Baby name consultant: Baby boy needs a name with great faith connections that also has sci-fi/science/literary ties

Krista and her husband are expecting their second baby, a little brother to:

Elizabeth Marie

Such a fantastic name — a beautiful, timeless combo that’s biblical, saintly, and Marian — a perfect trifecta! You can even add in the Visitation for a rosary connection! Love it.

Krista writes,

I had the hardest time with names the first time around and seem to be continuing the tradition this time. Part of the issue is my husband will only suggest one name and then become upset if that is not something I agree to. He did give in to Elizabeth with the first (which was one of my first names) but only after she was born and after I had tried to give him MANY options. [He enjoys the connection to Pride and Prejudice.]

He seems to be stuck on naming children after Sci-Fi movies which is a turn off to me (he likes Star Wars and Firefly) … as a recent convert, having a strong Catholic name with a good meaning is important to me. When I looked up Elizabeth it meant “God is my oath” or “sworn to God” … I wanted Marie to honor Our Lady.

His family has a tradition of using John as a middle name for the oldest son which I am okay with but he wants the first name Malcolm (after the lead in Firefly) which I don’t approve of due to the Mal- beginning.

I enjoy Augustine and Luke … but he doesn’t seem open to any of my suggestions that aren’t his ideas (or rather idea) … my husband also studied paleontology (dino paleo) and loves science. Maybe common ground could be found in a famous scientist name that is also a good Catholic name?

I was so happy that Krista allowed me to post this consultation, as I know some of you have been in similar situations! As I told Krista, I have often seen God use our interests and inclinations for His purposes, whether we realize it or not, so maybe her hubby’s affinity for sci-fi and literature will end up drawing him closer to Him! I really wanted to find names that might appeal to his sensibilities while also having great, holy connections that will please Krista. In fact, one of the reasons I started Sancta Nomina was to show that names of all kinds can have saintly connections or other connections to the faith, no matter if parents originally like a name because of it being in a movie/book/video game, etc. I think that the fact Krista’s hubs likes Elizabeth because of the P&P connection is a great start! How wonderful that this name that caught his attention through a work of literature is ALSO a great saintly name! 

So I think trying to find a name that appeals to Krista’s hubby through his human interests, that’s also got some great faith connections, is the perfect way to go! Just like she said about his love for paleontology/science: “Maybe common ground could be found in a famous scientist name that is also a good Catholic name?” And with that in mind, my first goal is to try to convince Krista of Malcolm! It’s actually an awesome Catholic name!! She said she doesn’t approve of the name because of the Mal- beginning, but in this instance the Mal actually doesn’t refer to “bad”! Mal in Latin does, but Malcolm doesn’t derive from Latin; rather, it’s an Irish name meaning “servant [or disciple] of St. Columcille” (also known as St. Columba) — the “mal” refers to “servant/disciple” and comes from/is an anglicization of the Irish maol (Maolcholm). I’ve written before about patron saints finding us through our interests/talents/hobbies/jobs, etc. — perhaps St. Columba/Columcille is pulling Krista’s husband close through his love of the name Malcolm! (As an amazing side note, Columcille means “dove of the Church”! I love that! Columba is a shortened form — it means “dove.” He’s credited with the conversion of Scotland to Christianity; you can read more about him here.) Malcolm was also the name of the husband of St. Margaret of Scotland, who was pretty great. Malcolm John is a really handsome combo.

Even if Krista can come around on the idea of Malcolm, I can see how using Mal as a nickname might continue to feel problematic. The Firefly character goes by Mal, but that doesn’t mean her Malcolm has to (and perhaps this can be a point of compromise for her husband — he gets Malcolm as the given name, but Krista gets to choose the nickname). Mac can work as a nickname, as can Max (which can also allow her to think of St. Maximilian Kolbe as a secondary patron). Colm itself has usage as a given name, as an even further shortening of Columcille (–>Columba–>Colum–>Colm), so they could use Colm as an everyday nickname, which further highlights the saintly connection. Going off of Colm, perhaps Cole can also work as a nickname.

Krista’s ideas of Augustine and Luke are both ones I love as well — Luke in particular seems like one that would be a good compromise for them both, since it’s such a huge Star Wars name!

I also did quite a bit of research trying to find other names that might interest Krista’s husband from his sci-fi perspective while also appealing to Krista from a faith perspective, and I’m pretty happy with what I found! My research included looking up the names of the Firefly characters and their stories (to be sure I wasn’t suggesting names of bad guys), as well as the Star Wars characters (I’m much more familiar with them, we love Star Wars in my house!), and I also looked up notable names in paleontology (I love that connection!). Additionally, I’d done consultations in the past for a family who wanted nature and/or scientific names, and a couple who referred to themselves as “HYUUUUUGE geeks” and had found their children’s names in sci-fi literature first before backfitting them into patron saints (both those consultations contain links to other resources I used, which might be helpful to Krista and her hubs, and some of you) — I found both consultations helpful in coming up with ideas here. (You all know that I usually start with the Baby Name Wizard when doing a consultation, but it didn’t seem appropriate here.)

