Happy St. Patrick’s Day!! ☘☘☘ And Irish place names

Haaaaaappy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!! This is one of my very favorite days of the year!! 😁☘😁☘

Before I get into today’s post, a couple fun things to mention:

First, my mom (whose dad was born in Ireland and who is herself an Irish citizen) has written a book for families about a wee little God-loving leprechaun named Finney, which I can’t recommend enough — my boys love hearing me read it to them out loud (it’s all in rhyme, which makes for fun reading and fun listening). Additionally, Mom’s daily Instagram posts with Finney are sweet and wholesome, and she has a year’s worth of posts about Finney and Irish-y info on her web site. Be sure to check them out! Also, Finney has a little house of his very own on my parents’ front yard, which all the local children looooove (especially my boys!).

Secondly, I had the great privilege of having been named to the forty “Best Baby Name Blogs on the planet“! All my favorite name sites are on the list, so I’m feeling pretty cool that I was included! 😎

Thirdly, my post for today! I was looking at a map of Ireland yesterday and it got me to thinking about how many place names in Ireland would make (or do make, if they’re already in use) smashing first names for an Irish-loving family. Some of these I’ve never seen used — let me know if you’ve seen them! Or any of the others on this list, or any that you love that I didn’t include!


Adare: Adare, Co. Limerick is “renowned as one of Ireland’s prettiest towns.” The existing given name Adair is a traditional boy name, a variant of Edgar, but I think these days its sound and rhythm fit more into girl-name territory. (Do you agree?)

Clare and Clara: There’s Co. Clare and the town of Clara in Co. Offaly. Pretty cool to have the name of a saint AND the name of an Irish locale all tied up together!

Glin: Another Co. Limerick town, Glin sounds just like the name Glynn and is similar to Glenn and has a whiff of Gwen as well.

Laragh, Nenagh: Laragh is a town in Co. Wicklow, said just like Lara, but that silent Irishy Irish “gh” on the end gives it a nice green sheen. Similarly, Nenagh — a town in Co. Tipperary — has a familiar pronunciation (just like Nina) and an Irish spelling.

Livia: Though not a place name in that form, Livia, which has a separate life as an old Roman name (the name of the wife of the Roman emperor Augustus), has also been used in art and literature as the personification of the River Liffey in Dublin (especially in the combo Anna Livia, which was high on my list of names for girls early in my motherhood — isn’t it gorgeous??).

Shannon: Perhaps the most well-known Irish place name, Shannon is, of course, after the River Shannon.

Tralee: Tralee is a town in Co. Kerry where the hugely popular Rose of Tralee festival is held every year. I could see it being a great given name, but this is one that I’m the iffiest on — what do you think? If not, but you wanted to name your child after Tralee, there’s Rose for the girls and Denny Street and the Brandon Hotel for the boys.

Tulla: This Co. Clare town is said TULL-ah, I think. Or maybe TOO-la? Like Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral? Does anyone know? (TOO-la is like Toula on My Big Fat Greek Wedding.)


Callan, Collon: Callan is a Co. Kilkenny town and Collon is a town in Co. Louth, and both very similar (or, in Callan’s case, exactly like) existing names.

Cashel: I’ve mentioned Cashel as a name idea before, and it’s one of the only names on these lists that has a faith connection — the Rock of Cashel was “the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion” and it’s “reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century.” So great! And that nickname Cash!

Cavan: Cavan is the name of a county in Ireland, and it’s also an existing given name.

Clane: Clane, Co. Kildare sounds like a mash-up of existing names Clay and Kane. Could be cool?

Ennis: Though Ennis is a town in Co. Clare, I wonder if it’s even more well known as the name of Bill Cosby’s son, who was killed in a failed robbery attempt?

Knock: This is another explicitly faith-y name, for Our Lady’s apparition at Knock, Co. Mayo (known in Irish as Cnoc Mhuire, “Hill of (the Virgin) Mary”), but I’m not totally sure it works as a given name– what do you think? Maybe better as a middle? Reader Amy, from Our Family Fiat, had this awesome idea, which she posted in a comment on one of my IG pics: “a friend loved the name “knox” but wanted a patron so I suggested “our Lady of Knock”” — how cool is that?

