Zach and Laurel are expecting their sixth baby — their fifth boy! Little man joins big siblings:
Samuel Philip nn Sam (“We chose Samuel for the OT prophet, the character Sam Hamilton in East of Eden, and Samwise Gamgee from LOTR”)
Charles Richard nn Charley (“We chose Charles for St. Charles Borromeo, Charlemagne, and because we really wanted to use Richard as a middle and needed a good pairing“)
Penelope Joan nn Nellie (“We chose Penelope because Zach was reading The Odyssey at the time, and Joan for St. Joan of Arc and as a variation of Janet, her maternal grandmother. I liked the pairing of the patient, wise Penelope with the zealous, active faith of Joan“)
Martin Ambrose called Martin “never Marty!” (“Martin is Laurel’s grandmother’s maiden name, so it checks the family box as well as paying homage to St. Martin of Tours“)
John Henry Benedict called John Henry “so far” (“John Henry Newman was important to Zach’s conversion to Catholicism, and we both joined the church during the reign of Pope Benedict XVI“)
What a fantastic bunch of names!! You know I was rubbing my hands together with happiness over diving into this “dilemma”!
Considerations that are important to Zach (who gave this consultation to Laurel for Valentine’s Day! 😍🥰) and Laurel include:
- One strong saint name (first or middle)
- Not unique, but not common
- Historical and/or literary connections
Names they both like include:
- William (“(Shakespeare!) but it’s SO popular right now, and we’re already pushing it with royal family connections“)
Family name possibilities include:
- Grandma Michelle Kay
- Family name O’Meara
- Due date is May 13th (Our Lady of Fatima)
Girl names they’ve discussed include Antonia, Ariadne, Evangeline, Genevieve, Gwendolyn(e), Imogen(e), Josephine, Julia(nna), Marian(ne), Marina, Miranda, Pearl, Salome, Sylvia, Diana, Talitha, Tatiana.
This was so fun to work on! I love the names Zach and Laurel chose for their older kids, and I love offering new ideas for them to consider for this baby boy. As you know, I like to start by offering my thoughts on the names the parents are considering, in case they’re helpful:
- William: You’ll all be interested in the conversation my husband and I had about this name on behalf of Zach and Laurel! I was asking him if he got an overwhelmingly “royal” feel from Samuel, Charles, Martin, and John Henry, given that Zach said that they’re “already pushing it with royal family connections” in regards to William. He agreed with me that there isn’t too much of a “royal family” feel, so I was about to include that here — that I thought William would be just fine and no need to worry — but then I gave my husband the fuller context and he was like, “Oh, right, Charles and William, yeah that would bother me too.” So there’s that! However, I still think that when you have a bunch of other kids with non-royal-family names, the association is much diluted. Also, I think Charley and Will would move the association even farther away; Charley and Liam or Billy even more so. If I had to decide if I thought it was overly problematic or not, I would say *not*. But of course, this is a decision only Zach and Laurel can make!
I also wanted to discuss popularity, since they’d mentioned it’s a concern regarding William. I looked up the popularity of their children’s names for 2021 — the most recent year of available data — and was interested to discover:
- Samuel no. 23
- Charles no. 50
- Martin no. 302
- Penelope no. 23
- John no. 27
- Henry no. 9
Look how consistent the Samuel, Penelope, and John numbers are! Wow! Charles at no. 50 is a bit misleading for their Charley, since the Charles-es nicknamed Charley/Charlie are joined by the girls named Charlotte who may be called Charlie/Charley and the little ones with Charlie/Charley as a given name — I would venture to say that family of names is more like Samuel/Penelope/John in terms of true popularity, which adds to their consistency. Henry is in William territory, being in the top ten, but John Henry as a couplet decreases the popularity, and indeed, William is its own animal given that itself is at no. 6 and its nickname/variant Liam is at no. 1. What I was really shocked by is Martin! No. 302! I looked at the names surrounding it to see if there might be any ideas there for Zach and Laurel, and none of them were their style! Derek, Jensen, Muhammad, and Daxton were close matches popularity-wise! That’s crazy! Martin is certainly NOT an outlier style-wise in their kiddos’ names — it’s just a great example of how popularity can be misleading and should very rarely be the overriding factor (at least in my opinion, and of course there are always exceptions).
