Baby name consultation: First baby boy needs biblical + early saint name

Happy feast of Mary, Mother of the Church! I’ll resume tales of my excursion in Ireland later in the week! 😀

MaryEllen and her hubby are expecting their first baby — a boy! She writes,

My name is MaryEllen Clare. The “Mary” half of my first name was chosen because my parents wanted to honor Our Lady and I was due December 8th but ended up being born on December 12th. The “Ellen” half of my first name was to honor a friend’s daughter. Clare was after St. Clare of Assisi.

My husband is Tyler Leandro. Leandro is his father’s name. Tyler is a convert to the faith from being a Protestant. He joined the Church 2 years ago!

We are hoping you can help give us some ideas for boy names. We both would love to use a Biblical and/or early Saint name. My husband was an Ancient History major in college and we both took Latin in high school/college. He would love to use a strong, Ancient Latin name. It’s a definite bonus if it’s a Saint from 400 AD or older.

We pray the Liturgy of the Hours and particularly like Matins, with the First Reading from the Bible and the Second Reading from Church fathers. You’ll see that in our list below.

Names on our (not so) short list:
Ambrose
Augustine (though we’re hesitant on the nickname, “Gus”)
Benedict
Clement
Isaac (is a patriarch okay? My husband and I like the story of Isaac and Rebecca)
Leo (awesome Pope)
Linus (we don’t agree on this one, the pagan history of the name bothers my husband but I really like that its part of the litany in Mass).
Maximus (we both love the movie Gladiator)
Nicholas (after the Saint, but mostly for the Council of Nicea)
Paul (husband’s confirmation saint)
Titus (again, we don’t agree — my husband likes it, me less so)

Names we’ve talked about but aren’t considering using:
Popular names (James, David, Jacob, Joshua, Thomas, Andrew, etc.)
Atticus (avoiding To Kill a Mockingbird)
Francis (my father’s name)
Jonathan (my brother’s name)
Michael (don’t like nickname “Mike”)
Xavier (cool saint, just don’t like the name)

Alrighty, so right off the bat I latched onto MaryEllen’s hubby’s middle name/her father-in-law’s first name — St. Leander comes from the right time period-ish (died about the year 600, so a little later than 400 … but not by much!) and was actually Spanish (older brother of St. Isidore) so his name was actually Leandro — it’s such a cool name!! If they can’t get on board with it for a first name, maybe it would make a great middle name? Could be great for grandfather, father, and son to all share a name, especially since it fits their criteria so well. It could also take the nickname Leo, which loops in a name on their list!

Speaking of their list, just some quick thoughts about some of the names on it, before getting to my suggestions (I love them all, and my hubby and I considered almost all of them at various points!):

Augustine can be Augie, which is fairly popular among parents of boys with August- names.

Clement is fantastic, but it makes me think of something that might be helpful when they’re whittling down their list: it would be good for MaryEllen and her hubby to think about what they plan to call their son on an everyday basis, i.e., are they big nicknamers? Or will they prefer to use the whole name? If they prefer the whole name, will they be okay with others using a nickname when he’s in high school, for example? Clem isn’t the kind of nickname that everyone likes, so Clement is a good name to think about this particular issue with. (Blogger Grace Patton just named her son Clement, SO cute!!)

Re: Isaac, yes, patriarchs are definitely okay! I even wrote about this issue here. And if they really want a non-biblical saintly connection, St. Isaac Jogues is pretty awesome.

I don’t know if Mary Ellen’s hubby would be swayed by seeing other Catholic babies named Linus, but I’ve been seeing it more and more! I posted this birth announcement in April, and this little guy has a brother named Linus (and a brother named Ambrose too!), just to give two examples.

When I asked my husband his impression of the name Titus, he said, “50% biblical, 50% ancient Latin” — he actually said “ancient Latin,” just like MaryEllen said in her email!

From Mary Ellen’s list of names they aren’t considering because they’re too popular, the ones she mentioned are in the top 50, but so is Leo (no. 50) and Isaac (no. 34) from the names they are considering, so I think maybe the names they’re not as interested in are those that are *familiar*: they don’t want to use the names that were the bastions of popularity in the past, that feel overdone and ubiquitous because we grew up hearing them, even though they aren’t nearly as popular now as they were. For example, Thomas was a top ten name basically from 1900 until 1966; currently, at no. 49, it’s less popular than names like Asher, Jaxon, Dylan, Wyatt, and Oliver, all of which I would guess feel fresh to those parents who think Thomas/Andrew/David are too popular for their taste. Not that this is either here or there, but reframing their requirements from “not popular” to “not familiar” might be helpful.

Regarding Michael, if the nickname Mike is what’s holding them up, I wonder if they would consider a different nickname? Something like Michael Xavier or Michael Alexander, for example, could nickname to Max. Or, I’ve sometimes suggested Miles as a nickname for Michael, which means “soldier” in Latin, which is kind of a cool way to get some Latin in there, and reinforces the Michael the Warrior Archangel idea. I’m not trying to convince MaryEllen and her hubs of a name they don’t care for, I promise! I just want to offer options in case they’re helpful.

