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!

a Becket, a Kempis, a Cruce

St. Thomas a Becket, Thomas a Kempis (author of The Imitation of Christ), and St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, aka Edith Stein) all have that “a” in common — have any of you wondered what it means? I admit I’d only had a vague, noncommittal curiosity until today, when I decided to try to find out.

Basically, it means “of” or “from.” Thomas à Kempis , who is also known in German as Thomas von Kempen and in Dutch as Thomas van Kempen — “von” and “van” meaning “from” in their respective languages — is so called because Kempen was his home town. St. “Teresia Benedicta a Cruce” is simply “Teresa Benedict of the Cross” (isn’t Teresia a pretty variant? Behind the Name says T(h)eresia is a German, Dutch, and Swedish variant, and that Tessan is a Swedish diminutive and Trees a Dutch diminutive).

I’m sure the “a” in “a Becket” means the same thing, though the reason is less clear. Check out this rabbit hole I went down:

  • “Thomas Becket was the son of Norman settlers who lived in the city of London. His father was a merchant who traveled among the circles of French-speaking Norman immigrants. The name ‘Becket’ is likely a nickname, possibly meaning beak or nose, which was given to his father.” (source)
  • “Deeply influenced in childhood by a devout mother who died when he was 21, Thomas entered adult life as a city clerk and accountant in the service of the sheriffs. After three years he was introduced by his father to Archbishop Theobald, a former abbot of Bec, of whose household he became a member.” (source)
  • “Bec Abbey, formally the Abbey of Our Lady of Bec (French: Abbaye Notre-Dame du Bec), is a Benedictine monastic foundation in the Eure département, in the Bec valley midway between the cities of Rouen and Bernay. It is located in Le Bec Hellouin, Normandy, France, and was the most influential abbey of the 12th-century Anglo-Norman kingdom.” (source)
  • “Like all abbeys, Bec maintained annals of the house but uniquely its first abbots also received individual biographies, brought together by the monk of Bec, Milo Crispin.” (ibid.)
  • “‘Bec’ is the name of the stream running through the abbey, Old Norse bekkr, in English place or river names Beck.” (ibid.)
  • “Becket” is from “Beckett,” which is from “an English surname that could be derived from various sources, including from Middle English beke meaning ‘beak’ or bekke meaning ‘stream, brook'” (source)

Becket could refer to a nickname of St. Thomas’ father because of his nose! Or it could be a reference to Bec Abbey, which was originally named Abbey of Our Lady of Bec! A famous monk of Bec (a Beccan  monk? A Becket monk?) was named Milo! Which has separate Marian connections! So many fun discoveries! (So many exclamation marks!)

Back to the “a” — tell me what you know! I see that “à” is French — are all the a’s really à’s? So all these have a French origin? But German seems a big factor here too — but then German has “von”? Is it Latin, maybe? And is there some more nuanced meaning I’m missing, since a Kempis means “from a certain place,” a Becket might mean the same or “son of the father with the nickname,” and a Cruce means “of” in the sense of possession? I’d love to spend more time researching but I have a deadline I should be working on!

I’m totally loving the “a” construction — I could see “a Cruce” being an amazing name in honor of both St. Edith and Jesus. And of course Katheryn has set an amazing example with giving her son the amazing first name “à Kempis.” I mean. So brilliant. And such a really cool addition to Kolbe, Avila, Siena, and other saintly surnames/place names.

What other saints have an “a” construction in their names? I guess we could do this with any “of” saint, right? St. Catherine a Siena? St. Teresa a Avila? St. Bernard a Clairvaux? Or am I misunderstanding how this works?

I look forward to reading your comments! Happy Thursday!


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Baby name consultation: “Short and cute” vs. “flowery” for a girl, surname-style for a boy

Happy feast of Mary, Mother of the Church! And at the same time, in sorrow I share this Prayer for Racial Justice, and the call to participate in this 19-day period of prayer and fasting (from today to the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) as an act of reparation to God for the sin of racism in all its forms. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us. St. Michael, pray for us. Sacred Heart of Jesus, bless us and keep us close to You.

