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!)

Baby name consultation: Ideas for baby girl whose parents like names like Bridget, Rowan, and Saoirse

Don’t forget to enter the St. Anne giveaway! Rebecca has generously added a $2.00 off coupon code for any order over $2.00 for all Sancta Nomina readers, which you can use for any coloring page of your choosing (they’re $2.00 each) — they’re all gorgeous! Lots of our favorite Saints, including one of the Immaculate Conception (St. Anne and the child Mary)! The coupon code is sanctanomina, and it’s valid through August 7. (Rebecca is also running a Summer Coloring Contest for all ages, starting today! Go check it out!)

I posted a consultation for Megan and her husband’s second baby a couple of years ago, and the resulting birth announcement, and I’m excited to post this new consultation for baby no. 3 — another girl! This little lady joins big sibs (alt characters for privacy):

F!nni@n Dani3l
Gr33r E!leen

I looove their names! It was so fun to come up with names in a similar style!

Megan writes,

At this point, we’d like to try to stick to the Gaelic names theme, but are broad in this goal and could/would extend to Welsh/Cornish names — although ideally, I’d prefer an Irish/Scottish name since that is my heritage. That being said, I feel like I’ve looked at every name in this realm so maybe I need to branch out (or, stop obsessing and pick one of the ones we like). We do not like overly feminine names and like uncommon (but not completely unheard of) names that are easy to spell and say (although Gr33r’s name is uncommon, I haven’t heard it mispronounced yet! Strangely, one time someone pronounced F!nni@n’s name like “Onion” with an “F” though).”

(“Onion” with an “F”! 😂)

I love that F!nn has a saint’s name and that Gr33r’s has a saintly connection as well. We typically use family names for the middle and are considering Margaret, Clare/Clara, and Mae … although I’m not sold on any of these until we pick the first name.

Right now, the name that we both like the most is Adair. But, I’m worried that it’s just a bit too “out there” and will sound like a made up first name, which we don’t want. What do you think? Other names that we like are Bridget/Brigid (a suggestion from you last go around), Rowan, Arwen, and my husband still likes Saoirse… but I don’t think he can sell me there as it’s just too hard to say/spell. I like the idea of a two-syllable name to balance out the three for F!nni@n and one for Gr33r.

We recently saw the name Cliona/Cliodhna and liked it, but how would you say it? Klee-ona (like Fiona) or Klee-uh-na? I’ve seen it both ways … I thought Clio would be a super cute nickname, as we still like those (although, a nickname for Gr33r hasn’t really stuck and that’s OK).”

I love that Megan and her hubby have broadened their goals to include Welsh and Cornish names, as I think that will make it easier on them moving forward, but I tried to stick mostly to Irish and Scottish names when I was coming up with ideas for them.

I love Adair as their frontrunner! I don’t think it’s too “out there,” nor that it sounds made up. For reference, there were 17 girls named Adair in 2018 (the most recent year data is available) and 22 boys, so it’s basically exactly unisex. In that spelling, it’s a variant of Edgar, so it’s traditionally a boy name, but it can definitely be pulled off by a girl. It’s pretty similar to the breakdown for Gr33r: 87 girls and 27 boys in 2018, and 18/6 for the spelling Grier.

(A different spelling, Adare, is the name of a town in Ireland, and there were less than 5 babies of either gender so named in 2018.)

I love Bridget/Brigid (reminds me of this family, with a Finnian and a Bridget!), Rowan (Brooke Shields’ daughters are Grier and Rowan!), and Arwen, all lovely! And Saoirse is fantastic too, despite its spelling and pronunciation difficulties (though I totally understand wanting to stay away from names like that). I also love Megan’s preference for a two-syllable name — that’s what I mostly restricted my search to, I too like the balance of that with the older kids!