Now for my suggestions! You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents 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 here, which was helpful, but I also looked at lists of biblical names (both Old and New Testament) and the Church Fathers and dug around in my own namey mind and book, and anything that seemed like it might be a name they’d like, I added to the list. I have a lot of suggestions!

(1) Tiberius
First, there’s a St. Tiberius who was martyred ca. 303 — perfect from a date perspective! Tiberius is also a Latin name — perfect from a Latin perspective! And it means “of the Tiber [River],” and many of you know that converts to Catholicism talk about “crossing the Tiber” or being part of the “Tiber Swim Team 2017” or whatever year they converted. So many levels of meaning for this family! Ty is a really cute, easy nickname, and I actually love that it mirrors Dad’s name — kind of like a Junior without doing a Junior! Tiberius Leandro?? ((heart eyes!)) If they prefer a simpler middle name though, to offset the heavier first name, I love Tiberius Paul — also another way of kind of Junioring without using Dad’s exact name, since Paul is Tyler’s Confirmation name, and the short-and-sweet Paul is a perfect balance to Tiberius (and it’s biblical! Biblical + pre-400 saint!).

(2) Tobias or Tobit
Sticking with T names for a minute, I love both Tobias and Tobit! They’re variants of each other, and I can never decide which one I like better. Since they’re biblical, it would be great to pair them with a non-biblical saintly name — Tobias Leandro and Tobit Leandro are both pretty amazing! I also like Augustine with them both.

(3) Thaddeus
Another T name! I love the name Thaddeus — it’s biblical and saintly (St. Jude Thaddeus, among others), and the nickname Taddy is beyond adorable for a little guy. Tad is handsome for a teenager and a man, as is the full Thaddeus. Thaddeus Leandro and Thaddeus Paul are both great in my opinion; I also quite like Thaddeus Ambrose and Thaddeus Clement.

(4) Gregory
I’m actually surprised they don’t have Gregory on their list! Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory of Nazianzen are all Church Fathers; the name Gregory is serious but accessible; and at no. 408 it’s definitely not too popular. If they don’t care for Greg as a nickname — and a lot of parents I know who consider Gregory don’t care for Greg — Grey and Rory are two nicknames I’ve seen used. Gregory Clement sounds really nice! Or Gregory Nicholas — two Pope St. the Greats! I also like Gregory Maximus and Gregory Leandro.

(5) Ephraim/Ephrem
I was kind of excited to remember that St. Ephrem of Syria is considered one of the Church Fathers — he’s an early saint with a biblical name! In the bible it’s usually seen as Ephraim, while the saint is usually Ephrem, but since they’re variants of the same name, they can choose their favorite spelling! I like how Ephraim/Ephrem Leo, Ephraim/Ephrem Leandro, and Ephraim/Ephrem Isaac sound.

(6) Nicodemus
Nicholas on their list made me think of Nicodemus, which has a heavier, more ancient feel. They can still use the nicknames Nic and Nicky, or Nico, while having a more unexpected and less familiar name. Nicodemus Clement has a nice flow, I think, as does Nicodemus Leandro.

(7) Casper/Jasper/Gaspar
Though the Three Wise Men weren’t named in the bible, they’ve traditionally been known as Balthazar, Melchior, and Casper/Caspar/Jasper/Gaspar (they’re all variants of the same name). I could see MaryEllen and her hubs liking Casper/Caspar, Jasper, or Gaspar! I like Leo, Leandro, Clement, and Isaac as middle names for this family of names.

(8) Sebastian
Like Gregory, Sebastian is a name that I’m surprised isn’t already on their list! It’s got that heavy feel of Augustine and Benedict, but the nicknames Seb(by) and Bash lighten it up. He died ca. 288, making him date-appropriate! One caveat is that the name Sebastian is currently at no. 18. Sebastian Leo, Sebastian Leandro, Sebastian Paul, and Sebastian Isaac are all great combos.

(9) Callixtus (or Callistus)
It’s the name of a pope who is a saint, and he died in the third century, so he’s the right time period. I love the connection to the word “chalice,” and the nickname Cal. I spotlighted the name here. Callixtus Michael and Callixtus Paul are a nice mix of heavy and trim.

(10) Boethius
My last idea is Boethius, after St. Severinus Boethius, someone I never knew anything about until one of my readers asked me about the name Boethius, because her hubby is a philosopher and so was St. Boethius. Such a cool name! And I’ve seen him called “Last of the Romans,” which might be awesome for Tyler’s interests. I love Boethius Benedict, and Boethius Leandro sounds great too.

Those are all my main ideas, but there were a whole bunch of others that I considered putting on the list and ultimately left off for various reasons — I thought I’d include them here just in case: Bartholomew, Gabriel, Raphael, Matthias, Nathaniel, Cassius or Cassian, Zechariah, Ignatius, and Athanasius.