Trish and her husband are expecting their fourth baby — a little green bean! He or she joins big siblings:

Donovan Kolbe (“we liked last names that were first names for boys and Kolbe had special significance since my husbands grandfather escaped from the Warsaw ghetto as a boy“)

Genevieve Louise (“I love very feminine names for girls, while my husband likes short and cute. I sold it to him by saying we could call her Evie, which we did for a few years but she is now asking to be called Genevieve (YAY). Louise was after my husbands grandmother“)

Veronica Caeli (“we call her Caeli … we knew we wanted a Caeli, but didn’t want her to forever be spelling it … so made it a middle name so she can choose“)

Are you as swoony as I am over these names?! 😍😍😍

Trish writes,

My husband and I have different tastes and had a VERY difficult time coming up with our son’s name … I have a list of names for this baby but my husband pretty much doesn’t like any of them because they are “too flowery.” He would like Emma or Claire but they’re too common for me. I think Gemma is a good compromise and he likes it, but is Gemma a different name than Genevieve? I really don’t like super common names. Even Mary! Sorry to Our Lady but every other family has a Mary and I just can’t.”

(“and I just can’t” — haha!)

Names Trish and her hubby have discussed include:

Xavier
Leo
Oliver
Jerome
Gemma
Eloise Grace (“but can we do an Eloise with an Evie Louise??“)
Emmeline
Annalise
Seraphina

And Trish specifically said, “I hope you can bridge the gap!!!” which, as I told her, is one of my very favorite things to do! (In fact, my very first CatholicMom.com column [five years ago!] was about this exact issue!)

First off, I’ll say that I really love that they both like Gemma, and normally I’d think it would be a perfect compromise, but for Genevieve! I mean, Genevieve starts with the sound *jenna*, and Gemma is *jemma* — they’re SO close! If they always called Genevieve “Evie,” then perhaps it wouldn’t be too problematic, at least on an everyday basis. Of course, that said, if Trish and her hubby just really love Gemma and the similarity between Gemma and Genevieve doesn’t bother them, then it’s certainly not the end of the world to choose Gemma!

I’m interested in the divide between Trish and her husband over girl names — he likes feminine, shorter names (Evie, Caeli, Emma, Claire), while Trish has feminine, longer names on her list (Emmeline, Annalise, and Seraphina). I see a lot of potential here!

I actually think Emmeline is a perfect compromise name here — it’s got Emma in it, from Trish’s hubby’s list, and a little Emmeline could easily and naturally go by Emma and/or Emmy. Annalise and Seraphina are similarly good I think, because Anna/Annie and Sera are less “flowery” names and I think they would qualify as “short and cute,” as Trish described her husband’s taste (I also think Sophie could work as a nickname for Seraphina, which I also suspect Trish’s husband might like). Another name that might also be a good compromise is Clairvaux. It’s pronounced clair-VO, like St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and having the Clair- at the beginning means a little Clairvaux can go by Claire with no problem. Two of my readers have daughters named Clairvaux! I definitely think Trish should check them out (here and here) as both families have name taste similar to hers, I think.

As for Eloise Grace, I wouldn’t think it would be a problem unless they regularly tack Louise onto whatever they’re calling Genevieve. That is, do they regularly call her Evie Louise? Or even the full Genevieve Louise? If so, I do feel like Eloise might be too similar. But if Louise rarely shows up when they’re referring to Genevieve, then I think it’s fine. It also reminds me of a friend of mine who gave both her first and second daughters the middle name Catherine, but the older daughter’s middle name was for her grandmother Catherine, and the second daughter’s middle name was for St. Catherine of Siena. And I know more than one family who used a certain name as a middle name for one child, and liked that name so much they used it as the first name for a subsequent child. I say all this to say, even if Trish and her hubby use Louise with some regularity and still want to use Eloise for their next daughter, other families have done similar and even crazier things and the world didn’t fall apart. They can easily say for those who wonder that Louise was for Hubby’s grandmother and Eloise is just because they like it, or whatever. And actually, Louise and Eloise aren’t linguistically related! Louise is a feminine form of Louis, while Eloise is a variant of Heloise.

Another name that I thought they might like to consider is Elise — very similar to Eloise but even more different from Louise than Eloise is. It’s a short French form of Elizabeth, which opens up lots of great patron saints. Or Elisa, which flows better with Grace than Elise, I think. Or Elodie? That’s also a really pretty name.

There’s no problem at all about not liking the name Mary! Many Catholic families feel similarly, both because of name fatigue from all those years of Mary as the Number One Girl’s Name as well as a preference for more unexpected names (and not at all because of any disrespect toward Our Lady), which is in large part why I wrote my book of Marian baby names! There are so many gorgeous, legitimately Marian names that aren’t Mary — names that fit all different tastes in names! I included some in my list of suggestions below.

