Expectation vs. Reality When Naming Children

Theresa Zoe Williams wrote a guest post for Sancta Nomina back in January, and I’m happy to share another piece by her! Theresa is a longtime member of the Sancta Nomina community and mother to three amazingly named children (read about her older two here, and the birth announcement for her youngest here). She is a freelance writer whose work can be found online at EpicPewCatholicSingles, and Where Peter Is, as well as at her personal blog Theresa Zoe Williams. Theresa has also contributed to the books The Catholic Hipster Handbook: The Next Level and Epic Saints: Wild, Wonderful, and Weird Stories of God’s Heroes. She hosts the comedy podcast Up Too Late and is writing her own book on fairytale princesses and virtue. Find her on Twitter @TheresaZoe

I have loved names since I was a little girl and named everything I could –– pets, stuffed animals and dolls, characters in my stories, our family’s vehicles, future children. Names meant possibilities and I loved all of the combinations, meanings, and styles. Suffice it to say, by the time I married, I had a long list of names and name combinations for our future children. Some names on this list were ones I loved on my own, like Chiara, Lux, Milo, Carmine, and Basil, and some were ones my now-husband, Jess, and I liked mutually, like Irrianna, Patrick, and Jack. Jess didn’t have nearly the history of loving names like I did but that doesn’t stop him from being opinionated! Even though I had a long list of personal favorites, none of these names ended up being the names of our three children, Ruby, Peter, and Penny.

Peter was an easy choice for us. We had both always liked the name Peter and so we knew that would be our first boy’s. His middle names, Leon and Gerard, are names of our fathers, so again, an easy choice. We never did agree on a second boy’s name, though. Girls’ names were much harder for us. When we were pregnant with Ruby, before we knew if she was a boy or a girl, we had two competing girl names: Ruby Mae Anastasia and Chiara Lucy Jeannette.

I am part Italian and I always wanted to give my children beautiful, flowy Italian names. I first heard Chiara when I was studying abroad in college and fell in love immediately. I later learned of Bl. Chiara Luce Badano and fell in love with her, so Chiara Lucy was my homage to my Italian heritage and to this beloved holy teen. Jeannette is the name of my mother who passed away before I met Jess. So, altogether, that name carried a lot of weight and meaning for me.

 Ruby and Mae were names I had once offhandedly said I liked and my husband fell in love! I reminded him that we agreed the children would all have two middle names like me (I was given two at birth and now legally have three, as I added my Confirmation name as another). Without hesitation, Jess said, “Ruby Mae Anastasia,” Anastasia being a name he liked and the Confirmation name of one of his sisters. It didn’t seem, at first, like this name had as much weight for us and, initially, I rebelled against using it for our first daughter. But it just wouldn’t leave us alone and we finally agreed that Ruby should be her name. We later discovered how rich in meaning for us Ruby Mae Anastasia really is and then it was clear why that was to be our daughter’s name. Our second daughter’s name, Penny Annalise Mariae, was less of a tribulation to choose, but was a whole different journey.

Both stories of my daughters’ names illustrate how different expectation versus reality really can be. Ruby and Penny are neither Italian nor flowy and nowhere near the spectrum of names I considered previously! And I have been sad that I’ve needed to pass on Chiara twice now, but that doesn’t negate how wonderful I think my children’s names are and how perfectly they fit them. If I had full reign over naming my children, they’d be named Chiara, Peter, Milo, Liliana, Sofia, Basil, and someone would have had the middle name Giuseppe. As wonderful as those names would be, they would represent only part of each child’s family and history. My personal naming style can probably be called “heavy-handed Italian” but when you add my husband and his family history and style into the mix, we come out as “grounded but spunky.” My proclivity for off-the-beaten path names with my husband’s for familiar but not overused names combine together to make this new, cool style that’s completely us.

Us. That’s really the long and short of it. Having children is an “us” endeavor and a beautiful sign of the inner reality of two lives becoming one. The names of our children should reflect that, also! There are all sorts of ways to do this, including finding ways to combine your styles (like we did), compromising (one style for first names and another for middle names, for instance), picking the names of favorite saints regardless of style, or asking for outside help (Sancta Nomina is fantastic at bridging styles and finding names with deep meanings for families!).

Do you and your spouse have this problem? How do you solve it? Are there any names you wanted to use but then didn’t for your children?

Copyright 2021 Theresa Zoe Williams

Baby name consultation: Names for a little brother that work in both English and Spanish

Happy Mother’s Day to you all! In honor of this day of remembrance and celebration, I’ve requested a Mass be said by the Marian Fathers at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy for “the Sancta Nomina community and their families and intentions,” which includes all those for whom Mother’s Day is a happy day, and all those for whom it’s a difficult day. ❤️❤️❤️

Also, I’m sure you all already know, but the new baby name data (based on 2020 births) was released by the SSA on Friday! Happiest day of the year for name enthusiasts! I haven’t yet had a chance to get into it too deeply (though I did notice that Ambrose is one of the boy names that climbed the most — up 137 spots from 958 to 821. I was surprised by that!), but Abby at Appellation Mountain always has great, immediate analysis and insight, as does Nameberry, Nancy’s Baby Names, and Namerology (formerly Baby Name Wizard). Here are the new top ten:

I hope to post more about it later this week!

Now for today’s consultation! Maggie and her husband are expecting a little green bean 🌱 (=gender unknown), baby sister or brother to:

Augustine James

Augustine James is so handsome! Nice job!

