Baby name consultation: Biblical + Catholicky Catholic with maybe a Brit/royal feel?

Teresa and her husband are expecting their seventh baby — a little green bean (=gender unknown)! She writes,

We have 5 boys at home, a daughter in Heaven and this baby is going to be our first surprise gender. I ‘think’ it is a boy, but either way we are okay with girl names. We have several that we agree on and aren’t even discussing girl names because we will be able to pick one easily.

We have Benjamin Michael, Charles Thomas, Gianna Therese (stillborn), Dominic Paul, John Paul Augustine, and William Joseph. Part of what makes coming up with another boy name difficult is that we have quite a few nephews with Catholic names and I am trying to avoid copying first names at least since I already have done that once. I copied several middle names but am not too worried about that … First names that have been used are Joseph, Paul, Thomas, Isaac, Jude, Luke and Elias.”

I love all of the names Teresa and her hubby have used! Such handsome combos for their boys, and such a beautiful name for their little girl.

I’m a huge fan of bridging styles and trying to make a sibling set really hang together well. Not that all the names have to be the same style, but if there’s a mix of familiar and unexpected, for example, and there are more familiar names than unexpected names, then I like to try to balance it out again by suggesting some unexpected names. Does that make sense?

In this case, I see two what I’m calling Brit/royal names (Charles and William), three heavy hitting Catholicky Catholic names (Gianna, Dominic, and John Paul), and one biblical name (Benjamin). So I really wanted to find some biblical names to suggest that would loop Benjamin in a bit more, while still going nicely with the older kiddos’ names.

You all know that I almost always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have used and like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard book as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity; it’s so helpful in trying to pin down parents’ style or come up with ideas that are likely to appeal to them. I also look through the book of Marian names I wrote (there are names for both boys and girls), and I also checked out my entries for both Kateri (as a stand-in for Gianna, since the BNW entry for Gianna only lists super Italian names as style matches, while Kateri has the Catholicky Catholic feel of Gianna) and John Paul (since it doesn’t have its own BNW entry) in the Sibling Project I started on the blog. Based on all that, this is what I came up with:

(1) Gabriel
This is my favorite idea for this family, and one I’d scribbled down in my notes before even starting my research. As mentioned, I was really using Benjamin as my main source of inspiration, and Gabriel is such a great brother name, both because it’s biblical (he’s mentioned in the Old Testament, in the book of Daniel, so that’s an extra nice tie-in with Benjamin), and because its nickname Gabe is just as friendly and easygoing as Ben. In fact, I’ve seen several Benjamin-Gabriel/Ben-Gabe brother sets in real life. Beyond that, though, Gabriel is a style match for Dominic, John Paul, and Gianna as well, and is an entry in my book of Marian names! Finally, not to leave Charles and William out, I’ve often referred to Irish actor Gabriel Byrne as a great example of how well and easily Gabriel fits with the Irish/British Isles feel. I really love it for this baby!

(2) Samuel
Second only to Gabriel is Samuel — I like it almost as much as Gabriel for Teresa and her hubs! I love that it’s an Old Testament name, like Benjamin, and it has that great friendly nickname Sam, like Ben. I think it can also have a serious, bookish feel — especially as the full Samuel — that fits nicely with Charles, Dominic, and William. And it certainly isn’t out of place with John Paul. Samuel/Sam is a great name.

(3) Peter, Philip
For my last idea, I really wanted to bring a little more of Charles and William into it, without losing Benjamin or the super-Catholic names. I initially thought Peter was the perfect name for this purpose — it’s biblical, it’s Catholic and papal, and it can easily have a Brit/royal feel. And I still do think it’s a great idea! But then, just as I was about to be done gathering ideas, Philip caught my eye, and I couldn’t shake it. So I thought I’d include them together! I think Philip has even more of the Brit/royal feel, while still being biblical. And St. Philip Neri is a great patron!

And those are my ideas for this babe! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of Benjamin, Charles, Gianna, Dominic, John Paul, and William?


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!

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Baby name consultation: Brother for Twiggs!

I posted a consultation for Lily and her hubs for their first baby a few years ago, and then posted the birth announcement for their baby girl, who was given a name full of meaning for Lily’s family (especially Lily’s dad, for whom his granddaughter is named). I’m delighted that they’re back again for Baby no. 2, a boy!

Lily writes,

My husband is a Jr. and he is wanting to possibly make this little guy a III … [But] I don’t think Jeffery Lee goes with Twiggs! Twiggs is a pretty hard name to top! And man does she fit her name!

[W]e would possibly like to use his same initials. Also we would be good with using his grandfathers name Leland Boyd as middle name options or Lee.

I would like a name that goes with Twiggs. I also like names that sound more like last names and not common. I really like Whitt, Tate, Miller, Carter. My number one name is Whitt … I really like Whitt Leland or Whitt Boyd.

My husband wasn’t too sure about names he likes he said other than a name like his he wasn’t sure. So is there a common ground between Whitt and Jeffery?!?

I thought that last question — “Is there a common ground between Whitt and Jeffery?” — was perfect! It perfectly articulated the naming dilemma!

Lily provided a fuller list of names she likes:

Whitt
Sutton
Myers
Tate
Harris
Mack
Fitch
Finley
Asher
Jasper
Jensen
Johnson
Carter
Colt
Porter
Brick
Miller
Ward
Reade

As well as names they can’t use:

Josh (ua)
Joseph
Jefferson
Jacob
Jack
Jackson
Luke
Vincent
Robert
Henry
Owen
Andrew
Ross
William
Johnathan

This was definitely a challenge! Seeing that they’ve already named one child, normally I’d want to stick with names that are similar to it, but Twiggs isn’t an easy name to find style matches for, mostly because it’s a family name and one that was important to Lily, rather than necessarily being a “style” that they like. That said, though, it is clear that Lily prefers surnamey names! Whitt is very cool, and I also like both Whitt Leland and Whitt Boyd.

In trying to figure out what Lily’s hubby’s style is, just based on the fact that he’d like to consider Jeffery Lee III and isn’t sure what other names he likes other than “a name like his,” my sense is that he likes traditional boy names, preferably with a family tie. So I really wanted to try to find names that they would both like — “common ground between Whitt and Jeffery.”

One tactic would be to do something similar to what they did with Twiggs, whose given name is Lucy Twiggs — call their little boy by a name different from his given first name. They could have him go by his middle name, like Twiggs — maybe something like Jeffery Whitt would satisfy Lily’s husband’s desire to have his son named after him, while giving Lily an everyday call name that she loves. Lucy Twiggs and Jeffery Whitt sounds pretty great to my ear.

Another way to call him by a different name than his given name is with a nickname that he could go exclusively by. There are a few that are traditional for boys that are the Third, which might work nicely: Trip, Tripper, Trey, and Trace all have usage as nicknames that nod to the fact that the boy is a Third. I have a cousin who is a Third who has always and only gone by Trey; my sister had a classmate who is a Third and has always and only gone by Tripper. Trip and Trace are also great. So then Lily’s hubby could be happy with Jeffery Lee III on the birth certificate, and Lily could be happy with calling him Tripper all the time (or whichever she likes the best). Twiggs and Tripper/Twiggs and Trey/Twiggs and Trace/Twigs and Trip all sound great!

I like that they’re open to using Hubby’s initials, and I definitely looked for J names while I was doing my research because of it! I like the ones on Lily’s list — Jasper, Jensen, Johnson. I love the idea of Leland or Lee as the middle name, very meaningful for her husband!

Moving away from using Hubby’s actual name/initials, maybe he’d be happy with names from his family tree? Lily mentioned Boyd, and a good friend of mine recently named her son Boyd, so I wondered if that might appeal to the both of them, in honor of Lily’s hubby’s grandfather? Boyd Jeffery maybe? Boyd Lee?

From the list of names Lily likes, I thought names that have traditional usage as first names, rather than mostly last names, would be a good middle ground between her style and her hubby’s. Those include Mack, Asher, Jasper, Carter, and Colt. Does he dislike those?

I was bummed to see Jefferson on their “no” list! That’s definitely one I would have suggested!

