Spotlight on: Hildegard

My CatholicMom.com piece for August posted on Wednesday and I don’t want you to miss it — I know we’re all in need of some peace as the new school year looms (or has already started for some of you)! Check it out: A Litany of School Saints: Protection and Help for the Academic Year.

This name spotlight is a little different from my others, in that it’s more about how to honor this saint without using her name! A reader wrote:

Would you ever consider doing a post on names to honor St. Hildegard of Bingen? She is such an amazing saint, and we would love to honor her in naming our baby, but maybe there are other parents out there, like us, who just can’t quite bring themselves to name a little girl Hildegard. (For those who can, good for them! But I’m not quite there!)

I totally agree, she is such an amazing saint!! And while I have a soft spot for Hildy/Hildi/Hildie (either as a nickname for Hildegard or as a given name in her honor), I do of course totally get what this mama means in regards to the full Hildegard. It’s a little heavy!

Before getting into other names that might honor her, though, I want to talk about Hildegard itself for a minute. According to Behind the Name and the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources, Hildegard is made up of two elements: hild/hiltja, meaning “battle” and gard/gart , meaning “enclosure, protection; yard, garden.” Of those two, the first element seems the most “St. Hildegard,” both in terms of sound (Hilda/Hilde would seem natural to most people if you were to tell them that it was in honor of St. Hildegard) and in terms of meaning (“battle”! What an amazing and unexpected meaning for a girl and a woman! Such a warrior name! Perfect for one of the only female Doctors of the Church!). Other spellings and variants include the English Hylda and the Italian Ilda and Elda.

(And again: Hildy/Hildi/Hildie! SO sweet! For a real-life sweetie pie named Hildegard, see Haley Carrots’ little girl!)

However, if none of these are quite right, I think these other ideas can work:

— Sibyl: The mama who wrote to me had already thought of Sibyl as an idea, since St. Hildegard of Bingen is known as the Sibyl of the Rhine, and I think it’s definitely a St. Hildegard-specific name, if you want it to be. A great option! Other spellings and variants include Sybil, Cybill, Sibylle/Sybille, Sybella, Sibilla/Sibylla, and the intriguing Norman variant Sébire (though I’m not totally sure of pronunciation).

— Rhine: While Rhine is a place name that’s not objectively specific to St. Hildegard, Sibyl of the Rhine makes it subjectively so. In this sense, Rhine could be for St. Hildegard in the way Siena is for St. Catherine and Avila is for St. Teresa. Its sound is similar to Ryan and would make a really fun and different way of honoring her.

— A name to do with “ten”: One of the interesting things I discovered in my research is that St. Hildegard is traditionally understood to be her parents’ tenth child (apparently only seven children are recorded, but perhaps her parents were counting miscarried children, as so many of us do?) and as such was dedicated to the Church as a “tithe.” How interesting! Maybe a name having to do with the number “ten” would hit the right note for some families? Dixie, for example, is thought to have derived for the French for “ten.” (I’ve also loved the idea of Tennyson for a tenth son! I can see it working nicely for a girl too! It doesn’t have “ten” in its meaning, but the Ten- makes it obvious!)

— Bernard, Eugenius, John, Benedict: Men with these names played important roles in St. Hildegard’s life and afterlife. St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Pope Eugenius both encouraged her in her writings; Pope John XXII beatified her; and while Hildegard was popularly regarded as a saint since the fourteenth century, Pope Benedict XVI made it official (a process known as “equipollent [equivalent] canonization,” which I’d never heard of before) and also declared her to be a Doctor of the Church. Bernadine, Bernadette, and Bernarda are feminine variants of Bernard; Eugenia is for Eugenius; Joan, Jane, Jean, Joanna, Gianna, Giovanna (and more!) are some feminine variants of John; and Benedicta, Benedetta, Bettina, Benita, and Benoîte (and more!) are for Benedict.

— Two further arguments for a Benedict name: St. Hildegard was a Benedictine; also, since Benedict means “blessed,” I’ve often thought it can be used in honor of all the holy people (I included it in my book of Marian names for that reason).