- Arthur: I love that Arthur taps into the British + royal feel that they like without having the potentially problematic royal family connections! I’m guessing they’d probably go with the full Arthur on an everyday basis rather than Artie (both because they don’t care for Marty, and because if their Martin ever did go by Marty, they’d have the rhyming Marty and Artie), but if they were interested in a nickname, I’ve seen Bear used, as a nod to Arthur’s meaning. I think that’s so cute for a little guy and I can easily see it on a grown man as well.
As for new ideas, I looked up the names they’ve used and those they like in the Baby Name Wizard book (affiliate link) as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. It’s becoming a bit outdated, but I mostly still find it to be really helpful. I also considered literary names/connections (including this post I did on Catholic literary names; be sure to read the comments too!), their last name (which is a noun), and certainly the faith!
Also, I want to make a strong case for Michael as a middle name! Of all the grandparents, Grandma Michelle is the only one who doesn’t yet have a namesake, and the male equivalent, Michael, would work perfectly. I’ve also connected Miles and Milo to Michael before (this post discusses it a little), so maybe one of those could work as a nod to Grandma Michelle?
Alternately, with Kay being her middle name, they could consider Kay itself! Sir Kay was one of the Knights of the Round Table — it was a masculine name back then, possibly from the Welsh name Cai (which they could also consider), and perhaps ultimately from the name Gaius — there are a bunch of Saints named Gaius! (Read more about the masculine history of the name Kay here.) There is, certainly, the issue that Kay will likely be read as feminine by most, if not all, of the people they know, so I might recommend pairing it with an ultra-masculine name. Like Gunnar. Or Maverick. Haha!
If they don’t like Michael or Kay as nods to Grandma Michelle but they like the idea of naming the baby after her somehow, and since they’ve already done a “twist” on another grandparent’s name with Joan for Janet, I think a strong K middle name could do nicely! My two favorite ideas for this family are Karol and Kolbe. Karol is St. John Paul II’s birth name, and he has a particular and amazing connection to Fatima, which would make it extra meaningful for a baby due on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. One possible issue for Zach and Laurel is that Karol is the Polish form of Charles, but even I, with my extreme name nerdiness, wouldn’t at all mind a repeat of the name in this case — it’s a different form, it’s clearly tied to one particular person, who is a different person than the men they’ve already honored with Charley’s name, and the particular person tied to Karol is specifically and powerfully tied to the baby’s due date. If Karol felt too feminine, they could also consider Karl, which is also a variant and therefore can honor St. JP2 as well.
The other name, Kolbe, is recognizable to Catholics as the surname of St. Maximilian Kolbe, one of my very favorites. I know many families that have chosen Kolbe as a first name for their sons, but that isn’t this family’s style at all as far as I can tell. But Kolbe as a middle name seems just right! Both Karol and Kolbe would give their son the middle initial K., which is an exact match for Grandma Michelle’s middle initial.
Okay! Now that I’ve been very pushy about middle name ideas, on to my new ideas! Based on everything I wrote above, these are my ideas for Zach and Laurel’s fifth baby boy:
As soon as I saw the baby’s due date, I thought of Francis! Francisco certainly isn’t their style, but Francis seems a perfect fit with their other boys. Frankie is absolutely adorable for a little guy, and Frank is solid and handsome for a man. I’ve also suggested Finn as a nickname for Francis to several families — I don’t think that’s this family’s style, but I thought I’d mention it just in case. Francis Michael, Francis Karol, and Francis Kolbe are all amazing. (I might stay away from Kay as a possible middle for Francis, since many people are confused by the male Francis vs. the female Frances and may think they gave their boy two girl names.)
(2) Lewis or Louis
My preference here is Lewis, with C.S. Lewis as inspiration as well as the fact that Lewis is a medieval English form of Louis, so it can take any of the Sts. Louis as patron, and there’s also the Welsh martyr St. David Lewis. (I first heard about St. David Lewis from this reader of mine, who named her one-of-many-boys Lewis — her love for the name and reasons for choosing it are inspiring!) I also thought Zach and Laurel could think of Lewis as being connected to Servant of God Sr. Lucia of Fatima, which would be another nice tie-in to the baby’s due date. I love Lewis Michael, Lewis Karol, and Lewis Kolbe.
