Sibling Project: Fulton

Longtime readers might remember that I’d started what I call the Sancta Nomina Sibling Project a few years ago. It was an attempt to supplement the info in the Baby Name Wizard (affiliate link) with Catholic-specific data, and to also provide info on names that don’t have their own entries in the BNW. So far I’ve taken the information you’ve shared and combined it with my own thoughts/ideas/experiences for the names Kateri, John Paul, and T(h)eresa (all listed on this page), and it looks like I started working on a profile for Therese as well (I’ll try to finish that up soon). In light of the loss of the BNW tools on its now-defunct web site, I’m feeling inspired to start it up again. After finishing the Therese profile, I’d like to focus on Fulton, which does not have its own entry in the BNW.

According to the Social Security Administration database, Fulton was a top 1000 name for a few years early in the 20th century before dropping out of the top 1000 altogether.

Digging deeper in the most recent years, these are the number of babies given the name Fulton from 2000 through 2020:

  • 2020: 69
  • 2019: 65
  • 2018: 34
  • 2017: 53
  • 2016: 42
  • 2015: 35
  • 2014: 55
  • 2013: 28
  • 2012: 30
  • 2011: 24
  • 2010: 14
  • 2009: 14
  • 2008: 11
  • 2007: 9
  • 2006: 12
  • 2005: 19
  • 2004: 13
  • 2003: 15
  • 2002: 9
  • 2001: 10
  • 2000: 18

(To go back further, go here — I used the National Data.)

It’s notable that Bishop Fulton Sheen was declared Venerable in 2012; it would be interesting to see if the numbers changed in light of his death in 1979. Also, from his first broadcast on the radio in 1926 through the many years he was on TV and until his death, his popularity in America only increased — I would imagine the name did as well (though still staying out of the top 1000, which I find strange given that it was in the top 1000 before he was ever known — does anyone know why?). I plan to look at those numbers when pulling together the info from your comments in my final “entry” on the Sibling Project page.

Fulton is a Catholic surnamey name (which, in my mind, always also includes place names, because of their usage in Saints’ names as a sort of surname: e.g., St. Catherine of Siena). However, I’ve seen parents choose Fulton who don’t otherwise seem into surnamey names, which I assume is due to the fact that, for many people, their primary familiarity with the name is only as a first name (albeit an unusual/unique one). Furthermore, Fulton wasn’t even Ven. Fulton Sheen’s given name — rather, his given name was Peter John, but he went by his mother’s maiden name, Fulton. Further further, not only is it a surname but it’s an Irish one as well. So there are a few reasons that parents might like Fulton:

  • it’s an obviously Catholic name
  • it’s an unusual/unique first name (per it’s most famous bearer)
  • it’s actually a nickname (of sorts) (by this I mean, in the case of Ven. Fulton Sheen, it wasn’t his given name) (side note: there are actually a bunch of other famous holy people who we know almost exclusively by names other than their given names — I wrote an article with several examples not too long ago for CatholicMom)
  • it’s a surname
  • it’s Irish

In light of these, if you have given your son the name Fulton or plan to/thought about/have it on your list of serious considerations, which of the reasons listed above fit your reasons? More than one or none at all are totally fine — and if your reason isn’t listed above, please share what your reason(s) is/are?

And I’m eager to hear anything else you know about the name Fulton! Specifically, if you know someone named Fulton (your own child or someone else’s), what are his brothers’ and sisters’ names? What names (boy names and girl names) do you consider to be stylistically similar to Fulton (from a Catholic perspective)? Also, I did a post on nicknames for Fulton over five years ago — I’m sure at this point there are more! Please share the nicknames you’ve heard, or those you think could work!


I’m back on hiatus from doing consultations (though check back from time to time, as I hope to open up a few spots here and there as I’m able), but Theresa Zoe Williams is available to help you! Email her at TheresaZoeWrites@gmail.com to set up your own consultation! (Payment methods remain the same.)

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!

Birth announcement: Retta Joy!

I posted a consultation for Ashley and husband last spring, and I’m excited to share that their baby girl has been born and given the fantastic name … Retta Joy!

Ashley writes,

We named her Retta Joy. She is named after St. Gianna Beretta Molla and St. Joseph as the Scottish name for carpenter is Rett (this would have been our boy name, Rett Thomas).”

Isn’t Retta Joy such a beautiful and unexpected name?! I love the connection with Rett for St. Joseph!! (Read more about the connection here.) How cool!! And for Retta to be for St. Gianna too — so many layers of meaning! Such a great job!!

( As a side note, my grandmother was Mary Loretta and she went by Rett with her friends — Loretta is a nod to Our Lady of Loreto, so if they wanted to include an additional Marian connection to their little Retta, that could work!)

Congratulations to Ashley and her husband and big sisters Emma Grace, Kennedy Faith, and Lillian Hope, and happy birthday Baby Retta Joy!!


The five baby name consultation openings I had for January have been taken, but Theresa is available to help you out! Email her at TheresaZoeWrites@gmail.com to set up your own consultation! (Payment methods remain the same.)

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!

Baby name consultation: Baby no. four needs Marian name that’s consistent with big sibs’ styles

A prayer today, and always, for an end to racism, and a prayer of thanks for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his courage and good work. 🙏🙏🙏

Today’s consultation is another of the five I opened up for January; if you’d like a consultation of your own, Theresa is available to help!

Madison and her husband are expecting their fourth baby, a little green bean (gender unknown)! 🌱 This little one joins big sibs:

Cooper James (“We thought about naming him John Phillip after both of our dads. This choice is so handsome and I still love it! But it’s just not our style. After talking about it for a while we finally narrowed our list down to 3 names: Cooper, Colton, and Duke. I was all for Colton but [my husband’s] eyes lit up when he said Cooper and it made me fall for it as well. Cooper suits him so perfectly! James is my husband’s middle name and my husbands grandpa’s name so it was an obvious choice. Plus we love the flow of Cooper James together! It was shortly after Cooper was born that I had my re-conversion. I scoured the internet for faith connections and was so happy to come across your blog and the connection of the name Cooper to St. Joseph of Cupertino. We call him Coop, Coopy, and Cupertino for fun.”)

Reagan Elyse Mary (“her due date was in May and I immediately knew I wanted a name to honor Mary. The name Reagan stood out to me on every baby name list, but I kept ignoring it because I needed something Marian! But when my husband suggested it I just blurted out yes. After that I searched hard for some sort of connection. I stumbled upon a probably unreliable source that said for little girls the name could be taken to mean “little queen.”* I was sold! (It didn’t take much haha) I then found some amazing history about Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II that further solidified our choice. Elyse is my middle name which I love — it has a sort of cool elegance to it. I didn’t know it at the time but Reagan’s due date was on the Feast of the Visitation so it really was the perfect middle name! Mary wasn’t added until later. About 5 months after Reagan was born I had this crazy urge to add the actual name of Mary to her name. I looked into it and saw that it wouldn’t be too difficult to do. After I got my husband’s permission, I sent the paper work in on October 22 [Reagan’s 5 month birthday and the feast of Pope John Paul II!!] We call her Reags, Reagy Roo, or just Roo.”)

Fulton John (“When I was pregnant with Reagan I remember giving my husband a long list of saints names I liked. He turned down literally all of them. Jokingly, I mentioned Fulton thinking he would think it was an absurd name. I wasn’t super fond of it myself, but I did like the idea of it. To my surprise he told me he liked it, and I realized I would probably have a son named Fulton. It may have taken me 2 years to warm up to it, but I love it now! When I found out I was pregnant I started seeing Fulton Sheen quotes all over Social Media. When I suggested Fulton John [John for hubby’s dad] he said yes immediately. We call him Fults or Fultsie.”)

* [I just have to note that, though Behind the Name disagrees, Baby Names of Ireland says that Regan (Behind the Name says Regan and Reagan are variants of the same) may come from a diminutive of the Irish word for “sovereign, king,” which to me means “little king” or — if used for a girl — “little queen” (not “king’s child” as Baby Names of Ireland suggests. So says this non-liguist! Haha!). So I think the meaning that Madison is using for Reagan is entirely defensible, and even if not, I’ve always felt that intention trumps meaning in almost all cases.]

I LOVE this family’s style! In Madison’s email she noted that she feels like their “taste in names is pretty secular,” but I think they’ve done a fantastic job of working within that, and I think that’s so thrilling! It’s like a stealthy sneak attack, Catholic-style! Such a fantastic way of blending in with the culture and thus bringing the possibility of evangelization in a way that’s easier for the average American to swallow. Nice job! I really love that they were able to connect Cooper to Cupertino, that has always been one of the coolest things I discovered through the blog, I love that! Reagan is one of my FAVORITE ideas for a girl as an unusual Marian idea — I’ve seen it before and always thought it was awesome … in fact, I just looked in my book of Marian names, because I was sure I included it, but I didn’t — why didn’t I?? I love it! And Fulton! Such a perfect fit style-wise with Cooper and Reagan, and so faithy! All so great!!

Madison writes,

I am so early on in my pregnancy that it might seem crazy to do a consultation already, but my husband shot down almost every name on my list so I need some fresh ideas! The due date of our baby is somewhere between September 6 – 14 which is AMAZING because there are so many Marian celebrations within that time as well as the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. I would love to give this baby a Marian name.”

Sounds perfect to me!

Some girl names they’ve considered include:

  • Callie (“love that it means ‘Most beautiful.’ I was researching about Our Lady of La Salette and learned the shepherd kids called Mary “Beautiful Lady” when they saw her. Could be a little connection?“)
  • Blair (“I’ve always loved this name and my husbands open to it, but I find it less appealing with no faith connection. It sounds really good as a sister to Reagan though!“)
  • Maren (“[rhymes with Karen] — worried about pronunciation, would majority pronounce it MA-rin? Our last name is already difficult to pronounce. Just not sure that I like it, but I like that it’s Marian, so I want to like it“)
  • Aurora nn Rory (“I love the idea of it and my husband said he was open to it, but it doesn’t seem like us“)
  • Reese (“seems a little masculine to both of us, though I like that I could connect it to the St. Teresa’s!“)
  • Emery (“same as Reese, a little masculine. Though I liked the idea of Emery Catherine called Emery Cate for Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich“)

Madison continues,

Hubby says he likes Emma and Ava but he’s not overly excited about them nor am I, but might help with his style? I prefer names not in the top 50 but am not strict about it if it’s the right name. I think he wants a name that is familiar, that’s why he turned down all my Catholicky Catholic suggestions.”

