Baby name consultation: Fresh options needed for girls and boys

Happy Labor Day! No better day to post a consultation! 😉

Sometimes parents will request a consultation when they’re in between babies — the planners among you (like me!) will understand! It’s fun to replenish/refresh name lists when there’s no baby on the way and no pressure. I always enjoy those kinds of consultations, and tend to view them as a chance to spread my wings a bit — to seek a bit farther afield for ideas and to suggest some that I might not suggest if a baby’s arrival is imminent and Mom and Dad just need to find “the” name.

Today’s consultation is one such! Monica and her hubby recently welcomed their second baby — second girl! — and wanted to add some names to their girl list and see if there are any boy names that I might suggest as well. They currently have:

Magdalene Eve-Marie “Maggie”
Genevieve Rose “Genny”

Gorgeous, right??

For reference, my name is Monica Marie, confirmation name Bridget (but it’s for St. Brigid of Ireland). My husband is Joseph Martin, confirmation name Cyril.

Our main ethnic heritage is — from my side — Italian, with some German, Irish, and Scottish — from his side — French, Irish, and Ukrainian. Tidbits of other stuff, but those are the major lines.

Other names that have been at the top of our girl list in the past are Miriam (still high) and Ramona (falling in favor). These days we mostly only like Ramona because we had paired it with Carmel as a middle name, which we still like. Perhaps we could do Miriam Carmel instead. It’s not bad, though I think I preferred Carmel with Ramona because it ended in -a.

We also like Grace quite a bit. I like Avila, Mercedes, Edith, Celine, Faith and Hope … Anne (I love Anne of Green Gables, like every girl…) … but my husband isn’t as keen on those. My husband has a thing for Russian names and likes Natasha, but I don’t. I would consider Nadia or Sonya instead. We’ve recently been reading Kristin Lavransdatter, and were intrigued by Sunniva, but it’s probably too Scandinavian for us.

Aside from the Marian requirement, I think our girl name style is very feminine, elegant, but not over the top frilly/sugary/sticky sweet … We like the names Rebecca and Susannah/Suzanna, both of which belong to sisters of mine, and have considered them as middle names for Miriam, since they match its Old Testament feel. We like a lot of religious significance, both saint connections and linguistic meaning, and maybe a sprinkle of literary and historical inspiration. I also tend to like a more complex religious significance than just a patron saint, although patron saints are great, and if I like the name that would be enough. But if it’s more complex, like a title of Mary rather than just her name, or a combination that evokes a religious event like the Visitation (I.e. any combo of Mary and Elizabeth names), or a name with double religious significance … I like it even better! It seems like we’ve gone for French-inspired names (I know we didn’t choose the Madeleine form, but I still think of St. Mary Magdalene in a French light via her sojourn there) that could take an Irish sounding nickname. This is perfect, as our last name … is actually Irish, but often mistaken for French, and my husband actually has a lot of French heritage through his mom’s side. That probably isn’t a necessary requirement, though, since it’s kind of unusual to find French names with Irish sounding nicknames. Both names we’ve chosen so far are not super common but familiar enough to be recognizable and fairly pronounceable. And … heavy on the “Eve” sound … though maybe we should NOT repeat that a third time.

Boy names are a whole different story. We tend to disagree a lot more. Some of the universal stuff about name significance I mentioned above applies to boy names as well, but I’m not sure we have as much of a definite style since we disagree a lot and only agree sort of randomly. I like some more Romance language names like Santiago and Giovanni and Enzo, thanks to my Italian heritage, and my husband likes Russian names … partly because he loves Russian novels and history, but he is actually 1/4 Ukrainian/Slovakian as well. He is always pushing for Vladimir or Dmitri. I don’t think any of the above ethnic options work well with our very every-day-American last name, though I could maybe reconcile with one if it had family significance (like Cosimo in my family … but then again, that would be more significant with my maiden name). I’ve always said if we were going to do an ethnic name it might be best if it were the same ethnicity as our last name, so we went looking for Irish names, and found we agreed on Finnian, which is probably #3 on our list. Maybe paired with Thomas as a middle name, for my husband’s dad. I also like Eamon, but my husband is less enthusiastic.

Probably #1 is Louis, which is actually French like the girls’ names. We’ve considered pairing it with Anthony for my dad or Martin for my husband (he doesn’t want a direct junior). It primarily would be for St. Louis of France, the king, but if we did Louis Martin that would be a cool double for St. Therese’s father as well.

#2 is John, because I love several saints John — especially John of the Cross and John the Evangelist, such beautiful contemplatives. My husband only consented to John (it is very plain, I admit, but the saints are so great!) with an “interesting” middle name. I pushed for Augustine, but he doesn’t like “A” boy names. So we have it paired with Maccabaeus on our list, which we both think is cool. Our family says they would call him “Johnny Mac.”

