This week I’m posting a consultation I did for a reader a while ago, who has given me permission to share it here. Brigid and her husband are expecting their third baby on earth, a little green bean (=gender unknown). This little one joins big sisters:
Hilaria Jacqueline, called Lark
Katherine Julia, called Wren or Birdie
I absolutely love the bird theme — how clever to come up with Lark from the “LAR” of Hilaria and the K sound in Jacqueline!! I’ve seen Wren for Katherine before — I think it’s such a fun twist on a classic, and of course Birdie! So sweet! Maria Arsenia is so lovely as well.
“I chose my patron saint, St Brigid, when I was 6, and eventually changed my legal name to my saint’s name. I’ve always felt my name was a story I carry with me, a story I can look to for encouragement and guidance. My husband also changed his name to his patron saint’s name, so we view our children’s names as gifts freely given, but belonging to them. I would not be surprised if some of them changed their names too.”
Isn’t that amazing??
“We love that [the girls’] names are elegant, feminine, historic, and meaningful. Each and every name is a special saint, an honor name, or both.
We’d like to honor our mothers, Paula Mary and Sharon Lee, in this baby’s name. A boy would almost certainly be Paul. I’m trying to talk the husband into Paul Heron.
For a girl, one option is to use Mary Lee as a double middle. My one-syllable maiden name is everyone’s second middle, followed by our one-syllable last name.
My favorite name for this baby, if it’s a girl, is Mary Rose. Mary Rose Lee Maiden Last. My husband said, “Hmm.” The only time he has ever brought up baby names when we weren’t pregnant, it was for the name Harriet. And I have to admit Harriet Mary Lee is pretty great. Other shared favorites are Theodora, Paulina, Elise, and Anne. I love pretty much any Mary double: Marianne, Mary Elise, Mary Dove, etc. I can’t talk him into Iris, Rosa, or Beatrice. We can’t use Vivian or Lydia. We’re Orthodox, so pre-1054 and Eastern saints are wonderful.
I’d love to keep having subtle bird nicknames. Theodora called Dove is the only idea I have right now. Harriet called Hawk or Heron?
If we don’t use Paul as a first, it’ll be the middle. Nicholas, Benjamin, Matthias and Raphael are the runners-up.
We’re most stuck on girl’s names we both like, and on how to honor Sharon for a boy’s name. Paul Lee doesn’t work for my ear.”
I love how Brigid described her girls’ names as “elegant, feminine, historic, and meaningful” — I totally agree, and I’m excited to try to help her and her hubby come up with some equally wonderful ideas for this baby!
I also love that Brigid wants to honor her mother and mother-in-law with this baby’s name. Mary Lee as a double middle is a great option and an extra fun layer is that Mary and Lee are the grandmothers’ middle names, so using them in the middle name spot is almost like a double honor for them.
I think Heron for Sharon is pretty brilliant! Paul Heron to honor a Paula and a Sharon is fantastic, and the fact that it incorporates their bird theme is Master Class, really brilliant. If Brigid’s hubby can’t get on board, some other ideas I had for honoring Sharon in a boy’s name were:
- Using a name that has a strong “sha” element: I did a search in the Name Finder on babynamewizard.com for boy names containing “sha” and thought the results that were most promising were Elisha, Marshall, and Shalom. I particularly like that Shalom is very similar in appearance to Sharon. But my very favorite idea in this vein is Pasha — it’s a Russian diminutive of Paul (Pavel), and mashes up Paul and Sharon perfectly! I could see them preferring this as a middle name, which I think would be perfect.
- Using a name with a similar meaning: According to behindthename.com, Sharon means “plain” — other names with the same or similar meanings include Blair, Crofton, Forbes, Whitaker, Winfield, Agellus, Rhun, and Field. Some cool options!
