Patron Saint of nicknames? (!)

A reader sent me the following amazing email:

I just finished reading a biography on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and it turns out she comes from a family of nicknamers: ‘Catherine was a peaceful baby and like all the Seton children instantly received several nicknames.’

It wasn’t so much Elizabeth’s family that gave nicknames, but her husband’s, so she became a huge nicknamer after she married him. She continued to nickname everyone she kept correspondence with and some of the Sisters of her order after his death, but these are her family nicknames that I thought were so fun.

Elizabeth Seton herself was called Betsy throughout her childhood and when she met her future husband he began calling her Eliza.

Their 5 children all had nicknames:

Anna Maria: Annina

William: Will, Willy, Bill

Richard: Dick, Ricksy

Catherine: Kit/Kitt/Kitty, Kate, Jo (short for Josephine, one of Catherine’s middle names, possibly Confirmation name)

Rebecca: Bec

Her husband’s sisters all went by nicknames:

Henrietta: Harriet, Hatch (She was never Henrietta, though, just Harriet, so Hatch was the nickname for Harriet)

Eliza: Zide

Cecilia: Cecil

One girl who was a student of SEAS was not given a nickname, however. Her name was always the full Mary Diana. For some reason that name has such a fun ring it’s been on repeat in my head for the last few days. I had never heard of Hatch or Zide, and love how spunky they are. I know how much you like nicknames, so I thought you’d enjoy this info! I think St. Elizabeth would make an amazing unofficial patron saint of nicknames 🙂 “

I did indeed enjoy this info! And I love the idea of St. Elizabeth being the “unofficial patron saint of nicknames”! Apparently coming up with nicknames is a holy endeavor. 😉 I can see what this reader means about Mary Diana too, that is a lovely combo.

Have a great Wednesday!


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!

Baby name consultation: Formal names for the nickname Sonny

A reader wrote to me asking:

I really love the name Sonny. But! I’ve yet to find a formal name I like that could be the official name… and now I’m wondering if I even need that? Especially if I can find a good spiritual connection to the name… apart from the obvious “son.” lol is this making sense? Do you have any thoughts?

Do I have any thoughts? Always!  😂😂😂

I LOVE the nickname Sonny!! The first name that comes to mind is Santino — Sonny on The Godfather was Santino nn Sonny, and Santino means “little saint,” which is fantastic! HOWEVER, I know some might be like, “Ew! The Godfather!” I get it! (Another funny reference: Mario Lopez and his wife named their youngest son Santino and call him Sonny!) For what it’s worth, there was a little guy in one of my boys’ preschool class named Santino nn Sonny, which I’d never seen in real life before then, and I just died of happiness, SO cute. (He was not obviously Italian.)

I’ve also thought that Sonny could be a great nickname for Solanus! I wrote about it here; I think it’s a fantastic option. Bl. Solanus Casey is amazing! There are some people who are hesitant about using Solanus as a given name because of the last four letters, so if you like this idea but not that detail, you could consider Solano instead — Bl. Solanus’ religious name was actually Francis Solanus, and it was bestowed in honor of St. Francis Solano, a 16th/17th century Franciscan.

I’m also thinking, since Jesus is THE Son, maybe Sonny would be a nice nickname for a Jesus name? Like Joshua, Christo, Emmanuel … I’ve always loved Christo/Cristo but thought it might be hard to work with and/or seen as disrespectful in English-speaking locales (though it’s used in other languages) — having a nickname like Sonny could make something like Christo/Cristo do-able as a legal name without the hassle maybe?

I really think Sonny could also work for any S name, especially if it has an N in it (Stephen, Solomon, Sebastian, Simon, Simeon), or any name containing or ending in -son (Samson or any number of surnames — maybe one in your family tree?), or really any name at all! Sonny is one of those Junior/Red/Chip-type nicknames that can be completely unrelated to the boy’s given name — it might be perfect if there’s some family member you’d love to honor but who has an unfortunate name, or a nickname for a Junior. Using Sonny as the exclusive call name means the given name can be anything at all. You know? 

Do you agree? What other names do you think would be good formal names for Sonny? Do you know anyone named Sonny, and if so — I’d love to know about his given name and how he got his nickname and whether he likes it!


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!

Birth announcement: Ann Margaret!

I did a private consultation for Kate and her husband in the fall, and I was so excited to hear that she’s given birth to her fifth baby — her fourth daughter! They gave her the simply wonderful name … Ann Margaret!

Kate writes,

I am happy to report that baby girl FINALLY arrived last weekend! (All of our babies have gone until 42 weeks, and it’s always a struggle at the end. My husband suggests the name Perpetua at the end each time 🤣)

Up until she was born we had the name Elise Hildegard picked out, but as soon as she was born she just was not an Elise! Funny how that works since I’ve never felt that way before! 

We settled on the name Ann Margaret, after her great grandma, and it just fits her bright eyed little face so well! And I love how it fits with her siblings: Jacob, Grace, Claire, Lucy and Ann! Bonus is that their names are all short enough that they all still fit on our Christmas card 🤣

We’ve been calling her Annie-Peg and it cracks me up but is also an adorable nickname!

Isn’t Ann Margaret just so sweet and sophisticated at once? Stunning! And I’m totally dying over Annie-Peg!! And, as I told Kate, I just love the name story — to be almost Elise Hildegard (also stunning!) but end up Ann Margaret, based on, as Kate said, her “bright eyed little face” — I love that so much! And I agree, her name goes so well with her siblings’ names!

Congratulations to Kate and her hubby and big brother and sisters Jacob, Grace, Claire, and Lucy, and happy birthday Baby Ann (Annie-Peg)!!

Ann Margaret

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!

Baby name consultation: Nicknames for Lawrence (and some other ideas too)

M. and her husband are expecting their first baby, a little green bean (=gender unknown)! 🌱 She writes,

We very recently found out we’re expecting again. I’ve had 3 previous losses, 2 very early and 1 at 11 weeks, so we are cautiously hopeful. I am a huge name nerd and we have been discussing names for years. We aren’t planning to find out gender so we want to have a name picked for each.