Ross: There are a few inspirations for including Ross on this list — there’s New Ross and Rosslare (Strand), both towns in Co. Wexford, and Rosses Point, Co. Sligo.

Slane: Similar in sound to Clane (above) and Shane, Slane is a town in Co. Meath, and Slane Castle is an amazing venue for weddings and concerts for some pretty big names (U2, Madonna, nbd), which gives it a rock-and-roll edge (if you like that kind of thing).


Ardee: Ardee, Co. Louth makes me think “boy” because of its similarity to “Artie,” but “girl” because of the “ee” ending.

Athenry: This might be *too* place-namey? But I love the soft sound, which strikes me as feminine, while Athan is an existing boy’s name (and so similar to Ethan as well).

Carrick: Carrick-on-Shannon is a town in Co. Leitrim — I could see it working well for either a boy or a girl.

Kells: Though Kells is a town in Co. Meath, I think the Book of Kells would be the first thing people would think of, which gives it a nice faithy significance.

Quin: Certainly Quinn is a common enough given name for both boys and girls, but Quin (that spelling) is also a town in Co. Clare.

What do you think of these names? Are there any that you love, or any that you think are totally awful as given-name ideas? Are there any you would add to the list?

I hope you all have a wonderful wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! And for a laugh, don’t forget to check out the video in this post from last year. 🤣☘🤣☘🤣☘

Baby name consultation: Is this name okay?

Today’s consultation is for a family who has a pretty good idea of the name they’d like to use, but they just need some reassurance. The name is Anessa, a variant of Agnes, and they write,

I worry about missing something — years ago we had friends who named their daughter ‘Sarin’ only later to realize it is the name of a deadly compound in used in chemical warfare!  I think they changed it to ‘Sarah’ before the child was 1.”

Though my gut reaction was that Anessa is totally fine, and a beautiful choice!, I did give some good consideration to the question — names that are more unusual are more prone to having just one association stick, after all. I googled Anessa to see if anything weird came up — there seems to be a brand of sunscreen called Anessa, and an Asian site that have the name but I have no idea what it’s saying and even if it’s bad I can’t imagine it would be the kind of thing that would be a problem here. It seems one of the Cabbage Patch Kids from years ago was Anessa as well. Even the name sites don’t have much on the name, and you all know that any time there’s a chance for someone to voice an opinion online (especially a negative one!), people jump at the chance! So the fact that there isn’t anything controversial to read is encouraging.

It would be really helpful to get your opinions as well. Is there anything about the name Anessa that these parents should know before choosing it?

What goes with Reverie?

I read this dilemma over in the Baby Name Wizard discussion forum with interest — the mom of Reverie is stuck on what to name her second daughter. What a fun name Reverie is! Whimsical and sweet, and I love the nicknames Rev and Revi. But yeah — what do you name Reverie’s sister?

Amazingly, there’s actually a semi-famous little girl named Reverie — daughter of the mom who blogs at Girl’s Gone Child (whose name taste I’ve long been swoony over) — and she’s got two sisters with amazingly perfect names (in my opinion): Fable and Boheme. Fable and Boheme! I know Boheme is sometimes called Bo, and she’s the twin of Reverie — Rev and Bo! 😍 And with Fable — and the nickname possibility Fay/Fae — these three have got to be some of the best named sisters I’ve ever come across. (They also have a brother, Archer.)

But of course the mom in the Baby Name Wizard discussion probably shouldn’t consider Boheme or Fable, given how very *owned* they are (and this coming from a person who doesn’t consider it possible to own a name). Do you agree?

Anyway, I was interested in this list of girl names the parents of Fable, Boheme, and Reverie considered and never used:


I have to say, none of them hits me in the same way as Fable, Boheme, and Reverie. Zenith, Zephyr, Echo, and Azure come closest I think, but otherwise I think this list — great as so many of the names are, and some of my favorites — doesn’t really fit with the other three girls’ names’ feminity+unusualness. I’d love to know if you disagree!

