Baby name consultation: Continue the subtle bird theme? (I say yes!)

This week I’m posting a consultation I did for a reader a while ago, who has given me permission to share it here. Brigid and her husband are expecting their third baby on earth, a little green bean (=gender unknown). This little one joins big sisters:

+Maria Arsenia

Hilaria Jacqueline, called Lark

Katherine Julia, called Wren or Birdie

I absolutely love the bird theme — how clever to come up with Lark from the “LAR” of Hilaria and the K sound in Jacqueline!! I’ve seen Wren for Katherine before — I think it’s such a fun twist on a classic, and of course Birdie! So sweet! Maria Arsenia is so lovely as well.

Brigid writes,

I chose my patron saint, St Brigid, when I was 6, and eventually changed my legal name to my saint’s name. I’ve always felt my name was a story I carry with me, a story I can look to for encouragement and guidance. My husband also changed his name to his patron saint’s name, so we view our children’s names as gifts freely given, but belonging to them. I would not be surprised if some of them changed their names too.”

Isn’t that amazing??

We love that [the girls’] names are elegant, feminine, historic, and meaningful. Each and every name is a special saint, an honor name, or both

We’d like to honor our mothers, Paula Mary and Sharon Lee, in this baby’s name. A boy would almost certainly be Paul. I’m trying to talk the husband into Paul Heron

For a girl, one option is to use Mary Lee as a double middle. My one-syllable maiden name is everyone’s second middle, followed by our one-syllable last name.

My favorite name for this baby, if it’s a girl, is Mary Rose. Mary Rose Lee Maiden Last. My husband said, “Hmm.” The only time he has ever brought up baby names when we weren’t pregnant, it was for the name Harriet. And I have to admit Harriet Mary Lee is pretty great. Other shared favorites are Theodora, Paulina, Elise, and Anne. I love pretty much any Mary double: Marianne, Mary Elise, Mary Dove, etc. I can’t talk him into Iris, Rosa, or Beatrice. We can’t use Vivian or Lydia. We’re Orthodox, so pre-1054 and Eastern saints are wonderful.

I’d love to keep having subtle bird nicknames. Theodora called Dove is the only idea I have right now. Harriet called Hawk or Heron?

If we don’t use Paul as a first, it’ll be the middle. Nicholas, Benjamin, Matthias and Raphael are the runners-up.

We’re most stuck on girl’s names we both like, and on how to honor Sharon for a boy’s name. Paul Lee doesn’t work for my ear.”

I love how Brigid described her girls’ names as “elegant, feminine, historic, and meaningful” — I totally agree, and I’m excited to try to help her and her hubby come up with some equally wonderful ideas for this baby!

I also love that Brigid wants to honor her mother and mother-in-law with this baby’s name. Mary Lee as a double middle is a great option and an extra fun layer is that Mary and Lee are the grandmothers’ middle names, so using them in the middle name spot is almost like a double honor for them.

I think Heron for Sharon is pretty brilliant! Paul Heron to honor a Paula and a Sharon is fantastic, and the fact that it incorporates their bird theme is Master Class, really brilliant. If Brigid’s hubby can’t get on board, some other ideas I had for honoring Sharon in a boy’s name were:

  • Using a name that has a strong “sha” element: I did a search in the Name Finder on for boy names containing “sha” and thought the results that were most promising were Elisha, Marshall, and Shalom. I particularly like that Shalom is very similar in appearance to Sharon. But my very favorite idea in this vein is Pasha — it’s a Russian diminutive of Paul (Pavel), and mashes up Paul and Sharon perfectly! I could see them preferring this as a middle name, which I think would be perfect.
  • Using a name with a similar meaning: According to, Sharon means “plain” — other names with the same or similar meanings include Blair, Crofton, Forbes, Whitaker, Winfield, Agellus, Rhun, and Field. Some cool options!
  • Using a name related to the flower: The rose of Sharon flower provides another possible connection. I included Sharon in my book of Marian names because Our Lady’s title Rosa Mystica (Mystical Rose) stems from the “rose of Sharon” mentioned in the Song of Songs (2:1), which is traditionally understood to refer to Mary. Because of this, I thought Solomon might do to honor Sharon, since he’s the author of the Song of Songs. I discovered that the flower’s official name is Hibiscus syriacus, and I thought Syriacus could be a cool middle name — it has that same “biblical place name” feel that Sharon has (if you focus on the fact that Sharon is, in origin, a biblical place name). The Wikipedia page for the flower said the “plant can bloom continuously from July through September,” so I thought maybe August could work! And finally, one of the types of roses of Sharon is called “William R. Smith” — I could see both August and William working nicely with their girls’ names. (St. Augustine would be a perfect patron for August, and there are a few pre-1054 holy Williams:;;;