Our girl name is set — Maria Grace. My Mom and I are both variants of Mary and all of my Aunts and many cousins have the middle name Marie. I wanted to continue the Marian tradition with a little girl. I’m a chemist and my husband is in IT, so the name is also a nod to Marie Curie and Grace Hopper.

Boy names have been harder, with our last pregnancy, we had kind of settled on Nicholas Daniel, but neither of us were in love. Other names in the mix were Isaac, Charles, Anthony, Bernard and James. We wanted something that as he grows up, has a lot of nickname opportunities to fit his personality. My worry was that Nicholas Daniel dated too much into the 90s when Nicholas was most recently popular.

While we were trying to conceive this little green bean, I had a dream about a little boy, Anthony James, and grew attached to the name. It’s still a contender, but it doesn’t feel perfect.

A bit randomly I was scrolling a list of names that have never been out of the top 1000, and saw Lawrence. We both really liked it immediately! It just felt right in a way other names hadn’t. But is it an old man’s name? I know ‘old’ names are coming back, but I’ve not heard Lawrence mentioned for a baby ever. We wanted a harder middle name sound and think Lawrence Kolbe had a great flow, with great patron saints as well. We’re about 94% certain this is our boy pick (and open to suggestions).

And after that novel of explanation, the main point of us wanting the consultation: I loathe the nickname Larry for Lawrence and it seems like that’s the most accepted one. I would love suggestions for nicknames! I’m trying to make Rory fit because I adore the name but it’s not intuitive. Does that matter?

I absolutely love their girl name — Maria Grace is a gorgeous combo and sounds perfect for this family, for the reasons mentioned and also, of course, its Marian-ness. Beautiful!

As for their previous boy names, I think Nicholas Daniel is very handsome! Nicholas is exactly as M. described it — lots of nicknames to fit any personality — and I would include “classic” and “saintly” as well. I wouldn’t let its 90s popularity bother them — it entered the top 100 in 1972 and hasn’t left since, coming it at no. 74 in 2018 (the most recent year the data is available), so even though its top ten years were in the 90s, it’s a consistent, solid favorite. I continue to hear of babies named Nicholas — my husband and I considered it as well!

The other names they considered — Isaac, Charles, Anthony, Bernard, and James — are all similarly classic and saintly! Anthony was a top ten name from 2006-2008, and James has been since 2014 (no. 4 in 2018), which I think put them in good company with Nicholas. I love M.’s “dream name” as well — Anthony James is very handsome!

BUT! I mostly love Lawrence Kolbe!! What a fantastic name!! Please let me alleviate M.’s worries right away — I think Lawrence is wonderful for a little boy born in 2021! She’s right that it’s had an “old man” feel up until recently, but as she said, “old” names are definitely coming back. My eight-year-old actually had a Lawrence in his class in preschool — he went by the full Lawrence all the time, and his sister was Penelope, which is very popular currently, so I always felt like his parents had their fingers on the pulse of what’s up and coming.

I think M.’s question about nicknames for Lawrence is perfect, and so fun. As soon as she said Rory I LOVED it — I very much want them to name their son Lawrence Kolbe and call him Rory! That is simply wonderful!! I know that it might not seem intuitive, but when I was compiling a list of alternate nickname ideas, I remembered Laurie from Little Women, and Rory is absolutely not that big a leap from Laurie (or Lawrie). It reminds me of Bob for Robert, for example, or Daisy for Margaret, or Tony for Anthony, or Betsy/Lily/Buffy for Elizabeth — all traditional nicknames for the given names that don’t start with the same letter as the given name and in many cases aren’t intuitive at all. I say, go for it! (In fact, I’d included Lawrence as a possible patron saint for a little guy named Rory in this post!)

However, I can always come up with more ideas! I looked through the entry for Lawrence on Behind the Name for ideas, and came up with the following:

(1) Lars
This is a Scandinavian and German form of Lawrence, and makes an easy nickname.

(2) Lenz
Another German variant of Lawrence, and cool with that ending “z.”

(3) Rens, Ren
Rens is a Dutch variant, and I’ve actually seen Ren used as a nickname for Lawrence.

(4) Enzo, Renzo
Enzo and Renzo are both Italian short forms, and Renzo has Spanish usage as well.

(5) Larkin
What a sweet name! It’s a Medieval English diminutive of Lawrence.

In addition to those, Rence, Law, Laz (I think this is a very Australian construct — giving nicknames that end in Z, like Baz for Barry, Shaz for Sharon, etc.), and Law are all doable. A crazy but maybe really cool idea could be Lolek — it’s the nickname St. John Paul II went by as a child, I believe it’s a diminutive of his name Karol, which is the Polish for Charles, but it makes total sense for Lawrence Kolbe, and gets an extra saint reference in there! (Here’s a little guy named Lolek whose [belated] birth announcement I posted to the blog.)

Those are my ideas for nicknames for Lawrence, but M. also said they were open to suggestions, and their name dilemma and taste, as well as M.s profession as a chemist and her hubby’s work in IT (and the fact that M. used “about 94%” to describe their level of certainty about Lawrence Kolbe as their frontrunner — 94% is very precise! I love it!), reminded me of two consultations I did previously: one for a family who loves science and technology (I’d suggested Charles for Babbage and Hopper for Grace for them!) and one for a family who wanted a science or nature reference included in each of their children’s names (I’d suggested Nicholas for them, after Tesla; this family specifically wanted alliterative first+middle combos, so Nicholas Neri was my full suggestion — it’s unexpected-but-saintly middle name reminds me of Lawrence Kolbe!). So I looked back at those consultations to see what other boy names I’d suggested and thought these might be nice additions to M.’s list:

(1) Gerard
This had actually been inspired by the character of Ged in the fantasy/sci-fi Earthsea series, and I’d previously seen Ged suggested as a nickname for Gerard, and St. Gerard is amazing, so I love the idea of Gerard nicknamed Ged — very like Lawrence nicknamed Rory! For reference, Gerard hasn’t been in the top 1000 since 2002 (I find that so surprising!).

