Namespotting, Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday/St. Nicholas Day, and St. Andrew

Just a couple fun things for you on this day after Thanksgiving:

Over the past couple of days I’ve seen Pete used as a nickname for Preston and Tas used as a nickname for Timothy. I thought those were so fun! I love creative nicknaming, especially when the nickname offers a familiar option for a more unusual given name or for a name that doesn’t have a natural nickname (like Pete for Preston), or when it spices up a common and familiar given name (like Tas for Timothy).

Simcha Fisher had a thread on her Facebook about musical name options — there were some great ideas in the comments! I keep thinking about how perfect Clare Annette is!

And a reminder about the importance of pronouncing others’ names correctly. This is not always easy! But the effort matters. Many of my students have names with unexpected/unfamiliar/difficult-for-my-ear pronunciations and I’ve loved the opportunity to learn about different naming choices and styles, as well as names from other cultures, and the fact that the way that I pronounce consonants/vowels/consonant-vowel clusters as a person for whom American English is my first language can’t necessarily be transferred to every name I come across.

When you’re all doing your Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday/St. Nicholas Day shopping, I just wanted to offer two friendly reminders:

  • My book of Marian names is perfect for anyone who loves names of our faith, whether they’re expecting or not! It’s available at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy Gift Shop ( and at Amazon as well (not affiliate links). (If you know any pre-teen/teen girls who like to make name lists, like I always did and so many of you have shared that you did as well, I know they would love my book!)

  • A baby name consultation from either Theresa or myself is always a fun gift to offer expecting parents! I can email you a gift certificate for you to print out for either a Mini Consultation ($25) or an Ordinary Consultation ($50) (descriptions here). If you’d like one, email me at sanctanomina at gmail dot com and I’ll send you an invoice.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Advent starts on Sunday — my house is so excited! Here is a compilation of my Advent and Christmas name posts (also includes some interesting ways to honor an Andrew — so many fun ideas!). And speaking of Andrew, the St. Andrew Novena starts on Nov. 30, which is one of my favorites — read more about it in my CatholicMom article here. Happy Friday!


Spotlight on: Cecilia

Cecilia! You’re breaking my heart! You’re name meaning’s causing some problems! 🎶🎶🎶

Not for everyone, certainly — Cecilia’s definitely one of those names that’s generally favored by parents wanting an obvious saintly name (I included it my list of unmistakably Catholic girl names), and I know lots of Catholic families with little Cecilias. St. Cecilia was a martyr for refusing to sacrifice to false gods; she was the first incorruptible saint; she’s in the Canon of the Mass; and she’s the patroness of music, musicians, musical instrument makers, and singers (among other things), which makes her name perfect for a music-loving couple to consider for their daughter. She was a strong, holy woman, and her name is lovely and feminine. There’s a lot to recommend Cecilia! But I’ve heard from multiple parents who have a hard time getting past its definition of “blind.”

One reader emailed recently about this issue — she would very much like to consider the name, but said, “I just cannot get past the meaning of ‘blind.’ A positive meaning is a must for me … I was just thinking that knowing more about the origins of Cecilia might change my heart a bit.” Of course! Let’s get to the root of the problem! We know it derives from the Latin for “blind,” but why? Who was the first to be named “blind,” and why were they?

Based on my research, I’m going to argue that the definition of “blind” no longer applies to this family of given names. From what I can gather, Cecilia is the feminine form of a Roman gens (or “clan”) name, which originally — in ancient days — was taken from a mythological figure, Caeculus, who was a king mentioned in the Aeneid, and his name was indeed intended to mean “little blind one” (from the Latin word for blind) because part of his mythology was that he showed mastery over fire (and in fact his mother was said to have been impregnated by a spark of fire), but the smoke did affect his eyes, hence the name of “little blind one.” He was really a figure of divinity and strength, and I’m sure the Roman clan didn’t fuss about the meaning of “blind” (otherwise they would have changed their name, right? Or not chosen Caeculus as their “ancestor” in the first place?). (I’m getting this info from Wikipedia, hoping that it’s accurate!  I also read this.)

So really, I think the name originally persisted because of that clan, and that family doesn’t mean “blind,” they mean whatever would come to mind when those who were familiar with them would hear their name, you know? Like, my last name is Towne, but I’m sure when people see or hear my name they don’t think “town, village, enclosure,” which is what the name originally meant. Or if they do, it’s a fleeting thought that’s quickly replaced by whatever comes to mind when they think of *me.* This is all what I tried to articulate in the article I wrote about name “definitions” vs. name “meanings”.

