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!

 

Irish family names from a certain era

I’ve been reading a biography of Bl. Solanus Casey to my older boys, and loved some of the namey things I discovered — I know you will too!

Father:
Bernard James (Barney) (born 1840, Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan); sister Ellen and brother Terrence

Mother:
Ellen Elizabeth (née Murphy) (born 1844, Camlough, Co. Armagh); mother Brigid (née Shields), sister Mary Ann and brothers Patrick, Owen, and Maurice

Barney and Ellen came to this country, separately, around the time of the potato famine (in fact, Ellen’s father died during it), which was from 1845-1850. They met here.

Children (Fr. Solanus and siblings) (middle names weren’t included in the book — I found them via a google search):

1. Ellen Bridget (referred to as Ellie at least once in the book)
2. James Michael (Jim)
3. Mary Ann (died at age 12 of “black diphtheria”*)
4. Maurice Emmett (would become Fr. Maurice Joachim! Sometimes called “Fr. Maurice J” ❤ )
5. John Terrance/Terrence
6. Bernard Francis (Barney, referred to as Barney Jr. in the book, born 1870) (would become Fr. Francis Solanus Casey, OFM Cap. [Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin — the OFMs are the Franciscans; the Capuchins are a branch of Franciscans], after St. Francis Solano)
7. Patrick Henry (Pat)
8. Thomas Joseph (Tom)
9. Martha Elizabeth (died at age 3 of black diphtheria, just a few days after Mary Ann) 10. Augustine Peter (Gus)
11. Leo McHale
12. Edward Francis (Ed, would become Msgr. Edward Casey)
13. Owen Bonaventure
14. Margaret Theresa Cecilia
15. Grace Agatha
16. Mary Genevieve (Genevieve)

These are pretty amazing names (you know how heart eyes I was over discovering Maurice’s religious name was Fr. Maurice Joachim! Augustine Peter and Owen Bonaventure particularly jumped out at me as somewhat surprising, given what I know of Irish naming at that time), but one of the things I was amazed by was how much overlap there was with both sides of my Irish ancestry (my paternal grandmother’s line and my maternal grandfather’s line). Check this out:

My paternal grandmother’s line (came here from Ireland mid-nineteenth century, specific place unknown but we think they sailed from Waterford):

James and Mary–> Patrick and Anne–> Patrick Francis and Mary Cecelia (nee Ward)–> Leo Ward and Mary Agnes (nee Sweeny) (her mother was Bridget Casey! Same last name as Bl. Solanus!) –> Mary Loretta (my grandmother, born 1920)

My maternal grandfather’s line (he and his siblings were all born in Ireland — Cobh [then called Queenstown], Co. Cork):

Francis (Frank) and Anne (Annie) (nee Lawless)–>
1. Francis (Frank)
2. Mary (my mom always refers to her as Aunt Mae)
3. Ellen (my mom always refers to her as Aunt Eileen)
4. William (Will)
5. John
6. Michael
7. David Xavier (my grandfather, born 1904 and worked his way to American on a ship in 1920)
8. Maurice (said mo-REECE, though I know MO-ris [like Morris] is a common Irish pronunciation, and the way I said it when I read Bl. Solanus’ brother’s name, because I think it sounds better with Joachim)

All three families (Bl. Solanus’ family, and my grandparents’ two families) can be roughly placed in the same time period (latter half of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century), and all three were Irish (Fr. Solanus’ parents were both from Ireland; my paternal grandmother’s family came here from Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century; my maternal grandfather and his siblings were all born in Ireland, and came over here after WWI). Names in common include:

Ellen
James
Mary
Patrick
Francis
Maurice
Patrick
Leo
Anne
John
Brigid/Bridget

I know they’re not crazy-out-there names, but I was kind of amazed by how much overlap there was! Especially with names like Maurice and Leo — I don’t think they’re names that people typically think of as having a lot of usage in Irish families? But if these three families are decent representatives of the naming patterns at that time (especially since they were from all over Ireland and not concentrated in one area), Maurice and Leo aren’t unusual at all!

Another thing I loved seeing was how the family names got passed down (grandparents and aunts and uncles showed up in the names of the grandchildren and nieces and nephews) and *how* they got passed down (both first and middle names were made use of, and maiden names were given to sons).

What are your reactions to reading this? Are you are fascinated by this overlap as I am, or do you think I’m making a lot of not much?

I have more info to share (this book is a treasure trove of beautiful names of our faith!), but it will have to wait for another post!

* The description of “black diphtheria” was eerily similar to what I’ve heard of the respiratory symptoms of Covid-19:

“A highly contagious disease seen often in this era, diphtheria was common in the United States and Western Europe. The upper respiratory system was typically affected, with a thick membrane forming up and down the air passages. Victims — usually children — ran high fevers, had sore throats, and sometimes died when the deadly membrane literally shut down their ability to breathe.”


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!

Baby name consultation: Short name with no nicknames needed for a little sister

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! (Blessings to you all on St. Patrick’s Day!)

I’m so sorry I didn’t post this consultation yesterday — I came down with a wee (only a wee, thank goodness) stomach bug and felt gross for most of the day, but I’m much better today! I’ve got my Guinness stew cooking (yes, while everyone else was making sure they had enough toilet paper and canned goods, I was making sure I had enough Guinness and stew beef 😂☘️) and a plan for the boys’ school for today (huge shout out to our teachers who have nearly seamlessly transitioned to distance teaching) and a nice cup of coffee so here we go!

I had the honor of doing two previous consultations for Caitlin and her husband, for babies no. 3 and 4, and I’m so happy for them that they’re expecting their fifth — a little green bean! This sweet baby joins big sibs:

Claire Camille
Margaret Joyce (Maggie)
Beatrice Jacqueline (Betsy)
George Warren

I just love their style, and I love Betsy as a nickname for Beatrice! So perfect!

Caitlin writes,

We’ve followed the pattern of patron saints as first names and our grandparents’ names as middle names. We’re pretty set on a boy’s name: Patrick William. But we’re struggling with a girl’s name that meets our criteria and that we agree on!

Our second and third daughters’ names are in a very similar style. They are both on the longer side, but we call them by nicknames that have the same ending. We want to avoid that name ending this time, and we want to have a shorter name (like our oldest, Claire) that doesn’t have any nicknames.

We also only have one grandmother’s name left to use. Her name was Shirley Anne and we’d be happy with either Shirley or Anne as a middle name.

I really like the name Alice and my husband really likes the name Helen. We’re trying to think of more names to add to our list. Lydia? Adele? We like Joan and Jane but feel like they’re a little *too* short.”