(2) George
George is one of the first “old man” names I observed come back into fashion — a friend of mine named her son George ten years ago and I remember being surprised, and now I know so many little guys named George! Fr. George LeMaitre was the priest who came up with the Big Bang Theory, and the nicknames Geo and Geordie have that unexpectedness that Rory for Lawrence and Ged for Gerard have. George was no. 127 in 2018.

(3) Reginald
Reginald’s inspiration for that science+nature family was theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (they wanted a theologian’s name in addition to a science/nature name), and Reginald jumped out at me for M. and her husband when I was looking back through those consultations, as I think it has a really “Lawrence” feel. I don’t have any cool nickname ideas, but if they like Reginald, I could certainly try to come up with some! (And if any of you know of any, I’d love to hear them!) Reginald was no. 831 in 2018, which I find fascinating. Old is definitely new!

And those are all my ideas for this little bean! What do you all think? What nicknames for Lawrence and/or other name(s) would you suggest if they have a boy? Please keep M. and her baby in your prayers!


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 expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Spotlight on: Quinn

Happy Tuesday everybody! I’ve done a bunch of private consultations recently (which is totally fine and wonderful! There’s absolutely no requirement or pressure to have your consultation posted here for reader feedback!), so I don’t know when my next Monday consultation post will be — I just wanted to let you know, because I can see from my traffic stats (generally, and specifically yesterday) that a lot of people pop in on Mondays to see them!

I’ve been wanting to do a spotlight on Quinn for a while, ever since I posted this baby name consultation back in January, where I stated confidently: “Quinn: not in top 1000 for girls; no. 384 for boys” and reader VEL gently pointed out in the comments: “I’m pretty sure Quinn ranked #84 for girls for 2018:)”. She was right, of course — I have no idea how I got that wrong, since I looked up Quinn for both girls and boys in the SSA data — could I have spelled it wrong? Who knows, but the point remains that I was 100% completely wrong and that Quinn is currently a top 100 name for girls, and it’s got a great faith connection that lots of parents of have been loving: Ven. Edel Quinn.

I’ve written about the Irish Ven. Edel before, including my encounter with an actual real-life Edel in Ireland, in several baby name consultations (including the one mentioned above), and these Sancta Nomina babies who were named after her: Kyteria Quinn and Harper Edel. She’s pretty amazing! And totally my go-to for a holy patron for a Quinn, girl or boy. I don’t know of any other Ven./Bl./St. with the name Quinn, but I’ve also seen Quinn suggested as a nickname for Aquinas for a boy, which is pretty awesome, and there’s also the girl name Aquinnah (like one of Michael J. Fox’s daughters), which can take Quinn as a nickname and St. Thomas Aquinas as a patron. The spelling Quin might feel more natural as a nickname for Aquinas and Quintus, and doing so moves it a bit away from the Irish surname feel, which some parents might prefer.

Here on the blog, I’ve seen Quinn suggested for a fifth baby because of its similarity in sound to “quint,” as a namesake for St. Quentin, and in honor of Our Lady because of its similarity in sound to “queen.” I totally think they work! (Though Quinn has no etymological connection to any of these, being instead from the anglicization of an Irish surname meaning “descendant of Conn,” where Conn means “head” or “chief.” So then maybe using it to mean “queen” is pretty accurate after all!)

As a given name, I first heard it on a little boy years ago, before I was married, and I thought it was so cool. These days, I mostly hear it on girls (even though I claimed in that consultation I mentioned above that it wasn’t nearly as popular for girls as for boys, I really just don’t know where my head was). We have a little friend who’s just a couple months older than Luke named Quinn, and her family calls her Quinnie and so does my 6yo, and it’s the cutest thing ever. I will also say that with at least one of the little Quinns I know, I spent months thinking her name was Gwen before realizing it’s actually Quinn (and I try to be really careful about names!). But I don’t think that’s a big deal at all — both Quinn and Gwen are beautiful!

What do you all think of Quinn? Do you like it better for a boy or a girl? Would you ever consider the name Quinn for your son or daughter, or have you? If not as a given name, maybe Quinn or Quin as a nickname for something else? Do you know any Quinns? Do they like their name?


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 expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

 

Feminine-feeling nicknames for boys

Last week’s birth announcement for little Magnus Craig, in which his mama said her daughter calls him Maggie sometimes, which “always makes us cringe and correct her because it’s a girl name, sigh,” reminded me of other examples of natural nicknames for boy names that sound like girl names — especially those that have old usage. Like:

Christy, as in Christy Mahon (given name: Christopher), a character in J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World

Connie, as in baseballer Connie Mack (given name: Cornelius McGillicuddy)

Gabby, the nickname an older man I know insists on calling a Gabriel he knows (who I know goes only by Gabe)

Gussie, the nickname my dad always called his friend Augustus growing up

Jackie, as in segregation-smashing baseballer Jackie Robinson (given name: Jack Roosevelt Robinson) and a boy I know named Jack whose dad has called him Jackie affectionately since he was little

Jody, Josey, and Joss all have usage as nicknames for Joseph (here’s a list of male Jodys, though not all have the given name Joseph; I was sure the title [fictional] character in the Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Josey Wales was baptized Joseph, but I can’t find any evidence to support that; producer/director/etc. Joss Whedon‘s given name is Joseph) (funny story about Josey — years ago, before my hubby had a chance to absorb name info via my constant chattering at him about it, and him not having given names any real thought otherwise, I mentioned that someone’s baby girl was named Josie and he said, “But that’s a boy’s name!” He had only ever heard it in the Josey Wales movie, and for him, Josey was all masculinity and ruggedness because of Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of the character. Hilarious!)