— Names with similar meaning: I looked for other names that had a similar meaning and found a few possibles. The one that I think is closest is Blair — it means “plain, field, battlefield,” which is so similar to Hildegard’s “battle” + “enclosure, protection; yard, garden.” Others include Clotilde, Matilda, and Romilda, all of which have that “hild” element contained within (the “ild” part in all of them). And the fact that “garden” is included in the meaning of the “gard” part of Hildegard makes me think of flower names, which would really provide some nice, feminine alternatives.

I know a lot of these ideas might seem too far afield from Hildegard, but I also know that some families might find them to be the perfect solution to the dilemma of wanting to name a daughter after St. Hildegard but not finding Hildegard to be their style. (And if you want to name a son after St. Hildegard, many of these can work for boys too!)

Please share with me your ideas for naming a baby after St. Hildegard without using the name Hildegard! I’d also love to hear from any of you who have named after St. Hildegard, or know someone who has. I want to hear all the details! Happy Friday 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 — 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!

Names of note on British Baby Names

Happy Monday y’all!! It’s eclipse day! Are your kids as excited as mine?? Since we haven’t been able to snag any of the sold-out eclipse glasses, we’ll probably watch most of it on NASA’s site, but we’re also going to make these eclipse viewers (just waiting for my coffee to brew).

In similarly earth-shaking news, for the first time in a verrrry long time I’m all caught up on consultations and don’t have any scheduled to post! What! So if you’ve been wanting one, now’s a great time!

In lieu of our normal Monday consultation fun, I want to talk about the British Baby Names blog. Are you as hooked on it as I am?? I’ve been keeping it up on my computer all summer and browsing through the birth announcements when I have a few minutes here and there, and there have been so many amazing names that I’ve been keeping a running list to share with you all! Like these amazingly Catholicky Catholic sib sets:

Clemency Jane Frances “Clemmie,” baby sister of Edward Blaise “Ned,” Beatrice Mary “Bea,” Christopher Ambrose Richard “Kit,” Josephine Alice “Posy,” & Mary Assumpta (from this post)

Sebastian Francis Bertram (from this post)

Matilda Agnes, baby sister of Hubert James Raphael, Beatrice Elizabeth, Emilia, Leo John Bartholomew & Helena Adelaide (from this post)

Rufus Benedict, baby brother of Theodora Verity & Harriet Cecily (from this post)

Theresa Eleanor “Tess,” baby sister of Robert John “Bobby” & Francis William “Frankie” (from this post)

I’m fascinated by these Irish and Welsh and names!

Liusaidh Hannah Lesley, baby sister of Ruairidh Joseph Henry & Eilidh Margaret Catriona (from this post)

Gwenlli Fflur, baby sister of Ynyr Alun & Gwern Rhisiart (from this post)

Beca Grug, baby sister of Aron Huw, Erin Gwen & Math Owen (the woman behind the blog, Eleanor, noted that Grug = GREEG “heather”) (from this post)

Nedw Lleu, baby brother of Liwsi Glwys (from this post)

Guto Lloyd & Elen Mair, twin sibs of Awen Mair (from this post)

I liked seeing Evelyn as a boy’s middle (a la Evelyn Waugh): Humphrey Evelyn (from this post).

These were just amazing, for one reason or another:

Henrietta Zillah Iris, baby sister of Xanthippe Phyllis Elizabeth (from this post)

Primrose Ophelia “Posy,” baby sister of Theodora Kate “Teddy” (from this post)

Zinnia Indigo, baby sister of Azalea Primrose (from this post)

Zsa Zsa Hermione Christobel, baby sister of Cressida Lucy Florence, Rocco & Aubrey (twins) (from this post)

Molly Jessica & Pippa Josephine, twin sisters — I love how their first and middles have the same number of syllables, and I love Molly and Pippa together! (from this post)

Tatiana Mary Alexandra, baby sister of Maximillian Randal James, Jemima Honey Frances & Willa Charlotte Moore (from this post)

And speaking of Jemima, beloved of every name lover, I also spotted Jemimas in these posts: here, here.