So if the original people with this name were able to look past the meaning of “blind,” and be powerful despite their name’s origin (and there’s even a goddess [of sorts] known as Caia Caecilia), even more so can those who have no connection to them or their origins (mythological or otherwise), and in fact have new connotations that are intimately tied up in the name Cecilia. Because I’m sure it’s only name nerds (and Latin ones too, I suppose) who know that Cecilia means “blind” — other Catholics know that it means “patroness of musicians,” and non-Catholics might know that there’s a musical connection, or they might just know it as a pretty name.

Now that I’ve convinced you all that blindness has nothing to do with St. Cecilia, in an interesting twist I just read this post that says St. Cecilia was born blind, and this post, which says, “The name Cecilia means blind and so, although we don’t know if she herself couldn’t see, she is also the Catholic patron saint of the blind.” None of this info (her being blind, or her being patroness of those who are blind) is included anywhere on (which is where I usually turn for my saint info). In fact, I’d assumed that she’s known as Cecilia because she was a member of that Roman gens, and The Catholic Encylopedia at New Advent seems to support that hypothesis when it refers to “the family of St. Cecilia (Gens Caecilia).”

Back to being able to look past the “definition of the name,” I love that Behind the Name argues, “Due to the popularity of the saint, the name became common in the Christian world during the Middle Ages.” It’s ultimately because of St. Cecilia, and no other bearer of the name (nor, of course, its meaning), that the name has the popularity it has had and continues to have! So great!

As for the name itself, isn’t Cecilia so sweet? So soft and lilting. It can be spelled Caecilia (like this family) or Cecelia, and has some great variants like Cecily, Cicely, and even Sheila! Sheila is an anglicization of Síle, which is the Irish form of Cecilia. I love the Russian Tsetsiliya, the Polish Cecylia, and the fact that Cecil and Cecilio are male variants — so cool! And lots of fun diminutives and nicknames, including the familiar Cece, as well as Lia, Celia (which can also stand on its own with separate origins), Cissy, Cila, Cilla, Cilka, Silke, Silja, and Zilla. Who knew?!

What do you all think of Cecilia? Have you, too, been bothered by the meaning? Has this post helped? Would you consider naming your daughter Cecilia, or have you? What do the Cecilias that you know go by?

Birth announcement: Gregory Conrad!

I posted a consultation for Amanda and her hubs a couple of months ago, and she’s let me know her little guy has arrived and been given the amazingly perfect name … Gregory Conrad!

Amanda writes,

Gregory Conrad was born yesterday, the feast of St Cecilia (patron saint of musicians) and the anniversary of when this sweet little guy’s daddy asked me to marry him 13 years ago.

Our Little “Rory” is named after Pope St Gregory the Great, who was also a wonderful musician and created the Gregorian Chant, and his daddy, Vincent Conrad, who was named after a grandfather Conrad as well. 🙂

I thought you would also like to know that on the way to the hospital, we looked up male patron saints of musicians and Gregory was at the top of the list. That kind of made up our minds, even before we saw his face, because Gregory and Sylvester were our top two at that point!! If that’s not a sign from Heaven, I don’t know what is 🙂

We let [daughter] Ellie pick his middle name when the kiddos met him, giving her the choices of Lucas, Conrad, or Jonah (because it means stubborn!). She was pretty tickled to get to help. We will also shorten it to “Rory” or even ‘Gregor’ … but not ‘Greg,’ as I’m just not crazy about one syllable. Please keep baby and I in your prayers, as it was a very long and difficult labor and delivery. So thankful he is here and healthy!

Gregory with the nickname Rory was on Amanda’s initial list this time around, and it’s an option I’ve long loved and suggested on the blog! I love it! There’s so much meaning in this little guy’s name and birth, from the connection to music (Amanda’s a musician), to his birthday being the anniversary of the day Amanda and her hubs got engaged, to his name being a five-syllable combo, just like his big brothers and sister, wow!

Please do keep Amanda and her baby boy in your prayers! Congratulations to the whole family, including big sibs Oliver, Elizabeth, Theodore, Henry, and Adrian, and happy birthday Baby Gregory!!