I did do my usual research in the Baby Name Wizard for this family, looking up names that are similar in style to Lucy and Jeffery, as well as any of the names on Lily’s list that I could find in the book: Tate, Carter, Asher, Jasper, Porter, Reid (in place of Reade), Lee, and Leland. I also looked through a book I have called A Dictionary of English Surnames, which has some really cool ideas, as well as the listing of English Martyrs, as their last names seemed like a good place to find meaningful names they might like. And of course, I looked through my book of Marian names. My goal was to find names that appealed somehow, whether they were as first names, middle names, or ways to get to nicknames. This is what I came up with:

(1) Leo
I’ll start with one that I don’t *think* Lily will love, but maybe she will? Leo is a style match for Lucy, and it’s a big name in my own family, and all the Leos go by Lee. So I thought maybe Leo nicknamed Lee would be a nice nod to her husband while still giving their son his own first name. Leo Jeffery maybe, as a way of sort of reversing Hubby’s name? Or Leo Boyd?

(2) Caleb
Caleb is actually a style match for both Carter and Asher, which made me think it might be a great compromise name for them. The nickname Cal seems like it might be the kind of nickname Lily’s husband could get on board with. It’s a great name for a boy.

(3) Everett
Everett isn’t a surname as far as I know, but I’ve always thought it has a surname feel. Such a handsome name! It’s a style match for Jasper.

(4) Bennett
Moving more toward Lily’s preferred style, I thought maybe surnamey names with “normal” nicknames could be another compromise. Bennett has long usage as a last name (as well as a first name), while Ben is a solid first name/nickname. Bennett is a match for Cooper and Reid.

(5) Evans
This is another idea of surnamey names with a first name feel — Evan is a first name, of course, but even just adding an S on the end makes it a last name and gives it an unexpected twist.

(6) Cort
This is one that caught my eye from the list of English Martyrs — Venerable Thomas Cort, a Franciscan — and it reminded me of some of the shorter names Lily likes, like Whitt, Tate, Mack, Colt, Ward, and Reade.

(7) Leeson
Leeson is actually an entry in the book of Marian names that I wrote — I’d discovered it in that book of English surnames and loved that it’s derived from the Latin Laetitia, which means “joy,” by way of the common medieval female variant of it, Lettice, and its short form, Lece; they all connect to Our Lady through her title Causa Nostrae Laetitiae (“Cause of Our Joy”). For Lily, I particularly love that it’s a surname that has her hubby’s middle name right in it!

(7) Jebb, Jebson
Jebb and Jebson were listed in the book of English surnames, and were both said to have derived from Gepp, which derived from Geoffrey, which is where Jeffery comes from. So in that sense, Jebb and Jebson can be for her husband in the same way as Jefferson, but in a different way. Very cool!

I also looked through the surname book for more J names, in case they decide they want to stick with Hubby’s initials. I thought these might be appealing to them:

Jacoby (I know Lily said Jacob was on their No list, but maybe Jacoby would be ok? It’s derived from Jacob/James)
Judd, Judson (derived from Jordan)
Jerred (derived from Gerard or Gerald)
Jessop (derived from Joseph)
Jones (derived from John)
Jory (derived from George)

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What other name(s) would you suggest for Twiggs’ little brother?


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Baby name consultation: Boy names needed for baby due today!!

A mama emailed me for help with naming her baby due today!! She writes,

My husband and I took about 2 days naming our daughter in the hospital and so we are hoping to be a little more prepared this time around. We ended up loving her name, Madeleine Virginia. Madeleine = we thought was pretty and I liked the French sound of it and I read somewhere that in French it relates to Mary Magdalene and my grandmother later told me my daughter’s patron saint is St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, of which 2 of my grandmother’s cousins were nuns. Which is interesting too because we liked Sophie and Sophia as a name for her as well but were worried they were too trendy at the time. We liked Virginia after my grandmother and I liked the reference to the Virgin Mary. I think it also flows nicely. We have never been big on nicknames so we still call her Madeleine. We didn’t really think of or mutually like any boy names so it was a good thing she was a girl!

Isn’t Madeleine Virginia gorgeous??

We do not know the gender of this baby either. My husband is not Catholic but has been very supportive of raising our children Catholic and has been interested in learning more about the faith and I would really like the baby’s name to have a reference to the faith. I have always liked more traditional names for boys but my husband having a very traditional name himself would like something a little different (but not TOO different!). He likes more hipster-ish names (like Hudson) … I am getting a little more on board with something being a bit different if it has staying power through the ages (i.e. Madeleine is a classic name but still not too common) … [We] also have lots of cousins so many of the traditional names are already taken (but maybe that shouldn’t matter?), so I’m thinking maybe something a little different could be good after all.

I’ve always loved the name Michael … [and] I really liked the name Dominic. I liked the Italian due to my Italian maiden name, but my brother just had a son and named him Dominic Michael so that’s out. I also don’t know how Italian sounding we want to get as my kids will all probably be so fair 🙂

At one point we kind of liked the name Brogan for a boy, after the Irish saint as that’s where I found the name. There is not a lot of history but I do like that it has a religious tie and that it’s different. But I was reading about it and some people say it’s a girls name? It seems masculine to me and I like names that are pretty gender specific and when I did a search I found some weird urban slang which may or may not be a thing because I had never heard of it. Also my husband knew someone with that last name so he’s not totally sold.

We also liked Brody when we were thinking of names but I don’t think there is anything religious there and I think it means mud which seems like a terrible meaning but the name sounds cute.

My husband likes the name Brooks and I want to like it because he does but I can’t seem to come fully on board (maybe because it’s one syllable or seems trendy, I have no idea) but also because I don’t think it has any religious meaning. I’ve considered Becket which was cute and has religious ties to St Thomas Becket but I’m still not totally in love with it. Brayden seems kinda cute too but again no religious ties that I know of. What are your thoughts on non-catholic first names, do you just find a strong Catholic middle name? Are there any loose ties to these names and the religion I could be missing? Also, we keep leaning towards B names for boys. I’m not sure why that is because that’s not a requirement at all, but it seems to be what we have been drawn to for some reason.

My husband started looking at Saint names and also liked Blaise. I knew someone growing up who’s dog was named Blaze so I need to get over that but I keep thinking of that dog and maybe again I’m not digging the one syllable which seems so picky of me! BUT I do like that it is a saint name and my mother-in-laws maiden name is Blaser so lots of meaning there.

For girls I am really drawn to Rosary (from your book) and although I’m not big on nicknames I do love the idea of calling her Rosie. I can’t help but worry with our secular culture how this name will influence her in the future whether she will love it or go through a phase where she won’t like it because it’s so unique and so Catholic or if she will get prejudice on college or job applications. My hope is that if it’s a girl she loves it. I wasn’t sure what I thought when I first heard it but I have become really drawn to it over the last couple of months.

We also like the name Emery for a girl. I thought it wasn’t tied to a saint but now I’m thinking it is tied to Saint Emeric who was male so I’m not sure. For a middle name I like Josephine which I’ve always found pretty. Another middle name could possibly be Patricia, after my mother in law and grandmother. We have considered other girl names but I think we have them narrowed to the above.”

I just think this mama and her hubby did a fantastic job with their daughter’s name, Madeleine Virginia is beautiful! She’s right about the connection to Mary Magdalene — Madeleine is the French variant of Magdalene. And how cool that two of her grandmother’s cousins were Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart! I love St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, and a fun fact about her is that the Sophie the Giraffe teether was named after her!

I loved reading about her husband and how he’s interested in learning more about Catholicism — names of the faith are a great, easy, inoffensive way to do so! I’d love to help them find some names that fit his “more hipster-ish” style while having a connection to the faith and “staying power,” as Mama put it (love that!).

I agree with her thought that they should try to find a name that they both really like. Regarding the fact that a lot of traditional names have been used by their cousins, only they know what their family dynamic is like in the sense of, will the cousins (or their parents) be offended if this Mom and Dad give their baby the same name? Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it at all — traditional names like Michael, David, Thomas, James, and John have been used so much throughout history and in every generation of every family that there’s no reason at all for anyone to think they’re off limits (except in the case of a possible family rift, as I mentioned above).

I love Dominic too! I can see how Mama’s brother using it makes it unusable for them, but I just want to assure them (and all of you!) that Dominic can work for fair people too — I even wrote about it here!

I was really surprised to read that that this mama found Brogan to be used for both boys and girls — I would have said that it’s definitely a boy name! All the saints named Brogan were men, and St. Brogan of Mothil may have been St. Patrick’s nephew and secretary! But she’s right — behindthename.com lists it as both masculine and feminine. I looked to see how it breaks down in the Social Security stats: it’s a rare name — it’s not in the top 1000 for either boys or girls, though the last time it was, was in 2012, no. 933 for boys. In 2018, it was given to 21 girls and 101 boys … I don’t know, I’d still consider it a boy name — a boy name with some usage among girls. But if they don’t feel comfortable using it, I totally understand!

