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:
Augustine (though we’re hesitant on the nickname, “Gus”)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!