As for boy names, I think they’ve got a great list! I’m surprised there aren’t more surname-type names on there, since Trish had said that she and her hubs like last names that are first names for boys. Xavier is the only name on their list that fits that criteria, though it’s been used as a first name for so long that many people don’t know that it started as a last name. Leo and Oliver are great, and I regularly see them on lists of names considered by parents I do consultations for, but I rarely see Jerome! I admit though, when I was looking for boy names for this baby, I focused mostly on finding last name type names.

Okay, on to my suggestions! You all know that I start each consultation by looking up in the Baby Name Wizard the names the parents have used and those they like/are considering as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I also looked through my book of Marian names for ideas for both boys and girls. These are what I came up with (a few extra for girls, given that girl names are particularly problematic for this couple):

Girl
(1) Ave
I feel like Ava is the kind of name Trish’s hubby would like — “short and cute” — but changing it slightly to Ave makes it both much more uncommon and more obviously faithy. It’s said like AH-vay, like in Ave Maria. I’d love to see such a short first name paired with a longer middle — because Ave means “Hail” (Ave Maria=Hail Mary), it might be weird to put it with a non-Marian middle, so maybe something like Ave Immaculata? That strikes me as a combo Trish might really like, and I think Ave might be the kind of name her husband would be okay with. I could also see putting Ave and Maria together as Avemaria, that would be amazing.

(2) Isla
I was actually inspired to add Isla by one of the Clairvaux families I linked to above — they have another daughter named Isla, and Isla’s an entry in my book for the Marian title Our Lady of the Isles. It’s “short and cute,” and so pretty!

(3) Pia
This is another name in my book, it’s the feminine form of Pius/Pio, and in the Salve Regina Our Lady is specifically referred to as pia, which is translated in the English version as “loving,” though it’s technical translation is more along the lines of “pious, devout, dutiful.” Actor David Henrie (of Wizards of Waverly Place fame, which I never watched but he’s got loads of followers), who’s actually a devout Catholic, recently named his daughter Pia, and I love seeing her sweet face and name in my Instagram feed! If Trish could convince her husband to use a longer name, I think Pia could also work as a nickname for Seraphina and Philomena and Phillippa.

(4) Liesse
This is yet another name in my book — it’s French for “joy” and refers to Notre Dame de Liesse (Our Lady of Joy). Isn’t it such a pretty name? It can definitely be used on its own, and if Trish wanted to lengthen it, Marie-Liesse isn’t uncommon (especially in France).

(5) Maristella
I know Trish said she doesn’t care for Mary, but what about something like Maristella? It reminds me of Genevieve and Veronica (and Emmeline, Annalise, and Seraphina) because of its length and femininity (which probably means her hubby won’t care for it, oh dear), but both Maris and Stella can be nicknames for it, as well as some other creative options like Mia, Mari, Molly, Missy, Milla and Mella (I could see Trish’s husband particularly liking Mia and Molly). Maristella is a reversal of the Marian title Stella Maris (Star of the Sea). Two Sancta Nomina readers have daughters named Maristella: here and here.

(6) Mercedes
I know Trish’s husband is freaking out at this point that I’m including all these ideas he won’t like! So sorry! I just really love the idea of compromising by using a longer, less familiar name like Trish likes with a familiar, “short and cute” nickname more like her husband’s taste. Mercedes is in my book — it means “mercies,” and is for Our Lady of Mercy or Our Lady of Mercies. It’s a Spanish name with quite an interesting (and very Catholic!) history — I posted more about it here. During the Jubilee Year of Mercy, quite a few of my readers chose names related to Mercy for their children, and not only did Mercedes get some usage, but so did Mercy itself. I thought maybe Trish’s husband might like Mercy? It can stand on its own, or it can be a nickname for Mercedes. Sadie can also be a nickname for Mercedes, which I also thought her hubby might like. Lots of options!

(7) Tessa
Again, Tessa seems to me like the kind of name Trish’s husband would like — I would definitely call it “short and cute.” I actually thought Trish might like it too! Or maybe this could be another possible compromise, where they could use the given name Therese or Teresa and call her Tess or Tessa. I mentioned Marie-Liesse above, which makes me also think of Marie-Therese — I just love how the French do that! And I think doing a double first name (with or without the hyphen) automatically gives the name a more unusual character, which Trish prefers. So maybe Marie-Therese plus a middle name, called Tess or Tessa?