We’ve batted around a lot of others. Alexander fits my husband’s Russian taste and I like it, but think it’s a bit common and overused. I’d consider Ivan, but he’s not that much of a fan of that particular Russian name. We both like Blaise, Judah, Isaac, and David, though Isaac is taken by a close friend. Owen, Henry, Nicholas, Dominic, Zachary, Jude, Paul, Gerard, Gabriel, Daniel, Elijah, Jacob, Sebastian, Damian, Martin, Alexei, Thomas, and are on our ok list, but not favorites due to various circumstances (close friends used them, or one of us isn’t as keen as the other). I like Old Testament names, but my husband doesn’t like boy names that end in the “-iah” sound, which rules out a lot. For example, I liked Isaiah Joseph, but … nope. Although we do both like Judah. We’ve considered maybe a David Judah before. We liked Lavrans from Kristin Lavransdatter (is it a form of Lawrence? Do you know?) but it flows poorly with [our last name]. I like Kenneth and Walter from the Anne of Green Gables series, but my husband thinks they’re too old man sounding.”

I love the names Monica and her hubs chose for their girls — Magdalene Eve-Marie and Genevieve Rose are both gorgeous, and Maggie and Genny are the sweetest nicknames!

St. Mary Magdalene being “the Perfect Image of the New Eve” is SO cool! And I laughed when Monica sheepishly admitted that she liked the name Genevieve first, then looked up the saint later — I’ve done that many many times myself! And I think that’s sometimes how saints “find” us, by using our God-given taste in names! (I wrote about that here.)

Genevieve Eleanor would have been gorgeous too, and as for that pesky Eleanor/Helen connection, maybe my most recent post on it would be helpful going forward.

But Rose is just perfect! The Marian connection and family connections are perfect. (And how cool is Rosamystica as a middle name??!) I love Lucie/Lucy too, I included it as an entry in my book of Marian names, since Our Lady of Light is one of her titles, but I can see why Monica’s hubby might have a hard time thinking of it as Marian, since it’s got such a life and history of its own.

I had an idea for “a Marian name beginning with a vowel, preferably an E” for a middle name going forward: Edessa is a name in my book, after her title Our Lady of Edessa. Such a beautiful name!

I love Miriam from their current list, and Ramona! I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the families I’ve worked with consider Ramona! What a great name! Ramona Carmel is stunning, and Miriam Carmel is lovely too. Grace, Mercedes, Faith, and Hope all are Marian — OL of Grace/Mercy/Mercies/Faith/Hope are all titles of her, and all of these names are in my book. Anne is too! I figured, when people are trying to name a baby after a beloved someone, sometimes they might look to the relatives of that person for inspiration.

I love the Russian names! Natasha, Nadia, and Sonya are all gorgeous! And ooh, Sunniva! I did a spotlight on it once, such a cool name. And Belén! I probably would have normally thought it was too Spanish for a non-Hispanic family, but one of my favorite bloggers (who’s not Hispanic) named her daughter Belén and I just love it! Cecilia too, so beautiful.

Re: Rosemary, I wonder if its nicknames Romy or Roma might sway Monica’s hubby? They remind me of Ramona — Rosemary with one of those nicknames might be a nice balance of styles.

I admit I totally latched onto how Monica said “we’ve gone for French-inspired names … that could take an Irish sounding nickname,” especially the “Irish sounding nickname” bit — you’ll see that a few of my ideas are in that vein!

Oh man, I’d love to find some “eve” sounding names for this family, but I agree — repeating that a third time would really set them up to continue it! And that’s a much harder pattern to follow than a “Marie-something” middle!

So I felt pretty confident with my ideas for girls after reading Monica’s email up to this point. It’s definitely helped by the fact that they have two girls already, and their names automatically rule out whole groupings of girl names, you know? Their names are no longer hypothetical options on their long list; they are now the reality and the standard to be measured against.

But boys! Since they don’t have any boys yet, and since they’re not committed to the same style for boys that they have for girls, it’s a wide open playing field. I had fun really trying to poke around and find some good options in addition to the three Monica mentioned. Louis Anthony/Louis Martin, John Maccabaeus (Johnny Mac! LOVE it! I also think John Augustine is pretty awesome), and Finnian Thomas are all fantastic!

One of the strategies that I thought might be helpful would be to consider Russian/French/non-English variants or nicknames of names they like, as a way of  spicing up a “normal” name. Alexander’s nickname in Russian and Ukrainian is Sasha, for example, so while Alexander might feel “common and overused,” Sasha is so interesting and unexpected! Or Alastar, which is the Irish variant; Sandro, which is an Italian nickname for it; or the spelling Aleksandr, which is Russian. (But then, Monica’s hubs doesn’t like A names — would Alexander be okay with him?) Regarding her hubby’s devotion to St. Peter, maybe the Russian Pyotr, the Ukrainian Petro, or the Irish Peadar? Or the variant Pierce, which is also an entry in my book, for how Simeon prophesied that Our Lady’s heart would be pierced with a sword.

