Many thanks to you all for sharing your Mary name stories! Please keep them coming!
Gabrielle and her husband are expecting their fourth baby — their second on earth and their third little girl! This little lady joins big siblings:
+ Mary Evelyn (“We lost her early in pregnancy on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, and I always knew Mary carried her into Heaven with her“)
Chase Erik (“We chose his name to mirror my husband’s [Christopher Erik]. My husband is about 50% Norwegian which is reflected in the spelling of Erik. We wanted a first name that was easy to say and spell, something that was unique but also sounded familiar. Chase has St. Christopher as his Saint like my husband“)
+ Joanna Rose (“We lost her early in pregnancy as well on Psalm Sunday. In the Gospel of Luke, Joanna is mentioned as being one of the few present in addition to Jesus’ disciples for Christ’s resurrection, and we knew this was the name for her. She is also named after St. Rose of Lima because even though we didn’t get to see her in her full form, we knew she was beautiful“)
Aren’t these wonderful names? I love the significance behind each one, each so thoughtfully chosen. Mary Evelyn and Joanna Rose are absolutely lovely for their little girls in heaven, and Chase Erik is such a handsome combo for their son!
“Names we’ve discussed for this baby but don’t feel quite right:
Marie/Maria – We like the idea of honoring Mary because she is due in May, but maybe feels a bit too similar to Mary.
Amelia – We like the name in isolation, but don’t feel that it goes well with our last name and also seems to becoming a bit popular.
Emily – Pretty, but perhaps a bit too simple. I am also having trouble seeing her grow into this name beyond a young girl.
Lucy – Pretty name, and one of the women mentioned in the Canon. Also has a nice meaning of “light.” My mom’s name is Lucine (I’m 50% Italian, 50% Polish) and baby girl is due on May 12th. The Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima is celebrated on May 13th. Lucy feels a bit popular though, and I am also having trouble seeing her grow into this name beyond a young girl. We aren’t a fan of Lucia and don’t think it goes well with Chase.
Ava – We like the name, but it seems to blend in right with our last name because of only being one syllable with the double ‘a’. Something longer would hold it’s own better we think. Also means “birdlike” which is a drawback.
Avila – Sounds a bit better with our last name, but still a lot of ‘a’ sounds. We are considering Therese for a middle name, so being named after 2 different Teresa/Therese’s feels like a bit much.
Josephine – Definitely drawn towards this I think because we love the name Joanna as well as St. Joseph, but also have a feeling it might be too formal or not the right time.
Lily/Lilian – Lily was our girl’s name for Chase, but it doesn’t feel right now. I have been hearing it more here and there which I think has turned us off.
Sophie – My husband is fond of this name, but I feel it is too informal perhaps, and I don’t care for Sophia.
Susanna – She is also mentioned in the same Gospel passage with Mary Magdalene and Joanna which seems kind of cool. We aren’t sure if it sounds quite right though because of the rhyme with Joanna and are debating if we like the nickname Susie.
Clare – This is probably the name my husband and I collectively seem to like the best. It feels a bit more uncommon, but also familiar. Easy to say. It is another “C” name (Chase & Clare) which we were initially hesitant about. The spelling is a bit of a sticking point, but we don’t feel that it is a deal breaker. Most Americans spell the name “Claire,” but I think we would use the spelling after St. Clare of Assisi.
Some family names we can’t use:
Camille, Nicole, Christina (my middle name), Teresa, Alexa, Cora, Jenna, Moriah, Ashley
Saints we have devotion to:
– St. Therese of Lisieux – considering this for the middle name of this child pronounced TER-REZ. She has been instrumental in my life and the medical practice that has been helping us with some extra steps during this pregnancy is named Little Flower Family Medicine, so I feel that she has been interceding for this baby from day 1
– St. Michael – Michael would be the name of this baby if we were having a boy. We haven’t found a female take on this name that we like.
– We love the Holy Family and are open to honoring them. My husband is fond of St. Thomas Aquinas.