Okay! Without further ado, these are my additional suggestions for Krista and her husband’s baby boy:

(1) Benjamin or Benedict nicknamed Ben
Star Wars fans know Ben Kenobi as an alternate name for Obi-Wan Kenobi, so Ben can have a nice Star Wars connection without it being too in your face (similar to Luke). Also, Kylo Ren’s good-guy name is Ben Solo! Paleontologist B.F. Mudge, who discovered the Ichthyomis, was Benjamin Franklin Mudge, and I love that Benjamin is biblical like Elizabeth; there are also some Sts. Benjamin that Krista might like to consider as patron. Its definition isn’t that inspiring (“son of the right hand”), but its overall meaning includes all these other wonderful things! (I’ve written before about “definition” vs. “meaning” of names.) Or Krista might be able to convince her hubby of Benedict, which has more of the same feel as Augustine (heavy duty Catholicky Catholic), but was also included on a Nameberry list of Geek Chic Names for Boys because of one of its variants being used by Shakespeare in Much Ado About Nothing and also actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict means “blessed” and is an entry in my book of Marian names because of it! And of course it’s super saintly. I definitely think one of the Ben names would be great for this family!

(2) Stephen
Another notable paleontologist was Stephen Jay Gould, who was described in his New York Times obituary as “one of the most influential evolutionary biologists of the 20th century and perhaps the best known since Charles Darwin.” I thought Krista’s husband might really appreciate that a little Stephen John would initial to Stephen J., which mirrors Stephen Jay Gould. And of course, for Krista, there’s St. Stephen, the first martyr, and many others.

(3) Charles
Speaking of Charles Darwin, his name has impeccable faith credentials! Many people have named boys Charles in honor of St. John Paul II, whose birth name was Karol (the Polish form of Charles). He was actually named for Bl. Karl of Austria (who is also referred to as Emperor Charles), who is awesome, and provides another great patron. St. Charles Borromeo is also a favorite of mine, and there are many others. I could see Krista’s hubby really liking the Charles Darwin connection, and there’s also Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time and Charles Xavier from X-Men (I bet he’ll love that connection! So cool!). Another great literary figure is Charles Ryder from Brideshead Revisited, which is considered a great Catholic work!

(4) George nn Geo or Geordie
Fr. George LeMaitre was the priest who came up with the Big Bang Theory and was the president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences for six years until his death in 1966 (yay for priest scientists!), which makes this name both faithy and science-y! (There are a lot of Sts. George as well.) The nickname Geo can also strengthen the tie to science (as in its meaning of “earth,” like geology), and Geordie (said like Jordy) is a traditional Scottish nickname for George, and also a character on Star Trek! (Geordie LaForge.)

(5) Simon
Okay, moving onto other Firefly names — I haven’t watched it, but I know it’s got some pretty rabid fans, so I’m not surprised Krista’s hubby has latched onto one of the characters as inspiration for a baby’s name. One that I thought would work is Simon, as in character Simon Tam. It doesn’t have the potentially problematic Mal beginning, and he’s a main character as far as I can tell, so the connection to the show should be pretty solid for her husband. As for Saints, there’s Simon Peter and St. Simon Stock (of the brown scapular) and others.

(6) Montford nn Monty
Monty’s a good character in Firefly — friend of Mal’s — which made me think of the name Montford, which I have as an entry in my Marian names book for this reason:

Montford is the surname of St. Louis de Montfort, whose first name is also included in this volume, by virtue of his deep devotion to Our Lady and his classic Marian works True Devotion to Mary, The Secret of Mary, and The Secret of the Rosary. One of my blog readers recently suggested Montfort as a first name with the nickname Monty, which I thought was brilliant.”

Maybe Montfort with the nickname Monty is just the kind of name Krista’s hubby might go for?

(7) Shepherd
Another Firefly character whose name caught my attention is Shepherd Book. If I understand correctly from reading his description on Wikipedia, Shepherd is actually his title (religious ties!) rather than his name, but the fact that he’s called Shepherd makes the name really connected to him. I did a spotlight post on the name Shepherd a while ago, in which I draw some pretty great connections to Jesus. I also did a consultation for a family who has a son named Shepherd, named for a few faith reasons. Could be a great option for this family! Shep is a really cute nickname.

(8) Francis nn Finn
Moving back to Star Wars, Finn has risen in popularity over the last few years, in good part because of the character of Finn in the new Star Wars movies. I’ve suggested it on the blog to a few families as a fresher, more unexpected nickname for the super Catholic name Francis — maybe something like would appeal to Krista and her husband? Her hubby might also appreciate that Renaissance scholar Francis Bacon was “best known for his promotion of the scientific method.”

(9) Cassian
My last suggestion for them is probably a bit more offbeat than the others, but I was kind of amazed that Cassian showed up in my Star Wars research — Cassian Andor was in the movie Rogue One, and was on the rebel side (the good guys), though I don’t think he was a huge character (I haven’t seen Rogue One yet). But Cassian is also the surname of St. John Cassian, so Cassian John would be an amazing nod to him! There are two families I know through the blog who have sons named Cassian: here and here. Cash is a great nickname too.

Those are my “official” suggestions for Krista and her hubby, but others that I considered and ultimately left off my final list for various reasons include: Owen (for Uncle Owen on Star Wars and the amazing St. Nicholas Owen; some take it as a variant of John, so that wouldn’t work too well), Pascal (for Blaise Pascal and the many Sts. Pascal, including St. Pascal Baylon; also Pascal means “Easter”), Caspian (from Narnia), Thomas (for Thomas Edison, and any of the great Sts. Thomas [Aquinas, More, the Apostle]), and Tycho (for astronomer Tycho Brahe, and there’s also St. Tycho of Amathus).

