The power of names in literature and the bible

Hubs and I are reading Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea — we’ve only gotten through the first couple of chapters, but already there have been some interesting mentions and discussions of names. My husband specifically commented on these:

The doorkeeper answered, ‘Say your name.’  … Then again Ged stood still a while; for a man never speaks his own name aloud, until more than his life’s safety is at stake.” (37)

For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.” (50)

Thus, that which gives us the power to work magic sets the limits of that power. A mage can control only what is near him, what he can name exactly and wholly” (55)

Hubs commented on how interesting it was, this idea that knowing someone’s or something’s name gives you power over that person or thing — it was something he’d seen in other books (fiction) he’d read. I immediately remembered this from Island of the Blue Dolphins:

I am the Chief of Ghalas-at,’ he said. ‘My name is Chief Chowig.’ … I was surprised that he gave his real name to a stranger. Everyone in our tribe had two names, the real one which was secret and was seldom used, and one which was common, for if people use your secret name it becomes worn out and loses its magic. Thus I was known as Won-a-pa-lei, which means The Girl with the Long Black Hair, though my secret name is Karana. My father’s secret name was Chowig. Why he gave it to a stranger I do not know.” (5)

My father lay on the beach and the waves were already washing over him. Looking at his body I knew he should not have told Captain Orlov his secret name, and back in our village all the weeping women and the sad men agree that this had so weakened him that he had not lived through the fight with the Aleuts and the dishonest Russian.” (23)

It’s also a very biblical idea! I’m reading Bishop Barron’s Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith to my three older boys this Lent; we’re in chapter three, and just read this bit, about Moses and the burning bush:

When Moses asked for the name of this mysterious speaker, he received the following answer: ‘I am who am’ (Ex 3:14). Moses was asking a reasonable enough question. He was wondering which of the many gods — deities of the river, the mountain, the various nations — this was. He was seeking to define and specify the nature of this particular heavenly power. But the answer he received frustrated him, for the divine speaker was implying that he was not one god among many, not this deity rather than that, not a reality that could, even in principle, be captured or delimited by a name. In a certain sense, God’s response amounted to the undermining of the very type of question Moses posed. His name was simply ‘to be,’ and therefore he could never be mastered. The ancient Israelites honored this essential mysteriousness of God by designating him with the unpronounceable name of YHWH.” (61-62)

And a while ago, I read this reflection on the story of Jacob wrestling with God by Pope Benedict XVI, which included a note about the biblical view of names:

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

(That article has really interesting insight about Jacob’s surrender actually being a victory, and his new name being both a positive counterpart to the negative meaning of Jacob’s previous name and a nod to the fact that God was, in fact, the victor.)

I’ve read that this idea of knowing a person’s name equals having mastery over them may even be why the Church discourages us from naming our guardian angels, and was part of this discussion regarding naming aborted babies. Heavy stuff!

What other literary works have similar perspectives or storylines about names? Do you know of other Catholic writings that discuss this idea?

(The book links are Amazon affiliate links.)


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

Baby name consultation: Advent name for a surprise baby?

I’ve had the great privilege to do two previous consultations for today’s family — one which was supposed to post here but I got to post a birth announcement instead because the baby came sooner than expected!, and this one and subsequent birth announcement, and I’m honored to post this consultation for them today! They’re expecting their fifth baby on earth, a little green bean who joins big sibs:

Lea writes,

We are 15 weeks along with a (surprise) baby #5! We are due August 14, 2020. We have 4 other children on Earth and 4 in heaven. Here are our other children’s names. You helped us name 2 of them!

James Pershing
Paul Raymond
Luke Gordon
Felicity Victoria Kathleen

And in heaven: Agnes, Eli, Isaac, and Nicholas

I just love these names! The boys’ names are so handsome and straightforward (and Luke was specifically with Our Lady in mind!), and Felicity is such a beautiful name for the little sister of all those brothers!

We are stumped on boy names in particular but I’d like to hear your suggestions for girls too. I have a strong intuition that it is a boy, though! 

Names we have considered for a girl are mostly Advent themed as we discovered baby was coming during the first week of Advent.

Marian Elizabeth
Marian Violet
Marian Rose
Lucy Rose Marie

And boys we have considered are:
Maximilian Victor (since we’re due on St Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day)
Samuel Victor (like the name and the way it fits with other boys)

We don’t really like Kolbe (husband doesn’t anyway) and Victor would probably be the middle name because it’s the last grandfather to be used by us. Each of our other boys has a grandfather in their middle name.

We love Rose and Marie for girls but not really for first names because they feel a little too common.  

So, suggestions for names that are either Advent/saint themed would be appreciated! As I mentioned this baby was a total surprise to us, we’ve not faced this circumstance before so maybe a name reflecting that would be neat if that exists??