As for Cliona/Cliodhna, I agree, it’s a pretty name! And Clio is darling. I’ve never known anyone with the name, but both Behind the Name and Forvo say it’s said more like KLEE-e-na. That’s not an intuitive pronunciations for Americans, so they’d likely have to do a lot of correcting, but that’s not a big deal (unless that would drive them crazy). I looked for other ideas that could lead to Clio as a nickname within their parameters (ish), and thought immediately of Abby from Appellation Mountain’s daughter, who also goes by Clio — her given name is Claire Caroline Wren. I love that kind of creativity! So maybe for this family, if Megan and her hubby love Clio enough, maybe they could do Clare as a first name (I love that spelling for them since it’s the county’s name in Ireland, and I think a place name goes well with Gr33r) with a middle that has a strong EE sound, maybe something super Irishy, like Clare Líadan. Another idea is Clodagh — the one I know says KLO-da — I could see Clio being do-able as a nickname for Clodagh (it can be spelled Cloda too).

Alrighty! So for this consultation, I first did my usual research — I looked up the names Megan and her hubby have used and those they like in the Baby Name Wizard, without looking back at the previous consultation I did for them, so that my ideas would be fresh. But then of course I did go back and cross off the ones I suggested last time (Aislin(g), Aine, Caoimhe, Niamh, Aoife, Eimear, Grainne, Gwenfair/Mairwen, Briege, Tierney, and Rhiannon). I also went through the comments the readers left on their previous consultation post, and I went through the “Celtic” list in the back of the BNW book. I also had a couple of ideas that seemed like good suggestions, even though they didn’t show up in any of my research. Based on all that, these are my new ideas for this baby girl:

(1) Mabel
Mabel is a medieval feminine form of Amabilis, which is part of one of Our Lady’s titles: Mater Amabilis (Mother Most Amiable, where “amiable” means “lovable”). How great is that?? I probably would never have thought of it for Megan except that Mabel’s relative Amabel (also a medieval feminine form of Amabilis) has Annabel as a variant, which “appears to have arisen in Scotland in the Middle Ages” (according to Behind the Name). So in my weird, twisted way of thinking about names, I thought, “Mabel is two syllables and has Scottish connections!” (Except Mabel itself isn’t Scottish, which is a bummer. But I still thought I’d suggest it. I have lots more suggestions though!) They could use Mae as a nickname? Maybe that could be the honor part?

(2) Edel
I’ve blogged about Edel before — I see it from time to time on Catholic girls, given in honor of Ven. Edel Quinn. I’ve generally heard it said like Adele, though also EH-del (rhymes with petal) and AY-del (like the first part of Edelweiss). I like that it’s two syllables and as far as I know is always connected with the Irish Venerable.

(3) Casey
This Irish surname has a special place in my heart because of Bl. Solanus Casey, whose parents were Irish immigrants. Casey has historically been used mostly for boys, and in 2018 was ranked no. 583 for boys and 916 for girls. But the fact that it’s on the top 1000 chart for both boys and girls makes it pretty unisex in usage, and makes it pretty similar to both Gr33r and Adair I think (though more popular) (though not overly so!).

(4) Molly
I know this has neither a surname nor unisex feel, but I can’t shake Molly in my ideas for this family, so here it is! It’s clearly Irish, and perfectly Marian, and using a more familiar name in the first name spot could open up the middle for something like Saoirse. Molly Saoirse? I know Megan has her list of possible middle names culled from family, which I’d never want to sway her from — family honors are important to me too! One thought I had was that since Molly is a form of Mary, as is Mae, could Molly work to honor Mae? Another idea is, what if they did the Irish form of Margaret in the middle? Molly Mairead? So pretty!

(5) Willa
And here we go again with me breaking Megan’s rules! Willa isn’t Irish or Scottish (or Welsh or Cornish), BUT the mom of the family I linked to above with the Finnian and Bridget (their other daughter is Gemma! Initial G like Gr33r!) has said she loves the name Willa, and I keep thinking F!nni@n, Gr33r, and Willa sound amazing together! I spotlighted Willa here.

