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.”


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?

“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. ❤