forget Jan. 1 is a holy day of obligation!


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: Baby girl needs strong name that can be shortened to something fun

Happy sixth day of Christmas, and the feast of the Holy Family!!

Today’s consultation was a fun one to work on because the parameters are pretty broad! Emily (middle name Jane, which is important) writes:

This is our first baby and we are having a baby girl … My husband and I want to make sure she has a strong name, one that will seem appropriate at all stages in life … We also are wanting her to have my grandmothers name, Ruenell, in there somewhere. I am southern so I am partial to traditional names that can be shortened to something fun, but that is by no means a must.”

When I asked if Emily could give me a sense of what names she and her hubby like or don’t like, so that I had a better idea of what part of the name universe to focus on, she replied,

I went back over the list of names we have compiled over the years and there is a good healthy mix of traditional and quirky so we are happy to stand back and let you do your thing!

SO EXCITING! And also terrifying! Haha!

To start, I really love Emily’s middle name, Jane, and thought it fit the exact kind of name she said she and her hubby are looking for: “strong … one that will seem appropriate at all stages in life.” Jane is gorgeous! So Jane Ruenell would be my first suggestion. It honors Emily by using her middle name (how nice for a mom and her daughter to have a connection like that!), which is a great name for a little girl and for a grown woman of all ages, and it includes Emily’s grandmother’s name. Janie is a sweet nickname too.

Ruenell is such an interesting name! I’m guessing that they don’t want to use Ruenell as a first name, but Rue and Nell are both such great nicknames that I thought something like Mary Ruenell nicknamed Rue or Nell might be a good option for them to consider.

Since Emily said she’s partial to names that can be shortened to something fun, I tried to come up with some interesting nicknames that combine sounds from my first name suggestions with sounds from Ruenell as a middle name — one of my favorite strategies for coming up with interesting nicknames — as I thought the middle name spot was where they’d prefer to put Ruenell. However, before I get to those ideas, I was also thinking that Ruenell could conceivably be a nickname that results from combining elements of two other names — which I’m sure is not the kind of idea they were hoping for, but I had fun coming up with some ideas in that vein, so I thought I would share them just in case. Like:

Ruth Penelope nn Ruenell
Ruby Eleanor nn Ruenell

But back to my other first-name ideas. You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents like in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Since Emily and her hubs wanted to hear fresh ideas without providing parameters, my usual methodology wouldn’t be helpful, so I basically just combed through my mental files for names that I consider to be strong and able to grow with a girl into womanhood. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the ones that came to mind:

(1) Catherine/Katherine
I’m not starting with C/Katherine because it’s my own name (haha!) but because it’s definitely one of the names that I think works at all stages of a girl’s life. The full C/Katherine is serious, sophisticated, and dignified, and there are a bunch of nickname options that fit any kind of family and personality. Some of these are: Cate/Kate/Catie/Katie/Cady, Cass, Casey, Cat/Kat, Cathy/Kathy, and Kit/Kitty.

(2) Margaret
Like C/Katherine, Margaret is appropriate for all ages, and has a bunch of great nicknames as well, like Maggie, Meg, Maisie, Daisy, and Peg/Peggy. Variants that can be used as nicknames or given names on their own include Greta, Rita, and Margo/Margot. An unrelated name that nevertheless has some history of usage as a Margaret nickname is Molly. Lots of cool options here!

(3) Elizabeth
C/Katherine, Margaret, and Elizabeth are considered the classic English trio of girl names — they’ve been used by royals and non-royals alike for centuries in many different European countries and there are a bunch of patron saints for each one. Elizabeth is perhaps the mama of the nickname-rich girl names — there are SO MANY! Liz/Lizzy, Beth, and Ellie are probably the most expected, but I love some of the quirkier options like Elsa, Libby, Libbet, Lily, and Tess.

(4) Anna, Anne
Anna has a sweeter feel, I think, and Anne is maybe more stern — but then again, what girl doesn’t love Anne of Green Gables? Annie is a darling nickname.

(5) Julia
Julia is feminine and lovely while also passing the “Supreme Court Test” (that is, Julia would be fine and appropriate for a Supreme Court justice). Julie and Jules are familiar nicknames, but I’ve seen Jilly and Lia, and Juliet actually started as a diminutive of Julia, so it can be used as a nickname for Julia (though it’s rare to do so these days. I also love Juliet as a given name).

(6) Madeline, Madeleine
I love all variants of Magdalene, but I think Madeline and Madeleine are the ones that come across as the most “professional” maybe. Maddy is always a cute nickname for a little girl — whether she’s super feminine or a tomboy — and I think Molly can work too.

(7) Susanna
I love the name Susanna (the girl name we’ve saved through all our boys!) — I think it’s a strong, feminine name, and I love that it has a bunch of nickname options, like Susie/Sue and Anna/Annie as well as the quirkier and sweet Zuzu, Sassy, and Sunny! A reader just recently suggested Sam/Sammie as a nickname for Susanna(h) plus an M middle name, which I thought was great.

(8) Lydia
One of my favorite things about the name Lydia is that the Lydia in the bible was a seller of purple cloth — how cool that the name comes with its own color! I love the nickname Lyddie, SO charming!

(9) Frances
I think Frances could border on seeming too severe for everyday use for a little girl, but if so, its nicknames save it: Frannie, Francie, and Frankie are spunky and fun!

(10) Gemma
Gemma is probably the most offbeat of my suggestions, but it’s traditional and saintly and I think it fits in as well on the playground as it does in the boardroom.

(11) Cecilia
If Gemma is the most offbeat, Cecilia might be the softest of my suggestions, but it certainly works for any age and any kind of girl/woman, in my opinion. Cece and Celia are great nickname possibilities.

(12) Teresa
I can definitely see Teresa on both a little girl and a woman (and I know Teresas of both age groups!). I mentioned Tess earlier as a nickname for Elizabeth, which I do love, but Tess and Tessa are originally and usually nicknames for the Teresa names. Reese and Resa can also work.

(13) Bridget
I couldn’t end the list without adding Bridget — it’s such a familiar name, but I don’t hear it in real life too often. I’d be pleasantly surprised to hear it on a little girl, and it certainly has enough weight for a woman. Bridge/Bridgey and Bridey are adorable nicknames.

I think there’s a good bunch of styles and ideas above that fit Emily and her husband’s hope for a strong name that can fit their little girl at all stages of her life, and there are some really fun nickname options too. I mentioned above that I toyed with nickname ideas that involve combining first name elements with Ruenell as a middle — they include:

Catherine Ruenell nn Carly
Julia Ruenell nn Junie
Susanna Ruenell nn Zelie
Lydia Ruenell nn Lyra or Lynnie
Bridget Ruenell nn Bell or Bella
Madeline Ruenell nn Marnie or Marley
Katherine Ruenell nn Katie-Rue or Katie-Nell
Teresa Ruenell nn Tessa-Rue or Truly

It’s fun to try to come up with some fun and quirky options!

And those are all of my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for Emily that fit her hope for “a strong name, one that will seem appropriate at all stages in life,” that might also be able to be shortened to “something fun”?


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!