Brody, Brooks, Becket, Brayden, and Blaise are all good names that are both different from and similar to each other — similar in that they’re all surname-y and begin with B; different in that I think Brody and Brayden have that trendy feel that the mama said she’d like to stay away from, while Brooks feels both preppy and serious, and Becket and Blaise are saintly. (I did look up Brody, Brooks, and Brayden to see if there were any ties to the faith, but I didn’t find any.)

I’m very intrigued by Blaise for this family for four reasons: (1) it’s super saintly with a cool feast day — Feb. 3 is St. Blaise’s feast, which is when they do the Blessing of the Throats, as he’s patron against throat diseases (among other things); (2) it’s French, like Madeleine; (3) her mother-in-law’s maiden name is Blaser, which is amazing — I did some research and discovered Blas is the Spanish variant of Blaise, Blasius is the original Latin form of Blaise, and St. Blaise is also known as St. Blase — so many nice tie-ins to the mil’s name; and (4) her hubby identified it as one he likes from a list of saint names — that’s great! I would definitely encourage this mama to try to let Blaise grow on her! Though of course, if she doesn’t like it then she doesn’t like it, and I did note that she mentioned not liking the one-syllable-ness of both Brooks and Blaise, so maybe one-syllable names just aren’t her thing! I would definitely try to forget about the dog named Blaze! Maybe seeing some adorable little guys named Blaise would help?

https://sanctanomina.net/2017/08/17/birth-announcement-blaise-michael/

https://sanctanomina.net/2016/06/07/birth-announcement-blaise-maximilian-kolbe/

https://sanctanomina.net/2016/07/11/birth-announcement-felix-thomas/ (big brother is Blaise)

Also, I wonder what she and her hubby would think of using Blaser as a first name? It’s got that surname style they seem to like, it’s not one syllable, it can take Blase as a nickname and a patron saint, and it would honor her mother-in-law.

As for my thoughts on non-Catholic first names, I should first point out that though it used to be required that parents bestow a Christian name (saint, virtue, etc.) in either the first or middle spot (not even both!), current Canon Law only requires that the given names (first and middle) not be “foreign to Christian sensibility.” However, there’s a strong case to be made for bestowing a Christian name in the first or middle spot, and I think this mama would be happiest with a strong Catholic name somewhere in her son’s name.

That’s so funny that she read an article about names people regret the most and -en/-an names were mentioned! That seems very strange and arbitrary especially given that there are loads of great, traditional names that end in those letters and sounds. I wouldn’t worry about that at all!

For their girl ideas, I love so much that they’re considering Rosary!! I love it!! Rosie is so sweet too. It’s a fair point she brings up about how the name might affect her daughter in secular culture going forward; it might help to consider that she can go by Rose if she prefers, even on college and job applications, or go by her middle name (though it’s true that any time her legal name would be required, it would be seen) (I worked in Admissions in college and definitely saw applications of students applying under their nicknames). Here is a real-life Rosary, if it’s helpful, and here are her siblings’ names.

Emery is so different from Rosary in the sense that its faith connection isn’t obvious, and it’s also trendier than I think this mama would like? It entered the name charts for the first time in 2005 at no. 813 and has zoomed up the charts, entering the top 100 at no. 92 in 2018. That said, there is a holy woman it can connect to it: Mama is right that Emery is a form of Emeric, which is a form of Emmerich, and there is a Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich. I also noticed that both Rosary and Emery end in -ry — if they were to look for additional girl names, they might try looking for other names ending in -ry. (Speaking of Emeric/Emmerich, I wonder if either one would be a possibility for a boy?)

Rosary Josephine, Rosary Patricia, Emery Josephine, and Emery Patricia are all lovely!

In a separate email, the mama had asked about two-syllable first names paired with two-syllable last names (their last name has two syllables), and I assured her that I thought such a pairing was fine. That said, to go back to her -en/-an concern, first names that have the same number of syllables AND end in the same sound as the last name can sometimes sound sing-songy in a way some parents don’t like, which is something they’d have to contend with in regards to their last name. Brogan LastName and Brayden LastName have that feature, as their last name ends in the “in” sound, but if it doesn’t bother them, then they definitely shouldn’t worry about it! There are very few real “rules” when it comes to naming, and what some parents find jarring others may fine charming. Other considerations sometimes outweigh aesthetics as well — for example, if it’s important to the parents to use a particular family name, that might be more important to them then the fact that it sounds weird with their last name.

Now onto new ideas! You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up in the Baby Name Wizard the names the parents have used and like as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I did so for this family, looking for names that I thought they’d like that also had a connection to the faith. I also perused this post I’d done of Catholicky surnames, this post I did of “not-so-normal Catholic names,” and this article I wrote about surnames that derived from first names. I also looked through my book of Marian names. Based on all that research, these are my ideas:

(1) Other B names
I kept coming across B names with saintly connections, and I couldn’t decide which ones to include here, so I thought I’d list them all! I’ve linked to their saintly connections.

Bennett — Bennett is a medieval variant of Benedict.

Bates, Batten, Bartlett — these are all variants of Bartholomew — the name of a bunch of saints as well as one of the twelve apostles.

Bosco — for St. John Bosco; one of my favorite bloggers named her son Bosco, as did another of my readers.

Brice — Brice is a style match for Brody, Brayden, and Blaise, per the Baby Name Wizard! Check out St. Brice of Tours.

Bram — Bram is a short form of Abraham, and I’ve actually had it on my own list for years! It can be pronounced to rhyme with “ram,” or to rhyme with “bomb,” which is how Dracula author Bram Stoker said it.

Brendan — Brendan is more traditional like the names the mama likes, while beginning with a B like so many of the names her hubby likes. St. Brendan’s a great patron.

Brannock — St. Brannock is a Welsh saint with a pretty cool name!

Britton, Bretton — Bl. John Bretton is also known as John Britton, and was one of the Martyrs of England, Scotland, and Wales.

Bruno — I thought Bruno might represent an interesting marriage of Mama’s Italian heritage and the Br- names that are on their list. There are a bunch of Sts. Bruno!

Blake — Blake is a style match for both Brody and Brayden per the BNW. Bl. Alexander Blake would serve as patron.

(2) Cooper (Cupertino?)
One of my readers knows a little Cupertino, for St. Joseph of Cupertino, who goes by Cooper, which I think is just genius! I think Cooper as a given name could be a tribute to St. Joseph of Cupertino, and Cooper is a specific style match for Becket per the BNW. If they wanted to use Cupertino as the given name though, with or without the nickname Cooper, that would be cool too!

(3) Bastian (Sebastian?)
Since Mama said she loves Dominic, I wanted to see if I could find a name or two similar in style that might fit her other criteria. Sebastian is actually a style match for both Dominic and Madeleine, and as soon as I saw it I thought the shortened form Bastian as a given name might hit the right note! The full Sebastian would be great too.

(4) Gabriel
Gabriel is another name that was inspired by Dominic, and by Michael too actually — Gabriel feels like a nice combination of both of their styles.

(5) Gratian
Since she’s familiar with my book, maybe she noticed this entry and didn’t care for it? But I thought I should mention it just in case. Gratian is basically the male version of the name Grace, and there was a St. Gratian who was a third-century Roman soldier and martyr.

(6) Kolbe
I’m interested to see what they would think of Kolbe! The same-sounding name Colby is a style match for Brody and Cooper, but spelling it Kolbe gives it lots of saintly cred via St. Maximilian Kolbe. I love him!

(7) Landon
Brooks has enough of a different feel to me from the Brody/Brayden names that I wanted to find one or two options that are similar to it. I remembered a consultation I did for a family who had big brothers Landon and Brooks, and thought Landon might be great! It’s the only name here that doesn’t have a saintly connection, though it does have a papal one—Pope Lando was the 121st pope (year 913), and is also known as Landon; not much is known of him, but he was described as “a worthy man.”

(8) Grant
Another style match for Brooks that I thought they might be interested in is Grant — we’ve discussed it a bit on the blog recently as being bestowed in honor of St. Anne or after the English translation of the Latin dona nobis pacem: “Grant us peace.” I know this is one syllable like Brooks and Blaise (and my other suggestions Bates, Brice, Bram, and Blake), but I included it (and other one-syllable names) in case the mama doesn’t dislike all one-syllable names.