Boy names on their list include:

  • Phillip (“[after my dad] Paired with a cool middle like Kolbe? Or Phillip Pierce for the pierced heart of Mary? Worried about the nickname Phil since we shorten our kids names a lot! Husband didn’t like the idea of Phillip Neri nn Finn“) 
  • Watson (“my mom’s maiden name. Could be a good way to honor her? We talked about Watson Phillip or Phillip Watson. I don’t think I love Watson though. I want to because it’s a family name and my hubby thinks its cool“)
  • Declan (“I love this name!! Hubby is only ‘open to it’“)
  • Bennett (“I like it but not overly excited about it“)
  • Owen (“My Godfather’s middle name and a name we like. Owen Phillip or Phillip Owen is handsome!“)
  • Duke (“this has been on our list since Cooper but it always gets pushed to the side. One of the English Martyrs was Edmund Duke! Still considering it“)
  • Gannon/Cannon (“We like the sound of these. But I don’t think we’d use either“)
  • Kolbe (“I love the name Kolbe and even though my husband has vetoed me on it a few times now, he does say he likes the name C/Kole. I still see a glimmer of hope with that name so I’m going to keep it on my list“)

Some other family considerations include:

  • Lourdes (“my dad was born on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. My Nana and Great Nana have St. Bernadette as their confirmation saint. I love this as a middle name option for a more girly sounding first name — like Caroline Lourdes or Felicity Lourdes. Hubby is actually open to using this as a middle! But he didn’t like the two combos I just mentioned.”)
  • I’d love to honor my mom but there are names I prefer to hers, which is Sally Michele. Naming a daughter Callie could be fun since it rhymes with her name? She loves the names Felicity and Rosemary, so maybe using one of those as a middle? My husband doesn’t like those ones though :/

Names that they considered but can’t or won’t use for various reasons include:

  • Avila
  • Magdalen/Magdalyn
  • Caroline nn Callie (“for Pope John Paul II“) 
  • Emmeline
  • Isla
  • Ivy
  • Mary Grace
  • Marian
  • Felicity
  • Zelie
  • Rosary (“love it but probably too bold for me any way“)
  • Rowan/Rowen (“I really like this name but can’t decide for boy or girl. Husband doesn’t like it“)
  • Quinn
  • Finley
  • Morgan (“like it but too similar to Reagan“)
  • Greer
  • Perrin
  • Sienna
  • Stella
  • Cana
  • Riley
  • Or any Saint last name that’s a bit unusual like Clairvaux, Vianney, Cabrini etc.
  • Becket 
  • Kolbe 
  • Campion
  • Pierce
  • Cruz
  • August
  • Luke
  • Shepherd
  • Cassian
  • Crispin
  • Bastian
  • Xavier

Finally, Madison notes,

Most importantly: I want a girl to have a Marian connection. I might add Mary or Marie as a third name like I did for Reagan!

I have your book of Marian names and have been scouring it! I think boys will be easier for us to agree on a Marian name — Leo and Maximilian are names my hubby has expressed he was open too as well, though he doesn’t care for nickname Max because that’s his parents’ dogs name. But we are open to moving away from surnames as long as it still feels like it fits. Leo feels like it might not fit and I can’t find a longer version I like. Maximilian nn Leo?? Maybe too much of a stretch ha.

The middle name for a boy will be Phillip unless we use it as the first!

I am sort of inclined to avoid “n” ending names just to help the flow of all the sibling names, but I’m not committing to that because I tend to love names that end in ‘n.’

Okay, first off — I’m sure you all know that I was DYING over the names Madison said they/won’t use! I even said to my husband, “Oh man! Alllll the names I would have suggested for this family are on their can’t/won’t use list!” Quinn and Greer would have been right at the top for me, as well as Finley (I agree about Morgan being too similar to Reagan). But that’s totally fine, because it just makes the challenge extra challenging, which I always love!

So here are my thoughts on the girl names they’re considering, in case they’re helpful:

  • Callie: As a variant/diminutive of Cal(l)ista, Madison’s right that Callie can mean “most beautiful,” which is such a fantastic meaning for a girl! I didn’t know about the shepherd children calling Our Lady “Beautiful Lady” when they saw her at La Salette, but I love that and yes, I totally agree that Callie can work as a nod to her because of that! In fact, I think Reagan’s and Callie’s connections to Our Lady are at a similar level, which I always find pleasing in a symmetry sense. A couple thoughts I had about Callie are that Calla (like the Calla lily) might feel a bit less nickname-y, if Callie’s nicknaminess was bothersome to Madison or her hubby, and so could work as a given name with Callie as the nickname if they’d like. Calla also comes from the Greek kallistos “most beautiful,” so the meaning is still there. Another is that I’ve seen Salette considered as a given name in honor of Our Lady of La Salette, and with Madison’s mom’s name being Sally, I wondered if Salette could work as a nod to her and Our Lady at once? I love the idea of Callie Salette or Calla Salette as a double whammy Marian-wise and also with that possible connection to Madison’s mom. (Also, back to her mom, Sally is a variant of Sarah, which means “princess,” so Madison could possibly think of Reagan as having a connection to her mom that way if she wanted.) (Also, the fact that Madison wondered if Callie, rhyming with Sally, could nod to her mom makes me extra love Callie Salette because of that double-whammy idea.) I also love Callie as a nickname for Caroline, as Madison noted they’d considered in honor of JP2, but I don’t love Caroline with the other kids’ names (you’ll see that this is a theme with me during this consultation — I love that Cooper, Reagan, and Fulton all fit together style-wise really nicely in my opinion, and while I don’t want Madison and her hubby to feel boxed in by that, I would very much love to help them find a name that they love that also fit with their style!)
  • Blair: I’m so interested that Madison has “always loved” this name — that definitely counts for something! The first thing I did was try to find a faith connection for it — it apparently means “plain, field, battlefield,” which is why I suggested it recently as a possible way to honor St. Hildegard of Bingen, because Hildegard means hild “battle” plus gard “enclosure,” so that’s a possibility. Also, pairing a less faithy name with a more faithy middle name often helps a less faithy name to feel more acceptable to parents who are worried about such things, you know? So like Blair Immaculata hits you right in the face with the faith, even though Blair itself doesn’t — anyone who knows the full name and knows anything about Catholicism will *know.* A couple ideas that came to me regarding Blair were that the rhyming Clare, spelled that way, is both St. Clare’s name and also Co. Clare in Ireland — I thought Clare being a place name as well as a Saint’s name might make a good bridge going forward between the names they’ve already chosen (Cooper, Reagan, Fulton) and some of those Madison likes (Emma, Caroline, Mary Grace). And then Clare being a place name made me think of the Irish place name Adare, which is cool on its own; if you spell it Adair, it’s a form of Edgar, which is a Saint’s name. (I did a whole post on Irish place names — definitely read the comments too if you like this idea!)
  • Maren: This is a lovely option! Regarding pronunciation, it is one of those names that people aren’t always sure how to pronounce, but that’s the case with lots of names, so unless it’s one of those things that will drive them crazy forever, I’d encourage them not to worry too much about it — they should just be firm and consistent when correcting people who get it wrong. Saying “rhymes with Karen” is really helpful for them when explaining it to others, and will be helpful for their daughter as she grows up. I’m not surprised Madison’s hubby doesn’t love the double middle name idea — in my experience with my own husband and husbands I learn about through consultations, dads tend to prefer “less fuss” over “more fuss.”
  • Aurora nn Rory: I totally get loving “the idea” of a name, but having a hard time getting totally on board with the name itself. I think what Madison said about it not seeming like “them” is the key — there are a bunch of names on their list that I feel this way about — names that I know Madison likes or her husband likes but that don’t seem to fit the naming style they’ve agreed upon up until now. That said, I think Rory as a given name feels definitely like their style! I wonder if they would consider Rory on its own, for either a boy or a girl? (I actually did a whole post on faith connections for Rory!)
  • Reese: Like Rory, I actually feel like Reese fits their style really well! Though Madison and her hubby think it feels more masculine, Reese Witherspoon makes it very feminine in my opinion — I think Reese is great for a girl, and I agree that it can be a nod to any of the Sts. Therese/Teresa! I remember reading years ago about twin girls named Aurora and Therese and called Rory and Reese, I thought that was just so brilliant.
  • Emery: As with Reese, my impression of Emery is just flipped from Madison’s — though it certainly started as a masculine name (and in fact, it’s a form of Emmerich!), even Behind the Name says it’s “now typically feminine”; the one Emery I know is a little girl. I wonder if using the Emerie spelling would help make it feel a bit girlier for them? I love the idea of Emery/Emerie Catherine for Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich — a double-call-name with Kate/Cate as the second element has always appealed to me, I think it’s so pretty.

I’m also interested that Madison said her husband likes Emma and Ava, because there seems to be huge potential for compromise with Emery and Emmeline from her list with the nickname Emma or Emmy, and also with Avila with the nickname Ava. From what I know from Madison’s email, it seems exactly right how she articulated that she thinks her husband “wants a name that is familiar” and it makes sense that “he turned down all [her] Catholicky Catholic suggestions.” I really think sticking to the kinds of names they’ve already chosen for their older kids will help her hubby feel comfortable with the choice, and Madison has done a terrific job of finding those kinds of names with faith connections, or finding faith connections for those kinds of names.

Just quickly about a name on the list of those Madison likes: Rosary is exactly the kind of middle name that could balance out a more secular-sounding first name! It doesn’t flow so well with Callie, Blair, Rory, Reese, or Emery, but I love Calla Rosary, for example.

For family names, I addressed ideas for Madison’s mom in the Callie point above, and I love the Lourdes connection! I also love the idea of adding Marie like how Madison added Mary to Reagan’s name — that could be a really nice connection between all their girls! And Lourdes-Marie and Marie-Lourdes are common constructions I see, to make the Our Lady of Lourdes connection even stronger. “FirstName Lourdes Marie” is really nice.

Okay, on to the boys!

