Birth announcement: Rowen James!

I did a consultation for Haley and her hubs a while ago, and she recently updated me on the name they chose for their handsome little guy — the equally handsome … Rowen James!

She writes,

I reached out to you for help naming my second son back in 2015. He ended up coming two weeks early (even though I KNEW this was a possibility, I wasn’t expecting it!), and all new baby craziness broke loose before time slipped by into regular life, and for that I apologize. I had wanted to write and let your know what names we ended up choosing, but it took another Patton Post to remind me–almost two years later–to get with it!

As a reminder, we wanted the name to have some family connection and we wanted it to match his older brother, Miles Howard. We were still pinning down names when he was born, but we went with Rowen James. The “Rowen” spelling a nod to a family surname Bowen (as opposed to the more traditional “Rowan”–I went the rounds on that), meaning “little red” . I was sold on it after he came out with red hair, also to match his brother! The  name James is after his grandfather.

Of course, after all is said and done, I’ve come to see that Rowan is becoming a trendy indie name for girls (why?! WHY?), but I had not idea that was the case at the time. Oh well. It’s not like he’s a boy named Sue, right? 😉

Thanks again for all your help and input into our name. You really likes James at the time, and I’m glad we went with it.”

Well I think Rowen James is an amazing name, and I love all the layers of meaning! The spelling being a nod to a family surname, the meaning of the name, and the fact that the baby actually did (and does!) have red hair — perfectly perfect!!

Congratulations to Mom and Dad and big brother Miles, and happy belated birthday to the dashing Rowen! (Could he be any more adorable??)

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Rowen James

Baby name consultation: Short call name would be great for baby no. 4/boy no. 2

Meghan and her husband are expecting their fourth baby, and second boy! This little guy joins big sibs:

Benjamin William
Mae Elizabeth
Rose Elizabeth

I really really love these names — classic and handsome for Benjamin, sweet and vintage-y with Mae and Rose, all so great together!

Meghan writes,

We are going to seem like the pickiest people! It took us 9 months to agree on my sons name. For some reason my husband and I can’t do boy names. We both also have a ton of male relatives we don’t want to duplicate. We want to avoid any name starting with S or ending with y or i. I think it sounds funny with our last name. For the middle name we want to use Paul (my father and brothers name) but we could also do William (shared middle name with brother Ben since the girls have shared middle names). It would be kind of nice if the name could have a shorter nickname like we have Ben, Mae, and Rose. No name that could be a boy or girl name like Cameron, Morgan etc. In general we don’t really want a top 25 name if we can avoid it (even though Benjamin is in the top 25, we were desperate) and nothing too trendy either.”

Names that they like but don’t love or agree on:

Aaron
Adam
Connor
Ian
Brian
Mitchell

And names they can’t use:

John
James
Leonard
Christopher
Matthew
Nicholas
Richard
Thomas
Andrew
Eric
Charles
Anthony
Joseph
Robert
Joshua
Daniel
Patrick
Dominic
Lucas
Vito
Ryan
Jackson
Walter
Carter
William
Mason
Paul
Michael
Alexander
Elijah
Everett

Whew! You all know I love a good name challenge, and having all those names off-limits is challenging!

To start, I really love their one-syllable “call name” theme — Ben, Mae, and Rose are fabulous together, and remind me of my own family growing up —
the three oldest (I’m the oldest, then my two brothers) are Katherine, Benjamin, and Jonathan, but we always went by Kate, Ben, and Jeb. So of course, not only did we all go by one-syllable nicknames, but Benjamin’s also in the mix, so one of my very first suggestions for Meghan and her hubs is Jonathan! I’ll explain more below.

I also really like the names they’re considering — in particular, Aaron, Adam, and Connor seemed most similar to the vibe I get from Benjamin/Ben, and Ian, Connor, and Brian add an interesting touch of Irish/Celtic that I found inspiring.

You all know that I usually start a consultation by looking up in the Baby Name Wizard the names the parents have already used and those they like/are considering, as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I did so here, and came up with the following ideas:

(1) Jonathan
Not only did I immediately think of Jonathan because of my brothers, but also because, according to the BNW, Jonathan is a true style match for Benjamin, as well as Adam and Aaron. It’s long like Benjamin, and has a couple of one-syllable nicknames they could consider: I assume Jon is not an option, since John was on their list of names they can’t use (and I should note that John and Jonathan are not actually linguistically related), but they could do Jack, or Nate (“Nathan” is the last part of Jonathan), or take a page from my parents’ creative nicknaming book and call him Jeb! Jonty’s also a traditional nickname for it, which is kicky and fun. And if they went with Paul for the middle name, they could do JP, which are pretty amazing initials! 😉 Jonathan fits their “no top 25” rule as well, being #48 in 2015.

(2) Nathaniel (or Nathan)
I love Nathaniel for this family — it’s another style match for Benjamin, and similar in length, and it’s got the great nickname Nate. Its popularity is perfect for Meghan and her hubs too, being #97 in 2015. Nathan is a trimmer Nate name, and also biblical, and a little bit higher on the popularity charts (#38).

(3) Thaddeus
Thaddeus didn’t show up as a style match for any of their kiddos’ names or those on their list, but it’s long and biblical like Benjamin and has a bit of an old-timey feel like Mae and Rose, and can take the one-syllable nicknames Ted and Tad, so I thought it was worth a mention.

(4) Charles or Caleb
Charles is a style match for William and Rose (and was #50 in 2015), and Caleb (#37) is a match for Aaron, and though they don’t seem related they can both take the nickname Cal, which I’m loving with the other kids!