I totally get that they’re stumped on boy names, since I had a harder time coming up with new ideas for boys than for girls! I did my usual research first in the Baby Name Wizard, looking for style matches for the names they’ve already used and those they like/are considering, then found all my old posts on Advent and Christmas names (they’re all listed here), and between the two of them, I made my list of ideas for this baby. That’s when I went back and reread my previous conversations with Lea, and had to cross a few of my ideas off my list, as I’d previously suggested them! I’ll list them here again, though, just in case:

Girl
(1) Annabel
I suggested this for them when they were expecting Felicity, saying: “The Anna family of names were big for you in my research — Anna is a style match for James and Jude, Anita for Paul, and Hannah for Isaac. While I love Anna names (and St. Anne!), I didn’t think the ones I mentioned would fit your “unique” designation, but I thought Annabel/Annabelle might. It’s not technically an Anna name, arising in the Middle Ages in Scotland as a variant of Amabel, which is a variant of Amabilis, which is contained in the Marian title Mater Amabilis (Mother Most Amiable), but of course the fact that Anna is contained in it can definitely be a nod to St. Anne. In fact, you could think of it as Anna + belle, where belle means “beautiful” in French. How lovely! I love that it’s also a Marian name. I don’t feel like I have a good sense of your taste in girl names, so I don’t know if you’ll love it, but I really like it for you.” Now that they have Felicity, I actually think Annabel(le) goes really well as her sister! I also included Annabel in an article about Christmas names that I did for CatholicMom, saying that it “is fitting for the holy day on which we celebrate Mother Mary giving birth to her Baby.” (I know Lea asked about Advent names, but I looked through my Christmas names posts because the names can often be Advent-y as well.)

(2) Anna, Hannah
I mentioned these in the Annabel bit above, but an added reason that I love Hannah or Anna for Lea and her hubs this time, especially, is because of their baby being a surprise. Hannah prayed for Samuel for so long, and St. Anne and St. Joachim prayed for Mary for so long, that I think their stories are great for anyone who’s surprised by a baby-on-the-way! Anne is lovely, but I think Anna is a better fit for them.

(3) Faith, Hope, Nadine
When Lea was expecting Felicity, she said she’d love a name with a good meaning, and I had Faith, Hope, and Nadine (which means “hope”) listed as suggestions for her back then. This time, I had them on my list because of their Advent meaning!

Boy
(1) Joseph
I was digging Joseph for this baby, because of the Advent/Christmas connection, but then I discovered that I suggested it for them when they were expecting Luke and interested in Marian names. Maybe they’d like to consider it again?

(2) Gabriel
Similar to Joseph, I’d suggested Gabriel when they were expecting Luke because of its Marian meaning; I love it now for them because of its connection to Advent and Christmas.

(3) Martin
Martin was one I considered suggesting to them for Felicity, but then decided not to –which I noted in Felicity’s consultation, so I really already threw it out there! I had it on my list again for them now because it’s a style match for Paul, and I was really trying to find new boy names to suggest to them. It’s a great saintly name, but unfortunately I don’t think it has any Advent or Christmas connection.

(4) Henry
I suggested Henry for Luke almost solely because I have a friend who has a James and a Paul, as well as a Henry! Haha! This time, I had it on my list because it’s a match for Lucy and Samuel, though, like Martin, it doesn’t have any Advent/Christmas connection, as far as I know.

Alright, so those are the names I’d previously suggested that would have been on my list today otherwise. But don’t worry! I can always come up with more ideas! 😜 First though, I just want to offer some thoughts on the names they’re considering, in case they’re helpful:

  • Marian Elizabeth/Violet/Rose: I think Marian as a first name is unexpected and lovely, and certainly *ahem* Marian! 😂 I love each of the middle names Lea and her hubs are considering with it: with Elizabeth, it’s so “The Visitation,” which is awesome; Violet and Rose can both nod to the Advent candles, which is great for what they’re looking for.
  • Lucy Rose Marie: Gorgeous! I like that St. Lucy’s feast day is Dec. 13, which is both during Advent and close to when they found out this baby was on his/her way! Rose and Marie as middle names are just beautiful. If it’s helpful, I have a friend named Rosemarie. (Actually … I wonder if Rosemary or Rosemarie might interest them in the first name spot? I like them both for this family and as Felicity’s sister!)
  • Maximilian Victor: Awesome, I love St. Max and I love that Lea’s due on his feast day! Maximilian has more of a “Felicity” feel to me than their older boys, and helped me when trying to come up with boy ideas for them.
  • Samuel Victor: I agree, I like how it sounds with the older boys. I also love the story of Hannah and Samuel, and as I mentioned above with Hannah, I think Samuel could be a nice nod to the surprise! of this baby.

Speaking of the surprise factor, when I read that Lea might like a name that nods to that, my first thought was Isaac! I excitedly scribbled it down for them … and then remembered they already have an Isaac! But I quite like the Hannah/St. Anne/Anna idea for them in that vein. Another surprise baby was John the Baptist, though Lea had previously said John has been used a lot in their family.

Okay! On to my suggestions for this baby:

Girl
(1) Lydia
As soon as I saw Lydia in the post on Advent names I did for CatholicMom, I thought yes!! The biblical Lydia was a seller of purple cloth, which could be a nice nod to the purple candles of the Advent wreath. Additionally, it’s a style match for Samuel! I love it as a sister to Felicity.

(2) Stella
Stella might be too Christmassy and not Adventy enough? But I love it for this family! It means “star,” and so can refer to the Christmas star, but it can also refer to Our Lady, Star of the Sea (Stella Maris), and it’s a style match for Lucy.