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little brother of Elizabeth Marie, son of a sci-fi/science/literature fan and a recent convert on fire for the faith?


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 no. 9 needs a name that isn’t “completely ordinary,” yet not unheard of

Sarah and her husband are expecting their ninth baby — a little green bean (=gender unknown)! This little girl or boy joins big siblings:

Cody Michael
Benjamin Scott
Claire Elizabeth
Dominic Anthony
Grace Cathryn
Peter Charles
Caroline Maria
Charlotte Zelie (“she goes mostly by ‘Zelie’“)

What a great bunch of names!! It’s important to note that Sarah acknowledged that her oldest’s name is more modern than they have come to prefer, though I did try to find names that can bridge Cody’s style with that of his siblings’ names.

Sarah writes,

This baby will be a “tiebreaker”, as we currently have 4 boys and 4 girls. We are starting to run out of (primarily boy) names, so are curious what you are able to come up with. We have an unwritten rule that the names be traditional and also double as a Saint name. Our style of “traditional” appears to be names that aren’t completely ordinary, yet are definitely not unheard of. The middle names have either been a family name or a powerhouse Saint. We are open to nontraditional for a middle name if it is a super Catholic “mic drop” of a name.”

A “super Catholic ‘mic drop’ of a name”!! I love that!!

Names we cannot use are:
Alexander
Nicholas
John (open to John Paul, however)
Christian
James
Andrew
Rachel
Gabrielle
Lily
Thomas

I was sort of glad to see that they’re struggling with boy names, because I felt like I had an easier time coming up with boy names than with girl names!

As I mentioned, Cody was actually a big inspiration to me when I was trying to come up with name ideas for this baby. His name is certainly an outlier, and I really wanted to try to come up with an idea or two that might make his name seem more a part of the group. First though, I was glad to see that it means “helpful,” which could put it in the same category as Grace — that is, a virtue-type name. That’s a nice spin to put on it! And Michael is a great middle. I’ve included Cody-esque ideas in my suggestions below.

I do like that they’re open to John Paul, I think that’s a great option! I like that it incorporates biblical names, like Benjamin and Peter, and is a heavy-hitting faithy name. It can also take the nicknames Jack and JP, which I think fit in quite nicely with Cody.

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. Within those results, I look for names or connections that have a solid faith connection. It’s a fun process! Based on that, these are my ideas for Sarah’s little one:

Girl
(1) Josephine
I couldn’t help but notice they like French girl names — Claire, Caroline, Charlotte, and Zelie are all French, but in an understated way (especially Claire, Caroline, and Charlotte), where they don’t at all clash with the other kiddos’ names. I hoped to find a similarly not-overly-obvious French name to suggest, and Josephine was a result from my research that seemed perfect. It can honor St. Joseph, or any of the holy Josephines.

(2) Isabella
Funny enough, though the French Isabelle is a style match for Charlotte, I thought the spelling Isabella was a better suggestion for this family, as Queen Isabella of Portugal, aka St. Elizabeth of Portugal, is a great patron. Isabelle can, of course, honor her as well if they prefer, as can Isabel, which was a style match for both Claire and Caroline. I normally wouldn’t suggest an Elizabeth name for them, since Claire’s middle name is Elizabeth, but since they used three Charles names, I thought they were probably fine with considering another Elizabeth name.

(3) Hannah
I was excited to see that Hannah is a style match for Benjamin and Grace—Benjamin is the only Old Testament name they have, so I like that Hannah would loop him in a bit, and having it be a style match for Grace makes it really feel like it fits in well with the other kids as well. Hannah is such a sweet name and can take St. Anne as a patron, as it’s an Anne variant.

(4) Felicity
I think Felicity is the kind of name that exactly fits Sarah and her hubby’s style of “traditional,” as they put it: “names that aren’t completely ordinary, yet are definitely not unheard of.” It’s super saintly and has a long history of usage, and St. Felicity is one of the best patrons for a girl, in my opinion (there are others as well). I spotlighted it here.

(5) Avila
Finally, in my hopes of finding names that could feel a little more Cody-esque while still checking off their other boxes, I’d thought a saintly surname or place name might do the trick: Kolbe, Clairvaux, or Cabrini, for example (but not those, since they’re too similar to Cody, Claire, and Caroline). Avila was one that I thought might do nicely. It’s got its own entry on behindthename, which tells you that it’s “definitely not unheard of,” and it’s the kind of name that families with Dominics and Zelies often choose. St. Teresa of Avila is a great patron, and a Doctor of the Church, which is so great for a little girl!

Boy
(1) Luke
Luke is biblical, like Benjamin and Peter; it’s four letters, like Cody; and it’s Marian, like Dominic! (Marian due to the fact that his gospel is the most Marian, containing within in the Annunciation and Our Lady’s Magnificat, for example; St. Dominic is a very Marian saint due to the fact that Our Lady tasked him with promulgating her rosary). I like Luke a lot for for this family! Being short, it can also take a longer middle name, which some of the heavy hitting “mic drop” names are (e.g., Luke Augustine, Luke Maximilian, Luke Emmanuel).