(5) Patrick
Connor, Ian, and Brian on Meghan’s list inspired me to add Patrick to my ideas. It was listed as a style match for Brian, and I’ve heard some really cute nicknames for it that can fit in with Ben, Mae, and Rose: certainly there’s Pat, but also Patch (like in this family), and I’ve seen Packy also, which can trim down to just Pack (like Jack) or even Pax.

I also had just another couple quick thoughts: If they were open to backing into a given name from a nickname, Gus was one of the names listed as a style match for Mae, and I loved it for this family right away! There are a few ways they can get to it: There’s August (#195), Augustine (#820), and Augustus (#467), as well as Angus and Fergus (neither in the top 1000), which tap into the Irish/Celtic feel of some of the names on their list. Or they could get crazy and just use Gus no matter what the given name! I know that’s probably too crazy for most people, but it’s fun to know that nicknames don’t have to have obvious ties to given names. I knew a little Gus growing up whose given name was actually John, and I know a little Gregory who goes by Duke and a Gerard who goes by Sam. Lots of possibilities!

There were also a few names I really wanted to suggest, but they didn’t make the cut for one reason or another, but just in case they’re helpful I wanted to list them here:

Gabriel (SO great as a brother to Benjamin imo, and the nickname Gabe is great! But at #22 it was just past their “no top 25 rule”)

Samuel (very similar in popularity to Gabriel, at #23, but I love it with Benjamin and I adore the nickname Sam! But it begins with S, boo)

Henry (it’s #29 and the nickname Hank was making me swoony with the other kids, but Henry breaks their “no ending in y or i” rule)

Timothy (I thought this was an amazing “bridge name” between their biblical style and Irishy style — it’s a style match for Patrick and Brian, and it’s biblical as well, and Tim is such a great nickname. Also, it’s #147! Alas, it ends with a y)

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of Ben(jamin), Mae, and Rose?

Baby name consultation: Middle name for Molly

Kate and her husband are expecting their fourth baby — and third girl! This little lady joins big sibs:

McKenna Veronica (“Her name is the one most rife with meaning. McKenna is my MIL’s maiden name and my husband always wanted to name his daughter McKenna. Veronica is my confirmation name, my nana’s confirmation name and my nana’s mother’s middle name. Plus, I love St. Veronica. We call her Kenna/Kens/Kenny, her grandpa calls her McV.”)

Emily Grace (“We both liked Emily. And Grace is a nod to my husband’s uncle who passed away the year she was born. His first name started with “G”, plus she was born at time when our family needed (and received) some graces. She is most often called Emmy or Emmy Grace.”)

Benjamin Patrick (“We both liked Benjamin, and McKenna, who has speech delays, could say “Ben” perfectly. Patrick is my husband’s first name, and it’s also my Godfather’s middle name. Ben and my Godfather share a birthday, and, as it turns out, were born at the exact same time of day. My husband and I had a deal that if Ben was born on my Godfather’s birthday he’d be Benjamin Patrick (Pat wasn’t too keen on using his own name in any of the naming process), if he was born any other day he would’ve been Benjamin Daniel. He is most often called Ben or Benny, sometimes I call him Benji.”)

I love these names! I also would absolutely use McKenna as a first name if it was my MIL’s maiden name! McKenna Veronica is a stunning combination, and the nicknames they have for her (McV!) are super cute. Emily Grace and Benjamin Patrick are just wonderful.

Kate writes,

[We] have decided on the name, Molly, but we are stumped for a middle name. … [regarding] Molly, we have both always liked it, Pat was flipping through a name book this time around and saw it on the list we had jotted down for when we were expecting Emily. We both have Irish roots (my nana was mostly Irish and would have LOVED to know that one of her grandkids traded in the Polish family surname for a nice Irish name), and I like the “M” letter/sound connection she will share with her sisters.

As for middle names, I’ve been throwing around Anne and Amelia as middle name ideas.

I like Anne because I have an Aunt Ann(e) on either side of my family (one of whom is a favorite aunt), and I like the connection between the Blessed Mother and her mother – St. Anne being her mother and Molly being an Irish form of Mary (if I’m not mistaken). I’m not entirely sold because it’s also the middle name of one of our nieces, and while I think there’s less stigma about “stealing” a middle name, I’m not sure I want to stick with it. I also feel like the name as a whole is missing a little something.

Amelia is my great grandmother’s name, and also the middle name of a very dear cousin from that same side of the family, who is also my Aunt Ann’s daughter. Pat did not like Amelia when I suggested it, but sometimes he needs time to let a name soak in. The other problem is that I have taken to sometimes calling Emily “Emilia” as sort of a weird nickname, so it might make it not work. Still, I think Amelia is a front runner for me as it’s a nice way to honor that side of my family and my cousin – unfortunately my cousin’s first name would not go with Molly at all.

I’ve been stumped for other ideas though, it seems that every time I try and research it, the same list of middle names comes up and they all feel a little flat to me. I find that I feel like with a simpler name like “Molly” the middle name should be a little “bigger” or “heavier” – especially because sometimes I think there’s a stigma about Molly being a little girl’s name.

We don’t really have any real naming trends, I think we tend to go for the more classic, middle of the road (popularity-wise) names. We are kind of bummed that “McKenna” has turned out to be so popular and trendy, as for us it was a meaningful rather than trendy name. Although, honestly, I think McKenna is as “weird” as I would get!