Mary Rose is lovely! Brigid’s hubby’s response of “Hmm” made me laugh — husbands! I agree with her that his idea of Harriet is awesome — Harriet Mary Lee is wonderful. I’d thought Hen (and Henny, so cute!) would be a perfect nickname for it — being an H name is enough to justify Hen in my opinion — but also the fact that Harriet is the English form of Henrietta makes Hen seem particularly perfect. It was only after I’d been soaking in the happiness of Harriet nn Hen for a couple of days that I realized Wren and Hen are probably too rhymey as sisters! Ah well. Brigid’s ideas of Hawk and Heron are equally doable I think, because of Harriet starting with H, though Hawk feels very masculine to me.

Back to Rose for a minute though — I was so excited to discover that Rosella is a type of bird!! I wonder what Brigid’s hubby would think of Rosella Mary Lee or Mary Rosella Lee? In this case, I could see them using Rose as the everyday call name, which would flip their bird theme from nickname to given name, but I like that — it opens up more options for potential future children. And I think Lark, Wren/Birdie, and Rose make a lovely, cohesive set, since they’re all nature names.

I love Brigid’s ideas of Theodora called Dove and Paulina called Linnet. She has Elise on her list as well — I wonder if she’s considered the full Elizabeth/Elisabeth? I think the full name could take the nickname Linnet as well.

Okay, when I was looking for new ideas for this family, I took two routes: The first is my usual, where I look up the names the parents have used and like in the Baby Name Wizard (affiliate link) to find other names that Brigid and her husband would probably like; the second was to do research on bird names and see if I could back into a formal name + nickname option that way. Then I looked through both and the list of Eastern Orthodox saints on Wikipedia to see if I could find a patron Saint (though I admit I’m not sure if the pre-1054 parameter refers to their date of death or date of canonization? I used date of death, so beware that I might have inadvertently included some that aren’t appropriate, so sorry!). Based on all that, these are my new ideas for Brigid’s baby-on-the-way:


(1) Margaret or Magdalene nn Magpie

I wasn’t surprised to see Margaret as a style match for this family, and Magpie immediately came to mind as the perfect nickname! While Margaret is certainly well matched with Katherine, I thought it seemed a bit plain next to Hilaria, so I thought Brigid and her hubby might like to consider variants like Margarita, Margaretha, Marguerite, Margo(t), Margery, etc. — there are so many of them! St. Margaret of Antioch works as patron, and she’s listed as “also known as” Margherita, Marina, Margaritha, Marine, and Margaretha on

I also thought Magdalene (or Magdalyn, Magdalena, etc.) might also be a great idea as it’s a little more offbeat — a nice middle ground between Hilaria and Katherine I think — and can still take Magpie as a nickname.

(2) Rebecca nn Robin

How about Rebecca with the nickname Robin? A long time ago I saw a birth announcement for a Rebecca nn Ruby and I just loved it right away, I thought it was so clever. So when I saw Rebecca as a style match for this family, I thought of that birth announcement again and Robin slid into place as such a great nickname option!

(3) Stella nn Starling

I’ve always thought Starling is such a pretty and unexpected name for a girl — I used to spend quite a lot of time reading the discussion forums on and I remember at least one baby girl being named Starling. I thought of it for Brigid, and thought Stella (or Estella, Estelle) could be the perfect given name for it, because of the “star” connection. I wanted to be sure Our Lady’s title Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) was in usage before 1054 though, and according to Wikipedia (I know! But sometimes it’s the best option if I don’t want a consultation to take weeks of research!), it’s been “in use since at least the early medieval period,” so that should be good, right?

(4) Phoebe

I wonder if they’ve ever considered Phoebe? It’s both the name of a bird and the sound that bird makes (which is why it’s called a phoebe), so it’s perfect for a family who wants a bird name. In this case, it would be the given name rather than a nickname, which, like with Rosella above, might be a nice addition to their theme without doing it exactly as they’ve done in the past. Phoebe is biblical of course, but there’s also a pre-Congregation St. Phoebe of Rome.

(5) Piper (Paulina?)