– I am sensitive to having a difficult name to pronounce. Having to spell your name for people I don’t think is as big of a deal. Growing up I got a lot of people who would try to call me Gabby because they had difficulty pronouncing my full name, or people would often just mispronounce it.
– We have kind of gravitated with a bit shorter first names because our last name is longer.
– For girl names, it seems I am drawn more towards sophisticated and feminine names, and my husband is drawn more towards sweet and simple. But we try to meet in the middle like anything!“
I got excited when I read that Gabrielle’s husband is half Norwegian and that she herself is half Polish — my husband is half Norwegian and half Polish, so I was excited that some of my research into his heritage might be helpful to this family! I also like that Gabrielle “wanted a first name that was easy to say and spell, something that was unique but also sound familiar” — I think they hit the nail on the head with Chase! I also used this thinking in coming up with my new ideas for them below.
Before sharing those new ideas, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the names Gabrielle and her husband have discussed, in case they’re helpful:
- Marie/Maria: I’m 100% a Mary girl, as you all know! So I love the idea of honoring Mary in their baby’s name, and the fact that she’s due in Our Lady’s month adds such a nice sparkle! I’m of two minds about the similarity of Marie/Maria to Mary: first, that it’s actually a traditional Catholic practice for all the girls in the family to have a Marian name! This has taken the form of all the girls having Mary as a first name (I’ve seen this in Irish families, including my dad’s extended family: he has three first cousins who are sisters all with Mary as their first name [they all go by their middles]), or Marie (as with St. Therese’s family — she and her sisters were named Marie Françoise-Thérèse,Marie Louise, Marie Pauline, Marie Hélène, Marie Céline, Marie-Mélanie-Thérèse [I think Leonie was just Leonie though?], and their mother [St. Zelie] was baptized Marie-Azelie), or Maria (as many Spanish-speaking families do). It’s also traditional for a form of Mary to appear somewhere in the names of all the girls in a family, even if not the first name: my own family did this, with me and my sisters each having a form of Mary somewhere in our names. So I have no problem at all with Gabrielle’s Mary Evelyn having a sister named Marie or Maria! Additionally, the “naming all girls in the family after Mary” can also take the form of the Marian names being a mix of Mary/Marie/Maria and other names for Our Lady, like Rose — which they’ve already done! Even though they had St. Rose of Lima in mind for their Joanna Rose’s middle name, it can also do double duty as a Marian name. From this perspective, both their older girls have Marian names, so it makes sense to continue this with their new baby! All that said, I can also see that having two girls with an actual form of Mary and one without might feel off balance. A nice compromise might be to choose a name (first or middle) for the new baby that can be Marian but can also honor a different Saint, so all their girls can have a Marian connection but each in her own way.
- Amelia: Gabrielle articulated so well that they “like the name in isolation” — I like that! I think we all have names that we love but don’t feel like they would work for our actual children for any number of reasons. I can see Amelia paired with their very long Scandinavian surname beginning with an A feeling A-heavy, and with Amelia ending in A and the surname beginning with A, it can be hard to differentiate each name when saying them together. At the same time, a lot of names have that kind of issue and the world doesn’t end, so if they love it, I say go for it! Also, there are a lot of names on their list that end in A, and a lot of great options in general that end in A, so I definitely wouldn’t cross any ends-in-a name off their list for that reason alone. (It feels like they don’t love Amelia, though, so I encourage them to shelve this name at least for this baby in hopes that we can come up with something they really love.)
- Emily: Emily and Amelia are so similar that I wonder if Emilia might appeal to them? It’s actually the Norwegian (among others) form of Emily and is said basically the same as Amelia … it doesn’t solve the problem of many shared sounds with the surname or the ending-in-a + beginning-in-a issue, but this small tweak may move the “Amelia” idea from “liking in isolation” to “love!” An added cool thing is that St. John Paul II’s mom’s name was Emilia and her cause for canonization is open! Since Gabrielle’s 50% Polish, a name like Emilia that is equally Norwegian and Polish might be perfect!