What else? Molly’s due date is my Godmother’s birthday (she is married to my Godfather and has joked about me having Molly at the same time of day that she was born). Her name is Mary Ellen (and she is VERY Irish, so she is thrilled with the name Molly – plus, again with the Molly/Mary connection). Molly’s also due near Pat’s grandmother’s birthday. Her name is Barbara Sandra … Maybe there’s a “B” or “S” name I haven’t thought of as a way to honor her.

We both really like the name Lucy, but know too many Lucy’s in our friend’s circles. Pat also really likes the name Riley, but that’s the name of a friend’s (male) dog, so I couldn’t do it. :-)”

This was fun to work on! I chuckled when I saw Anne on their list—my sister is Molly Anne, and I’ve always thought that combo sounds so natural and lovely together. Kate is absolutely right that Molly is a Mary variant—it started as a nickname for Mary—and Molly Anne is a beautiful Marian+St. Anne combo with a nice Irish feel. I’m interested that she’s worried about using her niece’s middle name—I’ve never heard this perspective! Certainly I’ve heard horror stories about “stealing” a first name (though I vehemently disagree that anyone can own a name!), but I’ve never known anyone to be upset about sharing middle names, especially as middle names are most often used to honor family members, and multiple family members might want to honor a beloved grandparent, for example. My grandfather had an unusual first name (it was his mother’s maiden name), and there are loads of boys in the family that have it as part of their names (first or middle), including one of my sons, my uncle, two of my cousins, and my brother. All of them have different first names, so it works, and it’s so fun and family-ish to see so many with the same middle name, honoring the same beloved man.

However, feeling like “the name as a whole is missing a little something” is a totally different issue! From that perspective, I wonder if using a longer Ann name might help? Molly Annabelle, Molly Annabeth, Molly Anastasia, and Molly Anneliese are all ideas that might fit the bill. Or, putting Ann(e) on the end, maybe Molly Julianne or Molly Susanne (or Susanna(h))?

Amelia is a lovely name, and with such nice family connections! I can see how Kate might not like having one daughter sometimes called Emilia and one with the middle name Amelia, but families do that kind of thing all the time. I posted a birth announcement recently for a little Claire Marie-Therese whose big sister is Julianne Clare. The mom did have a hard time with it for a while, but came to think it was pretty cool (especially after finding out her husband’s family had a bit of a tradition doing that kind of thing). If Kate and her hubs can’t get past it though, I wonder what they might think of Adelia? My cousin has a little Adelia — she says it to rhyme with Amelia, and calls her Delia for short (which would also be a cute middle for Molly).

I love that Molly’s due date is Mary Ellen’s birthday, with the Mary-Molly connection, so wonderful! As for Barbara Sandra, Sandra is, in origin, a nickname for Alexandra and the Italian variant Alessandra, both of which would be gorgeous as middles for Molly. I would just advise finding out ahead of time if Barbara Sandra be honored by that, or if she would feel like it’s too different from her name — different people have different feelings about things like that.

I wonder if, given how they like the name Lucy, they might be interested in something like Molly Lucille? Or, combining with Anne, Molly Lucianne? Or are they too L heavy? And they would probably knock Lucy out for the future, which would be a bummer—it’s a great name, and Kate and her hubs might find that they don’t care so much about all the Lucys in their circle.

Riley’s a sweet name, and I actually know a Molly Reilly (first+middle), but given that Kate’s already sensitive to some people’s opinions about Molly being a little girl name, it might be too singsongy for them.

In which case, I think going for something longer, with gravitas, is a good idea. I think all the ideas I’ve suggested already can fit into this, and these are some others:

(1) Katherine
Maybe it’s because Katherine’s my name, but I’ve always loved Katherine (or Catherine) as a middle name for a shorter first name. A Molly Katherine could also go by Molly Kate sometimes, which is adorable, and such a nice nod to Kate herself.

(2) Elizabeth
Molly Elizabeth has a really classic feel to it, I love it! There’s also the nice Mary+St. Elizabeth connection, which calls to mind The Visitation.

(3) Caroline or Karoline
Molly C/Karoline has a lovely rhythm to it as well. Caroline has long been one of my favorite names, and I’ve seen Karoline used with some frequently recently for St. John Paul II, as his pre-papal name was Karol. (Caroline can also honor him, as Karol is the Polish for Charles, and Caroline is a female variant of Charles.)

(4) Rebecca
I have no idea where the idea for Rebecca came from—it just flew into my head while I was writing this, and I’m digging it! Molly Rebecca is really pretty!

(5) Victoria
I also really like the idea of Molly Victoria. Victoria is so elegant and regal sounding, and flows so nicely with Molly. I love its connection to Our Lady of Victory, and Molly Victoria makes it doubly meaningful.

(6) Seraphina
This one is a little more out there, but Seraphina’s a gorgeous, feminine name, and it also can point to Our Lady in her title Queen of Angels, so Molly Seraphina has that double Marian oomph. This could also serve as a nod to Barbara Sandra, because of being an S name.

(7) Bernadette
Speaking of using initials to honor Barbara Sandra, Molly Bernadette is gorgeous and saintly and Marian AND a B name! For Barbara!

(8) Roisin, Rosheen, Rosaleen
If they wanted to make Molly’s name super Irish, they could do like this family and name her Molly Róisín (Roisin is Irish for “little rose”). Róisín can be spelled without the accents, and is pronounced like Rosheen, which is a spelling they could use instead, if they liked the idea. It also made me think of Rosaleen, which has such a pretty Irish feel without the spelling issues of Róisín/Roisin.

