Saintly place names

In the past, I’ve tended to include Saintly place names in lists of Saintly surnames, but my mind was clicking recently about place names specifically, so I wanted to see how many we can come up with. There are two categories: (1) what I’m thinking of as the “of” categories (St. So-and-so of Somewhere) and (2) places that have faithy associations.

“Of” names (with their Saints) (in no particular order)

  • St. Bernard of Clairvaux
  • St. Joseph of Cupertino
  • St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of Avila
  • St. Joan of Arc (d’Arc)
  • St. Francis of Assisi
  • St. Augustine of Hippo
  • St. Pio of Pietrelcina
  • St. Ignatius of Antioch
  • St. Ignatius of Loyola
  • St. Thérèse of Lisieux
  • St. Elizabeth of Hungary
  • St. Margaret of Scotland
  • St. Rita of Cascia
  • St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bernardine of Siena

And of course there are all the Marian places (Our Lady of Fatima, etc.).

Other place (or place-associated) names (in no particular order)

  • Roma, Roman
  • Tiber
  • Magdalene (of Magdala)
  • Eden
  • Belén (Bethlehem)
  • Isla
  • Nazaret (Nazareth)
  • Olivet (Mount of Olives)
  • Gethsemane
  • Judea
  • Jericho
  • Cana
  • Canaan

I’ve seen a lot of these used for babies, and others not used at all … some probably aren’t name-worthy (like Hippo), while others I haven’t seen at all but could be perfect for the right family (maybe Pietrelcina? It’s related to Peter [it literally means “small stones/pebbles,” as far as I can tell]).

I know there are loads more — what would you add to these lists? Happy Monday!


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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: Which direction to go in for Baby no. 2?

Michelle and her husband are expecting their second baby, a little green bean (gender unknown)! 🌱 This little bub joins big sister:

Victoria Gianna (“We chose her middle after the obvious, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, but also after pope Saint John Paul (Italian: Giovanni Paolo) and St. John the Apostle. Her first name is dedicated to the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Victories (celebrated today as Our Lady of the Rosary) and to our Lord’s victory on the Cross over sin and death … We teach her that her first name honors both, Jesus and Mary and her middle name honors the Sts. Gianna Molla, John Paul II, John the Apostle and also St. Anna, the mother of our Blessed Mother. Her birth day coincides with the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and choosing a Marian name (Our Lady of Victory) was important to us.”)

Isn’t Victoria Gianna such a pretty combo? I’m amazed and thrilled by how many patrons Michelle and her husband were able to pack into their daughter’s name!

First names they’re considering for a girl include:

  • Emilia, Emmelia ( nickname Em, Emmie, Millie, Mila, Lia) with possible middle names Zelie (ZAY-lee pronunciation) or Magdalene Rose 
  • Aurelia Rose Celeste (“meaning golden rose of heaven … St. Aurelia Petronilla was cured by St. Peter himself! … [But] my baby’s first cousin is named Olivia Rose and I concern myself that it will be sound vastly similar and overlapping“)
  • Beatrice, Beatrix (nn Bea, Beasy, Bees, Trixie), maybe Beatrix Evangeline
  • Chiara Marie
  • Esther (“lovely sound but we may be a bit slow here in attaching to it“)
  • Eva (“lovely, short sound but is it too short for us?“)
  • Frances (“love the Catholic history and the sound but we may feel reserved“)
  • Evangeline Marie
  • Josephine
  • Katherine, Kateri, Catherine, Caterina
  • Karolina (“the spelling reflects the Polish given name of JP II, Karol. Are we ready for that slightly unconventional K spelling?“)
  • Lucia/Lucy (“I love the sound of name, though I think I see its popularity rising within the community(s) that we visit around here. Lucy is my mom’s middle name“)
  • Madeleine (“not sure what pronunciation they will end up attaching to this one“), Madalena, Magdalene
  • Maristela (“these names beginning with M are so beautifully Marian and saintly but then we worry that it will sound more of an alliteration when paired with our last name“)
  • Perpetua (“like the early Christian martyrdom ties but don’t know if we will be entirely comfortable using it as first name. Also, one of our daughter, Victoria’s, many many nick names is Perpeta/Popeta!“)

Boy names include:

  • Rafael, Raphael (Rafe, Raph, Ralphie), maybe with double middle name Charles Joseph (“I am drawn to this name because of the many saints that I have asked intercessions of during my long healing journey ranging from my post partum days to achieving this pregnancy, St. Raphael was one of them“)
  • Benedict, Bennett, maybe Benedict Aquinas Joseph (“St Benedict and Pope Benedict, but I may not feel drawn towards it entirely as a first name“)
  • Charles Maximilian Joseph
  • Karol Joseph (“Karol was St John Paul II and his own father’s given name. Lolek was JP II’s nick name growing up“)
  • Maximilian (“We love the strong historical, Latin/Roman Catholic origins but then again, the alliteration forming bit with our last name concerns us“)
  • Joseph (“We honor St. Joseph here as well as St. JP II and Pope Emeritus Benedict, who has long been a great teacher/champion of the Faith for [my husband], as well as me“)
  • Fulton (“Hubby reiterated that he loves this name. Venerable Fulton Sheen has been one of his greatest hero and responsible for bring him closer to his Catholic home. I love Fulton Sheen much, but am I ready for this as a first name?“)
  • Athanasius (“I think we both find this name delightfully saintly but Hubby says, and I agree, it’s also quite a mouthful“)
  • Augustine (“A great hero of a saint for Hubby’s conversion, but are we ready for the name?“)
  • Beckett/Becket
  • Dominic 
  • Gabriel (“I do find it hard to associate with the nn Gabe for a boy, maybe because of my strong memories of Gabe from the Office?“)
  • George (“St. George, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati“)
  • George Maximilian Joseph
  • Gregory (“Pope Gregory the Great … I find it hard to associate with the nn Rory for a boy“)
  • Ignatius
  • Jonah
  • Judah
  • Kolbe
  • Marius
  • Magnus

And Saints they would be happy to honor:

Mary and St. Anne — I asked for their intercession all along the weeks, months and years leading to my pregnancy.

So Anna-Maria has great significance for me as I pondered and recalled on this name this past Advent.  I find the hyphenated version serves as a reminder to what unites Anne and Mary, an intimate union of the Old and New Testaments. “Through them are brought about the prophecies of Israel and the proclamations of the Church. Through these two Jewish women in the line of David — one whose Hebrew name means “grace,” and one who is “full of grace” — comes grace upon grace.”

St Joseph — Hubby and I consecrated ourselves to him on May 1, 2020

Servants of God Emilia and Karol Wojtyla, parents of JP II — I have asked for their intercession since their sainthood process began in March 2020

St. Josemaria Escriva — It was during the late afternoon of his feast day, Friday, June 26 2020 that I got the earliest cautious but positive confirmation of my pregnancy from a HCG/progesterone blood test that done the day before. This was the first time I got such sweet news in the many many months preceding this event.

