Baby name consultation: Family names and special initials a consideration for baby number 3

Two consultations in one week, what?! 💃💃💃 Margie’s baby’s coming soon! No time to wait until Monday! She and her husband are expecting their third baby, a little green bean (=gender unknown) 🌱, who joins big brother and sister:

Henry Lucas (“Henry after my husband’s uncle who passed away when my husband was 5 and Lucas as a tribute to my grandfather Frank Luke. We follow St. Henry (July 13) as his patron saint“)

Penelope Rose (“Penelope is our “Penny” sent from heaven. One of my sisters died while pregnant with Henry, then my dad died two years later and then I had a miscarriage. We haven’t started calling her Penny yet though, usually Little Pea or Sweet Pea. Rose is from St. Rose of Lima and I was called Rosebud when I was a baby“)

I love these! Margie and her hubs did a great job incorporating family names into their Henry’s name, even changing Luke to Lucas to fit their style. And the “penny from heaven” story is great — I love how they turned that into a meaningful name for their little girl, a nod to hope and happiness after such sorrow! Rose being for both St. Rose and a nickname of Margie’s is wonderful too.

Margie writes,

We’ve been struggling with a name for this one, especially for a girl … My husband and I were both named after our grandparents — he has two middle names from both grandfathers [and] part of my first name and my middle name are after after my grandmothers … We like including family names and the tradition we have of being named after our grandparents but [are having a hard time figuring out how to do so for this baby].

Parents — Francis “Frank” Alan and Kristina Robin and goes by Robin. Philip “Phil” Allen and Michelle Elizabeth. 

Names we can’t/don’t want to use:
Amanda
Stella
Claira
Patrick
Lucy
Katherine/Catherine
David
Daniel
Crystal
Stephanie

Names we like for girls:
Bernadette — I’ve liked this one for years. Finally convinced my husband and now I’m not sure I like it due to length and can’t decide on a middle name
Eleanor
Edna — possible middle name (my grandmother’s middle name)
Veronica
Rebecca
Coralynn
Carolina
Edith
Agnes
Josephine (his grandfather’s name is Joseph, and Joseph is a family name for my side)
Frances — possible middle name (female form for Francis)

Names we like for boys:
Theodore — Gift from God — this is our number one choice
Francis — possible middle name, [Hubby’s] dad’s name and my grandfather
Dennis – possible middle name, form of my mom’s maiden name (Denes)
Allen/Alan — possible middle name, our dads’ middle names
Edward — possible middle name, is Theodore Edward weird together?
Thomas
Michael — My brother’s middle name

We also like the idea of having a baby with the initials KC because that’s where we are from and love the city ([Hubby] was in the Navy for years, and we moved away from home because of it).”

I, too, love using family names in the naming of my children, so I had fun trying to think of ideas for this family on how to incorporate Margie’s parents’ and in-laws’ names into this baby’s name! Francis for a boy or Frances for a girl is certainly a great option, as a nod to her father-in-law (and her grandfather). What about Christopher for a boy? It can be spelled Kristopher or Kristofer to get it closer to Margie’s mother-in-law’s spelling. I can see that they might think Theodore Christopher is overly long — what about Theodore Christian? Or Theodore Kristian? I actually quite like how Theodore Kristian looks and sounds — it’s handsome and unexpected! Kristian is a Scandinavian spelling of the boy name Christian, and I also really like that Kristian has all the letters in Margie’s mil’s name, just shuffled a little! Her mil’s middle name that she actually goes by, Robin, is both a boy and a girl name. So: Theodore Robin? I know a family with a teenage son named Robin! Robin started as a diminutive of Robert — Theodore Robert sounds natural together! I also really like the Allen/Alan idea, since both dads share that name.