(6) Flannery
Okay, back to Irish/Scottish names! Whew! I know Flannery isn’t two syllables, and it begins with F like F!nni@n, but I feel like it’s just the kind of name Megan might like! I guess it’s not great on nicknames though? I’ll have to do a spotlight of it soon, with nickname ideas, so stay tuned if you like this idea. (If you have nickname ideas for Flannery, please leave them in the comments!)

(7) Isla
Pretty Isla is an entry in my book of Marian names; this is what I wrote about its Scottish connection:

Isla is a Scottish given name, after the Scottish Hebrides island Islay (which can also be pronounced EYE-la) … its Marian character comes from the title “Our Lady of the Isles” (Moire ro Naomh nan Eilean in Scottish Gaelic, referring to a statue of Our Lady on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland).”

It’s two syllables and Scottish!

(8) Tamsin
I’d thought Tamsin was Scottish (I was probably thinking of tam, which is a shortened form of tam o’shanter, which is “a woolen cap with Scottish origin with a tight headband, wide flat circular crown, and usually a pompon in the center,” and Tam as a name is actually a Scottish short form of Thomas), but Behind the Name says it “was traditionally used in Cornwall” — so maybe Megan can consider it both Scottish and Cornish? It’s a contracted form of Thomasina, which makes any of the Sts. Thomas the perfect patron — I love that it’s got a saintly connection similar to Gr33r’s (in that it’s not obvious — you have to tell a story to get there). I like that it’s two syllables, and I love the nickname Tam.

(9) Tegan or Teagan
It seems that Tegan is from a Welsh word meaning “fair,” while Teagan is from an Irish surname meaning “descendent of Tadhgán,” where Tadhgán is a diminutive of Tadhg, meaning “poet” (and Tadhg is often anglicized as both Timothy and Thaddeus, which is where patron saints come in). It’s cute!

(10) Sorcha
My last official suggestion is inspired by Saoirse, but it’s a bit more accessible. Sorcha is pronounced more or less how it’s spelled: SOR-ka (or SAWR-khe or SAWR-e-khe, as Behind the Name says; babynamesofireland also offers sor+aka and surk+ha … so basically SOR-ka or SOR-a-ka. The Sorcha I knew years ago said SOR-ka). That same BtN entry says it’s sometimes used as an Irish form of Sarah; both it and babynamesofireland say it means “radiant,” which is lovely.

There were a few other names that I scribbled down on my list for this family that didn’t seem quite right for my official list, but I wanted to list them briefly just in case: Brynn, Bethan, and Bronwyn (all Welsh); Ainsley (listed as Scottish though its meaning seems to be English); and Shea (Irish with a pretty sound and unisex usage).

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What would name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of F!nni@n and Gr33r?


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: Girl name needed for baby no. 6 (British-y/Irish-y/Celtic-y)

Mary Beth and her husband are expecting their sixth baby, a little green bean (=gender unknown)! This little one joins big sibs:

Reese Joseph (“Joseph is a family name that runs through both sides of our family as a middle name. He is named after St. Joseph, protector of the holy family. Reese means ardour or enthusiasm and I think that fits his personality well.”)

Finnian Michael (Finn)We picked Finnian for both the Irish saint namesake as well as the nickname derived from it. We loved the nickname Finn and worked backwards from there, finding a saint that would match that. It was either Finnian or Finbarr so for us the choice was easy. Michael is in honor of the great Archangel as well as honoring my deceased brother.”

John Thomas (sometimes called Jack)John is named specifically for St. John the Apostle (the one whom Jesus loved!) but there are really so many great saints out there with that name that we couldn’t go wrong. It is also the name of a beloved Grandpa (who was named John but often went by Jack). Thomas is for St. Thomas Aquinas – and our John is really such a little philosopher at heart.”

