Spotlight on: Hildegard

My CatholicMom.com piece for August posted on Wednesday and I don’t want you to miss it — I know we’re all in need of some peace as the new school year looms (or has already started for some of you)! Check it out: A Litany of School Saints: Protection and Help for the Academic Year.

This name spotlight is a little different from my others, in that it’s more about how to honor this saint without using her name! A reader wrote:

Would you ever consider doing a post on names to honor St. Hildegard of Bingen? She is such an amazing saint, and we would love to honor her in naming our baby, but maybe there are other parents out there, like us, who just can’t quite bring themselves to name a little girl Hildegard. (For those who can, good for them! But I’m not quite there!)

I totally agree, she is such an amazing saint!! And while I have a soft spot for Hildy/Hildi/Hildie (either as a nickname for Hildegard or as a given name in her honor), I do of course totally get what this mama means in regards to the full Hildegard. It’s a little heavy!

Before getting into other names that might honor her, though, I want to talk about Hildegard itself for a minute. According to Behind the Name and the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources, Hildegard is made up of two elements: hild/hiltja, meaning “battle” and gard/gart , meaning “enclosure, protection; yard, garden.” Of those two, the first element seems the most “St. Hildegard,” both in terms of sound (Hilda/Hilde would seem natural to most people if you were to tell them that it was in honor of St. Hildegard) and in terms of meaning (“battle”! What an amazing and unexpected meaning for a girl and a woman! Such a warrior name! Perfect for one of the only female Doctors of the Church!). Other spellings and variants include the English Hylda and the Italian Ilda and Elda.

(And again: Hildy/Hildi/Hildie! SO sweet! For a real-life sweetie pie named Hildegard, see Haley Carrots’ little girl!)

However, if none of these are quite right, I think these other ideas can work:

— Sibyl: The mama who wrote to me had already thought of Sibyl as an idea, since St. Hildegard of Bingen is known as the Sibyl of the Rhine, and I think it’s definitely a St. Hildegard-specific name, if you want it to be. A great option! Other spellings and variants include Sybil, Cybill, Sibylle/Sybille, Sybella, Sibilla/Sibylla, and the intriguing Norman variant Sébire (though I’m not totally sure of pronunciation).

— Rhine: While Rhine is a place name that’s not objectively specific to St. Hildegard, Sibyl of the Rhine makes it subjectively so. In this sense, Rhine could be for St. Hildegard in the way Siena is for St. Catherine and Avila is for St. Teresa. Its sound is similar to Ryan and would make a really fun and different way of honoring her.

— A name to do with “ten”: One of the interesting things I discovered in my research is that St. Hildegard is traditionally understood to be her parents’ tenth child (apparently only seven children are recorded, but perhaps her parents were counting miscarried children, as so many of us do?) and as such was dedicated to the Church as a “tithe.” How interesting! Maybe a name having to do with the number “ten” would hit the right note for some families? Dixie, for example, is thought to have derived for the French for “ten.” (I’ve also loved the idea of Tennyson for a tenth son! I can see it working nicely for a girl too! It doesn’t have “ten” in its meaning, but the Ten- makes it obvious!)

— Bernard, Eugenius, John, Benedict: Men with these names played important roles in St. Hildegard’s life and afterlife. St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Pope Eugenius both encouraged her in her writings; Pope John XXII beatified her; and while Hildegard was popularly regarded as a saint since the fourteenth century, Pope Benedict XVI made it official (a process known as “equipollent [equivalent] canonization,” which I’d never heard of before) and also declared her to be a Doctor of the Church. Bernadine, Bernadette, and Bernarda are feminine variants of Bernard; Eugenia is for Eugenius; Joan, Jane, Jean, Joanna, Gianna, Giovanna (and more!) are some feminine variants of John; and Benedicta, Benedetta, Bettina, Benita, and Benoîte (and more!) are for Benedict.

— Two further arguments for a Benedict name: St. Hildegard was a Benedictine; also, since Benedict means “blessed,” I’ve often thought it can be used in honor of all the holy people (I included it in my book of Marian names for that reason).

— Names with similar meaning: I looked for other names that had a similar meaning and found a few possibles. The one that I think is closest is Blair — it means “plain, field, battlefield,” which is so similar to Hildegard’s “battle” + “enclosure, protection; yard, garden.” Others include Clotilde, Matilda, and Romilda, all of which have that “hild” element contained within (the “ild” part in all of them). And the fact that “garden” is included in the meaning of the “gard” part of Hildegard makes me think of flower names, which would really provide some nice, feminine alternatives.

I know a lot of these ideas might seem too far afield from Hildegard, but I also know that some families might find them to be the perfect solution to the dilemma of wanting to name a daughter after St. Hildegard but not finding Hildegard to be their style. (And if you want to name a son after St. Hildegard, many of these can work for boys too!)

Please share with me your ideas for naming a baby after St. Hildegard without using the name Hildegard! I’d also love to hear from any of you who have named after St. Hildegard, or know someone who has. I want to hear all the details! Happy Friday everyone!


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!