I was totally taken with the pictures of sandpipers I found when I was doing bird research — they are the cutest! I love the name Piper, I think it’s sweet and musical for a girl, and in this case, I can see it working easily as a nickname for Paulina. I also enjoyed discovering that there’s an Eastern Saint named St. Stephen of Piperi — could be a cool second patron for a little Paulina nn Piper!

(6) Columba, Paloma nn Dove

Finally, I’m grouping these together because I’m not sure they’re exactly Brigid’s style, but I wanted to mention them anyway. Though St. Columba was a man, I think Columba feels more natural these days for a girl, and Columba means “dove,” so Columba nn Dove would be perfect!

Similarly, Paloma is a Spanish name meaning “dove,” and it’s Marian too — her title La Virgen de la Paloma dates to the eighteenth century, which doesn’t work for this family, but the doves referred to in the Song of Songs are understood to refer to Mary, so that would be perfect! I think Paloma and Hilaria are very well matched as sisters; if they did Mary Paloma, I think Katherine would be looped in nicely.


(1) Martin

Boy names were tough! But I was thrilled to discover that martins are a kind of bird, and that Pope St. Martin I works as patron! Like with Rosella and Phoebe, Martin would be the given name rather than the nickname, but that could be the way they decide to do it for their boys (if they were to have more).

(2) Philip nn Pip

Because of Phoebe, one of the things I researched were bird noises to see if there were any possibilities there. According to this cool graphic, the Song Thrush’s song sounds like “filip filip filip codidio codidio quietquiquit tittit tittit tereret tereret tereret” — that first part, the “filip” part, made me think Philip might be perfect! Not only that, but the traditional (and amazing) Philip nickname Pip also has bird connections — apparently a pip is when a baby bird breaks through its shell using its beak. How cool is that?? St. Philip of Agira is the perfect patron for a little Philip.

(3) Robert nn Robin

I feel like there’s a good chance Brigid and her husband considered this and decided against it, but I thought it was good to include it here just in case. Robin is an old, traditional nickname for Robert, and while male Robins are rare these days (Robin Williams notwithstanding), I actually have a neighbor whose teen son is named Robin. And Robert is certainly handsome and classic. Rupert and Rigobert are fun variants to consider as well. St. Rigobert of Rheims is a good patron date-wise, as are St. Robert of Syracuse, St. Rupert of Bingen, and St. Rupert of Salzburg. (I think Robin could probably also work for Raphael, right?)

(4) Henry nn Hawk, Heron

This isn’t really a new idea, since Hawk and Heron were ideas Brigid already had, but I thought Henry works perfectly as a way to get to them for a boy. St. Henry II is a pre-1054 Saint, and I love that he’s known as Good King Henry.

(5) Stephen nn Piper

When I was writing about St. Stephen of Piperi as a possible patron for a little girl named Piper, I wondered about considering Piper for a boy? If they like that idea, I could totally see Stephen as the given name and Piper as the nickname after St. Stephen of Piperi.

(6) Finch

Finch was the first idea I had for this family for a boy. I think it’s so cool! Finch totally works as a nickname for Philip (if they didn’t like the Pip idea above), or as a middle name with a more staid first name (William Finch? August Finch? Paul Finch Lee?)

(7) Jay

Finally, Jay! Jay can work on its own (I know a “just Jay”), or it can be a nickname for anything you want, really — any J name, and even non-J names, as was the case with my uncle, whose given name was Lawrence but he always went by Jay!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Hilaria/Lark and Katherine/Wren?

I’m currently on hiatus from doing consultations, but Theresa Zoe Williams is available to help you! Email her at to set up your own consultation! (Payment methods remain the same.)

During my hiatus, please don’t forget about my book! Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Baby name consultation: Uncommon but not unheard of name to go with John for baby no. 6

Happy Monday everyone! Here’s another consultation by our new baby name consultant, Theresa Zoe Williams!

Mama Adrienne writes in asking for help naming baby #6, a boy, due in October. Baby boy will be joining older siblings:

Constance Jane

Veronica Joy

Mark Ross “Ross”

Ambrose James

Silas Augustine

Adrienne says:

I don’t really want to repeat first letters, mainly just because it’s an easy shorthand, but I would do so for a really special name. I also don’t love alliteration with our last name (so that probably rules out “M” first names)…I also do not want the first name to rhyme with the last name. For example, I wouldn’t use Asher because the ending sounds too similar to [our last name that sounds like Heather]”.