(3) Holly, Ivy
Of course both Holly and Ivy have an unmistakable Christmas feel (and I know I’m referring Christmas a lot, instead of Advent, but it’s hard to separate out the two! And most people have holly and ivy up during Advent, so I think they work!), but they’re also both entries in my book of Marian names! I wrote: “Christmas holly (Ilex opaca et al.) has been known as St. Mary’s Holly and represents the perpetual virginity of Our Lady” and “Kenilworth ivy (Cymbalaria muralis) has also been known as Tears of Mary.” Ivy is also a style match for Eli.

(4) Natalie/a
Speaking of Christmas names that also work for Advent, Natalie is a style match for Nicholas and I thought they might really like it! Its variant Natalia is gorgeous too. St. Natalia’s feast is July 27, so if the baby comes that early, Natalia or Natalie might be perfect!

(5) Susanna (Zuzu)
Susanna might be my favorite idea for this baby — it means both “rose” and “lily” in Hebrew, which gives Lea and her hubs Rose without the “common” feeling (and is also why it’s in my Marian names book); it can be Advent-y through its nickname Zuzu (Zuzu’s petals in It’s a Wonderful Life!); AND St. Susanna’s feast day is August 11! Felicity and Susanna sound like amazing sisters!

(6) Immaculata
Finally, I have Immaculata here more as a middle name idea, inspired by St. Maximilian Kolbe, since he founded the Militia of the Immaculata and often referred to Our Lady as “the Immaculata.” I know a little Faith Immaculata and I’ve always thought her name was just stunning; for this family, I’m loving the idea of Rose Immaculata — Marian and Kolbe-ian in one name! I know Lea said Rose feels too common, but as a first name it isn’t really. It was no. 123 in 2018; it was a top 100 name — often in the top 20 — from 1900 to 1960 before dropping down as far as 392 in 1997. It is on the upswing — it broke into the top 300 in 2011 and since then has increased each year — but Lucy is no. 51, for reference. Of course, if they just can’t shake that “too common” feel, then that matters! But giving the name an unexpected middle can give the whole combo a real sparkle.

Boy
(1) Andrew
I loooove Andrew for this baby, it’s hands down my favorite idea!! I think it’s amazing as a brother to James, Paul, and Luke (and Felicity of course), but even better, did you know that Advent is set in reference to the feast of St. Andrew? His feast is Nov. 30, and the First Sunday of Advent is always the Sunday nearest his feast. How cool! Andrew Victor is very handsome.

(2) David
I also quite like David for them — as with Andrew, I love it with brothers James, Paul, and Luke, and its Advent connection is fantastic, being that we wait for the birth of King David’s descendant. David Victor sounds fine together.

(3) Nathan(iel)
Another name from Jesus’ genealogy is Nathan, and since Nathan is a style match for both Luke and Samuel, I thought it would be a good suggestion for this baby! Nathan’s place in the genealogy is pretty cool, as I wrote about in this post. The longer Nathaniel is a match for Nicholas, and Nate and even Nathan can certainly be nicknames for it. Nathan Victor and Nathaniel Victor both work nicely.

(4) Dominic
Dominic is a match for Maximilian, and I love that it means “of the Lord,” so they can definitely assign it an Advent meaning if they want to! St. Dominic’s feast day is August 8, which could be great for a boy born a few days early! Dominic Victor has a pretty heavy-duty meaning: “victory of the Lord”!

(5) Charles
Charles is based solely on style — it’s a match for James; Charlie is a match for Lucy; and its variant Carl is a match for Paul. Since they’re having a hard time with boy names, I felt like I couldn’t not include a name that seems to match their taste! Charles and Charlie are great names and have such great patrons: Sts. Charles Borromeo and Charles Garnier; St. John Paul II (birth name: Karol); and Bl. Karl of Austria (for whom JP2 was named!), among others. (If you read the article at that link, you’ll be left thinking there’s no better name for a Catholic boy than Charles!) I like Charles Victor.

(6) Sebastian
Originally, I had Oliver here, also for style reasons: it’s a match for both Felicity and Lucy, and a sweet brother for James, Paul, and Luke. But then I said Oliver Victor out loud and thought that didn’t work too well! So I’m changing my last idea to Sebastian, which is also a match for Felicity, as well as Maximilian. I actually love Sebastian Victor together, since St. Sebastian is the patron of athletes!

And those are all my ideas for this family! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little brother or sister of James, Paul, Luke, and Felicity?


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!

Birth announcement: Levi Nathaniel!

I posted a consultation for Cassandra and her husband back in October, and she’s let me know her baby has arrived — a little boy given the fantastic name … Levi Nathaniel!

Cassandra writes,

We welcomed our green bean — a sweet baby boy (boy #3 for us!) on November 2nd. We chose the name Levi Nathaniel. As I had read your name consultation back in October, you made a passing reference to “Levi” being an alternative to Matthew. It immediately struck a chord with me. I really didn’t think my husband would like the name, but I mentioned it to him anyway. To my surprise, he said he liked the name as well and we began to throw around middle names to pair with it. Our top contender for a middle name was Nathaniel. This was a nod to a close college friend of mine who is now a priest. He comes from a family of four boys and I’ve become close to his mother as well (she is actually the godmother of my daughter). So we went into birth with two boy name combinations — Levi Nathaniel and Jonas Matthew. The latter had been on our list since the last baby and I honestly assumed that would be the baby’s name if he was a boy. Well, Baby IS a boy and I had no idea which name to choose. For whatever reason Jonas did not fit him. I can’t explain it, but it wasn’t him. My husband felt the same way so we settled on Levi Nathaniel. It is totally not a name I thought we’d end up with going into this, but I love it. I think people were surprised (mostly in a good way) with our name choice. My best friend here said to me when Levi was a couple of weeks old, “He’s definitely a Levi and not a Jonas.” I completely agree. Another note, Big Sister now insists that “St. Levi” is her favorite.”