Otherwise, I like the possibility of Dennis as a middle name for Margie’s mom’s maiden name, but I would love to encourage her to use the Denes spelling! There’s no reason not to (from a name perspective), especially when it’s in the middle spot. Theodore Denes is awesome. Theodore Edward sounds fine together, but I’m assuming Margie’s question about it being weird has to do with the fact that their nicknames Ted/Teddy for Theodore and Ed/Eddie/Ned/Ted for Edward rhyme (and are even the same in the case of Ted)? I mean, that shouldn’t be a problem in the sense that Edward as a middle name will never be nicknamed, and they can avoid any kind of rhyming altogether by using Theo as a nickname. I also think Michael is a great option — not only is it Margie’s brother’s middle name, as she noted, but it’s also the name from which Margie’s mom’s name, Michelle, is derived. That is, Michelle is a feminine form of Michael. So Michael can be for both her mom and her brother! Theodore Michael is very handsome.

For a girl, not only is a Frances a great option, but perhaps also Robin? Pippa is originally a nickname for Phillippa, and now often stands on its own as a name, so maybe Pippa as a middle name for Margie’s dad? I also like the idea of a nod to Allen/Alan for a girl — I looked up feminine variants and there are some really pretty ones, like Alana/Alanna/Alannah, Alaina/Alayna, and even Allyn, which I found intriguing. Maybe Allyn could be the answer to Margie’s quandary of what to use as a middle name for Bernadette? I like how Bernadette Allyn sounds! For that matter, I also quite like Bernadette Alana/Alayna! Or maybe they’ll feel that the honor to both dads remains if they switch the spelling to Ellen or Elaine/Elaina? They’re not related to Alan/Allen, but the similarity in sound might be enough?

As for first names they’re considering, here are my thoughts, in case they’re helpful:

  • Bernadette: I’m so intrigued by the fact that Margie’s liked this for years and now her hubby’s on board and now she’s not sure! That kind of thing has happened to me too, so I get it, but I’d love to see if I can help her salvage it, since her hubby’s come around (no easy task for many! It would be a shame to waste it, haha!). Margie said its length and the middle name are two reasons she’s cooled on it — as for length, it’s one syllable shorter than Penelope, so I wouldn’t think that should be a problem! If it’s a matter of thinking it’s too long for everyday use, finding a good nickname should do the trick, and Bernadette has some fun ones: I’ve seen Birdie, which is sweet, and I like that they can maybe think of it as a nod to Margie’s mother-in-law, being that her name is the name of a kind of bird! I’ve also seen Bernie, Etta, and Detta, and one of my favorite options is Betsy. I like that Margie’s mom’s middle name is Elizabeth — Betsy is a traditional nickname for Elizabeth, so maybe Bernadette nn Betsy would be enough of a nod to her? If so, then something like Bernadette Robin nn Betsy could nod to both of their moms!
  • Eleanor: You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used for older children and those they like/are considering for their current baby-on-the-way in the Baby Name Wizard book, as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Eleanor is a style match for both Henry and Penelope! How cool! I wonder if they might feel that Eleanor can be a nod to Allen/Alan? It would be totally based on sound rather than an actual etymological connection, but it could work? The spelling Elanor brings it even closer (it’s the spelling Tolkien used, I love it!).
  • Edna: Wow! I’ve never seen Edna on any of the lists of names I’ve seen in the families I’ve worked with! But it makes sense that it will start to pop up here and there, as so many other “old lady” names are coming back, like Edith and Agnes on Margie’s list. I quite like how Eleanor Edna sounds — I’m a big fan of alliteration! Saying it with Bernadette doesn’t sound great as a middle name I don’t think, and I think it’s because they share so many sounds, which makes me wonder if Edna might be feasible as a nickname for Bernadette?
  • Veronica: Gorgeous name. Also, it’s a long name — the same number of syllables as Penelope and one more than Bernadette — if they’re okay with Veronica, then that should work in Bernadette’s favor, right?
  • Rebecca: Also beautiful.
  • Coralynn, Carolina: These two are similar enough that I thought I’d comment on them together. I wonder what they would think of changing the spelling to Koralynn or Karolina, to achieve the KC initials they’d like? Karoline/Karolina especially is a spelling I’ve seen used quite a bit among Catholic families in recent years in honor of St. John Paul II, whose birth name was Karol (the Polish form of Charles).
  • Edith: I love Edith! I think Edie is one of the darlingest nicknames, and I’m a huge fan of St. Edith Stein! Since it’s a short name, if they were to use it as a first name I’d love to see it paired with a longer middle. One of Rosie Hill’s little girls is named Edith Veronica, which I’ve always thought was a stunning combo! Edith Josephine, Edith Rebecca, Edith Carolina, Edith Bernadette, Edith Coralynn are all quite pleasing to my ear.
  • Agnes: Another lovely, saintly name. Aggie is a sweet nickname! Like Edith, I can see Agnes pairing nicely with the longer names on their list — they all work quite well!
  • Theodore: I really see no reason for Margie and her hubs to change from Theodore as their top choice! It’s a great name and it has great meaning for them, so I say go for it!
  • Thomas, Michael: These are the only other names they have listed as possibilities for a boy’s first name, and I like them both! Since Margie didn’t comment on either one except to point out that Michael is her brother’s name (and it’s the male variant of her mom’s first name), I feel like them don’t love them as much as Theodore? Of the two, I like Michael the best for them because of the family connection.