This can go the other way too, which they’ve already considered: Ivan is the Russian for John, and they’ve already got John on their list! Monica is correct about Lavrans being a form of Lawrence (and blogger Haley Carrots considered it for her baby, if she’d been a boy!); Kenneth and Walter are both great too, and while they may have traditionally fallen into the old man category, I’ve heard them both (especially Walter, for Servant of God Walter Ciszek) on little guys over the past few years.

Blaise, Judah, Isaac, David (David Judah! So handsome!) are all wonderful. I love Old Testament names too! But there are so many that end in -iah! Gah!

When doing research for parents, you all know that I always start by looking up the names the parents have used and those they 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 for this family, using both their girls’ names and nicknames as well as all the other names Monica mentioned liking. Generally I look for overlap among the style matches for each name — are there names that show up as style matches for more than one of the names on their list, for example? That kind of thing. Also, a lot of it is really just gut feelings — do I *think* they’ll like this name? Based on all that, here are my ideas for Monica and her hubby to consider adding to their lists:

Girl
(1) Tess
I’m going to start off listing nicknames that I think fit their “Irish sounding nickname” idea, and then back into fuller given names for them. Tess is one of my favorites, and I think it’s darling with sisters Maggie and Genny. They could do a form of Teresa, but I didn’t think Monica would love that (although I knew a girl once named Marie-Therese and I thought she was so amazing and beautiful solely because of her name! Marie-Therese would go wonderfully with Magdalene and Genevieve, and Tess is so sweet for a daily nickname!). High up on my own list was Elizabeth with the nickname Tess (my reasoning being, if Betty, Bess, and Tetty can be traditional nicknames for Elizabeth — and they are — why not Tess?), but I thought Monica might like the spelling Elisabeth even better — it’s a French spelling, and the spelling of one of my favorite holy women: Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur. Or maybe they’d like to consider the more Italian Elisabetta? Despite it being so Italian, I think it can definitely work in their family, since they already have the long, lovely, and foreign-ish Magdalene and Genevieve.

(2) Annie
I know Monica mentioned loving Anne for Anne of Green Gables (I’m right there with her!) but she thought it might be too “boring.” I agree that Anne doesn’t feel like the right name for their family, with the weightier and longer Magdalene and Genevieve, but the nickname Annie is definitely one of those “Irish sounding nicknames,” and there are some pretty ways of getting to it, like the Italian Annunziata (what a name! I love it!) and the Russian Anastasia (a perfect fit for Magdalene and Genevieve’s sister, I think). I was toying with Anya as well, which is Russian, and how it has the exact same pronunciation as the Irish Áine — maybe they could consider one of those as a nickname for Anastasia or another Ann- name?. Another one I love is Annabelle (or Annabel) — it’s in my book because it’s a variant of Amabel, which is a variant of Amabilis, which is one of Our Lady’s titles: Mater Amabilis! How cool is that?? In fact, the more I think about it, the more I love Annabelle for this family!

(3) Bridie
Bridie is one of my favorite Irish nicknames, and I’m extra loving it for a daughter for Monica because of her Confirmation name being Bridget! BUT, I didn’t think she’d want to consider Bridget or Brigid, but maybe the lovely French Brigitte? Or maybe the Slovak Brigita? Or Bernadette? I think all these could take the nickname Bridie!

(4) Josie
Josie is just as sweet as Maggie, Genny, Tess, Annie, and Bridie, and has a longer French name to boot in Josephine. Or they could consider Josefina or Josefa? I love all of these!

(5) Kate, Katie (or Cate, Cady)
Even though my name is Kate, I won’t be offended if they don’t like this idea! 😀 While Catherine might be too common for Monica’s taste, it’s got some gorgeous variants, like the Italian Caterina, the Russian Ekaterina (or just Katerina), and the Irish Catriona. They can all take the nicknames Kate/Katie (or Cate, Cady), which have a pretty good Irish feel to them!

(6) Vivienne
Vivian and Vivienne showed up a couple times in my research as being a style match for the names they like, and I totally agree! It shares some sounds with Genevieve, yes, but since they didn’t go the Evie/Vivi route with Genevieve’s nickname, they can with Vivienne (I thought Monica would prefer the French Vivienne over Vivian).

(7) Natalia
Natalia showed up a bunch of times in my research as similar to names Monica and her hubs like, AND it’s Russian! (They could also consider the Russian spellings Natalya and Nataliya [which is also Ukrainian].) In fact, it’s the formal name for the nickname Natasha, so while it’s not exactly the name her hubby likes, it’s pretty close (and he could use Natasha as a nickname if he wanted). Natalia is a gorgeous name!

(8) Veronica
Veronica is such a beautiful, weighty name like Magdalene and Genevieve, with loads of nickname options: Vera, Vero, Ronnie, Nica, and Nicky, and some less traditional ones like Vee, Via, and Vicka.