St Gerard Majella and St Gianna Molla (kept their third class relics close to me during the months preceding and during pregnancy)

St Louis and Zelie Martin, St Teresa of Avila, St Therese of Lisieux – I sought their intercession during the above months

Jesus and Mary — Feast of the Sacred Heart — we consecrated our daughter, Victoria, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 19 2020 and the next day was the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

I just love how thorough and thoughtful Michelle and her husband are in regards to babynaming!

Before sharing my new ideas for this family, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on the names they’re considering, in case they’re helpful:

  • Emilia/Emmelia: I love both of these! Emilia in honor of St. John Paul II’s mother is wonderful, and I love it with both Zelie as a middle name and Magdalene Rose. The spelling Emmelia is lovely too, and St. Emmelia is a great patron — mother to so many Saints!
  • Aurelia: Aurelia Rose Celeste has such a beautiful meaning — I wonder if they might like to consider a combo that can have a similar meaning, but move the name away from Olivia Rose sound-wise? Maybe something like Chrysantha Caeli or Chrysantha Celeste? Chrysantha is a shortened form of the flower name chrysanthemum, and it means “golden flower”; Caeli is Latin for “of heaven” (like in Our Lady’s title Regina Caeli, “Queen of Heaven”), or Celeste can fill that role. I love how Chrysantha looks and sounds, and possible nicknames Chrysa or Chryssy (even spelled Chrissy) make it very user friendly and can even give it a slight nod to Jesus. I might be allowing myself to get too excited about this idea, I just love it! It does lose the St. Aurelia Petronilla connection, though, unfortunately. And Aurelia really is lovely.
  • Beatrice/Beatrix (Bea, Beasy, Bees, Trixie): I love Beatrice and Beatrix, and they have such darling nicknames! The meaning is just wonderful as well. Michelle said that she wasn’t sure about this name at first, but I loved discovering that it’s a big style match for their name taste, based on my research in the Baby Name Wizard! (affiliate link) (You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up in the BNW the names the parents have already used and those they like/are considering as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity.) Beatrice and Beatrix are matches for Aurelia, Evangeline, Josephine, and Maximilian! Beatrix Evangeline is a really great combination with lots of meaning.
  • Chiara: Chiara is absolutely beautiful, and normally I’d be enthusiastically in favor of it (I love Bl. Chiara Luce Badano), but with their older daughter being Victoria Gianna, I wonder if they want to follow right away with another uber-Italian name? Not that Victoria on its own comes across as very Italian — in fact, it’s not the Italian variant of the name — but its -a ending followed immediately by sister Chiara would indeed make it seem very Italian. If they don’t mind or if they like the Italian vibe, wonderful! I have no quibble! But I thought if they used Chiara now, which is so VERY Italian, and would seem to convey that they intend their children (or at least their daughters) to have very Italian names, it might seem a bit jarring to use Esther, Frances, or Madeleine later, for example. (If they want to lean into the Italian vibe, this is easily remedied by switching those names to their Italian variants: Ester, Francesca, and Maddalena. Then they all work together!) One way that they could still use this name in another form is Clara — it goes as well with Victoria as it does with Madeleine, in my opinion. I also had the thought that if they decided to use Chiara as the first name after all, maybe they’d like to consider Lucy as the middle name, which could be a nod to Michelle’s mom and also very similar to Bl. Chiara Luce Badano’s name! Or maybe Clara Lucy?

I want to interrupt my bullet points here just to talk about the Italian names thing for another minute, to make sure I’m articulating myself well. So as I said, Victoria isn’t Italian — it’s actually sometimes considered a fourth addition to the three “classic English girl names” (Catherine, Elizabeth, and Margaret), which would allow it to fit in nicely with the less ethnic-feeling names on Michelle’s list, which are most of them (or they could be — e.g., Madeleine is the French version and would be quite at home with Marie-Helene and Jean-Pierre, but it’s had so much usage among English speakers that its Frenchness has been much muted, and so it can fit in well with non-French names as well). And in fact, Victoria’s actual Italian variant is Vittoria. So a girl named Victoria can have sisters with all kinds of names, and all of the names on their list would be lovely with it. But pairing it with Gianna, and then following it with Chiara, definitely emits a very Italian feel. I hate to discourage them from using a name they love! I quite like the idea of using Chiara as a middle name with a less Italian first name, which would mirror Victoria Gianna in a very pleasing way I think. Madeleine Chiara, for example. Okay, back to my bulleted list!