MaryEllen said they’d also really like some suggestions on how to pair names up in good first + middle combos:

The middle name for our little boy doesn’t need to be of family origin; mostly we’re looking for two names that flow well together with our M last name.”

The ones I mentioned above are:

Tiberius Leandro
Tiberius Paul
Tobias Leandro
Tobias Augustine
Tobit Leandro
Tobit Augustine
Thaddeus Leandro
Thaddeus Paul
Thaddeus Ambrose
Thaddeus Clement
Gregory Clement
Gregory Nicholas
Gregory Maximus
Gregory Leandro
Ephraim/Ephrem Leo
Ephraim/Ephrem Leandro
Ephraim/Ephrem Isaac
Nicodemus Clement
Nicodemus Leandro
Casper/Jasper/Gaspar Leo
Casper/Jasper/Gaspar Leandro
Casper/Jasper/Gaspar Clement
Casper/Jasper/Gaspar Isaac
Sebastian Leo
Sebastian Leandro
Sebastian Paul
Sebastian Isaac
Callixtus Michael
Callixtus Paul
Boethius Benedict
Boethius Leandro

As you can see, I went right for the family names! Haha! Leandro is just an amazing name to work with! Moving away from family names though, generally my personal preference is to pair a shorter first name with a longer middle or vice versa, or a medium length first with a medium length middle. From ME and T’s list, Paul is a perfect short name to balance out the longer names like Augustine, Benedict, Maximus, and Nicholas. I quite like Paul as a middle name for any of those names, and flipping to Paul Augustine or Paul Maximus is really nice too.

Middling names like Ambrose, Clement, Isaac, Leo (three letters but still two syllables!), and Linus sound nice together I think, like Ambrose Clement, Isaac Ambrose, Leo Clement, Linus Ambrose, Linus Clement.

Another tactic I like with first+middle combos is to balance an unusual name with a more familiar one. Callixtus Michael, for example, or Nicholas Ephraim. I also love alliteration, like Boethius Benedict and Casper Clement.

I also really like Leo Maximus (kind of cool that this pretty much means “Leo the Great”!), and Linus Paul.

Those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) — first and/or middle and combos — would you suggest for MaryEllen and Tyler’s baby boy?


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!

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Birth announcement: McDonald John!

Grace and I had an email conversation about middle names a while ago, and she’s let me know her little guy has been born and been given the handsome and meaningful name … McDonald John!

Grace writes,

I wanted to finally report back on what we ended up naming our baby!

Our son was born October 1 and we named him McDonald John. We’re calling him Mac. John was the name of my father’s only brother who passed away suddenly and fairly young a few years ago. After I got your email we talked mostly about John and one other idea and just really couldn’t settle on one or the other but after spending time with my dad one day and talking about his brother a lot I came home and was just overwhelmed with tears thinking about how much it would mean to my dad to have a grandson named after his brother so we settled on John. As I predicted, my dad was super touched and that means so much to me.”

McDonald is a family name for Grace — I love when family surnames work as first names! And I love love love love the nickname Mac, one of my favorites! And I love how meaningful the middle name is for Grace’s dad. Honor names can just be so amazing!

Congratulations to Grace and her hubby, and happy birthday Baby Mac!!

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McDonald John

Birth announcement: Mathilde Agnes Julia Frances!

I had the great pleasure of posting a birth announcement for reader Isabelle’s second boy two years ago, and she’s let me know that she’s had a third baby — a little girl! She’s been given the gorgeous names Mathilde Agnes Julia Frances!

Isabelle writes,

So, we have two boys (you posted a birth announcement for our second, Gabriel Nicolas Peter, our eldest is Jude René Marc) and for both of them, the names were fairly easy to find. I had liked Gabriel since I was a teenager, and always intended to use it, but by the time I got pregnant with my first I was feeling more “Jude”. My husband was happy either way, and we pretended to ourselves for a while like we hadn’t decided (we totally had, we never seriously considered any alternative).

When we found out our second was a boy too, Gabriel was the obvious choice, and again although we told ourselves we were considering other options, we really weren’t. All the while, our girl name was all chosen and waiting for a future girl: Alice. But two months after Gabriel was born, my cousin had gorgeous twin girls: Madeleine and Alice.

Fast forward a few months and I am pregnant again. And we’re stumped. A few boys names are swimming about (Nicolas? Can we use a middle name as a subsequent sibling’s given name? Methink we can) but for girls, it was getting complicated fast. I suggested we go for Alice anyway, but it felt a bit too soon. We loved Juliette, but Jude-Gabriel-Juliette felt a bit repetitive, so again, we felt we needed a few more names in the middle before using Juliette. That’s when I contacted you about consultations, but we decided to wait to find out the gender and then ask you if we were still stumped.