Maggie writes,

I need help with our son’s name should we have one. We’re due 5/31/21 and not finding out the gender … Our stipulation is obviously Catholic, nothing our friends have (which is becoming a short and shorter list) and can be said in both English and Spanish. I would love to honor Our Lady, but don’t care for Diego.

Here are some names I liked:

  • Roman Alexander
  • Felix 
  • Isaiah 
  • Dominic – astronomers 
  • Cristiano – travelers & children 
  • Sebastian  
  • Alexander
  • Cassian 

Cannot use:

  • Lukas [but Maggie loves it]
  • Noah 
  • Daniel 
  • Patrick 
  • Jude 
  • Gregory 
  • John
  • Blaise
  • Kolbe
  • Maximilian 
  • Basil 
  • James
  • Elijah

Maggie and her husband have a great list of names! I thought I’d start by offering my thoughts on them, in case they’re helpful:

  • Roman: I love the name Roman, and it goes so great with Alexander!
  • Felix: I’m seeing the name Felix more and more among the families I work with, it’s a great name and I’m so glad it’s getting more usage.
  • Isaiah: I’m a huge fan of Old Testament names, Isaiah’s a great one!
  • Dominic: One of my very favorites. It’s a style match for Augustine, so it would be a great fit for his brother! Maggie said that she’d love to honor Our Lady in a son’s name — I included Dominic as an entry in my book of Marian names because of this quote from Fr. Calloway’s Champions of the Rosary: “Saint Dominic was a Marian saint who, as he walked from town to town preaching the Gospel, raised his voice in song to Our Lady by preaching her Psalter and singing the Ave Maris Stella (Hail, Star of the Sea). His early biographers mention that he frequently received visions of the Virgin Mary and preached about her with great fervor. In one particular vision, Jesus himself informed St. Dominic that the Dominicans were entrusted to the protection of Mary.” Dominican tradition also holds that St. Dominic received the Rosary from Our Lady. Dominic is a very Marian name!
  • Cristiano: I love both Cristiano and Christian!
  • Sebastian: I like that Sebastian really matches the length and weight of Augustine, great name. One thought is that Christian and Sebastian have the same ending, so it’s probably the kind of thing where if Maggie and her hubby used one for one son, they wouldn’t want to use the other for another son — that could help them decide between the two names: which one would they be sadder to lose?
  • Cassian: Cassian is so cool, and the nickname Cash is so appealing.

So they have a lot of great options! But of course, I can always come up with more, haha! You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they like/are considering 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. I did so for this family, keeping an eye out for names that were listed as matches for more than one of the names on Maggie’s list. I also used the Name Matchmaker tool on babynamewizard.com to look up Augustine, as Augustine doesn’t have its own entry in the book, and I also paid attention to any names that could be Marian. Based on all that, these are my new ideas:

(1) Leo, Leander

Leo is a fantastic option for anyone who loves the Luke/Lucas names but can’t use them! Leo is a match for a couple of the names Maggie and her hubby like, so I definitely think it’s a good bet that Leo might appeal to them as well.

Leander is a match for Augustine, and I’ve recently been loving it — St. Leander (Leandro) of Seville was a Spanish saint, so the name definitely works in both English and Spanish, and Leo can be a nickname for it, if they’d like.

(2) Nic(h)olas

Nicholas is a match for Alexander, but more than that, I thought of it because of Dominic having the -nic ending (and Nic can be a nickname for Dominic) as well as the fact that Maggie noted Cristiano is a patron of travelers and children — I’m not sure which Saint she means, but St. Nicholas is a patron of travelers and children as well. And it’s not on the list of names they can’t use, which is a plus!

(3) Milo

I’m not entirely sure Maggie and her hubby will like Milo, as I think it’s not as obviously Catholic as they’d like, but Miles and Milo are matches for several names Maggie likes — Miles and Milo are variants of the same name, and both have traditional usage in Ireland as anglicizations of the old Irish name Maolmhuire, which means “servant of the Virgin Mary.” Such a great, very Marian name for a boy! I thought that, of the two options, Milo was preferable to Miles, since I assume Milo is easier to say in Spanish, but maybe not? I like them both!

(4) Oscar

Though the results in the Name Matchmaker for Augustine were certainly helpful, I also looked up August in the book to give some added ideas — I’ve often found that the matches for August are appealing to parents who like Augustine. Oscar is a match for August, and it works really well in both English and Spanish.

(5) Gabriel, Raphael

Gabriel is a match for Isaiah, Christian (Cristiano doesn’t have its own entry), and Sebastian, and it, too is an entry in my book of Marian names for his role in the Annunciation, which of course is also the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary — such a Marian name!

Raphael is a match for Roman, and is certainly the least common of the three angelic names, but I love that he’s mentioned in the Book of Tobit, which isn’t in the Protestant Bible, which makes me think of the names contained therein that aren’t elsewhere (also including Tobit and Tobias) as having a particularly Catholic character.

(6) Julian

Julius is a match for August, and Julian for Christian and Sebastian, so I think it’s just the kind of name that Maggie and her hubby might like. I also really wanted to include Jude on this list, but since it’s on the list of names they can’t use, I thought Julian was a good alternative.

(7) Xavier

Finally, Xavier is a match for Dominic, Sebastian, and Felix. It’s clearly Catholic, and points of course to the great St. Francis Xavier. You can choose the ex-ZAY-vyer pronunciation or the ZAY-vyer pronunciation, and Xave and Xavey are great nicknames.