(2) Gabriel
Speaking of biblical names and the Annunciation, what about Gabriel? I’ve seen Benjamin and Gabriel brother sets fairly frequently, as well as Dominic and Gabriel brother sets, so it feels like a good fit. Gabriel’s also mentioned in both the Old Testament and New Testament, which is nice for Benjamin and Peter. They have Gabrielle on their “no” list for girls, but I’m hoping Gabriel’s okay for a boy!

(3) Joseph
I suggested Josephine above for a girl, but what about Joseph for a boy? I’m loving that it’s both an Old and New Testament name, and St. Joseph is such an amazing patron for a boy. It was also St. John Paul’s birth middle name, and Pope Benedict’s pre-papal first name. Lots of great connections!

(4) Henry
Henry reminds me of Hannah in that it’s such a sweet name! It’s a style match for Grace, Caroline, and Charlotte, and has a great saintly pedigree — I actually did a spotlight post of it here. Also, since Sarah mentioned possibly being open to John Paul, I wonder if they’d consider John Henry? It would be a really nice nod to our brand new St. John Henry Newman, and can also take the nickname Jack.

(5) Owen
Owen actually showed up a few times in my research — it’s a style match for Claire, Grace, and Charlotte, as well as Logan, which I looked up in order to add to the names that could be style matches for Cody. I think Owen is a great idea for this family! My favorite patron is St. Nicholas Owen — he was amazing! But there are actually a few Owens they can choose from for patron.

(6) Austin
Austin might be my favorite suggestion for this family for a boy. It’s a style match for Cody (!), and it’s a contracted form of Augustine! While it might have a modern feel, it’s been in use for a long time. There are the Austin Friars, founded in 1253, also known as the Hermits of St. Augustine, and I loved this medal for St. Augustine of Canterbury that says “St. Austin” on it. They could also do Augustine with the nickname Austin if they want.

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Cody, Benjamin, Claire, Dominic, Grace, Peter, Caroline, and Zelie?


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: A name for a ninth baby, ideally New Testament and/or saintly with its own initial

(A day late due to illness! Winter, bah! I know I owe a bunch of you emails — I’m working through them, slowly but surely!)

I previously posted two birth announcements for Laura — here and here — and have had some great email conversations with her about names, so I’m thrilled to offer some name ideas for her! She and her husband aren’t currently expecting, but want to be ready if God blesses them again. ❤ Their children on earth are:

Paul Stephen
Clare Michelle
Mark Joseph
Katharine Rose (Kat, Kitty, Kate)
James Philip (Jay)
Andrew Lawrence
Gabriel John (Gabe)
Thomas Gregory (Tommy, T)

And their babies in heaven are:

Becket
Patrick

Such solid, handsome/lovely, saintly names!

Laura writes,

Everyone has their own initial which is wonderfully convenient. It’s not exactly a rule but I do notice that I tend to worry about sibling names sounding to similar in beginning and ending sounds.

Luke and Rebecca are the names of our siblings so most likely not usable for first names for a baby.

I was originally opposed to nicknames but my husband loves a good nickname and tends to shorten any name he comes across.

A saint name is important to us probably for the first and the middle. We make a big deal out of feast days and typically if we go to daily Mass on the kids’ feast day it gets at least a passing mention. For the most part this requirement is easy because those are the names we like anyways, but we do both like Scott for example but it doesn’t meet that criteria.

First the boys-

A New Testament boys name would be obvious, but it feels like that well might be dry. Peter is probably our favorite of the remaining possibilities. Jude has floated off and on the list over the years.

I really love David! But having a James and Gabriel who frequently goes by Gabe in the same house is fairly confusing; I think we should pause before adding another name with a long A vowel.

As far as other Old Testament names goes. [Hubby] likes Samuel and Isaac but I don’t. Plus Sam and James seem a bit close for brothers. [Also,] Daniel is not usable for us.

When I was pregnant with Gabriel I strongly considered Henry. My husband likes Louis but I think it’s a bit fancy and the ending sounds match Thomas.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a girl. My husband’s favorite over those years has been Lucy. And I can give you a long list of why it’s an awesome name, but I’ve not talked myself into loving it. I thinks it’s perfect for someone else’s baby but maybe not my little girl.

Grace, Sarah and Nell are the other current names on our girls list.

Grace is a longtime favorite but seems so similar to Gabriel and Thomas’s name. One way to use it would be to call her Mary Grace.

Sarah is another name I’ve liked since childhood but it doesn’t seem as saintly as the other kids’ names and perhaps we know too many women my age name Sarah. It’s pretty but I worry that it’s not very interesting.

Nell is a name we’d both be excited to use which isn’t so easy to find. The trouble is that it’s really a nickname and we don’t care for the options for a full name. If we don’t use a full name like Helen the saintly connection is less obvious.

I also like names like Eve, Ruth, Stella and Frances but [hubby’s] pretty lukewarm towards those.”

I so enjoyed working on this for Laura! It’s so fun to have watched her family grow and to have followed her name thoughts through several babies.

I hadn’t realized until she pointed it out that all her living children have their own initial — that’s actually pretty amazing! It definitely informed some of my ideas for her — if they could keep that going, that would indeed be wonderfully convenient! I also really wanted to find some one-syllable names for her, since I know she really likes those; for my ideas that are longer than one syllable, I wanted to be sure they could shorten to a one-syllable name.

Speaking of, I’m so bummed they can’t use Luke! It would be perfect!