I couldn’t wait to see what names they considering, especially for a girl (I do love Patrick William, so handsome!), and I wasn’t disappointed! Alice and Helen as frontrunners, and Lydia, Adele, Joan, and Jane as possibilities are all fantastic!

First though, I wonder if Caitlin and her hubby have considered Anne Shirley as a first+middle combo?? I mean, what an opportunity!! I think Anne fits their criteria of a great patron saint for a first name, it goes great with Shirley as a middle (not just because it’s the name of one of the best literary characters ever), and it’s short, like Claire. The only thing working against it is that Annie is such a common nickname for it — but it doesn’t have to be! They can definitely be firm and consistent and insist on “just Anne” always, just like the amazing Anne-with-an-E herself. I could also see Nan arise as a non-ee-ending nickname — it was originally a diminutive of Anne (even though it’s not any shorter) and it feels sweet and affectionate to me. I looked back at my previous emails with Caitlin and saw that I suggested Anna for them before, but I’m loving Anne even more for them this time.

Okay, now that I’ve tried to convince them of Anne as a first name (!) here are my thoughts on the other names they’re considering:

  • Alice: I love it with the older kids, great name
  • Helen: I’m surprised that Caitlin’s husband is the one who likes Helen — I feel like moms are the ones who usually like the older names! It’s a great name too
  • Lydia: I love Lydia! The older girls definitely have an Austen-type feel, so I think Lydia fits in nicely
  • Adele: Also great! They’ve done really well coming up with names that don’t necessarily automatically nickname to anything (though I love Nell for Helen)
  • Joan and Jane: I love both of these, and since they’re both one syllable, they’re not any shorter than Claire!

So basically I’m like, I have nothing to offer! They have such great ideas! I can see each one of them working really well with both of the middle name options, and they each sound great as sisters to the older kids. I’m pretty excited to see what name they end up giving this baby!

Of course, even though they have a fantastic list, I can always come up with more! I did my usual research, looking up the names they’ve already used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard and compiling a list of names from there, as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I also had some of my own ideas of names that I thought they might like, and once I had a good list I went back through our old emails to be sure I wasn’t repeating any. Sure enough, I was — I’d suggested Eleanor with the nicknames Nell or Nora, and this time I was going to suggest just Nora as the first name due to its short length and lack of nicknames (and also it fits with their Irish/Scottish/British heritage that Caitlin had told me they wanted to stick with). Otherwise, all my ideas are new! This is what I came up with:

(1) Elise or Eliza
Elise is a style match for Claire, and I loved it as soon as I saw it! Because it’s already a diminutive of Elisabeth, I think it’s less likely to be nicknamed? I also love that it’s French, like Claire. Eliza is a match for Lydia, and I could see it also working quite nicely for this family! Any of the Sts. Elizabeth would be wonderful as patron.

(2) Edith
Edith wasn’t a style match for any of their other names per the BNW, but Helen made me think of it right away. Even though a lot of people love Edith for its sweet nickname Edie, Edith on its own with no nickname is totally doable. St. Edith Stein is a fantastic patron for a young girl.

(3) Rose or Rosa
Is Rose too similar in length to Joan and Jane — too short? It’s so lovely and feminine though, I love it! And it’s a style match for Alice and Jane. Rosie is certainly common, but again: firm and consistent can make sure she’s always just Rose. I think Rosa is less likely to be nicknamed, maybe? And it’s just that wee bit longer, and it’s a match for George!

(4) Ruth
As with Edith, people who I see drawn to Ruth are usually totally taken with the sweet Ruthie, but just Ruth is great too! Its meaning of “friend” is wonderful, and because Catilin and her hubs love their heritage, I know they’ll be interested to know that the only person I know my age with the name Ruth is native Irish.

(5) Stella
Despite Edie, Rosie, and Ruthie, one of my main motivators was trying to find names that didn’t have an obvious or natural nickname, so when I saw Stella listed as a style match, I thought it might be just right. Also, of course, I love the Marian connection with her title Stella Maris (Star of the Sea).

(6) Flora
Same as with Stella because of no obvious nickname, when I saw Flora as a match for Adele, I thought it could be perfect! It’s one of those names that I never think of, but when I do encounter it I’m always pleased.

(7) Faith, Eve
Finally, I did a search in the Name Finder on babynamewizard.com for one-syllable girl names that don’t begin with C, M, B, G, or P, and of the results, I thought both Faith and Eve would be lovely with the older kids. They both have great Marian connections, and I like them both with the middle name options. (Hope and Grace also fit, and in fact, Grace was a huge hit for this family in my research, but I thought Gracie would be even harder to avoid than Edie and Rosie. I didn’t think Hope was exactly right.)

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of Claire, Margaret/Maggie, Beatrice/Betsy, and George?


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: Elizabeth Ríonach (nn Liesel)!

I had the great privilege of doing a consultation for Laura and her husband’s second baby a few years ago, and posting a birth announcement, and then doing a consultation for her third baby this past summer — and here’s the birth announcement! Laura and her husband have welcomed their third daughter and given her the amazing name … Elizabeth Ríonach nn Liesel! I don’t normally include the nickname in the post title and name announcement, but I’m sure you can see why I’m all heart eyes over this gorgeous name and its nickname!

Laura writes,

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of Elizabeth Ríonach, who we are called Liesel.

Thank you so much for our consultation; it really helped me to understand why I wasn’t quite committed to Liesel: I really wanted her to have a longer, more formal name. This didn’t perturb [hubby], but as a German speaker, it sounded too nicknamey to be her given name. I couldn’t get him to go for Anneliese, but he was happy with Elizabeth, which I suggested after an hour had passed since her birth and she still had no name.

Ríonach was just too lovely to pass up, and I love that she has the Gaelic connection to sister’s Caoilfhinn. We really liked the nod to Our Lady as well.

Juliet Ríonach and Riona Josephine were other contenders. I think we settled on a great name, and having her full name be Elizabeth has helped make the unusual Liesel more approachable for friends and [those] who can’t get over the Sound of Music connection.

More importantly, we are so in love with our little Liesel. Big sisters Clara and Rosalie could not be happier. In fact, Clara told me just this evening at dinner that she’s so happy we picked Liesel to be our baby from Jesus. ❤️”

I just love this whole story! The consultation I did for Laura over the summer was mostly for a middle name (and I’m so thrilled that my suggestion of Ríonach — Irish for “queen,” making it Marian — hit the right note for them!), but how great is it that the consultation helped her and her hubby figure out the best first name for their baby girl as well!