- Lucy: As soon as I saw Lucy I thought that if Gabrielle has a hard time seeing Emily as an adult name, even more so with Lucy. And then she acknowledged as much! I love the name Lucy for all the reasons Gabrielle mentioned, but, again, it doesn’t seem that she loves it, so let’s move on. One idea is that I’ve often thought Lucy could work as a nickname for Louisa — I wonder if that might work? Or Maria-Lucine nicknamed Lucy, for Gabrielle’s mom?
- Ava: I do think that if they’re having difficulty with Amelia Surname-beginning-with-A, then Ava Surname only multiplies those difficulties. Additionally, I consider Behind the Name to be the most trustworthy when it comes to name meanings, and it only lists Ava as an English variant of Eve (which could make it problematic with their Mary Evelyn, though Evelyn isn’t technically an Eve name), or as Persian for “voice, sound,” or Germanic of unknown meaning. Digging deeper, it can be associated with Avis, which, as a given name has origins of unknown meaning but did come to be associated with the Latin word for bird, which is the same (avis) and can have Ava as a nickname or related name if they want it to be considered a form of Avis. I would definitely say that the “bird” connection is far enough away that they can dismiss it altogether.
- Avila: Ditto everything I said about Amelia and Ava with their last name. Also, according to Behind the Name, Evelyn actually originated as a diminutive of Avila! If name meanings are important to them, then that might be weird to have two daughters with variants of the same name (though of course no one would really know unless they’re weird namey people like me; and also, Avila calls St. Teresa to mind immediately for Catholics, which isn’t the same for Evelyn; and also, I’ve already advocated for using a Mary variant for multiple daughters, so really, anything goes!).
- Josephine: A wonderful option for the reasons Gabrielle mentioned. I can see it maybe seeming “too formal” as Chase’s sister (or maybe instead, “too long”); I’ve also had the feeling of “not for this baby” for a name in regards to naming my own babies, only to use it for a later baby, so that’s valid too!
- Lily/Lillian: I love knowing that this was the girl name they’d chosen if Chase was a girl — that’s very relevant! Even though it might feel a little stale and overly used to Gabrielle now, it’s good for me to know for my research. I do kind of feel like Lily might be like Emily and Lucy for them — somewhat difficult to imagine on an adult woman (though the Lily names are so popular right now that when their baby is an adult, there will be a lot of women named Lily and it will feel like a grown-up name!). It’s also interesting to note how many overlapping sounds Amelia, Emily, Avila, and Lily/Lillian have — lots of L’s and I’s. A couple things that are cool are that the lily is a symbol of both Our Lady and St. Joseph, which could make a Lily name plus a Jesus name a perfect Holy Family combo! Lily Christina, for example, which could also be a nice nod to Gabrielle in light of her middle name (though she listed Christina as a name they can’t use — I don’t know if that counts for middle names too?). Another is that Lillian likely originated as a diminutive of Elizabeth, and Lily is a traditional nickname for Elizabeth … Elizabeth is one of the longer names I normally wouldn’t suggest for this baby since they’re leaning toward shorter names, but since they have Amelia, Josephine, and Susanna on their list, I thought I’d mention Elizabeth too. Elisabeth is the Norwegian spelling, which I love, and Liliana/Lilianna are listed as Polish variants of Elizabeth!
- Sophie: Definitely “too informal” is a recurring issue for Gabrielle with the names on their list, which I do understand. Emily, Lucy, Lily, and Sophie all kind of have that — they are, of course, full names in their own right (Sophie is the French form of Sophia), but the “ee” sound at the end is often how we make nicknames or “baby” names, so I can see why they feel overly young. I also totally get feeling like Sophie and Sophia are two different names — so similar, but with different feels, where you might quite like one and not like the other at all.