We discovered we were expecting a girl shortly afterwards, and my husband (who normally leaves me to talk names at him) was suddenly pushing for Virginia, he’s grandmother’s name (with the intention of nicknaming her “Ginny”, like his grandmother was). Whilst I really liked Ginny, I didn’t want Virginia, or use a nickname as a given name (I’m helpful like that). Besides, Ginny broke our rule (We’re a French-English couple, so we really try to choose names which are the same, or near enough in both languages – Jude was a stretch for the French since it is vanishingly rare as a French given name, people are much more likely to use the “Thadée” form to honour that apostle, but Jude is in the Bible so we went for it).

My long-suffering husband then offered Genevieve as another way to get to Ginny and still honour his grandmother, and whilst I love the sound of it in English, and it is spelled exactly the same way (with added accent in French) I couldn’t really get over the “middle-aged woman” feel the name has for me (due to when the name was popular in France). So stumped again.

I was starting to remind him that you offered a very handy service for people in our situation, when, in a totally unrelated instance of spousal awesomeness, my husband took me to Vienna for a little getaway just the two (and a half) of us. So here I am, on the train from the airport, doing what any self-respecting former PhD candidate in history would do, reading up on the history of Vienna and the Habsburg family, when suddenly, in a random paragraph about the Holy Roman Empire, I come across saint Matilda (she’s awesome). And that’s it. My husband is fully on board (although he pretends like he still favours Elisabeth for a few days), but he wants to spell it the French way, but pronounce it the English way when we speak in English (so, spelled “Mathilde”, pronounced “Matilda”). I’m ok with that. We decide the middle names will be the grandmothers (Agnes and Julia) job done.

Except, not quite.

Plot twist: giantly pregnant by then and extremely overdue, I am given a date for my induction: 9 July. Simon’s sister’s birthday. His sister passed away at just sixteen – she had a brain tumour. Feeling like we can’t just ignore the coincidence, we think of ways to honour Hannah in our little girl’s name and decide to just add a third middle name, even though Simon’s other sister already used “Hannah” as a middle name for her daughter.

Plot twist again: the induction is pushed back to the 10th. What do we do? Without the same birthday, Simon doesn’t feel right about copying his niece’s middle name (I have no such qualms, but then I come from a giant Catholic family where repeats are a fact of life). So I push for Hannah’s middle name, Frances. (I am a big fan of Saint Frances of Rome, and was planning on using “Francesca” as a future middle name – as soon as the grandmothers had been dutifully honoured (another French thing here, people almost always honour family members with middle names, so grandparents would take offence)).

And that was finally that (well, after the quickest, most ridiculously eventful labour).

Mathilde Agnes Julia Frances. Born in 45 minutes on 10 July 2017. All the names, all the saints.”

Can you believe that story?! Amazing! And I love love love all of Mathilde’s names!!

Congratulations to Isabelle and her husband and big brothers Jude and Gabriel, and happy birthday Baby Mathilde!!

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Mathilde Agnes Julia Frances

Double middle names?

A reader was asking me about double middle names so I looked up all my posts on middle names and was surprised to see that I hadn’t written about them yet! Surprised because I feel like I do discuss them with some frequency in my email discussions with parents. It’s definitely time to post here and get your feedback!

My thought is that two middle names is fine. I have two brothers and three sisters, and one of my brothers and two of my sisters have two middle names, and I’ve never heard any of them complain about them. Even now, as adults, they include all their initials when they’re writing out their full names. I know my mom has told me that sometimes the second middle would get dropped (not enough room on forms, or a bureaucratic decision or misunderstanding by some official person to only include one middle), which irritated her as the mom, and she and Dad even hyphenated my youngest sister’s two middles to try to avoid that, but otherwise it hasn’t ruined anyone’s lives.

If you didn’t want the hassle (or didn’t want to saddle your child with the hassle) of two middles but you have two middle names you’d like to use, you could do what this mom did and only put one middle on the birth certificate — thus having his/her legal name be First Middle — but everywhere else in life (within the family, when you’re telling others, on the baptismal certificate, etc.) use First Middle Middle. I think this is such a great solution for certain families! And I think the idea of one’s “legal name” being different from one’s “real name” to be an interesting thing to muse on.

What do you all think about double middle names? Do you have two middle names? Do you like them? Hate them? Feel indifferent? Do you all feel like it’s an unnecessary burden for a child, or a reasonable way to work in all the names you want to use?

The legality of Confirmation names, and going by a different name than your legal name

I was going through some paperwork of my father-in-law’s yesterday and found the court order legally changing his last name from the consonant-heavy surname his father brought with him from Poland to an English surname that shares enough sounds with the original Polish surname to make sense of the change. Though my FIL died when my husband was small, we’ve always known that he and his siblings legally changed their surname, so that wasn’t a surprise — but what was a surprise was that, in the documents, I read that my FIL had been using this new English surname his whole life. He’d been registered under it in school and had it on his high school diploma, and according to the document, “All records of employment, registration under the Selective Service Act, and voting records” had already, always, been under the new English surname, despite the fact that he didn’t apply for the legal change until he was 25. So interesting, right?!