Congratulations to Laura and her husband and big sisters Clara Louise and Rosalie Caoilfhinn, and happy birthday Baby Liesel!!

Elizabeth Ríonach “Liesel” and her big sisters ❤


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: Finnian Agustin!

I posted a consultation for Rosa and her husband back in October for their fifth baby and first boy — I’m thrilled to share that Little Man has arrived and been given the amazing name … Finnian Agustin!

Rosa writes,

Our son was born earlier this week 2.5 hours after we received a blessing from our new Bishop Austin.

After MUCH deliberation/frustration/discernment he finally has a name!

Meet Finnian Agustin.

Finnian after St. Finnian who taught the Apostles of Erin and was friends with St. David of Wales (a nod to David).

Agustin after our new bishop Austin (both diminutives of Augustine). That particular spelling is the Filipino variant (my ethnicity). Saint Augustine is no shabby patron either!

Thank you for all your tips and recommendations!

If you remember, Rosa dearly wanted a way to nod to her beloved Uncle David in her baby’s name — I love that she found a great connection between St. Finnian and St. David! And I love all the meaning of the middle name as well! So many significant layers to this little guy’s name!

Congratulations to Rosa and her husband and big sisters Arabella, Victoria, Jeanne (with Jesus), and Kateri, and happy birthday Baby Finnian!!

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Finnian Agustin


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: Fresh options needed for girls and boys

Happy Labor Day! No better day to post a consultation! 😉

Sometimes parents will request a consultation when they’re in between babies — the planners among you (like me!) will understand! It’s fun to replenish/refresh name lists when there’s no baby on the way and no pressure. I always enjoy those kinds of consultations, and tend to view them as a chance to spread my wings a bit — to seek a bit farther afield for ideas and to suggest some that I might not suggest if a baby’s arrival is imminent and Mom and Dad just need to find “the” name.

Today’s consultation is one such! Monica and her hubby recently welcomed their second baby — second girl! — and wanted to add some names to their girl list and see if there are any boy names that I might suggest as well. They currently have:

Magdalene Eve-Marie “Maggie”
Genevieve Rose “Genny”

Gorgeous, right??

For reference, my name is Monica Marie, confirmation name Bridget (but it’s for St. Brigid of Ireland). My husband is Joseph Martin, confirmation name Cyril.

Our main ethnic heritage is — from my side — Italian, with some German, Irish, and Scottish — from his side — French, Irish, and Ukrainian. Tidbits of other stuff, but those are the major lines.

Other names that have been at the top of our girl list in the past are Miriam (still high) and Ramona (falling in favor). These days we mostly only like Ramona because we had paired it with Carmel as a middle name, which we still like. Perhaps we could do Miriam Carmel instead. It’s not bad, though I think I preferred Carmel with Ramona because it ended in -a.

We also like Grace quite a bit. I like Avila, Mercedes, Edith, Celine, Faith and Hope … Anne (I love Anne of Green Gables, like every girl…) … but my husband isn’t as keen on those. My husband has a thing for Russian names and likes Natasha, but I don’t. I would consider Nadia or Sonya instead. We’ve recently been reading Kristin Lavransdatter, and were intrigued by Sunniva, but it’s probably too Scandinavian for us.

Aside from the Marian requirement, I think our girl name style is very feminine, elegant, but not over the top frilly/sugary/sticky sweet … We like the names Rebecca and Susannah/Suzanna, both of which belong to sisters of mine, and have considered them as middle names for Miriam, since they match its Old Testament feel. We like a lot of religious significance, both saint connections and linguistic meaning, and maybe a sprinkle of literary and historical inspiration. I also tend to like a more complex religious significance than just a patron saint, although patron saints are great, and if I like the name that would be enough. But if it’s more complex, like a title of Mary rather than just her name, or a combination that evokes a religious event like the Visitation (I.e. any combo of Mary and Elizabeth names), or a name with double religious significance … I like it even better! It seems like we’ve gone for French-inspired names (I know we didn’t choose the Madeleine form, but I still think of St. Mary Magdalene in a French light via her sojourn there) that could take an Irish sounding nickname. This is perfect, as our last name … is actually Irish, but often mistaken for French, and my husband actually has a lot of French heritage through his mom’s side. That probably isn’t a necessary requirement, though, since it’s kind of unusual to find French names with Irish sounding nicknames. Both names we’ve chosen so far are not super common but familiar enough to be recognizable and fairly pronounceable. And … heavy on the “Eve” sound … though maybe we should NOT repeat that a third time.

Boy names are a whole different story. We tend to disagree a lot more. Some of the universal stuff about name significance I mentioned above applies to boy names as well, but I’m not sure we have as much of a definite style since we disagree a lot and only agree sort of randomly. I like some more Romance language names like Santiago and Giovanni and Enzo, thanks to my Italian heritage, and my husband likes Russian names … partly because he loves Russian novels and history, but he is actually 1/4 Ukrainian/Slovakian as well. He is always pushing for Vladimir or Dmitri. I don’t think any of the above ethnic options work well with our very every-day-American last name, though I could maybe reconcile with one if it had family significance (like Cosimo in my family … but then again, that would be more significant with my maiden name). I’ve always said if we were going to do an ethnic name it might be best if it were the same ethnicity as our last name, so we went looking for Irish names, and found we agreed on Finnian, which is probably #3 on our list. Maybe paired with Thomas as a middle name, for my husband’s dad. I also like Eamon, but my husband is less enthusiastic.

Probably #1 is Louis, which is actually French like the girls’ names. We’ve considered pairing it with Anthony for my dad or Martin for my husband (he doesn’t want a direct junior). It primarily would be for St. Louis of France, the king, but if we did Louis Martin that would be a cool double for St. Therese’s father as well.

#2 is John, because I love several saints John — especially John of the Cross and John the Evangelist, such beautiful contemplatives. My husband only consented to John (it is very plain, I admit, but the saints are so great!) with an “interesting” middle name. I pushed for Augustine, but he doesn’t like “A” boy names. So we have it paired with Maccabaeus on our list, which we both think is cool. Our family says they would call him “Johnny Mac.”

We’ve batted around a lot of others. Alexander fits my husband’s Russian taste and I like it, but think it’s a bit common and overused. I’d consider Ivan, but he’s not that much of a fan of that particular Russian name. We both like Blaise, Judah, Isaac, and David, though Isaac is taken by a close friend. Owen, Henry, Nicholas, Dominic, Zachary, Jude, Paul, Gerard, Gabriel, Daniel, Elijah, Jacob, Sebastian, Damian, Martin, Alexei, Thomas, and are on our ok list, but not favorites due to various circumstances (close friends used them, or one of us isn’t as keen as the other). I like Old Testament names, but my husband doesn’t like boy names that end in the “-iah” sound, which rules out a lot. For example, I liked Isaiah Joseph, but … nope. Although we do both like Judah. We’ve considered maybe a David Judah before. We liked Lavrans from Kristin Lavransdatter (is it a form of Lawrence? Do you know?) but it flows poorly with [our last name]. I like Kenneth and Walter from the Anne of Green Gables series, but my husband thinks they’re too old man sounding.”