I just love this story! I always love to hear how parents settle on *the* name, and it’s always fun when the end result is a surprise even to the parents! I’m also tickled that my mention of Levi was helpful — I do try to include as many of my thoughts as possible in consultations, even if I’m not sure they’re quite right, *just in case*. And it’s pretty awesome that Cassandra had already said, “I feel like we tend towards more traditional names, but I feel like this baby needs something slightly different. Not too out there, but not overused either.” Levi Nathaniel is perfect!

Congratulations to Cassandra and her hubby and big sibs Thomas, Theresa, and David (and Nadia in heaven), and happy birthday Baby Levi!!

Levi Nathaniel with his big brothers and sister ❤


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!

Spellings signal gender in names that sound the same

Happy Friday! I’m up far too late on what started on Thursday night, but had to share this with you before I go to bed. I was reading this article on gender-neutral baby names, and was distracted by this statement: “spellings have long signaled gender in names that sound the same: Yves vs. Eve” — of course I had to make a list of such names! These are some I’ve seen/heard:

Adrian and Adrienne
Elliott and Eliette
Francis and Frances
Gene and Jean
Jesse and Jessie
Julian and Julienne
Marian and Marion
Micah and Meike
Michael and Michal
Noah and Noa
Noel and Noelle
Rhys and Reese/Reece
Ryan and Ryann(e)

I know they’re not all strictly traditional (Ryan and Ryann(e)); and I’ve seen women with the masculine spelling (Gene), and men with the feminine spelling (except it’s not always feminine, like Jean and Reese/Reece); and the pronunciations aren’t always that simple (knoll or no-EL for Noel?), but still — pretty fun! What can you add to this list?


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

Baby name consultation: Baby no. 9 needs a name in the established theme

I’m thrilled today to post a consultation for one of my favorite families, for whom I’ve done three previous consultations (!) (here, here, and here) and three birth announcements (!) (here, here, and here) — and they’re expecting another baby! Josh and Mari are having another girl — their sixth! — a baby sister for:

Ariana Camille
Audrey Caroline
Caleb Daniel
Amelia Clare (“Millie”)
Anne-Catherine Gianna (“Gianna” or “Gigi”)
Charles Michael (“Charlie”)
Anessa Corinne (“Nessa” or “Nessie”)
Christian Gabriel

As you can see, they have an A-C theme for girls, and they’ve done such a lovely job with picking beautiful names in the theme!

Josh writes:

We learned on Christmas Day that we are expecting baby #9, a girl, in late August, which will give us three kids with August birthdays. We’d like to enlist your help again with a name. As may recall we have an A-C theme going with our girls, and we want to stick to that.

Our top contender right now is Adrienne Cecilia. Here are some first names we are considering:

Adelaide (previously vetoed for Anessa, although I like it)
Abigail (nice name, although our best friends have an Abigail)
Adeline
Angeline

We’d like some other middle name ideas too, but I think it would be tough to knock out Cecilia unless we pick a first name that doesn’t go well with it.”

I love their top contender of Adrienne Cecilia — it’s a beautiful combo that has two great saintly connections and a pleasing rhythm. Wonderful! Adelaide, Abigail, Adeline, and Angeline are also great options; of those, I’d probably cross off Abigail because of their best friends’ daughter, and I would give Angeline an edge because of it being Mari’s middle name.

Since the desire for an A name is the primary concern for this family, I didn’t do my usual research to find names that match their style in the Baby Name Wizard; rather, I looked through the A section of a couple of my name books, including the book of Marian baby names that I wrote. Some of these might be too Spanish or Italian for their family, but I actually didn’t include the really out-there ones, only the ones that I could see Josh and Mari thinking were okay. First though, I went through our past emails to be sure I wasn’t suggesting names I’ve already suggested. They were:

Avila
Ava
Alice, Alicia, Adelaide,* Aleydis
Adeline,* Adele, Adelia
Aurora
Abigail*
Amata, Amanda, Amy/Aimee
Agnes* (as Anessa)
Antonia
Augusta (which was going to be one of my top suggestions this time, because of the baby being due in August!)
Charis, Carys
Cara, Carine/Carina, Caritas
Cora, Corinne*
Clementine
Carmel, Carmela/Carmella, Carmen
Casey
Chloe
Christina, Christine, Christiane

(the asterisks denote names that they’ve used or considered)

And two other names they said they’d considered in the past were Anneliese and Charity.

I love seeing all these names listed here like this — what a handy reference for them for this baby, and even going forward should they be blessed with another daughter in the future! Here are my new A-name ideas for them:

(1) Addolorata
Starting right away with a super-Italian name, Addolorata is the Italian variant of Dolores and, like Dolores, refers to Our Lady of Sorrows. One of the things I love about Addolorata for this family is that it can take the sweet and accessible nickname Addy, like Adelaide and Adeline from the list of names they’re currently considering.