Mandy, as in actor Mandy Patinkin (given name: Mandel)

Sally, as in Sally Tessio (given name: Salvatore), a character in The Godfather (a funny tidbit is that there’s a character in PBS’ Curious George named Sally Tessio! She’s a restaurant critic!)

Steph, as in NBA player Steph Curry (given name: Wardell Stephen Curry; in this case, the nickname Steph reveals his pronunciation of Stephen)

Sue, the nickname of the grandfather of one of our readers (Grandpa’s given name was Assundo, after the Assumption!) (I’ve written before about Susan being used as an “anglicization” of the feminine Italian name Assunta, including in my book) (unrelated, but fascinating: the song “A Boy Named Sue” may have been based on Sue K. Hicks, a prosecutor in the Scopes Trial, who was named after his mother, Susanna)

I love how affectionate some of these feel — adding an “ee” sound on the end of a name automatically makes it feel more intimate, I think — very like something parents or siblings would do to their baby/baby sibling’s name (our Luke gets called Lukey by all of us a good part of the time!). I also think this was more common with older generations (almost all of the examples above are of old or deceased men of another era) — I quite liked the idea of Joseph nicknamed Jody when I was expecting one of our older boys, and one of the reasons was because it had an old timey feel to me.

Do you agree? Can you think of other examples like this?


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 expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Saintly nickname names

There are a few names that started as nicknames, by which here I mean short forms or diminutives of other names, but have come to be considered formal names in their own rights. Some examples are Jack (diminutive of John), Pippa (diminutive of Philippa), Alison (diminutive of Alice) and Alice itself (a short form of Adalheidis [Adelaide]), Nancy (originally a diminutive of Agnes’ variant Annis, and later of Anne as well), Emmett (diminutive of Emma) and Elliott (diminutive of Elias [Elijah]), Molly (diminutive of Mary), Robin (diminutive of Robert), Austin (contracted form of Augustine), and Bennett (short form of Benedict). Many of these date back to the medieval period.

I was reading about Mickey Mantle recently and the fact that Mickey was his given name, not a nickname for Michael (which is how I’m most familiar with it). (Funny enough, Mickey Mantle was named for Mickey Cochrane, whose given name wasn’t Michael — it was Gordon! But he’d been nicknamed “Black Mike” because of his “fiery, competitive nature,” which I’m assuming is where Mickey came from?) Other names that started as nicknames (diminutives or short forms) that we often see bestowed as given first names include Jake, Maggie, Sadie, Archie (hello, little prince), Liam, and Mia.

There’s another set of nicknames that have taken on a life of their own as given names, which a recent consultation post reminded me of. It included a discussion of Nell as a given name and the parents’ preference for it to be a nickname for a more formal, saintly given name:

Nell is a name we’d both be excited to use which isn’t so easy to find. The trouble is that it’s really a nickname and we don’t care for the options for a full name. If we don’t use a full name like Helen the saintly connection is less obvious.

In this case, the hesitancy to use Nell as the given name is less about style (its nicknaminess) and more about the saintly connection being less obvious. A couple of you suggested Little Nellie of Holy God for the saintly connection* — she’s mostly known as Nellie, even though her baptismal name was Ellen, and I can see parents naming daughters Nellie with her in mind, since that’s the name mostly attached to the stories of her holiness. In this same vein, I thought it would be fun to compile a listing of saintly names that are actually nicknames (I don’t mean religious names). These include:

St. Rose of Lima
Rose’s birth name was Isabel! According to this site, “Isabel del Flores y del Olivia, known to history as St. Rose of Lima … was baptized on the day of her birth, with her aunt, Isabel de Herrara, acting as her godmother. The baby was named after her aunt, Isabel. Because the child was so beautiful, she was nicknamed Rosa or Rose. History and her family would call her by this name.”

St. Francis of Assisi
Francis’ birth name was John! According to his Wikipedia entry, “[His dad] Pietro was in France on business when Francis was born in Assisi, and [his mother, a Frenchwoman named] Pica had him baptized as Giovanni. Upon his return to Assisi, Pietro took to calling his son Francesco (“the Frenchman”), possibly in honor of his commercial success and enthusiasm for all things French.” (cited as the source: Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1924). “St. Francis of Assisi” (14 ed.). Garden City, New York: Image Books: 158.)

St. Zelie
It’s perhaps not as unfamiliar that St. Zelie’s given name was Marie-Azélie, but she went by Zelie — and that’s the name I see her called and bestowed in her honor most often.

St. Bernadette
St. Bernadette’s given name was actually Marie-Bernarde! This site even refers to her as Marie, which I find kind of hilarious. As with so many of these nicknames, once you know that Bernadette (“little Bernarde,” where Bernarde is the French feminine form of Bernard) is a diminutive of her name, it takes on a such a sweet, affectionate feel.

Juanito (St. Juan Diego)
This one isn’t exactly like my previous examples, because I haven’t heard of lots babies being named Juanito when wanting to honor St. Juan Diego — in fact, I only know of one Juanito (the pastor of my parish), but I asked him about his name and it is, indeed, his given name, and it was bestowed in honor of St. Juan Diego, as Our Lady called him: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito, the most humble of my sons …” ❤

Lolek (St. John Paul II)
Like with Juanito, it’s rare to hear of a little Lolek, but I have heard it from time to time from Catholic parents looking for a different way to honor St. John Paul the Great, as it was his childhood nickname.

Can you think of other examples of Saints being known as a name that was not their given name (and not their religious name), which would be the name parents would be most likely to choose in their honor? Do you know of any little ones named in the style of Juanito and Lolek — nicknames that aren’t as well known and aren’t necessarily the names the Saints are known as, but are absolutely connected to them?

* As far as I can tell, Little Nellie’s cause for canonization has not been opened, though it’s pretty amazing that she was the reason Pope St. Pius X lowered the age of Communion for children: “‘There! That is the sign for which I was waiting.’ — Pope St Pius X after hearing about the holy life of little Nellie. A few months later in 1910 he issued “Quam Singulari” which significantly lowered the age of Holy Communion for children.”