Names they can’t use:

  • Jackson
  • Joseph
  • McCord
  • Cohen
  • Garner
  • James
  • Thomas
  • Jeremy
  • Jacob
  • Jordan
  • Alasdair
  • Names they like:
  • Benedict
  • Titus
  • Elias
  • Theodore
  • Atticus

Adrienne also adds:

If Baby had been a girl, we were considering Hazel, Felicity, and Aurelia.

My husband only has eyes for John (to honor St. John the Evangelist). He won’t consider Jonathan, which I have offered as a compromise, but might be willing to consider John as a middle name

We have also discussed forms of John (like Ewan or Ian) and double names like John Paul, but so far, he is resistant to those suggestions. To add a little bit of a wrinkle to the consultation, we are actually an Orthodox family. But, we are also Western Rite, so we love saints that are recognized by both East and West, like Ambrose and Augustine. We like our names to have at least one patron saint in the name. It can be a saint name from the Bible or more recent times.  Since St. John would be the patron saint though, I’m open to a not-yet-a-saint first name ideas as well (like our son Ross). My husband prefers names for boys that are strong/traditional. He’s not worried about whether a name is popular. I really prefer names that are more uncommon, but not unheard of! We do not care for gender-neutral names. We don’t want to use surnames or place names. We don’t care for unusual spellings. The cadence of the name is important to me. I like it to have a nice flow with our last name. My hesitation with giving in on “John” as a first name is mainly that it sounds plain next to our other kids’ names, like Ambrose and Veronica.”

Wow!! What great information for naming their child. I definitely kept everything in mind when doing their consultation. I agree that John sounds a little plain next to the other kids’ names but it’s also one of those names that goes with literally every other name out there. You honestly can’t go wrong with John! But I’ve got plenty of suggestions anyway.

First, I thought I’d give my thoughts on the names they said they like already but just aren’t clicking as “the one”.

Benedict: Great name, great saint! Fits well with your other kids and has the cute nicknames Ben and Benny. If you wanted to get a little unusual with this one (and maybe bridge the gap between Ross and the others), you could call him Ned.

Titus: Again, another great name and saint that fits in well with your others. I really like this one for you guys, actually.

Elias: This is a form of Elijah and I think this form does really well with your others. It’s unusual but not weird.

Theodore: Such a cute and handsome name! One that really would grow well on a child. So many nickname options, too! Theo, Teddy, Ted, T+middle initial. It’s so versatile!

Atticus: I adore this name and truly wish it was used more often. The name itself doesn’t have a standout meaning (It means “from Attica” which is the region in Greece where Athens is located) but it conjures images of a strong man, a father. I’d push you to go for this name but it repeats the A like your son Ambrose!

Adrienne’s husband loves John but she doesn’t so much (it is still very common) and, so far, he hasn’t gone for any variation of it. I hate to see a name and saint you love go unused because you can’t agree on a form of it! Here are some other variations of the name John:

Ivan– Russian

Johannes/Johan/Hans– German and Germanic languages (I knew a Hans growing up and he was so cool! I associate Hans with being really friendly, creative, and cool)

Jean– French

Giovanni/Gianni/Gian– Italian

Jonas– I love this more unusual, surname form of John. I also think this sounds so good as a brother for Ross, Ambrose, and Silas!

Zane– this is an American form of John. It’s unusual and got that punchy Z and is a great brother name to all your others, sort of bridging all the gaps and bringing them all together.

Evan– This is a Welsh form of John but I also thought this would be a cool way to honor St. John the Evangelist because it matches the first four letters of Evangelist!

Now for new suggestions! I kept all your rules and your faith in mind and here’s what I thought:

(1) Peter

It’s a match for all of your other kids’ names and has many many saints to go along with it, but of course, chief among them is St. Peter the Apostle. It’s a great name on a little kid and a great name on an adult. Short form, Pete gives is grounding and likability, too. And there are other nicknames I’ve heard, too, like Petey, Peep, PT, and Pepe (even though that’s actually a nickname for Jose!). Peter John is an incredible combo that I don’t think could be topped, also!

(2) Philip

Another Apostle and another match for all of your kids’ names! There are actually two Philips in the New Testament, too–– the Apostle and also, St. Philip the Deacon whom St. Paul talks about in his letters. Philip is an up-and-coming name ranking at 451 and it’s been dropping in recent years, meaning the only place you’d ever hear it is probably in Orthodox and Catholic circles. It’s got all kinds of nicknames to go with it like Phil, Philly, Pip, and Pippin, which makes it versatile.