I really liked the nickname here: John Patrick Carnegy “Jock” (from this post), and was so surprised to see both a Jack and a Johnny in this family: Jack Oliver, baby brother of Johnny Robert, Harry Anthony & Joseph James (from this post). I was also surprised at the number of Montys (two of them here and here) and Jontys (as is, as both a first and middle, here, here, here) — Jonty’s a traditional nickname for Jonathan, and you might remember that I suggested it to Rosie and Tim in this consultation.

I’m barely scratching the surface with all the amazing names listed in the birth announcement posts, and there are also consultation posts too. Such a fun site!

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?

 

Karol for a boy?

A reader was asking me today if anyone’s using Karol for a boy, whether first or middle name. I know this mama has a boy with Karol as one of his middle names, and I know a little boy in real life who does so as well — what about all of you? Have you seen Karol as a first or middle name for a boy? Has he had any difficulty with the fact that it’s most familiar to [non-JP-loving Catholics] as a girl’s name?

Spotlight on: Juliet(te)

Ages ago Grace asked for a spotlight on Juliet(te), specifically to figure out the faithy connections. Juliet is one of my favorite favorite names, and I’m delighted to finally post this spotlight!

So Behind the Name tells us that Juliet is an anglicization of Juliette or Giulietta, which are diminutives of Julie or Giulia, which are the French and Italian variants of Julia, which is the feminine form of Julius, and it’s through Julia and Julius that Juliet(te) gets its faith significance.

As the DMNES points out, Julius is Caesar, and also three popes, one of whom is a saint. Julia is a figure in the New Testament, greeted by Paul and numbered among other “holy ones” (Romans 16:15) as well as several saints (CatholicSaints.Info offers a whole bunch of Sts. and Blds. Julia, as well as several Sts. Julius. Focusing on the holy women, a couple that jump out at me include Bl. Rose-Chretien de Neuville, one of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne whose religious name was Sr. Julia Louise of Jesus; the more recent St. Giulia Salzano, who had a devotion to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was canonized by our Pope Benedict; and St. Ursula Ledochowska, whose birth name was Julia — she started the Ursulines of the Sacred Heart and her body is incorrupt. And others! Regarding Juliet specifically, there’s a devastatingly sad Golden Legend entry about St. Juliet, aka Julitta and Juliot, and her son St. Quirine, aka Cyriacus, which may or may not be true.)

So Juliet(te) has some impeccable credentials faith-wise! I suppose the question becomes, do you prefer just Juliet/Juliette, or would you rather use it as a nickname for Julia? I think using Juliet/Juliette as a nickname is pretty rare, but I love the idea of it because it offers more options, and it’s also so sweet! I always think of diminutives as being particularly lovey, so calling a Julia “Juliet” I think makes it seem really like, “Oh my sweet little Julia!”

And which spelling do you prefer? Juliet, Juliette, or even Juliot like the old French? And do you nickname a little Juliet? We’re big nicknamers here, and I think the full Juliet would automatically get shortened to Julie or Jules, which aren’t my favorite … I’ve seen Jilly as a nickname for Julia, which I think is sweet, and I think it could work for Juliet. Or Jet, which is edgy and cool, so if your Juliet decides to punk out when she’s a teen she could have all her friends call her Jet. I love that idea more than I probably should! 😂 ✈✈✈ There’s also the old nickname-from-a-mashup-of-first-and-middle, so Juliet Noelle can become Juno or Junie. But I think, if it were me, I’d really push for the full Juliet, it’s just so beautiful.

Also, Catholic Digest Editor-in-chief Danielle Bean has a Juliette, and mentions the thing any Juliet(te) will have to deal with: Romeo. She says it’s no big deal, and it isn’t to me either, but maybe you all feel differently? Even with the Romeo connection, I feel like it gives Juliet all the good feels from that story (sweet young love, romance) and none of the bad (foolish youth, defiance, disobedience, suicide). Do you agree?

What do you all think of Juliet(te)? Would you or have you named a daughter Juliet(te)? Do any of you know any Julias who go by Juliet(te)?  Do you know any Juliet(te)s who go by a nickname?