(9) Maristella
My last girl idea is Maristella or, if they preferred not to repeat Maggie’s initial, they could reverse the elements and do Stellamaris. Such a gorgeous name, either way! It’s for Our Lady’s title “Star of the Sea,” as I’m sure they know, as Monica noted that neither of them care for Estelle, but Maristella and Stellmaris feel very different to me. Ooh, and I think Molly could work as a nickname for Maristella! Then they’d have their Irishy nickname! Or maybe Sadie for Stellamaris?

Boy
(1) Nicodemus, Nikolai
I felt a little all over the place with boy names — Santiago, Eamon, and Dmitri aren’t names I expect to encounter on a parent’s list at the same time! Additionally, when I looked at boy names that were matches for their girl names, I thought there were some great ideas there too. So we’ll start with one of my favorites: Nicodemus. I think it’s got a heavy, Old Testament feel, though it’s a New Testament name. It doesn’t end in -iah! And it can take the Nic- nicknames (Nico, Nic, Nick, Nicky), which make it really easy to live with on a day to day basis. While we’re talking about Nic- names, the Russian Nikolai is just such a swoony name, and while Nik etc. can be nicknames, I quite like the Russian Kolya.

(2) Nathaniel
Another long, biblical N name that I thought went great with their girls’ names is Nathaniel. I was really drawn to the longer, weightier boy names, and I thought Nathaniel fit that perfectly; I also love its friendly nickname Nate.

(3) Raphael
Here’s an Old Testament name that doesn’t end in -iah! Raphael appears in the book of Tobit, and the nickname Rafe is said just the way Ralph is in the U.K. (Ralph is a family name, according to Monica — maybe Raphael could be a different way of nodding to that Ralph?).

(4) Matthias
Matthias was the man chosen by the other Apostles to replace Judas Iscariot, so one might even consider their discussion to be the first Church Council! 😊 Matthias’ ending is almost -iah, so if Monica likes the idea of this name but her hubby doesn’t like the pronunciation, maybe the variant Mattias, which is said ma-TEE-as, would be better?

(5) Benedict
Benedict’s got that great length and weightiness of Magdalene and Genevieve, and the great friendly nickname Ben, I just love it.

(6) Luka, Luca
The Luke names are great to look at if you want a name that travels well internationally. Luka is the Russian version, and Luca the Italian — I love that! I would think, though, that if they like this idea, they might want to cross Louis off their list, since Luka and Louis are so similar in sound.

(7) Adrian, Julian
Adrian and Julian are two of those great Catholic names — saintly, papal, and pan-European. I saw them both pop up in my research, and thought I’d combine them here because they’re so similar.

(8) Roman
Roman is listed as both a Russian and Ukrainian name (among others) on behindthename.com, and of course it refers to Rome, which is Italian, so I’m loving that Roman can nod to both Monica and her hubby in this way! This would knock Ramona off their list, but I think Roman’s a great option for them to consider.

(9) Santino
My last idea is a bit of a wild card, and I’m not sure it’s any better than the overly ethnic (according to Monica’s hubby) Santiago, but I looove the name Santino — I love that it means Little Saint, I love that Sonny is a nickname for it a la The Godfather, and I totally get if they hate it because of these things, but I had to put it on the list! (Fun fact: Mario Lopez and his wife just named their baby Santino Rafael, nicknamed Sonny!)

I also had two consultations in mind while working on this that I thought Monica might find inspiring as there was a lot of overlap with what I perceive to be her taste:

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little brother or sister of Magdalene/Maggie and Genevieve/Genny?


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!

Cool nickname sites

When I was researching nicknames for Agatha, I came across the site England Female Nicknames (National Institute), which has loads of traditional nicknames for both common and unusual names — I’m sure you’d all like to check it out!

It also notes,

Alan Bardsley’s First Name Variants should be consulted for a much more extensive selection. He lists over 230 for Elizabeth alone!

Guess what went right in my Amazon cart?! 😍😍😍

There’s the boy version as well, England Male Nicknames (National Institute). I haven’t perused either of these as deeply as I’d like to — a fun project for the rest of the summer!

Do any of these jump out to you as particularly perfect? Do you have any other insights? Happy Tuesday, feast of St. Monica!


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: Agatha

One of you readers asked me to spotlight Agatha, specifically nicknames for it. You know that nicknames are my jam! And I’ve seen Agatha being considered and used more and more, so I’m sure that one reader wasn’t the only one who has wondered about this.

So! St. Agatha is a great saint! She (St. Agatha of Sicily, to be precise) was a martyr who’s listed in the Canon of the Mass, and has a brave but terrible story, as martyrdom stories tend to go. (I will never understand why some people think women are weak.) (I know the terrible martyrdom stories put some people off of naming after those saints — fortunately, there are a bunch of other holy Agathas! And some other really interesting historical Agathas, which Abby from Appellation Mountain discusses in her post on the name.)