- Susanna: Full disclosure: this was our girl name through all our kids! We have seven boys so we never got to use it, but it remains my favorite girl name. If it’s helpful, we intended to use Anna/Annie as the nickname, and I was also quite drawn to the nickname Zuzu (like “Zuzu’s petals” in It’s a Wonderful Life — it’s most likely that the character’s given name was the popular-in-its-day Susan), and the Polish form of Susanna is Zuzanna, which could add another nice connection to the nickname Zuzu for Gabrielle. Another traditional nickname for Susanna is Sookie/Sukie. I also included Susanna in my book of Marian names because it can mean both “rose” and “lily” in Hebrew, both of which are symbols of Our Lady.
- Clare: Wow, I would say this is the name to beat! It feels like it exactly hits all the right notes, and the fact that Gabrielle and her husband both love it is so meaningful!
- Other considerations: Gabrielle mentioned that they haven’t found a female variant of Michael that they like — I’m sure they’ve considered them all, but I did just come across Micha as a German/Dutch short form of Michaela, which I believe is said like MEE-ka, but that probably breaks Gabrielle’s rule of “too difficult to pronounce” (not that the pronunciation is difficult, just that it’s not intuitive for a native American English speaker to arrive at MEE-ka from Micha). Misha/Mischa is also a diminutive of Michael that has usage for girls and has a more familiar pronunciation (MEE-sha). These options seem a little outside their style, though. I love that they have a devotion to the Holy Family and that Gabrielle’s husband likes St. Thomas Aquinas — I kept those in mind when coming up with new ideas.
Now on to those new ideas! In general, I tried to stick with shorter names, as Gabrielle noted that they’ve been drawn to names on the shorter side because of the length of their surname. I actually had the thought when going through the list of names they’re considering that the longer names didn’t really seem to fit as well with what I feel like they’re looking for, but would make amazing middle names, so I kept that in mind, too. I also like how Gabrielle articulated that she’s “drawn more towards sophisticated and feminine names” while her hubby is “drawn more towards sweet and simple.” This is another reason I think Clare is amazing for them! And I also really leaned on that aspect hard when I was looking for new names, as well as “familiar but not common.” I did look up the names they’ve used and those they like in the Baby Name Wizard (affiliate link) as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity — it’s starting to feel a bit outdated, but I still find it helpful. And I had a few gut-feeling ideas. All in all, I tried to offer ideas that were closer to the style of Chase’s name as well as closer to the style of Mary Evelyn and Joanna Rose:
They’re considering Avila, they love St. Therese and feel like “she has been interceding for this baby from day 1,” and they prefer shorter names. How about Tessa? It’s a short form of Teresa/Therese and is a style match for Chase and Clare! Drawing from the list of names they like, Tessa Josephine could be a really great combo for this baby! In fact, I love Josephine as a middle name for all of the ends-in-a names I list below.
I’m seeing Flora a bit more here and there these days, which I love! It literally means “flower,” and I read in a book called Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Legends & Meditations by Vincenzina Krymow that “[i]t is thought that at one time all flowers and plants honored Mary, the ‘Flower of Flowers,’ in legend or in name” — so Flora can be Marian! But I was mostly inspired by the name of Gabrielle’s medical practice, “Little Flower Family Medicine” — Flora can honor Our Lady and St. Therese in one name!
They love that Joanna and Susanna were mentioned in the same Bible passage, along with Mary Magdalene — what about a name for her? Especially since it doesn’t contain -anna? There’s the full forms Magdalene, Magdalena, Maddalena, Madeline, and Madeleine, but I’m kind of loving Magda for this family, which is a Norwegian and Polish short form of Magdalene.
(4) Mabel (or Annabel?)
Another M name that I really like for them, as it’s an unexpected Marian name, is Mabel. It’s originally a medieval form of the name Amabilis, which is included in the Marian title Mater Amabilis (“Mother Most Amiable” or “Mother Most Lovable”). It’s listed in my book as a variant of Annabel, as Annabel is derived from the same name (Amabilis) — because they already have Joanna, I wouldn’t think Annabel would appeal to them, but since they’re considering Susanna, maybe it would?
