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!

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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!

Fun Friday Question: What name “rules” have you heard?

ETA: I forgot to start out by wishing you all a happy feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim!! I just finished a novena to our wonderful patroness St. Anne, which I offered for all of you and your intentions. ❤ ❤ ❤

I regularly hear from parents that they can’t use this name or that name because of some name “rule” they’ve heard or created in their own minds. I don’t mind rules at all, if that’s what you’re into! Name rules can help narrow down a long list of possibilities, and help clarify for parents what characteristics are important for them in the names they end up choosing for their children. Sometimes rules are even best served by being broken — for a parent to break his or her own rule in choosing a name for their child shows some real love for the chosen name — how wonderful! For my husband and I, our rules include (1) strong, saintly name, (2) gender specific, (3) traditional spelling and pronunciation, (4) sounds nice with last name, (5) honors family, (6) hasn’t been used by our siblings for their children (though this is more because we don’t want to offend others and less because we don’t want first cousins to share names), (7) fits with our older boys’ names in terms of style and feel, and (8) has a good nickname.

But these are all very subjective. In fact, I’m not sure “rules” is the right term — “preferences,” even “strong preferences,” even “non-negotiable preferences,” might be better.

Then there are the Objective Rules, of which there are … none. I’m not talking about requirements of the faith, like how for Catholics there’s the rule against bestowing names that are “foreign to Christian sensibility,” or how most Ashkenazic Jews won’t name babies for living relatives (though I’m very interested in hearing about “rules” in other faiths and cultures!), I’m talking about objective American naming rules. There are recommendations, sure. Bits of wisdom, yes. Cautions and advice, plenty. But rules? I’m not talking about “computers won’t allow for accents on official documents,” I’m talking about rules like:

–> The first and last name can’t start with the same letter (alliteration).

–> The first name and last name can’t have the same number of syllables (especially when it comes to one syllable).

–> A daughter shouldn’t have the same name as her mother.

–> You can’t give your child the same name as your niece/nephew/cousin/cousin’s child/friend/neighbor/acquaintance’s pet.

Those are some that I’ve heard explicitly from parents, or sometimes they’re only alluded to when parents are explaining their name dilemmas, and it makes me feel badly because sometimes parents get themselves all tied up in knots over things that they really don’t need to worry too much about. Swistle deals with this regularly in the letters parents write to her, and Abby from Appellation Mountain has tackled this as well (I love this):

I stumble across rules for naming children all the time. Sing along with me: no invented names, spell things correctly, use names for the appropriate gender … and on and on and on.

But language is slippery, and rarely obeys our efforts to put it into a neat little box. The same person who insists that names must have roots and be spelled properly will love Ryan (a name new to the US Top 1000 in the 1940s) and Connor (a 1980s debut … and didn’t the single ‘n’ spelling come first?)

Just recently a worried mother asked me if it’s true that first names and last names can’t have the same number of syllables, which actually inspired this post, so I compiled a list of famous people (real and fictional) with such names, which I think is a good demonstration of how little such a thing matters.

I’d love to hear from all of you: What “rules” have you heard? Did they affect your naming process and decisions? What preferences do you have that are non-negotiable? Have you ever broken one of your own rules? Happy Friday!


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

Birth announcement: Hildegard Edna Marie!

I had the great pleasure and privilege of doing a consultation for Monica and her husband for their fourth baby three years ago, then posting a birth announcement for that baby, and then one for their next baby, and now I’m delighted to post a birth announcement for their sixth baby! I’d actually done a consultation for them for this baby, but only for boy names, and then they ended up having a girl — the extraordinarily named … Hildegard “Hildie” Edna Marie!

Monica wrote in the email for her consultation,

“… my husband’s dear/saintly Granny was named Hilda. He mentioned since then that he thinks her full name was Hildegard (he has now confirmed with his mom). We would have named the boys Hilda had either been a girl and with the intention of using the NN Hildie (even though hubby is typically anti nick names). With this new knowledge we are leaning strongly toward the name Hildegard Marie Edna. Edna was my grandmother’s name. We both had the unique experience of having our saintly grandmas live with our families growing up.”