I love the names Monica and her hubs chose for their girls — Magdalene Eve-Marie and Genevieve Rose are both gorgeous, and Maggie and Genny are the sweetest nicknames!

St. Mary Magdalene being “the Perfect Image of the New Eve” is SO cool! And I laughed when Monica sheepishly admitted that she liked the name Genevieve first, then looked up the saint later — I’ve done that many many times myself! And I think that’s sometimes how saints “find” us, by using our God-given taste in names! (I wrote about that here.)

Genevieve Eleanor would have been gorgeous too, and as for that pesky Eleanor/Helen connection, maybe my most recent post on it would be helpful going forward.

But Rose is just perfect! The Marian connection and family connections are perfect. (And how cool is Rosamystica as a middle name??!) I love Lucie/Lucy too, I included it as an entry in my book of Marian names, since Our Lady of Light is one of her titles, but I can see why Monica’s hubby might have a hard time thinking of it as Marian, since it’s got such a life and history of its own.

I had an idea for “a Marian name beginning with a vowel, preferably an E” for a middle name going forward: Edessa is a name in my book, after her title Our Lady of Edessa. Such a beautiful name!

I love Miriam from their current list, and Ramona! I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the families I’ve worked with consider Ramona! What a great name! Ramona Carmel is stunning, and Miriam Carmel is lovely too. Grace, Mercedes, Faith, and Hope all are Marian — OL of Grace/Mercy/Mercies/Faith/Hope are all titles of her, and all of these names are in my book. Anne is too! I figured, when people are trying to name a baby after a beloved someone, sometimes they might look to the relatives of that person for inspiration.

I love the Russian names! Natasha, Nadia, and Sonya are all gorgeous! And ooh, Sunniva! I did a spotlight on it once, such a cool name. And Belén! I probably would have normally thought it was too Spanish for a non-Hispanic family, but one of my favorite bloggers (who’s not Hispanic) named her daughter Belén and I just love it! Cecilia too, so beautiful.

Re: Rosemary, I wonder if its nicknames Romy or Roma might sway Monica’s hubby? They remind me of Ramona — Rosemary with one of those nicknames might be a nice balance of styles.

I admit I totally latched onto how Monica said “we’ve gone for French-inspired names … that could take an Irish sounding nickname,” especially the “Irish sounding nickname” bit — you’ll see that a few of my ideas are in that vein!

Oh man, I’d love to find some “eve” sounding names for this family, but I agree — repeating that a third time would really set them up to continue it! And that’s a much harder pattern to follow than a “Marie-something” middle!

So I felt pretty confident with my ideas for girls after reading Monica’s email up to this point. It’s definitely helped by the fact that they have two girls already, and their names automatically rule out whole groupings of girl names, you know? Their names are no longer hypothetical options on their long list; they are now the reality and the standard to be measured against.

But boys! Since they don’t have any boys yet, and since they’re not committed to the same style for boys that they have for girls, it’s a wide open playing field. I had fun really trying to poke around and find some good options in addition to the three Monica mentioned. Louis Anthony/Louis Martin, John Maccabaeus (Johnny Mac! LOVE it! I also think John Augustine is pretty awesome), and Finnian Thomas are all fantastic!

One of the strategies that I thought might be helpful would be to consider Russian/French/non-English variants or nicknames of names they like, as a way of  spicing up a “normal” name. Alexander’s nickname in Russian and Ukrainian is Sasha, for example, so while Alexander might feel “common and overused,” Sasha is so interesting and unexpected! Or Alastar, which is the Irish variant; Sandro, which is an Italian nickname for it; or the spelling Aleksandr, which is Russian. (But then, Monica’s hubs doesn’t like A names — would Alexander be okay with him?) Regarding her hubby’s devotion to St. Peter, maybe the Russian Pyotr, the Ukrainian Petro, or the Irish Peadar? Or the variant Pierce, which is also an entry in my book, for how Simeon prophesied that Our Lady’s heart would be pierced with a sword.

This can go the other way too, which they’ve already considered: Ivan is the Russian for John, and they’ve already got John on their list! Monica is correct about Lavrans being a form of Lawrence (and blogger Haley Carrots considered it for her baby, if she’d been a boy!); Kenneth and Walter are both great too, and while they may have traditionally fallen into the old man category, I’ve heard them both (especially Walter, for Servant of God Walter Ciszek) on little guys over the past few years.

Blaise, Judah, Isaac, David (David Judah! So handsome!) are all wonderful. I love Old Testament names too! But there are so many that end in -iah! Gah!

When doing research for parents, you all know that I always start by looking up the names the parents have used and those they like/are considering 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. I did so for this family, using both their girls’ names and nicknames as well as all the other names Monica mentioned liking. Generally I look for overlap among the style matches for each name — are there names that show up as style matches for more than one of the names on their list, for example? That kind of thing. Also, a lot of it is really just gut feelings — do I *think* they’ll like this name? Based on all that, here are my ideas for Monica and her hubby to consider adding to their lists:

Girl
(1) Tess
I’m going to start off listing nicknames that I think fit their “Irish sounding nickname” idea, and then back into fuller given names for them. Tess is one of my favorites, and I think it’s darling with sisters Maggie and Genny. They could do a form of Teresa, but I didn’t think Monica would love that (although I knew a girl once named Marie-Therese and I thought she was so amazing and beautiful solely because of her name! Marie-Therese would go wonderfully with Magdalene and Genevieve, and Tess is so sweet for a daily nickname!). High up on my own list was Elizabeth with the nickname Tess (my reasoning being, if Betty, Bess, and Tetty can be traditional nicknames for Elizabeth — and they are — why not Tess?), but I thought Monica might like the spelling Elisabeth even better — it’s a French spelling, and the spelling of one of my favorite holy women: Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur. Or maybe they’d like to consider the more Italian Elisabetta? Despite it being so Italian, I think it can definitely work in their family, since they already have the long, lovely, and foreign-ish Magdalene and Genevieve.