(2) Alma
Alma is Marian because of Our Lady’s title Alma Redemptoris Mater, but its translation is tricky. This is what I wrote in my book:

[It] has been translated into English in several ways by different authors, depending on their intended poetic effect: ‘Mother of Christ,’ by Fr. Edward Caswall; ‘Kindly Mother of the Redeemer,’ by John Henry Cardinal Newman; ‘Sweet Mother of Our Saviour Blest,’ by John Wallace; ‘Maiden! Mother of Him Who redeemed us,’ by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, Third Marquess of Bute; and ‘gentle, loving bounteous mother,’ by Thomas Sheehan. These translations are influenced by the various translations of the term alma itself: it is said to be a Hebrew word meaning ‘young woman’ (married as well as unmarried); it can also come from the Latin almus, meaning ‘nourishing,’ and the Spanish alma, which means ‘soul.’

It’s a lovely, old-feeling name, and the Marian connection is pretty great!

(3) Araceli
Araceli is the Spanish form of the Marian title Ara Caeli (or Coeli): “Altar of Heaven” — what a beautiful meaning, and I love how Araceli sounds, so feminine and lovely! I posted a birth announcement for a family who gave the name Araceli to their daughter a while ago, which gives a nice real-life example of the name.

(4) Assumpta
This name, of course, refers to the Assumption, and behindthename.com says it’s “used especially in Ireland.” How interesting! Another interesting tidbit is that the Italian Assunta has often been “translated” as Susan when Italian immigrants came to this country, therefore I don’t think there’s any reason they can’t use something like Susie as a nickname for Assumpta. I like the idea of Susie with Millie, Gianna/Gigi, and Nessa/Nessie as a non-A nickname.

(5) Aurea or Aurelia
I’d previously suggested Aurora, but not Aurea or Aurelia. Aurea is Latin for “golden,” which is a gorgeous meaning, and can be Marian in a few different ways: the golden crown Our Lady’s often depicted wearing; the golden roses she had on her feet at Lourdes; her title of Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland; and the fact that her heart appeared golden during some of her apparitions at Beauraing. Aurelia means the same, and is perhaps a bit more familiar. Auri and Ria are possible nicknames for both Aurea and Aurelia, as is Goldie! (Swistle posted a while ago about a family with a daughter named Aurelia that they call Goldie!)

(6) Ave
Previously, I’d suggested Ava, but Ave is a little different: it’s said like AH-vay, like Ave Maria, and is an entry in my book because of how similar it is to Ava, and because of this particular verse in the hymn Ave Maris Stella (“Hail, Star of the Sea”):

O! By Gabriel’s Ave,
Uttered long ao,
Eva’s name reversing,
Established peace below.

I thought it was so cool that the author of the lyrics poetically connected Ave to a reversal of Eva (Eve)!

(7) Azucena
I suspect this one might be a little too out-there for Josh and Mari, but I love it, so I wanted to include it! It’s a Spanish name that refers to the Madonna lily, and shares the same root as Susanna, which itself means both “lily” and “rose” in Hebrew. Susie could work as a nickname for Azucena as well, as can Zuzu (like Zuzu’s petals in It’s a Wonderful Life!).

(8) Archangela
If they’re going to go with an Angel name, my very favorite is Mari’s own middle name, Angeline — what a nice connection for a mother and daughter to have! But if they wanted to consider a different one, Archangela is a pretty great option! Not only would a little Archangela be able to claim the archangels as her patrons, but there’s also a Bl. Archangela Girlani.

(9) Alivia
I don’t know if they’re open to alternate spellings, but I’ve seen Alivia as an Olivia variant, and think something like that could work quite nicely for this family, especially as they start to run out of A names that they like.

So those are my A-name ideas, and here are new C-name ideas:

(1) Caeli
I can’t believe I haven’t suggested Caeli already! It’s Latin for “of heaven,” and is used in the Marian titles Regina Caeli (“Queen of Heaven”) and (as mentioned above) Ara Caeli (“Altar of Heaven”). It’s said like CHAY-lee, and is also sometimes spelled Coeli (but pronounced the same). I’ve known of a couple little Catholic girls named Caeli in honor of Our Lady.

(2) Candace
I included Candace in my book for this reason:

This biblical name, mentioned in Acts 8:27, was the title of the queens of Ethopia. It’s said to mean ‘queen mother’ in Cushitic, which perfectly describes Our Lady.”

I could see it being a really great middle name for this baby!

(3) Celeste
I often think of Cecilia and Celeste as being two sides of the same coin — though they don’t mean the same, the fact that they both start with Cel- make them so similar in my mind. I wouldn’t suggest Celeste instead of Cecilia to this family *except* if the first name they choose doesn’t flow so well with Cecilia, and might sound better with Celeste. Celeste means “heavenly,” so etymologically it’s related to Caeli.

(4) Cruz
Cruz might seem an unusual option for a girl, but when I was researching and writing my book, I discovered that Cruz is actually used for both boys and girls in the Spanish-speaking world. It literally means “cross,” and as such can point to the Cross of Crucifixion and of course to Jesus, but in a Marian sense it refers to Our Lady at the foot of the Cross. A name full of meaning! And again, it might have just the right rhythm as a middle name for the chosen first name for this baby.