- Using a name related to the flower: The rose of Sharon flower provides another possible connection. I included Sharon in my book of Marian names because Our Lady’s title Rosa Mystica (Mystical Rose) stems from the “rose of Sharon” mentioned in the Song of Songs (2:1), which is traditionally understood to refer to Mary. Because of this, I thought Solomon might do to honor Sharon, since he’s the author of the Song of Songs. I discovered that the flower’s official name is Hibiscus syriacus, and I thought Syriacus could be a cool middle name — it has that same “biblical place name” feel that Sharon has (if you focus on the fact that Sharon is, in origin, a biblical place name). The Wikipedia page for the flower said the “plant can bloom continuously from July through September,” so I thought maybe August could work! And finally, one of the types of roses of Sharon is called “William R. Smith” — I could see both August and William working nicely with their girls’ names. (St. Augustine would be a perfect patron for August, and there are a few pre-1054 holy Williams: https://catholicsaints.info/blessed-william-of-sann/; https://catholicsaints.info/saint-guillermo-de-penacorada/; https://catholicsaints.info/saint-william-of-foggia/; https://catholicsaints.info/saint-william-of-gellone/.)
Mary Rose is lovely! Brigid’s hubby’s response of “Hmm” made me laugh — husbands! I agree with her that his idea of Harriet is awesome — Harriet Mary Lee is wonderful. I’d thought Hen (and Henny, so cute!) would be a perfect nickname for it — being an H name is enough to justify Hen in my opinion — but also the fact that Harriet is the English form of Henrietta makes Hen seem particularly perfect. It was only after I’d been soaking in the happiness of Harriet nn Hen for a couple of days that I realized Wren and Hen are probably too rhymey as sisters! Ah well. Brigid’s ideas of Hawk and Heron are equally doable I think, because of Harriet starting with H, though Hawk feels very masculine to me.
Back to Rose for a minute though — I was so excited to discover that Rosella is a type of bird!! I wonder what Brigid’s hubby would think of Rosella Mary Lee or Mary Rosella Lee? In this case, I could see them using Rose as the everyday call name, which would flip their bird theme from nickname to given name, but I like that — it opens up more options for potential future children. And I think Lark, Wren/Birdie, and Rose make a lovely, cohesive set, since they’re all nature names.
I love Brigid’s ideas of Theodora called Dove and Paulina called Linnet. She has Elise on her list as well — I wonder if she’s considered the full Elizabeth/Elisabeth? I think the full name could take the nickname Linnet as well.
Okay, when I was looking for new ideas for this family, I took two routes: The first is my usual, where I look up the names the parents have used and like in the Baby Name Wizard (affiliate link) to find other names that Brigid and her husband would probably like; the second was to do research on bird names and see if I could back into a formal name + nickname option that way. Then I looked through both CatholicSaints.info and the list of Eastern Orthodox saints on Wikipedia to see if I could find a patron Saint (though I admit I’m not sure if the pre-1054 parameter refers to their date of death or date of canonization? I used date of death, so beware that I might have inadvertently included some that aren’t appropriate, so sorry!). Based on all that, these are my new ideas for Brigid’s baby-on-the-way:
(1) Margaret or Magdalene nn Magpie
I wasn’t surprised to see Margaret as a style match for this family, and Magpie immediately came to mind as the perfect nickname! While Margaret is certainly well matched with Katherine, I thought it seemed a bit plain next to Hilaria, so I thought Brigid and her hubby might like to consider variants like Margarita, Margaretha, Marguerite, Margo(t), Margery, etc. — there are so many of them! St. Margaret of Antioch works as patron, and she’s listed as “also known as” Margherita, Marina, Margaritha, Marine, and Margaretha on CatholicSaints.info.
I also thought Magdalene (or Magdalyn, Magdalena, etc.) might also be a great idea as it’s a little more offbeat — a nice middle ground between Hilaria and Katherine I think — and can still take Magpie as a nickname.
(2) Rebecca nn Robin
How about Rebecca with the nickname Robin? A long time ago I saw a birth announcement for a Rebecca nn Ruby and I just loved it right away, I thought it was so clever. So when I saw Rebecca as a style match for this family, I thought of that birth announcement again and Robin slid into place as such a great nickname option!
(3) Stella nn Starling
I’ve always thought Starling is such a pretty and unexpected name for a girl — I used to spend quite a lot of time reading the discussion forums on babynamewizard.com and I remember at least one baby girl being named Starling. I thought of it for Brigid, and thought Stella (or Estella, Estelle) could be the perfect given name for it, because of the “star” connection. I wanted to be sure Our Lady’s title Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) was in usage before 1054 though, and according to Wikipedia (I know! But sometimes it’s the best option if I don’t want a consultation to take weeks of research!), it’s been “in use since at least the early medieval period,” so that should be good, right?