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of Augustine James that can be said in both English and Spanish?


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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: Familiar but unusual and clearly Catholic (+English royalty?) name for baby boy

I posted a consultation and birth announcement for Beth and her husband’s third baby a few years ago, and now they’re expecting their fifth baby/fourth baby on earth — a rainbow baby and their third boy! This little guy joins big sibs:

Charles (Charlie) Wilson (“Each of his are names of my husband and my grandfathers; we also ended up really liking St. Charles Borromeo, and Charlie has a special affinity for St. John Paul II — such a fun Charles connection“)

Catherine (Cate) Elizabeth (“There is lots of family history here as well as St. Catherine of Siena was my confirmation Saint when I joined the Church 7 years ago, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton has meant a lot to me as a fellow Protestant convert“)

Henry James (“Our first difficult naming! He was Samuel Benedict for most of his in utero life which led to a lot of confusion for our family! Henry for St. John Henry Newman, and James for my grandpa“)

Felicity Perpetua (“In heaven — her name came to me almost the day I found out I was pregnant. I knew in my heart from day 1 she was a girl, and I had never considered the name before, but it choose her. I miscarried her at 12 weeks, and we named her for the two best friend Saints who are remembered for not only their courageous martyrdom but also their tremendous motherhood“)

I love each of these combos and the reasons behind them, a really well-named bunch of kids!

Beth writes,

My husband and I just found out we are expecting a baby boy! And once again, we are a bit clueless about what to name him (you may remember doing our consultation for our third born, also a boy)

I had been concerned with Henry of continuing an English royalty theme, but in the end we just went with it, and he is very much Henry James. While I love all of my children’s names, I really love the beauty and Catholicness of Felicity Perpetua. I would love to find a boys name with similar resonance. It’s somehow a combination of familiar but unusual and clearly Catholic.

Boys names we have considered in the past include:

  • Leo
  • Luke
  • Benedict
  • Samuel
  • Julian
  • Gabriel

None of these names particularly stand out to me; I would honestly just love to hear something I haven’t thought of before. Girls names we love include:

  • Teresa (Tessa)
  • Rosemary
  • Stella Maris

If this baby was a girl, she would have been one of the three above names for sure.

Names we cannot use due to family include:

  • William (I have always loved William)
  • Alexander
  • Vincent
  • David
  • Joseph
  • Jack
  • Daniel
  • John Paul
  • Isaac/Isaiah
  • Benjamin (this one makes Benedict problematic because he goes by Ben)
  • Matthew/Mathias
  • Eli/Elijah
  • Miles
  • Thomas
  • Nathan
  • Tobias

Thanks so much for your help! We have plenty of time (we aren’t due until October 13), but I would love to give this little boy a name. Let know if you need any more information or have any questions!

Alrighty! I read and re-read my most recent email conversation with Beth, and also the one she sent when I did the consultation for Henry, really trying to nail down exactly what she and her hubby are looking for, since the names that come to mind as a brother for Charles, Catherine, and Henry really do have a very English and/or royal feel to me, which is a vibe that I love, but I know that’s something Beth was hesitant to continue with Henry. The addition of their sweet Felicity Perpetua both strengthens the English feel (both Felicity and Perpetua can have a real Brit feel, depending on the context!) and also brings the whole crew more into “Catholicky Catholic” territory, which fits right in with how Beth said that she’d love to “find a boy’s name with similar resonance” to the “beauty and Catholicness of Felicity Perpetua” — a “combination of familiar but unusual and clearly Catholic.” So that’s really where I focused for this baby: I wanted to come up with some ideas that really conveyed the faith in an obvious way, but not at odds with the Brit feel (no Juan Diego, for example). Also, how Beth said, “I would honestly just love to hear something I haven’t thought of before”: that’s tough, but I tried! I definitely cast a wider net because of that, so some of my ideas here might be a little crazy.

I should also note that I mostly leaned into the British/royal-sounding names in this consultation, despite the fact that Beth has said before it’s not something she wants to continue. This is partly because of her wanting “something she hasn’t thought of before” and partly because I have a growing love for the English Catholic Church and its beautiful history (England used to be known as “Our Lady’s Dowry”!). And also because those names just go really well with her other kids! (I didn’t look through the list of English martyrs because I had enough ideas to work with already, but if Beth and her hubby decide that they might like to embrace this idea, there are so many who died for the faith in England.)

Before I get to my new ideas, I’ll start by offering my thoughts on the names they’ve considered in the past, in case they’re helpful:

  • Leo: Great name, and definitely moving away from the Brit feel, while not feeling at odds with the older kids’ names.
  • Luke: I loved re-reading my previous emails with Beth, where she said Luke Benedict was one of the contenders for Henry before they landed on Samuel Benedict (my youngest is Luke Benedict). I think Luke’s a great option, and like Leo moves away from the Brit feel, while still sounding fine with the other kids.
  • Benedict: Even though I love both Leo and Luke, and for Beth I love that they move away from the Brit feel because that seems like something Beth would prefer, Benedict is actually the kind of name that is in my head as the ideal for them *because* it can have a Brit feel (Benedict Cumberbatch!) as well as being super Catholic. Beth said later in her email that Benjamin on her “no” list makes Benedict problematic because Benjamin goes by Ben, which makes me wonder if a different nickname would make the difference? I considered Benedict as a first name for Luke (Benedict Gerard as a first+middle combo, specifically), and I’d come up with a couple offbeat nickname ideas I thought could work: my favorite was Bear (so cute! And perfect for Benedict Gerard!); I also liked Boone for a while (similar sounds and meaning to Benedict); others are Bede (a two-for-one — St. Benedict and St. Bede in one name!) and Ned (super British-feeling!).
  • Samuel: I’d said in my last consultation that Samuel was great because it moved away from Charlie and Cate’s royal British feel, so that still remains — still such a great name!
  • Julian: I’m interested by Julian! It’s like Benedict for me — I think it has the Brit and Catholic qualities that would be great! Another thing I love about Julian is that I’ve seen Jude used as a nickname for it, which makes it like my idea of Benedict nn Bede — two saints in one!
  • Gabriel: Gabriel is one of my very favorite names — I never tire of hearing it. Nicknames include Gabe, Gil, Gib, and Eli.
  • Lawrence/Laurence: Wow! Beth is the second mama in recent months to tell me that Lawrence is a real consideration! Here’s the consultation I posted for the other one — she was looking for nicknames besides Larry, and Rory and Lolek were my favorites of the ones I suggested to her. But I love Laurie too! In my experience, it’s getting Dad on board with a nickname like Laurie for his son that’s the challenge — is Beth’s husband okay with it? I love the special meaning Lawrence has for Beth and her hubby!

I’m glad she included the girl names she likes — Teresa, Tessa, Rosemary, and Stella were helpful in my research, as was William from their “no” list.

I started by doing my usual research in the Baby Name Wizard — whenever I work with a family for a second or third time, I always treat the current consultation as if it’s the first, and I do all the research anew. Then I look back at the previous consultation(s) to see what names I suggested back then, and cross them off my new list. I did so here, and before I list my new ideas below, I just wanted to mention again a few of the ones from before that I still think would be great:

  • Edmund: This was my number one choice for Beth and her hubs when I started doing this consultation, and was both thrilled and disappointed that I’d already suggested it to them! Edmund feels very British and it’s also a royal name so it would be really leaning into the style they’re trying to get away from! So Beth will probably hate this idea, but I just think it’s so stunning with her other kids. St. Edmund Campion is an amazing patron. Like with Benedict, Ned can be a nickname for Edmund; like with Thaddeus from their list when they were expecting Henry, Ted can be a nickname for Edmund.
  • Gregory: In one of the consultations I posted recently I discussed Gregory and how I see it a lot on lists of names that the parents I work with are considering. Pope St. Gregory the Great! Saintly and papal and so handsome! I also discussed nickname ideas other than Greg in that post, as I know that “Greg” is the reason a lot of parents don’t end up choosing Gregory.

Beth also had a longer list last time of names they couldn’t use, which caused me to cross Philip (Pip!), Ignatius, Dominic, and Maximilian off my list of new ideas, but if they’re actually okay to use this time, maybe they’d like to consider them?

In addition to the research in the BNW, I also went through the article I wrote for CatholicMom a while ago called “Unmistakably Catholic Boy Names,” and I went through my own mental files as well. Based on all that, these are my new ideas:

(1) Francis

Francis is one of those ultimate Catholicky Catholic names for boys! There are so many great Sts. Francis to choose from, but if they were to pair Francis with the middle name Xavier, that would really be a one-two punch, similar to Felicity Perpetua. I occasionally see F.X. as initials, usually for an older man, and I immediately know that his given name must be Francis Xavier and that no matter where he is in his faith journey currently, he obviously comes from a Catholic family. I love that!

(2) Oliver

Oliver is a style match for Henry, Felicity, Leo, and Julian! I love Oliver! St. Oliver Plunkett is a favorite of mine, and Ollie is such a darling nickname. I also love that, as a reader pointed out to me, St. Oliver Plunkett wrote about Divine Mercy centuries ago (it’s about a third of the way down at that link — do a “find” search for “Divine Mercy”), which gives him a really nice connection to St. Faustina and St. John Paul II and our current heightened awareness of Divine Mercy.

(3) Simon, Peter

In considering Samuel and how wonderful it is but perhaps doesn’t quite have that “Felicity Perpetua” feel Beth is looking for, I thought maybe Simon would be a good replacement? As with Felicity Perpetua and Francis Xavier, the right middle name could really send it over the edge into Catholicky Catholic territory: Simon Peter, for example. Which makes me think of Peter — the more I think about it, the more I like Peter as a first name for this baby! I have a friend who named his son after St. Peter Damian by giving him Peter as a first name and Damian as a middle, which I absolutely love.

(4) Damian/Damien

Speaking of Damian — it’s a style match for Perpetua, and not only do I love St. Damien of Molokai, but this family — who actually lives in the U.K. (the mom is American and the dad is English) — named one of their boys Damien (Damien Edmund, specifically), which I thought of right away when I saw Damian in the list of Perpetua’s matches.

(5) Augustine

It was fun looking through the style matches for Perpetua, because I knew a lot of them would be the heavy Catholic names, and of course they were! Ignatius, Aloysius, and Dominic were the kinds of boy names that were listed as matches for Perpetua, in addition to Damian; of them, I like Augustine best for Beth’s baby.

(6) Fulton

When I was looking through the list of names I included in the article I wrote on unmistakably Catholic boy names, I was drawn to Fulton right away for this family. I love it with the other kids! I did a post on nickname ideas for Fulton — be sure to read the comments too!