  • Phillip: I have always loved Philip! Madison’s original idea of John Phillip is one of those names that makes me swoon, even though my taste in names also runs a bit spicier than that — it’s just so handsome. I love that she suggested Phillip Neri nn Finn to her husband — that’s one of my favorite ideas! And of course, pairing it with a fiery middle name like Kolbe or Pierce is absolutely the way I would go if they decided to go with Phillip. That said, I do find it jarring with their other kids’ names — but that never has to be a dealbreaker! They should definitely go with the name they love! But if they wanted to be more consistent style-wise, I would definitely put Phillip in the middle. BUT, I might also like to see them consider using it as the call name! A Kolbe Phillip, for example, would fit right in with their kids on paper, but they can use whatever nickname they want, even if the “nickname” is the actual middle name, or a nickname of the middle name. I’m a big nicknamer, too, and I agree that Phil doesn’t feel right, and Finn is out, but I love Pip and even Flip (I worked with a Philip nn Flip). Maybe they could do a combo nickname from the first+middle, like Kip for Kolbe Phillip or Billy for Bennett Phillip. Or, I just discovered that the surname Phelps means “son of Philip” — I wouldn’t worry about the “son of” part, and what a cool connection to Madison’s dad’s name! Phelps could be a nickname for Phillip, or a given name in his honor. Or, I wonder what they would think of, ahem, *flipping* (haha!) the name from the boy side to the girl? I love Pippa, and I think Pippa could work well with their kids! It’s a diminutive of Philippa, so it’s an obvious way to honor a Phillip in a girl’s name. Pippa Salette would be a really interesting way to name after both Madison’s parents! Or Pippa Felicity or Pippa Rosemary, if she could get hubby on board. And Madison also asked about Fulton and Phillip being too much … I mean, the fact that they have the same beginning sound and they both have an L in the middle and the same number of syllables does make them feel overly similar, but if they went with Phillip as a first name, a one-syllable nickname can help, or a non-F nickname, that kind of thing. The family connection is so great that if they just really wanted to use it, I wouldn’t argue with them!
  • Watson: Oh MAN, I LOVE this! I think it’s a fanTAStic way to honor Madison’s mom! And I love that her husband thinks it’s cool! This is definitely one of my favorites for this family. Maybe learning more about the name will help Madison like it more? It means “son of Wat,” where Wat is a medieval diminutive of Walter. Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek is a favorite of a lot of my readers — he’s got an amazing story. I think Watson is a great middle name for lots of first name options, and as a first name, Wats and Watts are traditional nicknames. Watkins is another variant of Watson, and I could see that being a fun nickname for a Watson. Even Wally is cute and unexpected in a super-old-man way, which I always think is adorable on little boys, and totally do-able I think because of the connection to Walter. Even better, a Watson Phillip would have that double L in Phillip that could make sense of Wally as a nickname. I feel like there’s a good chance that, even if Madison can’t really bring herself to love it, eventually she will grow to love the fact that her son has such a great family name. And Watson is smashing with Cooper, Reagan, and Fulton!
  • Declan: Declan is a great name! I love that it has that Irish feel of Reagan and Fulton, which Cooper isn’t far off from because I think Cooper feels British (and is, in fact, an English occupational surname), so even though my preference is for them to stick to names that either are or feel surnamey, I wouldn’t be disappointed with Declan.
  • Bennett: I like Bennett a lot, especially that it’s a form of Benedict but also fits in with their surname style, but since it doesn’t have a family connection, I’m not loving that Madison is “not overly excited about it” — I think we can do better!
  • Owen: I agree that Owen Phillip and Phillip Owen are handsome! And being the sucker for family names that I am, I like having Madison’s dad and her godfather together in the same name. And it even counts as a surname — one of my favorite Saints is St. Nicholas Owen! (Incidentally, Cole can be a diminutive of Nicholas, so something like Cole Owen could be very explicit for St. Nicholas Owen.) I was musing about Madison’s idea of Leo being a nickname for Maximilian (which I don’t think is too much of a stretch, by the way), and wondered what they would think of Leo as a nickname for Philip Owen? There’s the “Li” of Phillip and the O of Owen … maybe? Is that way too crazy? Madison’s hubby probably thinks so, haha! Another thought I had was to switch from Owen to Bowen — that makes it obviously more surnamey, opens up the awesome nickname Bo, and can still be for Madison’s godfather, since Bowen means “son of Owen”!
  • Duke: Like with Blair, the fact that Duke has been on their list from the beginning is so meaningful! I love Duke, and I love that Madison found that Saint connection! In fact, Edmund Duke is making me think of Eamon, which is the Irish form of Edmund … I wonder what they would think of Eamon Duke? It would be the martyr’s actual name, just in Irish, and Eamon is a style match for Declan … He could even go by Duke as his everyday call name!
  • Gannon/Cannon: I think Gannon’s very cool, and I’ve often thought Canon could be a cool Catholicky Catholic name (with that spelling). I’m not sure I love Cannon (and even Canon by sound-association) — “weapon” names are certainly controversial, which any parent who is considering one should be ready to deal with. I loved discovering that Gannon is related to Finn, how cool is that??
  • Kolbe: I’m excited that Madison thinks she might be able to bring her husband around to Kolbe because he likes C/Kole! Kolbe would be very cool for this family, I think.

So when I was trying to come up with new name ideas, I found myself really going far afield from what I would usually suggest, mostly because my suggestions are all on their “no” list! In my suggestions below, I included some results from the research I did in the Baby Name Wizard (affiliate link), where I looked up names they’ve used and those they like, as the BNW lists boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity, but at least as many are based on nothing more than my own gut reaction! I definitely kept in mind that avoiding ends-in-n names is preferable, and that Madison wants a Marian connection (or at the very least, a faith connection), and that she’s open to moving away from the surnamey names if it feels right. I really hope I hit the mark here with at least some of my ideas below!

Girl

(1) Scarlett

I’m going to start with one that I *don’t* think they’ll love … but maybe they will? Scarlett is a style match for both Cooper and Duke, and also Ivy from the list of names they can’t use, which I thought was pretty amazing. I never would have thought of Scarlett! I’ve actually seen Carly used as a nickname for Scarlett, which is so similar to Callie — maybe Madison would like that? I did a spotlight on the name Ruby, and I feel like a lot of the faith associations for Ruby can also be used for Scarlett, plus also the Feast of the Most Precious Blood on July 1 AND the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross during Madison’s due-date week!

(2) Tierney, Kearney

I’m putting Tierney here on the girl’s side because I knew a girl growing up named Tierney, but it’s actually derived from the Old Irish word meaning “lord” — such a great meaning, and can totally work for a boy if they prefer! With that meaning, it reminds me of Dominic/Dominique (“of the Lord”) or Emmanuel/Emmanuela or Christopher/Christina — a great “Jesus” name! But hidden in plain sight, like their other kids!

Kearney rhymes with Tierney, and like Tierney can be masculine or feminine; I’m putting it here on the girl list because when I was looking for Saints whose feast days fall during Sept. 6-14, I found Bl. Elizabeth Kearney, whose feast is Sept. 13 (there’s also a Bl. John Kearney, if they like this idea for a boy). Kearney seemed like a perfect fit for this family!

(3) Gemma

This is a gut-reaction name, brought about because, in thinking about their style being surname-y (but not into unusual surnames like Clairvaux etc.), I thought maybe faith-y *thing* names might be a good direction to go that would feel consistent but open up more ideas. With their British/Irish feel, I thought of Gemma — it means “gem” in Italian and is the name of the Italian St. Gemma, but has amazing usage in England/Ireland/Australia, which gives it that English/Irish feel.

(4) Eliette

Elliott’s a match for Bennett on the boy side, and maybe they’d prefer to consider it for a boy (I do love it for a boy!), but it made me think of Eliette right away — one of the families I worked with has a daughter named Eliette, which was the mom’s grandmother’s name, and is derived from Elijah, just like Elliott. As you know from my book, the Elijah names can be considered Marian because of the awesome connection to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, so I thought that was cool; I also thought this very feminine spelling of an otherwise masculine-sounding name could be one of those “bridge name” ideas between what they’ve already done with their older kids’ names and how Madison might like to branch out going forward. I was thinking particularly of Eliette Catherine nn Ellie Cate — I thought maybe her husband would like that?

(5) Maeve

Madison had mentioned in another email that she kind of likes the nickname Mav, so Maeve was mostly inspired by that. Of course it’s an Irish name, and I also put it in my book of Marian names, so it checks that box as well. I really like the repeating sounds in Reagan and Maeve — beautiful, Marian (in an unexpected way), Irish sister names!

(6) Maisie

Josie, Molly, and Maggie are style matches for Callie; Lacey for Blair; Daisy for Duke; Lucy for Emma and Leo; and Maisie for Rory — they all have a similar sound and feel, and of them, I like Maisie the best for this family. It’s a Celtic (Irish/Scottish) diminutive of Margaret, which provides a fantastic patron.

(7) Talbot

Lindsay from My Child I love You introduced me to this name — she considered it for a first name for one of her girls, but ended up using it in the middle for her daughter Lourdes Marie Talbot. It’s for Bl. Matt Talbot, who was Irish (!) and had a devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes (!!) — how cool is that?! Read about it in this post. The nickname Tally/Tallie is awesome, and so similar to Madison’s beloved Callie; if they spell it Tally it mirrors her mom’s name really nicely. Another really cool thing, in addition to it being a nice nod to Bl. Matt Talbot, is that there’s a Bl. John Talbot whose feast day is Sept. 8!

Boy

(1) Miles

Since Madison said she has my book and has been scouring it, and she’s clearly familiar with the blog, then she must have come across Miles and decided against it. But let me make an argument for it! First off, it’s a style match for Bennett, Owen, and Ivy; secondly, it (as well as the spelling Myles) has a history of usage as an anglicization of the old Irish name Maolmhuire, which means “servant of the Virgin Mary” — a totally, legitimately Marian name for a boy! Thirdly, I’ve suggested it as a possible nickname idea for Maximilian, which would get away from Madison’s in-laws’ dog’s name Max and/or could claim St. Maximilian as a patron even if they go with the given name Miles instead of the given name Maximilian with Miles as a nickname; fourthly, I’ve suggested it as a nickname idea for Michael, being that it can be thought of as sort of a contraction of the name Michael, and also since Miles means “soldier” in Latin, which ties in nicely with St. Michael. And with Madison’s mom’s middle name being Michele, Michael or a name related to it could be a nod to her! There are so many reasons to love the name Miles! I think it goes amazingly well with Cooper, Reagan, and Fulton, and I love that it has a different ending than all of them.

(2) Garrett

Garrett is a gut-reaction idea — I was inspired by both Gannon and Bennett on their list, and also the fact that it’s an English surname that’s also categorized as “Celtic” in the BNW, and it derives from Gerard, which gives it a great saintly connection. I’m loving Garrett for this family!

(3) Kells

Kells is so much like Madison’s Callie, but is actually a surname like their older kids, and also the name of that beautifully illuminated manuscript containing the gospels at Trinity College in Dublin: The Book of Kells. I think Kells is so cool, and like Tierney and Kearney is really a unisex idea, so if they like it better for a girl, that could totally work, too.

(4) Finnian

I admit I had a hard time coming up with ideas for a boy for this family, so I do feel like I included ideas here that probably wouldn’t have passed muster if I had more ideas. Finnian is one — I love it, and I think it would be great in their family, and I was specifically inspired to include it here because St. Finnian of Moville’s feast day is Sept. 10. I do, however, realize that it’s maybe overly similar to Finley, which Madison said they can’t use, and it ends in -n, which isn’t ideal. But maybe they’ll like it anyway? Or, maybe this St. Finnian will provide them with the perfect patron for a little Gannon, since they’re related?