  • Esther: Esther is a beautiful name, and Queen Esther in the bible is a wonderful character, but Esther does feel a bit different than most of the names Michelle and her hubs like, which could be why they’re having a harder time coming around to it.
  • Eva: Eva, too, is beautiful, but it has a difference as well — the more I think about it, the more I think that the names they like best for a girl are long names, and I think they’d be happiest sticking with those. That doesn’t have to mean short names are out, though! Hyphenating or connecting two names can give nice length to an otherwise short name. Eva-Maria for example, or Evamarie. Or they might like to consider a longer name that’s a variant of Eva or related to it, like Evelina, and use Eva as a nickname. Or — Evangeline, which is already on their list!
  • Frances: I agree with Michelle, Frances has great history and Catholic meaning! But I think it feels a bit plain for the kinds of names I think they like best. I could see them liking its Italian variant Francesca or German variant Franziska or Portuguese variant Francisca more. I also think a Frances might feel like her name is a little underwhelming next to big sister’s long and lovely Victoria.
  • Evangeline: Evangeline is a wonderful addition to their list — great meaning, beautiful name. The fact that they can use Eva as a nickname, which is also on their list, makes it feel like a great two-for-one option!
  • Josephine (nn Zuzu, Zozi, Zozia): I love that they’re considering Josephine — using a Josephite name would be so great in this Year of St. Joseph, and in light of how Michelle and her husband consecrated themselves to him last May 1. How wonderful! I love the nicknames Michelle said she likes, too — they’re so fun and unexpected! Josephine can also work to honor St. Josemaria, since his name is literally Joseph+Mary. A first name + middle name combo of Josephine Maria would hammer this home even more, while keeping St. Joseph and Our Lady front and center.
  • Katherine/Kateri/Catherine/Caterina: These are all beautiful, and Katherine/Catherine would be great as a sister to Victoria in that classic-English-names way. I also love Victoria and Caterina together, if they decided to lean into the Italian-feeling names. And I do love St. Kateri and her beautiful name, but like with Esther and Frances, it just feels … not quite their style. But I love it as a middle name idea!
  • Karolina: I think Karolina might be one of my favorite ideas here for this family. I love the K- spelling — I know a few families who have named daughters Karoline or Karolina with that spelling, which immediately signals a devotion to St. John Paul II, which I think is so great. It easily fits in with feminine and elegant sister Victoria, but doesn’t pigeonhole their style into any one particular heritage, since Karolina (like Victoria) is used across lots of different languages/cultures.
  • Lucia/Lucy: Lucia and Lucy are both just lovely! I think Lucia can have the same issue as Chiara that I mentioned earlier — that possibly overly Italian feel, especially if they use the Italian pronunciation loo-CHEE-ah. As with Chiara and Kateri, I would love it in the middle name spot. Lucy is great to me because it’s Michelle’s mom’s middle name, though I admit I don’t think it’s quite right as a first name for them, just based on the feel of most of the names they like.
  • Madeleine/Madalena/Magdalene: All of these variants of Magdalene are marvelous! Though I do think Michelle’s wise to be wary of the pronunciation issues of Madeleine. There are some who do say mad-e-LINE — the spelling Madelyn should fix this problem, but I think the Italian Maddalena (if they decide to go the Italian route), or Magdalene itself, or perhaps even better as a combo of the two with Magdalena, will make them happier in the long run. 
  • Maristela: Oh yes, I totally understand the appeal of the gorgeous Maristela, and also that Michelle isn’t a fan of alliteration with their last name! For what it’s worth, I quite like alliteration, and find Maristela M___ to be lovely. However, I know that’s a controversial opinion, and if one doesn’t like alliteration, then one doesn’t like alliteration! One way to use this beautiful name with its patronage of Our Lady, Star of the Sea is to switch the elements around and use Stellamaris. I’d like to mention a long, beautiful, Marian name that doesn’t start with M, that they might like to consider: Immaculata! I love the name Immaculata, I think it’s so lovely and so specifically Marian!
  • Perpetua: Perpetua’s a funny name in that it’s an old Roman name, but has such good usage in England that the only Perpetuas I’ve ever heard of (other than my friend’s little girl) are English! One was a character in Bridget Jones, for example. But for Catholic purposes, St. Perpetua is one of my favorites, and I love that it can also connect to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which is a particular devotion of the Redemptorist Order, and St. Gerard Majella was a Redemptorist priest, so they could maybe think of it as including him as a patron as well! All that said, the fact that Victoria has Perpeta and Popeta as nicknames (so cute!) says to me that Perpetua’s probably best in the middle name spot.
  • Raphael/Rafael (Rafe, Raph, Ralphie): I really love that Michelle asked for intercession from St. Raphael, and I love the nickname ideas — Ralphie keeps making me chuckle, I love it!
  • Charles/Karol: I love that we can honor St. John Paul II with the Charles names, it’s nice a nice option! Michelle mentioned Lolek — I wonder if she would consider using that as a nickname if they named their son Charles or Karol?
  • Benedict/Bennett: I too love the meaning of these names and our wonderful Pope Benedict. It would make a great middle name if they couldn’t come around to it as a first name!
  • Maximilian: As with Maristela, I really don’t mind Maximilian M___ — especially for boys, alliterative names sound superhero-ish to me, which can be fun! — though I could see that Max M___ wouldn’t be ideal. I’m glad Michelle included this as a name they like, as it was helpful in my research.
  • Joseph: Joseph seems like a no-brainer for this family, from Michelle and her husband’s devotion and consecration to St. Joseph, to the baby being born in the Year of St. Joseph, to Joseph being a family name on Michelle’s side. It would be wonderful in the first name spot or the middle spot, wherever they feel most comfortable with it.
  • Fulton: I admit, Fulton jumped to the top of my list of favorites for this family when I read that Michelle’s husband loves this name. I think it’s striking that this is the only name she said this about! However, since Michelle’s not sure about it, maybe she’d prefer to consider it in the middle name spot? Or, maybe she and her hubby would be open to considering Ven. Fulton Sheen’s given/baptismal name, which was Peter? (Fulton was his mother’s maiden name and what he went by always, as far as I can tell.)
  • Athanasius: I love how Michelle and her hubs characterize this name: “delightfully saintly” but, indeed, “quite a mouthful”! I agree! It would be awesome in the middle name spot!
  • Augustine: I definitely think Augustine is easier to handle than Athanasius, however I will say that we very nearly named one of our boys Augustine (for the same reason — he was a great influence on my own husband’s conversion) and decided against it at the last minute because of pronunciation issues. au-GUS-tin and au-gus-TEEN are both well used, and not only do people tend to strongly prefer one or the other, but they also tend to strongly believe that their favored pronunciation is the correct one and the other is incorrect. We felt it was too much of a possibility that we’d be constantly annoyed by others “mispronouncing” our son’s name — since Madeleine holds a similar difficulty for Michelle, I would think they’d want to consider this aspect of Augustine before deciding to use it.
  • Becket(t): I’m a bit surprised by Becket/Beckett on their list! It’s definitely saintly, and it shares Bennet’s and Fulton’s surname style, but while Fulton especially has a real reason for being on their list, Becket(t) seems outside the style of name they really seem to prefer.
  • Dominic: Dominic is wonderful for this family, it seems just right to me. I also love that Our Lady of Victory was the original title for Our Lady of the Rosary and same feast day, so Victoria and Dominic have a connection.
  • Gabriel: Michelle’s comment about Gabe from The Office made me laugh out loud! I hope they don’t let that reference interfere with what is otherwise such a great name. I’ve seen Gib, Gil, and Eli used as nickname for Gabriel, if that’s helpful.
  • George: George has a similar feel to me as Catherine, Frances, and Charles, and I think it goes quite well with Victoria as well.
  • Gregory (not Rory): I love the name Gregory as well, and have suggested Rory as a nickname in the past because, while a lot of people seem to like Gregory — a handsome, sophisticated, saintly name — the nickname Greg strikes many as outdated in a negative way. If they don’t like Rory, however, I’ve often thought that Gus could work, if Gregory was paired with a middle name that had a prominent S. Maybe Gregory Charles? Gregory Athanasius?
  • Ignatius: I’ve seen Iggy, Nate, and Nash used as a nickname for Ignatius, all of which I think are great!
  • Jonah, Judah: I’m including these two together, because they seem similar to me — both Old Testament J names ending in -ah. Jonah is the more familiar of the two, while the Jud- name that I usually see used is Jude, so Judah feels a bit fresher!
  • Kolbe: Hmm … earlier I’d said that Becket(t) didn’t seem quite this family’s style, Bennett and Fulton on their list notwithstanding. But with Kolbe on here too … maybe they’re more into surname-type names than I’d thought?
  • Marius: I like the idea of Marius a lot — a very masculine Marian name!
  • Magnus: Since Magnus means “great,” I’ve often thought it would be a fun middle name for a Pope St. the Great first name, like Gregory Magnus for Pope St. Gregory the Great! Or Charles Magnus for St. John Paul the Great! (But then, Charles Magnus is basically the same name as Charlemagne, isn’t that weird?!) Or to be even more explicit, John Paul Magnus!