(9) Garrett
My last idea mixed the surname style with the mama’s more traditional taste pretty well, I thought. Garrett is actually derived from either Gerard or Gerald, of which there are many saints so-named, and it has traditional usage as a last name.

And those are all my ideas for this family! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for a brother for Madeleine?


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: Adventurous German or Irish name needed

I had such fun working on a consultation for Laura and her husband’s second baby a few years ago — they ended up giving the baby the middle name Caoilfhinn, just to give you an idea of the kinds of names they like! I’m so excited that they asked me for ideas/thoughts/suggestions for baby no. 3 — a third girl! This little lady joins big sisters:

Clara Louise
Rosalie Caoilfhinn

Such lovely, feminine names!

Laura writes,

You did a consultation for our second, and now we’re facing a similar problem with our third: a long list of boys’ names, and a tiny list of girls’. If you could help us finalize a third option, we’d really appreciate it!

We love our heritage as German/Irish and love European names, but especially ones in that vein. A saint name is preferred, but not necessary for both first and middle. So far, we have liked the name Liesel the best.”

Liesel!! I love it!!

Now we’re having a hard time picking *the* middle name. There are several that we like, and we were trying to avoid anything that sounded ‘sing-song.’ (Áine/Anya came up in our last consultation and was beloved by many readers, but Liesel Áine sounds like lasagna! Haha.)

Here are some of the ones we have on our list:

Amabel (though the two names ending in -el might be a bit much), Paulina, Mariana, Josephine, Bronwyn, Joan, Hildi, Kateri

Bronwyn may be my favorite because its sounds are so different from Liesel. But I also like one or three-syllable middles as I think they help the entire name flow. (Hubby will NOT consider a four-name moniker.)

Another name we’ve considered (as a middle) is Eilidh (AY-lee). My grandmother was Eleanor, but Aaron really dislikes that name. He likes Eilidh, which I’ve heard is the Gaelic version, but it doesn’t sound right with Liesel. My husband also likes Maisie, particularly as a nn for a Marian name (though we’re not sure which). I think it’s perfectly darling.

To help you out (and hopefully not confuse you), boy names that we (BOTH — lol) like are: William, Wolf, Arthur, Thomas, Becket, Edmund/Éamon, Frederick/Freidrich (nn Fritz), Bernhard/Bernard, Roger, Felix, Rórdán.

I love Laura and her hubby’s taste in names! I think Liesel is a great sister name to Clara and Rosalie, which also checks off Laura’s boxes of German and saintly. Her comment about Liesel Áine sounding like “lasagna” made me laugh out loud! I think they’re right to avoid it! As for their other middle name ideas:

— I love Amabel, but I agree with Laura that it doesn’t have the best flow with Liesel

— Paulina, Mariana, Josephine, Bronwyn, Joan, Hildi, and Kateri are all great options! I agree that the juxtaposition of the German Liesel and the Welsh Bronwyn is interesting and unexpected, I like it! But I think I agree with Laura that one- and three-syllable middles have the best flow with Liesel

— I too love Eilidh! But I agree that Liesel Eilidh isn’t ideal. I wonder if Laura and her hubs might consider the fuller Eilionoir? Liesel Eilionoir has the rhythm they like and is so similar to the sound of Laura’s grandmother’s name (though I think it’s Scottish instead of Irish) (although, I’m just seeing that Nameberry lists Eilidh as Scottish as well, so maybe Scottish is ok?). Or what about a Nora name? I like both Liesel Nora(h) and Liesel Noreen, even though Nora and Noreen are both two syllables

As for Maisie — I love it too!! SUCH a sweet name!! I love the idea of using it as a nickname for a Mary name. Mariazell is a name in my book that I love, that could definitely take Maisie as a nickname. Marie-Azelie, or any M- name with Zelie as a middle, could work to get to the nickname Maisie as well. And actually … Liesel has that same Z sound … so Mary Liesel, Marie-Liesel, Maura Liesel, Moira Liesel, etc. could lead to Maisie as a nickname as well. Or M + any name with a Z-ish sound!

One of the names that showed up a couple of times in my research for this family as being similar to their style — specifically similar to Arthur, Edmund, and Bernard — is Marian/Marion. I like Marian as a sister to Clara and Rosalie too! Or as a middle? Liesel Marian?

Another idea for Maisie is a Margaret name — Maisie is a diminutive of Mairead, which is the Irish Margaret, so Margaret, Marguerite, and Margot could all work as full names that use Maisie as a nickname. Or Mairead! I actually know a couple little Maireads, including the daughter of one of my best friends. She always says, “Rhymes with parade!” which makes it really easy to help others know how to say it. Margaret/Mairead isn’t Marian, but they could easily remedy that with a Marian middle.

Another name I adore, which is also an entry in my book, is Maylis (also spelled Maëlys) — it can be said may-LEES, may-LIS, or MAY-lis, and is generally considered to mean “Mary of the lily” in French. I could see Maisie working for it as a nickname! Though I admit Maylis is so short that maybe a nickname is silly.

I’m sure none of you are surprised that the “minute” I meant to spend on Maisie turned into quite a few minutes! Haha!

Back to the task at hand! You all know that I usually start consultation by looking up the names the parents like and have used in the Baby Name Wizard book, as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity — I did so here, and I also looked through my Marian names book and my own mental files for ideas for Liesel’s middle name, which yielded some good ideas, I think!

(1) Alannah
I love that behindthename says Alannah as a given name “has been influenced by the affectionate Anglo-Irish word alannah, from the Irish Gaelic phrase a leanbh meaning ‘O child’ …” Isn’t that sweet? I love Liesel Alannah!

(2) Annika
Laura mentioned Anya/Áine, and when I saw Anna show up as a style match for a bunch of the names on her list, I thought maybe a different Anna variant would do. I love Annika for its German feel — I know Laura likes mixing ethnicities, but Liesel Annika was too gorgeous to not suggest! That said, if they were open to changing the first name, Annika Eilidh was striking me as a stunning option as well.

(3) Maeve
Maeve is Irish, one syllable, and Marian per my book! Baby Names of Ireland gives one of its meanings as “cause of great joy,” which is so similar to Our Lady’s title Causae Nostrae Laetitiae (Cause of Our Joy). Liesel Maeve has that two-syllable + one-syllable rhythm that Laura favors.

(4) Riona, Rionach
Amazingly, this actually showed up in the Baby Name Wizard — it tends to not be the greatest source for unusual or ethnic names, but Riona was listed as a match for Eamon! It, or the name it derives from, Rionach, means “queen” — I included Riona in my Marian names book as a variant of Regina! The even more Irish Rionach might appeal to Laura and her hubs even more. Liesel Riona(ch) is pretty cool! (Though Baby Names of Ireland doesn’t include the fadas, Behind the Name lists them as Ríona and Ríonach, so that could be fun for someone like Laura.)

(5) Loretta
My last idea is Loretta, which is a style match for Bernard and was my own grandmother’s name — she was super Irish, and her given name was Mary Loretta, though she went by Loretta (or Rett). It’s a Marian name, after Our Lady of Loreto, or the Marian Litany of Loreto, and I looove how Liesel Loretta sounds. I love alliteration like that! (But I totally understand if Laura and her husband don’t!)

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for Liesel’s middle name?


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: Welsh-ish, old, and/or Epiphany name needed for little green bean!

Emily and her husband are expecting their third baby! This little green bean joins older brothers:

Llewyn Peter
Linus Casimir

How cool are those names?! I love them both!

Emily writes,

I am currently expecting (team green!) and due in January. I realized recently that it’s very likely I will be scheduled for my repeat C-section on or around the feast of the Epiphany, and I thought, hmmm, epiphany-inspired names perhaps? This sounds like a job for Sancta Nomina!

This next kid may make or break our L streak, haha. I’m not sure I want to get stuck with L names but if we find a really good one, I’m not opposed either.

Boy names I like and/or considered in the past:
Cyprian
Theodore
Lawrence
Colm

Girl names I like and/or considered in the past:
Leonie
Magdalena
Sophia
Anastasia …
very flowery and princessy, haha

My husband doesn’t tend to feel strongly about names — or so he says — until we try to decide, haha. He also really likes Maude for a girl, which… I do not… however, I’m willing to compromise and accept it as a middle name. 🙂

I would love to hear your thoughts!