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!

 

Baby name consultation: Baby no. 9 needs a name that isn’t “completely ordinary,” yet not unheard of

Sarah and her husband are expecting their ninth baby — a little green bean (=gender unknown)! This little girl or boy joins big siblings:

Cody Michael
Benjamin Scott
Claire Elizabeth
Dominic Anthony
Grace Cathryn
Peter Charles
Caroline Maria
Charlotte Zelie (“she goes mostly by ‘Zelie’“)

What a great bunch of names!! It’s important to note that Sarah acknowledged that her oldest’s name is more modern than they have come to prefer, though I did try to find names that can bridge Cody’s style with that of his siblings’ names.

Sarah writes,

This baby will be a “tiebreaker”, as we currently have 4 boys and 4 girls. We are starting to run out of (primarily boy) names, so are curious what you are able to come up with. We have an unwritten rule that the names be traditional and also double as a Saint name. Our style of “traditional” appears to be names that aren’t completely ordinary, yet are definitely not unheard of. The middle names have either been a family name or a powerhouse Saint. We are open to nontraditional for a middle name if it is a super Catholic “mic drop” of a name.”

A “super Catholic ‘mic drop’ of a name”!! I love that!!

Names we cannot use are:
Alexander
Nicholas
John (open to John Paul, however)
Christian
James
Andrew
Rachel
Gabrielle
Lily
Thomas

I was sort of glad to see that they’re struggling with boy names, because I felt like I had an easier time coming up with boy names than with girl names!

As I mentioned, Cody was actually a big inspiration to me when I was trying to come up with name ideas for this baby. His name is certainly an outlier, and I really wanted to try to come up with an idea or two that might make his name seem more a part of the group. First though, I was glad to see that it means “helpful,” which could put it in the same category as Grace — that is, a virtue-type name. That’s a nice spin to put on it! And Michael is a great middle. I’ve included Cody-esque ideas in my suggestions below.

I do like that they’re open to John Paul, I think that’s a great option! I like that it incorporates biblical names, like Benjamin and Peter, and is a heavy-hitting faithy name. It can also take the nicknames Jack and JP, which I think fit in quite nicely with Cody.

You all know that I always start consultations by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel popularity. Within those results, I look for names or connections that have a solid faith connection. It’s a fun process! Based on that, these are my ideas for Sarah’s little one:

Girl
(1) Josephine
I couldn’t help but notice they like French girl names — Claire, Caroline, Charlotte, and Zelie are all French, but in an understated way (especially Claire, Caroline, and Charlotte), where they don’t at all clash with the other kiddos’ names. I hoped to find a similarly not-overly-obvious French name to suggest, and Josephine was a result from my research that seemed perfect. It can honor St. Joseph, or any of the holy Josephines.

(2) Isabella
Funny enough, though the French Isabelle is a style match for Charlotte, I thought the spelling Isabella was a better suggestion for this family, as Queen Isabella of Portugal, aka St. Elizabeth of Portugal, is a great patron. Isabelle can, of course, honor her as well if they prefer, as can Isabel, which was a style match for both Claire and Caroline. I normally wouldn’t suggest an Elizabeth name for them, since Claire’s middle name is Elizabeth, but since they used three Charles names, I thought they were probably fine with considering another Elizabeth name.

(3) Hannah
I was excited to see that Hannah is a style match for Benjamin and Grace—Benjamin is the only Old Testament name they have, so I like that Hannah would loop him in a bit, and having it be a style match for Grace makes it really feel like it fits in well with the other kids as well. Hannah is such a sweet name and can take St. Anne as a patron, as it’s an Anne variant.

(4) Felicity
I think Felicity is the kind of name that exactly fits Sarah and her hubby’s style of “traditional,” as they put it: “names that aren’t completely ordinary, yet are definitely not unheard of.” It’s super saintly and has a long history of usage, and St. Felicity is one of the best patrons for a girl, in my opinion (there are others as well). I spotlighted it here.

(5) Avila
Finally, in my hopes of finding names that could feel a little more Cody-esque while still checking off their other boxes, I’d thought a saintly surname or place name might do the trick: Kolbe, Clairvaux, or Cabrini, for example (but not those, since they’re too similar to Cody, Claire, and Caroline). Avila was one that I thought might do nicely. It’s got its own entry on behindthename, which tells you that it’s “definitely not unheard of,” and it’s the kind of name that families with Dominics and Zelies often choose. St. Teresa of Avila is a great patron, and a Doctor of the Church, which is so great for a little girl!

Boy
(1) Luke
Luke is biblical, like Benjamin and Peter; it’s four letters, like Cody; and it’s Marian, like Dominic! (Marian due to the fact that his gospel is the most Marian, containing within in the Annunciation and Our Lady’s Magnificat, for example; St. Dominic is a very Marian saint due to the fact that Our Lady tasked him with promulgating her rosary). I like Luke a lot for for this family! Being short, it can also take a longer middle name, which some of the heavy hitting “mic drop” names are (e.g., Luke Augustine, Luke Maximilian, Luke Emmanuel).

(2) Gabriel
Speaking of biblical names and the Annunciation, what about Gabriel? I’ve seen Benjamin and Gabriel brother sets fairly frequently, as well as Dominic and Gabriel brother sets, so it feels like a good fit. Gabriel’s also mentioned in both the Old Testament and New Testament, which is nice for Benjamin and Peter. They have Gabrielle on their “no” list for girls, but I’m hoping Gabriel’s okay for a boy!

(3) Joseph
I suggested Josephine above for a girl, but what about Joseph for a boy? I’m loving that it’s both an Old and New Testament name, and St. Joseph is such an amazing patron for a boy. It was also St. John Paul’s birth middle name, and Pope Benedict’s pre-papal first name. Lots of great connections!