Many people think of it as an old name, and it’s not just their perception:

agatha
Screenshot from the Baby Name Wizard’s NameVoyager tool 

Here’s a different version of the same info:

agatha2
Screenshot from the SSA’s Popularity of a Name tool

It was never very popular — it peaked at no. 392 in 1913, and fell out of the top 1000 altogether in 1945. 1945! That’s why it feels like an old name — it has a “stuck in the early part of the 1900s” feel because it was exponentially more popular then than has been since.

But! It never totally disappeared, and is coming back a little bit! Here’s how it’s looked since 2000:

2018: 102 girls named Agatha
2017: 95
2016: 77
2015: 87
2014: 71
2013: 62
2012: 44
2011: 51
2010: 49
2009: 36
2008: 38
2007: 47
2006: 50
2005: 53
2004: 24
2003: 38
2002: 25
2001: 23
2000: 28

Since 2013, it’s been on an upswing! Which is good for those who don’t like names that have an outdated feel, but it’s still got rare enough usage that those who prefer uncommon names won’t be disappointed either.

So how about those nicknames? Aggie is the obvious — it’s adorable, with the same sounds as the super popular Maggie, but the lack of that initial M makes a big difference. And I think a lot of people who might consider Agatha would be thrilled to have such a sweet, spunky nickname for their girl to use on an everyday basis. However, the mama who asked for the Agatha spotlight specifically said that Aggie is a no-go for her because the Texas A&M association is “way too strong”! I do know some people who love that association and consider Aggie because of it (alumni maybe?), but for others, especially those from Texas, I can see Aggie being problematic.

One of the nickname ideas I found in my research that I thought had promise is Gatha. Maybe? I also saw Agatine — I thought that could be cute — nicknames/diminutives aren’t necessary shorter, after all (e.g., John/Jack, Thomas/Tommy, Mary/Molly, Ann/Nancy). And I could see Agatine becoming something like Tina as time goes on, and then people would be like, “Why does your sister Agatha go by Tina?” and you can send them this post. 😂

There was actually a thread on Nameberry with this exact dilemma (Texan family who likes Agatha but doesn’t like the A&M association), and some of the suggestions were brilliant:

I have considered Hattie or the even rarer, cuter Hatsy! I think it works cuz you have the name ending in “ha” and you sort of just transmute the t and there you go!

Hattie and Hatsy are cuuuute! Others that commenters listed included

Ace
Aga, Ags
Ath, Atha
Gats, Gatsby
Gatta, Gattie
Gigi
Hatha
Tag, Tags, Taggy

I think Taggy’s brilliant — it’s an old nickname for Agnes, I totally should have thought of that!

What do you all think of Agatha? Would you consider naming a daughter Agatha, or have you? What nickname would you use, if any? Do you know any Agathas in real life? Do they go by a nickname? Happy Friday!!


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!

Fun Friday Question: How different are your parents’ taste?

I had so much fun with last week’s question and follow-up! It was so fun to read about your “almost names”!

Here’s another question for you: How different are your parents’ taste in names? If you were able to ask them right now what names they would have on their list if they didn’t have to take into account their spouse’s taste, what names would they be?

My parents did a phenomenal job naming me and my sibs (most of whom prefer to remain anonymous on here), but their lists are pretty different. I asked my mom last night for one or two of her favorite boy and girl names and she said:

Girl
— Róisín (Irish for “little rose”; said ro-SHEEN)
— Máirhín (the Irish “Mary” [Mair-] + “hín,” which is the ending syllable of the diminutive of her dad’s name — see Dáithín below; said mar-HEEN)
— Áine (used as the Irish equivalent of Anne, which is the name of Mom’s mom; said like the name Anya; Mom prefers this as a middle name, but then thought she preferred the sound of Áine Róisín and Áine Máirhín to Róisín Áine and Máirhín Áine )

Boy
— Fionn (“finn”)
— Dáithín (Mom’s dad was from Ireland and had the given name David, but he attended a St. Paddy’s Day event at my school once and introduced himself as Dáithín , which Mom had never heard before — he was apparently called that when he was small. [He also spoke with a brogue during that event, which he’d also never done.] Dáithí is used as the Irish equivalent of David)
— Mícheál (the Irish spelling of Michael, said MEE-haul)

It’s pretty clear what Mom’s taste in names is! 😂☘️

Dad wasn’t able to get back to me before this story went to press 😀 , but these are names I remember him talking about since I was little:

Girl
— Maureen, nicknamed Mo
— Samantha, nicknamed Sam

Boy
— Daniel (not sure about a nickname?)
— Sebastian, nicknamed Seb(by) (Dad often referenced former track and field Olympian [and current British politician] Sebastian Coe when he talked about this name; it was the nicknames Seb and Sebby that he really loved, I’m not convinced the full Sebastian is actually his style)

Dad loves girl names that can have a boyish nickname!