One question that my husband and I have had that wasn’t answered by this document, though, is when and how he took his Confirmation name as his legal middle name (he hadn’t been given a middle name at birth). This document has his full name as including the Confirmation-as-middle, but no mention of making it so legally, so I assume it had already been done. Or not? Maybe it didn’t need to be? This was back in the 50’s, and also, even now, in New York State anyway (which is where I am and where my FIL lived his whole life), you can go by any name you want without getting a legal name change. According to the New York State Unified Court System,

In New York State, you have the right to adopt any name you wish by using that name for everything in your life. This does not apply to children or prison inmates. But, it may be better to legally change your name because most government agencies will not accept your name change without a court order.

You can ask the court to legally change the name you were given at birth, adoption or marriage.”

And indeed, in my FIL’s application for legal name change, he wrote that having his surname legally changed to the surname he’d always used “will prevent confusion and possible legal difficulties for me in the future.” So I wonder if his usage of his Confirmation name as his middle name was just one of those things — he just started using it, and that was fine, and no one bothered about it, and it became so established as his middle name (or it was such a common practice for people to do that kind of thing) that he didn’t even feel the need to explicitly mention it in his application for his surname change? (In preparing to write this post this morning, I re-read this article I’d written for CatholicMom on middle names — I found it so interesting all over again! Haha!)

Anyway, that reminded me of something I read recently about Confirmation names actually having usage in real life that I’d wanted to share with you. This is from the Christian Names entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911) on New Advent:

The practice of adopting a new name was not limited to baptism. Many medieval examples show that any notable change of condition, especially in the spiritual order, was often accompanied by the reception of a new name. In the eighth century the two Englishmen, Winfrith and Willibald, going on different occasions to Rome received from the reigning pontiff, along with a new commission to preach, the names respectively of Boniface and Clement. So again Emma of Normandy, when she married King Ethelred in 1002, took the name Ælfgifu; while, of course, the reception of a new name upon entering a religious order is almost universal even in our day. It is not strange, then, that at confirmation, in which the interposition of a godfather emphasizes the resemblance with baptism, it should have become customary to take a new name, though usually no great use is made of it. In one case, however, that of Henry III, King of France — who being the godson of our English Edward VI had been christened Edouard Alexandre in 1551 — the same French prince at confirmation received the name of Henri, and by this he afterwards reigned. Even in England the practice of adopting a new name at confirmation was remembered after the Reformation, for Sir Edward Coke declares that a man might validly buy land by his confirmation name, and he recalls the case of a Sir Francis Gawdye, late Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, whose name of baptism was Thomas and his name of confirmation Francis (Co. Litt. 3a).”

I’d never heard a story like that about Confirmation names before!

You know I’m always interested in hearing personal, real-life, interesting name stories, so feel free to share!

Baby name consultation: Baby no. 9 needs a name that’s not generally popular nor Catholic popular (and a few other rules!)

I hope all the dads had a wonderful Father’s Day yesterday!!

Kym and her husband are expecting their ninth baby — their fifth girl! She joins big sibs:

Alexandra Ruthmarie
Cassian William
Killian Michael
Bennett Jameson
Anneliese Francesca
Marigold Camillus
Miles Jonas
Sylvie Regina

Aren’t these amazing names?? I’ve actually referenced Kym’s little Sylvie Regina many times in posts and conversations because of how clever I think it is that it sounds like Salve Regina (“Hail Holy Queen”) — I love that!! And another really cool thing is that each first name has the same number of letters as its middle name. Didn’t they do a great job?!

Kym has a bunch of naming rules, and you know me — the more the merrier! I love a good challege! 😁 She writes,

First names that we cannot use:
Anything that infringes upon their middles or their nicknames. Examples:
No variations on Anne or Elizabeth since we already have Anneliese (Anne-Elizabeth).
Nothing Marian-that-starts-with-M since we already have a child often called Mary, etc.

No common first names or names often heard in Catholic circles:
Rose, Therese, Mary-Agnes, Bernadette, Zelie — all would be out.

Family and close friend names we cannot use include:
Gabriela, Sophia, Bridget, Rebekah, Anna, Felicity, Genevieve, Anastasia, Abigail, Azelie, Clare, Bernadette, Gianna, Emilia, Eleanor

I’d rather not have any more names that start with an A, M, S, or a hard C/K sound.

See how picky I am? And I haven’t even gotten to the rules yet! 🙂

Rules are:
First name must be a saint, or version of a saint’s name, or a holy association (like Marigold: Mary’s gold).
Middle name should be a family name.
Both first and middle should have the same number of letters. I noticed we had been doing this accidentally with kids 1-4, and when kids 5 and 6 also followed the pattern without intending it, we decided that’s just what we’d keep doing. Kids 7&8 worked out perfectly, too. We’ve never had to force a middle name we didn’t want just to make it work.