(4) Henry
Henry reminds me of Hannah in that it’s such a sweet name! It’s a style match for Grace, Caroline, and Charlotte, and has a great saintly pedigree — I actually did a spotlight post of it here. Also, since Sarah mentioned possibly being open to John Paul, I wonder if they’d consider John Henry? It would be a really nice nod to our brand new St. John Henry Newman, and can also take the nickname Jack.

(5) Owen
Owen actually showed up a few times in my research — it’s a style match for Claire, Grace, and Charlotte, as well as Logan, which I looked up in order to add to the names that could be style matches for Cody. I think Owen is a great idea for this family! My favorite patron is St. Nicholas Owen — he was amazing! But there are actually a few Owens they can choose from for patron.

(6) Austin
Austin might be my favorite suggestion for this family for a boy. It’s a style match for Cody (!), and it’s a contracted form of Augustine! While it might have a modern feel, it’s been in use for a long time. There are the Austin Friars, founded in 1253, also known as the Hermits of St. Augustine, and I loved this medal for St. Augustine of Canterbury that says “St. Austin” on it. They could also do Augustine with the nickname Austin if they want.

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Cody, Benjamin, Claire, Dominic, Grace, Peter, Caroline, and Zelie?


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!

Baby name consultation: Baby girl needs strong name that can be shortened to something fun

Happy sixth day of Christmas, and the feast of the Holy Family!!

Today’s consultation was a fun one to work on because the parameters are pretty broad! Emily (middle name Jane, which is important) writes:

This is our first baby and we are having a baby girl … My husband and I want to make sure she has a strong name, one that will seem appropriate at all stages in life … We also are wanting her to have my grandmothers name, Ruenell, in there somewhere. I am southern so I am partial to traditional names that can be shortened to something fun, but that is by no means a must.”

When I asked if Emily could give me a sense of what names she and her hubby like or don’t like, so that I had a better idea of what part of the name universe to focus on, she replied,

I went back over the list of names we have compiled over the years and there is a good healthy mix of traditional and quirky so we are happy to stand back and let you do your thing!

SO EXCITING! And also terrifying! Haha!

To start, I really love Emily’s middle name, Jane, and thought it fit the exact kind of name she said she and her hubby are looking for: “strong … one that will seem appropriate at all stages in life.” Jane is gorgeous! So Jane Ruenell would be my first suggestion. It honors Emily by using her middle name (how nice for a mom and her daughter to have a connection like that!), which is a great name for a little girl and for a grown woman of all ages, and it includes Emily’s grandmother’s name. Janie is a sweet nickname too.

Ruenell is such an interesting name! I’m guessing that they don’t want to use Ruenell as a first name, but Rue and Nell are both such great nicknames that I thought something like Mary Ruenell nicknamed Rue or Nell might be a good option for them to consider.

Since Emily said she’s partial to names that can be shortened to something fun, I tried to come up with some interesting nicknames that combine sounds from my first name suggestions with sounds from Ruenell as a middle name — one of my favorite strategies for coming up with interesting nicknames — as I thought the middle name spot was where they’d prefer to put Ruenell. However, before I get to those ideas, I was also thinking that Ruenell could conceivably be a nickname that results from combining elements of two other names — which I’m sure is not the kind of idea they were hoping for, but I had fun coming up with some ideas in that vein, so I thought I would share them just in case. Like:

Ruth Penelope nn Ruenell
Ruby Eleanor nn Ruenell

But back to my other first-name ideas. You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents like in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Since Emily and her hubs wanted to hear fresh ideas without providing parameters, my usual methodology wouldn’t be helpful, so I basically just combed through my mental files for names that I consider to be strong and able to grow with a girl into womanhood. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the ones that came to mind:

(1) Catherine/Katherine
I’m not starting with C/Katherine because it’s my own name (haha!) but because it’s definitely one of the names that I think works at all stages of a girl’s life. The full C/Katherine is serious, sophisticated, and dignified, and there are a bunch of nickname options that fit any kind of family and personality. Some of these are: Cate/Kate/Catie/Katie/Cady, Cass, Casey, Cat/Kat, Cathy/Kathy, and Kit/Kitty.

(2) Margaret
Like C/Katherine, Margaret is appropriate for all ages, and has a bunch of great nicknames as well, like Maggie, Meg, Maisie, Daisy, and Peg/Peggy. Variants that can be used as nicknames or given names on their own include Greta, Rita, and Margo/Margot. An unrelated name that nevertheless has some history of usage as a Margaret nickname is Molly. Lots of cool options here!

(3) Elizabeth
C/Katherine, Margaret, and Elizabeth are considered the classic English trio of girl names — they’ve been used by royals and non-royals alike for centuries in many different European countries and there are a bunch of patron saints for each one. Elizabeth is perhaps the mama of the nickname-rich girl names — there are SO MANY! Liz/Lizzy, Beth, and Ellie are probably the most expected, but I love some of the quirkier options like Elsa, Libby, Libbet, Lily, and Tess.

(4) Anna, Anne
Anna has a sweeter feel, I think, and Anne is maybe more stern — but then again, what girl doesn’t love Anne of Green Gables? Annie is a darling nickname.

(5) Julia
Julia is feminine and lovely while also passing the “Supreme Court Test” (that is, Julia would be fine and appropriate for a Supreme Court justice). Julie and Jules are familiar nicknames, but I’ve seen Jilly and Lia, and Juliet actually started as a diminutive of Julia, so it can be used as a nickname for Julia (though it’s rare to do so these days. I also love Juliet as a given name).

(6) Madeline, Madeleine
I love all variants of Magdalene, but I think Madeline and Madeleine are the ones that come across as the most “professional” maybe. Maddy is always a cute nickname for a little girl — whether she’s super feminine or a tomboy — and I think Molly can work too.

(7) Susanna
I love the name Susanna (the girl name we’ve saved through all our boys!) — I think it’s a strong, feminine name, and I love that it has a bunch of nickname options, like Susie/Sue and Anna/Annie as well as the quirkier and sweet Zuzu, Sassy, and Sunny! A reader just recently suggested Sam/Sammie as a nickname for Susanna(h) plus an M middle name, which I thought was great.