And then I received this!

I wanted to let you know our baby arrived on 7/7 and it’s a girl! I’m thankful we did the consult even though you were only providing boy name suggestions as I surely would have been having anxiety over a potential boy name the whole time I was in labor if we hadn’t! Her siblings could not be more delighted about their new sister! Hildegard “Hildie” Edna Marie.”

Hildegard Edna Marie!! Hildie!! I loooove it!!

Congratulations to Monica and her husband and big sibs:

Cora Marie
Levi Alphonsus (with Jesus)
Regina Marie
Fulton Michael
Edmund Alphonsus

And happy birthday Baby Hildie!!

Hildegard “Hildie” Edna Marie with her brothers and sisters ❤


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!

New article on pilgrimages at CatholicMom

You all know I’ve gone on a pilgrimage to a St. Anne shrine every year for the past five years, as a way of saying thank you to St. Anne for her intercession. When my family and I first started doing so, we were still in the time of our parenthood where going on trips was one of the worst things I could think of doing! Remembering those first couple trips, and seeing how much better it’s gotten, inspired my July article for CatholicMom.com: Pilgrimages for Parents of Young Children. I’d love to hear what other tips you would add!

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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!

Thoughts on Lisieux (et al.)?

If you’re looking for a great Prime Day deal, look no further than my book of Marian names! It’s currently on sale, and there’s a $5.00 off promotion running as well! 

(You guys had SO MANY great thoughts and ideas for Kathleen’s TV character!! I loved reading them all, both here on the blog and on Facebook and Instagram! You often fill in holes in my knowledge and make connections I didn’t see. I hope to post the name Kathleen chooses soon!)

Abby from Appellation Mountain posted on Facebook a list of names trending on her site last week, which included Lisieux — a name I would only expect to see among Sancta Nomina readers! (As in St. Therese of Lisieux.) One of her readers asked how it’s pronounced, and since I’ve heard it said a couple different ways by Americans for whom English is their native language, I thought I’d do a poll on Twitter to see if one pronunciation was used by a clear majority. I first asked my mom (who took years of French) and checked out Forvo to try to replicate in writing what the actual French pronunciation is, then I added in other pronunciations I’ve heard, and posted the poll to Twitter.

lisieux

Do you see how many votes I got? Eighty five (85). Eighty five! That’s like, four times as many as I usually get for my name polls! I received several comments too, who knew this would be such a hotbed of controversy??

In hindsight, I realized I should have phrased my question differently — I wasn’t looking for the correct French pronunciation of the town, though I can see that it could come across that way. I was looking for how *you* say it — I know not everyone says it the French way, and I wanted to gather data for how the average American Catholic Joe/Jane says it (apologies to my non-American readers! I’m always happy to get your input, even if it’s not entirely relevant for American parents). I also realized it would be helpful to add the context: “Lisieux as a given first name for an American baby girl.”

Those who know and use the authentic French pronunciation were well represented both by the poll results (receiving 33% of the votes, only one percentage point behind the leader of lih-SOO, with 34%) and especially in the comments. I do appreciate how frustrating it can be for those who *know* how to say a name to hear it said “wrong” — Sean said as “SEEN” is one example for me. But even then, I’ve written about how, when it comes to proper names, no one has the market on the “correct” pronunciation.

One comment surprised me — it suggested that bestowing the name Lisieux in honor of St. Therese without using the pronunciation she would recognize is disrespectful. I disagree, and the three names that came to mind immediately as names American Catholic parents use that they generally say differently from the way their saints would have said them were Avila, Jacinta, and Kateri. I’d never seen it suggested that the American English way of saying those names is disrespectful, so I’m not sure why Lisieux would be any different. Regardless, I always think that parents’ goal of naming their baby after a beloved saint is the opposite of disrespectful. I’m trying to think of examples where I think the execution of such a lovely desire might border on disrespectful, but I can’t think of any.

I’d be interested in your input! Both on what pronunciation you would use, if you were an American Catholic parent for whom English is your first language and you wanted to name your daughter Lisieux, and whether you think using a pronunciation different than how the saint would have said it (for Lisieux or any name) is disrespectful.


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!