Spotlight on: Kelly

One of you readers emailed me asking about the name Kelly! I haven’t heard anyone consider the name Kelly in a long time, it’s definitely in hibernation until its spring comes again (which it will, as it does for most names).

You know I love doing name research! So off to the dusty shelves I went and did indeed find a saint whose name is sometimes anglicized to Kelly: St. Cellach of Armagh. How cool! Behind the Name concurs that Kelly is a form of, as it spells it, Ceallach, whose meaning is uncertain but could include “bright-headed,” or from Old Irish ceallach “war, strife” or ceall “church.” I love the “church” meaning!

And in fact, that ties into another very cool thing about the name Cellach: there was a Cellach, the Abbott of the monastery at Iona (not the St. Cellach mentioned above), who fled raiding Vikings with his brethren and went to the Abbey of Kells (though “kells” here not having any connection to Cellach), which had been founded by St. Columba a couple hundred years earlier. Kells strikes me as a really easy way to update the name Kelly while retaining its Irishness and adding a shot of faith, no? Kells gave its name to the Book of Kells, the illuminated manuscript by those monks from Iona of the four gospels that has been described as one of Europe’s greatest treasures, and my favorite tidbit about it is that it “presents the earliest Madonna and Child image in any western manuscript” (source).

So I could see a Kelly taking St. Cellach of Armagh as patron, and loving the gospel/Marian/St. Columba connection of the similar-sounding and similarly spelled Kells. This could work for both a boy and girl, and in fact Kelly started as a male name, from the Irish surname. These days Kelly is nearly 100% girl (no. 514 for girls in 2016 as opposed to not at all in the top 1000 for boys), but thinking about St. Cellach and the Abbott Cellach definitely shows Kelly’s initial masculinity. I can also see parents loving Kells as a given name, and that might work better for boys these days.

For girls, names like Callie, Kayley/Keeley/Kiley, Ellie, and Zelie seem to have filled the Kelly spot for current parents, do you agree? But Kelly’s still familiar and fits in easily with those names I think.

What do you all think of Kelly? Do you know any little Kellys? Would you name your daughter Kelly, or have you? What about for a boy? Can you see Kelly working, or do you think Kells is a better option? Or neither?



Couple fun things

I don’t know about you all, but I can’t stop crying about all the Planned Parenthood stuff — all those sweet babies — and on the one hand, I feel like it’s sort of disrespectful to think of fun, light things, like the only things we should be doing are everything we can to make it stop, but on the other, I personally don’t function well at all when I’m approaching the depths of despair, and I have a lot of people to take care of, so focusing on fun, light things is helpful. And I have a couple of them!

(1) I was sure I’d have some good name chats on my vacation, and I was right. My sisters-in-law know all sorts of people having babies, and some of the most interesting names I heard were:

Benya (that spelling) (boy), said ben-EYE-ah. I’d seen Benia recently online for a couple (!) girls, which I’d thought was said BEN-yah, but then read that it was said ben-EYE-ah, so when my SIL told me about Benya I assumed it was for a girl, but no. I looked it up, and found this:

“Given Name BENAIAH

GENDER: Masculine
USAGE: Biblical
OTHER SCRIPTS: בְּנָיָהוּ (Ancient Hebrew)
PRONOUNCED: bi-NIE-ə (English), bi-NAY-ə (English)   [key]
Meaning & History
From the Hebrew name בְּנָיָהוּ (Benayahu) meaning “YAHWEH has built”. This was the name of numerous Old Testament characters.
OTHER LANGUAGES: Benayahu (Biblical Hebrew)
Do any of you know any more about this name, or know anyone (boy or girl) so named?

Traigh (boy), said TRAY. I feel like I’m pretty up on Irish names, but I’d never heard this one! There wasn’t much to find on it, but I did find this:

“The name Traigh is a baby boy name.

Irish Meaning:
The name Traigh is an Irish baby name. In Irish the meaning of the name Traigh is: Strand.

I don’t even know what’s meant by “strand”? Like strand of hair? Like to strand on the side of the road? I do love the sound and spelling. Do you know any Traighs?

Olive (all the rage right now!), Walter (on a tiny baby! sooo cute!), Lennon (so hipster!), Joy (as a middle name, I love it!)

(2) I posted about my consultation for Marci and her husband back in May — her baby has arrived! Go take a look at that beautifully named baby girl! It’s an awesome post — lots of birth story info and lots of name info, since they didn’t decide on her name until the next day, and Marci said she was surprised by what they ended up with. (It’s lovely!)