Potential family names we can use (feminize them or change them a bit to fit the same-number-of-letters rule) are: Luke, Rosa, DeeLane, Marcella …

First names that hubby really, really likes are Vianney and Juniper. So, Vianney Rosalie or Juniper Rosalie. Vianney is one of my favorite saints and has been on the list since our first child was conceived 13 years ago, but the name doesn’t suit me this time for some reason. And, while I really am drawn to Juniper Rosalie, I’m not sure if it’s too unisex of a name. I’m not thrilled with giving a daughter a name that isn’t easily recognized as being a female name. Alexandra, Anneliese, Marigold, and Sylvie just scream GIRL and Juniper ….doesn’t. Also, sometimes the “nipper” at the end bothers me. But the potential NN of Juni is pretty darn cute.

I really, really, REALLY like (but don’t love) the name Gemma and keep coming back to it. It’s delicate, girly, and sweet. Hubby proposed Gemma Lucia. We’ve wanted to name a baby after hubby’s godfather, Brother Luke, for a long time. Lucia works very well but I’m just not sold on it – Lucia to me right now seems so Catholic on-trend because of this being the year of the anniversary of Fatima, and Gemma sounds almost sounds too worldly/trendy. Maybe I’m being too picky. Argh! This is so tough!!!

A name that keeps popping into my head over and over is Goretti. I don’t even know where it came from since I’ve never before considered that to be a name, but it’s growing on me. I don’t know what would possibly work for a NN, though, and Retti and Retta are not something I’d like. Greta/Gretta could be used as a NN – and Greta it was a runner up with the last baby. But I’ve somewhat grown away from it.

I think Zoe(y) is precious but it’s so short and I don’t think it ages well. Hubby and I also like Savina but we aren’t convinced we want an S girl following another S girl. We’ve always liked the name Benedicta but we already have a Bennett. I like Isadora but hubby says no. I don’t think we can do any old lady names, as much as I like some of them. So no Imelda or Edith or Agatha or Leona/Leonie or Millicent. Gosh, I think Millicent is adorable though.”

Alright, I spent a lot of time on this, and I’m still not sure of my ideas! I actually had the privilege of doing a private consultation for Kym when Sylvie was on the way and, looking back at it, I had to cross three names off the list of ones I was going to recommend here because I’d suggested them before! I also found the rules about not wanting common names difficult because the names I’d usually go to for parents who don’t want top ten are the ones that are Catholic-common, which are also out per Kym’s rules! Amazing! I’m not being critical at all, it’ll be so satisfying if I can actually come up with something they might like!

I love both Vianney Rosalie and Juniper Rosalie, gorgeous! I see what Kym means though about Juniper feeling a bit too unisex next to her other girls’ names. Unfortunately, feel similarly about Vianney — though my major association with it as a current first name is Lindsay’s daughter from My Child I Love You, so it feels mostly feminine to me, a bunch of you have suggested it for boys on past posts, and one who said that because it’s exclusively male where she lives (France) using it for a girl would be akin to “a girl called John or Andrew.” I’m not campaigning against it! Just, if obviously feminine is their goal, neither Vianney nor Juniper might be quite right. On the other hand though … I so totally agree with Kym about Juni!!

Gemma Lucia is a fantastic combo! I definitely wouldn’t characterize Gemma as “too worldly/trendy” — sure, it has use outside of Catholic circles, and it has increased in popularity fairly rapidly since it entered the top 1000 in 2008 (it’s currently at no. 247), but I don’t see it as any different than their other kids’ names, all of which fit nicely into certain non-Catholic trends and popular sounds. I think it’s a great fit! As for Lucia being “Catholic on-trend,” I mean yes, it certainly is because of the Year of Fatima, but if you’re going to use it, using it during its big year is so great! But perhaps a different five-letter middle would be a better fit for them for Gemma? Tapping into the family names they want to use as middles, maybe Gemma Roser? Roser is a Catalan feminine form of Rosario, which points back to Rose (rosaries are so named because they’re meant to be thought of as a crown or bouquet of roses for Our Lady). Or Gemma Zella, where Zella is the German diminutive for Marcella?

I really like Goretti! And I do think Gret(t)a could work nicely as a nickname for it, or maybe Greer, especially as both Greer and Goretti come from Gregory. Etti (Eddy) could be cute too. I think there’s a chance that people they meet outside their Catholic circle might not be familiar, and so it might come across like Vianney and Juniper in the sense of not being very girly, but certainly Catholics should know it refers to a female saint. It reminds me of Cabrini, which I would have suggested to them if Kym hadn’t said no C/K names.

I love Zoe(y) too, and Savina’s cute too … Benedicta’s great, but Bennett … Isadora, Imelda, Edith, Agatha, Leona/Leonie, and Millicent are all a great bunch of names! And I actually don’t think of Leonie and Millicent as old lady names anymore — I have a cousin who’s 14 named Millicent/Millie, so it stopped being an old lady name to me ages ago, and while I know an old lady named Leona, I’ve only heard Leonie on more recent families wanting to honor St. Therese’s sister, so it too has a more youthful feel. And Edith’s coming back! I know a bunch of families who have considered it, and at least two who have named their babies Edith (here and here).