Gregory Conrad with his mama and big brothers and sister

Baby name consultant: Mary, music, and ends-in-a

Mary Dove and her husband Gerry are expecting their seventh baby, a little girl! This little lady joins big sibs:

Maria Paloma (“which is Mary Dove in Spanish, she goes by Paloma“)
Isabella Maria (“goes by Bella, Bellita, Izzy“)
Juliana Marie (“Jules, Juice Cup, Julie Dear“)
Nicholas Matthias (“Nick, Nicko, even Nicodemus which I almost wish we named him because I have come to love it, he was named after Gerry’s Confirmation name, since he didn’t want a Jr.”)
Dominic Karl (“Dom, Domo and Domodemus; Karl is after my dad, Dom was almost Donovan but Dominic felt right“)
Augustine Raphael (“Gus, Gusto, Auggie; Raphael after Gerry’s dad“)

Just an amazing bunch of names! (And those nicknames! “Juice Cup”! 😀 ) I love them all, but I especially love that Maria Paloma has her mom’s exact name, just translated into Spanish — particularly interesting in light of our conversation about girls named after their moms the other day. (Also, the fact that Gerry “didn’ want a Jr.” makes it sound like Mary Dove would have been okay with that — further evidence for the idea that many of the boy Juniors are Mom’s idea!)

Mary Dove shared lots of fun namey info:

I’ll start with me, since my own name needs some explaining. My name is Mary Donovan Z. My mom nicknamed me Mary Dove (like Mary Beth or Mary Jo) and it stuck. My family and close friends call me Mary Dove or Dove. I am part Irish/Scottish and German. My husband’s name is Gerry (Gerald) Micheal, he is European Spanish/Mexican and English/German. I like to have names that reflect family heritage and also the person’s appearance

A couple of things we do with our kid’s names, the girls have a Marian name in their names and the first name ends in the letter a because it flows with our last name (but having a name ending in A is not an absolute). 2 of our kids have blue eyes and freckles and burn in the sun (yup, that’s the Irish) and the other 4 have various light skin tones but tan and have green/grey/hazel eyes. 3 are slender and 3 are stocky (aren’t genes cool!!)

The boys have middle names that are family names. We also use nicknames a lot.”

I just died over Mary Donovan –> Mary Dove or just Dove. So great!

Regarding names for their Little Miss,

[W]e will probably use Monica, as that is a family name and though not Marian, I think I might count it as Marian-ish. Gerry is partial to Felicity. I kinda like Pia (because I love Padre Pio). I prefer actual saint names but have considered the names Hope and Grace, too … [also] perhaps a variation on Bridget [after Mary Dove’s sister] … we are a bit of a musical family and was wondering about musical type names. My sisters and I had an a cappella singing group as teens and I play (though not really much now) the harp, Scottish bagpipes, and piano. My girls all play piano and each a string instrument (cello, violin and viola) my husband is learning guitar and Ukulele! (How cute is that? If you have older kids, the Ukulele is the cutest little instrument and quite easy to learn!) I like the name Cecelia but that seems to be the quintessential Catholic music name and plus I have a friend whose daughter is named Cecelia. Are there any other musical names out there??

And a name that Mary Dove really likes but can’t use as it’s the name of her niece:


Alrighty, I’m going to jump right in with a few quick thoughts about the names Mary Dove and her hubs are currently considering: I love Monica, and I’m interested in her Marian-ish idea — I assume she means because it’s the name of a holy mother? I admit I’ve never heard that argument given before for the name Monica! But if her name calls Our Lady to mind for them, who am I to say it’s not Marian-ish!

I love the name Felicity, and I wondered what they’d both think of Felicita? It’s a legit variation (Italian) and retains their ends-in-a pattern. And speaking of Felicity/Felicita, of course I always think of Perpetua too, and I’ve heard of several little girls recently named Perpetua who go by the nickname Pia, which is a name Mary Dove said she likes — maybe they’d like to consider that as a way to use Pia, and it could also be a nod to St. Pio? Also, Our Lady is described as “pia” in the Salve Regina, so it can be a Marian name too. Maybe Monica Pia? And then they get a Marian name, their St. Pio name, and Monica all in one? (Though Mary Dove’s clever Juliana heard “onomatopoeia” when she heard Monica Pia — deal breaker? Or kinda cool?)

Before I get to my other ideas, I have to say I’m a bit stumped about the music question! I looked up patron saints of music, as there are usually several saints for each category/condition/etc., but there was only one listed besides Cecilia — St. Arnulf of Soissons, which didn’t strike me as terribly inspiring (though he himself is pretty awesome). I did see that a Frisian (from Wikipedia: “The Frisian languages are a closely related group of Germanic languages, spoken by about 500,000 Frisian people, who live on the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. The Frisian languages are the closest living language group to English languages“) variant is Anne, used for both girls and boys and said AH-nah, so I thought maybe Ana or Anna would work as a nod to St. Arnulf? Or are they too close to Anneliese?