(2) Annie
I know Monica mentioned loving Anne for Anne of Green Gables (I’m right there with her!) but she thought it might be too “boring.” I agree that Anne doesn’t feel like the right name for their family, with the weightier and longer Magdalene and Genevieve, but the nickname Annie is definitely one of those “Irish sounding nicknames,” and there are some pretty ways of getting to it, like the Italian Annunziata (what a name! I love it!) and the Russian Anastasia (a perfect fit for Magdalene and Genevieve’s sister, I think). I was toying with Anya as well, which is Russian, and how it has the exact same pronunciation as the Irish Áine — maybe they could consider one of those as a nickname for Anastasia or another Ann- name?. Another one I love is Annabelle (or Annabel) — it’s in my book because it’s a variant of Amabel, which is a variant of Amabilis, which is one of Our Lady’s titles: Mater Amabilis! How cool is that?? In fact, the more I think about it, the more I love Annabelle for this family!

(3) Bridie
Bridie is one of my favorite Irish nicknames, and I’m extra loving it for a daughter for Monica because of her Confirmation name being Bridget! BUT, I didn’t think she’d want to consider Bridget or Brigid, but maybe the lovely French Brigitte? Or maybe the Slovak Brigita? Or Bernadette? I think all these could take the nickname Bridie!

(4) Josie
Josie is just as sweet as Maggie, Genny, Tess, Annie, and Bridie, and has a longer French name to boot in Josephine. Or they could consider Josefina or Josefa? I love all of these!

(5) Kate, Katie (or Cate, Cady)
Even though my name is Kate, I won’t be offended if they don’t like this idea! 😀 While Catherine might be too common for Monica’s taste, it’s got some gorgeous variants, like the Italian Caterina, the Russian Ekaterina (or just Katerina), and the Irish Catriona. They can all take the nicknames Kate/Katie (or Cate, Cady), which have a pretty good Irish feel to them!

(6) Vivienne
Vivian and Vivienne showed up a couple times in my research as being a style match for the names they like, and I totally agree! It shares some sounds with Genevieve, yes, but since they didn’t go the Evie/Vivi route with Genevieve’s nickname, they can with Vivienne (I thought Monica would prefer the French Vivienne over Vivian).

(7) Natalia
Natalia showed up a bunch of times in my research as similar to names Monica and her hubs like, AND it’s Russian! (They could also consider the Russian spellings Natalya and Nataliya [which is also Ukrainian].) In fact, it’s the formal name for the nickname Natasha, so while it’s not exactly the name her hubby likes, it’s pretty close (and he could use Natasha as a nickname if he wanted). Natalia is a gorgeous name!

(8) Veronica
Veronica is such a beautiful, weighty name like Magdalene and Genevieve, with loads of nickname options: Vera, Vero, Ronnie, Nica, and Nicky, and some less traditional ones like Vee, Via, and Vicka.

(9) Maristella
My last girl idea is Maristella or, if they preferred not to repeat Maggie’s initial, they could reverse the elements and do Stellamaris. Such a gorgeous name, either way! It’s for Our Lady’s title “Star of the Sea,” as I’m sure they know, as Monica noted that neither of them care for Estelle, but Maristella and Stellmaris feel very different to me. Ooh, and I think Molly could work as a nickname for Maristella! Then they’d have their Irishy nickname! Or maybe Sadie for Stellamaris?

Boy
(1) Nicodemus, Nikolai
I felt a little all over the place with boy names — Santiago, Eamon, and Dmitri aren’t names I expect to encounter on a parent’s list at the same time! Additionally, when I looked at boy names that were matches for their girl names, I thought there were some great ideas there too. So we’ll start with one of my favorites: Nicodemus. I think it’s got a heavy, Old Testament feel, though it’s a New Testament name. It doesn’t end in -iah! And it can take the Nic- nicknames (Nico, Nic, Nick, Nicky), which make it really easy to live with on a day to day basis. While we’re talking about Nic- names, the Russian Nikolai is just such a swoony name, and while Nik etc. can be nicknames, I quite like the Russian Kolya.

(2) Nathaniel
Another long, biblical N name that I thought went great with their girls’ names is Nathaniel. I was really drawn to the longer, weightier boy names, and I thought Nathaniel fit that perfectly; I also love its friendly nickname Nate.

(3) Raphael
Here’s an Old Testament name that doesn’t end in -iah! Raphael appears in the book of Tobit, and the nickname Rafe is said just the way Ralph is in the U.K. (Ralph is a family name, according to Monica — maybe Raphael could be a different way of nodding to that Ralph?).

(4) Matthias
Matthias was the man chosen by the other Apostles to replace Judas Iscariot, so one might even consider their discussion to be the first Church Council! 😊 Matthias’ ending is almost -iah, so if Monica likes the idea of this name but her hubby doesn’t like the pronunciation, maybe the variant Mattias, which is said ma-TEE-as, would be better?

(5) Benedict
Benedict’s got that great length and weightiness of Magdalene and Genevieve, and the great friendly nickname Ben, I just love it.

(6) Luka, Luca
The Luke names are great to look at if you want a name that travels well internationally. Luka is the Russian version, and Luca the Italian — I love that! I would think, though, that if they like this idea, they might want to cross Louis off their list, since Luka and Louis are so similar in sound.

(7) Adrian, Julian
Adrian and Julian are two of those great Catholic names — saintly, papal, and pan-European. I saw them both pop up in my research, and thought I’d combine them here because they’re so similar.

(8) Roman
Roman is listed as both a Russian and Ukrainian name (among others) on behindthename.com, and of course it refers to Rome, which is Italian, so I’m loving that Roman can nod to both Monica and her hubby in this way! This would knock Ramona off their list, but I think Roman’s a great option for them to consider.

(9) Santino
My last idea is a bit of a wild card, and I’m not sure it’s any better than the overly ethnic (according to Monica’s hubby) Santiago, but I looove the name Santino — I love that it means Little Saint, I love that Sonny is a nickname for it a la The Godfather, and I totally get if they hate it because of these things, but I had to put it on the list! (Fun fact: Mario Lopez and his wife just named their baby Santino Rafael, nicknamed Sonny!)

I also had two consultations in mind while working on this that I thought Monica might find inspiring as there was a lot of overlap with what I perceive to be her taste:

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little brother or sister of Magdalene/Maggie and Genevieve/Genny?


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: Adventurous German or Irish name needed

I had such fun working on a consultation for Laura and her husband’s second baby a few years ago — they ended up giving the baby the middle name Caoilfhinn, just to give you an idea of the kinds of names they like! I’m so excited that they asked me for ideas/thoughts/suggestions for baby no. 3 — a third girl! This little lady joins big sisters:

Clara Louise
Rosalie Caoilfhinn

Such lovely, feminine names!