I wasn’t actually sure if I’d be able to come up with any names that were new options for this family! They have so many gorgeous names on their list, and I wondered if my only contributions would be offering my thoughts on the names on the list. But fortunately, I do have some new ideas! My research in the Baby Name Wizard book was the foundation; I also use the Name Matchmaker tool on babynamewizard.com, as some of their names aren’t included in the book (Perpetua, Magdalene). And I took into account the Saints Michelle said they love. Based on all that, these are some more names they might like to consider:

Girl

(1) A Lily name (Lilia, Lillian, Liliana)

Since Michelle said they’d love to honor St. Joseph, but aren’t totally sure that Josephine is their style, I wonder if they might like to consider one of the Lily names, since lilies are one of St. Joseph’s symbol? Lily doesn’t have the best flow with their last name, but Lilia is a really pretty variant. Lillian is a less flowery option, and Liliana is longer, like the names they tend to like, and they could consider the -ana ending to nod to St. Anne if they’d like.

(2) Susanna

Speaking of Lily names, and also names that nod to St. Anne, and also the fact that Michelle listed Zuzu as a possible nickname for Josephine, Susanna came immediately to mind. It means both “rose” and “lily” in Hebrew, which can work for St. Joseph via the “lily” meaning, and also Our Lady, as lilies and roses are both symbols for her. The -anna ending can be for St. Anne, and Zuzu is a traditional nickname for Susanna!

(3) Cecilia, Caecilia

Cecilia is a match for Josephine and Catherine, and it’s lovely and long and feminine like Victoria. Such a beautiful, saintly name! I also remembered this family, who used the original Latin form of Cecilia for their daughter: Caecilia. Behind the Name says its pronunciation is kie-KEE-lee-a, but I think Cecilia’s pronunciation could be used with that spelling if they wanted.

(4) Julia, Juliana, Juliette

Julia did quite well for this family in my research! It has the same sophisticated feel as Victoria, and lots of Saints to choose from for patron. If they wanted to lengthen it, Juliana can add the St. Anne connection, and Juliette has a pretty French flair (I actually spotlighted Juliet(te) here).

(5) Philomena

My last girl idea is more along the lines of Aurelia, Magdalene, and Perpetua — a lesser-used but almost exclusively Catholic name. Philomena has some great nickname options as well, like Fia, Fila, Fina, Lola, Menaand Minnie.

Boy

(1) Tobias

I was really interested to see what boy names would rise to the top in my research as good suggestions for a son for Michelle, and was excited to see Tobias as one of them! It’s an Old Testament name like Raphael, Jonah, and Judah, and in fact Tobias is part of St. Raphael’s story in the book of Tobit; it’s also a style match for Evangeline. Such a handsome name!

(2) Thaddeus

Thaddeus is a style match for Raphael, Benedict, and Edmund! I love that it’s a New Testament name with the weighty feel of some of the Old Testament names, and is a lesser-used way to name a baby after St. Jude. Thad, Tad/Taddy, and Ted/Teddy are all great nickname for Thaddeus!

(3) Thomas

Michelle has Becket(t) on her list of possible first names and Aquinas on the list of middle names they like, but I wonder what they’d think about Thomas? It can hang with Charles/George/Gregory as well as Benedict/Dominic/Gabriel (and Victoria of course!).

(4) Leo, Leander

Gregory and Magnus made me think of Leo, as Pope St. Leo the Great is another with “Great” in his name. Leo Magnus would make this connection explicit, as would the combination, Leo Maximilian — since they have Maximilian on their list, maybe this would be a great way to use it? Leo could also serve as a nickname for Leander, which is in the Raphael/Benedict/Maximilian/Dominic family of names, and St. Leander of Seville was actually friends with Pope St. Gregory the Great!

(5) Frederick, Everett

I wouldn’t have come up with either Frederick or Everett on my own for this family, but they both did so well in my research that I couldn’t not include them here! Frederick is a match for Victoria (!), Beatrice, Frances, Josephine, and Magdalene, and Everett is a match for Aurelia, Beatrice, Magdalene, and Bennett. Isn’t that so surprising? There are actually several holy Fredericks that one could look to for a patron, and Everett is derived from Everard, of which there are several holy men so named as well.

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for Victoria Gianna’s little sister or 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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Patron Saint of nicknames? (!)

A reader sent me the following amazing email:

I just finished reading a biography on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and it turns out she comes from a family of nicknamers: ‘Catherine was a peaceful baby and like all the Seton children instantly received several nicknames.’

It wasn’t so much Elizabeth’s family that gave nicknames, but her husband’s, so she became a huge nicknamer after she married him. She continued to nickname everyone she kept correspondence with and some of the Sisters of her order after his death, but these are her family nicknames that I thought were so fun.

Elizabeth Seton herself was called Betsy throughout her childhood and when she met her future husband he began calling her Eliza.

Their 5 children all had nicknames:

Anna Maria: Annina

William: Will, Willy, Bill

Richard: Dick, Ricksy

Catherine: Kit/Kitt/Kitty, Kate, Jo (short for Josephine, one of Catherine’s middle names, possibly Confirmation name)

Rebecca: Bec

Her husband’s sisters all went by nicknames:

Henrietta: Harriet, Hatch (She was never Henrietta, though, just Harriet, so Hatch was the nickname for Harriet)

Eliza: Zide

Cecilia: Cecil

One girl who was a student of SEAS was not given a nickname, however. Her name was always the full Mary Diana. For some reason that name has such a fun ring it’s been on repeat in my head for the last few days. I had never heard of Hatch or Zide, and love how spunky they are. I know how much you like nicknames, so I thought you’d enjoy this info! I think St. Elizabeth would make an amazing unofficial patron saint of nicknames 🙂 “

I did indeed enjoy this info! And I love the idea of St. Elizabeth being the “unofficial patron saint of nicknames”! Apparently coming up with nicknames is a holy endeavor. 😉 I can see what this reader means about Mary Diana too, that is a lovely combo.

Have a great Wednesday!


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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Baby name consultation: Formal names for the nickname Sonny

A reader wrote to me asking:

I really love the name Sonny. But! I’ve yet to find a formal name I like that could be the official name… and now I’m wondering if I even need that? Especially if I can find a good spiritual connection to the name… apart from the obvious “son.” lol is this making sense? Do you have any thoughts?

Do I have any thoughts? Always!  😂😂😂

I LOVE the nickname Sonny!! The first name that comes to mind is Santino — Sonny on The Godfather was Santino nn Sonny, and Santino means “little saint,” which is fantastic! HOWEVER, I know some might be like, “Ew! The Godfather!” I get it! (Another funny reference: Mario Lopez and his wife named their youngest son Santino and call him Sonny!) For what it’s worth, there was a little guy in one of my boys’ preschool class named Santino nn Sonny, which I’d never seen in real life before then, and I just died of happiness, SO cute. (He was not obviously Italian.)