(5) Lolek

My last idea is a departure in that it’s not a surname, and it’s not English or Irish/Celtic. But it does have a different ending than their other kids’ names, and it is specifically Catholic and Marian, since it’s the nickname that St. John Paul II went by during his growing up (it’s a diminutive of Karol, which is the Polish for Charles/Carl/Karl). I just love the idea of Lolek! Because it was JP2’s childhood nickname, it feels sweet and affectionate. It’s sort of similar in sound and/or rhythm to Leo, Luke, Colton, Cole, and Kolbe, so I can see Madison and her hubby liking it from that perspective. Here’s a little guy named Lolek, if you want to see it in real life (his mom said it feels like an “underground code name,” which I thought was so fun!).

I’m sorry my boy ideas are so sparse! I feel like Madison might have good luck going through the names of the Martyrs of England, Scotland, and Wales as well as the Irish Martyrs to check out their surnames — I’m sure there’s a lot of good inspiration there! (I don’t think those lists are totally comprehensive, but definitely provide a lot of possibilities.)

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little brother or sister of Cooper, Reagan, and Fulton?


The five baby name consultation openings I had for January have been taken, but Theresa is available to help you out! Email her at TheresaZoeWrites@gmail.com to set up your own consultation! (Payment methods remain the same.)

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!

Baby name consultation: Surname-name for baby no. 5

Happy Friday, everyone! Let’s finish off the week with a consultation for a mama who’s due soon! Allyson and her husband are expecting their fifth baby, a little green bean! (=gender unknown) 🌱 This little one joins big sibs:

Harper Anne (“I was in the depths of a PhD program; studying literature and I loved the works of Harper Lee; but above all, she just “felt” like a Harper: and so Harper it was! This was nine years ago, before it was on any popular name lists. My mom’s and my middle name is Ann; and I added an “e” for my grandma’a middle name “Eva” [and also the nod to the literary Anne].”)

Monroe (Mun-RO) Grace (“Sadly, my dad passed away from a (very) long illness two weeks before Monroe was born. My doctor told me not to fly to his funeral, all while writing a doctor’s note to let me fly to his funeral.

It was such a heavy time; but when I look back, I only see this perfectly calm, patient baby girl who was my medicine and healed me [she is still this person]. My dad’s name is Roger; and within her name are the letters R-O-G-E-R. The only other name we considered for her was Livie.

She was NOT named after Marilyn Monroe; but she looks exactly like her (at age 7) … which is a funny coincidence. I loved the name because Madison was such a trending presidential name for little girls, and James Monroe was the next in line! I also loved the names of Harper and Monroe together (we often called them “Harp and Roe”; and we had kind of started a surname trend with first names.

We have no family ties to the middle name Grace; but it was through God’s grace that she specifically came to our family at this time. I played the song “Amazing Grace” no less than a million times in her first few weeks. She offered me amazing grace.”)

Cohen Matthew (“Cohen is currently our only boy, and was the easiest to name. We decided he would be Cohen as we were driving back from the 20 week ultrasound; and so it was! Cohen is a common Jewish surname (we are not Jewish); and a name for a religious leader or priest. We loved the reverence of this (as well as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”: there’s the surname again). Matthew is my husband’s middle name and also means ‘Gift from God’ which sums up our sweet Cohen. Truly a miracle.”)

Blair Allyson (“Blair flew into the world 2 years ago; with no doctor in the room. I had a list of 50 names and I sat in the hospital for 2 days crying over the fact that I could not assign her a name.

All I wanted was to name her Elle; but our last name starts with “Bow” and she would essentially have the name “elbow”. I still love Elle; but she is definitely a Blair! With flair! And more. We decided not to add the ‘e’ to the end of her name … but I may honestly change it to include the ‘e’ as I think (now) it looks more feminine.”)

I love this family naming style! And I loved reading the story behind each first name and each first+middle combo — things like “Monroe Grace” containing within it Allyson’s dad’s name is the kind of detail that can be so meaningful to a family, even if no one else in the world knows about it or gets it. I also laughed out loud about Elle Bow-/Elbow!

Allyson writes,

[W]e have struggled with, and changed (almost) every one of our babies’ names (our last actually has “infant” as a first name with an amendment for her name on her birth certificate — we don’t want to do this again). It is SO difficult for me to assign names to these perfect, little people.

Harper left the hospital named Allegra Anne (which I still love). It is Italian with the meaning “joy”; and has a musical connotation (which I am very involved with). My husband was a dental student and that very day the allergy medicine “Allegra” was changed to be sold across pharmaceutical counters. He told his patient her name, and he asked how he could possibly name a baby after an allergy medicine. Our parents actually thought it was the name of a different medication 🙃; and to be fair, we couldn’t call her by her name, so we changed it.

Whew! So, we need a name for this baby!

We obviously lean toward classic, but trendy names with the sound of ‘surname’ as their first name.

If it’s a girl we will use the middle name ‘Mae’ after my husband’s mom and my aunt who is like a mom to me (as well as my mom’s favorite aunt).

If it’s a boy, we will use the middle name ‘Jay’ after my husband’s dad.

Names we like:

Girl

  • Quinn: (this means queen and fifth born!).  It’s kind of perfect; but my husband thinks it is a boy name; and I don’t love it with the middle name Mae.
  • Elle: Can’t do it. But I love it.
  • Liv, Lux, Lennon, London: I love London, but I know so many babies with that name … the other two might be too trendy?
  • Jolie, Juliet
  • Lucca
  • Delaney, Demi
  • Bellamy
  • Mila

(I have a list a mile long of more girl names I love).

Boy

  • Jamison
  • Maxwell
  • Jones
  • Landon

(Shorter list, not completely sold on any of them).

Anyway! This was a novel! We all need all the help we can get!

I’m fascinated that Allyson and her hubby changed their babies’ names multiple times! I definitely hope we can help them feel peaceful with a name for their little one before birth! But it’s clear that even if the same thing happens again, they’ll end up bestowing a fantastic name, just like they did four times before.

So I thought I’d start by offering my thoughts on the names Allyson and her husband like, in case they’re helpful:

  • Quinn: I love Quinn for a girl! It’s very easy to debunk Allyson’s husband’s claim that Quinn is a “boy name” — the naming stats compiled by the Social Security Administration show that in 2020 (the most recent year we have data for), Quinn was no. 85 for girls and 440 for boys. Vastly more girls than boys were named Quinn! I do think a greater concern is that Allyson doesn’t care for Quinn with Mae. I wonder if she’d be open to considering a different middle name? Mae is a form of Mary, for example — would Quinn Mary appeal to them and retain the same honor for Allyson’s mother-in-law and her aunt? Or maybe they’d like to consider a double middle name, like Quinn Lucca Mae? If they were open to dropping Mae altogether, a suggestion I’d usually offer is Edel, after Venerable Edel Quinn — my readers who have considered Quinn for their girls (almost always for their girls!) look to Ven. Edel Quinn as patron — Quinn Edel sounds quite nice (I’ve heard Edel said like Adele; like the first part of Edelweiss; and to rhyme with “pedal”), as does Quinn Edel Mae. I also have a reader whose daughter is Quinn Margaret, which is lovely. Or maybe switch up the order and call her by her middle name? Mae Quinn called Quinn? I did a broader spotlight of Quinn here.
  • Elle: Such a great name, really too bad. Speaking of Edel, it’s kind of like Elle without the “elbow” problem — maybe they’d like to consider that?
  • Liv, Lux, Lennon, London: These, along with Landon on their boy list and the fact that Allyson loves Elle (“L”!), really make me think they might like to consider an L name! I have quite a few suggestions below. Otherwise, I know they considered Livie for Monroe — Liv would be great. Lux is maybe a little edgier than they’ve done already? Lennon seems spot on for their style, and if Allyson knows a lot of Londons, I’d love to see if we can find something that feels fresher to her.
  • Jolie, Juliet: My first thought here is that, since they’ve done surname-type names with their other kids, I’d really love to see them continue that theme. Juliet is one of my favorite names in the whole world, but it has a frilliness that Harper, Monroe, and Blair don’t have (Marilyn notwithstanding!). Jolie fits in nicely, though (thank you Angelina for giving it a surname vibe!), and it was fun to see that Cohen, Elle, Quinn, and Juliette itself (that spelling) are style matches for it per the Baby Name Wizard!
  • Lucca: If it wasn’t for Allegra, I’d probably wonder where Lucca came from! I like that it’s a surname (as opposed to the first name Luca), and it does fit in with a name Allyson loved (Allegra), but it is very Italian as compared to their other kids’ names.
  • Delaney, Demi: I often see Delaney on name lists of parents who have taste like these parents, such a cool name! Demi is all Demi Moore and Demi Lovato to me, and in both cases they may be (for Moore) and are (for Lovato) nicknames for Demetria (some sources say Demi Moore’s given name is Demetria, but I guess she’s said that’s not true. Demetria is, however, Demi Lovato’s given name). I only say this because Demi on its own has names like Kirstie, Gigi, and Rico given as style matches for it, which don’t seem like Allyson’s style at all, so maybe she’d like to consider it as a nickname for a longer name instead? One option is the biblical name Damaris, which I’ve seen sometimes spelled Demaris; another is to use a D first name with Mae for the middle and think of Demi as sort of a mashup nickname from the first+middle names: Delaney Mae, Dempsey Mae, Darcy Mae, Della Mae.
  • Bellamy: I always think it’s so great that “Bella” is the first part of Bellamy, making it feel really feminine, and also that the whole thing means “beautiful friend.” Bellamy actually directly inspired one of my suggestions below.
  • Mila: When I first read Allyson’s email, and again when I started working on her consultation, I read this as “Mia” both times and thought it seemed a departure from her style, but okay. Mila makes so much more sense to me for them! I would understand if Allyson’s mother-in-law didn’t feel honored by Mila (nor her aunt), but I’ve often thought it can be a nice nod to a baby’s grandmother because of St. Ludmila.
  • Jamison: I think Jamison is such a fun way to shake up the traditional James. If the Jay for Allyson’s father-in-law is short for James, Jamison could be thought of as a nod to him?
  • Maxwell: A fine name, no surprises here. I’m wondering though if Wells might be more their style?
  • Jones: I’ve often thought Jones would make a cool first name! I like that it’s derived from John, which gives it all sorts of faith connections.
  • Landon: As I mentioned above in regards to Liv, Lux, Lennon, London, Allyson must really like L names! I have a couple suggestions of others below. Also, Lander is a style match for Cohen — I’ve never seen Lander before and don’t really know anything about it, but I thought it was neat that it’s like a more unusual Landon.