(8) Lydia
One of my favorite things about the name Lydia is that the Lydia in the bible was a seller of purple cloth — how cool that the name comes with its own color! I love the nickname Lyddie, SO charming!

(9) Frances
I think Frances could border on seeming too severe for everyday use for a little girl, but if so, its nicknames save it: Frannie, Francie, and Frankie are spunky and fun!

(10) Gemma
Gemma is probably the most offbeat of my suggestions, but it’s traditional and saintly and I think it fits in as well on the playground as it does in the boardroom.

(11) Cecilia
If Gemma is the most offbeat, Cecilia might be the softest of my suggestions, but it certainly works for any age and any kind of girl/woman, in my opinion. Cece and Celia are great nickname possibilities.

(12) Teresa
I can definitely see Teresa on both a little girl and a woman (and I know Teresas of both age groups!). I mentioned Tess earlier as a nickname for Elizabeth, which I do love, but Tess and Tessa are originally and usually nicknames for the Teresa names. Reese and Resa can also work.

(13) Bridget
I couldn’t end the list without adding Bridget — it’s such a familiar name, but I don’t hear it in real life too often. I’d be pleasantly surprised to hear it on a little girl, and it certainly has enough weight for a woman. Bridge/Bridgey and Bridey are adorable nicknames.

I think there’s a good bunch of styles and ideas above that fit Emily and her husband’s hope for a strong name that can fit their little girl at all stages of her life, and there are some really fun nickname options too. I mentioned above that I toyed with nickname ideas that involve combining first name elements with Ruenell as a middle — they include:

Catherine Ruenell nn Carly
Julia Ruenell nn Junie
Susanna Ruenell nn Zelie
Lydia Ruenell nn Lyra or Lynnie
Bridget Ruenell nn Bell or Bella
Madeline Ruenell nn Marnie or Marley
Katherine Ruenell nn Katie-Rue or Katie-Nell
Teresa Ruenell nn Tessa-Rue or Truly

It’s fun to try to come up with some fun and quirky options!

And those are all of my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for Emily that fit her hope for “a strong name, one that will seem appropriate at all stages in life,” that might also be able to be shortened to “something fun”?


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 expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Baby name consultation: First baby (girl) needs a classic, saintly, not-unusual name

Merry Christmas Eve’s Eve! (Or Christmas Adam, if that’s the way you roll. 😂) I hope your house is as full of joy and anticipation as mine is! A very happy and holy Christmas to you all! ❤ ❤ ❤

Today’s consultation is for a dad! Chris and his wife are expecting their first baby — a girl! He writes,

[W]e’re having a really hard time coming up with girls names that we love. We like classic names, and would like a strong saint connection. So no Kateri or Perpetua or Felicity or anything like that (too unusual). Also, no place names, no objects, no common nouns. Ana, Alexandria, Catherine, Lynn, Jennifer, and Madeleine are out due to them being in use by cousins already. The nickname is just as important since that’s going to be what we hear every day!

We had a boys name that we love, Nicholas Anthony, but that will have to wait for a future child, God willing.

For a girl, we’re toying with Victoria Nicole, nickname would be Tori because neither one of us likes Vickie, but just can’t seem to pull the trigger and say that’s definitely the one.”

Expecting your first baby is such a wonderful, exciting time! From a name perspective, I always think it’s fun to work with first-time parents because they have a blank slate –they can choose any kind of name they want, without any worries about it “going with” older children’s names. That said, it can be daunting to have so many options in front of you, and I do encourage parents in this position to give some thought to their future children’s names so that they don’t make a decision with their first baby’s name, style-wise, that they might regret with later children. For example, if Galaxy is your very favorite name, but other names on your list are Kate, Jane, and Mark, Galaxy probably isn’t the best name to choose.

I only explain this in case it’s helpful to any of you, but Chris and his wife actually seem to have a great handle on this already! Nicholas Anthony and Victoria Nicole are well-matched style-wise, and they give me a good idea of what other kinds of names they might like.

Before discussing my additional ideas for them, I want to talk about Victoria Nicole for a minute. There are a bunch of Saints and Blesseds named Victoria, so they have a lot of options for a patron saint if they name their daughter Victoria, and it’s also a Marian name by virtue of the fact that one of Our Lady’s title is Our Lady of Victory. Chris said he and his wife are thinking of Tori for the nickname since neither of them likes Vickie, which makes me think that they might like to consider some of the other nicknames I’ve seen considered for Victoria: Vee, Via, Vicka, Cora, Tia, Ria, and Ree (like the Pioneer Woman! Though Ree for her is a nickname for Ann Marie). As for Nicole, while I quite like how it sounds with Victoria, I wonder if they want to have a daughter with the middle name Nicole and a son with the first name Nicholas? It doesn’t have to be a big deal and I know a lot of families who have done similar things, but I thought I should point it out, just in case they hadn’t realized that they’re basically the same name (Nicole being a feminine variant of Nicholas).

You all know that I start my consultations by looking up the names the parents like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I then look for overlap among those results — a Venn diagram of names — to find names that the parents are most likely to like. It’s uncannily accurate most of the time! I also poke around in my own mind for ideas that feel like the parents’ style, and I’m a big fan of nicknames, so I liked that Chris said, “The nickname is just as important since that’s going to be what we hear every day” — you know I love coming up with nickname ideas!

Based on my research and my own ideas, these are names that seem like they would be a good fit for Chris and his wife:

(1) Elizabeth, Isabella
Chris said they like classic names with a strong saint connection, and since Victoria also has such a strong royal vibe, I thought Elizabeth was a great suggestion, as it’s similarly classic, saintly, and royal. It’s a great name on its own, but one of the best things about Elizabeth is that it has so many nickname options! Liz/Lizzy, Beth, Betsy, Eliza, Ellie, Elsie, Libby, Libbet, Lily, and a whole bunch more all have traditional usage as nicknames for Elizabeth. Another Elizabeth variant that I thought Chris and his wife might like is Isabella. It’s currently popular, but it’s got a long history of usage, including several queens. Izzy, Isa, and Bella are sweet nicknames for it. Both Elizabeth and Isabella can have Our Lady’s cousin Elizabeth as patron, or any of a whole bunch of holy Elizabeths/Isabellas.