I enjoyed spending some time trying to come up with ideas to honor the Holy Family — I love the idea of Lily Christina, as I mentioned above, and another idea I had was a Jesus name for the first name. Kirsten immediately came to mind as a less-common Christ- variant, and I love that it’s Norwegian! Something like Kirsten Marie-Josephine would be stunning and work in all the members of the Holy Family! Another beautiful way to work them all in would be Kirsten Liliana. I also love how Kirsten Susanna sounds! So much beauty!
I also tried to figure out what to do with St. Thomas Aquinas. I could certainly see them saving Thomas for a future son, like they’re doing with Michael, but they could also honor him with a girl’s name. I’ve seen Quinn and Aquinnah, but neither seems this family’s style. I could see them liking Tamsin, though! It’s a contracted form of Thomasina. I don’t care for Tammy as a nickname, but Tam is really cute (and itself a Scottish short form of Thomas that I think works fine for a girl); I’d also thought — and still do — that Tess could work as a nickname for Tamsin (if they even wanted a nickname), which could loop in St. Therese.
Most of the ideas above were based on Saints Gabrielle and her husband would like to honor and Mary with a particular eye toward short/sweet/sophisticated and leaning heavily on Norwegian and Polish heritage with a little Italian as well. But I don’t want to ignore the style matches revealed by my research in the BNW, so these next few are specifically inspired by that. Hailey is a specific style match for Chase, and I immediately thought of Halle — similar sound but that spelling is Norwegian (though a male name in Norway), and I also thought of this couple who named their daughter Halle because it’s contained within Hallelujah! How cool! (They also have a daughter named Clare Magdalen!)
Cora and Eleanor were both listed as style matches for Evelyn — I know Cora’s on the list of names they can’t use but otherwise I might have suggested it for them. I wouldn’t have thought of Eleanor, but as soon as I saw it I thought of its nickname/short variant Nora, especially in light of the rhyming Cora — Nora immediately felt perfect! It has much the same feel to me as Clare: simple, sophisticated, and feminine. It’s also listed as Norwegian and Italian on Behind the Name! I think it’s a great option for this family!
(9) Lydia, Bethany (Bethan?)
Lydia is a style match for Amelia and Susanna, and Bethany for Joanna and Susanna — I thought they were worth a mention! They’re both biblical place names that have become given names (Lydia was actually from Lydia, which is why she was called that in the bible, and a cool thing about her is that since she was a seller of purple cloth, a little Lydia has a built-in color! Bethany is the name of the town where Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha lived; since meanings are important to Gabrielle, it should be noted that its meaning isn’t totally clear — it’s thought to mean “house of figs” or “house of affliction,” which isn’t great. That said, Behind the Name says that it’s traditionally been used “primarily by Catholics in honour of Mary of Bethany” — I’m a big fan of names that have a super-Catholic history! Also, my article on name “definitions” vs. name “meanings” might be helpful). An added thought with Bethany is that the very similar name Bethan has more of a Mabel/Tamsin feel to me, and is a Welsh diminutive of Elizabeth.
(10) Charlotte, Lottie
I really wouldn’t have included Charlotte if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s a match for Evelyn, Amelia, and Sophie! Especially with the Ch- beginning, even though it’s said differently than Chase, it just seemed too much. But I’m intrigued by the nickname Lottie — it has a Lily/Lucy feel that makes me think maybe Charlotte nicknamed Lottie isn’t crazy for this family?
Alice, too, did quite well for them, being similar to both Lucy and Clare. I like that it feels less “little girlish” than Lucy, and as mentioned, Clare seems the name to beat, so with Alice being considered a style match for it, maybe it’s perfect! It also seems to avoid the issues the other A names (Amelia, Avila, Ava) have since it doesn’t end in A.
(12) Kate, Grace
Finally, both Kate and Grace are matches for Clare, and I thought they both bring together Gabrielle’s “sophisticated and feminine” preference and her hubby’s “sweet and simple” preference.
Whew! Those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of Chase and sisters-in-heaven Mary Evelyn and Joanna Rose?
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For help with Marian names, 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). It’s perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!