Lucy Rose (“We picked Lucy because it is pretty, and light, distinctly feminine, but also fits better with the shorter names of our first three than say, Philomena or Benedicta. I loved that St. Lucy was such a beautiful model of purity. Rose is a nod to our Our Lady of Guadalupe and to St. Rose of Lima. She is also named after my Grandma Rose Lucy.“)

Gabriel John (also referred to as Gabey, Gabe) (“I have always loved the name Gabriel but never used it on any of our boys previously. I hadn’t even considered it for this child until one day in adoration I asked God what the name of this child was supposed to be (we knew he was a boy) and shortly after I began praying the joyful mysteries. Once I got to the Annunciation the name clicked in and it became number one on my list. After discovering that my husband had no qualms with the name and that it’s meaning is “God is my strength”, we never looked back. Also he was born 4 days after Christmas and I think that Gabriel fits so nicely into the season. His middle name was picked for St. John Vianney and also is my husbands middle name.”)

I loooove all of these!! Of course I couldn’t help but notice that the style of names changed somewhat as their family grew, which Mary Beth addresses:

Our style has become refined over the years in regards to our children’s names. When we started with our oldest, we were young and newly married – and hadn’t thought much about the names that our children would have. Over time we’ve come to see how important the naming of a child is – a name that will stay with them for all eternity!

I love seeing how a couple’s taste in names changes as life goes on — it’s so fun to see where they started and where they are now! Some couples change a lot and some change very little; some start with more conservative taste and become bolder, and some do just the opposite. Working with the population of families that I do, I’ve also seen quite a few couples who’ve had conversion experiences or whose faith has deepened as time goes on, and their babies’ names often reflect that. One of my favorite things is helping find names that loop in the siblings with the outlying names, that provide bridges between the styles while still having great faith connections.

Mary Beth continues,

We love names that are clearly masculine for boys and feminine for girls, especially since Reese’s name has since gained in popularity for girls. We also sneak in family names as much as possible. We require that at least the first name is a saint’s name, biblical name or Marian name.

One interesting twist to our naming process with this child is that we have agreed that my husband get’s to name this child if he is a boy and I will pick the name if she is a girl (we each have veto power however if we really hate the name). Hubby prefers straightforward names, simple names, masculine names (for a boy). I prefer longer names, beautiful names, names with meaning and history.

For this baby (#6) we found out that I was pregnant on the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the due date is one day after the Assumption of Mary in August (exactly one year after our family consecrated ourselves to Mary’s Immaculate Heart!), so I feel like Our Lady’s fingerprints are all over this child. We would love to give him or her a Marian name (either first or middle) to honor that. Your book has given me some great ideas as well as solidified some names for me that I had already been considering but did not know of the Marian connection.

Names I like for girls (in a loose order of preference):

Esther: I love the sound of this name, that there’s 2 syllables (one syllable has been done a lot in our family and yet I worry that 3 syllables is a stretch). I also enjoy that this name is well-known enough but not popular today. Esther is one of my favorite bible heroines and the name of a very sweet aunt. Essie as a nickname is precious. Husband thinks it’s ok.

Felicity: I like that it means happiness; also the uncommonness and the sound of the name. While I love the name I’m not sure of a good viable nn for it, since Lucy and “Lissy” sounds too similar. Name is growing on Hubby.

Clementine : I love this name — Marian and family connection! And how cute is Clemmie? I have a bit of an attraction to certain literary names that I grew up reading, especially British ones. For instance, I would love to have a Louisa as a nod to Louisa May Alcott, but it would not jive with Lucy. Hubby gives thumbs up.

Ruth : A favorite bible heroine but also just like the name and the simplicity goes with our family’s style. The simplicity makes it an easier sell for my husband.

Margaret : My mom’s name who I would love to honor. Not sure about a nickname? I don’t care for Maggie, Gretta, Marge or Molly. I could see using Etta but I don’t know if it’s too far-fetched.

Hope : I don’t have much reason for liking hope (except for the attributable virtue) but I haven’t been able to shake the name ever since hearing of an acquaintance with the name – it’s just so pretty! I read in one of your posts that Hope could be named after Our Lady of Hope – which I love! Hubby approves.

Elisabeth : It is pretty common but so lovely and classic, biblical and British (I love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). We would have to do some work to find a nickname for it because my nn is Betty and Lissy sounds too similar to Lucy. I do like Liesel for nn but awfully close again to Lucy.