(2) Margaret
Like Victoria and Elizabeth (and Catherine, which is on their no list), Margaret is a classic, saintly, royal name. There are quite a few holy Margarets, and there are quite a few traditional Margaret nicknames, including Maggie, Meg, Maisie, Peg/Peggy, Rita, and Daisy. I’ve also seen Molly used as a nickname for Margaret, though they’re technically not linguistically related (Molly is a variant of Mary). That said, Margaret nicknamed Molly is a great way to have a Marian connection without naming your daughter a Mary variant.

(3) NatalieNatalia
Elizabeth, Isabella, and Margaret were my gut-reaction ideas before doing any research for Chris and his wife, but the rest of my ideas here are all based on the results I got from the BNW. Natalie is listed as a style match for Nicholas, Anthony, and Nicole! It’s a beautiful, traditional name that literally refers to Christmas (it comes from the Latin natale domini, which means “birth of the Lord”), but of course it’s suitable for a baby girl born any time of year! Nat and Natty are sweet nicknames, and if they wanted to get a little creative, I could see Nolly working too. Natalie’s a variant of Natalia, which is also a lovely option, and opens up the nicknames Talia and Lia. Natalia is where a patron saint would come: there are two Saints and two Blesseds named Natalia.

(4) Caroline
Caroline is a style match for both Nicholas and Victoria per the BNW. I love the name Caroline — it’s so classy and elegant, and has some pretty great patron saints. It has a lot of nickname options too, like Callie, Carrie, Caro, and Carly. Carly’s actually a style match for Tori!

(5) Veronica
I often think of Victoria and Veronica as being similar, since they’re both long, feminine names starting with V and ending with A. But they have very different feels to me — Victoria has that royal English feel I mentioned before, while Veronica has a biblical feel (though she’s never named in the bible). I think many parents would think daughters Victoria and Veronica in the same family are too much, so if Chris and his wife like Veronica I could see them thinking Victoria is off their list — which will be a good litmus test for them. If it makes him and his wife really unhappy to cross Victoria off their list, then they should definitely forget Veronica! But if they like it, some nicknames include Nic/Nica/Nicky (like Nicole and Nicholas, so maybe not?), Ronnie, Vera, Evie, Nona, Ricki, and there are some that are shared with Victoria, like Vee, Via, and Vicka. Maybe even Nora? I spotlighted Veronica here.

(6) Julia
Julia is a match for Victoria and is biblical like Nicholas, and has that same classiness and loveliness that all of these names have, in my opinion. Julie and Jules are the nicknames for Julia that most people are familiar with I think, but Juliet is actually a diminutive of Julia and used to be used as a nickname for Julia so they could do that if they wanted. Other nickname possibilities for Julia include Lia, Lula/Lulu, and Jilly. I spotlighted Juliet here, which included a conversation about Julia patron saints.

(7) Rebecca
I’m not convinced that they’ll love Rebecca, but it’s a style match for Nicholas, and I liked that it’s classic and lovely in a different way than Victoria, Elizabeth, Isabella, Margaret, Natalie, Caroline, Veronica, and Julia, even though two of those are biblical like Rebecca. I think it’s because it’s such an Old Testament name — its echoes of the ancient past are inspiring and royal in their own way. Of course Becky is a very modern nickname, which, it occurs to me, might strike Chris and his wife as overly similar to Vickie, which they don’t like. I saw a birth announcement once for a baby Rebecca whose parents were calling Ruby as a nickname — I loved that! Because of that story, I was inspired to do a spotlight of Ruby (here). Other Rebecca nicknames include Becca, Bex, and Reba, and there are two saints to choose from as patron.

(8) Tessa
I feel like I have a good sense of Chris and his wife’s taste in given names based on Nicholas, Anthony, Victoria, and Nicole, but I don’t feel like I have a great sense of their  taste in nicknames. That they prefer Tori to Vickie says to me they like more modern nicknames, but I don’t know if they like (or at least don’t mind) creative nicknames (like some of the ones I mentioned above, that aren’t traditional for the given name) or if they prefer to stick with a formal name’s established nicknames and find creative nicknames to be irritating. But Tessa is a style match for Tori, per the BNW, and I immediately thought they might like it. It can work on its own as a given name, but as such I don’t think it has the “classic names” cachet Chris said he and his wife prefer. It originated as a diminutive of Teresa/Theresa/Therese, and I think it could also work as a nickname for Thomasina, so any of those can work as a given name, but I’m not convinced they’d like them (though Theresa is a style match for Anthony). So if they like Tessa, maybe they wouldn’t mind getting creative? I once saw Tess listed as a nickname for Elizabeth — Tess has a slightly different feel than Tessa, but this at least is one idea; the spellings Elisabeth and Elisabetta make the connection even stronger. Another way I like to come up with nicknames is by combining elements of the first and middle names — so maybe a first name with a strong T sound and a middle name with a strong S sound that ends in A? Like … Tara Susanna, Trinity Vanessa, Tegan Jessica, and Talia Marissa (or Natalia Marissa, because of how the T is stressed in Natalia …. OR, for that matter, Victoria! I could see something like Victoria Jessamine taking the nickname Tessa quite well!). (I know those combos aren’t Chris and his wife’s style, I’m just using them as examples.) (Don’t worry if you think I’m crazy! My poor husband has been tormented by my outside-the-box thinking through each of my pregnancies. 😂 😂 😂 I just like to make sure parents have lots of options.)

And those are my ideas for Chris and his wife’s baby girl! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for parents whose list consists of Nicholas Anthony and Victoria Nicole?


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 — a perfect🎄Christmas gift🎄 for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!