(3) Bartholomew

This name is a match for your sons’ names and he was an Apostle (also sometimes known as Nathanael). I thought bringing in another heavy-hitting name would balance out Constance and Ambrose from their siblings Ross, Veronica, and Silas. Bartholomew does that! There are the traditional nicknames Bart, Barty, and Barth but you could get creative here and do Barto, Bam, Bolo, Art, Artie, Arth, or even Tolo. Personally, I love the nickname Bam but that could be because I associate that sound so strongly with little boys!

(4) Ignatius

St. Ignatius of Antioch is regarded as a Father of the Church in Catholicism and I think he holds a similar place in Orthodoxy? He’s a match for Ambrose and I thought how cool it would be for brothers to share that.

(5) Clement

Another early, heavy-hitting saint, Clement, with nicknames Clem, Clemmy, Lem, and Lemmy, balances out Constance and Ambrose against Veronica, Ross, and Silas. A great name meaning “clemency” or “mercy”, it reminds us of God’s greatest attribute.

(6) Basil

This is a name I’ve been begging my husband to let me use but he won’t go for it! It sounds too British to him and maybe to you, too? But St. Basil the Great is, well, great, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this name for you guys. He’s an early saint like Veronica and Ambrose, but he’s short and spunky like Silas and Ross. The name means “little king” and isn’t that just so fitting for child #6? This is also a name in Arabic and means “brave, valiant” which super cool!! This is, I think, a can’t miss name for you guys and Basil John is just so strong and swoony.

(7) Gregory

Finally, Gregory. I like this name for you guys as is connects and bridges all of the other kids’ names together; is familiar but not too popular (it currently ranks at 432); and has three amazing saints: the Great, Nazianzen, and of Nyssa! Greg is the obvious nickname but if that’s too old man for you there’s also Gregor and the incredibly cute and unexpected Rory!

Those are my thoughts! What do you think?

Email Theresa at to set up your own consultation! (Payment methods remain the same.)

Baby name consultation: Biblical and/or first-millennium Saint’s name needed

This past February Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia met in Cuba, a meeting which was called “the first in history.” Though Kirill doesn’t speak for the whole of the Eastern Orthodox Church (being that the Eastern Orthodox Church is a group of self-governing churches in communion [including the Greek Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church], though without a single head — different than the Roman Catholic set-up with the pope as head), he’s certainly an important figure in Eastern Orthodoxy, and, movingly, in Francis and Kirill’s Joint Declaration they said,

It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart … With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her …

When today’s mama — who’s Eastern Orthodox — emailed me for a consultation, I felt a similar joy and gratitude and “heart to heart” connection, as I do with all of you who love the names of our faith! ❤

This was a new kind of challenge for me, as I’m most confident with Roman Catholic saints and naming practices, both of which are sometimes somewhat different in the Eastern Orthodox church. Fortunately the mama, Arielle, was eager to help, explaining:

We are Eastern Orthodox, and our naming conventions are a bit different. These are not hard and fast rules, but in general, a child is given the first name of a saint, and this name is very liturgically important – they are ceremonially named on the eighth day of life, they are baptized with that name, the priest gives them communion by name each week, they are married with that name, etc. If for some reason they are NOT given a saint’s name (some people give their child a family name or just a name they have always liked), they still receive a saint’s name at baptism for all those liturgical uses, so in practice they have two names (or their middle name is their saint’s name). Which works for some, but we like to avoid that and give all of our children their saint’s name as their first name. Children do not choose a confirmation saint (they are confirmed at baptism), so this is the only saint’s name they get, unless they are ordained or tonsured.

It also is conventionally the saint’s actual name – not a place related to it (like Avila would be). Marian title names are a possibility (like Despina, Panagiotis). Translations of the name are fine (John/Johan/Ioannis/Evan/Ivan or Mary/Miriam/Maria/Mariam for instance), as are names related to major feasts – Evangelia/Evangeline would be named for the Annunciation, for instance, or Theophania would be named for Theophany (Epiphany in the West).”

It’s also really helpful that we share all the saints canonized before 1054, including Biblical saints, so:

Many names are shared (like Catherine would be for Catherine of Alexandria, instead of Catherine of Siena) but others, like Claire are not, without a real stretch (like Claire for Photini – similar meaning).”

It was easy enough to focus on those shared names, and fun to be challenged in a new way!