This was so fun to work on! Llewyn, Linus, and Casimir are such fun, unexpected names! Usually when I’m coming up with name ideas for parents, I first try to figure out what the names they’ve already chosen for their older kids have in common: are they all of a certain ethnicity? Are they fancy or simple? Long or short? Unusual or familiar? Llewyn and Linus have very different feels to me on their own — Llewyn screams “Welsh!” with that double L, and has a little bit of a fantasy feel to me, in the style of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, probably because of the Welsh feel and its similarity in sound and appearance to Lewis (C.S. Lewis). I think it can also have an “old” feel — I think Welsh names were very popular earlier in the twentieth century, and still have that “grandparent” feel, like Gladys, Glynis, and Lloyd — this fits well with some of the names on Emily’s list, like Lawrence and Leonie, and her hubby’s Maude. Linus on the other hand comes across as very Catholicky Catholic to me — some families I know that have a Linus have other children with names like Ambrose, Blaise, and Simon. But, different as they are, I think Llewyn and Linus are excellent brother names! The shared L is part of it, as is the fact that they’re both unusual. I think Linus has that “grandparent” feel too.

Emily said they aren’t wedded to the L theme, so when I was looking for boy names that I thought would fit their taste, I leaned heavily on “unusual” and “Welsh” (or Celtic, more broadly, as with Colm), and less heavily but kept in mind the “grandparent” feel as well. I did similarly for girl names, but added in a frilly element. I was actually pretty surprised by Emily’s girl list — they’re gorgeous names, all of them! But much less unusual than Llewyn and Linus. And of course, I did some research for Epiphany names!

Before getting into my ideas, I thought I’d touch briefly on some of the things/names Emily mentioned in her email:

I do think she and her hubby are wise to consider their feelings on another L name. Generally, they’re thinking the way I would advise: there’s no need to continue the L theme, but if they find an L name they like, that’s great too. I will just say, though, that while two children with the same first letter aren’t yet an established theme, three children with the same first letter would make it hard to move away from L for a fourth baby, if they were to have one. In my mind, this is more an issue of fairness than anything — would Llewyn, Linus, and Leonie’s little sister Sophia feel left out? Would Llewyn, Linus, and Leonie think Sophia lucked out? But then again, the more children a couple has, the less of a problem it would be. If Emily and her hubby end up having eight children, for example, they can easily add in more L names without issue: a sib set of Llewyn, Linus, Cyprian, Anastasia, Leonie, Theodore, Lawrence, and Magdalena isn’t that big a deal L-wise at all. Just something to keep in mind!

All that said, they have some great L names on their list! Leonie and Lawrence are both amazing with Llewyn and Linus!

Regarding the names they like/have considered in the past, Cyprian and Colm were more the kind I expected to see, while Theodore and Lawrence were more familiar than I would have thought they would like. But then again, Theodore and Lawrence have a gentlemanly feel that I think both Llewyn and Linus have. So I like their boy list!

I love their girl list too! The only one I might suggest staying away from is Sophia, only because it’s SO popular and Llewyn and Linus are not at all popular. However, writer/speaker/blogger Simcha Fisher has ten children, some of whom have names like Irene, Benedicta, and Cornelia, and some of whom have names like Sophia, Clara, and Lucy. So currently popular names can certainly coexist happily with currently rare names.

I was so surprised by Maude! Especially from a man who doesn’t otherwise feel strongly about names! However, it fits in very well with their boys from a “grandparent” perspective, as well as with Theodore, Lawrence, and Leonie. Funny how that happens! An interesting thing about Maude is that it’s described by behindthename.com as the usual medieval form of Matilda. I love discovering things like that! (Maybe Matilda with the nickname Maude would be something they’d like to consider?)

As you all know, I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have used and like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard book as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. It’s not usually very helpful for parents with unusual taste, however, which is often when I go to the Baby Name Wizard web site, as its Name Matchmaker tool has a much larger database of names. I did so here, and also looked through my book of Marian names for ideas. The ideas I’m offering here are all those that I consider good matches for Emily and her hubby’s style; I’ll discuss Epiphany names afterward:

Girl
(1) Gwenfair, Mairwen
My first suggestion is from my book of Marian names! These two names were some of my favorite finds when I was researching and writing my book — they’re Welsh, and they’re basically the same name, just with the elements reversed! The Mair part (becomes “fair” in Gwenfair) is Mary, and the Gwen/wen part means “white, fair, blessed.” I love how feminine, unusual, and Marian they are! The Mair/fair parts rhyme with “fire” in Welsh, which makes them a little hard to say in English, but I think one can choose to use the pronunciations that rhyme with “care.”

(2) Carys, Charis
Carys is one of my favorite Welsh names. I love the sound, the spelling, and the meaning of “love.” I also love the name Charis, which is said the same as Carys, and is Greek for “favor, grace, gratitude” and is contained within the word Eucharist (I know of a family who named their daughter Charis because of the Eucharist connection!). It’s funny that Carys is similar in style to Llewyn and Charis is more like Linus! I like either one for this family.

(3) Genevieve
Genevieve is heavily influenced by Magdalena and Anastasia on Emily’s list — those long, flowy, gorgeous names. I think Genevieve fits in really well with that feeling, and I love that it’s French like Leonie on her list.

(4) Rosalie
Rosalie is a style match for Lawrence, and I immediately loved it for this family! It’s feminine and flowery with a vintage feel, and it can be considered a Marian name as well, via “rose.”

(5) Flora
Finally, I was thrilled to see that Flora is a style match for both Linus and Maude!! It’s feminine and flowery, literally!, and I really like it with Llewyn and Linus. Flora Maude? That is really striking me as just an amazingly vintage-chic-turned-cutting-edge name.

Boy
(1) Casper, Caspian
My number one suggestion for another boy is Casper! Though I’ll discuss Epiphany names after these official suggestions, Casper is an Epiphany name that makes my list of official suggestions because it’s a style match for Linus! As a matter of fact, when I was reading Emily’s email before I ever did any research for her, I’d scribbled Casper down because it just seemed like it would fit their style. I was so excited to see it explicitly listed with Linus in the BNW! Casper is one of the names traditionally given to one of the Three Wise Men, and is also sometimes seen as Caspar, Gaspar, and Jasper — they’re all variants of the same name.

I couldn’t not suggest Caspian, and since it’s similar to Casper, I thought I’d group them together. Caspian was inspired by Cyprian, with its similar appearance, and by Llewyn, with its reminiscence of Narnia (at least to me!). Such a fun name!

(2) Tristan
Tristan is an Old French name with ties to the Celtic world through literature, and it’s also an entry in my Marian name book in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows. I would love it as a brother to Llewyn and Linus!

(3) Gareth, Garrett
Gareth is, like Tristan, another Arthurian name that was listed as a style match for Llewyn. As far as I know it’s not a saint’s name BUT it made me think of the similar Garrett (which does have saintly connections, as it’s derived from either Gerard or Gerald), and I know of a family who named a son Garrett because of their devotion to St. Margaret (the “garet” at the end of Margaret was used to inspire Garrett as a first name) — Margarethe is the Danish and German form of Margaret, so I could see Gareth being used in the same way. I like them both!

(4) Hugo, Hugh
Hugo is a style match for Linus and Hugh is a match for Maude so I figured we were swirling in the right area! Hugh also has that Celtic feel, which fits in well with Llewyn. Hugo nicknamed Hugh, maybe?

(5) Gregor
Gregor is actually the Scottish form of Gregory, which gives it a nice Celtic feel like Llewyn, while having St. Gregory the Great (or any of the Sts. Gregory) as patron, which fits right in line with Linus. I love that!

(6) Bram
I had one extra boy name that I just couldn’t not mention! Bram is a style match for Colm, and is one of my favorite names — it’s been on my own list forever! It’s a short form of Abraham, which gives it a faith connection, and Irish author Bram Stoker (Dracula) gives it a Celtic feel. It can be said to rhyme with “ram,” which I think emphasizes its connection to Abraham, or it can be said to rhyme with “bomb,” which I believe is how Bram Stoker said it, and has more of a Dracula feel with that pronunciation I think.

Now for my Epiphany ideas!

Girl
(1) Theophania, Tiffany, Tiphanie, Tiphaine
I remember feeling so excited when I found out that Tiffany is the medieval form of Theophania (Theophany is another name for the Epiphany) and according to behindthename.com it “was traditionally given to girls born on the Epiphany (January 6)” — how cool is that?! I know Tiffany isn’t compatible with most current parents’ name taste, but I think Theophania might be perfect for this family — it’s like Theodore on their boy list, and is long and frilly like Magdalena and Anastasia! Tiphanie is a cool spelling if they like the sound of Tiffany but want to distance themselves a little, and the French Tiphaine, said like “TEE-FEN,” is sort of gorgeous. Even if they don’t like these as first names, maybe they’d do as a middle?