Finally, just for all of you readers in case it’s helpful, I normally would have suggested perhaps finding another family surname that could work in the middle, especially since they already used one for McKenna, but Kate said the other family names are too hard to work with pronunciation/spelling-wise.

And those are all my ideas for this family! What do you all think? What middle name would you pair with Molly?

Baby name consultation: Heather from the Go Forth podcast! (Continue long+short or not?)

Happy first day of spring! Woo!! 💐🌸🏵🌹🌺🌻🌷💐🌸🏵🌹🌺🌻🌷

I shared in my interview with Jenny Uebbing that I was excited at my upcoming appearance on the Go Forth with Heather and Becky podcast — it’s going to air tomorrow! I’ll post the link here once I have it, and in the meantime, one of the things we discussed was name ideas for Heather’s third baby — a little girl! I’m delighted to post here the consultation I did for her in anticipation of the podcast being aired, so you all can read about her name situation and weigh in with your own ideas, which she’s excited to read!

This baby girl will join big sibs:

Elizabeth Ann (“after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton-Elizabeth and Ann are also both family names“)
Maximilian Leo (“after Saint Maximilian Kolbe-Leo is a family name“)

I love both of those names so much! So much faith significance in each one, and all those family names too!

Heather writes,

We refer to them as “Lizzie” and “Max.” What I am not sure of with this baby is if we would like to stick with the longer/older sounding name with a shorter more fun nickname. My husband isn’t as married to this idea, and feels that if we do it a third time we would feel like we had to keep it up with any other babies we have down the road.”

I do really love the balance of the long first name with the short middle name, and great nicknames are my jam. ☺

Names that Heather and her husband have considered include:

Clare (“my husband’s favorite currently-he is Irish and grew up on Clare street“)
Catherine (“maybe my favorite although we do have some friends in our parish with a Catherine. If we chose this, I would like to call her “Cate”“)
Edith (“maybe call her “Edie pronounced ee-dee?” Not sure if we could have Edith and Elizabeth or if those sound too similar?“)
Frances (“call her Francie or Frannie“)
Lydia
Maura
Rose
Zelie
Clara

Additionally,

We both love St. Therese, but I do not love that for a first name. I also really love Catherine of Siena which is why I like Catherine.

Because our oldest daughter’s name honors my mother-in-law, as they share the middle name of Ann, we would like to find some way to honor my mother with this baby girl’s name, if possible. My mother and I share the middle name of Kay, so that is one solid possibility for a middle name for this baby.”

I loved working on this! Elizabeth Ann and Maximilian Leo are fantastic combos—I find the long first+short middle pattern really pleasing, and though I know what Heather’s husband means about feeling tied to it permanently if they name their third baby in the same way, it’s actually a pretty easy trend to continue. So I came up with some ideas that follow the trend, and those that don’t.

First I want to comment on the names on their list of those they’re considering:

Clare: I love Clare for them! It’s short, thus breaking them out of their established pattern, but it’s great with both Elizabeth and Maximilian. And the significance for Heather’s hubs is so great!

Catherine: I have a lot to say about Catherine below!

Edith: Love it! St. Edith Stein is a personal favorite, and Edie is one of THE cutest nicknames! But yes, they’ll have to consider Elizabeth and Edith … both starting with the same first letter, both ending with the same two letters. What do you all think? Deal breaker or not?

Frances: Francie and Frannie are both so darling! I love that they’re considering Frances, I’d love to see more little girls with this name.

Lydia, Maura, Rose, Zelie: All beautiful! Heather didn’t have any comment about them, so I’m assuming they’re not as “in the running” as the others, but maybe I’m wrong? I like them each for different reasons.

Clara: My inclination would be to cross Clara off the list, since Clare has personal meaning for Heather’s husband—using Clara would seem to me to lose a great opportunity.

Okay, moving along, I’d like to discuss honoring Heather’s mom. Using her middle name, Kay, is one great idea; I also I wondered what they’d think about giving the baby Heather’s mom’s initials? (Her mom’s first name is Marcia, so her initials are M.K.) This is a tactic that some families use, and the honoree feels really honored by it; others think it feels too far from the honoree’s name and therefore don’t feel as honored, so Heather and her hubs would have to decide how her mom would feel. But doing the initial thing opens up a lot of possibilities, and my favorites, based on the results of my research in the Baby Name Wizard book (which lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity), are:

Mary Katherine: They already have Catherine on their list, and while the Katherine spelling does seem to take it one step away from St. Catherine of Siena, Catherine and Katherine are the same name (the former is the French spelling, also used in English; the latter is the English spelling and closest to the Greek katharos [“pure”], with which the name—in both spellings—has long been associated), and Katherine can certainly honor St. Catherine of Siena (whose name was actually the Italian Catarina; Catherine is a Frenchicization/Anglicization of it). It would involve a bit of a discussion each time they told someone that Katherine was as much for St. Catherine of Siena as for Heather’s mom, but that doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker at all. A simple, “We love St. Catherine of Siena and my mom’s middle name Kay so we went with the Katherine spelling” should suffice.