Patron saints for Caroline and Charlotte

One of the question I’ve gotten the most frequently by readers over the past few months is whether there’s any saintly connection for the names Caroline and Charlotte. If I’d had my druthers about me I would have tried to post about this last week on the actual feast day, but since I feel like I rarely have my druthers about me (!), I don’t usually have it together for feast days and holy days in the sense of posting name-appropriate posts for those days.

So the feast day I’m referring to is for my very favorite patron saint for the Charles names, of which Caroline and Charlotte (and Karoline, Karolina, Carolina, Carla, Karla, Carol(e), Karol(e), Carlotta, and Carly) are a part, being feminine variants of Charles: our great St. John Paul II, whose pre-papal name was Karol, which is the Polish for Charles. I know loads of little ones named in his honor in this way.

I do think C/Karoline/a and Charlotte are the most popular ways for girls to be named after JP2 right now, but our reader skimac left this in a comment last week:

I was looking at usage/popularity stats on ourbabynamer.com for Karol and Karole. The Karol variation existed alongside the significantly more popular Carol/Carole during it’s midcentury heyday. Carol was almost 200% more popular at peak, then both fell out of favor overall, but look at the blips in the stats in 2005 (the year JPII died). Karol reached its all time high of 315 (previous high for year was 257 in 1958). Following 2 years still elevated in comparison to previous 3 decades and Karole variation back on chart (5 baby girls) for first time in a dozen years. Then another jump in 2012 which was the year following his beatification. Wonder if this year, when stats are released, we will see a bump again since it is it would be a year following his canonization in [April] 2014? Definitely reflects the John Paul II effect in Catholic naming.”

karol1karol2

I was surprised to see this, since I think the general perception of Carol(e) and Karol(e) are that they’re still a little dated … but then skimac also shared that blogger/author/apologist/BigCatholicGuy Taylor Marshall and his wife had their eighth baby last week, on JP2’s feast day!, and gave her Carol as one of her middle names. So! Carol(e) and Karol(e) are certainly viable options.

There are other patron saints available for Caroline and Charlotte though, which is perhaps particularly helpful for those who already have a little John Paul running around. There are a bunch of Saints and Blesseds Charles — my personal faves are St. Charles Borromeo and St. Charles Garnier, and even Charlemagne — yes, THE Charlemagne (which translates as Charles the Great) — is a Blessed. If you preferred a female patron, there are also Bl. Karolina Kózka, Bl. Theresa Gerhardinger, born Caroline (and also known as Bl. Caroline Gerhardinger or Bl. Karolina Gerhardinger), Bl. Charlotte Davy, and Bl. Charlotte Lucas (Pride and Prejudice fans, take note!).

What are your favorite patrons for Caroline and Charlotte?

Baby name consultant: Not-so-normal Catholic names

A mama wrote to me asking for suggestions for not-so-normal Catholic names. I don’t have permission to share her name or her children’s names, but I did want to share my response, and get any other suggestions from all of you.

(1) Last names as first names
I often see in name books certain saints’ last names used as girl’s first names, and often with the note/disclaimer “mostly used by Roman Catholic families” or similar, which I always think is cool. Some of these are: Liguori, Majella, Vianney, Clairvaux, and Piamarta (which I think translates as “holy Martha,” which is kind of cool). The associated saints for those are St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Gerard Majella, St. John Vianney, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. John Piamarta. I’ve referred to the blog My Child I Love You several times before because of their awesome taste in names — two of their girls are Vianney and Clairvaux, and they’d considered Talbot at one time as well, for Bl. Matt Talbot.

There are some saints’ last names that are used for boys, too. Xavier is a great example, although it’s not so unusual anymore. And I think you would want to be a little careful, because some (like those mentioned above) are used almost exclusively for girls, even though they’re male saints’ last names. Some good ones for boys might include: Kolbe (St. Maximilian Kolbe), Campion (St. Edmund Campion), Rice (Bl. Edmund Ignatius Rice), Bosco (St. John Bosco) (Grace just named her baby Bosco!), Jogues (St. Isaac Jogues, said in French like Joe with a G on the end, but in American English I’ve only ever heard it said like Joe with a “GZ” on the end).

There are a whole bunch more here, both in the post and in the comments.