(2) Epiphany, Epifania
Epiphany is also used as a given name, if they wanted to be more explicit. Epifania is the Spanish and Italian variant, which is really pretty.

(3) Stella, Estelle
Stella means “star,” and could refer to the star that the three kings followed. I feel like it could fit in well on Emily’s girl list! Estelle is the French variant, which has a nice rhythm as well.

(4) Reyes, Regina, Reina, Reine
Reyes is a Spanish name used for both boys and girls, and is actually in my Marian names book because it’s usually used (as I understand it) in honor of Our Lady of the Kings (Nuestra Señora de los Reyes). But Reyes literally means “kings,” so it’s perfect for an Epiphany baby as well! If they wanted to use a strictly feminine variant, the Latin Regina, the Spanish Reina (RAY-na), and the French Reine (REN) are the feminine variants of Rex (king) — but of course they mean “queen,” which might feel too far from the point of an Epiphany name.

(5) Sophia, Wisdom, Sage, Reina
Names meaning “wise” or “wisdom” can suit too, for the Three Wise Men. They already have Sophia on their list! Wisdom itself is also used as a given name. Sage means “wise person,” and in a very cool coincidence, Reina — Spanish for “queen,” as noted above — has separate usage as a Japanese name meaning “wise”! That’s amazing!

Boy
(1) Casper, Balthazar, Melchior (Melker, Melchor)
I mentioned Casper above as one of the names traditionally associated with one of the Three Kings; Balthazar and Melchior are the other two. I was also intrigued by the Swedish form of Melchior: Melker, and the Spanish form: Melchor — I thought they both might be easier to live with?

(2) Rex, Reyes
Rex is Latin for “king,” and Reyes — as noted above — is a Spanish name used for both boys and girls, and it means “kings.”

(3) Frodo, Wisdom, Sage
Frodo is actually derived from the Germanic element for “wise” (frod)! Maybe that’s taking the fantasy thing too far? Or maybe it’s perfect! If they like it but aren’t sure, maybe they’d feel more comfortable with it as a middle name? Wisdom and Sage, both of which I mentioned for girls, are also used for boys.

(4) Theophanes, Theofanis, Feofan
These are the masculine variants of Theophania, which I discussed above (the first is Ancient Greek, the second is modern Greek, the third is Russian) — since they’re so close to Theodore on Emily’s list, they might be perfect! The first two can take Theo as a nickname as well, or Ted(dy) if they prefer. Or something like Finn can work as a nickname for all of them!

And those are all my ideas/thoughts/suggestions for Emily and her husband! What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother or sister of Llewyn and Linus?


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 TV character needs a name!

You guys! I got the most fun email a few weeks ago, from Kathleen Jones — a screenwriter and actress who is currently writing “the first Catholic scripted comedy”! She’s got this so-professional writing web site with all kinds of amazing credentials — in fact, the first TV show she wrote for is called Wholly Broken and is currently on DirecTV on a faith-and-family channel called UpTV! (She’s also on Instagram!)

And she wants my help!! 😲🤩😎 Kathleen writes,

[I’m] currently writing a Catholic TV pilot: a Parks and Rec style comedy about a failing Catholic parish and the laypeople that try to bring it back to life … My hope for my show is that it will get picked up by a network like Hulu or Netflix — a faithful show on a secular network.

I’m writing because I would love a name consultation for my main character’s name! Her name needs to go well together with the others, not be similar to another character on any other TV show, not accidentally be the name of a real person, and be Catholic. I’ve had such trouble finding the right name. Her name, currently, is Olivia. But I just don’t find that funny! It’s too many syllables, and there’s a few characters on TV named Olivia. I’ve considered Marina, which is secretly  Marian but not obviously religious sounding. But I need help!

HOW COOL IS THIS!!

Of course I was all I’m here for you sister! and she sent me THE SCRIPT and I feel like I’m the name consultant to the stars now, no big deal.

🤩🤩🤩

Some details:

There are a few names I’m set on already.

Set names:
Molly: her older sister, very devout, with five kids
Dale: her love interest (think Jim from Office, but dorkier)
Mario: Molly’s husband (handsome, Mexican, Marine)

Conditions:
– Not a main character name in another television comedy or famous drama (no Leslie, Ann, Pam, Rachel, Monica, etc).
– Not very Catholic, but reminiscent.
– Sounds good with Molly and Dale.
– But doesn’t sound like or rhyme with Molly and Dale (not an M name or a D name).
– A new letter name, so that nobody else in the show has a name that starts with the same letter.
– Simple and easy to pronounce, or unique and easy to pronounce (like Felicity, but not that because of the show Felicity).
– Her last name is Benny. Can’t be the real name of a person alive (Google and Facebook to be sure!), or else I could get sued by that person. A fairly common name is best, or one that is unique enough that nobody else has it (like Leslie Knope, perfect! Easy to remember, simple, but no other Leslie Knopes exist).
– My dream is that the name is a callback to a particular saint who can be a patron saint for the show, and it’ll be a secret for only the creative team and diehard fans (hopefully we have some!).

Molly and Olivia (Olivia to be changed) were raised loosely Catholic in a family that didn’t really practice. Molly is a fierce revert. Olivia is a hippie, fallen-away Catholic who gets roped into being a parish secretary by Molly.”

This was definitely a different kind of challenge for me! Naming a fictional character is such a different thing! As you all know, when I’m offering ideas for a real baby, I take into account the parents’ taste in names, as evidenced by the names they’ve already chosen for their older kids, if they have older kids, as well as the names that are on their list of names they’re considering. So I tried to get into Molly and [Olivia]’s parents’ heads, based exclusively on Molly’s name (sweet, possibly Irish leanings) and [Olivia]’s age (names that were popular 26 years ago, 1993-ish), and the fact that the parents weren’t super into the faith.

But then, on top of that, the name has to fit the character as she is now, as an adult, with her specific personality and characteristics and how she fits into the story arc. Also, I think it can’t feel to audiences like an outdated name — even if the name is legitimately someone [Olivia]’s age would have. And I had to keep in mind: “not very Catholic, but reminiscent”; “sounds good with Molly and Dale”; “new letter”; “simple and easy to pronounce, or unique and easy to pronounce”; “not the name of a person alive”; sounds reasonable with the last name Benny (which I love, by the way — I assume Kathleen chose it because of its connection to “blessed”? Very clever!), and a name with a patron saint. Such a fun and interesting challenge!

I found the most difficult part to be “not the name of a person alive” — that is amazingly hard to work with! But then Kathleen explained that a more common name — where the first + last is almost generic — is fine.

I began as I always do, by I looking up Molly, Olivia, and Dale in the Baby Name Wizard book, as it offers, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I thought doing so for those three names would give me a good starting point. I looked in my own book of Marian names for any ideas that would be impeccably Marian but also not-so-obvious (Olivia actually fits that criteria!). I looked up Molly’s popularity in her birth year (1984, which, incidentally, is the same year my own sister Molly was born!) and then looked up names with a similar popularity in [Olivia]’s birth year (1993). I searched my own mental files for names that *felt* right (with my very subjective pov), based on what Kathleen said she was looking for and the vibe I myself got from her script.

Based on all that, here are my thoughts/ideas/suggestions!

(1) Tess(a)
Tess Benny is my number one suggestion for Kathleen! I love how Tess is sort of spare and no-nonsense but also with a bit of a free-spirited feel, which I thought might fit [Olivia]’s personality well; I love that it’s a great name for a sister to Molly; I also loved that it could be either a nickname for or a variant of Teresa, as in Mother Teresa, which fits in perfectly with the character’s trip to India. Tessa would also be great.

(2) Kate/Cate
Not only am I Katherine/Kate, sister of Molly, but Katie is a style match for Molly per the BNW. Kate Benny sounds great, I think, though Kate is an extremely popular name for fictional screen characters, so that probably crosses it off right there. However, I was feeling like [Olivia], being that she’s going through a transition time in her life, and with her general personality being free-spirited, is the kind of person that might really like a name with options. Katherine/Catherine provides several possibilities, depending on the person’s mood and personality: Kate, Katie, Kathy, Kat (which has a little big of an edgier vibe that might fit [Olivia]’s personality well), and I’ve even seen Cass used as a nickname for Catherine, which could be great. Cass Benny. Kat Benny. Another option is Kath — I knew a girl who went by Kath, and there aren’t any Kath Bennys that I can see. The nice thing about using a Katherine/Kate name is there are loads of patron saint options, like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Catherine Laboure, St. Katherine of Alexandria, St. Katharine Drexel, and even St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Here’s a fuller list.