Anyway, I’ve been working on a list of names I thought would be a good match to Reverie (from the BNW discussion I quite like Haven, Sonnet, Soleil, and Lumen nicked Lulu!), and came up with the following:

Reine (I met a woman recently named Reine, said like “Wren”)
Thaïs (which I suggested over at the BNW)
Juniper (maybe)
Charis (maybe)
Briseis (thanks to Mandi at A Blog About Miscarriage for turning me on to this name)

What do you think? What names do you think would fit for a sister for Reverie?

How to deal with uncommon names becoming more popular

Paige posted this interesting question to my FB wall:

Silly question. Any tips on how to get over the agitation that comes when you’ve chosen a name for your child that was unique and it starts to gain popularity? I don’t like nicknames so that’s out.”

First off, not a silly question at all! We all know what being a namiac does to a person. 😉

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question since Paige asked it. It was smart of her to say nicknames aren’t really her thing, because otherwise I do think that could be a good way to manage the downfalls of a popular name (or a name that’s more popular than one would like). And I’m actually realizing just now that I don’t know Paige’s situation — whether she’s expecting a baby and has already decided on a name, or if she has an already-born child whose name is becoming more popular. My thoughts would be different for each situation, so I’ll address each one separately.

If you’re expecting a baby, and have already decided on a name, and are now having a really hard time with the fact that it’s becoming more popular, I would definitely seriously think of changing the name. Before the baby has arrived, anything goes! If it’s a name that’s important to you — a family name, for example, or a favorite saint, or the best friend you promised when you were six that you’d name your first child after — then maybe looking for an unusual variant of it would do the trick. Sean instead of John, that kind of thing. It might also be helpful to remember that things that really really bother you when you’re pregnant might mean very little to non-pregnant you, so if, for example, your husband really wants to stick with the name that you’ve already agreed upon even though you’re having agita over it, and there’s just no changing his mind, there’s a chance that after the baby’s here and all the intensity has calmed down and life has regained some normalcy, it won’t seem so bad to you after all. Especially since babies very often immediately own their names and all of a sudden you can’t imagine your little one having any other name in the world, even if there ends up being two others with the same name in his/her Kindergarten class.

If the baby’s already born and named, you could still think of changing the name (depending on how old he/she is). The rules about such things varies from state to state, but I’m pretty sure they all have a grace period after the birth during which you can change the name on the birth certificate without too much fuss. If the child’s older — old enough to know and recognize his/her name — that’s a different story. If you’re in the situation where the name absolutely can’t be changed, and nicknames aren’t a great option, I would encourage you to think about why you chose the name in the first place. Certainly sometimes a big part of the reason you like a name is because it’s uncommon, but there are lots of uncommon names that you didn’t choose, so what was it about this one that made it special? What qualities (besides uncommonness) did you love? Can you add further amazing qualities to it even now, in hindsight, like finding an amazing saint with the name that you can fall in love with? I’ve often found that reminding myself (over and over if needed, accompanied by lots of Hail Marys) of the good characteristics and blessings of a challenging thing in my life helps my heart soften toward that thing.

Finally, no matter what the situation is (pre- or post-birth+naming), it’s also helpful to remember that names can come zooming out of nowhere and become huge hits overnight if a certain blockbuster book or movie with an uncommonly named hero enters the country’s consciousness. On the flip side, names can immediately drop like a rock due to widespread negative associations (just think of all the sweet little girls who were lovingly given the name Isis before the name had the association it now does). So knowing that you can’t ever guarantee what will happen to the name you’ve so carefully and lovingly chosen can provide a real measure of freedom to just choose a name you like — a name whose sparkly bits you’ll always be able to remember, no matter how popular it becomes.

These also might be helpful, regarding the popularity of names today not being the same as the popularity of names in the past: This great comment from our very own grace and Even the Top 10 Is Not Necessarily the Kiss of Death by Swistle. Also these, on naming regret: Naming regret by me and An Account of Baby Name Regret by Swistle.