So those are my thoughts on the names on their list, and I also spent some time with the KC idea, which is a really fun one. For girls, as mentioned, Karolina and Koralynn are definite possibilities. Other K names include Konstance, Kassidy, Kalista, and Karine/Karina. C names can include any of those, as well as Charlotte, which I like for this family! (I wouldn’t use Charlotte as a middle name for Karolina though, since Karolina and Charlotte are both feminine variants of Charles.) Also Camille/Camilla, Cynthia, Chloe, and Claudia. Some pretty combos include:

Karolina Carine
Karoline Chloe
Koralynn Carina
Karina Constance
Kassidy Charlotte
Kalista Carine

For boys, I like the idea of Karol! For St. John Paul II! Or maybe they’d prefer the easier spelling Karl? (I believe Karol is said like Karl, though I have heard people say Karol just like the woman’s name Carol.) Other K names that I thought Margie and her hubs might like include Kenneth, Kirk (which means “church”), Kurt (which is a contracted form of Conrad), and Kolbe (which is fairly popular among Catholic families for St. Maximilian Kolbe), as well as most C names. C names can include Caleb, Clement, Casper, Casey, Christian or Christopher, Colman, Conrad, and these, which are actually style matches for some of the names they like per the BNW: Charles/Carl (but not paired with Karol/Karl), Clark, Claude, Cyril, Chance, and Cooper. (A fun note about Cooper: I’ve seen families use it as a given name in honor of St. Joseph of Cupertino, and also as a nickname for Cupertino as a given name. Maybe they’d like to consider Cupertino as a middle name?) Some nice combos include:

Karol/Karl Clement
Kenneth Charles
Kurt Cupertino
Kolbe Christopher
Kristian Clark
Kristopher Carl
Konrad Cooper

Those are all my thoughts and ideas having to do with the first and middle name ideas Margie and her hubby already have on their list, as well as their KC initials idea. Now for my new ideas!

Girl
(1) Felicity
I think Felicity is a really nice “bridge” name between Henry’s style, which has a sweet, sort of British feel to me, and Penelope’s style, which is a little more offbeat (Felicity was specifically listed as a style match for Penelope). I did a spotlight post on it a while ago, which discusses saintly connections and nickname possibilities.

(2) Susanna
Suzy is a style match for Penny, and as soon as I saw that I thought of Susanna — it’s biblical and long like Veronica and Rebecca, and can take a bunch of fun nicknames in addition to Suzy/Susie, like Anna/Annie, Sookie, and Zuzu. (Susanna’s in my book of Marian names!)

(3) Genevieve
This is another long, lovely name like Penelope, Bernadette, Veronica, Rebecca, and Carolina/Coralynn, which is also style match for Theodore, Eleanor, and Josephine. A beautiful name! The little Genevieves I know mostly go by Evie or Gigi, though Gen/Gennie/Genna, Vivi, and Vieve are possibilities for nicknames.