Louis would also be great, and can take all the same connections, but I thought that since they’re hesitant about Charles and William, Louis might have a similar difficulty for them.
Another L name that I actually love (LOVE!) for them is Laurence, inspired by Laurel’s name! Laurence is a great, saintly name which, as I understand it, is the original spelling (Lawrence is a newer variant, but also a great one, and I’d be find with this too!). Since this family is literarily inclined, they might be interested in Laurie as a nickname, like the character in Little Women (this family recently had a little Lawrence and they’re calling him Laurie!). Or, because of that same character, I think Teddy could work as a nickname! I actually did a post a while back for a mama who’d decided on Lawrence Kolbe for her son (AMAZING COMBO!!) but was looking for a non-Larry nickname, and a few that I thought could also work here include Rory, Lenz, and — perhaps perfect for a Fatima-due-date baby — Lolek, which is a Polish diminutive of Karol and what St. John Paul II went by as a child. (I particularly like Lolek as a nickname for Laurence Kolbe or Laurence with another K middle name.) (Here’s a birth announcement for another little Lawrence, in case they need some more convincing. 😊) (Also, I wonder what they would think of Laurence O’Meara? I love this too!) (Ooh — would Leo work as a nickname for Laurence O’Meara?? This was a last-minute idea as I was finishing up this consultation … I’m kind of loving it!!)
At first, I really, really loved Gilbert for this baby! Gilbert is G.K. Chesterton and Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables, and it’s the name of several Saints, and the nickname Gil is one of my very very favorites ever … but then I thought about Gilbert with their last name, which also starts with a hard G, and thought it’s likely they won’t like it. But am I wrong? I hope I’m wrong! Some people really dislike alliteration in naming, but I tend to love it — alliterative names are distinctive, and can have a superhero feel (a la Peter Parker). Gilbert Michael is especially handsome to me.
A G- name that they might like better because it has the soft G sound that isn’t repeated by the initial sound of their last name is Gerard. So saintly! So traditional! Gerry/Jerry is the traditional nickname, but I posted a birth announcement for a little Gerhardt (German variant of Gerard) whose family intended to call him Hart. I think that could work for Gerard! Or perhaps even better, Hardy as a nickname for Gerard! (The elements in Gerard are ger + hart.) Hart and Hardy are so cool. But is Hardy to similar to Henry? They might also like that I have a native Irish friend named Gerard but he says it more like Jared. Indeed, it seems the “British English” pronunciation puts the stress on the first syllable (they also do that with Bernard, saying BER-ned instead of ber-NARD). I like that pronunciation a lot! It would take a commitment on their part to correct people every time, but if they’re up for it, it could be perfect for them!
I wanted to include at least one V name for Zach and Laurel to consider, since this baby is their fifth boy and it’s fun to nod to that with a V name! I like Victor for them a lot — it’s a great name that I always think of as being a Jesus name (I even wrote an article about it for CatholicMom.com several years ago). Funny enough, as I mentioned in that article, the original post I did on my blog about nicknames for Victor remains one of my most popular posts, even after all these years. And Victor was no. 209 in 2021, which is more similar to Martin’s popularity than their other children’s names. What do we think of Victor Michael? It’s such a handsome combo, but is it too “Michael Vick”?
(7) Tobit, Theodore
Finally, I wanted to include at least one name that shares Penelope’s style. It’s very common for parents to have a different taste in names for their boys than for their girls! Totally fine! But my favorite is when there’s some crossover. My favorite idea for this family as a style match for Penelope was Tobias until I remembered that Tobias is on their no-go list. So then I thought maybe Tobit? Also a very cool name!
Another that’s similar in style to Penelope, and perhaps an even better fit for a brother for their older boys than Tobit, is Theodore. I’d mentioned Teddy above as a possible nickname for Laurence because of Laurie in Little Women — he was called Teddy because his name was actually Theodore Lawrence — I would love that combo for this baby (I’d prefer the Theodore Laurence spelling to mirror Mom’s name). Theo is also a great nickname for Theodore! The more I think about it, the more I think Theodore nn Theo might be perfect for this baby.
And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of Samuel/Sam, Charles/Charley, Penelope/Nellie, Martin, and John Henry?
Read all about how to get your own baby name consultation from either Theresa or myself here.
For help with Marian names, my book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon (not affiliate links). It’s perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!