I wonder if they’ve ever considered Phoebe? It’s both the name of a bird and the sound that bird makes (which is why it’s called a phoebe), so it’s perfect for a family who wants a bird name. In this case, it would be the given name rather than a nickname, which, like with Rosella above, might be a nice addition to their theme without doing it exactly as they’ve done in the past. Phoebe is biblical of course, but there’s also a pre-Congregation St. Phoebe of Rome.
(5) Piper (Paulina?)
I was totally taken with the pictures of sandpipers I found when I was doing bird research — they are the cutest! I love the name Piper, I think it’s sweet and musical for a girl, and in this case, I can see it working easily as a nickname for Paulina. I also enjoyed discovering that there’s an Eastern Saint named St. Stephen of Piperi — could be a cool second patron for a little Paulina nn Piper!
(6) Columba, Paloma nn Dove
Finally, I’m grouping these together because I’m not sure they’re exactly Brigid’s style, but I wanted to mention them anyway. Though St. Columba was a man, I think Columba feels more natural these days for a girl, and Columba means “dove,” so Columba nn Dove would be perfect!
Similarly, Paloma is a Spanish name meaning “dove,” and it’s Marian too — her title La Virgen de la Paloma dates to the eighteenth century, which doesn’t work for this family, but the doves referred to in the Song of Songs are understood to refer to Mary, so that would be perfect! I think Paloma and Hilaria are very well matched as sisters; if they did Mary Paloma, I think Katherine would be looped in nicely.
Boy names were tough! But I was thrilled to discover that martins are a kind of bird, and that Pope St. Martin I works as patron! Like with Rosella and Phoebe, Martin would be the given name rather than the nickname, but that could be the way they decide to do it for their boys (if they were to have more).
(2) Philip nn Pip
Because of Phoebe, one of the things I researched were bird noises to see if there were any possibilities there. According to this cool graphic, the Song Thrush’s song sounds like “filip filip filip codidio codidio quietquiquit tittit tittit tereret tereret tereret” — that first part, the “filip” part, made me think Philip might be perfect! Not only that, but the traditional (and amazing) Philip nickname Pip also has bird connections — apparently a pip is when a baby bird breaks through its shell using its beak. How cool is that?? St. Philip of Agira is the perfect patron for a little Philip.
(3) Robert nn Robin
I feel like there’s a good chance Brigid and her husband considered this and decided against it, but I thought it was good to include it here just in case. Robin is an old, traditional nickname for Robert, and while male Robins are rare these days (Robin Williams notwithstanding), I actually have a neighbor whose teen son is named Robin. And Robert is certainly handsome and classic. Rupert and Rigobert are fun variants to consider as well. St. Rigobert of Rheims is a good patron date-wise, as are St. Robert of Syracuse, St. Rupert of Bingen, and St. Rupert of Salzburg. (I think Robin could probably also work for Raphael, right?)
(4) Henry nn Hawk, Heron
This isn’t really a new idea, since Hawk and Heron were ideas Brigid already had, but I thought Henry works perfectly as a way to get to them for a boy. St. Henry II is a pre-1054 Saint, and I love that he’s known as Good King Henry.
(5) Stephen nn Piper
When I was writing about St. Stephen of Piperi as a possible patron for a little girl named Piper, I wondered about considering Piper for a boy? If they like that idea, I could totally see Stephen as the given name and Piper as the nickname after St. Stephen of Piperi.
Finch was the first idea I had for this family for a boy. I think it’s so cool! Finch totally works as a nickname for Philip (if they didn’t like the Pip idea above), or as a middle name with a more staid first name (William Finch? August Finch? Paul Finch Lee?)
Finally, Jay! Jay can work on its own (I know a “just Jay”), or it can be a nickname for anything you want, really — any J name, and even non-J names, as was the case with my uncle, whose given name was Lawrence but he always went by Jay!
And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Hilaria/Lark and Katherine/Wren?
I’m currently on hiatus from doing consultations, but Theresa Zoe Williams is available to help you! Email her at TheresaZoeWrites@gmail.com to set up your own consultation! (Payment methods remain the same.)
During my hiatus, please don’t forget about 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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!