(4) Beatrice or Beatrix
Beatrix is a match for Penelope and Beatrice for Eleanor and Theodore — I’m not sure which spelling I like more for this family! It’s an entry in my book of Marian names, and the nicknames Bea, Trixie, and Tris are sweet. I also know of a little Beatrice who goes by Betsy!

(5) Violet
I loved seeing Violet as a match for Eleanor and Josephine, and Viola as a match for Edna! Violet’s also an entry in my book of Marian names — it’s a such a sweet floral name and the Marian character just kicks it up about a million notches, in my humble opinion. 😉

Boy
(1) Charles
I know I included Charles, and its variants Carl, Karol, and Karl, above, but I wanted to give it some more attention here. It’s a style match for Henry, Eleanor, and Theodore, and it strikes me as being exactly the kind of boy name Margie and her husband would like.

(2) Samuel
In addition to being a match for the biblical Veronica and Rebecca, Samuel’s also a match for Henry and Eleanor! It’s a great name, and the story of Samuel and Hannah in the bible can hold great meaning for any woman who has longed for a child. And is there any friendlier nickname than Sam?

(3) Milo or Miles
Milo is a style match for Penelope, and it and its variant Miles are included in one of my favorite entries in my book of Marian names! I like that it’s a little offbeat, like Penelope, but I also think both Milo and Miles have a nice gentlemanness that goes nicely as Henry’s brother.

(4) Elliott
I know that using Elliott now would knock Eleanor out of the running for the future, but it’s a style match for Penelope, and like with Milo/Miles, I think it goes handsomely with Henry as well. It’s a form of Elijah, which gives it its Marian character (as noted in my book), and I wonder if Margie could also consider it a nod to her mom’s middle name because of the El- beginning? (A total stretch? Or a possibility?)

(5) Frederick
Frederick is a match for Theodore and Josephine and I like that it has a longer length, like Penelope. Fred and Freddy are sweet, as is Fritz. I even know a little Frederick who goes by Erick!

I’m really reluctant to push too hard on any of these boy name ideas, though, because I think Margie and her hubby will be happiest with Theodore!

And those are all my ideas/thoughts/suggestions! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Henry and Penelope?


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!

Naming for difficult family members?

A reader asked me this question,

What do you think about family names that the person/persons have had a rough life/difficult personality? I really want to use family names but there are a few names in our family tree that almost seem… how do I say it… to have issues attached to it? On one hand this is our family and heritage and the names are of wonderful saints and are great names, on the other hand, the name evokes at least for me, negative or stressful feelings, even though I may love the person… What are your thoughts?

I thought this was such a sweet and sincere question — a good example of trying to make the best of what (and who) we’re given. Family dynamics can be ah-MAZing! And also the worst ever!

On the one hand, I think doing something like using the name of a particular family member can go far in repairing relationships and even mindsets towards those people, if that makes sense. And hearing the name of a beloved baby over and over again in a loving and safe environment might really help soften hearts toward the original name-bearer, which I think is a good thing (reconciliation and peace of any kind, even small, is a step in the right direction, right?). Almost like an act of charity? On the other hand though, if you think giving the name of a difficult person to your child would have a negative impact on your relationship with your child, or other family members’ relationships with your child, and the child’s view of his/her worth and standing in the family, then I do think that’s a serious consideration.

It’s definitely something that needs to be prayerfully considered on a case-by-case basis. I do love the idea though that, as in the reader’s case above where she actively wants to honor her family and heritage and it sounds like she loves some of the names belonging to people who give her “negative or stressful feelings,” that giving one’s child the name of a difficult relative is sort of an easy thing to do — an easy act of love or reconciliation. Even if you can’t bear to be around the family member too frequently or for too long, your child’s name bears witness to the decision to love.

What do you all think? I’m sure there are some doozy stories among you about this topic — just remember it’s a public blog and nothing published here is private!