So I’ll address their boy parameters first. When Abby from Appellation Mountain did the consultation for me for my last baby, she noted that she found it somewhat difficult to come up with ideas for me because she knew that I’d likely considered All the Names through the years and could she really come up with something I hadn’t already considered? I feel similarly working on this for Laura, since I’ve “known” her for years on the Baby Name Wizard forums before here, and between there and our emails I know that she, too, has considered All the Names. So instead of coming up with ideas that I think she and her hubby might not have considered, I’m shooting for making strong arguments for my ideas such that they might take on a new sheen and come across as newly appealing.

But first, my thoughts on the boy names Laura said they like/have considered:

  • Peter: Although Peter breaks their all-different-initials pattern, I kind of like that they started with Paul and might end with Peter — there’s something really pleasing about that to me. I wonder if they’ve considered Pierce? I like that it’s one syllable and not obviously biblical (while still being biblical), which opens up more options for this family for the future.
  • Jude: Since they can’t use Luke, Jude seems the next best thing. I think Jude has more of a Gabriel feel than Peter, for example, which could be perfect.
  • David: I’m not surprised at all that Laura loves David! A lot of her kids’ names had a strong peak in the 50s/60s, and David did as well. I have three Uncle Davids, two born in the 50s and one in the 60s — one has a brother Mark, one has a brother Stephen, and one has brothers Thomas and Jay! I can see what she means about the long A thing, though I know a family with three boys named Jacob, Nathaniel, and Gabriel: Jake, Nate, and Gabe. I definitely don’t think it’s problematic from an outsider’s perspective, unless it’s really confusing for Laura and her hubby and kids, which sounds like it might be. (That should probably be a consideration for Grace as well.)
  • Samuel and Isaac: I’m not considering these as real possibilities since Laura doesn’t like them, but I probably would have suggested Samuel otherwise. Funny, I wouldn’t have thought Sam and James are too close, and I’ve been thinking about it since she first emailed, and I still don’t think they’re too close. But I totally get not being able to move past something like that!
  • Henry: It’s a great name and is a good match for Laura’s girls’ names I think, both Clare and Katharine as well as Grace, Lucy, and Stella from their list of considerations. Being that it’s a great fit as a brother to Clare and Katharine, I like it for them — I’m always a fan of names that provide a bridge between different styles, or between the boys’ and girls’ names in a family.
  • Louis: I’m laughing over Laura’s characterization of Louis as “a bit fancy”! I can see what she means. I can also see how she doesn’t like the matching endings of Thomas and Louis (but also, perhaps this is a consideration for Grace as well). It’s funny what rubs a person the wrong way, and what doesn’t.
  • Scott: I had to look Scott up to see if there was any saintly connection that could be made! There’s a Bl. William Scott, which I loved discovering, as William was a name that I was going to include in my list of official suggestions anyway. I wonder what they would think of William Scott as a first+middle combo? Will is a nice, one-syllable nickname that would go great with the other kids, OR they could call him Scott from his middle!

And some thoughts on their girl names:

  • Lucy: I love Lucy, which makes it easy for me to see why Laura’s hubby loves it. But I think maybe I can see why Laura doesn’t like it: it’s a very sweet name to me, very soft and darling, and while Clare especially approaches having a similar feel, its hard K sound gives it a little bit of a harder edge, which Katharine shares and even Grace more than Lucy. Eve, Ruth, and Frances from the list of names Laura likes don’t have the harder sound, but have a more severe *feel* I think, if that makes sense. Maybe what I’m trying to articulate is that whether sound-wise or style-wise, Laura’s not terribly into soft or frilly girl names. Do you agree, or do you think I’m way off?
  • Grace: It’s beautiful and to the point, and I know Laura’s loved it for a long time. It starts with G and ends with S, so I can see why it strikes Laura as similar to Gabriel and Thomas, but I have to say that I don’t see them as all that similar. Laura has thought of the possible solution of Mary Grace, but I also know that’s has been problematic for her, since she’s never liked that Mark and Mary are only one letter different. I wonder what she’d think of Sarah Grace instead? Used as a double name, like Mary Grace would be? Laura would get to use two of her favorites, and it would move the whole first name away from Gabriel and Thomas. Sarah Grace (or Sarah-Grace, if they prefer) is very different from their other kiddos’ names to me, while still fitting in really well.
  • Sarah: The idea of Sarah Grace would make Sarah feel more saintly (with Grace being so Marian) and give it a fresher feel so it wouldn’t feel so much like the women Laura’s (and my) age and would also make it feel more interesting. Could be a nice option! For what it’s worth, a friend of mine whose children are similar ages as mine had a baby girl the same month I had my Luke and named her Sarah. I was surprised, as I don’t usually hear Sarah on little girls, but pleasantly so!
  • Nell: I came away from my first reading of Laura’s email DETERMINED to come up with formal name ideas for Nell that she might like. How fun that she and her hubby both love Nell!! I first have to be sure they’ve considered all the options: Nell works for any El- name (as I understand it, girls named Elizabeth, Eleanor, etc. would affectionately be called “Mine El,” which morphed over time into “My Nell” [this also happened with Ann(e) — “Mine Ann” became “My Nan,” and then also Nancy]). My favorite for Laura and her hubs is Elizabeth — it’s a great match with their other children’s names! Eleanor also works, which taps into the Henry/Louis feel and is great with Clare and Katharine. Of course I had to come up with some offbeat/unexpected ideas! One is Natalie. The initial N and the strong L makes Nell totally doable I think. Another possibility is Noelle — I know a little Noelle whose family calls Nelly. Christmas would be her feast day, and with “The First Noel/Nowell” there’s a chance she’d hear her name, like Laura’s other kids do on their feast days. Christmas can also work for Natalie, though there are also two Sts. Natalia that could be patron instead (though I don’t think they’d be mentioned at Mass on their feast days). I also like the idea of something like Nora Louise or Nora Lucy nn Nell. We’ve discussed Eleanor on the blog, which could be patron for Nora (whether through Helena, if they take Eleanor and Helena to be related, or through Bl. Archangela Girlani, whose birth name was Eleanor, or through Ven. Honora Nagle).
  • Eve, Ruth, Stella, Frances: I’m glad Laura included these, as they gave me a fuller sense of her taste, though like with Samuel and Isaac, I’m not considering them realistic options because her husband doesn’t care for them. My only additional thought was, would they consider Francis for a boy?
  • Theresa: Laura didn’t include Theresa, though I know she’s also loved it for a long time! I wonder if it’s off the table now that they have a Thomas? I did use Theresa as inspiration in my research.