I looked up patron saints of singers and had a little more success: St. Andrew the Apostle, King David, and St. Gregory the Great (Gregorian Chant is named after him) are all patrons of singers. Of those, Andrea would fit in well with the other girls’ names (and it’s a style match for Monica!), and I’ve seen Andra and Andrina as well. Greer is used as a feminine form of Gregory — it’s from a Scottish surname derived from Gregory, which is a nice nod to Mary Dove’s Scottish heritage. I don’t think it would work as a first name for this family, but maybe as a middle?

I had the most luck with “saints who were singers” — there are a lot of them (the full list here); these were three of my favorite ideas for them:
— Bl. Anne Pelras (that “Anne” again!)
— Bl. Chiara Badano (looooove Chiara for this family! It’s Italian instead of Spanish, but ends in -a and is so lovely, like the other girls)
— Bl. Marie-Gabrielle Trezel (Gabriela would be a perfect fit!)

And then I had the idea of Aria — as it refers to “song” or “melody” in Italian, and ends in -a, and is beautiful — and looked to see if there was a holy Aria, and there is! St. Aria of Rome! (The Game of Thrones character Arya Stark, said the same is Aria, is good to be aware of though, as some might think the name was inspired by her.)

Okay! I did a full round of research for girl names, where “research” means, as you all know, looking up all the names they’ve used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard, which is an awesome resource as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I also went through my own mental files, and here’s what I came up with:

(1) Jacinta
Bl. Hyacinth-Marie Cormier is one of the blesseds who was a singer, and Jacinta — which I’d already had on my list for them! — is a feminine variant of Hyacinth (and actually Hyacinth can be used as a female name as well — see the Pioneer Woman’s best friend Hyacinth). I’d say it jah-SIN-tah, the English way, and I assume Mary Dove’s Juliana is said with an English J? But they could also do hah-SEEN-tah, it’s gorgeous either way. And it’s also Marian-ish, since Bl. Jacinta Marto was one of the Fatima children.

(2) Lilia, Liliana, Lilli
Lilies are associated with Our Lady, and so the Lily names are Marian. Lilia’s one of my very favorite variants, and Liliana’s another (and is actually a style match for Juliana — but maybe two names ending in -ana is too much?). Lili and Lilli are German variants that are specifically diminutives of Elisabeth (as Lily is a traditional nickname for Elizabeth), which is cool, but like with Juliana/Liliana, are any of the Elizabeth variants too much with sister Isabella? I think no, since one could choose a Lily name just because of the flower or Our Lady without any intention of connecting to Elizabeth. (Lillian is also a style match for Isabella, and Lily for Bella).

(3) Magdalena
I love this variant of Mary Magdalene’s name — it ends in -a like the other girls’ names, and has the beautiful nickname options Maggie (which has an Irish feel), Maddy, and Lena.

(4) Victoria, Veronica (or Cora?)
Victoria is a style match for several of their names — Juliana, Nicholas, and Sebastian — and I’ve recently been loving it as a nod to Our Lady of Victory. I’ve also seen the nickname idea Cora for it recently, which not only makes Victoria feel a bit fresher, but can also be a nod to either the Immaculate Heart of Mary or the Sacred Heart of Jesus (“cor” in Latin means “heart”). It made me think of Veronica, which is another gorgeous V name and a great saintly connection. I actually think Cora could also work as a nickname for Veronica, as well as Vee and Via (but not the Nic- names, of course, because of Nicholas. The traditional Ronnie feels a little dated to me, but if they like it that’s another nickname option). I’m also loving just Cora, as a given name!

(5) Natalia
Natalia also did quite well for them in my research, being similar in style to Juliana, Nicholas, Dominic, and Sebastian. I love the name Natalia, and I think Nat, Natty, Talia, Tally, Nia, and Lia are all sweet.

(6) Britta, Breda/Brida
My last girl idea for this baby girl is Britta, 100% inspired by Mary Dove’s sister Bridget, as Britta is a variant of it (and it ends in -a!). I love Britta, and another awesome tidbit is that it’s a style match for Pia! I’ve also seen Breda and Brida as variants/anglicizations of the Irish Bríd, which I believe is said “breed” and is an Irish contracted form of Brighid, which is of course a variant of Bridget.

And those are all my thoughts/ideas for this baby girl! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for this beautiful family?