I’ve also thought that Sonny could be a great nickname for Solanus! I wrote about it here; I think it’s a fantastic option. Bl. Solanus Casey is amazing! There are some people who are hesitant about using Solanus as a given name because of the last four letters, so if you like this idea but not that detail, you could consider Solano instead — Bl. Solanus’ religious name was actually Francis Solanus, and it was bestowed in honor of St. Francis Solano, a 16th/17th century Franciscan.

I’m also thinking, since Jesus is THE Son, maybe Sonny would be a nice nickname for a Jesus name? Like Joshua, Christo, Emmanuel … I’ve always loved Christo/Cristo but thought it might be hard to work with and/or seen as disrespectful in English-speaking locales (though it’s used in other languages) — having a nickname like Sonny could make something like Christo/Cristo do-able as a legal name without the hassle maybe?

I really think Sonny could also work for any S name, especially if it has an N in it (Stephen, Solomon, Sebastian, Simon, Simeon), or any name containing or ending in -son (Samson or any number of surnames — maybe one in your family tree?), or really any name at all! Sonny is one of those Junior/Red/Chip-type nicknames that can be completely unrelated to the boy’s given name — it might be perfect if there’s some family member you’d love to honor but who has an unfortunate name, or a nickname for a Junior. Using Sonny as the exclusive call name means the given name can be anything at all. You know? 

Do you agree? What other names do you think would be good formal names for Sonny? Do you know anyone named Sonny, and if so — I’d love to know about his given name and how he got his nickname and whether he likes it!


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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

More info on Václav (Wenceslaus)

Continued prayers today, on the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, for an end to abortion, and for all of its victims. ❤ ❤ ❤

I was so surprised by the number of comments I got on my spotlight on Wenceslaus! So pleasantly surprised! Two in particular had more info on the Czech version, Václav, and I wanted to be sure you all saw them:

Václav is still reasonably popular here in the Czech Republic. Pronounced vahts-lahv (the c in Czech always makes the ts sound, unless it is č, which is ch; c never makes the k sound – only k makes the ck/k sound).

I’ve met quite a few, from tiny to old. My husband’s grandfather was Václav, and I think that if we had another son, Václav would be a real contender. (It might take some adjusting for my Midwestern US family, but probably easier than the likes of Vladimir!), Of course, Václav Havel gives the name awesome modern hero weight as well.

I really like the nicknames Vašík (vah-sheek) and Vašek (vah-shek). According to my husband (I bombarded him with Czech name questions this morning…):

Vašík is for little boys, probably until age 8 or 9.
Vašek is for young men, probably from 8 or 9 until about 30 or so.
Then he would likely become Venca (vents-uh) and stay that way.

That’s not a hard/fast rule, but it is generally how the name Václav would evolve. Plus, you’d be Václav on official documents/announcements, but as my husband says, no one would ever actually call you Václav!
Czech names and nicknames are truly fascinating!

Wenceslas Square is a main square here in Prague, called Václavské náměstí in Czech (but English speakers often still just call it Wenceslas Square – it is widely called both names here). It is much more modern than many areas you’ll find in Prague (like the Old Town Square). It’s packed full of history, of course, including Soviet tanks rolling down the street in the ’68 Prague Spring. These days its lined with modern, global stores, so is popular for shopping (and apparently it has quite a shady nightlife, particularly on one end…). Yet, the huge statue of St. Wenceslas (svatý Václav) on horseback still looms over it all – famously sculpted by Josef Václav Myslbek. There are 4 other Czech patron saints surrounding him: St. Ludmila, St. Agnes of Bohemia (I’ve mentioned her here before – fascinating story!), St. Prokop, and St. Adalbert. The inscription reads: St Wenceslas, Leader of the Czech Lands, our Prince, do not let us die nor those yet to come.

Of course, September 28th is a very important Czech holiday, so yay for school/office closings on that day (otherwise, there are no celebrations, of note surrounding it). Interesting, the Czech culture is said to be one of the most atheist cultures in the world, yet they hold very tight to saints’ name days and many otherwise religious traditions/holidays.

And then a follow-up:

And to add – my husband loved the tidbit about Václav probably being derived from věnec! He didn’t know that, but said that makes sense. He says that in everyday Czech, it is really used to refer to a wreath, rather than a crown.”

I LOVE learning more about names of other countries/cultures/languages! Have a great Friday and a great weekend, everyone!


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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

New CatholicMom article, and info on Chinese and Japanese names

Happy Thursday everyone! A few things of interest today:

My January CatholicMom article is up! “Naming Your Baby After St. Joseph” was informed by a couple of blog posts I did recently to help expectant parents (and Confirmation candidates?) work St. Joseph into their babies’ names (or their own) during this year devoted to him.

Please share with anyone who think might be interested!

And I read two interesting articles recently:

Why 1.2 billion people share the same 100 surnames in China” on CNN.com. I was surprised to find that, though language and limited racial diversity play a role, technology is actually a huge reason why there are, currently, as few surnames in China as there are:

“… people with rare characters in their names, which aren’t compatible with existing computer systems, can get left behind — pushing many to change their names for the sake of convenience, even if it means abandoning centuries of heritage and language.”

“Abandoning centuries of heritage and language” is such a painful thing to read!

And there was this, which I found shocking:

Japan asked the international media to change how we write their names. No one listened” (also on CNN). I’m amazed that in this day and age, when there is more sensitivity than ever to one’s personal preferences about his or her name (whether it’s one’s given name, or a new name chosen later on), and that aside from names, cultural insensitivity is completely unacceptable, English-language media sources are refusing to switch to writing Japanese names with the surname first, as is their local custom and request.

For now, most media outlets are unwilling to make a change if no one else is, creating an inertia loop whereby inaction begets inaction. CNN Business could not find any major publication which refers to the Japanese prime minister as “Abe Shinzo,” and no outlet which responded to a request for comment suggested such a switch was imminent.”

There are some other factors at play — like the fact that Japan itself switched to the Western style of “family name (surname) last” in the late 19th century when communicating in English — but even still, wow.


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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Baby name consultation: Help name Twin no. 2!

One of our longtime readers and her family have been devastated by the recent theft of the means of her husband’s livelihood — many high-end instruments and specialized equipment that he takes with him from his job as a music teacher at a Catholic school to other venues in which he helps provide for his family through his musical training and talent. This was a loss of almost $11,000 worth of instruments and equipment, which the insurance company has only agreed to pay a third of, never mind the impact it has on his ability to teach. A friend has set up a Go Fund Me (which includes a video of Tom playing), and if any of you feel moved and are able to donate, I know the family would be so grateful. And please keep them in your prayers!

Mary and her husband are expecting twin boys! These little guys join big sister:

Juliette Marie (“Juliette is after a grandmother figure I had and Marie is of course after the Blessed Mother and is also the middle name of the first girl in every generation in my family so her name has a lot of meaning to us“)

I looove the name Juliette! Juliette Marie is so lovely!