Arielle and her husband aren’t currently expecting, but they’re planning ahead for the possibility of Baby #5 (as she said, “I also really wanted to ask you about #4, but she was born before I got to it!“). Their kiddos’ names are:

James Benedict (“James is named for his grandfathers and for St. James the Brother of the Lord (Iakovos). Benedict is for St. Benedict of Nursia. I like the idea of including names from among the ‘Western saints’ (Benedict, Ambrose, Augustine, Brigid, Genevieve, etc.) as a nod to the fact that while we are of the Eastern Church, we are of Western heritage.”)

Miriam Anna (“Miriam Anna is named for the Theotokos (Blessed Mother) and the grandmother of Christ, who we always call St. Anna.”)

Sophia Catherine (“Sophia Catherine is named for St. Sophia of Thrace, the Mother of Orphans, and St. Catherine of Alexandria. Both are a nod to my husband, who studied ancient Greek and Roman history and philosophy. [Sophia = wisdom, St. Catherine studied Greek rhetoric and philosophy]. He also stayed at St. Catherine’s monastery in Sinai, and we have both been to the top of Mt. Sinai where her body was taken by angels.”)

Elisabeth Eleni (“Elisabeth Eleni is for St. Elizabeth the Grand Duchess of Russia, a nun martyred by the Bolsheviks. Eleni is a common Greek form of Helen, the Finder of the True Cross. I used the “s” spelling both because I just think it is beautiful and elegant, and because our last name is very German and I wanted to use the nickname Elsa (which we do). I’m not sure I love that I mixed languages here.”)

I just love all these names! I love that they’re obviously faithy, and I love their really elegant feel. I also love how Arielle said they “like the idea of including names from among the “Western saints” (Benedict, Ambrose, Augustine, Brigid, Genevieve, etc.) as a nod to the fact that while we are of the Eastern Church, we are of Western heritage.”

A few other considerations:

I love names that are Scandinavian or German forms of saints’ names, but am rather conservative when it comes to names that seem too ‘weird’ or ‘harsh’ for English-speaking ears. I would love more ideas here. I also love saints’ names from the British Isles (my heritage), especially Irish names, many of which are pre-1054 saints.

Probably no more ‘J’ names, as our last name starts with ‘J’ and one is enough. Possibly for a middle name (I like Joseph and Jude). I like that no one has the same first initial yet, but that’s not a deal-breaker. I love names that start with ‘E.’

Names they’re considering for a girl include:

Lydia (“current front runner. I love the musical sound of the name, and love that when we shorten the names of the girls it fits right in (Miri, Sophie, Elsie, Lydie!) Downside – we know a lot about our other childrens’ saints, and not a lot is known about St. Lydia. It also doesn’t mean much linguistically – just “from Lydia.” Not sure about a middle name here – Lydia Grace? Lydia Mirabel/Mirabelle? Lydia Genevieve? We love St. Genevieve, and it is the name of my great-great-grandmother. But I’m not sure that suits the musicality of the name“)

Emmelia (“one of my all time favorite saints, St. Emmelia the mother of five saints. I had to do some linguistic research for this one (I mean *ahem* have my husband do it). She is clearly a Greek-speaking saint, and so the common explanation that it is from the same root as Emily didn’t make sense. Turns out it is from a Greek word for “melodious.” I love Emmelia Rose together. Only downside is that it is so close to the common Emily, and might get pronounced like Amelia. Which is a lovely name, but different.”)


And for boys:

We have a hard time agreeing on boys’ names. Husband chose James really on his own (I wanted Benedict as a first name) and now he really wants a Thomas, so Thomas Ambrose has been on the list. I like that it goes well with James Benedict (Apostle + Western saint). I like Brendan Thomas better. We would like to include Matthew in a boy’s name at some point, for a dear friend who died.”



Names that they  like, but probably won’t use include:

Annelise (“love, but already have an Anna and Elisabeth, so seems repetitive“)

Madeleine (“Also love, especially as it goes with the French spelling of Elisabeth, but so very common. We have several little friends named Magdalene (called Maggie), so that version is out“)

Mirabelle/Mirabel (“maybe for a middle, but way to close to Miriam for a first“)

Lucia (“loved, but then a niece got it!“)



What do you think? Is this too far outside your expertise? I LOVE your site and would love to hear what you think! I feel like I’ve had the same list of names since I was a teenager and have a hard time thinking outside the box for others.