(8) Zara
Finally, Zara: in my research for this family in the Baby Name Wizard, I actually didn’t find a whole lot of ideas that I thought would work for them. But Zara is a style match for both Gemma and Xavier, and it’s short and cute while also being uncommon, so I thought I should definitely include it in my suggestions. I actually did a spotlight post on it a while ago, as I’d discovered that it’s a feminine short form of Zechariah — I loved finding that connection! Zechariah is a name I’ve often thought would be great for a boy as a sort-of nod to the Visitation, since he was Elizabeth’s husband and John the Baptist’s father; a little Zara could claim that same connection.

Boy
(1) Tiber
Okay, moving on to boy ideas. So I totally latched onto the fact that Trish said she and her husband like last-names-as-first-names for boys, and I always include place names in that category (especially since so many last names started as place names, and so many saintly place names have a last name feel, like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, etc.). And any time I know one of the parents is a convert, I immediately think of Tiber! Tiber is for the Tiber River in Rome, and many of you know that when someone converts to Catholicism a fun thing to say is that they “crossed the Tiber.” (There are even t-shirts that say “Tiber Swim Team” with the year the person entered the Church, like these.) Anyway, two of my readers have used Tiber for their boys and I love it! I think it’s so cool and so meaningful, but in kind of a stealthy way! Check them out here and here.

(2) Fulton
Another name that came right to mind when seeing Donovan Kolbe’s name is Fulton! Fulton was actually Fulton Sheen’s mom’s maiden name, so a legit last name, even thought it’s so tied to him as a first name.

(3) Owen
A name that did well for this family in my research was Owen, which I love because of course it’s a first name, but it’s also St. Nicholas Owen’s last name (he’s amazing)! So it reminds me a lot of Donovan in that they both have good usage as first names.

(4) Elliott
Elliott’s another one that did quite well for them in my research, and like Donovan and Owen, I love that it has usage as a last name (poet T.S. Eliot is one example) while still being a familiar but not too common first name. It’s actually a variant of Elijah, which gives it both a faith connection and a specifically Marian connection (via Elijah’s connection to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which I discuss in my book).

(5) Campion
Camden was listed as a style match for Donovan, which made me think of the similar and saintly Campion, for St. Edmund Campion. Isn’t Campion a cool name? I’ve always had a soft spot for the nickname Cam, and I love St. Edmund Campion, and I love how brothers Donovan and Campion sound!

I also encourage Trish and her hubby to check out my posts on saintly surnames — there are so many great options for those who love the surname style!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little sister or brother of Donovan, Genevieve (sometimes nicknamed Evie), and Veronica Caeli (called Caeli)?


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Baby name consultation: Looking for slightly more traditional than they’ve already used, but still uncommon

Hillary and her husband are expecting their fourth baby — a girl! This little lady joins big siblings (who are “ecstatic,” according to Hillary — so cute!):

Gideon Charles (“Gideon was born while [hubby] and I were living and working in Ethiopia as missionaries. Gideon is a popular name in Ethiopia. His middle name, Charles, was [hubby’s] father’s middle name who died just before we married.”)

Chiri Patricia (“Chiri (pronounced Cheery) was named after the town we lived in in Ethiopia. Her middle name, Patricia, is named after my paternal grandmother Patricia who was a wonderfully generous and beautiful person.”)

Jasper Harrison (“Jasper was named after a friend of [hubby’s] in Kenya who was a camel rancher, who died just before Jasper was born. Harrison was my maternal grandfather’s name, and in addition we lived in Harrisonburg, Virginia, at the time, so wanted to honor our town as we did for Chiri.”)

Aren’t these cool names?? I love them all! Not only do I love them just for themselves, but also all the meaning behind each one, such a great job!

Hillary writes,

For our little girl, we may be interested in a slightly more traditional, but still not too common, name. We have taken to calling her ‘Josie” short for Josephine, as we have a special love for St. Joseph, to whom we prayed a novena when we returned from Africa and Jeff was job hunting. St. Joseph has cared for our family in many ways. I am not crazy about another JJ name, however, as [their last name begins with J and Dad and Jasper’s names both begin with J], Josie J___ might be too much!

Jeff really likes Polly (Polly is a paternal aunt of mine) but I worry it will bring parrots to mind.