(7) Walsingham

This is definitely my craziest idea! But I felt very much like Beth when I was pregnant with my youngest — I spent a long time looking and looking for “something I haven’t thought of before” (which, also like Beth, is hard to do when you’ve read all the sites and books and discussions and comments available on baby names!) and Walsingham was one I tried to convince my husband of — it’s for the English apparition title Our Lady of Walsingham, and as my husband had strongly suggested Stanley with the nickname Stan, I thought maybe he’d be interested in Walsingham with the nickname Walt! (He wasn’t, oh well.) This name is one of those that really honors the English Catholic tradition in a very specific way.

(8) John, Joseph

In trying to come up with “Felicity Perpetua”-type names for a boy, I really felt like double names more than any others achieve the effect Beth is going for — for a boy, that’s probably generally most comfortable looking like a first+middle combo like Edmund Campion or Simon Peter or Peter Damian, but a double first name might also be perfect (John Paul is one of the most familiar examples, but it’s on their “no” list; John Henry’s totally one I would have suggested for them if they didn’t already have a Henry! I included the idea of double names in my article on unmistakably Catholic boy names). In this vein, I kept thinking that John might be perfect, whether as part of a double first name, or as a first name to pair with a heavier or more offbeat middle name, or as the perfect middle name. For example, using ideas discussed here already:

  • John Francis: I’m dying over John Francis, such a handsome combo! And John (Giovanni) was St. Francis of Assisi’s given name.
  • Peter John: This was actually Fulton Sheen’s given name — Fulton was his mother’s maiden name that he went by.
  • John Benedict, John Damien, John Augustine, John Walsingham: With these, I love John as the legal first name, so their son can always have the option to go by John if he prefers, but it also allows them to use the middle name or a nickname of it as the name he goes by if they want. John Benedict called Benedict or Bede; John Damien called Damien; John Augustine called Gus; John Walsingham called Walt. Fantastic!

As for Joseph, with this year being the Year of St. Joseph, I simply must suggest it to all the families I work with! I would have suggested it as a first name here but that it’s on Beth’s “no” list, but I’m hoping they can consider it for the middle name. Damien Joseph has the nice added layer of Joseph being St. Damien’s birth name. Fulton Joseph is amazing.

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of Charles/Charlie, Catherine/Cate, Henry, and Felicity Perpetua?


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: Stuck between two names for little sister

Happy Monday! Did you guys all see the good news over the weekend that Bl. Margaret of Castello has been declared a Saint?! I think this is such great news!!

Erin and her husband are expecting their second baby any day — their first girl! This little one joins big brother:

Calvin Frederick (“Both are family names and I liked that Frederick was also a saint name“)

Such a handsome name!!

Regarding Baby Girl, Erin writes,

We’ve narrowed it down to 2 first names, Lucy or Josephine (Josie). I’d like to have a front runner name heading to the hospital and middle names picked out for each. Lucy is a family name on both side and my confirmation name. It was my front runner for a long time, but we worry about it getting popular and also sounding slightly childish. Josephine is a name we both really like but doesn’t have a family tie. I also don’t love that we would rarely call her by her formal name. Overall though, I love both names and would be happy with either. Below are the middle names we are considering. I’d like to honor my mom’s side because we haven’t used anything from her side yet, but are struggling to find one we love.

  • Marie, Ann (“both lovely but I feel like I everyone has these middle names. Marie is tied to the most people we’d like to honor. Ann is my mom’s middle name. We’ve also considered Lucy Annmarie to use both these middle names with a twist“)
  • Renee (“my middle name and my godmother’s name, probably the current front runner“)
  • Margaret (“I like with Lucy but not as strong of family ties“)
  • Mae (“is an important family name on the other side that I really like with Josephine“)

Other family names: Theresa, Helen, Leah, Betty (not short for Elizabeth)

[Also] … we’ve avoided names that end in A since we have 3 A sounds in it.”

SO FUN to think about girl names after already naming a boy!! I thought I’d start by offering my thoughts on the names Erin and her hubby are considering, in case they’re helpful:

  • Lucy: Oh man, Lucy totally has my heart here. The fact that it’s a family name on both sides AND Erin’s Confirmation name AND their longtime frontrunner is amazing! About it “getting popular” and “sounding slightly childish,” I actually think the former helps with any feelings of the latter! By which I mean, the fact that Lucy is on an upward swing popularity-wise (no. 48 in 2019, up from 306 in 2000 and 75 in 2010) means that when their little Lucy is grown up, there will be a fair amount of Lucys her age, so by the time she’s a woman, everyone will feel like it’s a woman’s name. The women of today were born in a time when Lucy wasn’t popular at all (it was no. 207 in 1950 and 203 in 2004 and between that time dipped to a low of 500 in 1973 before heading up again, but still remaining fairly uncommon), so to us it either feels like a grandmother/great-grandmother name or a baby/little girl’s name, but that won’t last long. It’s actually nice to use it now, when the name will kind of grow with your baby. That said, they could consider using a longer Lucy variant as the given name and then use Lucy as the nickname — Lucille and Lucienne are two that don’t end in A, and Lucienne makes me think of something like Lucianne or Lucy-Ann to incorporate Erin’s mom’s middle name into the baby’s first name.
  • Josephine: If it wasn’t for how amazing Lucy is for them (in my humble opinion haha!), I would be all over Josephine! It’s the Year of St. Joseph, so it’s the perfect time to use a Joseph name for a baby! Also, I do understand what Erin means about not loving that they “would rarely call her by her formal name,” but I’ve heard from many families who named their babies with the intention of using a particular nickname only to find that when the baby arrives, they love using the full name more than they realized. Bestowing a formal name, even if a nickname is used exclusively, can give the baby options for different areas and times of his/her life. If it weren’t for the fact that Erin and hubby “both really like” Josephine (so I could see it being the frontrunner for a future daughter), and also that they want to honor Erin’s mom/her mom’s side of the family, I would definitely think Lucy Josephine is the winning combo.
  • Marie, Ann: I know what Erin means about feeling like these are everyone’s favorite middle names, as lovely and saintly as they are. If honoring her mom is Erin’s favorite idea, maybe she could consider her mom’s maiden name? I find maiden names to be such charming names for little ones (depending on the surname of course), in either the first or middle spot and for both boys and girls. Or maybe another surname or given name from her side? I also love Erin’s idea of Lucy Annmarie.
  • Renee: While I love that Renee is Erin’s middle name and her godmother’s middle name, this isn’t my favorite idea for this baby’s middle name IF they use Lucy (or a variant) for the first name, as Lucy will already be a nice nod to Erin, so they can use the middle spot for her mom or someone else they’d like to honor. But if they don’t use Lucy, I do love Renee, since I’m a big fan of working Mom’s name into one of her kids’ names somehow, and I also love that their baby will be born during Easter (meaning Eastertide: the period from Easter to Pentecost) and Renee means “reborn.” Josephine Renee would be very meaningful, for example: a name for the year in which their baby’s born (the Year of St. Joseph), and a name for the season in which she’s born (Easter), that also honors Erin. Also, Erin said that she likes Mae as a middle name for Josephine, so I like that Renee rhymes with Mae — Josephine Renee and Josephine Mae have a similar sound, so I think Erin would like Josephine Renee.
  • Margaret: Lucy Margaret is a really beautiful combo, and I feel like the seriousness of Margaret is nice with the lightness of Lucy. Since Lucy is a family name, maybe they don’t want to worry so much about having a family name in the middle as well?
  • Mae: Mae is a form of Mary, as is Marie, so in theory any Mary name could honor all the Maries and Maes Erin knows. I know this kind of idea doesn’t always work neatly in real life, though — would a Marie feel honored by Mae and vice versa? Would Marie and Mae feel honored by Mary or Molly? The answers to these questions vary from person to person and family to family — depending on the personalities in your family, these ideas might be helpful. Otherwise, for this family Josephine Mae is a great combo that feels perfect for me for their *second* daughter (I’m still rooting for Lucy for this baby!). In fact, I think Lucy Annmarie and Josephine Mae are my favorite combos of the names Erin mentioned, and they sound amazing as sister names, and I love that both name combos have a form of Mary in them, which is a very traditional Catholic naming practice.

But who cares what my favorites are! Haha! And even though Lucy Annmarie and Josephine Mae would be my favorites for girls 1 and 2, I am still hung up on the perfection of a Josephine in the Year of St. Joseph. It’s so hard when you have so many great names to choose from and combine together!

I hate to muddy the waters or make Erin’s decision any more difficult, but a Mini Consultation gets them three name ideas, so at the very least they can tuck them away for potential future use. 😊 You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names that the parents have already used and those they like/are considering 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. I did so for this family using Calvin, Lucy, Josephine, and Josie as inspiration, with the following results:

(1) Alice

I love that Alice is a style match for both Calvin and Lucy! It’s such a sweet name, and I love the combos Alice Ann, Alice Annmarie, and Alice Renee. I also like Alice-Ann as a double first name! Something like Alice-Ann Renee would be meaningful from a family names perspective, if they decided not to use Ann and Renee for this baby (or if they decide not to use either Lucy or Josephine for this baby).

(2) Eleanor, Helena

Eleanor’s a match for Josephine and Ella for Lucy, but I love Ellie as a nickname for their daughter even more — sisters Lucy, Josie, and Ellie are darling! And I love Lucy, Josephine, and Eleanor, as well as Lucille/Lucy-Ann, Josephine, and Eleanor. Or Nora — I love the nickname Nora for Eleanor too. Oh, and Nell! Nell also works as a nickname for the Helen names, and Helena’s a match for Josephine — maybe they’d like to consider Helena nn Nell as a nod to the Helen in their family for a future girl?

(3) Molly, Ruby, Sadie

I’m grouping these together because they have a similar rhythm and feel, and they’re all matches for Lucy and Josie. I mentioned above that Molly is a variant of Mary — it actually started as a nickname for Mary, so something like Mary Theresa or Mary Margaret or Mary MaidenName nn Molly could totally work. It also has occasional usage as a nickname for Margaret — Margaret Mae nn Molly would be cute!

I’ve loved Ruby for years, but I often think it sounds best as a nickname rather than a given name. I actually did a post on it here, including some names that it can be a nickname for, in case that’s helpful for Erin going forward. Considering the family names she mentioned, I like the idea of something like Rosemarie Betty nn Ruby, for example.