(3) Dana
Okay, I know this is a D name, and I was totally on board with no D names because of Dale, but Dana was a name I saw when I was perusing the lists of popular names in 1984 and 1993 and I noticed it immediately because of the Irish singer Dana (nee Rosemary Scallon), who sang that beautiful song Totus Tuus for World Youth Day and I think is fairly well known in Catholic circles. She says her name like DAN-na (not DAY-na), and if Kathleen’s looking for a subtle nod to the faith, Dana could be perfect. So I had to at least mention it!

(4) Quinn
Quinn is another name I noticed in the SSA lists, which struck another note I’d thought of in regards to [Olivia] — I thought she seemed like a character who might be comfortable with an offbeat name, as I mentioned above in regards to Kath, Kat, and Cass, and the androgyny and less common idea of a surname as given name is the kind of offbeat idea that might be great. Ven. Edel Quinn is fairly popular among my readers, and I’ve known a couple little girls named in her honor with both Edel and Quinn.

(5) Casey
Speaking of surnamey names, Casey is another great one, for our new Bl. Solanus Casey. Another idea — though it moves away from Bl. Solanus Casey, so maybe loses its Solanus connection, but retains its Irish sound — is to have her go by the initials K.C. It could be fun to come up with what the initials stand for — it could even be something like Katherine Casey, thus getting in that Solanus connection.

(6) Bridget, Bridie/Bridey, Brede
Bridget’s Irish and saintly, but also used by those who don’t have a strong connection to the faith or to St. Bridget/Brigid, and makes a natural sister to Molly, I think. Bridget Jones comes to mind, but [Olivia] could go by the awesome nickname Bridie/Bridey. The former spelling I think is more common for this traditional nickname for Bridget, but the latter is the spelling used in Brideshead Revisited, which could be another very subtle nod to the faith, as BR is a great work of Catholic fiction. Along the same lines, I’m currently reading In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden, which is about a woman’s entrance into the fictional Benedictine (Benny!) convent, Brede Abbey, and I think anyone who’s familiar with the book would automatically think of it when hearing/seeing “Brede.” The fact that Molly’s and [Olivia]’s parents weren’t “religious” isn’t necessarily a problem — Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughter Rumer is named after Rumer Godden, for example, so Molly’s and [Olivia]’s parents could have just been fans of the author in naming their daughter Brede. Regarding the B first name with a B last name, some people don’t care for alliteration, but I myself love it, and I find it to be particularly appealing and memorable for a fictional character. Also, Kathleen had said that something she doesn’t like about Olivia Benny is that it isn’t “funny” — an alliterative name might satisfy that. (I should also note that normally I’d stay away from a name ending in the “ee” sound if the last name ends in the “ee” sound, but since she already has Molly Benny, I figured that wasn’t an issue here.)

(7) Clare
Clare is a great name to consider because it’s St. Clare, yes, but also Co. Clare in Ireland, so again — a natural sister to Molly, in my opinion. Though perhaps Clare is a bit tame for [Olivia]?

(8) Lucy
Moving away a bit from the Irish influence, Molly also has a sweet feel to it that a name like Lucy fits in with well. Lucy is a saint’s name as well, of course. I could see [Olivia] preferring a nickname like “Luce” or maybe even better, the spelling Luz, which has a contrary feel (given that Luz is Spanish and [Olivia] isn’t Hispanic). Or Lux, which also means light and has that edgy “X.”

(9) Cara
Cara’s another name that I spent some time thinking might be perfect — it’s appropriate popularity-wise for the time she was born; it means “beloved” in Italian, so Cara Benny would be “beloved and blessed,” which is lovely; and there was this amazing comment left on my blog recently: “Kara isn’t a saint name, but “Cara” means “face” in Spanish. St Therese’s full title is “St Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face”, so a child named Cara/Kara could claim her as a patron. Cara also means “way” in Indonesian, which is especially pertinent if you’re a fan of Josemaría Escrivá.”

(10) Amanda, Amy
Both Amanda and Amy fit in with the kind of popularity Molly had in 1984 and 1993, and both mean “lovable” or “beloved” — like with Cara Benny “translating” to “beloved and blessed,” both Amanda and Amy could do so as well. I like the nickname Mandy … though is that too cutesy for [Olivia]? I could see “Ames” being a nickname for Amy that would suit [Olivia].

(11) Elizabeth
Another of my sisters is Elizabeth, so in real life it’s a good match for a sister of a Molly, but I also like Elizabeth for a character that’s trying to figure out who she is because it has SO MANY nicknames! Betsy, Libby, Liz/Lizzie, Libbett, Ellie, Beth, Lily, and a bunch of others. I especially like Libby, for its possible “liberty” and “liberal” nods, which seem consistent with [Olivia]’s personality, and Beth, for the alliteration. Beth Benny. Though maybe Beth is too vanilla? Both Libby and Beth seem like good matches for Molly’s sister.

(12) Bethany
Speaking of Beth, I know Kathleen said Olivia seemed too long, but I’m kind of digging Bethany! It had a peak of popularity around when Molly would have been born (no. 93) and was no. 115 when [Olivia] would have been born, so it fits popularity-wise and doesn’t need religious parents to make sense of it. That said, it was the home of Martha and Mary, which is kind of cool for Molly and [Olivia] being such different sisters. And Behind the Name describes it as “used primarily by Catholics in honour [sic] of Mary of Bethany” — how cool! Bethany Benny is awesome.

(13) Greer
I love the name Greer. It’s Scottish, which can fit with Molly, and it derives from Gregory, so there’s a great connection to a great patron saint, but only the most diehard name nerds (or readers of my blog!) will know that!

(14) Natalie
I love Natalie because it’s appropriate in terms of its popularity arc, and with a direct connection to the faith that is, at the same time, not so obvious to those not tuned into such things. The nickname Nat makes me think of a traveler/wanderer/free-spirited type, and also has that androgynous feel that I think might suit [Olivia].

(15) Hannah
My last idea is Hannah. It’s a form of Anne, so St. Anne (patroness of my blog!) can be patron, though I’m sure no one would make that connection; I considered Anna but Hannah seemed to suit [Olivia] better for some gut-level reason. At first I thought the similarity of Hannah Benny to Benihana was problematic, but then I thought maybe it could provide that “funny” element that you said was missing from Olivia Benny.

And those are all my ideas! Whew! I really tried to cover all the bases and give Kathleen lots of options. What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for a twenty-something “hippie, fallen-away Catholic” whose sister’s name is Molly?


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: Irish first + strong and saintly middle for baby boy

Moira and her husband are expecting their fifth baby on earth — their second boy!

She writes,

We have four kids on earth, two babies in heaven, and a little boy on the way. We’ve always been surprised about our babies gender until this time. I was getting the mama prick that we should find out in order to manage expectations.”

“In order to manage expectations” — well said!

Our oldest daughter is Anna Philomena. We both love the name Anna, and Philomena is my confirmation name.

Our next baby is one of the heaven babies. It was a very early miscarriage, so we decided to name the baby Marion John. John is a family name on both sides, and when you say the whole name quickly together it sounds like Mary and John. Also in honor of Mary.

Our second daughter is Carol Elizabeth. Carol is the name of her great grandmother, my maternal grandmother. It’s also in honor of John Paul the great. And Elizabeth is my middle name.

Our next child is our first boy, and his name is Brendan Athanasius. Brendan sounds strong and Irish, and I LOVE the sound of Irish boy names combined with our last name. We really love strong names, especially strong saint names. His first name has the family connection to my mother whose name is Brenna. And we both really enjoyed studying Saint Athanasius’ writings on the infant Jesus in college.

Our next baby is another heaven baby. I had a very strong feeling that it was a girl, I have no idea if I’m correct, but we did get to see her tiny little body. We buried her next to my uncle who died at only a day old. Her name is Beatrice Rose.

Our last child is a girl, and her name is Natalie Thérèse. I have always loved the name Natalie, I think it sounds really beautiful. Thérèse has the family connection to my husband’s mother who goes by Therese (pronounced Ter-eeece).

We considered the name Killian if Natalie were a boy. We thought about Killian Daniel. I was a little nervous though that it sounded like killing.