Laura writes,

You did a consultation for our second, and now we’re facing a similar problem with our third: a long list of boys’ names, and a tiny list of girls’. If you could help us finalize a third option, we’d really appreciate it!

We love our heritage as German/Irish and love European names, but especially ones in that vein. A saint name is preferred, but not necessary for both first and middle. So far, we have liked the name Liesel the best.”

Liesel!! I love it!!

Now we’re having a hard time picking *the* middle name. There are several that we like, and we were trying to avoid anything that sounded ‘sing-song.’ (Áine/Anya came up in our last consultation and was beloved by many readers, but Liesel Áine sounds like lasagna! Haha.)

Here are some of the ones we have on our list:

Amabel (though the two names ending in -el might be a bit much), Paulina, Mariana, Josephine, Bronwyn, Joan, Hildi, Kateri

Bronwyn may be my favorite because its sounds are so different from Liesel. But I also like one or three-syllable middles as I think they help the entire name flow. (Hubby will NOT consider a four-name moniker.)

Another name we’ve considered (as a middle) is Eilidh (AY-lee). My grandmother was Eleanor, but Aaron really dislikes that name. He likes Eilidh, which I’ve heard is the Gaelic version, but it doesn’t sound right with Liesel. My husband also likes Maisie, particularly as a nn for a Marian name (though we’re not sure which). I think it’s perfectly darling.

To help you out (and hopefully not confuse you), boy names that we (BOTH — lol) like are: William, Wolf, Arthur, Thomas, Becket, Edmund/Éamon, Frederick/Freidrich (nn Fritz), Bernhard/Bernard, Roger, Felix, Rórdán.

I love Laura and her hubby’s taste in names! I think Liesel is a great sister name to Clara and Rosalie, which also checks off Laura’s boxes of German and saintly. Her comment about Liesel Áine sounding like “lasagna” made me laugh out loud! I think they’re right to avoid it! As for their other middle name ideas:

— I love Amabel, but I agree with Laura that it doesn’t have the best flow with Liesel

— Paulina, Mariana, Josephine, Bronwyn, Joan, Hildi, and Kateri are all great options! I agree that the juxtaposition of the German Liesel and the Welsh Bronwyn is interesting and unexpected, I like it! But I think I agree with Laura that one- and three-syllable middles have the best flow with Liesel

— I too love Eilidh! But I agree that Liesel Eilidh isn’t ideal. I wonder if Laura and her hubs might consider the fuller Eilionoir? Liesel Eilionoir has the rhythm they like and is so similar to the sound of Laura’s grandmother’s name (though I think it’s Scottish instead of Irish) (although, I’m just seeing that Nameberry lists Eilidh as Scottish as well, so maybe Scottish is ok?). Or what about a Nora name? I like both Liesel Nora(h) and Liesel Noreen, even though Nora and Noreen are both two syllables

As for Maisie — I love it too!! SUCH a sweet name!! I love the idea of using it as a nickname for a Mary name. Mariazell is a name in my book that I love, that could definitely take Maisie as a nickname. Marie-Azelie, or any M- name with Zelie as a middle, could work to get to the nickname Maisie as well. And actually … Liesel has that same Z sound … so Mary Liesel, Marie-Liesel, Maura Liesel, Moira Liesel, etc. could lead to Maisie as a nickname as well. Or M + any name with a Z-ish sound!

One of the names that showed up a couple of times in my research for this family as being similar to their style — specifically similar to Arthur, Edmund, and Bernard — is Marian/Marion. I like Marian as a sister to Clara and Rosalie too! Or as a middle? Liesel Marian?

Another idea for Maisie is a Margaret name — Maisie is a diminutive of Mairead, which is the Irish Margaret, so Margaret, Marguerite, and Margot could all work as full names that use Maisie as a nickname. Or Mairead! I actually know a couple little Maireads, including the daughter of one of my best friends. She always says, “Rhymes with parade!” which makes it really easy to help others know how to say it. Margaret/Mairead isn’t Marian, but they could easily remedy that with a Marian middle.

Another name I adore, which is also an entry in my book, is Maylis (also spelled Maëlys) — it can be said may-LEES, may-LIS, or MAY-lis, and is generally considered to mean “Mary of the lily” in French. I could see Maisie working for it as a nickname! Though I admit Maylis is so short that maybe a nickname is silly.

I’m sure none of you are surprised that the “minute” I meant to spend on Maisie turned into quite a few minutes! Haha!

Back to the task at hand! You all know that I usually start consultation by looking up the names the parents like and have used 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 — I did so here, and I also looked through my Marian names book and my own mental files for ideas for Liesel’s middle name, which yielded some good ideas, I think!

(1) Alannah
I love that behindthename says Alannah as a given name “has been influenced by the affectionate Anglo-Irish word alannah, from the Irish Gaelic phrase a leanbh meaning ‘O child’ …” Isn’t that sweet? I love Liesel Alannah!

(2) Annika
Laura mentioned Anya/Áine, and when I saw Anna show up as a style match for a bunch of the names on her list, I thought maybe a different Anna variant would do. I love Annika for its German feel — I know Laura likes mixing ethnicities, but Liesel Annika was too gorgeous to not suggest! That said, if they were open to changing the first name, Annika Eilidh was striking me as a stunning option as well.

(3) Maeve
Maeve is Irish, one syllable, and Marian per my book! Baby Names of Ireland gives one of its meanings as “cause of great joy,” which is so similar to Our Lady’s title Causae Nostrae Laetitiae (Cause of Our Joy). Liesel Maeve has that two-syllable + one-syllable rhythm that Laura favors.

(4) Riona, Rionach
Amazingly, this actually showed up in the Baby Name Wizard — it tends to not be the greatest source for unusual or ethnic names, but Riona was listed as a match for Eamon! It, or the name it derives from, Rionach, means “queen” — I included Riona in my Marian names book as a variant of Regina! The even more Irish Rionach might appeal to Laura and her hubs even more. Liesel Riona(ch) is pretty cool! (Though Baby Names of Ireland doesn’t include the fadas, Behind the Name lists them as Ríona and Ríonach, so that could be fun for someone like Laura.)

(5) Loretta
My last idea is Loretta, which is a style match for Bernard and was my own grandmother’s name — she was super Irish, and her given name was Mary Loretta, though she went by Loretta (or Rett). It’s a Marian name, after Our Lady of Loreto, or the Marian Litany of Loreto, and I looove how Liesel Loretta sounds. I love alliteration like that! (But I totally understand if Laura and her husband don’t!)