So Allyson and her husband have some pretty great ideas here, but of course I can always come up with more! I mentioned the Baby Name Wizard (affiliate link) above — you all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they like in the BNW as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I was excited to do so here, as Allyson’s kids’ names are a bit outside of what I usually see and it was fun to see what names were listed as style matches for them! (I’m such a name nerd! Haha!) There were a few that didn’t have their own entries in the book, so I used the Name Matchmaker tool on babynamewizard.com, and I also had a couple of my own ideas. Based on all that, these are my suggestions:

Girl

(1) Greer, Tierney

Right off the bat I thought of Greer, one of my very favorite girl names! I knew a girl when I was growing up whose name was Greer, which I thought was so fun and interesting and unusual. When I discovered Greer Garson, the name took on a starlet feel, which totally goes with Monroe I think. Brooke Shields used the Grier spelling for her daughter. I love both Greer and Grier!

Tierney is included here with Greer because the Greer I knew growing up has a sister named Tierney, which I also thought was amazing, and it was fun to see Tierney listed as a style match for Bellamy!

(2) Romilly

Speaking of Bellamy, Romilly is a style match for it, and as much as I like Bellamy, I think I like Romilly even more. Such an unexpected name, I wish I heard more of it!

(3) Luna, Larkin, Linnea, Landry

Just as Allyson had a list of L names she likes, so I have a list of L names I came across in my research that I loved for her — I couldn’t pick just one! I said above that I thought Lux was a little too edgy for their style, but Luna is so similar and a bit softer, and it’s a match for Jolie and Mila.

Larkin is an actual style match for Monroe as a girl’s name and also Jamison, and also given as a boy name match for Jones. My only familiarity with it is as a girl’s name, probably because of the bird “lark” having a feminine feel and the actress Lark Voorhies from Saved by the Bell as well as the sister’s name of a friend of mine, and this family used Larkin for a daughter too. (It appears to be a medieval diminutive of Lawrence, so if you wanted to honor a Lawrence in either a boy or a girl’s name, Larkin would be great!)

Linnea is a match for Allegra, and I might have thought it too frilly but that I know it derives from the surname Linnaeus (the linnea flower is named after the botanist Carolus Linneaus), which goes along with this family’s style.

And Landry is another one I thought of right away for them — a surname with unisex usage that’s also a Saint’s name, so it’s often a go-to suggestion from me for other families who enjoy similar names.

(4) Eyre, Eden

I kept my eyes open for names that struck me as having a similar feel to Elle, which I thought both Eyre and Eden fit. Eyre is a match for Monroe and as soon as I thought it I thought of Allyson’s academic work and thought it might be perfect. Eyre also reminds me of Lux — “air,” “light.”

Eden is an actual match for Elle, and also for Jolie, and having Old Testament connections also ties it to Cohen, which I like.

(5) Halle

Finally, Halle is a match for Jolie, Hailey is a match for Madison, and Hali is a match for Demi; of those, I like Halle the best for this family because of why one family I spotlighted chose it — because it’s contained within Hallelujah! I think that’s amazing! (They also have a Grace Marilyn! Like Monroe Grace!)

Boy

(1) Rourke

Knowing that Allyson and her hubby are having a harder time with boy names, I really tried to cast a wide net. Both Roarke and Rourke are style matches for Monroe, and I was intrigued right away since they represent a sound/rhythm that I think is kind of unusual among boy names. I thought Roarke was too Howard Roark from The Fountainhead, but there are two Irish Martyrs with the surname O’Rourke that I would look to as patrons (more specifics about Bl. Conn O’Rourke here).

(2) Bennett

Bennett was a big match for this family! It’s listed as a match for Monroe, Juliet, Jamison, and Maxwell! I love that it means “blessed,” and I love that Bennet has a literary connection through Pride and Prejudice!

(3) Elliott

Elliott, too, did very well in my research — it’s a match for Juliet, Jamison, and Maxwell. Elliott is derived from Elijah, which I’ve always thought was amazing — a biblical name “in disguise”!

(4) Tate

I have to say, I wasn’t sure whether to put Tate in the boy list or the girl list, and ultimately decided to put it in the boy list because it’s listed as a boy match for Blair and Elle, and because I thought a girl Tate might be misheard as Kate too often. Tate is a fun name! Tate with their last name sounds like a star football player to me.

(5) Lincoln, Lexington

Finally, I’m making good on my promise to offer more L names! Allyson mentioned liking the presidential connection of Monroe, so I wondered if she might like Lincoln? I think Lincoln and Linc are fantastic names, and Lincoln’s a style match for Harper, too.

Lexington is a match for London, and I kind of thought of it as a Lux alternative, but for a boy?

Those are all my “official” suggestions, but there were a bunch of other names I considered including that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another, so I wanted to list them just in case there’s something here that feels right to Allyson and/or her husband:

Girl

  • Austen, Avalon, Avonlea
  • Cassidy

Boy

  • Garrett
  • Grant
  • Cashel
  • Patton
  • Locke
  • Knox

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Harper, Monroe, Cohen, and Blair?


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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Real-life “Chilton” names

Ahhh I started the week telling you that this week was going to be similar to last week, with three consultation posts planned — but the second and third turned out not to want a public post after all! Which is totally 100% absolutely fine — there is absolutely no requirement or expectation that you have your consultation made public. I just wanted to let you know why I haven’t posted again until now!

I have two things for you today: first, a mama who recently took advantage of my buy-my-book-get-a-consultation deal told me that she’s planning to donate the book to her OB-GYN’s office (which happens to be NFP-only and named after a Catholic Saint, what?? Lucky lady!!), which I thought was a fantastic idea! So I wanted to share that with all of you too, in case that’s something you’d like to do as well, especially if you bought the book before I was offering this deal and would have liked to take advantage of it.

Secondly, my older boys run Cross Country, and all of the schools in our league are public schools except ours, which is a co-ed Catholic school, and one other, which is a private all-girls’ boarding school that also has day students. The last two meets were held at this private school, and if you’ve seen Gilmore Girls then you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s *just like Chilton*. It’s an enormous campus with gorgeous old buildings (“They actually have turrets!” one of my boys exclaimed) that I’m sure have literal ivy on them, and their athletic facility has multiple volleyball courts and an indoor swimming pool — it’s truly more like college than high school. (There were four schools involved in the meet, so our boys ran against the boys’ teams from the other two co-ed schools, while our girls had this private school’s team to compete against as well as the other two schools’ girls’ teams, just in case this is confusing.)

Anyway! I was walking past the field hockey field with my two little boys on our way to the bathroom (multiple trips to the bathroom, and yes they had a men’s room — my older boys were very worried about that, haha!) and I heard the coach call out to two of the girls: “Agatha! Cece!”

Don’t Agatha and Cece seem exactly right for the environment I described?? Also, I’ve seen Agatha floated by a couple families recently who weren’t sure it was ready to come back, but this Agatha’s parents decided it was okay fifteen years ago!

Then I was able to see the roster of their runners, and thought these were particularly amazing (alt characters for privacy):

  • B3ck3tt
  • Lou!se
  • Ivy@nn
  • P0rtia

P0rtia and Lou!se made me think of the characters of Rory’s Chilton schoolmates Paris and Louise, and the surname name B3ck3tt and double first name Ivy@nn also seemed really perfect. I counted eight girls on their team, so it’s pretty amazing that a full half of them had names that jumped out at me.

I hope you all have a great weekend! TGIF!!


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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: Cool, Catholic, and maybe Celtic for baby no. 4

Mollie and her husband are expecting their fourth baby! This little one joins big siblings:

  • Avila Mary
  • Jack Michael
  • Luke Gabriel

I looooove these names!! I love that Avila is so recognizable (among Catholics anyway), and feels familiar in that it’s similar appearance- and sound-wise to names like Ava and Evelyn, but it’s also surprising in the best way possible. I love, too, that they paired it with the sweet and simple Mary. Avila Mary is such a lovely combo! And Jack Michael and Luke Gabriel are fantastic combos as well! I love how masculine and saintly they are — great names for both boys and men. Mollie and her husband have done a fantastic job!

Mollie writes,

We’re struggling for both boy and girl names. For a girl name, Avila sets the bar that we need something somewhat (but not too) unique, feminine and vowel-y. We don’t want any repeated letters, so we can’t use another A name

Names we liked before we named Avila were Grace, Rosalie, and Natalie

Now that we are trying to coordinate with Avila, we like Vera and Fiona … We’re struggling with Fiona because it’s not a saint and there’s a cartoon character named Fiona that’s an ogre. We’ve always liked the name Magdalene for a middle name or Rosemary (but not sure if that fits since Avila has the middle name Mary). 

As for boy names, Jack and Luke were our top two boy names since we met. So, it was very easy to name them, but now we don’t have any names that we like. We’ve tossed around Mark, Ross, Fitzgerald (my husband’s [middle name is] Gerald, but we don’t like Gerald alone). But really aren’t pulled any particular way yet. Just that we want it to go well with Jack and Luke. We named them after the archangels, which puts us in a tough spot if this fourth baby is a boy because Raphael is harder to match with and who knows how to pronounce it?!

That made me laugh about the pronunciation of Raphael! How do you all pronounce it?

Names that they can’t use include:

  • Nicholas
  • Aidan
  • Noah
  • Michael
  • Casey
  • Griffin
  • David
  • Bennett
  • Samuel
  • Isaac 
  • Allison
  • Caroline
  • Ella
  • Clara
  • Julia
  • Bridget
  • Elaine
  • Maeveen
  • Bonnie
  • Sonja
  • Maya

I was really interested to see what names are on their list for this baby, and was surprised by a few of them — I love being surprised! I thought I’d start by offering my thoughts on them, in case they’re helpful:

  • Grace, Rosalie, Natalie: I was interested that Mollie and her hubby have a sense of names they liked before naming Avila versus names they’re considering now. I agree that Grace and Natalie have a different feel than Avila, but I wouldn’t cross Rosalie off just yet. Mollie described Avila as “unique, feminine and vowel-y,” but I would describe it as “unique, feminine, and Catholicky Catholic with a current feel.” That is, I wouldn’t worry about matching its sound so much (the “vowel-y” quality she mentioned), though I wouldn’t avoid doing so either — rather, in trying to find girl names that feel like natural sister names for Avila, I would look for “Catholicky Catholic names with a current feel.” The “current feel” Avila has is that it’s a place name, which is something I think was rarer for Catholic parents to use in the past but is much more in line with modern thinking. Rosalie has a “current feel” in a different sense I think — it was out of fashion for a while, but is coming back again. This is Rosalie’s popularity chart from https://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/ — I zoomed way out to get all the years from 1900 in, which unfortunately compromises the ability to read it clearly, but you get the idea:

Rosalie is currently at no. 208, which it hasn’t been at since the 1940s — in fact, it dropped off the chart altogether between 1989 and 2008! Its reemergence feels like a rediscovery — it’s vintage rather than dated. In contrast, Grace entered the top 100 in 1995 and Natalie in 1976, and both have been there ever since. Grace has the additional aspect of having very popular usage as a middle name, which adds to its feel of commonness — “common” is the opposite of Avila! All this to say, I’d suggest keeping Rosalie on the list! If they still do like it, but still don’t like it in the first name spot as a sister to Avila, maybe it can replace Rosemary as a middle name idea — that way they have the “rose” that can nod to Our Lady without the “Mary” that repeats Avila’s middle name.