One very specific thing I could still use help with is a Scandinavian- or German-sounding name that could be a sub for Lydia. I do love Lydia. But I feel like there might be a name I’m not thinking of that goes well with sister Elsa and has that sweet musical sound and Scandi feeling. Annelise fits that bill for me, but just doesn’t go with Elisabeth/Elsa because of being the same base name!

Whew! All so interesting, right?! Okay, so first, some thoughts on Arielle and her hubs’ current ideas:

Lydia’s one of my favorite names! It’s true that its meaning is not terribly inspiring, but I’ve always loved that Lydia was a seller of purple cloth—it’s not often that a little girl has her very own color! I like how Lydia Grace and Lydia Mirabel(le) sound together, and funny enough I kind of agree about Lydia Genevieve—they’re two gorgeous names, but they don’t sound totally right together … From their girl list, I love how Lydia Magdalene and Lydia Madeleine sound. And Lydie’s one of my favorite favorite nicknames, love love love! It is true that something like Lydia Madeleine/Magdalene technically means “from Lydia + from Magdalene” but I have never really focused on the meanings of names, because they don’t tell the whole story (although I do admit that more recently, a great meaning can sway me to like a name I might not otherwise like). Lydia to me doesn’t mean “from Lydia,” it means “St. Paul’s first European convert, the lady in the Bible who sold purple cloth.” You know? Lydia Madeleine would say to me “gorgeous New Testament name (with her own color!) plus a feminine French middle that has connections to some great, holy women.” I think of names like Francis (“Frenchman”) and Cecilia (“blind”) and Blaise (“lisping”) and even Mary (whose meaning is debated, but I usually see “bitter” and some think maybe also “rebellious”) and those meanings are definitely not what people think of when they hear the names, you know? (Arielle’s email was actually one of the inspirations behind my piece at CatholicMom on name meanings!)

It’s also kind of cool that Lydia and Magdalene are two female biblical names that describe where the women were from — it’s kind of apt to pair them together! And place names are all the rage anyway, so Lydia and Magdalene/Madeleine are way ahead of the curve — place names used before any of the Dakotas or Brooklyns or Parises. 🙂

But, all that said, they could play with the meaning of Lydia in terms of connecting to the middle for a meaningful phrase … like Bebinn/Bebhinn/Bevin (and even sometimes anglicized as Vivian!) is apparently Irish for “fair lady,” so something like Lydia Bebhinn could mean “fair lady from Lydia” altogether, which nods directly to Lydia in the bible both by using her name and describing her? Or Lydia Madonna, where Madonna means “my lady” in Italian (and has the awesome Marian significance. But then, Madonna. I do think it works as a middle name though!). Or Lydia Matrona, where Matrona means “lady”in late Latin and was the name of some early saints! (Matryona in Russian, pretty!)

As for some other names that make me think of a Scandi Lydia because of their sound, I wonder what Arielle and her hubs would think of: Linnea, Livia, Tilda, Mila, Lovisa/Louisa? St. Matilda of Saxony and St. Louis of Cordoba make the cut date-wise … Linnea’s not a saint’s name and Livia (St. Agostina Petrantoni) is post 1054, but maybe they’d like them enough to use them as non-saint names? Mila’s a great one I think — I did a spotlight on Ludmila, who died before the year 1000, a great saint, and I think Mila’s a great way to honor her and not use the full name.

Re: Emmelia: I’ve never seen this name! It is beautiful! Emmelia Rose is lovely! Arielle’s right though—it will get heard as Amelia and seen as Emily. Maybe it would be best as a middle name? Brigid Emmelia and Tamsin Emmelia both strike me as lovely combos.

Brigid, Theodora, Anysia, Seraphina, Tamsin, Zoë, Naomi, and Matea are all gorgeous! I do think though that Seraphina is too close to Sophia in sound—do the rest of you agree? I love Seraphina though—maybe as a middle? With a short first name? Like Zoë Seraphina maybe? I’d never seen Anysia before—pretty name! Tamsin is one I myself considered, after a relative named Thomas– it’s so pretty and unexpected! Matea I looooove!! Brigid is beautiful, but strikes me as so different from their other kids’ names … Theodora and Naomi would fit in nicely I think.

I also love all those on their girl list that they love but won’t/can’t use, and I’m glad Arielle included them—they gave me a fuller idea of their taste, and I used them in trying to determine new ideas for them.

Thomas Ambrose is an amazing combo. Really really handsome, and would fit in really well with the other kids.