Okay! In addition to Pierce, William Scott, Sarah Grace, Natalie/Noelle/Nora+L___ nn Nell, and Francis-for-a-boy, which were all based on ideas Laura and her husband already had, I also did my usual research for them in the Baby Name Wizard, which I’m assuming they’ve already done as well! But hopefully my take on these ideas might be worthwhile:

Girl
(1) Ann(e)
Laura didn’t mention Ann(e)/Anna anywhere, so maybe they’ve considered it and dismissed it? But Ann/Anne is a lovely, trim, one-syllable, super saintly name with a great patron and feast day that fits in really well with the older children! My only worry is that it might be too close to Andrew’s name?

(2) Hope
I really wanted to come up with some ideas that were different than what Laura might normally think of, while still fitting in. Hope showed up a few times in my research in the BNW, being similar in style to Kate, Grace, and Eve. It’s a virtue and Marian name like Grace, but less familiar, and has such a lovely meaning.

(3) Julia
Julia is so classic, feminine, and strong, I love it for this family. It can nickname to the one syllable Jules, but they could also do Jude, especially if they paired it with a D middle name. Could be a neat way to work Jude in!

(4) Susan(ne)(na)
In keeping with the midcentury feel of many of their favorites, Susan popped up a bunch of times: in the style matches for Mark, Thomas, and Peter, and in matches that also included Stephen, Philip, and Theresa. My mom was nearly named Susan, and her brothers share several names with Laura’s boys! Her mom really wanted to name her Susan, but her dad wanted to name her Anne, so they compromised with Susanne. Maybe that would be a combo (Susan+Anne) that Laura would also like? Or maybe Susanna, which is the saint’s name? (The most well-known St. Susanna’s feast day is the same as St. Clare’s, which could be cool or not cool for their Clare, and would also likely mean Susanna wouldn’t be mentioned at Mass. But there are other Sts. Susanna with different feast days!)

(5) Bridget
I included Scott in my research, since Laura and her husband both like it, and was interested to see that Bridget is a style match for it. It felt like a good suggestion for them! It’s got those harder sounds, like Clare and Katharine (and Paul, Mark, Becket, Patrick, and Thomas), and is Irish like Clare and Patrick, and has a great saint as patron. Bridge can be a one-syllable nickname, but I also love Bridie/Bridey.

(6) Emily
Emily popped up enough in my research in the BNW that I couldn’t not include it: it’s a match for James, Andrew, Sarah, and Katie. There are actually a whole bunch of Blesseds and Saints that could be patron for Emily, including St. Emilie de Villeneuve, St. Emily de Rodat, and St. Emily de Vialar. I’m thinking Nell could also work as a nickname for Emily — it starts with E and has a prominent L, like Elizabeth and Eleanor, and something like Emily Louise could hammer that home.

Boy
(1) Matthew (or Matthias?)
They must have considered Matthew and decided against it, but it’s an obvious choice being that it’s a New Testament name and one of the evangelists. I’m quite taken with the idea of Matthew Scott called Scott, it’s one of my favorite ideas for this family. If they don’t care for Matthew’s ending being the same as Andrew, maybe Matthias could work? Like Jude, it has a little more of Gabriel’s vibe, and can shorten to Matt, or Matthias Scott could go by Scott.

(2) Nicholas
This is another New Testament name that they must have considered and dismissed, but it’s such a good fit with Andrew and Gabriel especially, I think. Nick is a great, friendly nickname.

(3) Alexander (or Alan?)
Ditto Matthew and Nicholas — Alexander is a New Testament name that would fit in nicely with the older kids. Alex is also specifically a match for Kate and Sarah. I was also quite intrigued by how often Alan/Allen showed up in my research, being similar in style to Paul, Mark, Peter, and Theresa! We actually read about Bl. Alan de la Roche (aka Alan de Rupe) at my most recent Lay Dominican meeting, he’s a great patron. But I was thinking that of the Al- names, Alexander might be a better fit, since it’s biblical and specifically New Testament.

(4) Adam
Speaking of biblical A names, Adam is another that did well for this family — it’s a match for Kate, Andrew, and Sarah. If they were open to venturing into the Old Testament (like David), Adam could be perfect. It’s not one syllable, but it’s nice and short. There are also some non-biblical holy Adams!