If they want to find a way to make Grace and Natalie work, I might suggest making Grace part of an unexpected double first name, like Cora-Grace or Roma-Grace or Thea-Grace. Those names (Cora, Roma, and Thea) actually didn’t make the cut for my “official” suggestions below, so I’m happy to given them a mention here — they’re the kind of names I think of when I think of Avila. I’ve seen Cora used quite a bit in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (mostly, but also sometimes the Sacred Heart of Jesus … or both!), Roma is a nice nod to the Church and is place-y like Avila, and Thea means “God” and makes a pretty amazing “phrase” when paired with Grace (actually they all do) … these are all what I would call “Catholicky Catholic names with a current feel”: place names, noun names, “idea” names. And though they might seem overly long for everyday use, those three combos have the same number of syllables as Avila. And for a fresher take on Natalie, I’d suggest Natalia.

  • Vera: I’m not sure I’ve seen any of the families I’ve worked with consider Vera, and the only one I know in real life is in her 70s, so I had to look the name up — it was pretty cool to find that it has a very similar popularity arc to Rosalie, having disappeared from the charts in 1984 and didn’t reappear again until 2009; it’s currently 252, which is where it was in the mid-50s. I really love its entry at Behind the Name: “Means ‘faith’ in Russian, though it is sometimes associated with the Latin word verus ‘true.’” How cool! I could see Vera-Grace also being a great combo. A related name that could be cool to consider is Verity, which means “truth.” My one hesitation with both Vera and Verity is that, since they have a prominent V like Avila, will Mollie and her hubs feel like they have to find a name with a prominent V for future daughters?
  • Fiona: I, too, love the name Fiona! Though I like its symmetry with Avila, in the sense that it’s a five-letter name ending in A, I wouldn’t have included it in the list of names that are similar to Avila, though — it’s missing that “Catholicky Catholic” element. That said, if they just love it and want to make it work, Behind the Name says it’s a feminine variant of the masculine name Fionn, from which comes the name Finnian, and there are a few Sts. Finnian, so they can serve as patron of a little Fiona. BtN also connects it to Gwen, which is a Welsh variant, and there are some Sts. Gwen as well. As for the Shrek connection, it’s interesting to note that The Baby Name Wizard book (affiliate link), which you all know I always use in my consultations, said Shrek was actually the reason that Fiona entered the pool mainstream names — it entered the top 1000 in 1990 and is currently no. 265, which is a pretty sweet-spot position — not too popular, but neither unfamiliar nor rare. It also lets you know that lots of families are using the name, despite the Shrek connection — like this family that I did a consultation for. Fiona really is a great name!
  • Magdalene: I was excited to see Magdalene on their list, since it’s the exact kind of name that I think of when I think of Avila! Magdalene is fantastic, and I’d love to see them bump it onto the first-name list.
  • Rosemary: It’s actually a really traditional thing to give all the daughters in a family a form of Mary in their names somewhere (first or middle). Some have interpreted it in the past as using Mary/Marie/Maria itself for all the daughters (St. Therese and her sisters all had Marie); other families have used variants of Mary (my sisters and I all have a different form of Mary in our names); others have used other Marian names like Rose (some fun examples of different options here; also, my book of Marian baby names is a compilation of all these ideas). So from that perspective, I don’t think there’s any problem with using Rosemary as a middle name for a girl, even with Avila’s middle name being Mary. It could be a nice connection between sisters, and easy enough to do for all the daughters they end up having.
  • Mark: Mark seems so perfect with brothers Jack and Luke — a four-letter name ending in the K sound! I have no quibble with Mark, except possibly that if their first three boys have four-letter names that end in the K sound, would they feel like they have to continue that with future boys? (This is not a big quibble on my part though — you’ll see I included a similar idea in my official suggestions below.)
  • Ross: I love this, too — I love that it continues their boys’ four-letter theme but in a new way and with new sounds. Like Fiona, it doesn’t have a Saint as far as I can tell, but it’s actually a place name that several Saints share, which makes it a nice complement for Avila’s style.
  • Fitzgerald: I love this idea! The connection to Hubby’s middle name and St. Gerard is great, and Fitz is a fun nickname that’s four letters like Jack and Luke, but the fact that it’s a nickname rather than the given name opens up more options for future sons. Other ideas related to Gerard include Garrett, which is derived from Gerard, and Hardy, since Gerard is a combo of the Germanic elements ger (“spear”) and hard (“brave, hardy”).
  • Raphael: It’s almost painful to think of them NOT using Raphael for a middle name for their next boy! Haha! After Jack and Luke’s middle names, it would be so fun! But I definitely don’t think it’s necessary — I think Michael and Gabriel are used so frequently, even together, without Raphael, that I think they can get away with not using it. If they did decide to use Raphael (and with it being the middle name, they can choose whatever pronunciation they like! They’re listed here), some options for future boys’ middle names can include Angel/Angelo/Angelus (Angelus has the nice added layer of being the name of the Angelus prayer) and Seraphim (referring to the order of angels called the seraphim and it’s used as a boy’s name). In terms of matching a name with Raphael, I like both Mark Raphael and Ross Raphael (I’m a big fan of alliteration, though I know not everyone is). Fitzgerald Raphael might be too many unusual names together though?

So those are my thoughts on the names Mollie and her husband are considering — now on to new ideas! I mentioned The Baby Name Wizard earlier — I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they’re considering in that book as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/pronunciation. I did so for this family, keeping a particular eye out for names with a strong faith connection; I also rifled through my mental files for names like Avila, since her name doesn’t have its own entry in the book, and I used my book of Marian names as a resources as well. Based on all that, these are my new ideas for Mollie’s baby:

Girl

(1) Carys or Charis

These names, which are pronounced the same (CARE-iss), are the kinds of names I think of when I think of names like Avila. The former is a Welsh name that means “love”; the latter is from the Greek for “grace, kindness.” They’re such pretty names! I like that Carys, being Welsh, has the Celtic feel that they like, as evidenced by Fiona, Ross, and Fitzgerald, and I like that Charis is contained within the word eucharist, which gives it a beautiful added layer of meaning.

(2) Clairvaux

Mollie said that Clara is off limits, but Claire showed up a few times in my research — it’s a style match for Jack, Luke, and Grace — and it made me think of Clairvaux, which has more of Avila’s feel, especially since it’s a saintly place name like Avila (St. Teresa of Avila and St. Bernard of Clairvaux) and it has that prominent V that I think they like (in case they decide they want to go that route). I think Clairvaux would be great because it would bridge Avila’s name with their boys’ names in the sense that Clairvaux is very Avila-ish and the nickname Clair(e) is very Jack-and-Luke. I have a couple of readers with daughters named Clairvaux — here’s one and here’s another.

(3) Cassia

Cassie is a style match for Ross, and it’s one of my favorite nicknames for girls, so I was excited when I was thumbing through the BNW and saw that Livia — notable because it has all the same letters as Avila and also ends in A, so I thought it was a decent stand-in from that perspective — is a style match for Cassia. Cassia has a few fun layers: it’s the name of a form of cinnamon (a spice name! How fun!) and is also the English form of the biblical name Keziah, who was one of Job’s daughters. Biblical + spice with a sweet nickname sounds amazing! There are two possible pronunciations: KAS-see-a or KAH-sha.

(4) Elanor nicknamed Nora or Ella

Ella is a match for both Jack and Luke, but I worry that it’s too similar to the sounds of Avila? But then Nora is a match for Fiona, and since both Ella and Nora can be nicknames for Eleanor, I thought there was something there, but Eleanor itself seemed a little too tame next to Avila? I wondered if changing the spelling to Elanor — which is the spelling Tolkien used in Lord of the Rings — would help? The Tolkien names are often favored by Catholic parents because of Tolkien’s identity as a devout Catholic writer and the Catholic themes in his writing — they’re kind of sneaky Catholic names! I also thought Ella-Grace — like the double name idea with Grace that I mentioned earlier — could be an interesting option.

(5) Violet

Not to add more V names when I’ve suggested that maybe a name with a strong V wouldn’t be a great idea for their next girl, in order to not feel like they’re locked into a theme, but Violet could be lovely here! It’s an entry in my book of Marian names because the violet flower used to be called Our Lady’s Modesty, and represents her humility.

(6) Stella

Speaking of Marian names, and also of Ella above, I also love the idea of Stella for this baby! Stella Maris is one of Our Lady’s titles, meaning Star of the Sea, and I’ve seen Stella as a first name in honor of this title, as well as Stella Maris as a first+middle combo, and the long and lovely Stellamaris and Maristella. Of those, Stella seems like a great sister for Avila!

(7) Kate

Kate is a match for Jack, Luke, and Ross, which means I have to suggest it for this family! I don’t think that Kate is a great sister for Avila, though — they’re just so far apart style-wise. But some ideas to make this work can include Kateri with the nickname Kate, or maybe Kate as part of a double name like I suggested with Grace. Vera-Kate, Roma-Kate, Thea Kate, Ella-Kate, even Stella-Kate could all provide just the sparkle that Avila’s sister needs to match her sister’s stunning name.

(8) Isla

Isla is a match for Fiona, and it’s an entry in my book of Marian names, since “its Marian character comes from the title ‘Our Lady of the Isles’ (Moire ro Naomh nan Eilean in Scottish Gaelic, referring to a state of Our Lady on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland), or any of the devotions in the U.S. and Canada to Our Lady of the Island or Our Lady of the Isle, including churches and institutions in New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Quebec, Canada. There’s also the church of Our Lady of the Isle in Croatia.” It’s such a pretty name! I could also see Isla-Grace and Isla-Kate as being really pretty combos. (One of the Clairvauxs that I mentioned above has a sister named Isla!)

Boy

(1) Becket(t)

Given that Jack and Luke both have that prominent ending K sound, as does Mark from the names Mollie and her hubs are considering, I thought Becket/Beckett might be right up their alley. I love that a Becket(t) could go by Beck, which is a great fit with Jack and Luke, but it’s also very Avila-esque, like St. Thomas a Becket. It’s a cool option!

(2) Kolbe

Cole is a match for Luke and Colin for Natalie, both of which are great and maybe Mollie would like to consider them? They’re variants of Nicholas, which is where the patron Saint would come from. But they both made me think of Kolbe, which has that Avila feel as well and could be a really great bridge name between their boys’ style and Avila’s style.

(3) Grant

Grant is a match for Ross, and as soon as I saw it I wanted to suggest it. I’ve actually seen it in a few families who also have a Luke, and one reader of the blog said she considered it because of the dona nobis pacem part of the Mass: “grant us peace.” I love that!