Mom’s Máirhín and Dad’s Maureen are pretty similar from their girl lists (though I don’t think Mom loves Mo and Dad probably wouldn’t go for an Irish spelling). Both my parents have biblical names on their boy list, which is what my brothers have, and if my sisters and I had been boys we would have had biblical names too, so there’s some common ground there. I love seeing that, though their lists look pretty different, there’s some points of possible overlap and compromise!

How about your parents? Happy Friday!


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!

Birth announcement: Perpetua Carolyn!

If you’re a mama due in May who would like a baby name consultation, check out this post.

I had an email conversation about names with Rebecca from Plotinus in the Jungle over the summer, and she let me know her baby was born — a little girl given the fantastic name … Perpetua Carolyn!

Rebecca writes,

[O]ur daughter was born a month ago and after back and forth of various names in the hospital room we named her Perpetua Carolyn nn Pippi. Her middle name is after my grandmother. Finding a cute nickname sealed the deal for us. She was baptised last week by the Abp. of Mt. Hagen and he said in his homily that the start of raising your child in the faith is giving them a Christian name, so I was extra glad we didn’t go with Persephone, ha.”

Perpetua nicknamed Pippi!! I LOVE it!! Rebecca posted both her birth story (amazing) and Pippi’s baptism (beautiful) on her blog, which I know you’ll extra love to check out because they’re such a cool family — they’re lay missionaries serving at a Catholic seminary in Papua New Guinea!

Congratulations to Rebecca and her husband and big sibs Anastasia, Tabitha, and Tobiah, and happy birthday Baby Perpetua!!


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: Longed-for first baby, a girl!

Lauren and her husband are expecting their first baby — a girl!

Lauren writes,

We are are open to names of any ethnic origin, with partiality to Irish, Italian and Lebanese names (our heritage).

We are looking for a name with good nickname potential. It was a long journey (4+ years) to get to this pregnancy, so we want this name to be special, significant and point to God’s glory for giving us this gift. We are having a hard time balancing our desire for a unique name with our more conservative, traditional selves. We are not open to gender neutral names (e.g. Ryan, Blake, etc).

Top names we have so far:
1. Eliana – Translated from Hebrew means “God heard us”
2. Elizabeth – After St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Lauren’s patron saint and one who has interceded for us many times
3. Azelie (Zelie) – After St. Zelie, which kind of just “jumped out” when Lauren was reading about the life of St. Therese

Potential middle names:
1. Rose – [derived from Lauren’s maiden name]
2. Grace – Sweet reminder of God’s grace
3. Catherine – hubby’s beloved maternal grandmother
4. Elizabeth – See above

Names we will not want to use:
Marissa, Karen, Loretta, Annemarie, Maria, Kimberly, Sandra, Beth, Stella, Kelly, Brittany

I totally get their desire to have a special name, full of significance and pointing to God’s glory! I love reading hopeful stories like Lauren’s. ❤ I was also really interested that Lauren said they’re “having a hard time balancing our desire for a unique name with our more conservative, traditional selves.” I appreciate their desire to break out of the box a little, and totally understand having a hard time doing so!

One of the ways I like to try to deal with that tension — one I often see with couples, usually with one parent liking more unique names and the other preferring more conservative options (ahem 😉 ) — is by either bestowing a more unique given name with a more familiar nickname, or a bestowing a more conservative first name with an unexpected nickname. The names Lauren and her hubs have on their list already lend themselves to this idea nicely, especially with Elizabeth as the anchor name. Consider:

  • Given name Elizabeth with the nickname Zelie: We’ve actually discussed this idea on the blog a couple of times! With Ellie being an obvious and traditional nickname for Elizabeth, it’s not a stretch at all to put Elizabeth’s Z in front of it. I love that this option allows them to have Lauren’s patron saint AND St. Zelie, all in their baby’s first name!
  • Given name Elizabeth paired with a middle name that makes sense of Eliana as a nickname: Elizabeth Anna, for example, could lead to Eliana as a nickname. With St. Anne being one of the patrons of childless couples, expectant mothers, and women in labor, her name (or a variant, like Anna, which helps move them away from the Annemarie on their “no” list) might provide the perfect meaning to their little girl’s name.

Otherwise, I love Eliana, Elizabeth, and Azelie/Zelie — all lovely, meaningful options! I love their list of possible middle names too — how cool that Rose can nod to Lauren’s maiden name! Additionally, with St. Therese being so connected to roses, they could consider Rose a nod to St. Zelie through her daughter; Rose is also a Marian name. Grace is beautiful, and Catherine is a wonderful name as well, and so like Elizabeth in style — Elizabeth, Catherine/Katherine, and Margaret are considered the “classic English trio” — all of them weighty, substantial, feminine, strong, and saintly.