Mary writes,

[M]y husband and I tried to conceive for several years, and eventually were blessed to be able to adopt our daughter who’s 2 now. We had quite the surprise this year after working with a great NaPro doctor and are so excited to welcome the twins in June (but probably May).”

Amazing!!

Baby Boy 1 will be Joseph McDaniel. We’ll call him ‘Mac’ as a nickname from his middle name. Joseph is after 2 St. Josephs I love, St. Joseph, husband of Mary, and the lesser known St Joseph of Cupertino, patron Saint of test takers and exams, who helped get me through some very difficult times while I was in law school. Joseph is also my husband’s middle name so another very meaningful name. McDaniel is my maiden name and my paternal grandfather was often called “Mac” so Mac is in his memory.

We’ve been tossing around Jude for Baby Boy 2 after St. Jude because so much of our story has just seemed impossible, but here we are. It just hasn’t stuck quite yet. Out of complete coincidence, Juliette and Mac will have the same initials so part of me wants to pick another JM name, but that’s not a “must.” I also like the idea of Baby Boy 2 going by a nickname like his brother, but again, not a “must”

Other Saint names we’ve considered and Saints we love are Michael (mostly as a middle name because my husband loves St. Michael and he was a major part in my husband converting to Catholicism), Sebastian (my husband’s confirmation Saint), St. Augustine (who we have a strong devotion to after visiting the Marian shrine in St. Augustine and then adopting our daughter shortly after) and St. John Paul II.  If we used Sebastian or Augustine, we’d want him to go by a nickname. We’re definitely pro-nicknames

Juliette and Mac are both named after a Saint who’s important to us and a family member, which I like. Other family names we’ve considered are Theodore, Warren, and Giles.

We like names that are classic but unique enough that you don’t hear them every day (so names like Peter, Matthew, and John are mostly out unless we could use a more unique nickname). The fact that Michael is very common makes me hesitant to use it as a middle name, but we do love St. Michael so much.”

Working on twin consultations is such fun! I love the names Mary and her husband have already chosen, and I love that they’re “definitely pro-nicknames” — you know how I feel about nicknames!

One of the things that really struck me about Joseph McDaniel’s (amazing, fantastic) name is how full of meaning it is, with Joseph having strong family and personal faith connections and McDaniel being both Mary’s maiden name and the source of her grandfather’s nickname. Also, both Mary and her husband are represented, with Joseph being Hubby’s middle name and McDaniel being from Mary’s side. No matter what names they choose for Twin 2, I would encourage them to try to make sure his name has just as much meaning — it doesn’t have to have the same kind of meaning, necessarily (i.e., it doesn’t have to be two family names), but there should be a feeling of balance and equal specialness between both names.

One thing that I immediately thought of was that Mary’s boys will be born in the Year of St. Joseph and also likely in the same month as the feast of St. Joseph the Worker (May 1), and with one twin having St. Joseph’s actual name, I thought it would be nice for the other twin to also have a nod to St. Joseph in either his first or middle name. I did a post recently on names for St. Joseph, and of them, I thought these had possibility for this family:

  • Carpenter, as he was a carpenter and is represented by a carpenter’s square specifically and carpenter’s tools in general. I’ve never heard of Carpenter as a first name, but it’s not really different from other occupation names like Mason, Taylor, and Carter, right? Maybe with Cap as a nickname?
  • Cruz or Croix or other “cross” names, as the cross is one of his symbols
  • Foster, since we refer to him as Jesus’ foster father
  • Valiant, as he’s valiant (as noted in the Litany to St. Joseph) (what a cool, masculine virtue name!)
  • Surnames derived from Joseph, like Jessop/Jessup (if either of these names were in Mary’s or her husband’s family trees, I’d die of happiness!) (Jesse could be used as a nickname for Jessop/Jessup, which has additional connections to St. Joseph since St. Joseph is a descendant of King David, who was son of Jesse)

Another way to look at this is that Mary described Joseph as representing two special Josephs — what about breaking that honor up and naming one son after St. Joseph the foster father of Jesus, and the other after St. Joseph of Cupertino? I’ve seen the latter honored in ways that I think might appeal to this family: Cupertino as a given name with Coop and Cooper as nicknames, and Cooper as the given name in honor of Cupertino. Something like Michael Cupertino nicknamed Coop or Cooper could be really nice — two names with very meaningful faith connections for Mary and her hubby and a middle name that’s similar to McDaniel in the sense that I always think of saintly place names as in the same category as surnames. Joseph McDaniel and Michael Cupertino have a nice symmetry, and Mac and Coop have a nice sound together! It would be even better if a family connection could be figured out for Twin 2 as well, but that might be asking too much. Maybe some of my other ideas can get all the elements in there …

I do love their idea of Jude, since he’s the patron of impossible causes, and Jude Michael would be a nice JM combo — Juliette Marie, Joseph McDaniel, and Jude Michael. Two worries I have are that they’ll feel locked into a JM combo in case they have more children (which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, there are lots of great J and M names!), and also that Jude and Juliette are so similar in sound. That can easily be remedied by having Jude Michael go by a nickname of his middle name, like Mac will, and since I think Mary prefers more offbeat suggestions, they might like one of my favorite ideas for an unexpected Michael nickname: Miles/Milo. I’ve often thought Miles or Milo can work for Michael, since their first three letters encompass Michael’s first two letters and its last letter — they’re almost like a contraction of Michael, plus “es” or “o” added on the end. Miles/Milo has an added neat connection to Michael in the sense that St. Michael the Archangel is a warrior, and, as the entry for Miles on Behind the Name says, “From an early date it was associated with Latin miles ‘soldier.’”

Further, I included Miles/Milo in my book of Marian names because they have a history of usage in Ireland as an anglicization of the old Irish name Maolmhuire, which means “servant of the Virgin Mary,” which, for this family, can represent a connection to the Marian shrine in St. Augustine. So many connections! Mac and Miles/Mac and Milo sound great together!

Once again, though, Jude Michael doesn’t include a family connection, and I’d really love for both boys’ names to represent both a Saint who’s important to them and a family member, just like Juliette’s and Mac’s names do. Of the ones Mary mentioned — Theodore, Warren, and Giles — Theodore immediately jumped out as a nice idea because of its meaning: “gift of God.” It’s the kind of significance that can amp up the specialness of the name and bring Joseph McDaniel and his brother’s name into balance. I really like the idea of Twin 2 going by a nickname of his middle name, like Mac, so maybe Theodore Michael nicknamed Miles or Milo would be perfect? Joseph McDaniel and Theodore Michael? Or Theodore Cupertino? I also like the nicknames Theo and Ted(dy) — Mac and Theo, Mac and Ted, Mac and Teddy all sound really great. I also like Theodore Jude.

I’m also loving the idea of Michael Augustine nicknamed Gus — Mac and Gus have that same good-guy feel to me, and Michael Augustine is certainly full of personal faith meaning!