So those are my thoughts on the names Kym and her hubs have discussed/are considering; now on to my own ideas! I was mostly influenced by their seeming desire to have this baby girl have a name that’s as girly as their older girls’ names. I did use the Baby Name Wizard for inspiration, but I went more by my gut than anything. The names that I had on my final list that I crossed off because I’d suggested them last time were Verity, Juliet(te), and Elodie, all of which are consistent with this family’s style per the BNW, and all of which I still like for them in case they want to reconsider them. And I also really wanted to suggest Klaudia to them, as they were considering Klaus if the baby had been a boy, so if they wanted to reconsider their C/K rule I think it would be great! (Or Colette, if they like the idea of a Nicholas name for a girl. I love Colette.)

My new ideas are:

(1) Vesper
I think this name is unmistakably feminine, unlike Vianney and Juniper, and in sound it’s almost like a mashup of Vianney and Juniper. Its Catholic connection comes from “vespers” being the name for Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours, but others might also know it as one of the Bond girls! I like the idea of Vesper Roisin (Roisin is an Irish Rose name, pronounced ro-SHEEN, and spelled in Irish as Róisín), and there’s actually a variety of rose called the Vesper Rose!

(2) Junia
This was actually the first idea I had for this baby, after seeing that Kym loves Juni but was uncertain about Juniper. Junia’s the name of a woman in the bible (some believe it was meant to be the man’s name Junius, others translated it as Julia, but the bible as presented by the U.S. bishops on their web site says Junia). One of the Hanson brothers (MMMBop) has a daughter named Junia Rosa Ruth, which is gorgeous. Junia Lucia would work, but maybe too matchy? Maybe Junia Lucie would work better? Junia Roser and Junia Zella are also fine.

(3) Delia
This was one of those gut-feeling names. It’s pretty and feminine and can be a short form of Adelia, which is a variant of Adela (several saints and blesseds so named), or Bedelia, which is an Irish diminutive of Bridget (but Kym said no to Bridget, not sure if this would count?) (there’s also Cordelia, which has no saint connections as far as I can tell). Like with Junia, Delia Lucia/Lucie, Delia Roser, and Delia Zella can all work. It also feels really close to DeeLane (from their list of potential middles) sound-wise, but I’m not sure what to do with that. (I also wondered if Delaney would make a do-able DeeLane tweak?)

(4) Edessa
Our Lady of Edessa is one of Mary’s titles — Edessa is the old name for modern-day Urfa in Turkey, and the title refers to an old miraculous image. It’s a lovely, feminine, non-M Marian name! I like Edessa Roisin.

(5) Natalia
This was suggested by my research in the BNW and I love it for this family! It’s feminine and gorgeous and really saintly — there are two that I know of — and fun nickname options like Natty, Tally, Talia, Lia, and Nolly. Natalia Rosalie is so beautiful! Natalia Lucille can also work for their Br. Luke, and Natalia DeeLane (or Natalia Delaney) also works, letter-wise.

(6) Zara
I loooove this idea because of what I discovered about it recently! First off, it’s a style match for both Gemma and Zoe, which I thought was so interesting, and it’s definitely uncommon in all circles. I wasn’t sure about saintly connections though, and when I went looking I discovered that it’s a Bulgarian diminutive of Zaharina, which is the Bulgarian and Macedonian feminine form of Zechariah! Wow!! (Hence the spotlight I put up here.) Zara Rose is pretty, but maybe too R heavy? Zara Lucy maybe, or Zara Luce (not only a nod to Br. Luke and Fatima but also Bl. Chiara Luce Badano)? Would Zara Lane work as a nod to their DeeLane?

(7) Esme
Esme’s a style match for Sylvie, and I’ve always thought it’s sweet and feminine. Being that it means “esteemed” or “loved” in Old French, they could make a holy association to Mater Amata (“Beloved Mother”). Esme Rose is gorgeous! It can also be spelled Esmee (Esmée), which could open up Lucia, Lucie, and Zella as middles.

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister for this well-named crew?

Baby name consultation: non-M Marian middle name for a baby girl

Happy Memorial Day everyone! It’s so fitting that we have a day to remember and pray for all those who have died in service to our country. Today has also been declared a Day of Prayer for Permanent Peace — imagine what all our rosaries could do for this intention! I was so struck by the realization that this year — the 100th anniversary of Fatima — is also the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI. What a century it’s been. God bless and protect our troops, and God bless and protect America! 🦅🗽🙏

I had the great pleasure of posting a birth announcement for Shannon and her husband’s first baby, and I’m delighted now to post a consultation for their second baby on earth — a little green bean (=gender unknown)! 🌱 This little one joins:

Caroline Mary
Therese (with Jesus)

I remember being so blown away by the simple elegance of Caroline Mary’s name when Shannon shared her birth announcement, just lovely!