(5) Colette
My last C suggestion is Colette — one of my recent favorites! St. Colette of Corbie is a patron of expectant mothers (among other things), and her name is just so pretty and feminine! (Her feast day is this Friday, March 6!)

And those are all my new ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest in the A-C theme for the little sister of Ariana, Audrey, Caleb, Amelia (Millie), Anne-Catherine Gianna (Gianna or Gigi), Charles (Charlie), Anessa (Nessa or Nessie), and Christian?


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

Baby name predictions: Patton Baby No. 8!

Happy Lundi Gras (Mardi Gras’ little-known sister)! 😂 Of course by the time you read this it probably *will* be Mardi Gras, since it’s taken me allll dayyyy to get this up due to my little stinker Luke who refused to nap.

I’m super excited to share my predictions for our buddy Grace Patton’s new baby, due in June!! I’m calling them predictions rather than suggestions since I’ve previously done two consultations for Grace (here and here), and been so surprised by the names she and her hubby ended up giving the babies (which is something I LOVE – being surprised by names never ceases to thrill me!) … so I feel like I don’t really have anything to offer the Pattons! They are Baby Naming Royalty, as far as I’m concerned, and I can’t wait to hear what they name this little green bean! (=gender unknown 🌱) (I posted birth announcements for babies five, six, and seven as well.)

But of course I can’t stop my namey head from trying to get in their headspace and predict what names, or kinds of names?, they might choose! So first off, as a refresher, Baby’s big brothers and sisters are:

Julia Grace
Sebastian Xavier (Bash)
Theodore Augustine (Theo)
Phoebe Anika
Bosco Ignatius
Abraham James (Abe)
Clement Joseph
+Felipé (with Jesus)

Amazing names, each one! ❤ ❤ ❤ I did chat with Grace a little bit recently about names for this baby-on-the-way, and she said,

We really are kind of coming up empty-handed, honestly! We feel like we are completely out of boy names (of course we aren’t — just will take some digging/thinking — and Simon prefers to chat about names on the way to the hospital, ha!) and understand why my mom used one of my brother’s middle names as a first name (Daniel Peter and then Peter Joseph when she had her fourth boy). So, I’d love suggestions or predictions! Phoebe (at the mature age of 5) is really concerned that any potential girl names, “sound nice with Phoebe and Julia” and so far all she has approved is, “Catherine” — ha! I do love that name but I wouldn’t consider it a frontrunner at the moment.

Because Julia’s middle name is Grace and Phoebe’s middle name is Anika (which means grace) — Simon loves the idea of carrying the tradition on with another middle girl name that also means grace — which I feel less strongly about but am not at all opposed to the sentiment!

If Clement wasn’t Clement I think he would’ve been a Dominic but again, not a frontrunner this time around — funny how that works! Sebastian would’ve been a Vivienne had he been a girl and I think Abe was going to be Iris if he was a girl and I still love those names but I don’t know — we still have months to discuss, I suppose!

Such good info here! I love that Phoebe is concerned that a sister’s name “sound nice with Phoebe and Julia” — I definitely took that to heart when coming up with my list of predictions! (For the record, one of the things I love about her idea of Catherine is that it ends in a different sound than Julia and Phoebe — not so easy to do with girl names, since ends-in-a and ends-in-the-ee-sound are pretty common! You’ll see I included some other differently-ending-names below.)

So we know that Vivienne and Iris were previous frontrunners for a girl, as well as Dominic for a boy. I remember from my previous Patton posts that Caroline and Felicity were also previously discussed, as well as Damian and Simon Jr. (yes, even for a non-firstborn); also no more ends-in-o names for boys either (because of Theo and Bosco).

Since I did two previous consultations, there are a lottttt of names that I’ve already suggested, like:

  • Various ideas for backing into the nickname Lola (Violet, Caroline, Lourdes, Louisa, Lucia)
  • Elisabeth
  • Felicity
  • Stella
  • Emmeline
  • Magdalene
  • Verity
  • Audrey
  • A bunch of Mary/Maria/Marie+ ideas (any of those paired with Olivia or Olive, Ophelia, Simone, Tess, Elliott, Emmett, Bennett)
  • Maximilian nicked Miles
  • Francis nicked Finn
  • Gregory nicked Rory or Gus [Gregory Simon=Gus so perfectly!]
  • Oliver
  • Isaac
  • Gabriel
  • Alexander
  • Nathaniel

(As you can see, there were a couple instances of overlap between names I’d suggested and names they considered! SO exciting!)

There were several that I’d considered that didn’t end up making my final cut, but I think a lot of these still potentially have merit (Grace’s previous idea of Iris is on here! Woo!):

  • Penelope
  • Imogen(e)
  • Genevieve
  • Iris or Ivy
  • Lydia (in BOTH previous consultations)
  • Corinne
  • Liv
  • Alice
  • Zara
  • Natalia
  • Tobias (too much long O probably)
  • Tristan
  • Benedict/Bennett and Benjamin
  • Matthias
  • Samuel
  • Henry
  • Elliott
  • Emmett
  • Jude

Whew! This post is a study in New Evangelization Catholic Baby Naming! 💃 💃 💃 What names are left??