I also love Sebastian — Seb, Sebbie, Bash (like Grace Patton’s son) and Baz are great options for nicknames.

So they have a lot of good ideas and names to work with and play around with! If they went with some combination of names they’re already considering, I’d be thrilled! But of course, I can always come up with more ideas, haha!

You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they like in the Baby Name Wizard (affiliate link) as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Though this strategy doesn’t always work well for parents in Mary’s situation, where the chosen names are as much about personal meaning and connection as they are about style, I was pleased to have a few ideas jump out at me that I thought had merit. I also had a few ideas of my own that I thought would fit in with the personal meaning part and also an attempt to balance both boys’ names meaning-wise. Based on all that, these are my additional ideas for Mary’s second twin:

(1) Benjamin or Benedict nicknamed Ben, Banks, Boon

I really liked seeing that Benjamin is a style match for Joseph per the BNW — not only are they stylistically similar, but I also love that Joseph and Benjamin are the two youngest sons of Jacob in the Old Testament. Bennett is a match for Juliette and Benedict for John Paul, so a Ben- name seemed a good bet here. While Ben is certainly the traditional nickname — and I love Mac and Ben together — I also know of a little Benjamin that goes by Banks as a nickname, which is fun. I’d also considered the nickname Boon for Benedict for one of my own boys, both because it has a B and N, like Benedict, but also because a boon is a blessing or a favor, which is such a great meaning and mirrors the meaning of Benedict (“blessed”). I like that meaning for this family! They could also certainly do Benjamin with the nickname Boon.

(2) Charles nicknamed Cal or ?

I was interested to see what nicknames would be listed as similar to Mac, and one of them was Cal, which is a nickname I’ve loved forever. So great for both a boy and a man! There are a couple ways to get to Cal, but Charles is one of my favorites, and it can honor St. John Paul II, since his birth name was Karol, which is the Polish for Charles! If they like the idea of Charles but Cal isn’t feeling quite right, one of my favorite posts from Abby at Appellation Mountain is her post on nicknames for Charles — there are so many! I would also add Hutch to her list. I also love the combo Charles Augustine nicknamed Gus!

(3) Henry nicknamed Hank

As with Cal, Hank is what inspired this idea. Hank is a traditional nickname for Henry and was listed as a style match for Mac! I’m really loving how Henry Sebastian sounds — Joseph McDaniel and Henry Sebastian (Mac and Hank) are a very handsome pair! There are lots of great Sts. Henry too, and St. Henry Morse has a particularly nice depiction of himself with Our Lady and the Child Jesus.

(4) Maximilian nicknamed Miles or Milo, or Kolbe?

Maximilian is a style match for Sebastian, Augustine, and John Paul, and I actually really love that McDaniel nicknames to Mac and Maximilian’s usual nickname is Max! But don’t worry — I’m not at all suggesting that they call their boys Mac and Max, only that McDaniel and Maximilian can sort of be like mirror images in their boys’ names. In fact, I really like Miles or Milo as nicknames for Maximilian — something like Joseph McDaniel and Jude Maximilian (Mac and Miles/Milo) could be really pleasing. But then, I also noticed that Cole is a style match for Jude, which made me think of Kolbe, and while I wasn’t thinking of pairing Maximilian and Kolbe together (though I’m not opposed to it if they want to!), would it be crazy to suggest that Kolbe could be a nickname for Maximilian?? Probably, right! Totally crazy! But intriguing!

(5) Fitz something

I was thinking about how Mac means “son of,” and how Fitz also does, and thought maybe Mac and Fitz would be great brother names? I don’t actually know what Mary’s husband’s name is, but if it’s William, Gerald, or Patrick, any of those with Fitz in front would be kind of amazing! Fitzwilliam is actually Darcy’s first name in Pride and Prejudice, and Fitzgerald and Fitzpatrick can both certainly serve as first or middle names.

(6) Isaac

My last two ideas are inspired by their meanings. Isaac means “he will laugh, he will rejoice,” and he was so named because Abraham laughed when God told him that Sarah would become pregnant. Mary’s story reminds me of Abraham’s, because of how they tried for several years to conceive, and then when they do, they’re given twin boys! What a surprise! And what joy! Isaac seems a perfect name for one of their boys! Zac is a nickname often used for Isaac, which wouldn’t work with Mac, but its other nickname Ike might. Or maybe they’d rather keep Isaac as the name that isn’t nicknamed? Isaac Theodore nicked Theo?

(7) Samuel

Like Isaac, Samuel is inspired by his story in the bible — he was the result of Hannah’s many years-long and tearful prayers, and was so named “Because I asked the Lord for him” (Samuel 1:20, which fits one of the two meanings of Samuel given on Behind the Name: “God has heard”). Also a fantastic meaning for this family! And Sam is so great with Mac. Samuel Warren? Samuel Augustine?

And those are my ideas for Mary’s second twin boy! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of Juliette and the twin of Joseph McDaniel nn Mac?


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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Spotlight on: Wenceslaus

My saintly friend for 2021 according to Jen Fulwiler’s The Saint’s Name Generator is … St. Wenceslaus.

Do you choose a yearly Saint? I admit, most of the initial thrill for me has always been the possibility of discovering a new, cool name to add to my list of Catholicky Catholic names! Haha!

St. Wenceslaus’ name is not one I usually see on little ones and doesn’t have the elements that tend to be attractive to today’s American parents. But his feast day is my wedding anniversary, and I really have come to love most names once I learn more about them, so here we go: let’s start by finding out more about the name Wenceslaus!

Behind the Name’s entry piqued my interest right away:

Medieval Latinized form of Veceslav (see VÁCLAV). The spelling may have been influenced by the Czech word věnec meaning ‘wreath, crown’.”

I love finding things out like “the spelling may have been influenced by the Czech word meaning ‘wreath, crown'” — to make a brief connection to Theresa’s guest post yesterday on “sorrowful” names, this reminds me of the name Tristan and how it’s the “Old French form of the Pictish name Drustan, a diminutive of DRUST. The spelling was altered by association with Latin tristis ‘sad'” (which is why it’s in my book of Marian names as a nod to Our Lady of Sorrows). In the case of Wenceslaus, I like that “wreath, crown” has a connection to Václav’s (Veceslav’s) meaning:

Contracted form of the older name Veceslav, from the Slavic elements veche ‘more’ and slava ‘glory’.”

So Wenceslaus could be thought of as meaning “crown of glory,” which is lovely, and fits in well with who St. Wenceslaus was: royal (“Good King Wenceslaus”) and martyr (“killed for political reasons [by his brother no less], but normally listed as a martyr since the politics arose from his faith”).