(3) The feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim was the Sunday I was away, July 26. My mom took this picture for me in one of the churches she visited:


and I saw this and this online on the feast day also (from here and here, respectively). Beautiful! And I’ve heard from a few different readers that St. Anne has been powerfully interceding in their lives. What a blessing to have her as a patron saint!!

My boys have let me know that my time on the computer is up and they are “staaarving” so I’m off to make lunch — we’ll chat more tomorrow! 🙂 ❤

Catholic naming outside America

I read Jenny’s explanation of her kids’ names ages ago over at her blog Mama Needs Coffee, and this bit has stayed with me ever since:

“… while traveling in Italy (the first time) we chatted up a capuchin Franciscan from Poland in a restaurant in Assisi of all places, and as he bounced 7-month-old Joey on his knee, we proudly told him that his middle name was Kolbe “for Father Max.” The happy friar shot us a look of horror and asked in disbelief You took his family name?! So I guess the American trend of assuming surnames is not kosher the world over.”

I think I’m pretty knowledgeable about how to honor beloved saints within the landscape of the American baby naming scene, but I’d never really considered the idea that names that are okay here might be problematic elsewhere. I mean, certainly there’s a limit to how much parents should worry about such things, unless they’re planning to live abroad with their children, and being Catholic helps I think, because our saints come from every country. Biblical names also seem like a safe bet, since we all use the same Bible. But still I wonder …

Do any of you have any insights into what Catholic names to avoid if you’re worried about international opinions/sensibilities? Off the top of my head, certain categories of names that might cause issue are: surnames (as illustrated above), place names, and names traditionally given to one gender being used by the other. Do any of you have stories like Jenny’s?

“Boy names” and “girl names,” etc.

Alrighty, today I want to hear your thoughts on the gender of names broadly, and specifically your feelings on “boy names used for girls” and the resulting usability for boys.

I was motivated to ask by the dad’s opinion in yesterday’s consultation that Micah “is a girl’s name,” and so therefore he doesn’t want to consider it for a son, but it’s been on my mind lately anyway because of the (as most people would agree, I think) ultra-feminine name recently chosen as a man’s new identity — specifically because he wants to be known as a woman. And how that all goes along with the idea I’ve seen bandied about by some that “there’s no such thing as a boy’s name or a girl’s name” and “why is it acceptable to use a boy name for a girl but not vice versa?”

More personally, how do you feel about giving your son a name that might read “girl” to others?

I’m particularly interested in your responses as those who know, understand, and respect the Church’s teachings on: the dignity of men and women; the beauty and gift of the bodies we’ve been given; and the definition and importance of masculinity and femininity. St. Anne, please help keep our conversation holy and fruitful. ❤

Heard at baseball last night

Between the boys playing baseball with my son last night (9 and 10 year olds) and the kids playing in the area around the field, names I heard that resonated:

Luca (boy) (I know a local girl named this as well)

Xander (Alexander)

Tad (Thaddeus)

Jack called Jacky by his dad (cuuuute! Out of context, Jackie is only a girl’s name to me, but in that context, it’s so sweet and affectionate for a boy!)

And I’m pretty sure I heard — but I’m having a hard time believing it — Uriah!

Names for miscarried babies

Mandi over at A Blog About Miscarriage posted today about the names she and her husband gave the four babies they lost to miscarriage. They chose to use gender neutral names, as they don’t know if their little ones are boys or girls. She told me, “When we were trying to name the babies we lost, I tried googling “gender neutral Catholic names” and “gender neutral Saint names” and didn’t come up with much,” so she also listed a bunch of the gender neutral names she thought of, in case it’s helpful for other parents like her “who don’t like naming a baby a gender specific name without knowing the gender for sure,” and she wondered if I had any further ideas?

It was hard to come up with more! Mandi listed so many great ones already … the only ones I could come up with off the top of my head without spending three days poring through name books/sites were:

Mary/Marie/Maria — of course these are girls’ names, but men such as St. Clement Maria Hofbauer and St. Anthony Mary Claret used them as well.

Angel — I once knew a girl named Angel, and the main male character in Tess of the d’Urbervilles is Angel Clare (what a beautiful combo itself!)

Clair — speaking of Clare, Clair (that spelling) is actually the male form of Clare. It also makes me think of Sinclair, which is a male name that literally means “St. Clair” — to me, then, Clair and Sinclair could be used for either boys or girls.

Sidney/Sydney — Sinclair makes me think of Sidney, which could refer either to St. Denis or the “Holy Winding Sheet of Christ” (Shroud of Turin).