Mary : Obviously a great name! – and has a triple family connection since it’s my first name, my mother’s middle name and our Blessed Mother’s name. Maybe overused since it’s my first name, although I often go by a nickname. If used it would likely be a middle name or a first name in a case where we call her by her middle name (as in Mary Clementine but called Clementine).

Middle names:

Immaculata
Maristella or Stellamaris
Regina
Henrietta
Marie
Verity
Frances
Therese
(any unused first name/)

Alice [is] also [a] contender … [it] is more Hubby’s preference (I have hesitations on the name since I don’t like the nickname Ali and I didn’t know there was a saint Alice but in the meantime I have found one) … I do find that each other’s preferences will sway the other to some degree so we might not want to cross [it] out.”

I’m not surprised that Mary Beth said that she has an affinity for British names, as her children’s name have a definite Irish/Celtic/British Isles feel to me. I love it! Reese and Finnian are most obvious; John Thomas is a huge name in my Irish family, and even though Jack is so popular now, it always ultimately makes me think of an Irish boy/man. I love St. Lucy, but when I hear Lucy my first thought is always Narnia! And I’ve often suggested Gabriel to families with an Irishy sensibility, citing actor Gabriel Byrne as a great example of Gabriel’s usage in Ireland. So that’s really where my mind went when coming up with ideas for this family.

It’s an interesting twist that Mary Beth’s hubs gets to choose the name for this baby if they have a boy, and MB gets to name a girl! I’ve known other couples who have done similarly, but I’m most surprised by the fact that it sounds like they didn’t do so with their previous children! (That would make an excellent basis for a Fun Friday Question …)

You have to know how excited I am to read, as Mary Beth says, “Our Lady’s fingerprints all over this child”! And I’m so glad that my book was helpful to them! A few of the ideas I had for this baby are in my book, so I’m a little worried that, since MB didn’t have them on her list, she’s already decided against them, but maybe a good argument in favor of them is all that’s needed?

First though, these are my thoughts on the names Mary Beth likes for a girl:

  • Esther: I do love it! And I love her reasons for loving it — the fact that she has a personal connection with the biblical figure and that it’s a family name. I admit it seems to me a little mismatched with her other kids, but the family connection definitely trumps that I think, and I agree that Essie is darling! (Hmm … but maybe too much like Lucy?)
  • Felicity: I love it too, and I think it goes great with the older kids. Nicknames often seem to be problematic for parents considering Felicity! Lucy and Lissy are too similar, I agree, but there are others, like Flick and Flicka, Lily, Fin, Zita, Fee, Felly, and Liddy — these were all discussed in the spotlight I did of Felicity a while ago.
  • Ruth: I love Ruth, and I think of it as similar to Esther, so normally I might think of it as a mismatch for the other kids, BUT the only Ruth I know in real life is native Irish! And of course she goes by Ruthie, which of course they’d have to call her, it’s the sweetest!
  • Margaret: Oh man, I would have a hard time not choosing Margaret if I were Mary Beth! Her mom’s name! And a fantastic match with the older kids! I think Etta is totally fine and not too farfetched at all! Other nicknames for it that she didn’t mention include Margo, Madge, Mae/May, Mamie, Meg, Peggy, and Rita, but my very favorites for this family are Maisie and Daisy! Maisie is a Celtic (Irish&Scottish) diminutive of Margaret, and Daisy is a traditional nickname for it (since the French form of Margaret is also the name of the daisy flower in French: marguerite) — I think both would be amazing with the other kids! I could also see something like Margaret Eve nicknaming to Maeve, which I think would be really cool (I have Daisy, Eve, and Maeve in my book!).
  • Hope: I agree with MB, there’s something about Hope! Yes, it can be for Our Lady of Hope!
  • Elisabeth: I love this spelling! Elizabeth/Elisabeth has SO MANY nicknames! Some of my favorites are Betsy (probably too close to Betty?), Libby, Liddy, Ellie, and Tess, but they’re all so great! Elisabeth can also shorten to Elise, which is so pretty.
  • Mary: Oh yes! I like Mary Beth’s plan to have it be a middle, or a hidden first name.
  • [Alice: I don’t think people tend to nickname Alice? I mean, Alison seems very nicknameable — I feel like most Alisons go by Ali at least sometimes during their lives, but Alice has a more distinguished feel (while also being so sweet), I don’t know, I don’t think I’d ever find myself casually nicknaming an Alice. Maybe Ali’s used more than I thought!]