I was actually chuckling as I was pulling this post together, because when I do repeat consultations (or “predictions posts,” as I’m calling this one), I always start from scratch, without looking back at my previous ideas. Then I’ll go back and cross off any repeats. When I did so here, it was hilarious to discover that there were SO MANY names I had to cross off of my ideas below! So many that I thought were spot on, but I’d already suggested them previously! (As usual, I looked up the names they’ve already used in the Baby Name Wizard, and I looked through my book of Marian baby names; I also used the Name Matchmaker tool on babynamewizard.com, and spent a bit of time looking for names that mean “grace.” I also looked through a bunch of recent Appellation Mountain posts that list the names that are big on the site that week — I’ve always thought Grace has her finger on “the pulse,” and up-and-coming names would be right in her wheelhouse I think.) After whittling my list down to just new ideas, these are the names that I think Grace and Simon might consider (with, okay, an actual suggestion or two thrown in here and there, I just can’t help myself):

Girl
(1) Charis
I love this idea, it might be my favorite. Charis, which is said like Karis and Carys and is contained within the word Eucharist, means “grace”! In fact, that’s what it means within the word Eucharist! (From Merriam-Webster: “from eucharistos grateful, from eu- + charizesthai to show favor, from charis favor, grace, gratitude; akin to Greek chairein to rejoice.”) I know of a family who named their daughter Charis because of the Eucharist connection, and I really love it for a sister for Julia and Phoebe (it’s got that different ending!). Both Julia and Phoebe have middle names that mean “grace,” but I really like Charis as a first name for this baby. It can certainly work as a middle too, though I found it sort of difficult to work with rhythm-wise. If they prefer it in the middle, I think something with the rhythm of Felicity Charis would sound lovely.

(2) Margo(t)
Margaret didn’t seem quite right to me, but I love its variant Margo(t)! It can take any of the Sts. Margaret as patron, and of course means the same as Margaret — “pearl,” which happens to be June’s birthstone! Kind of a cool connection for a baby due in June!

(3) Maud(e)
When I saw Maud(e) in one of the recent Appellation Mountain posts, I was immediately struck by it. I’ve never, not once, considered or thought of the name Maud(e) for anyone, but for some reason, it really seemed like one Grace might like! It’s a variant of Matilda (in fact, it’s Matilda’s “usual medieval form,” like Austin for Augustine and Bennett for Benedict), which provides a patron saint.

(4) Edith, Esther
Both Edith and Esther have a similar feel to me — names that were too old lady-ish for a baby not that long ago, but that I’m starting to see on little girls more and more. St. Edith Stein is a huge inspiration behind the little Catholic girls I see with the name (she’s amazing), and I love that Esther is biblical like Julia and Phoebe. Edie and Essie are both adorable nicknames too.

(5) Eliza
I’m not sure what to say about Eliza except that it feels like it might be right! I like it on its own for the Pattons (so far they’ve done shorter girl names [letter-wise] while tending toward longer boy names), but I also like it as a nickname for Elizabeth, if they preferred that.

(6) Bernadette, Colette
Grace and her girls recently took an amazing trip to France, so French names were on my mind when I was working on this. I decided that I really like Bernadette for them! It’s definitely an up-and-coming name vintage-y name, as we discussed recently on the blog, and it was also in my recent saintly nicknames post (which I submitted as my February CatholicMom article after incorporating your ideas from the comments). The spotlight I did on it a few years ago has a few nickname options too. I also love (LOVE) Colette … but maybe it’s not quite right coming right after Clement? If that’s not a bother though, it’s such a pretty name, and St. Colette is a great patron.

Before moving onto boy names, I want to discuss more fully Simon’s hope that they’ll give a name that means “grace” to a girl. I searched on behindthename.com and also a general google search for names meaning “grace,” and the results are almost all variants of Grace or contain Grace (like Graciela, Altagracia, and Engracia), or are variants of Anne (since Anne means “grace”). Julia’s middle name nods to the former (being Grace), and Phoebe’s to the latter (being Anika), which is another reason I was psyched to find Charis — it’s in a third category altogether! Another that’s neither Grace nor Anne is Amara, which is Igbo (the language of the Igbo people of Nigeria) for “grace,” and is quite pretty. Otherwise, I think an Anne name is the best bet, since there are a few that are different enough from Anika I think. Like:

Anja or Anya
Anna or Anne
Annabel(le)
Annette
Anouk
Hannah
Nan, Nancy, Nanette
(many others listed here)

If Grace and Simon like the idea of an Anne name, they might like to choose one based on how their chosen first name sounds. Margo Annabelle sounds gorgeous to me, for example, as does Charis Anne and Charis Annette, Maude Annette, Bernadette Anne, Edith Annabelle, Eliza Nanette … so many beautiful ways to put these names together!

Boy
(1) Oscar
Moving onto boy names, I’m seeing Oscar here and there a bit more these days — I’m thinking of it as a recent addition to the Owen, Oliver group (along with Otto). St. Oscar Romero is a great patron, and the inspiration behind the choice of name for this sweet boy.

(2) Vincent, Victor
Vincent and Victor are old school Catholicky Catholic names that I think always wear well. The full Vincent is so handsome, and Vince and Vinny are easy nicknames. Victor is a particular favorite of mine — I tried to convince my hubby of it many times, and I wrote a whole CatholicMom article about it. “Nicknames for Victor” also continues to be one of the most frequent search terms that lead people to my blog, because of this post I did. So fascinating!