Another really nice thing about using Katherine is that Kay is considered a short form of Katherine. Certainly Kay has its own life as a standalone name, but my understanding is that it started as a diminutive/nickname/variant of Katherine. So using Katherine is not only using Heather’s mom’s middle initial, but also, in a way, her name (again, Heather would have to be sure she felt honored by this choice, if her goal was to honor her mom). And I love that Mary has the same first three letters as Marcia. So Mary Katherine really is quite close to Marcia Kay! I love Mary Katherine as a sister to Elizabeth and Maximilian as well, and there are a lot of nickname options: Mary and Mary Kate are natural ones, but they can also do just Kate, as they’d planned on if they went with Catherine as a first name. This is especially fun with Heather’s husband being Irish, because it’s not uncommon (at least in the old days) for Irish girls to be named Mary ___ and go by the double name, or just the middle. Most of my dad’s first female cousins—all from two sides of a large family who embraces their Irishness—are Mary ___, and almost all of them go by their middle names. (Read more about the Irish Marys in my latest CatholicMom article: Our Lady, Queen of Ireland.)

So they could definitely do Kate, and with her given name being Mary Katherine, that would make it a little different from the little Catherine they know. And I think Mary Katherine works really well with their thought of not doing a long+short combo this time, because Mary Katherine feels like a double name—which gives it the longer feel of Elizabeth and Maximilian—but unless they intend for it to be a double name, it’s actually a short+long—a really nice way to move away from their current pattern without seeming totally different. (I should note that even if they used Mary Catherine, knowing that Katherine is related to Kay and Catherine is the same name as Katherine, I still really like it for them.)

Maura Karoline: Heather and her hubs already have Maura on their list (I love this beautiful Irish Mary name!), and Karoline is a name I’ve seen used with some frequency among Catholic families as a way of honoring St. John Paul II, as his birth name was Karol. Overall, it’s a smashing combo that brings in Irishness and faith along with Heather’s mom’s initials.

Molly Katherine/Karoline: (Obviously Katherine and Karoline can be interchanged in the combos above as well—Mary Karoline and Maura Katherine are both gorgeous.) Molly is a name I thought of for this family right away for two reasons: Heather’s husband’s Irish, and I have two sisters named Elizabeth and Molly. To me, then, Elizabeth, Maximilian, and Molly go together really well!

I know some people who don’t care for Molly as a given name, as it feels too nicknamey to them—and though it has become a standalone name, it did indeed originate as a nickname for Mary—which can work in their favor here as well. A Mary K/Catherine or Mary Karoline could absolutely go by Molly—I know several people named Mary who go by Molly. And I even know a Maura who goes by Molly! I love this option for them, however it ends up happening. (I also wanted to mention that I know a Molly Therese, which is another combo that’s gorgeous, and Heather said she loves St. Therese …)

Okay! Those are my ideas for honoring Heather’s mom with initials, but I have several other ideas for them as well, which can be grouped into two categories: Long first names to go with the middle name Kay (and how amazing that they have a meaningful, three-letter middle to use, just like Ann and Leo?!), and short to middling names to break out of their pattern. All of the ideas are the results of my research into names that seem consistent with their style, as demonstrated by Elizabeth and Maximilian, as well as my own mental files.

Long first names
(1) Bernadette
Zelie and Therese had me thinking of other French names they might like, and Bernadette came right to mind. St. Bernadette is wonderful, and there are some really cute nickname possibilities: Berni, Benny, Netty, Etta/Etty, and Detta. Bernadette Kay has a lovely rhythm to it.

(2) Rosemary or Rosemarie
This is only partially a new idea, since they have Rose on their list already. I have a friend from Ireland named Rosemarie, and I love that that’s the French spelling—seems to put it in a similar category as Zelie, Therese, and Bernadette to me. Rosemary is also a wonderful variant, and maybe the one most people would be familiar with. Rosemary Kay and Rosemarie Kay are both great, and Rosie, Romy, and even Rory are really sweet nicknames.

(3) Margaret
Like Mary, Margaret starts with the same first three letters of Heather’s mom’s first name, so Margaret could also be a nice option for M.K. initials. And they certainly could do the longer Margaret with a long middle name, like Katherine or Karoline or whatever, but I really like the balance of Margaret Kay. Maggie is a great nickname and has a similar feel to me as Molly, and Maisie and Daisy are both traditional nickname for Margaret, which could be really fun. Margaret and Elizabeth are also two of the three “timeless English trio” names, according to the BNW (the other is Katherine!), so they definitely go together as sisters.

(4) Josephine
Josephine is a style match for Elizabeth and Catherine according to the BNW, and can have either St. Joseph (yesterday was his feast day!) or St. Josephine Bakhita as patron—both great saints! Josie is a great nickname, and I’ve also seen Joy, Sophie, and Posy/Posey used (as well as this list from Appellation Mountain).

(5) Caroline
I mentioned Karoline above, using that spelling to fit in with Heather’s mom’s initials, but I had Caroline on my list for them for a first name from the beginning. It’s got the length of Elizabeth and Maximilian, and I love the nicknames Carrie and Callie. It might not be great with Kay though—some people love alliterative sounds and others don’t. Caroline Therese is beautiful too.

(6) Cecilia
Cecilia’s a style match for Catherine and Lydia, and it’s super saintly like Elizabeth and Maximilian. Cecilia Kay is really lovely—it has sort of an Old World glamor to it, to me, and Cece is a sweet nickname.

Short to middle first names
(1) Alice
Alice was a big hit for this family according to the BNW! It’s a style match for Edith, Frances, Rose, Clara, and Lydia! It’s a sweet vintage-y name that’s already back in revival mode. There are a bunch of saints to choose for patron — even though most of them are better known by more international variants, they’re all Alice. (One of the variants, Adelaide, would actually make a great addition to the “long first names” list above!)

(2) Cora
Cora is a sweet little truffle of a name, and I’ve been loving it recently, ever since I heard of families using it in honor of both the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus! (Cor=heart in Latin) Cora Kay doesn’t work so well; Cora Therese is beautiful.