And Sadie started as a nickname for Sarah, and can still be used that way (like Mary/Molly), but like Molly has taken on a life of its own as a given name as well. I’ve also seen it used as a nickname for Mercedes, which gives it a nice Marian spin (for Our Lady of Mercies). Sarah Margaret nn Sadie is quite a nice combo, though no family connection … I like rearranging classic names in unexpected ways, so something like Ann-Sarah as a double first name with Sadie as a nickname would be the kind of thing I’d like to consider if I liked the name Sadie and had Ann as a family name to work in (though that ends in A …).

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of Calvin?


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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: Baby no. 6 (boy no. 3) — biblical? Western? Other?

This week’s going to be another consultation-heavy week — I have three to post again for mamas who are due soon! I’m excited!

First up: Rachelle and her husband are expecting their sixth baby — their third boy! Little Mister joins big sibs:

Samuel David (Sam, Sammy) (“Samuel came to me later in our pregnancy during Mass during the reading when God calls out to Samuel. David is my husband’s name“)

Adelaide Marie (Addy) (“Adelaide is my confirmation saint and Marie is my middle name and a tradition in my family for first girls of the family“)

Paul Thomas (Pauly) (“Paul was my husband’s grandpa’s name, my brother’s name, and after St. Paul. Thomas is after my late uncle Fr. Tom, and St. Thomas Aquinas“)

Veronica Therese (Nica, Nic) (“Veronica was my great-grandma’s name and after St. Veronica. Therese after St. Therese, I read I Believe in Love during her pregnancy and found a new devotion to St. Therese“)

Miriam Ann (Miri) (“Miriam after our Mother. My husband and I did our Marian consecration during her pregnancy and wanted to honor Mary. Ann after my mom and St. Anne“)

I absolutely love the names Rachelle and her hubby have given their older kids — Samuel, Adelaide, Paul, Veronica, and Miriam are all really wonderful names! They’re solid and saintly and traditional, but there’s an unexpectedness about them too that I just love. And you all know that I’m a big nickname girl — I love Sam/Sammy, Addy, Pauly, Nica/Nic, and Miri! I was excited to see what names and nicknames I could come up with for their new baby boy!

Rachelle writes,

I am pretty indecisive or maybe I just take a long time to really make up my mind, so with a baby’s name and firm date I need to decide by, it makes it tricky. My husband doesn’t ever seem to have an exceptionally strong liking to any name, but he knows when he doesn’t like a name. I think he also knows that if we find the name earlier in the pregnancy, I still hem and haw over it so he just waits :).

My style: In general, I like older names, classics. I would prefer them to have meaning — after someone we love, a saint, someone in the bible, or a great literary character. Girl names are for some reason a little easier for me to circle in on than boys. A lot of times I’m intrigued by a name but then when I imagine myself calling to the child in the backyard or at a sporting event, it just doesn’t seem right (it’s what ruled Henry out for us 9 years ago … it also happened with Desmond and a few other names — I love the names but they don’t seem to fit one of my sons, even though they aren’t born yet). So I have a larger running list of boy names that I’m intrigued by, but some of them are maybe too out there for them to fit well. Nicknames are also important for us and play a part in the decision process. I’d like there to be a good nickname. For all our children, we call them by their full name and nickname equally

We know his middle name! We had decided that if this is a boy, his middle name will be Joseph after David’s grandpa, his Dad’s middle name, my great uncle (a Jesuit priest) and my grandpa’s middle name. So many Joseph’s in our lives — we pretty much had to!  And now that it is the year of St. Joseph, it is even more special — though I’m sure he will be one of many many many boys born this year named after him.  

My top first names: 

  • George (“after Pier Giorgio. I’m not sure I love the nicknames for this that I’ve heard [namely Georgie and Geo, thought the second could be ok]”) (“husband is on the fence on this one“)
  • Simon (“I really like the Simons in the bible, I feel like this would fit the name styles of our other 2 boys, but I don’t know if I like Si for a nickname, and I don’t think it’s too close Sam but maybe?“)
  • Jesse (“husband is a firm no on this one“)  

Names I’m intrigued by: 

  • Ezra (“I like the nickname Ezzie, it’s different enough from our kids nicknames, but it’s a little more unique than the current vibe we have going at least with our boy names … but my husband has been vocal about liking this one“)
  • Hugo (“I think it’s so cute, the nickname Hugh would grow on me, but I don’t have any personal connection to the name“) 
  • Casey (“Blessed Solanus Casey has been coming up a bit this pregnancy and I love his story“)  
  • Martin (“love St. Martin, but I don’t love Marty“)
  • Adam (“I could like this one a lot but the nickname situation is tricky. there isn’t one I like a lot I don’t think, and many of them are close to Addy“)
  • Ethan (“We don’t have a personal connection to the name“)
  • Malachi (“similar to Ezra, too uncommon for our boy names?“)
  • Cassian/Cassius (“Like the sound but is it too uncommon to fit? I like the nickname Cash fine. Big hold up is the meaning of the name!“)

Names I would have considered if not for my current children’s names/nicknames:

  • Nicholas
  • Simeon
  • Matthew

Names we can’t consider because they are our nephews:

  • Jerome
  • Elliot
  • Dominic
  • Thomas
  • Blaise
  • Henry
  • Noah
  • Benjamin
  • Lucas
  • Leo
  • Christopher
  • Levin
  • Graham
  • Theodore (Teddy)
  • Caleb
  • Matthew
  • Peter

Other names we’re not really considering:

  • John/Jon
  • Michael
  • Stephen
  • Timothy
  • James
  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Isaiah
  • David
  • Aaron (“I could go through the whole bible and say yay or nay, but I won’t 🙂 

Just wanted to add my husband has expressed he really likes the name Malcolm as well. Wondering about any Christian/Catholic connections to the name?“)

It made me laugh to read about how Rachelle said her husband “knows that if we find the name earlier in the pregnancy, I still hem and haw over it so he just waits.” I like to stew about things too — I always love that there’s nine months to think about/talk about/decide on a name — and even change our minds! We’d decided on Oliver for our third and Augustin for our sixth, but then in my sixth month of pregnancy with my third and just a couple weeks before my sixth was born, we changed our minds, which I found kind of thrilling!