My middle name is Jane, and there are many generations of women before me on my father’s side with the middle name Jane, so that is a good possibility. Jane J___ is fraught with alliteration concerns, however! [Not only do they both begin with J, but Jane sounds quite similar to their last name.]

Some other names we have talked about: Grace, Susanna, Heidi, Marian, Polly; we also like the names Fern and Daisy

Other names with significant relatives in our family: Meredith, Ann, Dorothy, Joyce, Sandra, Elizabeth, Jennifer

I loved working on this! So many wonderful names! My first thought when reading Hillary’s email was to tackle the issue of Josie. I love that they’re already calling the baby Josie, and I love that it’s because of their love for St. Joseph and his care for their family! I had two idea of ways to work with this, if they were open to keeping St. Joseph in the baby’s name in some form (given name or nickname):

  • Since they’re already calling the baby Josie, I wondered if I could find names that Josie could possibly be a nickname for that don’t start with J. I know that doesn’t solve the Josie J___ dilemma, but it might help soften it. I searched for girl names that include “jo” somewhere in them on babynamewizard.com’s Name Finder, and was intrigued by Marjory/Marjorie and Marjolaine/Marjolein. I liked that Marjory/Marjorie is more of a “more traditional, but still not too common” kind of name, as Hillary mentioned they might prefer this time. It’s a variant of Margaret via Margaret’s medieval variant Margery, which was actually a style match for Marian from their list when I did research for this family in the Baby Name Wizard! (You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have used and those they like in the BNW as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity.) Marjolaine/Marjolein are variants of “marjoram” (the herb), kind of a cool way to work in a flower-type/nature name without being too obvious. With Marjorie/Marjory/Marjolaine/Marjolein, they might like to pair it with an S-heavy middle name, to make sense of Josie as a nickname — Sandra from their list of family names might do perfectly!
  • If they didn’t like the idea of Josie being a non-conventional nickname for a different name as mentioned above, maybe they’d prefer to consider Josephine as a given name with a different nickname? Posie/Pos(e)y has traditional usage as a Josephine nickname, which is so sweet, and I’ve often thought Sophie could work as well, since all its letters are contained within Josephine.
  • Then I thought that Hillary and her hubs might like Posie/Pos(e)y as a given name on its own! It’s similar to Polly (in that Polly was a nickname in origin — a nickname for Mary) and rhymes with the Josie they’ve already been using; it’s a nickname for Josephine so the connection to St. Joseph is solid; and it doesn’t begin with J! Posie J___ is absolutely darling.

As for the other names they’re considering:

  • Polly is sweet! I can’t imagine the parrot connection being really problematic — I grew up with a Polly, and I don’t remember it ever being an issue with her, and names like Polly (sweet and vintage-y) are definitely back in style (though Polly itself hasn’t been in the top 1000 since the 70’s). I wonder if they’ve considered Molly? Molly and Polly are both originally nicknames for Mary, arising about the same time, and Molly avoids the parrot association altogether.
  • If Jane is the middle name, which is an idea I love, I don’t think the alliteration is that big a deal — so few people know a person’s middle name as they go through life, you know? It’s not like they’d be saying her full name every time. And the middle spot is often where people put names that they want to use, or feel obligated to use, that don’t work as first names or that they don’t care for style-wise but want to fit in there anyway. Another possibility is to use a Jane variant — it won’t be quite as great as having Hillary’s exact middle name and that of her ancestors, but it could be pretty great nonetheless. If the long A of Jane and the surname is particularly problematic, maybe even switching to Joan or Jean would suffice? Otherwise, there are so many great options: Jane is a John variant, so any of the feminine John variants would work, like Gianna and Joanna, Hanne/Hanna, Yana and Siobhan. Another possibility is Ione, as some sites that argue that Ione is a feminine form of John. Nameberry says, “Some livelier foreign versions of Joan include Giovanna, Siobhan, Ione and Juana” and apparently there are several places in literature (like Shakespeare!) where Ione was used interchangeably with Joan — so cool, right?
  • Grace: Lovely, simple and sweet.
  • Susanna: The girl name we’ve hung on to through all our six boys! I love it, such a great name.
  • Heidi: Another that I would classify as simple and sweet, like Polly and Grace.
  • Marian: Marian always strikes me as one of the stronger Mary names, probably because of Maid Marian — I love that association!
  • Fern and Daisy: Fantastic names!
  • Regarding their family names, I assumed Hillary and her hubs would probably pull from them for the middle name, and didn’t consider them as first-name contenders, I hope that’s correct!