(5) Martin
Venturing out of biblical territory altogether (like Henry and Louis), Martin is a match for Paul, Mark, Lawrence, Philip, Peter, and Theresa. Wow! Martin’s a great name with a lot of great patrons, and Marty’s a great nickname. Although, I’m thinking Laura probably won’t love that Mark and Martin would share their first three letters.

(6) Grant
Grant is a match for Clare and Kate (and Emily and Hope), and I really wanted it to work for this family, since it’s a one-syllable name. We’ve talked a bit on the blog about it being able to nod to “grant us peace” in the Mass, and this site provides sixteen instances of the word “grant” in the bible, including in the New Testament, however I started cross checking them against the version on the Bishops’ site and “grant” isn’t used in it most of them. But it is used in Luke 1:73, so that’s cool!

And those are all my ideas for Laura and her husband! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little brother or sister of Paul, Clare, Mark, Katharine, James, Andrew, Gabriel, and Thomas?


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: 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!

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!

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!

Baby name consultation: First baby (girl) needs a classic, saintly, not-unusual name

Merry Christmas Eve’s Eve! (Or Christmas Adam, if that’s the way you roll. 😂) I hope your house is as full of joy and anticipation as mine is! A very happy and holy Christmas to you all! ❤ ❤ ❤

Today’s consultation is for a dad! Chris and his wife are expecting their first baby — a girl! He writes,

[W]e’re having a really hard time coming up with girls names that we love. We like classic names, and would like a strong saint connection. So no Kateri or Perpetua or Felicity or anything like that (too unusual). Also, no place names, no objects, no common nouns. Ana, Alexandria, Catherine, Lynn, Jennifer, and Madeleine are out due to them being in use by cousins already. The nickname is just as important since that’s going to be what we hear every day!

We had a boys name that we love, Nicholas Anthony, but that will have to wait for a future child, God willing.

For a girl, we’re toying with Victoria Nicole, nickname would be Tori because neither one of us likes Vickie, but just can’t seem to pull the trigger and say that’s definitely the one.”

Expecting your first baby is such a wonderful, exciting time! From a name perspective, I always think it’s fun to work with first-time parents because they have a blank slate –they can choose any kind of name they want, without any worries about it “going with” older children’s names. That said, it can be daunting to have so many options in front of you, and I do encourage parents in this position to give some thought to their future children’s names so that they don’t make a decision with their first baby’s name, style-wise, that they might regret with later children. For example, if Galaxy is your very favorite name, but other names on your list are Kate, Jane, and Mark, Galaxy probably isn’t the best name to choose.

I only explain this in case it’s helpful to any of you, but Chris and his wife actually seem to have a great handle on this already! Nicholas Anthony and Victoria Nicole are well-matched style-wise, and they give me a good idea of what other kinds of names they might like.

Before discussing my additional ideas for them, I want to talk about Victoria Nicole for a minute. There are a bunch of Saints and Blesseds named Victoria, so they have a lot of options for a patron saint if they name their daughter Victoria, and it’s also a Marian name by virtue of the fact that one of Our Lady’s title is Our Lady of Victory. Chris said he and his wife are thinking of Tori for the nickname since neither of them likes Vickie, which makes me think that they might like to consider some of the other nicknames I’ve seen considered for Victoria: Vee, Via, Vicka, Cora, Tia, Ria, and Ree (like the Pioneer Woman! Though Ree for her is a nickname for Ann Marie). As for Nicole, while I quite like how it sounds with Victoria, I wonder if they want to have a daughter with the middle name Nicole and a son with the first name Nicholas? It doesn’t have to be a big deal and I know a lot of families who have done similar things, but I thought I should point it out, just in case they hadn’t realized that they’re basically the same name (Nicole being a feminine variant of Nicholas).

You all know that I start my consultations by looking up the names the parents 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 then look for overlap among those results — a Venn diagram of names — to find names that the parents are most likely to like. It’s uncannily accurate most of the time! I also poke around in my own mind for ideas that feel like the parents’ style, and I’m a big fan of nicknames, so I liked that Chris said, “The nickname is just as important since that’s going to be what we hear every day” — you know I love coming up with nickname ideas!

Based on my research and my own ideas, these are names that seem like they would be a good fit for Chris and his wife:

(1) Elizabeth, Isabella
Chris said they like classic names with a strong saint connection, and since Victoria also has such a strong royal vibe, I thought Elizabeth was a great suggestion, as it’s similarly classic, saintly, and royal. It’s a great name on its own, but one of the best things about Elizabeth is that it has so many nickname options! Liz/Lizzy, Beth, Betsy, Eliza, Ellie, Elsie, Libby, Libbet, Lily, and a whole bunch more all have traditional usage as nicknames for Elizabeth. Another Elizabeth variant that I thought Chris and his wife might like is Isabella. It’s currently popular, but it’s got a long history of usage, including several queens. Izzy, Isa, and Bella are sweet nicknames for it. Both Elizabeth and Isabella can have Our Lady’s cousin Elizabeth as patron, or any of a whole bunch of holy Elizabeths/Isabellas.

(2) Margaret
Like Victoria and Elizabeth (and Catherine, which is on their no list), Margaret is a classic, saintly, royal name. There are quite a few holy Margarets, and there are quite a few traditional Margaret nicknames, including Maggie, Meg, Maisie, Peg/Peggy, Rita, and Daisy. I’ve also seen Molly used as a nickname for Margaret, though they’re technically not linguistically related (Molly is a variant of Mary). That said, Margaret nicknamed Molly is a great way to have a Marian connection without naming your daughter a Mary variant.