(2) Marian apparition sites
Another kind of name I see used from time to time for girls is the names of places Mary appeared. Like: Lourdes, Liesse, Salette (from “La Salette”), Fatima, Guadalupe (actually used for both boys and girls). Liesse is a new discovery for me, and I’ve just been loving it.

(3) Words (feasts, adjectives, nouns) that give off a Catholic vibe
This sometimes works better within the context of siblings with Catholicky Catholic names, but consider, for girls: Vesper, Eden, Trinity, Pieta. And for boys: Roman, Paschal, Emmaus, Tiber, Creed, Boon. These came from this post (including the comments, nice suggestions offered).

(4) Catholic names from other languages
This would make them “not-so-normal” only from an American standpoint, but that can be good enough. Like, for girls: Belén (Spanish for Bethlehem), Zelie (French, for St. Therese’s mom, who will be canonized next month), Inessa (a Russian [I think?] form of Agnes), Pilar (from a Spanish title for Our Lady), Paloma (Spanish for “dove”), Brid (form of Bridget, said “breed”), Caoimhe/Keeva (just one example of the million unusually spelled Irish names). For boys: Cruz and …. I’m blanking on more! I keep thinking of Xavier, which just isn’t uncommon enough.

(4) Other
Then I just started going through The Catholic Baby Name Book and my own head, trying to find or remember unusual saints’ names I’ve heard, and came up with, for girls: Quiteria (I actually know a mom who was considering this for her daughter), Amata, Keziah/Cassia (biblical), Pia (though I think Piamarta works better because it doesn’t focus so much on the “pee” sound. So unfortunate, because Pia’s a sweet little name).

And for boys: Athan (like Ethan, but not — I believe he was a Welsh saint), Inigo/Eneco (St. Ignatius of Loyola’s birth name; also The Princess Bride!), Ephraim/Efrem (not terribly obscure, but rare), Ivo (more popular in England/Europe I think than here), Aaro (Finnish for Aaron), Eleazar (form of Lazarus).

What do you all think? What names can you add that fit the criteria of “not-so-normal Catholic names”?

Girl names turned surnames

I’ve written before about boy names that have “gone girl” but I’ve compiled a small list of names that started out as feminine first names that then became surnames, and I think (though I could be wrong) that last names as first names historically tended to be given to boys? Can anyone verify that? (I know the South has different traditions regarding last names as first names for girls.)

I’m sure there are much more than this, but these are just what I happened upon while reading Reaney & Wilson this morning:

Annas, Anness, Annis, Anniss are all from Old French Anés, which was “the vernacular form of Agnes”

Annatt, Annett, Annetts, Annott are from Ann-ot, which was a diminutive of Ann, which was a pet-form of Annes (Agnes)

Ebbetts, Ebbitt, Ebbutt may be from Ebbot or Ebbet, which were diminutives of Ebb for Ibb, which was a pet-name for Isabel

Emmatt, Emmet, Emmett, Emmitt, Emmott, Emmert, Emett, Hemett all from Emmot, which could be from a place in Lancashire, but also “Emmot was a very common pet-name for Emma”

Ibbelot, Iblot from Ibb-el-ot, a double diminutive of Ibb, which could be a pet form of Isabel (also of Ilbert)

Ibbott, Ibbett, Ibbitt, Hibbit, Hibbitt, Hibbott, Ibbs, Hibbs can all come from Ibb or Ibb-ot, which is a diminutive of Ibb

Ibell, Hibble, Hible from Ib-el, a diminutive of Ibb

Ibson means “son of Ibb”

Ibbelot, Iblot are from Ibb-el-ot, which is a double diminutive of Ibb

Libby, Lebby were surnames from pet names of Isabel

Libbet, Libbett from Libb-et, from Libb, which was a pet form of Isabel

The thing I love most about these is their possibility as fresh-seeming nicknames or variants of Agnes, Emma, Isabel, and Elizabeth for girls (I’ve actually heard of a woman named Elizabeth who goes by Libbett), and variants for honoring female relatives for boys (like, naming a boy Emmett after Grandma Emma or Hibbs after Grandma Elizabeth or Isabel). What do you all think?

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?