When coming up with new ideas for Lauren and her hubs, I took a few things into account: names with meanings that nod to their long journey to this baby and their gratitude to God; their partiality to Irish, Italian, and Lebanese names; good nickname potential, especially with the idea I mentioned above of a unique first name with an unexpected nickname, or vice versa; and matches with their style (Elizabeth, Eliana, Zelie) as revealed by the Baby Name Wizard, which lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. Based on all that, these are my new ideas for them:

(1) Mattea
Mattea is gorgeous and unusual — it’s never made it into the top 1000 in the U.S. according to the Social Security data — but it’s Italian and not unheard of (25 baby girls were named Mattea in 2016, and actress Mira Sorvino named her daughter Mattea in 2004). Additionally, Matthew (and therefore Mattea) means “gift of God,” which is a great meaning for them. Matty’s an easy nickname (I’ve seen it for Martha too, which is adorable), and fits right in with the very familiar Maddy/Addy names that are so popular right now. Mattea Rose, Mattea Grace, and Mattea Catherine have a beautiful flow, and Mattea Elizabeth isn’t terrible either (in general I don’t prefer a first name ending in a vowel followed by a middle name starting with a vowel, but it’s certainly not the end of the world, and Lauren and her hubs may like it!).

(2) Hannah
I know I mentioned Anna above, as a nod to St. Anne (I chose Anna in that example in order to lead to Eliana as a nickname), but there were some other Ann names that I thought were good suggestions. The first is Hannah — one of the many Ann variants — and the story of Hannah in the bible has long resonated with mamas who struggled to conceive. Hannah/Ann means “grace,” so they’d have the “sweet reminder of God’s grace” that led them to add Grace to their middle name list included in Hannah, and like with Mattea, Hannah has a lovely flow with Rose and Catherine, and not a terrible flow with Elizabeth (in fact, thinking about it now, perhaps Elizabeth Hannah would be an even better idea than Elizabeth Anna to lead to nickname Eliana? Being that Eli was part of Hannah’s story, I extra-like the idea of Eliana being a nickname for Elizabeth Hannah.)

(3) Annabel, Annabelle, Annabella
I was definitely on an Anna kick, and when I was looking up names with good meanings, one meaning I was using was “beloved,” and when I saw Annabel I thought it was a great idea! It’s not technically an Anna name — it’s said to have arisen in the middle ages in Scotland as a variant of Amabel, which is a feminine variant of Amabilis — the name of a male saint, and also part of the Marian title Mater Amabilis (usually translated as Mother Most Amiable, where amiable derives from the Latin for “to love”). But they can surely claim St. Anne as patron for an Annabel, as well as Our Lady. Annabel Rose, Annabel Grace (okay to use Grace here, since Annabel’s not technically an Ann name), Annabel Catherine, and Annabel Elizabeth all work well. Also, Annabel doesn’t really read as a Scottish name, so I don’t think they’d need to worry about that in terms of it not being Irish (unless “general British Isles area” speaks enough to their Irish ancestry … I know I’m playing with fire by suggesting such a thing!).

Annabelle is also a gorgeous variant — the extra “le” on the end lends it an extra feminine and French feel; Annabella makes it Italian and opens up the wonderful nickname Bella. Actually, all the Annabel variants could probably take Bella as a nickname, and of course Anna/Annie as well, and even Abby.

(4) Cara, Caramia, Carina
While looking up names having to do with “beloved,” the Cara names caught my eye. Cara means “beloved” in Italian, AND it means “friend” in Irish, also sometimes listed as “beloved.” So fun to find a name with a great meaning in two languages! Caramia is a not-uncommon Italian name meaning “my beloved,” and Carina is a Latin elaboration of Cara (retaining the “beloved” meaning), as well as, separately, a variant of the Swedish form of Katherine, so it could work for Grandma Catherine too! I thought all three were beautiful ideas for Lauren and her hubs to consider.

(5) Any of the feminine John names
Like so many of the names listed here, John has a great one too: “God is gracious.” There are a whole bunch of feminine variants that can work, including:

  • Jean, Joan, Jane (listed in order from least currently popular to most — I’ve seen a few Janes recently and I’ve been loving it. St. Joan of Arc is also amazing.)
  • Joanna, Johanna (the former is also biblical, the latter has more of a German/Scandi feel)
  • Gianna (one of my favorite ideas for Lauren and her hubs — it’s Italian, and it has the additional awesome connection to St. Gianna)

I also liked that Joanna/Johanna and Gianna have “anna” in them — they’re not Ann names, but the fact that they contain “anna” in them makes me think they can nod to St. Anne too. (In case any of you are wondering why I’m so much all about St. Anne, I just love her! She’s the patroness of my blog, and I’ve sought her intercession many times myself, both for loved ones who hoped to conceive and for my own hopes for another baby.)