What do you all think about Paige’s question? Do you think my thoughts are spot on or totally off base? Have you experienced this, and how did you handle it? What other advice would you offer to Paige or anyone else with this struggle?

Papa Benny on the significance of names

I was doing some research for a spotlight on Jacob, which I’ll post later this morning, and came across this bit from our dear Pope Emeritus Benedict, regarding the incident in the bible when Jacob fights the unknown assailant (Genesis 32:23-33):

His rival, who seems to be held back and therefore defeated by Jacob, rather than giving in to the Patriarch’s request, asks him his name: “What is your name?”. And the Patriarch replies: “Jacob” (v. 28). Here the struggle takes an important turn. In fact, knowing someone’s name implies a kind of power over that person because in the biblical mentality the name contains the most profound reality of the individual, it reveals the person’s secret and destiny. Knowing one’s name therefore means knowing the truth about the other person and this allows one to dominate him. When, therefore, in answer to the unknown person’s request Jacob discloses his own name, he is placing himself in the hands of his opponent; it is a form of surrender, a total handing over of self to the other.”

It’s commentary like this that reinforces for me that our interest in names isn’t frivolous at all — names are so important!

Great article on African naming traditions

Abby at Appellation Mountain shared this article recently: Africa’s naming traditions: Nine ways to name your child.

Not only do I just love learning about the naming traditions of other cultures, but I was so intrigued by this:

Many parents express their religious beliefs through names … [like] Hailemariam means the power of Mary (Ethiopia)

Hailemariam! I love it! I tried to find other examples of Marian names within African naming traditions and was unsuccessful, but in doing so I came across the story of Our Lady of Kibeho and loved this namey bit from the Judgement on the Apparitions of Kibeho by Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro, Rwanda:

Yes, the Virgin Mary appeared at Kibeho on 28 November 1981 and in the months that followed. There are more reasons to believe in the apparitions than to deny them. Only the three initial testimonies merit being considered authentic; they were given by Alphonsine Mumureke, Nathalie Mukamazimpaka, and by Marie Claire Mukangango. The Virgin appeared to them with the name “Nyina wa Jambo”, that is “Mother of the Word”, which is synonymous to “Umubyeyl W’iamna” that is, “Mother of God”, as she herself explained.”

Do any of you know anything more about African naming traditions, especially in light of the faith? Any other examples of Marian names like Hailemariam?

Great article on name spellings

A while ago I put up a tab at the top called Helpful naming tips and info — it’s a collection of posts and comments from here and elsewhere that I think are particularly helpful. I’ve been gradually adding to it as I come across things (comments, posts, articles) that I think are particular helpful regarding a particular naming issue.

I’m just about to add Abby’s post from today: Spelling Counts: 9 Rules for Spelling Baby Names. Such a great post! A few really valuable nuggets:

  • “If you’re not sure how to spell your child’s name, choose the dominant spelling … Notice I didn’t say correct spelling.”
  • “I borrowed the phrase “phonetic transparency” from NameLab years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite finds. The corporate naming group explains it this way:A phonetically transparent name is spoken-as-spelled and easily pronounced from alphabetic notation … Creative spellings work when they stay within the bounds of phonetic transparency. Which means they work best when the changes are relatively minor. I know how to pronounce Jaymee and Lauryn, even if I expect to see Jamie and Lauren … Change too much, though, and you sacrifice phonetic transparency”
  • “If there’s one hard and fast thou-shalt-not on this list, it has to this one: avoid novelty spellings … Kneena for Nina. Kviiilyn for Kaitlyn. Airwrecka for Erica”
  • “But here’s an important rule of thumb: the more creative the spelling, the less sophisticated the name appears”

As with all of Abby’s name writing, I love how she imparts hard naming truths (“the more creative the spelling, the less sophisticated the name appears”) without coming across as offensive to anyone.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on name spellings! Do you, as a rule, like or loathe creative spellings? Are there any exceptions to your own rules (i.e., if you dislike like kr8tyv-type spellings in general, are there any that you actually think are kind of clever or attractive)?

UPDATE: I just remembered I wrote this for CatholicMom ages ago: A Name by Any Other Spelling