Matthias, Sebastian, Basil, Cyprian, Gabriel, Silas, Felix, Elias: These all really feel like Arielle’s kids’ names and her faith tradition to me. Love them all.

Brendan, Evan, Ciaran: These are like Brigid to me—I love them (you all know how I love the Irish/Celtic names!), but they seem sort of out of place as first names for this family to me. They’d make cool middle names though! (And really, who cares what I think … if they named a boy Ciaran, then all of a sudden it *would* fit in with their family, of course.)

Martin seems to me to be a really great bridge name—it’s not quite Matthias/Basil/Cyprian, but it seems closer to their style than Brendan/Evan/Ciaran. Martin’s great!

Okay! So what I did was I looked up the names they’ve used (firsts and middles) and those they like (even if they can’t/won’t use them) in my trusty Baby Name Wizard, as it lists, for each name, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. My goal was to compile a list of names that I thought Arielle and her hubs would like. Then I whittled that list down to names that are pre-1054 saints. So hopefully all these ideas are acceptable faith-wise, even if they don’t really do it for them taste-wise (though I think they’ll at least think, “Ok, these are definitely heading in the right direction”):

(1) Natalia
I get all swoony over Natalia, I love love love it. Just gorgeous! There are two Sts. Natalia, the one I’m familiar with (died 4th century, wife of St. Adrian), and one that died in the 9th century—she was half-Moorish and a convert to Christianity, she’d be a powerful intercessor for today’s troubles.

(2) Felicity
I hesitated to include Felicity, because she’s so obvious to me that Arielle must have considered the name and purposely decided against it, especially since they have Felix on their boy list, but I just had to list it just in case. Such a beautiful name and a beautiful saint!

(3) Lilia or Liliya
This may be flirting with the rules, or breaking them altogether, because there’s no St. Lily as far as I can tell—my inspiration was Our Lady, and lilies are associated with her, but is that too distant a connection? I love the variant Lilia, it’s so beautiful, and then I saw the Russian/Ukrainian spelling Liliya, and I love that too.

(4) Aurelia
Aurelia is so pretty and feminine, and St. Aurelia Petronilla was cured by St. Peter himself, so that’s pretty cool!

(5) Philippa
Philippa could either be a nod to any of the Sts. Philip, or it could be for St. Philippa who was crucified around the year 220. It also has the awesome nickname Pippa! Philippa/Pippa is a nice nod to Arielle’s English heritage.

(6) Adelaide
The German form is Adelheid, but I was thinking that even with Arielle’s love of German names the part of her that doesn’t want a name that’s too harsh for English ears would prefer Adelaide. It’s so pretty!

(7) Phoebe
What about Phoebe? It’s pretty and quirky and biblical, I kind of like it for this family!

(1) Clement
My two favorites inspirations for Clement for this family are Pope St. Clement I, who was the fourth pope, and St. Clement of Ireland, who had strong ties to France (I believe he died in Paris in the 9th century).

(2) Leo
Pope St. Leo the Great!! I love the name Leo, a great name for a little boy..

(3) Linus
Of course, Pope St. Linus, the immediate successor to St. Peter. A really cool name!

(4) Casper/Caspar/Gaspar
This is a nod to Arielle’s love of German/Scandi names, and also one of the Three Wise Men! These are all legit variants of the same name (as is Jasper, but they don’t want another J name), and they’re each so cool in their own way.

(5) Tobias
Another German/Scandi name, and biblical, and a 4th century martyr. Such a cool name, I love it.

(6) Samuel
I love all the names I’ve listed up until now, but since their other boy is James, I could understand if Arielle and her hubs think they’re a bit too exotic for first names. But what about Samuel? There’s the biblical patriarch, with his awesome story, and there’s a 4th century martyr. I love the name Samuel, but what really makes it, in my opinion, is the nickname Sam. So. Great.

(7) Edmund
Finally, Edmund. Like Samuel, I love Edmund as a brother to James, and it’s an E name, which Arielle said she’s drawn to! St. Edmund of East Anglia (aka St. Edmund the Martyr) was born in Germany but beheaded in England in the 9th century, so it’s kind of a cool way to bring in both her German and English sensibilities.

And those are all my ideas for Arielle and her husband! What do you all think? Is anything here helpful or inspiring? I kept checking and rechecking Arielle’s email as I was working on it to be sure I hadn’t missed a rule, but there’s a good chance I did, inadvertently, so I apologize in advance if some of these aren’t quite right!