A very cool bit is that his grandfather is said to have been converted by Sts. Cyril and Methodius! St. Wenceslaus is the patron saint of the Czech Republic and his feast day is a national holiday, so his name would be a really great nod to one’s Czech heritage. He also had a wonderful grandmother, St. Ludmila, whose name I spotlighted nearly five years ago — using her name (or a variant) could also be a nice way to nod to St. Wenceslaus for a girl, as he is said to have been very influenced by his grandmother and her faith. He is also the subject of the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas,” making his name a Christmas name as well.

Some of its variants are intriguing, like the Czech Václav and its diminutive Vašek, the German Wenzel, the Hungarian Vencel, and the Russian Slava (if you want to consider these, be sure to look up their pronunciations!). If you went with the full Wenceslaus, it might be easiest in the middle spot (how handsome is a combo like John Wenceslaus?!); as a first name, nicknames might include Wence (reminds me of Wes — actually, Wes itself would work! That’s a really easy and familiar option!) and Wencel (reminds me of Wendell).

What do you think of Wenceslaus? Have you ever considered it (or a variant), or would you? Do you know anyone with the name Wenceslaus (or a variant)? Does he like his name? Does he go by a nickname?

Have a great Friday, and a great weekend!


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Will Giving My Child a “Sorrowful” Name Mean She’ll Grow Up in Sorrow?

I’m excited to share Sancta Nomina’s first ever Guest Post! Please welcome Theresa Zoe Williams, a longtime member of the Sancta Nomina community and mother to three amazingly named children (read about her older two here, and the birth announcement for her youngest here). Theresa is a freelance writer whose work can be found online at EpicPew, CatholicSingles, and Where Peter Is, as well as at her Patheos blog Contemplatio Culture and her personal blog Principessa Meets World. Theresa has also contributed to the books The Catholic Hipster Handbook: The Next Level and Epic Saints: Wild, Wonderful, and Weird Stories of God’s Heroes. Follow her on Twitter @TheresaZoe 

My oldest child’s name is Ruby Mae Anastasia. Even though there is a saint Anastasia, since Ruby’s name doesn’t easily evoke a particular saint or patronage, my husband and I decided to choose someone for her, independent of her name. When I said I wanted Our Lady of Sorrows to be her patroness, my husband’s response was, “But I don’t want our daughter to grow up sad and emo.” I insisted that Our Lady of Sorrows really had nothing to do with being sad or depressed, and, also, there were so many signs and connections to this title of Mary for us including my own devotion to her, Ruby’s initial due date being her feast day, and my beloved Gram’s death date on her feast day (there is more and it’s detailed in the name story Kate posted of my kids’ names). Through these things and a lot of prayer, I convinced my husband Our Lady of Sorrows was to be Ruby’s patroness and then consecrated my unborn daughter to her.

While there are many words that describe my now eight year old Ruby (feisty, determined, and compassionate come to mind), sad, depressed, and emo are not among them. Was my husband’s fear unfounded, though? Probably. While there are plenty of people without this patronage that live lives of great sorrow, there are certainly also people under this patronage who have lived sad lives. My great-grandmother, Mary Dolores (whose name means “bitterness and sorrow” and is a common way to honor Mary under her title of Our Lady of Sorrows), certainly had a life punctuated by great sorrow.

Mary’s life took a sad turn almost from the get-go. Her mother, Annunziata, died when Mary was about ten years old. Mary and her two surviving younger siblings, Minnie and William, were then sent to an orphanage to be taken care of while their father, Pasquale, an immigrant, worked. Sadly, William and Minnie died in the orphanage. Mary was sent back to her father and they were then inseparable until his death. But that time in the orphanage and of losing most of her family affected her for the rest of her life. Family –– and the sacrifices you make for them –– were always her first priority.

Once married, Mary and her husband Lewis (Luigi) had six living children but they also lost two daughters, Eleanor and Beatrice, before their first birthdays (and possibly a third child was stillborn). Later in life, when Lewis was out of work, Mary took a job unloading railroad freight trains. It was hard physical labor and it kept Mary from Lewis several days each week, but she never complained. She always thanked God for being good to her and leading her to a job that could support her family.

Interestingly, as an adult, Mary’s parish happened to be Seven Dolors and she, Lewis, most of their children, and many of their grandchildren are all buried there (my mom, though part of this family by marriage, is also buried there and my dad will someday be buried there, too).

This, I think, perfectly illustrates who Our Lady of Sorrows is and a Catholic view of sorrow. It is hope, instead of despair, in the face of tragedy. It is fortitude in the face of upset and chaos. It is trust in the midst of darkness. And it is gratitude in the midst of hardship. When you look at it this way, naming a child for this title of Mary or in connection to the Paschal Mystery (like my great-great-grandfather Pasquale) is a fantastic way to set your child up for a solid, and even joyful, Catholic life. There is something strengthening in having such a connection to the deepest mysteries and wonders of our Catholic faith, the darkest parts and the most life-giving parts, that undergirds a person’s life in a powerful and invigorating way.

So, will naming your child something connected to sorrow doom her or him to a life of sorrow? Not at all! Just as the name Mary may mean “bitterness” yet we have no problem naming our daughters Mary and do not fear that they will be bitter, so we shouldn’t fear names connected to sorrow. While the meaning of a name can give depth to a person’s life, it is not the only source of identity for the person. Why you choose a name is even more important than the meaning of the name! There are even more reasons why we choose names and these are what give our children breadth and depth of connection and meaning, not only the literal meaning of his or her name.

Here are a few of my favorite names with meanings connected to sorrow: Tristan, Brennan, Lola, and Deirdre.

What do you think? Would you give your child a name connected to sorrow? Why or why not?

Copyright 2021 Theresa Zoe Williams

Happy feast of the Epiphany!

My fifth baby was born on this date, and today he turns 9 — I’ve always loved that he was born on the feast of the Epiphany!

Our pastor read this at Mass on Sunday, which I’d never heard before:

Later legends have been busy with the wise men. In the early days eastern tradition said that there were twelve of them. But now the tradition that there were three is almost universal. The New Testament does not say that there were three, but the idea that there were three no doubt arose from the threefold gift which they brought.

Later legend made them kings. And still later legend gave them names, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Still later legend assigned to each a personal description, and distinguished the gift which each of them gave to Jesus. Melchior was an old man, grey haired, and with a long beard, and it was he who brought the gift of gold. Caspar was young and beardless, and ruddy in countenance, and it was he who brought the gift of frankincense. Balthasar was swarthy, with the beard newly grown upon him, and it was he who brought the gift of myrrh.” (source)

The passage goes on to say that gold was a gift for a king; frankincense was a gift for a priest, and myrrh was a gift for one who would die. So much significance!

I would love to see the traditional names of the Wise Men used more. I discovered sort of recently that St. John Bosco’s full name was Giovanni Melchiorre (John Melchior), and there’s actor Balthazar Getty, and Caspar the Friendly Ghost, but otherwise I don’t know anyone with these names. Do any of you know anyone in real life with any of their names? I’d love to hear all the details! Have a very Happy Little Christmas!


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