I looove Mary Beth’s list of middle name ideas!! Immaculata, Maristella/Stellmaris, Regina, and Marie are especially perfect to honor Our Lady with a non-Marian first name, while Henrietta, Verity, Frances, and Therese would be great as a middle name for a Marian first name.

Alrighty, as you all know, I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each name, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. As I mentioned before, I also really had my eye out for Irish-y/Celtic-y/British-y type names, not only because I get that vibe from Mary Beth’s kids as a whole, but also because as I mentioned I really try to loop in any siblings with names that are kind of outliers, and her oldest two — especially Reese — are starting to have that feel. And I looked through my book as well! With all that in mind, these are my additional ideas for this baby, if a girl:

(1) Beatrice or Beatrix
I’m not sure which I like better here, Beatrice or Beatrix! I have them in my book — they mean “she who blesses, makes happy, delights,” which is an amazing meaning for a little girl, and a great connection to Our Lady! Bea is a great nickname, and I like Tris and Trixie too! Beatrice is a style match for both Clementine and Alice.

(2) Juliet
Julia is a match for John and Juliet for Felicity and Hope, and of them, I like Juliet quite a bit for this family, but they’re both lovely! I did a spotlight of the Julia names a while ago, complete with patron saints. The Juliette spelling is French and frilly, but the Juliet spelling is more in keeping with the older kids I think.

(3) Annabel(le)
Annabelle is also match for Felicity and Hope, and I immediately thought of Annabel in my book: it arose in Scotland in the middle ages as a variant of Amabel, which is a variant of Amabilis, which is part of the Marian title Mater Amabilis (Mother Most Amiable)! I think it’s so lovely, and Annie as a nickname sounds perfect as Lucy’s sister!

(4) Susanna
Speaking of Annie: Anna, Hannah, and Susannah all were results of my research as well, and of them, I thought Susanna might be perfect! It’s also in my book, as it means both “lily” and “rose” in Hebrew, which could make for a nice connection with sister Lucy Rose! Susannah has a heavier Old Testament feel (more along the lines of Esther and Ruth), while Susanna is New Testament and saintly — and in fact, St. Susanna’s feast day is August 11! The same month this baby is due!

(5) Miriam
Lovely Miriam fits right in with Esther and Ruth, and it’s Marian to boot! Mary Beth’s husband likes some Old Testament names too, so I like that Miriam might appeal to both of them. Miri and Mimi are sweet nicknames as well.

(6) Maura or Moira
Speaking of variants of Mary, since we’re (or, at least I’m) talking about Irish-y names, I wonder if Mary Beth might like to consider one of the Irish forms of Mary? It would be a neat way of connecting her first name, her mom’s middle name, and of course Our Lady in a new way in her daughter’s name. I love both Maura and Moira!

(7) Nora
Nora isn’t as obviously faithy as some of my other ideas, but it kept tugging me as a perfect fit for this family! Though it’s got good usage as a given name in its own right, it’s a short form of either Honora or Eleanor, either of which could provide a patron (Bl. Archangela Girlani’s birth name was Eleanor, and there’s a Bl. Eleanora as well; Venerable Honora Nagle would do also). A name like this might be best paired with one of the heavy hitting Marian middles, like Nora Maristella or Nora Clementine.

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of Reese, Finnian, John, Lucy, and Gabriel?


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: Evan Thomas!