We literally have no boy names we currently agree on. 🙈 Boy names have been hard for us. We really like to choose a whole combination, a first and middle name all together.

My husband‘s full name is Michael Patrick Stephen. My full name is Moira Elizabeth Margaret Philomena.

Michael and Daniel are both family names and we would consider them for middle names. We would also consider Joseph as a middle name. I don’t really care for Patrick. I do like Cyprian (I think I like the -AN endings) but if I remember right, I think Mike didn’t love that one. Often it helps when I can suggest a whole combination, and that’s been harder with boy names. I do kind of like long and strong middle names (most of my kids middles names fall into this). Also we are both open to Edmund … with the right middle name.

We don’t usually use nicknames that correspond to the child’s name. Our oldest was called Squeaky, our second is usually Carol-E. Our son is Mr. Buddy. And Natalie is simply Natalie.”

First off, I love Moira’s older kiddos’ names — it’s so fun to be surprised by names! Philomena and Athanasius as middles are delightful surprises, as is Carol as a first name! Wow! I also loved how she and her hubby worked in family names in a creative way — Brendan for her mom Brenna, Thérèse for her mother-in-law. Marion John and Beatrice Rose are so perfect for their little ones with Jesus — and I love the “Mary and John” sound-alike. Beautiful job, all around!

I love the name Killian, and Killian Daniel is a very handsome combo! However, Moira’s not the first parent who has written to me considering the name Killian but worrying that it sounds too much like “killing.” Also, there’s usually the issue of — what nickname would a Killian go by? They’ve circumvented that by not using nicknames related to their children’s given names, but for other parents “Kill” or similar is problematic, of course. In general though, I think Killian’s a fine name, and I think it will be obvious to most (all?) people that his name isn’t “Killing.” It’s also no. 286 according to the Social Security Administration, so there are a lot of parents who felt it was fine to use.

That said, some names that are similar but avoid the “killing” issue that might appeal to Moira and her hubs include:

  • Kian: This is said like Ian with a K in front of it, and I always think of it as the perfect solution to any issue with Killian because it’s just Killian without the “ill” in the middle! For that reason, I’ve also thought Kian could make a good nickname for Killian, for those parents looking for a nickname. Kian is no. 446 according to the SSA — a top 500 name, but not super common either. Like with Killian/Cillian, Kian is a variant of Cian, and there is a St. Cian. There’s actually also a Bl. Thomas Kian, though he wasn’t Irish or Celtic. My cousin actually recently named her son Kian, I really love it.
  • Kieran: I had thought Kieran was a bit more mainstream than Killian and Kian, but I discovered it’s actually less popular than both, at no. 497. There are two Sts. Kieran.
  • Kiernan: Kiernan is the least popular of all these, not even being in the top 1000. One of the Sts. Kieran is also known as Kiernan, though they’re not related names as far as I know. This gives an interesting bit about St. Kiernan.

She also mentioned Edmund as a name that they both like, with the right middle name. I love how Edmund Daniel and Edmund Joseph sound! I wondered if they also might like to consider the Irish variant of Edmund: Eamon. It’s said like AY-men, and has the sound of the -AN ending, though the spelling is different. Like with Edmund, I quite like Eamon Daniel and Eamon Joseph.

I thought I’d also suggest a few middle name ideas along the lines of Philomena and Athanasius — “long and strong” names, as Moira put it, and I’d add “super saintly” to their description. Some that are similar in style include:

Aloysius
Augustine
Balthazar
Bartholomew
Dominic
Emmanuel
Ignatius
Leander
Leopold
Matthias
Maximilian
Nicodemus
Sebastian
Stanislaus
Thaddeus
Zechariah

Right off the bat, Edmund Aloysius strikes me as a pretty amazing combo. Also Kian Emmanuel, Kiernan Aloysius, Kieran Dominic, and Eamon Ignatius all have really nice flows in my opinion.

Okay! On to my new suggestions for this family! You all know that I almost always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have used and like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard book as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Since my book of Marian names was published, I also look through that as well for names that I think fit the parents’ taste. I admit I also latched a bit onto the fact that Moira likes Irish boy names that end in -an, so my list of suggestions is heavy on both Irish names and names that end in -an (or at least the -an sound), and most of them fit both of those criteria:

(1) Declan
This is one of the first names that came to mind when I saw that they’d considered Killian and that Moira likes -an endings. Declan is a saint’s name, and is at no. 101 on the SSA list. Middle names I might pair with it include Declan Daniel (I love alliteration, though I know not everyone does), Declan Michael, Declan Joseph, Declan Matthias.

(2) Colman
Colman is another Irish saint, and in fact my sister got married in Ireland at the beginning of June in St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh, Co. Cork — it was the church my grandfather had been baptized in and had been an altar boy in before leaving for America, so Colman is near and dear to my heart. And it fits the kinds of names Moira likes! Colman Daniel, Colman Dominic, Colman Augustine, Colman Ignatius are all quite nice.

(3) Roman or Ronan
At first I was thinking Ronan for this family, since it’s an Irish boy name ending in -an, but then I saw Roman as a style match for Cyprian, and I liked that a lot for them too! So I thought I’d include them both here. I think they give off very different feels — Roman feels ancient and strong to me, while Ronan is lighter and obviously Celtic, maybe a bit wild — I like them both. Daniel, Joseph, Emmanuel, Leander, Leopold, Stanislaus, and Thaddeus all seem to go well with either one, I think. I also like Ronan Michael and Ronan Matthias, though Roman Michael/Matthias might feel too M heavy? Or maybe not? There are several Sts. Roman, and I also like that it can refer to being a Roman Catholic. There are also a few Sts. Ronan.

(4) Colin
Colin is such a great, Irish name. It’s got the -an ending sound, though not the spelling, which could also be nice in the sense that it doesn’t box them into feeling like they have to choose a name ending in -an for possible future boys, and it also gives them Marion, Brendan, and Colin — three ending spellings that give the same sound without the same spelling. It’s not a big deal at all, of course, just one of those things my namey sense enjoys. Colin Augustine is a really nice companion to Brendan Athanasius. I also like Colin Daniel, Colin Michael, Colin Joseph, Colin Matthias, Colin Sebastian. Colin is a form of Nicholas, which is where its saintliness comes from.

(5) Fulton
Ven. Fulton Sheen is well on his way to becoming beatified, and his name is a great one for a Catholic family to consider! Fulton was actually his mother’s maiden name — it’s an Irish surname — and it fits right in with the kind of names Moira likes, being Irish and ending in the -an sound. Fulton Joseph is probably my favorite, so handsome! I also like Fulton Michael, Fulton Dominic, Fulton Emmanuel, Fulton Ignatius, Fulton Leander, and Fulton Matthias.

(6) Quentin
Quentin isn’t Irish (I think it’s French) and is actually more a style match for Anna and Brendan’s middle names Philomena and Athanasius than the rest of the names Moira and her hubs have used, but it is a saint’s name, it has that ending sound Moira likes, and even more fun, it means “fifth,” which is so great for a fifth-born baby! (Fifth-born, not fifth-conceived — I’m not forgetting Marion and Beatrice!) I like Quentin Michael, Quentin Joseph, Quentin Aloysius, Quentin Ignatius, Quentin Leander, Quentin Matthias, and Quentin Sebastian.

(7) Garrett
Obviously Garrett doesn’t have the -an ending, but I was loving that Moira’s first name is represented in Marion (as Moira is a Mary variant), her first middle is Carol’s middle name, and her Confirmation name is Anna’s middle name. Margaret isn’t yet represented, and I know of a family who named a son Garrett because of their devotion to St. Margaret (Garrett from the last five letters of Margaret), which I thought was beyond cool, and Garrett has an Irishy feel and is an awesome brother name to Brendan in my opinion (and Garrett is a style match for Brendan per the BNW!). If they didn’t care for the Margaret connection, or wanted a boy saint, Garrett is derived from Gerard, so any of the Sts. Gerard can suit (St. Gerard Majella is one of my favorites). Garrett Michael, Garrett Augustine, Garrett Bartholomew, Garrett Dominic, Garrett Emmanuel, Garrett Ignatius, Garrett Leander are all lovely.

Those are my “official” suggestions for this family, but I came across a few others that I didn’t think fit their criteria well enough, but that I wanted to include here just in case: Tristan, Sebastian (I have this in my middle name list of ideas too), Julian, Adrian. I mostly wanted to suggest them because they end in -an!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of Anna, Carol, Brendan, and Natalie?


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!