(4) Drew

I really like the idea of Drew with Jack and Luke — I feel like it has a similar feel — but I don’t so much feel that way about the full Andrew. Since they already used Jack — which of course has a long history of usage as a given name in its own right, but started as a nickname for John — I thought maybe they’d be okay just going with Drew as a given name?

(5) Ryan

I felt the same way about Ryan as I do about Drew with their boys — it just feels like it goes! I did a spotlight on Ryan a few years ago and came up with what I think are some great faith connections. I also like its Celtic background for this family.

(6) Owen

Owen is a match for Jack, Luke, and Grace, and I love that its Celtic feel goes along with the feel of Fiona, Ross, and Fitzgerald. Though it has both Irish and English/Welsh connections, I’m a huge fan of St. Nicholas Owen, who was one of the English Martyrs — he’s a great patron!

(7) Charles (Charlie)

How can I ignore the fact that Charlie is a match for Jack and Vera! Normally I would suggest the formal Charles with the nickname Charlie, but as I was thinking with Drew, maybe Charlie as a given name would be more their speed? I’ve also seen Charley bestowed as a given name by people who don’t want to use Charles — maybe the spelling Charley has more of a full-name feel?

(8) Finn(ian)

Finally, since they’re considering Fiona, which is a form of Fionn (Finn), and since Finn is a four-letter name like Jack and Luke, maybe Mollie and her hubby would like to consider this family of names for a boy! Finn as a given name is great, but I’m guessing they might like Finnian better, since it’s an actual Saint’s name. I love it for them!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Avila, Jack, and Luke?


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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

a Becket, a Kempis, a Cruce

St. Thomas a Becket, Thomas a Kempis (author of The Imitation of Christ), and St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, aka Edith Stein) all have that “a” in common — have any of you wondered what it means? I admit I’d only had a vague, noncommittal curiosity until today, when I decided to try to find out.

Basically, it means “of” or “from.” Thomas à Kempis , who is also known in German as Thomas von Kempen and in Dutch as Thomas van Kempen — “von” and “van” meaning “from” in their respective languages — is so called because Kempen was his home town. St. “Teresia Benedicta a Cruce” is simply “Teresa Benedict of the Cross” (isn’t Teresia a pretty variant? Behind the Name says T(h)eresia is a German, Dutch, and Swedish variant, and that Tessan is a Swedish diminutive and Trees a Dutch diminutive).

I’m sure the “a” in “a Becket” means the same thing, though the reason is less clear. Check out this rabbit hole I went down:

  • “Thomas Becket was the son of Norman settlers who lived in the city of London. His father was a merchant who traveled among the circles of French-speaking Norman immigrants. The name ‘Becket’ is likely a nickname, possibly meaning beak or nose, which was given to his father.” (source)
  • “Deeply influenced in childhood by a devout mother who died when he was 21, Thomas entered adult life as a city clerk and accountant in the service of the sheriffs. After three years he was introduced by his father to Archbishop Theobald, a former abbot of Bec, of whose household he became a member.” (source)
  • “Bec Abbey, formally the Abbey of Our Lady of Bec (French: Abbaye Notre-Dame du Bec), is a Benedictine monastic foundation in the Eure département, in the Bec valley midway between the cities of Rouen and Bernay. It is located in Le Bec Hellouin, Normandy, France, and was the most influential abbey of the 12th-century Anglo-Norman kingdom.” (source)
  • “Like all abbeys, Bec maintained annals of the house but uniquely its first abbots also received individual biographies, brought together by the monk of Bec, Milo Crispin.” (ibid.)
  • “‘Bec’ is the name of the stream running through the abbey, Old Norse bekkr, in English place or river names Beck.” (ibid.)
  • “Becket” is from “Beckett,” which is from “an English surname that could be derived from various sources, including from Middle English beke meaning ‘beak’ or bekke meaning ‘stream, brook'” (source)

Becket could refer to a nickname of St. Thomas’ father because of his nose! Or it could be a reference to Bec Abbey, which was originally named Abbey of Our Lady of Bec! A famous monk of Bec (a Beccan  monk? A Becket monk?) was named Milo! Which has separate Marian connections! So many fun discoveries! (So many exclamation marks!)

Back to the “a” — tell me what you know! I see that “à” is French — are all the a’s really à’s? So all these have a French origin? But German seems a big factor here too — but then German has “von”? Is it Latin, maybe? And is there some more nuanced meaning I’m missing, since a Kempis means “from a certain place,” a Becket might mean the same or “son of the father with the nickname,” and a Cruce means “of” in the sense of possession? I’d love to spend more time researching but I have a deadline I should be working on!

I’m totally loving the “a” construction — I could see “a Cruce” being an amazing name in honor of both St. Edith and Jesus. And of course Katheryn has set an amazing example with giving her son the amazing first name “à Kempis.” I mean. So brilliant. And such a really cool addition to Kolbe, Avila, Siena, and other saintly surnames/place names.

What other saints have an “a” construction in their names? I guess we could do this with any “of” saint, right? St. Catherine a Siena? St. Teresa a Avila? St. Bernard a Clairvaux? Or am I misunderstanding how this works?

I look forward to reading your comments! Happy Thursday!


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!

Spotlight on: Quinn

Happy Tuesday everybody! I’ve done a bunch of private consultations recently (which is totally fine and wonderful! There’s absolutely no requirement or pressure to have your consultation posted here for reader feedback!), so I don’t know when my next Monday consultation post will be — I just wanted to let you know, because I can see from my traffic stats (generally, and specifically yesterday) that a lot of people pop in on Mondays to see them!

I’ve been wanting to do a spotlight on Quinn for a while, ever since I posted this baby name consultation back in January, where I stated confidently: “Quinn: not in top 1000 for girls; no. 384 for boys” and reader VEL gently pointed out in the comments: “I’m pretty sure Quinn ranked #84 for girls for 2018:)”. She was right, of course — I have no idea how I got that wrong, since I looked up Quinn for both girls and boys in the SSA data — could I have spelled it wrong? Who knows, but the point remains that I was 100% completely wrong and that Quinn is currently a top 100 name for girls, and it’s got a great faith connection that lots of parents of have been loving: Ven. Edel Quinn.

I’ve written about the Irish Ven. Edel before, including my encounter with an actual real-life Edel in Ireland, in several baby name consultations (including the one mentioned above), and these Sancta Nomina babies who were named after her: Kyteria Quinn and Harper Edel. She’s pretty amazing! And totally my go-to for a holy patron for a Quinn, girl or boy. I don’t know of any other Ven./Bl./St. with the name Quinn, but I’ve also seen Quinn suggested as a nickname for Aquinas for a boy, which is pretty awesome, and there’s also the girl name Aquinnah (like one of Michael J. Fox’s daughters), which can take Quinn as a nickname and St. Thomas Aquinas as a patron. The spelling Quin might feel more natural as a nickname for Aquinas and Quintus, and doing so moves it a bit away from the Irish surname feel, which some parents might prefer.

Here on the blog, I’ve seen Quinn suggested for a fifth baby because of its similarity in sound to “quint,” as a namesake for St. Quentin, and in honor of Our Lady because of its similarity in sound to “queen.” I totally think they work! (Though Quinn has no etymological connection to any of these, being instead from the anglicization of an Irish surname meaning “descendant of Conn,” where Conn means “head” or “chief.” So then maybe using it to mean “queen” is pretty accurate after all!)

As a given name, I first heard it on a little boy years ago, before I was married, and I thought it was so cool. These days, I mostly hear it on girls (even though I claimed in that consultation I mentioned above that it wasn’t nearly as popular for girls as for boys, I really just don’t know where my head was). We have a little friend who’s just a couple months older than Luke named Quinn, and her family calls her Quinnie and so does my 6yo, and it’s the cutest thing ever. I will also say that with at least one of the little Quinns I know, I spent months thinking her name was Gwen before realizing it’s actually Quinn (and I try to be really careful about names!). But I don’t think that’s a big deal at all — both Quinn and Gwen are beautiful!

What do you all think of Quinn? Do you like it better for a boy or a girl? Would you ever consider the name Quinn for your son or daughter, or have you? If not as a given name, maybe Quinn or Quin as a nickname for something else? Do you know any Quinns? Do they like their name?


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: “Short and cute” vs. “flowery” for a girl, surname-style for a boy

Happy feast of Mary, Mother of the Church! And at the same time, in sorrow I share this Prayer for Racial Justice, and the call to participate in this 19-day period of prayer and fasting (from today to the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) as an act of reparation to God for the sin of racism in all its forms. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us. St. Michael, pray for us. Sacred Heart of Jesus, bless us and keep us close to You.

Trish and her husband are expecting their fourth baby — a little green bean! He or she joins big siblings:

Donovan Kolbe (“we liked last names that were first names for boys and Kolbe had special significance since my husbands grandfather escaped from the Warsaw ghetto as a boy“)

Genevieve Louise (“I love very feminine names for girls, while my husband likes short and cute. I sold it to him by saying we could call her Evie, which we did for a few years but she is now asking to be called Genevieve (YAY). Louise was after my husbands grandmother“)

Veronica Caeli (“we call her Caeli … we knew we wanted a Caeli, but didn’t want her to forever be spelling it … so made it a middle name so she can choose“)

Are you as swoony as I am over these names?! 😍😍😍

Trish writes,

My husband and I have different tastes and had a VERY difficult time coming up with our son’s name … I have a list of names for this baby but my husband pretty much doesn’t like any of them because they are “too flowery.” He would like Emma or Claire but they’re too common for me. I think Gemma is a good compromise and he likes it, but is Gemma a different name than Genevieve? I really don’t like super common names. Even Mary! Sorry to Our Lady but every other family has a Mary and I just can’t.”

(“and I just can’t” — haha!)

Names Trish and her hubby have discussed include:

Xavier
Leo
Oliver
Jerome
Gemma
Eloise Grace (“but can we do an Eloise with an Evie Louise??“)
Emmeline
Annalise
Seraphina

And Trish specifically said, “I hope you can bridge the gap!!!” which, as I told her, is one of my very favorite things to do! (In fact, my very first CatholicMom.com column [five years ago!] was about this exact issue!)

First off, I’ll say that I really love that they both like Gemma, and normally I’d think it would be a perfect compromise, but for Genevieve! I mean, Genevieve starts with the sound *jenna*, and Gemma is *jemma* — they’re SO close! If they always called Genevieve “Evie,” then perhaps it wouldn’t be too problematic, at least on an everyday basis. Of course, that said, if Trish and her hubby just really love Gemma and the similarity between Gemma and Genevieve doesn’t bother them, then it’s certainly not the end of the world to choose Gemma!

I’m interested in the divide between Trish and her husband over girl names — he likes feminine, shorter names (Evie, Caeli, Emma, Claire), while Trish has feminine, longer names on her list (Emmeline, Annalise, and Seraphina). I see a lot of potential here!