(6) Majella, Maiella
Speaking of good intercessors, St. Gerard Majella is a patron of pregnant women, the unborn, and childbirth. Though not officially patron of those hoping to conceive (that I could find, anyway), he nevertheless has quite a few conceptions attributed to his intercession! I’ve been collecting the stories on my blog — here’s one. Many mothers have turned to him for help during their pregnancies and labor+delivery as well, and I thought he’d be a great patron for Lauren’s baby. Majella is actually a fairly traditional girl’s name, and behindthename.com even lists it as Irish! Of course it isn’t — St. Gerard was Italian — but how cool to find an Italian name that must have good enough usage in Ireland to be considered Irish by at least some! Majella is actually an anglicized version of his Italian last name, which was Maiella — a gorgeous name, and one that pulls in the “ella” of both Elizabeth and Eliana. Ella and Ellie would be easy nicknames for either Majella or Maiella.

(7) Dorothy, Dorothea
My last idea is Dorothy or Dorothea. They’re the exact same name as Theodore, just with the elements reversed, and they mean “gift of God.” Dorothy has an old feel, and also a bit of a starlet feel I think, because of Judy Garland’s Dorothy. There’s a family I follow on Instagram — @thebucketlistfamily — they have a trillion followers and they named their daughter Dorothy. So I’m sure it’s starting to come back — in fact, the SSA data shows that it was mostly out of the top 1000 from 2005–2010, and in the last eight years it’s risen from no. 933 to 652. Choosing a traditional name that hasn’t been used much recently can be another good way to marry their desire for a unique name with their more conservative natures.

Dorothea has a bit of a different feel from Dorothy — maybe a little more elegant? (Although Dorothy strikes me as pretty elegant!) The “A” ending fits with the current popular names, though it hasn’t been in the top 1000 since 1970.

Both Dorothy and Dorothea can take the adorable Dory/Dorie as a nickname, as well as Dora; Dot/Dotty and Dolly are also traditional. Thea can be a nickname for Dorothea, which as a given name on its own dropped out of the top 1000 in 1965, then jumped back on in 2014 at no. 775, jumped to no. 460 in 2015, and was no. 290 in 2016 — that’s a crazy ascent! A little Thea would be very fashionable. (Theodora is another option, but I thought the Doro- ones would appeal to Lauren and her hubs more.)

I did look up Lebanese names, and while several of the ones I found had lovely meanings, the one that I thought would cross over the best — Sereena — is said to mean “princess, beautiful as a princess” (probably related to Sarah), which is a great meaning for a girl, but I didn’t think it fit in with the kinds of meanings Lauren and her hubs are looking for.

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


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady, is now available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon! It’s a perfect Mother’s Day gift, as well as for baby showers and just because. If you feel moved to leave a review on Amazon, it would be greatly appreciated. 🙂 ❤

“Meaning” nicknames

I don’t have a consultation to post today, but I was wondering: What “meaning” nicknames can you think of?

In the name consultation Abby did for me, she suggested the name Arthur with the nickname Bear, since Arthur is generally considered to include an element meaning “bear” and since I had Benedict nicknamed Bear as a possibility on my list (in fact, I came to really love Bear as a nickname after reading Regina Doman’s The Shadow of the Bear, in which the male lead’s given name is Arthur, but he goes by Bear, so I loved seeing Arthur on Abby’s list of suggestions!).

My boys and I were watching the movie Home the other day, and I was reminded of how cool I thought it was that the main character Tip’s given name is Gratuity. Gratuity nicknamed Tip!

A recent post by Swistle was for a family looking for a sibling for an Aurelia who goes by Goldie, since Aurelia comes from the Latin for “golden.” I love that! Her commenters had loads of great suggestions along these lines — some of my favorites were:

Alethea nn True
Amabel nn Love
Aurora nn Sunny
Carys nn Love
Clementine nn Mercy
Felicity nn Bliss
Ignatius nn Blaze
Jemima nn Dovie, Birdie
Lucia nn Lux
Margaret, Marguerite nn Daisy, Pearl
Melisande nicknamed Honey
Paloma nn Birdie
Roxanna nn Sunny
Vera, Verity nn True

I tried to think of other such examples — for a while, I really liked the idea of Boone as a nickname for Benedict, with Boon(e) meaning “good” and Benedict meaning “blessed” — close enough I think!

Going off of the Vera/Verity nn True idea above, Veronica (“true image”) could possibly be nicknamed True or even Truly (like in the film version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!). I’m kind of loving Truly for Veronica! The “ard” part of Gerard means “brave, hardy,” so maybe Gerard nicked Hardy?

This all reminded me of the Cakies family, who have kids True, Brave, Soul, and Glow — the strategy discussed here of choosing a more traditional given name and using a meaning nickname could satisfy the itch for a True/Brave/Soul/Glow name, while having a “safer” name on the birth certificate. Do you agree?

Anyway, I’d love to hear other ideas you have! And definitely check out the comments on that Swistle post, I was amazed by how many ideas her readers came up with!