Alrighty, so I already mentioned that I always do research in the Baby Name Wizard, and really enjoyed seeing what the results of it were for this family — I love seeing names emerge as matches for parents’ overall style. I also plugged Gideon, Jasper, Polly, Heidi, and Fern into the Name Matchmaker on babynamewizard.com (it only lets you do three names at a time, so I tried to choose the girl names that I thought would give me the best results; I searched Gideon, Jasper, and Polly first; Gideon, Jasper, and Heidi second; and Heidi, Polly, and Fern third), which revealed some additional ideas. Based on all that, these are my suggestions:

(1) Naomi
The style matches for Gideon were really exciting to me, I felt like they nailed what I perceive to be Hillary and her hubs’ style pretty well. Naomi was one of them, and I love that Naomi is, in my mind, exactly the kind of name they’d be looking for with “slightly more traditional, but still not too common.” Although … when I looked it up I discovered it was actually no. 69 in 2017, which I’m so surprised by! But I still love it for this family, and I think it also matches up really well with the feel of Susanna (especially spelled Susannah).

(2) Lydia
If sisters are going to have names that seem different in style, I like for there to be some other thread that links them together. When I saw Lydia as a match for Gideon, Grace, and Susanna, I thought it might be perfect because, like Chiri, it’s a place name — the Lydia in the bible was so named because she was from Lydia.

(3) Eden
This, too, was influenced by Chiri’s name, as well as by the fact that it’s a match for Gideon — Eden is a place name, of course, and I think it goes really well with the other kiddos’ names. It was no. 139 in 2017, so I don’t think it’s too unusual (but not too common either). I also looove the nickname Edie!

(4) Mercy
As I said, I really felt like the style matches for Gideon were such great suggestions for this family, and Mercy was another one! Like Grace it’s a virtue-type name, and I saw quite a bit of it (and other names with the same meaning) during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I did think that it could also work as a nickname for Meredith, if Hillary liked the idea of using her family name Meredith as a first name … Meredith Joyce would even bring in the “cy” to add to the “Mer” of Meredith, making it all very pleasing!

(5) Violet, Rose, Lily, Poppy
None of these except for Poppy are unusual, being nos. 48, 141, and 33 for the first three in 2017 (though Rose’s no. 141 is pretty great!), and Poppy was no. 689 — a top 1000 name! I’m so surprised by that as well! They were all matches for this family’s style: Violet for Gideon, Jasper, and Daisy; Rose for Jane and Daisy, and Rosie for Polly; Lily for Grace; and Poppy for Polly and Daisy! And of course I mentioned Posie/Posey and Marjolaine/Marjolein above, which are floral (ish) as well. So I thought it made sense to offer a, ahem, bouquet of choices for Hillary and her hubs! Haha! And actually, Susanna means both “lily” and “rose” in Hebrew! I’m not sure how that ties in, but it’s too cool not to mention.

(6) Adelaide
This was one of the results of the search on the Name Matchmaker, and it caught my eye because it’s a place name like Chiri and it’s also a variant of Heidi! At no. 276, it’s a nice option for familiar but not too common.

(7) Felicity
My last idea for this family is Felicity, which, like Adelaide, was another of the results on the Name Matchmaker. It’s no. 347 and very much like Adelaide in terms of being familiar but not too common. I also like that its meaning is “happiness,” which is a great meaning for a baby whose siblings are “ecstatic” about her arrival! I also like that Chiri is pronounced like Cheery, which gives it a really happy, sunny feel to me, so that could be a subtle tie-in between the two girls’ names. I also recently did a post on “meaning” nicknames, and one of the ones I’d seen suggested elsewhere was Bliss for Felicity, because of Felicity’s meaning — sisters Chiri and Felicity nicknamed Bliss might be taking the happy connection too far, but on the other hand … it could be perfect! If they like the idea of Felicity, but would prefer more nickname options, I did a spotlight of the name here. One of the ideas is Lily, which is a nice connection to the floral names I suggested above; another is Liddy, which is like Lydia.

And those are my ideas for Hillary and her hubs’ new baby girl! ! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of Gideon, Chiri, and Jasper?


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 for expectant mamas, baby showers, and just because. 🙂 If you feel moved to leave a review on Amazon, it would be greatly appreciated!