I actually think Emmeline is a perfect compromise name here — it’s got Emma in it, from Trish’s hubby’s list, and a little Emmeline could easily and naturally go by Emma and/or Emmy. Annalise and Seraphina are similarly good I think, because Anna/Annie and Sera are less “flowery” names and I think they would qualify as “short and cute,” as Trish described her husband’s taste (I also think Sophie could work as a nickname for Seraphina, which I also suspect Trish’s husband might like). Another name that might also be a good compromise is Clairvaux. It’s pronounced clair-VO, like St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and having the Clair- at the beginning means a little Clairvaux can go by Claire with no problem. Two of my readers have daughters named Clairvaux! I definitely think Trish should check them out (here and here) as both families have name taste similar to hers, I think.

As for Eloise Grace, I wouldn’t think it would be a problem unless they regularly tack Louise onto whatever they’re calling Genevieve. That is, do they regularly call her Evie Louise? Or even the full Genevieve Louise? If so, I do feel like Eloise might be too similar. But if Louise rarely shows up when they’re referring to Genevieve, then I think it’s fine. It also reminds me of a friend of mine who gave both her first and second daughters the middle name Catherine, but the older daughter’s middle name was for her grandmother Catherine, and the second daughter’s middle name was for St. Catherine of Siena. And I know more than one family who used a certain name as a middle name for one child, and liked that name so much they used it as the first name for a subsequent child. I say all this to say, even if Trish and her hubby use Louise with some regularity and still want to use Eloise for their next daughter, other families have done similar and even crazier things and the world didn’t fall apart. They can easily say for those who wonder that Louise was for Hubby’s grandmother and Eloise is just because they like it, or whatever. And actually, Louise and Eloise aren’t linguistically related! Louise is a feminine form of Louis, while Eloise is a variant of Heloise.

Another name that I thought they might like to consider is Elise — very similar to Eloise but even more different from Louise than Eloise is. It’s a short French form of Elizabeth, which opens up lots of great patron saints. Or Elisa, which flows better with Grace than Elise, I think. Or Elodie? That’s also a really pretty name.

There’s no problem at all about not liking the name Mary! Many Catholic families feel similarly, both because of name fatigue from all those years of Mary as the Number One Girl’s Name as well as a preference for more unexpected names (and not at all because of any disrespect toward Our Lady), which is in large part why I wrote my book of Marian baby names! There are so many gorgeous, legitimately Marian names that aren’t Mary — names that fit all different tastes in names! I included some in my list of suggestions below.

As for boy names, I think they’ve got a great list! I’m surprised there aren’t more surname-type names on there, since Trish had said that she and her hubs like last names that are first names for boys. Xavier is the only name on their list that fits that criteria, though it’s been used as a first name for so long that many people don’t know that it started as a last name. Leo and Oliver are great, and I regularly see them on lists of names considered by parents I do consultations for, but I rarely see Jerome! I admit though, when I was looking for boy names for this baby, I focused mostly on finding last name type names.

Okay, on to my suggestions! You all know that I start each consultation by looking up in the Baby Name Wizard the names the parents have used and those they like/are considering as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I also looked through my book of Marian names for ideas for both boys and girls. These are what I came up with (a few extra for girls, given that girl names are particularly problematic for this couple):

Girl
(1) Ave
I feel like Ava is the kind of name Trish’s hubby would like — “short and cute” — but changing it slightly to Ave makes it both much more uncommon and more obviously faithy. It’s said like AH-vay, like in Ave Maria. I’d love to see such a short first name paired with a longer middle — because Ave means “Hail” (Ave Maria=Hail Mary), it might be weird to put it with a non-Marian middle, so maybe something like Ave Immaculata? That strikes me as a combo Trish might really like, and I think Ave might be the kind of name her husband would be okay with. I could also see putting Ave and Maria together as Avemaria, that would be amazing.

(2) Isla
I was actually inspired to add Isla by one of the Clairvaux families I linked to above — they have another daughter named Isla, and Isla’s an entry in my book for the Marian title Our Lady of the Isles. It’s “short and cute,” and so pretty!

(3) Pia
This is another name in my book, it’s the feminine form of Pius/Pio, and in the Salve Regina Our Lady is specifically referred to as pia, which is translated in the English version as “loving,” though it’s technical translation is more along the lines of “pious, devout, dutiful.” Actor David Henrie (of Wizards of Waverly Place fame, which I never watched but he’s got loads of followers), who’s actually a devout Catholic, recently named his daughter Pia, and I love seeing her sweet face and name in my Instagram feed! If Trish could convince her husband to use a longer name, I think Pia could also work as a nickname for Seraphina and Philomena and Phillippa.

(4) Liesse
This is yet another name in my book — it’s French for “joy” and refers to Notre Dame de Liesse (Our Lady of Joy). Isn’t it such a pretty name? It can definitely be used on its own, and if Trish wanted to lengthen it, Marie-Liesse isn’t uncommon (especially in France).

(5) Maristella
I know Trish said she doesn’t care for Mary, but what about something like Maristella? It reminds me of Genevieve and Veronica (and Emmeline, Annalise, and Seraphina) because of its length and femininity (which probably means her hubby won’t care for it, oh dear), but both Maris and Stella can be nicknames for it, as well as some other creative options like Mia, Mari, Molly, Missy, Milla and Mella (I could see Trish’s husband particularly liking Mia and Molly). Maristella is a reversal of the Marian title Stella Maris (Star of the Sea). Two Sancta Nomina readers have daughters named Maristella: here and here.

(6) Mercedes
I know Trish’s husband is freaking out at this point that I’m including all these ideas he won’t like! So sorry! I just really love the idea of compromising by using a longer, less familiar name like Trish likes with a familiar, “short and cute” nickname more like her husband’s taste. Mercedes is in my book — it means “mercies,” and is for Our Lady of Mercy or Our Lady of Mercies. It’s a Spanish name with quite an interesting (and very Catholic!) history — I posted more about it here. During the Jubilee Year of Mercy, quite a few of my readers chose names related to Mercy for their children, and not only did Mercedes get some usage, but so did Mercy itself. I thought maybe Trish’s husband might like Mercy? It can stand on its own, or it can be a nickname for Mercedes. Sadie can also be a nickname for Mercedes, which I also thought her hubby might like. Lots of options!

(7) Tessa
Again, Tessa seems to me like the kind of name Trish’s husband would like — I would definitely call it “short and cute.” I actually thought Trish might like it too! Or maybe this could be another possible compromise, where they could use the given name Therese or Teresa and call her Tess or Tessa. I mentioned Marie-Liesse above, which makes me also think of Marie-Therese — I just love how the French do that! And I think doing a double first name (with or without the hyphen) automatically gives the name a more unusual character, which Trish prefers. So maybe Marie-Therese plus a middle name, called Tess or Tessa?

(8) Zara
Finally, Zara: in my research for this family in the Baby Name Wizard, I actually didn’t find a whole lot of ideas that I thought would work for them. But Zara is a style match for both Gemma and Xavier, and it’s short and cute while also being uncommon, so I thought I should definitely include it in my suggestions. I actually did a spotlight post on it a while ago, as I’d discovered that it’s a feminine short form of Zechariah — I loved finding that connection! Zechariah is a name I’ve often thought would be great for a boy as a sort-of nod to the Visitation, since he was Elizabeth’s husband and John the Baptist’s father; a little Zara could claim that same connection.

Boy
(1) Tiber
Okay, moving on to boy ideas. So I totally latched onto the fact that Trish said she and her husband like last-names-as-first-names for boys, and I always include place names in that category (especially since so many last names started as place names, and so many saintly place names have a last name feel, like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, etc.). And any time I know one of the parents is a convert, I immediately think of Tiber! Tiber is for the Tiber River in Rome, and many of you know that when someone converts to Catholicism a fun thing to say is that they “crossed the Tiber.” (There are even t-shirts that say “Tiber Swim Team” with the year the person entered the Church, like these.) Anyway, two of my readers have used Tiber for their boys and I love it! I think it’s so cool and so meaningful, but in kind of a stealthy way! Check them out here and here.

(2) Fulton
Another name that came right to mind when seeing Donovan Kolbe’s name is Fulton! Fulton was actually Fulton Sheen’s mom’s maiden name, so a legit last name, even thought it’s so tied to him as a first name.

(3) Owen
A name that did well for this family in my research was Owen, which I love because of course it’s a first name, but it’s also St. Nicholas Owen’s last name (he’s amazing)! So it reminds me a lot of Donovan in that they both have good usage as first names.

(4) Elliott
Elliott’s another one that did quite well for them in my research, and like Donovan and Owen, I love that it has usage as a last name (poet T.S. Eliot is one example) while still being a familiar but not too common first name. It’s actually a variant of Elijah, which gives it both a faith connection and a specifically Marian connection (via Elijah’s connection to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which I discuss in my book).

(5) Campion
Camden was listed as a style match for Donovan, which made me think of the similar and saintly Campion, for St. Edmund Campion. Isn’t Campion a cool name? I’ve always had a soft spot for the nickname Cam, and I love St. Edmund Campion, and I love how brothers Donovan and Campion sound!

I also encourage Trish and her hubby to check out my posts on saintly surnames — there are so many great options for those who love the surname style!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Donovan, Genevieve (sometimes nicknamed Evie), and Veronica Caeli (called Caeli)?


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: Bosco Anthony!

A mama for whom I’ve had the privilege of doing two private consultations (one a few years ago, as well as a birth announcement for that baby, and one a few months ago) has let me know she and her husband have welcomed a son and given him the fantastic name … Bosco Anthony!

She writes,

We have a baby boy, who we named Bosco Anthony. Although you had great suggestions for other boy names, it kind of solidified for my husband that Bosco was his favorite. I still had some reservations, but he convinced me and now I think it fits our little guy very well. Most people are unfamiliar with the name, and either have a reaction like “huh” or they think it’s cute and original. Occasionally people (usually men) think it’s awesome.

In the end we chose Anthony mostly because it sounded good as a full name, Bosco Anthony. I worried it is too Italian (he’s only 1/8 Italian) but I think the English-ness of [our last name] balances it out. He’s our first child without a family connection to the middle name, but probably like most people from a Catholic family, I have a small handful of instances where St. Anthony helped either myself or a relative find an important lost object in a way that was maybe not miraculous but certainly amazing. I’ve always appreciated St. Anthony, and I like that this baby is named for two solid saints.”

I love his name!! I’m so delighted that they ended up going with Bosco, and I love it paired with Anthony! Great job!!

Congratulations to the proud parents and big siblings Penelope, Leo, and Adelaide, and happy birthday Baby Bosco!!

Bosco Anthony with his big sisters and brother ❤


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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!