(3) Raphael, Ralph
I’d previously suggested Gabriel for them, but since having Abe, Gabe is no longer an option. Raphael’s rarer anyway, and has the cool nickname Rafe. Speaking of Rafe, what do we think about Ralph? I don’t hugely love the “ralf” pronunciation, but I’ve long loved that Rafe is a traditional pronunciation of it (and the one actor Ralph Fiennes uses). Cool? Or too high maintenance? (I remembered that I thought Design Mom has a Ralph, so I looked it up to be sure and hoooooly cow, check out Ralph’s siblings: Maude, Olive, Oscar, Betty, and Flora June. !!! I’ve included Maude, Olive, and Oscar somewhere in this post [either as today’s predictions or previous consultation ideas]; Betty can totally be a nickname for Bernadette; and I’m not joking that I considered the Flora/Fleur/Florence idea before deciding not to include it here. Wow. Spot.On.) I’ve recently come to love St. Ralph Sherwin, which is another plus in Ralph’s favor.

(4) Bear
This is another backing-into-a-name-from-a-nickname idea. Animal names — like Fox and Bear — are big right now, and I considered Bear myself as a nickname for Benedict Gerard — I thought that was so cute! And I already liked Benedict as an idea for another Patton boy. Arthur is another that I’ve seen people using Bear as a nickname for, since Arthur is said to have “bear” as part of its meaning — Arthur has a very Design Mom feel to me, so maybe?

(5) Joaquín
Grace has a little Spanish flair to her style, as seen in sweet Felipé’s name. Joaquín takes its cue from that, being the Spanish form of (my beloved) Joachim, and also the fact that it’s not as unfamiliar as Joachim — Joaquin Phoenix and Kelly Ripa’s son Joaquin are two examples of Joaquins that people might know (especially the former). (If they want to consider Joachim though, you know I’m all over that!!)

Those are all my predictions for boy names, but I couldn’t resist offering this list of long, saintly names that Grace and Simon might consider for middle names (they’ve already used Xavier, Augustine, and Ignatius): Emmanuel, Thaddeus, Ambrose (ooh this might make a great first name for them?), Maximilian, Chrysostom, Athanasius, Matthias, and the once-considered Dominic and Damian.

And those are all the names that I think Patton Baby No. 8 might end up being given! What do you all think? Do you have any predictions or suggestions for the little brother or sister of Julia, Sebastian, Theodore, Phoebe, Bosco, Abraham, and Clement?


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!

Feminine-feeling nicknames for boys

Last week’s birth announcement for little Magnus Craig, in which his mama said her daughter calls him Maggie sometimes, which “always makes us cringe and correct her because it’s a girl name, sigh,” reminded me of other examples of natural nicknames for boy names that sound like girl names — especially those that have old usage. Like:

Christy, as in Christy Mahon (given name: Christopher), a character in J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World

Connie, as in baseballer Connie Mack (given name: Cornelius McGillicuddy)

Gabby, the nickname an older man I know insists on calling a Gabriel he knows (who I know goes only by Gabe)

Gussie, the nickname my dad always called his friend Augustus growing up

Jackie, as in segregation-smashing baseballer Jackie Robinson (given name: Jack Roosevelt Robinson) and a boy I know named Jack whose dad has called him Jackie affectionately since he was little

Jody, Josey, and Joss all have usage as nicknames for Joseph (here’s a list of male Jodys, though not all have the given name Joseph; I was sure the title [fictional] character in the Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Josey Wales was baptized Joseph, but I can’t find any evidence to support that; producer/director/etc. Joss Whedon‘s given name is Joseph) (funny story about Josey — years ago, before my hubby had a chance to absorb name info via my constant chattering at him about it, and him not having given names any real thought otherwise, I mentioned that someone’s baby girl was named Josie and he said, “But that’s a boy’s name!” He had only ever heard it in the Josey Wales movie, and for him, Josey was all masculinity and ruggedness because of Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of the character. Hilarious!)

Mandy, as in actor Mandy Patinkin (given name: Mandel)

Sally, as in Sally Tessio (given name: Salvatore), a character in The Godfather (a funny tidbit is that there’s a character in PBS’ Curious George named Sally Tessio! She’s a restaurant critic!)

Steph, as in NBA player Steph Curry (given name: Wardell Stephen Curry; in this case, the nickname Steph reveals his pronunciation of Stephen)

Sue, the nickname of the grandfather of one of our readers (Grandpa’s given name was Assundo, after the Assumption!) (I’ve written before about Susan being used as an “anglicization” of the feminine Italian name Assunta, including in my book) (unrelated, but fascinating: the song “A Boy Named Sue” may have been based on Sue K. Hicks, a prosecutor in the Scopes Trial, who was named after his mother, Susanna)

I love how affectionate some of these feel — adding an “ee” sound on the end of a name automatically makes it feel more intimate, I think — very like something parents or siblings would do to their baby/baby sibling’s name (our Luke gets called Lukey by all of us a good part of the time!). I also think this was more common with older generations (almost all of the examples above are of old or deceased men of another era) — I quite liked the idea of Joseph nicknamed Jody when I was expecting one of our older boys, and one of the reasons was because it had an old timey feel to me.

Do you agree? Can you think of other examples like this?


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!