(3) Lucy
Like Alice, Lucy was a great style match for them, being similar to Clara, Rose, and Lydia. Lucy is one of the darlingest names I think! And familiarly saintly, like Elizabeth and Maximilian. I’ve also often thought Lucy would be a great nickname for Louisa, if they thought Louisa was more their speed.

(4) Julia
Finally, Julia is a style match for Elizabeth, Catherine, and Lydia, and Juliet (which is technically a nickname for Julia) is a match for Clare. It’s such a sophisticated name, and while Julie/Jules are natural nicknames, I’ve also seen Jilly, which is sweet, and I also like the idea of Junie, if it was paired with an N middle name for example—Julia Noelle or something like that. I did a spotlight on Juliet here, in which I touch on the faith connections for Julia.

I also wanted to give a few minutes to thinking of three-letter names in case Heather and her hubs decide they want to stick with that pattern going forward. For girls, there’s:

Ave/Ava (like Ave Maria! And Ava’s a variant of Eve, which can also be Marian)
Bay (lovely nature name)
Day (I’ve seen this used for Servant of God Dorothy Day)
Eve/Eva (Eve can be Marian because she’s the New Eve)
Fae/Fay (sometimes used as a Faith variant)
Lia/Lea (variants of Leah; can also refer to names ending in -lia, like Julia)
Liv (Scandinavian for “life,” or a variant of Olivia or a nod to St. Oliver or Our Lady of Olives)
Mae/May (a Mary variant)
Mia (a form of Maria in several languages)
Ora (like “ora pro nobis”)
Paz (means “peace” in Spanish; could be for Our Lady of Peace)
Pia (feminine form of Pius/Pio)
Via (like the Via Dolorosa)
Zoe (St. Catherine Laboure’s birth name)

And for boys:

Cam (a river in England)
Eli (for the prophet)
Gus (for St. Augustine)
Ivo (Ivo is a variant of Yves/Ives, as in St. Yves and Burl Ives)
Jay (could refer to James/Jacob/Jason, but I’ve also seen it as a standalone name)
Jon (nice that a variant spelling fits so well into their pattern!)
Pio (for St. Pio, or could refer to any of the Sts. Pius)
Ray (for Raymond, or on its own)
Roy (can mean “king,” which could refer to Jesus)

A good way to continue the pattern without being tied in to number of letters is to use one-syllable middles like Clare, Rose, Maeve, Pierce, Carl, James—a one-syllable middle with a long first is a nice balance.

And those are my ideas! What do you all think about continuing Heather and her hubs’ current pattern of long first name+three-letter middle? What names would you suggest that would go well as a sister for Elizabeth/Lizzie and Maximilian/Max? Can you think of any other three-letter names, in case they want to continue it? Heather would love your ideas, so please jump right in!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!! ☘☘☘ And Irish place names

Haaaaaappy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!! This is one of my very favorite days of the year!! 😁☘😁☘

Before I get into today’s post, a couple fun things to mention:

First, my mom (whose dad was born in Ireland and who is herself an Irish citizen) has written a book for families about a wee little God-loving leprechaun named Finney, which I can’t recommend enough — my boys love hearing me read it to them out loud (it’s all in rhyme, which makes for fun reading and fun listening). Additionally, Mom’s daily Instagram posts with Finney are sweet and wholesome, and she has a year’s worth of posts about Finney and Irish-y info on her web site. Be sure to check them out! Also, Finney has a little house of his very own on my parents’ front yard, which all the local children looooove (especially my boys!).

Secondly, I had the great privilege of having been named to the forty “Best Baby Name Blogs on the planet“! All my favorite name sites are on the list, so I’m feeling pretty cool that I was included! 😎

Thirdly, my post for today! I was looking at a map of Ireland yesterday and it got me to thinking about how many place names in Ireland would make (or do make, if they’re already in use) smashing first names for an Irish-loving family. Some of these I’ve never seen used — let me know if you’ve seen them! Or any of the others on this list, or any that you love that I didn’t include!

Girls

Adare: Adare, Co. Limerick is “renowned as one of Ireland’s prettiest towns.” The existing given name Adair is a traditional boy name, a variant of Edgar, but I think these days its sound and rhythm fit more into girl-name territory. (Do you agree?)

Clare and Clara: There’s Co. Clare and the town of Clara in Co. Offaly. Pretty cool to have the name of a saint AND the name of an Irish locale all tied up together!

Glin: Another Co. Limerick town, Glin sounds just like the name Glynn and is similar to Glenn and has a whiff of Gwen as well.

Laragh, Nenagh: Laragh is a town in Co. Wicklow, said just like Lara, but that silent Irishy Irish “gh” on the end gives it a nice green sheen. Similarly, Nenagh — a town in Co. Tipperary — has a familiar pronunciation (just like Nina) and an Irish spelling.

Livia: Though not a place name in that form, Livia, which has a separate life as an old Roman name (the name of the wife of the Roman emperor Augustus), has also been used in art and literature as the personification of the River Liffey in Dublin (especially in the combo Anna Livia, which was high on my list of names for girls early in my motherhood — isn’t it gorgeous??).

Shannon: Perhaps the most well-known Irish place name, Shannon is, of course, after the River Shannon.

Tralee: Tralee is a town in Co. Kerry where the hugely popular Rose of Tralee festival is held every year. I could see it being a great given name, but this is one that I’m the iffiest on — what do you think? If not, but you wanted to name your child after Tralee, there’s Rose for the girls and Denny Street and the Brandon Hotel for the boys.