We didn’t have to wait long to find out what the parents of Monday’s consultation ended up choosing — the mama has let me know that their little guy has been born and named the very handsome … Evan Thomas!

She writes,

Our lovely boy was born [and we] happily named him Evan Thomas.

Jude and Thomas held out as contenders until the end but Evan just had such perfect meaning and roots for us… And we felt it struck the balance of not being too popular nor too unusual.

Love that St. John and St. Ann are represented in our little family.”

I’m so delighted they use Evan Thomas! Such a perfect name for Riley Ann’s brother!

Congratulations Mom and Dad and big sister Riley, and happy birthday Baby Evan!!

IMG_5516

Evan Thomas


🎆🌹 Don’t forget to enter the St. Anne Peg Doll + gift certificate giveaway! Read about it here🎆🌹

Baby name consultant: biblical or Irishy for a little boy!

Our trip to St. Anne’s Shrine yesterday was just about as pilgrimage-y as pilgrimages go — lots of grace coming to you all!! 😀 I’ll write more about it tomorrow, and I have more pictures to share beyond the ones I posted to Instagram yesterday.

I’m delighted to have this consultation to post today, on my second blogiversary (!!), because of what this mama wrote about her daughter’s sweet name, Riley Ann:

Our daughter (22 months) is Riley Ann — we loved the meaning of “courageous” of Riley … and Ann for both our Mother’s middle names and of course a personal favorite, St. Anne. We liked that Riley is Irish (both have a bit of Irish in our heritage and love our shared alma mater Notre Dame but don’t want to go overboard with the strong Irish names).”

Woo! St. Anne for the win!! ❤

So this mama and her husband are expecting their second baby, a boy! She writes,

Don’t want them to be too popular but are less inclined to go totally unique with boys names (tried for a few weeks to get my husband on board with Joachim but failed when I couldn’t even decide how I preferred to pronounce it).”

(What’s that?? JOACHIM?? Ahhh!! 😀 And I consider that another hello from St. Anne!)

Steering away from S and C names that cause a super slur with our last name … And as I’ve been thinking about all the names we’ve used/like, it seems as though we most frequently go for two syllables a lot! I like a good nickname and 2 syllables is not a set criteria … but more often we tend to just shorten to the first syllable of any name and that works for me. “Ry” for Riley … Or, better yet we find a totally different word and call them that 🙂 So, I guess I do actually like a name to be the name and am less inclined to have dueling formal vs nickname thing if that makes sense.”

(That’s a really good articulation: “am less inclined to have dueling formal vs. nickname thing.”)

For reference, they love the name Leah for a girl, and names on their current list for this little boy include:

Evan Thomas (“love the meaning and has been at top of our list for the longest … would love to hear any saintly connections you can make to Evan“)

Thomas John (or Michael or Charles) (“My wonderful father’s name is Thomas and I love its traditional/Catholic roots without being overused. John, Michael and Charles are all possible family names that seem to pair well. Thomas Aquinas and the sentimental value of the name are pushing it forward but as a standalone name, we aren’t in love with it.“)

Joshua Thomas (“A recent addition to our list of biblical, traditional names that we love. But I honestly haven’t done my research and don’t know a ton about the Catholic roots of this name.”)

Jude Thomas (“The most recent name that caught our eye — as long as we distinguish it as representative of Judas the apostle as opposed to Judas Iscariot, right?!?“)

Robert (“We considered Robert (family name) with the idea to call him “Bo” but we really don’t love Robert, mostly just think the nickname Bo is super cute.”)

We’ve been really into “J” names lately if you can throw some of those into the mix (Jude, Jonah, Joshua and such).”

Okay! First my thoughts about the names on their list:

Regarding saintly connections to Evan — Evan is a Welsh form of John, so any of the Sts. John can serve as patron. Evan Thomas is a great combo, and seems to me to hit that sweet spot of being Celtic but not going overboard with it. I also like that it’s biblical (John) like Leah, and Celtic like Riley—a nice bridge name!