(3) NatalieNatalia
Elizabeth, Isabella, and Margaret were my gut-reaction ideas before doing any research for Chris and his wife, but the rest of my ideas here are all based on the results I got from the BNW. Natalie is listed as a style match for Nicholas, Anthony, and Nicole! It’s a beautiful, traditional name that literally refers to Christmas (it comes from the Latin natale domini, which means “birth of the Lord”), but of course it’s suitable for a baby girl born any time of year! Nat and Natty are sweet nicknames, and if they wanted to get a little creative, I could see Nolly working too. Natalie’s a variant of Natalia, which is also a lovely option, and opens up the nicknames Talia and Lia. Natalia is where a patron saint would come: there are two Saints and two Blesseds named Natalia.

(4) Caroline
Caroline is a style match for both Nicholas and Victoria per the BNW. I love the name Caroline — it’s so classy and elegant, and has some pretty great patron saints. It has a lot of nickname options too, like Callie, Carrie, Caro, and Carly. Carly’s actually a style match for Tori!

(5) Veronica
I often think of Victoria and Veronica as being similar, since they’re both long, feminine names starting with V and ending with A. But they have very different feels to me — Victoria has that royal English feel I mentioned before, while Veronica has a biblical feel (though she’s never named in the bible). I think many parents would think daughters Victoria and Veronica in the same family are too much, so if Chris and his wife like Veronica I could see them thinking Victoria is off their list — which will be a good litmus test for them. If it makes him and his wife really unhappy to cross Victoria off their list, then they should definitely forget Veronica! But if they like it, some nicknames include Nic/Nica/Nicky (like Nicole and Nicholas, so maybe not?), Ronnie, Vera, Evie, Nona, Ricki, and there are some that are shared with Victoria, like Vee, Via, and Vicka. Maybe even Nora? I spotlighted Veronica here.

(6) Julia
Julia is a match for Victoria and is biblical like Nicholas, and has that same classiness and loveliness that all of these names have, in my opinion. Julie and Jules are the nicknames for Julia that most people are familiar with I think, but Juliet is actually a diminutive of Julia and used to be used as a nickname for Julia so they could do that if they wanted. Other nickname possibilities for Julia include Lia, Lula/Lulu, and Jilly. I spotlighted Juliet here, which included a conversation about Julia patron saints.

(7) Rebecca
I’m not convinced that they’ll love Rebecca, but it’s a style match for Nicholas, and I liked that it’s classic and lovely in a different way than Victoria, Elizabeth, Isabella, Margaret, Natalie, Caroline, Veronica, and Julia, even though two of those are biblical like Rebecca. I think it’s because it’s such an Old Testament name — its echoes of the ancient past are inspiring and royal in their own way. Of course Becky is a very modern nickname, which, it occurs to me, might strike Chris and his wife as overly similar to Vickie, which they don’t like. I saw a birth announcement once for a baby Rebecca whose parents were calling Ruby as a nickname — I loved that! Because of that story, I was inspired to do a spotlight of Ruby (here). Other Rebecca nicknames include Becca, Bex, and Reba, and there are two saints to choose from as patron.

(8) Tessa
I feel like I have a good sense of Chris and his wife’s taste in given names based on Nicholas, Anthony, Victoria, and Nicole, but I don’t feel like I have a great sense of their  taste in nicknames. That they prefer Tori to Vickie says to me they like more modern nicknames, but I don’t know if they like (or at least don’t mind) creative nicknames (like some of the ones I mentioned above, that aren’t traditional for the given name) or if they prefer to stick with a formal name’s established nicknames and find creative nicknames to be irritating. But Tessa is a style match for Tori, per the BNW, and I immediately thought they might like it. It can work on its own as a given name, but as such I don’t think it has the “classic names” cachet Chris said he and his wife prefer. It originated as a diminutive of Teresa/Theresa/Therese, and I think it could also work as a nickname for Thomasina, so any of those can work as a given name, but I’m not convinced they’d like them (though Theresa is a style match for Anthony). So if they like Tessa, maybe they wouldn’t mind getting creative? I once saw Tess listed as a nickname for Elizabeth — Tess has a slightly different feel than Tessa, but this at least is one idea; the spellings Elisabeth and Elisabetta make the connection even stronger. Another way I like to come up with nicknames is by combining elements of the first and middle names — so maybe a first name with a strong T sound and a middle name with a strong S sound that ends in A? Like … Tara Susanna, Trinity Vanessa, Tegan Jessica, and Talia Marissa (or Natalia Marissa, because of how the T is stressed in Natalia …. OR, for that matter, Victoria! I could see something like Victoria Jessamine taking the nickname Tessa quite well!). (I know those combos aren’t Chris and his wife’s style, I’m just using them as examples.) (Don’t worry if you think I’m crazy! My poor husband has been tormented by my outside-the-box thinking through each of my pregnancies. 😂 😂 😂 I just like to make sure parents have lots of options.)

And those are my ideas for Chris and his wife’s baby girl! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for parents whose list consists of Nicholas Anthony and Victoria Nicole?


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 — a perfect🎄Christmas gift🎄 for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!