Tulla: This Co. Clare town is said TULL-ah, I think. Or maybe TOO-la? Like Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral? Does anyone know? (TOO-la is like Toula on My Big Fat Greek Wedding.)

Boys

Callan, Collon: Callan is a Co. Kilkenny town and Collon is a town in Co. Louth, and both very similar (or, in Callan’s case, exactly like) existing names.

Cashel: I’ve mentioned Cashel as a name idea before, and it’s one of the only names on these lists that has a faith connection — the Rock of Cashel was “the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion” and it’s “reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century.” So great! And that nickname Cash!

Cavan: Cavan is the name of a county in Ireland, and it’s also an existing given name.

Clane: Clane, Co. Kildare sounds like a mash-up of existing names Clay and Kane. Could be cool?

Ennis: Though Ennis is a town in Co. Clare, I wonder if it’s even more well known as the name of Bill Cosby’s son, who was killed in a failed robbery attempt?

Knock: This is another explicitly faith-y name, for Our Lady’s apparition at Knock, Co. Mayo (known in Irish as Cnoc Mhuire, “Hill of (the Virgin) Mary”), but I’m not totally sure it works as a given name– what do you think? Maybe better as a middle? Reader Amy, from Our Family Fiat, had this awesome idea, which she posted in a comment on one of my IG pics: “a friend loved the name “knox” but wanted a patron so I suggested “our Lady of Knock”” — how cool is that?

Ross: There are a few inspirations for including Ross on this list — there’s New Ross and Rosslare (Strand), both towns in Co. Wexford, and Rosses Point, Co. Sligo.

Slane: Similar in sound to Clane (above) and Shane, Slane is a town in Co. Meath, and Slane Castle is an amazing venue for weddings and concerts for some pretty big names (U2, Madonna, nbd), which gives it a rock-and-roll edge (if you like that kind of thing).

Unisex

Ardee: Ardee, Co. Louth makes me think “boy” because of its similarity to “Artie,” but “girl” because of the “ee” ending.

Athenry: This might be *too* place-namey? But I love the soft sound, which strikes me as feminine, while Athan is an existing boy’s name (and so similar to Ethan as well).

Carrick: Carrick-on-Shannon is a town in Co. Leitrim — I could see it working well for either a boy or a girl.

Kells: Though Kells is a town in Co. Meath, I think the Book of Kells would be the first thing people would think of, which gives it a nice faithy significance.

Quin: Certainly Quinn is a common enough given name for both boys and girls, but Quin (that spelling) is also a town in Co. Clare.

What do you think of these names? Are there any that you love, or any that you think are totally awful as given-name ideas? Are there any you would add to the list?

I hope you all have a wonderful wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! And for a laugh, don’t forget to check out the video in this post from last year. 🤣☘🤣☘🤣☘

March CatholicMom article up today! ☘

Last year on the Eve of St. Patrick (tomorrow) I gave a talk at a dinner for a local Irish Catholic women’s group called the Daughters of St. Patrick on the topic of the history of the name of Mary in Ireland, which I drew from for my March column at CatholicMom, which posted today! Check it out: Our Lady, Queen of Ireland.

catholicmom_screen_shot-03.15.17

That image is from the Book of Kells and is the earliest existing example of a Madonna and Child image in a Western manuscript — the Irish have long loved Our Lady!

As I say at the end of the article, I’d love to hear any stories you have of the use of the name Mary (girl or boy) in your families if you’re of Irish descent—and even if you’re not! So many of you have shared such stories in the past, and I love them all!

Baby name consultation: Boy no. 4 needs easy biblical and/or saintly name that works with middle name and last name

Boy no. 4Andrea and her husband are expecting their fifth baby and fourth boy! This little guy joins big sibs:

James Giovanni (“I might have picked the name James because I love Jim Halpert from the show the Office 🙂 Also, the church I went to growing up was St. James. The bishop of the church my husband attended growing up was named James, and he really looked up to him — so there are lots of connections. For his middle name, we picked Giovanni — my husband’s middle name is John, so I picked Giovanni as a different form. Also, there is some Italian ethnicity on my mom’s side, so I thought it would be fun to incorporate that, too“)

Dominic Antonio (“Dominic I have just always liked. I love the works of art depicting Mary giving St. Dominic the rosary. Dominic just sounds so Catholic and traditional. We chose Antonio for his middle name, after St. Anthony“)

Rose Eve (“My grandma’s name was Rose, and I thought Rosie would be a cute nickname. Eve I just liked. I love short and simple names. Rose was stillborn and is our family’s saint“)

Joseph David (“We prayed a novena (or a few) for pregnancy and childbirth to St. Joseph. David is after the biblical David, and also my dad“)

Wonderful names, all! I love the Italian influence — it’s so fun to put ethnic names in the middle if you don’t feel comfortable using them for firsts. (Also—I’m DYING over the fact that James’ name might have been inspired by Jim Halpert! Haha! I love him too, he’s definitely one of my favorite characters.)

Andrea writes,

Picking out a baby name has been pretty easy for us in the past, but we are stuck on this one! We have a baby boy on the way, and there aren’t a lot of names jumping out at us — and the names we like we can’t use for one reason or another.”