Thomas John/Michael/Charles is a great name. No quibbles at all. Though if they’d like to jazz it up a little, they might consider pairing it with a more unusual middle name. Maybe a family surname? Or Thomas Joachim, to go back to Joachim?

Joshua Thomas is a great name too. As for its Catholic roots—it’s Jesus’ name! Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua (Yeshua), which is Aramaic. Amazing right?! I wrote more about Jesus names, including Joshua, here.

Jude Thomas is also amazing, love love love. It’s so funny this mama should point out the Judas the apostle vs. Judas Iscariot bit! I wrote a little bit last summer about how, to me, even though Judah, Jude, and Judas are all variants of the same name, they all have very different feels: Judah is almost exclusively Jewish; Judas is not okay to use; and Jude is ultra Catholic (or maybe Jude Law). I also spotlighted Jude a few months ago (be sure to check out the comments too!). I just skimmed it again and was reminded that it can be used as a nickname for Julian—I wouldn’t have thought of Julian as the kind of name this couple likes, but it does start with a J!

Robert nicked Bo is such a cute idea and made me laugh because my brother and sister-in-law were considering something similar! I posted a consultation for them in November, with lots of possible ways of getting to the nickname Bo. It is super cute!

Re: their question about J names, one I really like is St. Isaac’s last name Jogues. That’s probably too unique though? Jasper, Jacob, and Joseph are favorites, and Jack totally seems like this family’s style—a little Irish without being too much so, and it’s a variant of John so, like Evan, it could take any of the Sts. John. But it would also knock Evan out of consideration for the future. I have some more J- ideas below that I think are more their speed.

Okay! So you all know I almost always start with the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I did so here for this couple. Between its suggestions and my own mental files these are my ideas for them:

(1) Colin or Cole
I think Colin’s my biggest suggestion here—it’s Irishy but not too much so, and its English usage stems from its use as a medieval diminutive of Nicholas. So any of the Sts. Nicholas would be good for a Colin! Cole was listed as a style match for Jude, and it also can be related to Nicholas. I prefer the KAHL-in pronunciation for Colin, rather than COLE-in (like Colin Powell), but even with the KAHL-in pronunciation I think Cole could still work as a nickname for Colin if they wanted.

(2) Owen
Owen has the same feeling to me as Evan and Colin—Irishy but not overly so, and I’ve been over-the-moon about St. Nicholas Owen recently—great patron for a little guy! Also, my brother and sister-in-law who were heavily considering Bo ending up naming their son Owen!

(3) Joel, Jared, Jonathan, Justin
It’s funny, I originally had Seth as my third idea for this couple, as it was listed as a style match for both Leah and Evan, which I thought was pretty great, but then I remembered that they preferred not to have an S- name and that they’ve been loving J- names, and Joel is a match for Leah and Seth so it was the perfect swap-in. I love what the BNW says about it: “Joel’s not flashy. It has been steadily popular for many years, but not in the top 100. It’s biblical, but unlike the Isaiahs and Ezekiels of the world, Joel doesn’t shout the fact from the rooftops. It’s quiet and warm, and you’ll never tire of it.”

Jared was listed as a style match for Joel, and I love that too! It’s two syllables and it begins with a J … it’s not Irish but it is biblical!

Jonathan is another John-type name in that it would probably knock out Evan for the future (though it’s not actually related to John, weird right?), and it’s got a heavier biblical feel.

I’ll be interested to see what they think of Justin! I know a lot of people feel like it’s still a bit too 70s/80s, a bit too much of a “dad name,” but St. Justin Martyr is just such a cool guy (and I actually love that combo, “Justin Martyr”—is it too much? 😀 ), and I feel like the name Justin is cool guy name. He may be a dad in a lot of people’s minds, but he’s a cool dad. Haha!

(4) Caleb
Finally, Caleb. I had it on my list for this family, and then I took if off, but at the last minute made the decision to put it back on again. I just love the name Caleb, it’s so sweet and biblical and it can take the amazing nickname Cal, which I just love. It’s also two syllables.

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What would you suggest for Riley’s little brother?