For this baby, they’re set with a boy’s name, but wanted help with a middle name for a girl. Shannon writes,

For girl names, we’re really thinking of Catherine (after Catherine of Siena of course), and our first choice for middle name right now is Marie. But we wanted to see if you had any other middle name suggestions that go with Catherine. You may remember we have Caroline Mary, who you helped us name (we LOVE her name and its significance). One potential hesitation with Catherine Marie is that it is somewhat similar (and shares the same initials) as Caroline Mary.  We named our second baby, who I miscarried in August, Therese (I was so comforted thinking about the baby going straight into Jesus’ arms, like St. Therese wanting to go straight up to Jesus on an elevator).  We would consider using Therese as a middle name.

If we go with Catherine Marie, it seems like we’re setting a precedent with Marian middle names (or perhaps we can just have a Marian influence in each name a la John Paul, etc.) — we’re definitely okay with this! As you may recall from our earlier emails, we like classic, traditional names. (Catholic, obviously!) We are trying to avoid nicknames, as much as we can, but for a middle name, that’s not really an issue.  Our last name is Lynch, so we’re also a little wary of “L” names.”

So you all have to know how much I loved working on this! I’m always excited to come up with Marian names! Like Shannon, I love the idea of a Marian name being part of her daughters’ names—it’s a great precedent to set! And a very traditional one! In my own family, my parents made a point to give each of their daughters (four of us) a Marian name (we each have a different one). It’s also very traditional for all the girls in a family to have the *same* Marian name—we see this in St. Therese’s family, where her and all of her sisters’ first names were Marie. I love too that Shannon and her hubs have a sense of including a Marian connection in their boy names as well!

When I was coming up with new middle name ideas for them, I focused a lot on trying to come up with non-M Marian names (especially shorter ones, since Catherine is so long, so I didn’t include Immaculata, for example), and I also came up with a couple others that they might find intriguing:

(1) Catherine Rose
I think this is my favorite idea for this little lady. Rose is a Marian name for lots of different reasons: she’s the Mystical Rose (Rosa Mystica); the rosary is so named because it’s meant to represent a crown of roses for Our Lady; and she’s appeared with roses, as at Lourdes and Guadalupe. But—and I was so excited to realize this!—it can also be a nod to St. Therese and therefore their little one in heaven! Double whammy! And Catherine Rose is a really lovely name, with a similar elegant simplicity as Caroline Mary.

(2) Catherine Grace
Catherine Grace also has that elegance and simplicity I get from Caroline Mary and Catherine Rose. Our Lady of Grace would be the Marian reference of course.

(3) Catherine Eve (or Eva, Ava, or Ave)
Mary is the New Eve, so Eve can be considered a Marian name, and Catherine Eve is really pretty. Eva and Ava are both variants of Eve, and I quite like how Catherine Eva/Ava sound (I say them the same, but you could also say EE-va for Eva). A more unusual choice that’s similar is Ave, said AH-vay, like Ave Maria (Hail Mary). Catherine Ave would be really unusual but still simple and sweet. There’s a stanza in the Ave Stella Maris (Hail Star of the Sea) hymn that says, “O! By Gabriel’s Ave, Uttered long ago, Eva’s name reversing, Established peace below.” So that’s a cool connection too between Ave, Eve, and Mary (and Stella Maris, for a bonus Marian connection).

(4) Catherine Pieta
This would certainly be an unusual choice, but the image of the Pieta seems a fitting one for a mom who’s suffered the loss of a child, and could make an intriguing middle name, especially since they’re already thinking of perhaps using their miscarried baby’s name for this baby’s middle.

(5) Catherine Dolores
Along that same way of thinking, Dolores is from Our Lady’s title Our Lady of Sorrows (Nuestra Señora de los Dolores in Spanish)—Catherine Dolores sounds sort of retro and chic, and I don’t think the L of Dolores sounds problematic with Lynch.

(6) Catherine Zelie (or Catherine Azelie) (or Catherine Tess)
This was inspired by their little Therese. Another way of linking to her in Catherine’s name could be by using her mom’s name. They could use the name she goes by—Zelie—or the longer version that was part of her given name, Azelie. Either way, I think Catherine Zelie and Catherine Azelie are lovely.

I actually had another idea when I was writing out the explanation for Catherine Zelie/Azelie, which was Tess—it’s a diminutive of the Therese/T(h)eresa names, but it can also stand on its own, so though Shannon said they’re trying to avoid nicknames, I thought maybe Tess squeaked in just under the wire. Really though, I was just so taken with the sweetness of Catherine Tess that I had to include it!

(7) Names from their last consultation
Finally, I looked back at Shannon’s first email to me for Caroline’s consultation, and found several names in there that she’d said she liked, that I thought could make great middle names for Catherine, specifically Catherine Joan and Catherine Sophia/Sophie. Joan also made me think of its variant Jane, and I like how Catherine Jane sounds as well. And I like that Sophie/Sophie can be Marian names, since they can refer to Our Lady’s title Seat of Wisdom.

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What Marian name(s) would you suggest for Catherine’s middle?