 

Number names 2.0

Abby at Appellation Mountain posted a piece at Nameberry today on number names (I should’ve realized that her tweets likely indicated the topic was brewing in her mind, but I didn’t even think of it) — definitely check it out, she has a lot of better ideas than mine! Numeric Baby Names: Una, Ivy and Octavia: Counting from Una to Eleven

Sancta Nomina

[I apologize to all the people waiting for an email back from me! This is the first week of school and I’m just now starting to catch my breath. Soon!]

Happy Birthday Mother Mary!! My bishop tweeted the greatest thought today: “Mary’s birth is the dawn of hope, humanity’s second chance.” A perfect thought not only for Our Lady’s birthday, but also for the Year of Mercy! ❤

Ages ago (like, back in January) Krista asked for a post about number names, and it’s been on my mind ever since. I’d had a rough idea of doing so around the first day of school — you know, ‘rithmetic and all — and then Abby at Appellation Mountain and I tweeted a bit the past few days (in response to a Haley Stewart tweet) about number names, so it’s definitely time to do this.

I was thinking of all…

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Number names

[I apologize to all the people waiting for an email back from me! This is the first week of school and I’m just now starting to catch my breath. Soon!]

Happy Birthday Mother Mary!! My bishop tweeted the greatest thought today: “Mary’s birth is the dawn of hope, humanity’s second chance.” A perfect thought not only for Our Lady’s birthday, but also for the Year of Mercy! ❤

Ages ago (like, back in January) Krista asked for a post about number names, and it’s been on my mind ever since. I’d had a rough idea of doing so around the first day of school — you know, ‘rithmetic and all — and then Abby at Appellation Mountain and I tweeted a bit the past few days (in response to a Haley Stewart tweet) about number names, so it’s definitely time to do this.

I was thinking of all the number-named people I know of and came up with a good few (both real and fictional):

I pretty much love all of these! As I told Abby, I like number names, and really, as soon as they’re used as a name, they become really namey to me. It reminds me of something name expert Cleveland Kent Evans was quoted as saying in Joal Ryan’s 1999 book (one of my favorite favorites) Puffy, Xena, Quentin, Uma:

Science fiction likes to tell the grim tale of a world so dehumanized that names are eschewed with numbers and serial codes [Stranger Things y’all!]. Cody, say hello to your new classmate: THX 1138.

Well, the future is here and the question is: Do baby names really stand a chance of becoming obsolete? 

No, says Bellevue University psychology professor Cleveland Evans, a longtime student and chronicler of the history and trends of American given names.

‘People are never going to use their social security number as their name,’ Evans says. ‘I’m sure there may be some numbers that become names — I wouldn’t be surprised if I started hearing of Seven of Nines (after the Star Trek: Voyager TV character). But once you do that, it’s not a number — it becomes a name.'” (pp. 367-368)

“But once you do that, it’s not a number — it becomes a name.” Right! Like, in our world, Sixtus — popes and saints! (Actually, funny enough, apparently it doesn’t even mean “sixth”! Except that it does, through usage and intention.)

So what other number names/nicknames are there? This is a selection of what I found (I searched by meaning on Behind the Name — lots of names in unfamiliar languages that mean “seventh son” and so forth, so if you want something really unusual be sure to search!) or have heard/came up with:

One/First
Mona, Primo/Primus, Primrose, Proteus, Winona; Onesimus could also maybe work (because of “one” contained within, though it doesn’t mean one/first), or Una (also doesn’t mean one), any “I” name

Two/Second
Duet (my own idea — sounds pretty, right? Like any of the -ette names? Do you think it works?), Secundus/a

Three/Third
Hirune (Basque for trinity!), Tercero, Tertia (I like this one — reminds me a bit of Teresa), Tertius, Treasa (used as an Irish form of Teresa), Tri, Trey, Trip, Tripper, Trinity

Four/Fourth
Cuatro, Four (a la Divergent), Quattro, Ivy (because of IV)

Five/Fifth
Pompey/Pompeius, Pontius (yikes), Quint, Quintus, Quintella, Quinten, Quentin, Quincy, Quintillian, and other Quin- names that don’t actually have anything to do with five/fifth except in appearance: Quin(n), Quinlan, and V names (or the name Vee)

Six/Sixth
Six, Sixt, Sextus/Sixtus (I definitely think Sixtus is more wearable), and those that contain “six” but don’t mean six: Sixte, Sixten, Sixtine (I really love Sixten!), and VI initials

Seven/Seventh
September (yes! a sneaky seven, that!), Septimus/a, Seven

Eight/Eighth
Keightlyn/KVIIIlyn (!), Octavia/Tavia, Octavius, Octavian, Tavian

Nine/Ninth
Nona, Nonus, Nuno/a, November (see September!), and unrelated to nine: Nonie, Nonna

Ten/Tenth
December, Dixie, Declan (because of the dec- — I saw this somewhere once and thought it was so clever), Tennyson (because of the ten-), Decimus/a, any X- name (Xavier, Xenia)

Eleven/Eleventh
Eleven/El/Elle, XI initials

What do you all think of these? What else can you add? I’m especially interested to hear what else you’ve heard in real life!