Rosario — means “Rosary” and is feminine in Spanish and masculine in Italian

Guadalupe — from Our Lady of Guadalupe, and is used for both boys and girls

Sam — this could work nicely for a boy or a girl

Nicola — it’s masculine in Italian but feminine in German, Czech, and English

Luca — it’s masculine in Italian, Romanian, and German, and feminine in Hungarian and Croatian (and English sometimes too — I know a girl named Luca)

Clairvaux, Vianney, Majella, Liguori — I’ve seen these last names of male saints used for girls

Another option, which is what we did, was to give the baby a first and middle name, and have one name be masculine, and one be feminine.

Do you have any other saintly names that would be suitable for either a boy or a girl? Have you named a miscarried baby, and if so, did you use a gender neutral name?

Feminized masculine names?

In the past couple of weeks I’ve heard about two different husbands who don’t like “girl names that came from boy names.”* Have you heard this? Do you share this opinion?

I guess I could see it if a family made a point of letting everyone know they hoped for a boy, and then when a girl was born and she was a given a feminized masculine name — that might seem a little weird. Like they were so hoping for a boy that they didn’t even have a girl name picked out, like she was a disappointment.

Or, in a family like mine, where there are a whole bunch of boys and no girls, if Little Miss were to show up and be given a feminized masculine name — that might seem a little weird too. Like really? After all those boys named, you can’t come up with a girl name?

But otherwise, I’m just thinking of all the gooorgeous, really beautiful, really feminine names that are missed out on! Like:



Christiana (and all the Christ-/Kris- names)


Michaela and Michelle


Maybe Olivia (it may or may not be derived from Oliver)







Gabrielle and Gabriella

Even the Juli- names come ultimately from Julius (and what’s more stereotypically feminine than Juliet??)

And that’s just the briefest smattering of examples. I’m certainly not begrudging anyone their taste — I mean, your taste is your taste, you can’t make yourself like something you don’t like. But the names that are missed out on! And how overwhelmingly feminine these name are! Some of them downright frilly! Wives of such husbands, you are good women. 😉

*This is different than actual boy names used for girls.

Reading round-up

I wrote recently about “names that seem to be either/or names — meaning, if you use one for one child, it seems the other is really not usable for another” — like Theodore and Thaddeus, Evangeline and Genevieve. Bree at The Beauty of Names did a much better job with this I think: This or That? (Girls). I commented over there with my favorites of her pairings — I’d love to read yours!

The first set of girl quintuplets born in America happened this week. While the parents’ taste in names is different from mine, I did appreciate that their older daughter and two of the quints share one style (androgynous surnames) and the other three share another (traditionally feminine) — a nice way to tie all the sisters together: Texas Hospital Welcomes First All-Girl Quintuplets Ever Born In U.S.

A reader/friend sent me this, which was so fun: 20 Great Roaring 20s Baby Names Making a Comeback. I’d tell you my favorites from the list if I could, but I can’t, because they’re all amazing. (So fun too to see two of my suggestions for Grace Patton on there — Lola and Violet — as well as Theodore, which she’s already used!)

Finally, as I noted on FB, this just can’t bode well to me for this couple: Man starts online petition in battle over baby name with wife. I haven’t checked out the petition and I’m sure someone’s already thought of this but my suggestion would be Michael Spyridon (first name middle name) or a Greek form of Michael for a first name (according to Behind the Name: Michail, Michalis, Mihail, Mihalis). (Very like the Russian Mikhail, no? Why all the squabbling??) (Also — Kseniya! I mentioned it in the spelling Xenia in my Xavier post!)

Happy Friday all!

Parish directory

I was looking through an old parish directory recently and enjoyed these sib sets (alt characters used for privacy):

R0salie, T3ssy, Soph!a, and El!za

Br!an, S3an, Cas3y (g),* Col!n, and Mara

M0lly, Grady, and Cla!re

Gr!ffin, T3ss, and N3ll

B3n, Sara, and N0ra

Just!n, Isab3lle, and Al3ssandra

Ke3gan (b),* Qu!nn (b),* and Ol!via (I’m always interested to see how families handle it when they use androgynous-ish names* — generally it seems only one gender gets the unisex names while the other gets an unquestionably masculine or feminine name)

Have you heard of any well named sib sets you’d like to share?


*Just to clarify — I’m not making a judgment about the names Ke3gan, Qu!nn, and Cas3y by calling them “androgynous-ish” — just pointing out that they’re currently used for both boys and girls. I say “ish” because I personally still consider Ke3gan a boy’s name, though I know a girl with it, so I wouldn’t call it androgynous, but others might. The other two names I’ve heard equally for boys and girls, and I might even say they skew feminine in my experience.