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for Liesel’s middle 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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Ireland part 4: Thaddeus

Part 1: Edel

Part 2: Radek

Part 3: Anne

A funny little thing I do when looking through books of Saints’ names or Catholic names is to see if there’s a listing for Thaddeus — it’s one of my benchmarks to see how extensive the book is. If Thaddeus isn’t included as its own entry, I don’t usually think the book has much new to offer, that’s how rare it is for me to find Thaddeus listed as its own entry in a Catholic name book. It’s always included in the entry for Jude, which I find so frustrating — that doesn’t help someone rifling through the T section for interesting T saint names, for example, nor does it let parents know that Thaddeus can be used on its own without Jude attached (some parents need that reassurance — or even to be shown that it’s an option at all!).

(I also consider Thaddeus to be a sort of compromise benchmark — my true ideal is a name book that also includes names like Kolbe, Becket, and Campion as their own entries, but I’ve never come across that — those names are always only mentioned in the entries for Maximilian, Thomas [sometimes], and Edmund).

Anyway, I’d learned about Bl. Thaddeus Moriarty several years ago — an Irish Dominican priest who was martyred for saying Mass during the time that priests were banned in Ireland (this says he was beatified in 1992, though the previous link from 2013 says they’re still praying for his beatification) — and I developed a devotion to him because of (1) his amazing courage and faith, (2) Irish, (3) Dominican, and (4) his name (I know, it’s always about names with me :p ). I also loved learning that he’s also known as Bl. Tadhg Moriarty — I discovered that Tadhg (pronounced like the first syllable of tiger) is used as the Irish version of both Thaddeus and Timothy. (It also has a history of being used as a derogatory term for Irish Catholics … which makes me love it even more. I know one Tadhg in real life, he’s my age and his mom is from Ireland.)

BUT this post isn’t about Bl. Thaddeus Moriarty! It’s actually about ANOTHER Bl. Thaddeus I learned about on my recent trip to Ireland for my sister’s wedding: Bl. Thaddeus (Tadhg) McCarthy! So fun to learn about yet another Irish Thaddeus, who is also known as Tadhg!

I first saw info about him at North Cathedral (Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne) — you guys, there’s a bone of his in there that’s HUGE — it must be a leg bone, it’s so long! And I only just this morning discovered that there are relics of his in St. Colman’s Cathedral, which is where my sister’s actual wedding was! His story is kind of crazy: he was named bishop twice (by the Pope) of two different places (Ross, and Cork & Cloyne), but couldn’t assume his post either time because of politics regarding the previous bishops (one of whom refused to step down, the other had been chosen by the people rather than the Pope). He was also excommunicated! It was later revoked and he was cleared of all charges. Poor guy! He is known as the White Martyr of Munster, which “commemorates the mental and physical anguish he suffered while trying to do the Church’s work.”

Check Instagram later today for the photos I took! I hope your July has started off well!


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!

Baby name consultation: Irish first + strong and saintly middle for baby boy

Moira and her husband are expecting their fifth baby on earth — their second boy!

She writes,

We have four kids on earth, two babies in heaven, and a little boy on the way. We’ve always been surprised about our babies gender until this time. I was getting the mama prick that we should find out in order to manage expectations.”

“In order to manage expectations” — well said!

Our oldest daughter is Anna Philomena. We both love the name Anna, and Philomena is my confirmation name.

Our next baby is one of the heaven babies. It was a very early miscarriage, so we decided to name the baby Marion John. John is a family name on both sides, and when you say the whole name quickly together it sounds like Mary and John. Also in honor of Mary.

Our second daughter is Carol Elizabeth. Carol is the name of her great grandmother, my maternal grandmother. It’s also in honor of John Paul the great. And Elizabeth is my middle name.

Our next child is our first boy, and his name is Brendan Athanasius. Brendan sounds strong and Irish, and I LOVE the sound of Irish boy names combined with our last name. We really love strong names, especially strong saint names. His first name has the family connection to my mother whose name is Brenna. And we both really enjoyed studying Saint Athanasius’ writings on the infant Jesus in college.

Our next baby is another heaven baby. I had a very strong feeling that it was a girl, I have no idea if I’m correct, but we did get to see her tiny little body. We buried her next to my uncle who died at only a day old. Her name is Beatrice Rose.

Our last child is a girl, and her name is Natalie Thérèse. I have always loved the name Natalie, I think it sounds really beautiful. Thérèse has the family connection to my husband’s mother who goes by Therese (pronounced Ter-eeece).

We considered the name Killian if Natalie were a boy. We thought about Killian Daniel. I was a little nervous though that it sounded like killing.

We literally have no boy names we currently agree on. 🙈 Boy names have been hard for us. We really like to choose a whole combination, a first and middle name all together.

My husband‘s full name is Michael Patrick Stephen. My full name is Moira Elizabeth Margaret Philomena.

Michael and Daniel are both family names and we would consider them for middle names. We would also consider Joseph as a middle name. I don’t really care for Patrick. I do like Cyprian (I think I like the -AN endings) but if I remember right, I think Mike didn’t love that one. Often it helps when I can suggest a whole combination, and that’s been harder with boy names. I do kind of like long and strong middle names (most of my kids middles names fall into this). Also we are both open to Edmund … with the right middle name.

We don’t usually use nicknames that correspond to the child’s name. Our oldest was called Squeaky, our second is usually Carol-E. Our son is Mr. Buddy. And Natalie is simply Natalie.”

First off, I love Moira’s older kiddos’ names — it’s so fun to be surprised by names! Philomena and Athanasius as middles are delightful surprises, as is Carol as a first name! Wow! I also loved how she and her hubby worked in family names in a creative way — Brendan for her mom Brenna, Thérèse for her mother-in-law. Marion John and Beatrice Rose are so perfect for their little ones with Jesus — and I love the “Mary and John” sound-alike. Beautiful job, all around!

I love the name Killian, and Killian Daniel is a very handsome combo! However, Moira’s not the first parent who has written to me considering the name Killian but worrying that it sounds too much like “killing.” Also, there’s usually the issue of — what nickname would a Killian go by? They’ve circumvented that by not using nicknames related to their children’s given names, but for other parents “Kill” or similar is problematic, of course. In general though, I think Killian’s a fine name, and I think it will be obvious to most (all?) people that his name isn’t “Killing.” It’s also no. 286 according to the Social Security Administration, so there are a lot of parents who felt it was fine to use.