Their preferences for this baby’s name include:

  • Old Testament or well-known saints name
  • Easy to pronounce/ not confusing for general population 🙂
  • Would like to use Nicholas as a middle name if possible
  • Doesn’t start with J
  • Doesn’t start with A (“if we use Nicholas for a middle name, baby’s initials would be ANL 🙂 “)

Names they like but can’t use for various reasons include:

  • Levi (“our last name starts with L, so it might sound weird..?“)
  • Mark (“we have a nephew Marcus — it’s too similar sounding“)
  • Michael (“we know way too many Michaels“)
  • Daniel (“know too many Daniels“)
  • Stephen (“I like it, but there would be confusion about pronunciation — is it Steven or Stefen?“)
  • Ian (“spouse and I can’t agree on how to pronounce it, we both know people who are named Ian but both pronounce it differently“)
  • Patrick (“I LOVE, but my husband has a brother and a brother-in-law named Patrick. We checked with them, and they said they don’t care if we used the name, so…. I’m tempted! I feel like Patrick goes really well with the names of our children. However, I feel Patrick doesn’t work well with Nicholas as a middle name, though.. do you think so, too?“)
  • Their nephews’ names: Matthew, Jeremy, Leo, Victor, Morgan, Chester, William, Aaron, Jesse, Jonathan, Peter, Marcus
  • Others: Paul, Robert, Gregory, George, Henry, Philip, Albert, Gerard

Finally, Andrea wrote to me again and said,

[My hubs] and I were recently talking about using the name Sullivan for a middle name. It was the last name of one of the bishops in our diocese, and my husband was close with him. I looked up the name meaning of Sullivan, and it is derived from an Irish surname meaning ‘little dark eye.’ My heart kind of melted a little bit when I read that. I think that would be cute — especially since [we] both have brown eyes!!

Okay, first off, I love Sullivan! I completely agree — the meaning is so sweet! And I feel like it really opens up a lot more possibilities for this family — I found Nicholas really hard to find a first name for!

I love their older kiddos’ names! James, Dominic, Rose/Rosie, and Joseph are a wonderful sibset — saintly, classic, and so handsome!

I’m definitely picking up an Italian vibe from the kids’ names — not only because of Giovanni and Antonio being middle names, but also Dominic, Rose, and Joseph are sibling names of several Italian families I know! So I was really interested to see Ian and Patrick on Andrea’s list! I do like that both Patrick and Ian would be a nudge toward James’ name (not that James doesn’t go with Dominic, Rose, and Joseph! I don’t mean that at all, just that it has less of an Italian feel than the others to me … and really, I think Dominic is the name that shifts the set toward Italian. James, Rose, and Joseph would just be lovely saintly names that go well, and Ian and Patrick would fit in well … but Dominic really brings in that Italian flair. Which is funny, because I’ve often argued AGAINST the idea that Dominic is overtly Italian! I did a whole spotlight on it, and how it’s totally fine for non-Italians to use, and included several non-Italian actors that are named Dominic [including some Irish]! So I guess I am more swayed by middle names Giovanni and Antonio than I realized).

Patrick Nicholas is tough … I’ve said it out loud several times and I could really go either way … on the one hand, the end of Patrick and the beginning of Nicholas rhyme (trick and Nick), so that might be kind of weird … on the other hand, I don’t think they sound terrible together! I think I’d support their decision one way or the other. And Patrick Sullivan takes care of that issue altogether.

Andrea and her hubs have a really great list of names they like, and it was really helpful when I was doing my research for them. You all know that I almost always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard, as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Based on that research, these are my three ideas for this baby boy (Andrea requested a mini consultation, hence only three ideas) (“three.” You’ll see what I mean):

(1) Vincent
James, Rose, and Joseph are very similar style-wise, and the names suggested by the BNW as similar to them were all the same — Thomas, William, Carl/Charles-type names. So I really wanted to make sure Dominic’s style had a chance to shine a little in my suggestions for them, and when I saw that Vincent was listed as a style match for Dominic, I knew it was a great idea. Like their other kiddos’ names, it’s super saintly and classic, and I think it fits in really well with James, Rose, and Joseph, while being a really nice match for Dominic as well. I think both Vincent Nicholas and Vincent Sullivan sound fine.

(2) Timothy
Timothy was 100% inspired by Patrick — when I saw it listed as a style match for Patrick, I knew I had to suggest it, since it’s also a biblical name. Then I discovered it’s also a match for Stephen and Nicholas! Timothy Nicholas isn’t terrible; Timothy Sullivan is awesome.

(3) Samuel, Gabriel
I love both of these names for this family for different reasons. Samuel is a match for Rose and Joseph, and the nickname Sam is always amazing. Gabriel has more of Dominic’s feel to me, which I love, while also being biblical, and I always point to Irish actor Gabriel Byrne as an example of how it can be considered Irishy. I’m not sure I love either of them with Nicholas, but Sullivan feels really good with both of them (and I don’t hate them with Nicholas). My only hesitation with them is that they end in L, and some people don’t care for first names ending in the same letter their last name begins with. I personally don’t mind, especially if they’ll usually use a nickname (Sam(my) L___ and Gabe L___ both sound great).

(Bonus) Andrew
This is the name that was one of my finalists until I remembered they didn’t want an A name. BUT with Sullivan in the mix, I’m throwing Andrew back in! It hits their preferred criteria — biblical as well as well-known saint; easy to pronounce/not confusing. I initially also loved it because I thought it sounded the best with Nicholas of all my ideas! Oops! But I love Andrew Sullivan too.

And those are my ideas for Andrea’s newest little guy! What do you all think? What would you suggest for a little brother to James, Dominic, Rose, and Joseph, with the middle name Nicholas or Sullivan and last name that begins with L?