That said, some names that are similar but avoid the “killing” issue that might appeal to Moira and her hubs include:

  • Kian: This is said like Ian with a K in front of it, and I always think of it as the perfect solution to any issue with Killian because it’s just Killian without the “ill” in the middle! For that reason, I’ve also thought Kian could make a good nickname for Killian, for those parents looking for a nickname. Kian is no. 446 according to the SSA — a top 500 name, but not super common either. Like with Killian/Cillian, Kian is a variant of Cian, and there is a St. Cian. There’s actually also a Bl. Thomas Kian, though he wasn’t Irish or Celtic. My cousin actually recently named her son Kian, I really love it.
  • Kieran: I had thought Kieran was a bit more mainstream than Killian and Kian, but I discovered it’s actually less popular than both, at no. 497. There are two Sts. Kieran.
  • Kiernan: Kiernan is the least popular of all these, not even being in the top 1000. One of the Sts. Kieran is also known as Kiernan, though they’re not related names as far as I know. This gives an interesting bit about St. Kiernan.

She also mentioned Edmund as a name that they both like, with the right middle name. I love how Edmund Daniel and Edmund Joseph sound! I wondered if they also might like to consider the Irish variant of Edmund: Eamon. It’s said like AY-men, and has the sound of the -AN ending, though the spelling is different. Like with Edmund, I quite like Eamon Daniel and Eamon Joseph.

I thought I’d also suggest a few middle name ideas along the lines of Philomena and Athanasius — “long and strong” names, as Moira put it, and I’d add “super saintly” to their description. Some that are similar in style include:

Aloysius
Augustine
Balthazar
Bartholomew
Dominic
Emmanuel
Ignatius
Leander
Leopold
Matthias
Maximilian
Nicodemus
Sebastian
Stanislaus
Thaddeus
Zechariah

Right off the bat, Edmund Aloysius strikes me as a pretty amazing combo. Also Kian Emmanuel, Kiernan Aloysius, Kieran Dominic, and Eamon Ignatius all have really nice flows in my opinion.

Okay! On to my new suggestions for this family! You all know that I almost always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have used and like/are considering 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. Since my book of Marian names was published, I also look through that as well for names that I think fit the parents’ taste. I admit I also latched a bit onto the fact that Moira likes Irish boy names that end in -an, so my list of suggestions is heavy on both Irish names and names that end in -an (or at least the -an sound), and most of them fit both of those criteria:

(1) Declan
This is one of the first names that came to mind when I saw that they’d considered Killian and that Moira likes -an endings. Declan is a saint’s name, and is at no. 101 on the SSA list. Middle names I might pair with it include Declan Daniel (I love alliteration, though I know not everyone does), Declan Michael, Declan Joseph, Declan Matthias.

(2) Colman
Colman is another Irish saint, and in fact my sister got married in Ireland at the beginning of June in St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh, Co. Cork — it was the church my grandfather had been baptized in and had been an altar boy in before leaving for America, so Colman is near and dear to my heart. And it fits the kinds of names Moira likes! Colman Daniel, Colman Dominic, Colman Augustine, Colman Ignatius are all quite nice.

(3) Roman or Ronan
At first I was thinking Ronan for this family, since it’s an Irish boy name ending in -an, but then I saw Roman as a style match for Cyprian, and I liked that a lot for them too! So I thought I’d include them both here. I think they give off very different feels — Roman feels ancient and strong to me, while Ronan is lighter and obviously Celtic, maybe a bit wild — I like them both. Daniel, Joseph, Emmanuel, Leander, Leopold, Stanislaus, and Thaddeus all seem to go well with either one, I think. I also like Ronan Michael and Ronan Matthias, though Roman Michael/Matthias might feel too M heavy? Or maybe not? There are several Sts. Roman, and I also like that it can refer to being a Roman Catholic. There are also a few Sts. Ronan.

(4) Colin
Colin is such a great, Irish name. It’s got the -an ending sound, though not the spelling, which could also be nice in the sense that it doesn’t box them into feeling like they have to choose a name ending in -an for possible future boys, and it also gives them Marion, Brendan, and Colin — three ending spellings that give the same sound without the same spelling. It’s not a big deal at all, of course, just one of those things my namey sense enjoys. Colin Augustine is a really nice companion to Brendan Athanasius. I also like Colin Daniel, Colin Michael, Colin Joseph, Colin Matthias, Colin Sebastian. Colin is a form of Nicholas, which is where its saintliness comes from.

(5) Fulton
Ven. Fulton Sheen is well on his way to becoming beatified, and his name is a great one for a Catholic family to consider! Fulton was actually his mother’s maiden name — it’s an Irish surname — and it fits right in with the kind of names Moira likes, being Irish and ending in the -an sound. Fulton Joseph is probably my favorite, so handsome! I also like Fulton Michael, Fulton Dominic, Fulton Emmanuel, Fulton Ignatius, Fulton Leander, and Fulton Matthias.

(6) Quentin
Quentin isn’t Irish (I think it’s French) and is actually more a style match for Anna and Brendan’s middle names Philomena and Athanasius than the rest of the names Moira and her hubs have used, but it is a saint’s name, it has that ending sound Moira likes, and even more fun, it means “fifth,” which is so great for a fifth-born baby! (Fifth-born, not fifth-conceived — I’m not forgetting Marion and Beatrice!) I like Quentin Michael, Quentin Joseph, Quentin Aloysius, Quentin Ignatius, Quentin Leander, Quentin Matthias, and Quentin Sebastian.

(7) Garrett
Obviously Garrett doesn’t have the -an ending, but I was loving that Moira’s first name is represented in Marion (as Moira is a Mary variant), her first middle is Carol’s middle name, and her Confirmation name is Anna’s middle name. Margaret isn’t yet represented, and I know of a family who named a son Garrett because of their devotion to St. Margaret (Garrett from the last five letters of Margaret), which I thought was beyond cool, and Garrett has an Irishy feel and is an awesome brother name to Brendan in my opinion (and Garrett is a style match for Brendan per the BNW!). If they didn’t care for the Margaret connection, or wanted a boy saint, Garrett is derived from Gerard, so any of the Sts. Gerard can suit (St. Gerard Majella is one of my favorites). Garrett Michael, Garrett Augustine, Garrett Bartholomew, Garrett Dominic, Garrett Emmanuel, Garrett Ignatius, Garrett Leander are all lovely.

Those are my “official” suggestions for this family, but I came across a few others that I didn’t think fit their criteria well enough, but that I wanted to include here just in case: Tristan, Sebastian (I have this in my middle name list of ideas too), Julian, Adrian. I mostly wanted to suggest them because they end in -an!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of Anna, Carol, Brendan, and Natalie?


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!