Joseph as the middle name is just perfect — the family connections and the Year of St. Joseph make it a total no-brainer, I agree!

So I thought I’d start by offering my thoughts on the names that they like and are intrigued by, in case they’re helpful:

  • George: I like George a lot with Samuel and Paul, and since Rachelle currently has more biblical names than not in her older kids’ names, it would be nice to get another non-biblical name in there with this baby. (Not that it’s at all necessary — they have such a nice mix of names that it’s not at all a big deal to choose a biblical name for this baby, and I have both biblical and non-biblical names in my “official” suggestions below. It’s just something I was thinking about in regards to George and the other non-biblical names they have on their list.) Georgie is cute and I love Geo — names with a twist are always fun, and I don’t hear Geo too often; additionally, I think it would strengthen the tie with Pier Giorgio, since Geo sounds like the end of Giorgio. Another idea that I’ve always loved is Geordie (said like Jordy) — it’s a traditional Scottish nickname for George.
  • Simon: I love Simon too, I wouldn’t cross it off their list! But definitely think on it for a while, because of the similarity with Samuel. One idea is that Sepp and Seppel are German diminutives of Joseph, and I feel like Simon Joseph would make even more sense of a nickname like that. Maybe Simon Joseph nicknamed Sepp? Another idea, which didn’t make my list of “official” suggestions below because it’s currently no. 3, which seems too popular for what Rachelle and her hubby like, is the name I mentioned above as the name we’d initially chosen for our third boy before changing our minds: Oliver. It has that same bookish, smart feel to me that Simon has, and I love Samuel, Paul, and Oliver as brothers. And how cute is Ollie??
  • Jesse: Aw I love the name Jesse too, but my husband also wouldn’t go for it either! It was good for me to know Rachelle likes it — it helped in my research.
  • Ezra: Era’s definitely a cool name — any name with an X or a Z is pretty cool I think! Ezzie is cute, but even more than that, if Rachelle and her husband BOTH like it, that’s huge! I think it should be moved to the top of the list!
  • Hugo: I feel exactly the same way as Rachelle does about Hugo! My husband and I had it high on our list for our last two boys, but like she said, we don’t have any personal connection to the name, so we could never fully commit. It is darling, though!
  • Casey: I love Bl. Solanus too! Casey is a great name, and I thought it was so cool to discover that Casey and Jesse are style matches for each other! I can see that — they both can have kind of a Western/cowboy vibe I think. One issue with Casey, that’s also an issue with Jesse for some people, is that Casey is used for girls as well — it’s no. 527 for boys and no. 897 for girls. (Jesse, that spelling, hasn’t been in the top 1000 for girls since the year 2000, while the spelling Jessie was no. 695 in 2019. Jesse is no. 201 for boys.)
  • Martin: St. Martin is great, and I think they could enforce the full Martin with no nickname if they wanted to, at least when he’s small. If that’s an unacceptable risk, St. Martin’s Wikipedia entry says his given name was Juan Martín — I wonder what they would think of John Martin as a double first name in his honor? I know Rachelle said no John/Jon, so this likely isn’t a good idea for them, but otherwise John Martin provides that sparkle that her other kids’ names have, I think, since double names are somewhat rare, and John Martin Joseph sounds fine together.
  • Adam: Hmm that is tricky … I’ve never actually heard of a nickname for Adam, and if I were to try to think of one, Addy’s probably what I’d come up with. But I’d really put Adam in the category of names that don’t have natural nicknames, so if they were okay with just Adam, I think it could work as Adelaide/Addy’s brother and brother to the other kids as well.
  • Ethan: Another great name, and one that, though biblical, I don’t think comes across as biblical — I sense that not a lot of people realize it’s a biblical name, do you all agree? That makes me like it more for this family rather than less, though.
  • Malachi: Like Ezra, Malachi is definitely a departure from Samuel and Paul’s style in the sense that it’s much more unusual, but I think Ezra and Malachi are similar in style to Miriam especially so I think it’s okay. I like Mac as a nickname for Malachi a lot.
  • Cassius/Cassian: I too love these names, and the nickname Cash! The definition is unfortunate, but there are a lot of beloved holy names that have unfortunate definitions, like Cecilia (blind) and Blaise (lisping), and I would definitely argue that their “meaning” goes beyond — and is more important than — their “definition” (I wrote more about that here). If it still bothers them but they want to find other ways to get to Cash, Cashel is the name of a place in Ireland — the Rock of Cashel — which is where St. Patrick is said to have conversated the King of Munster. Or maybe they’d like the rhyming Nash, which I’ve seen used as a nickname for Ignatius and Athanasius?
  • Malcolm: I’d love to see Malcolm used more! Like with Malachi, I love the idea of Mac as a nickname for Malcolm. And yes, there are great faith connections with the name! Malcolm literally means, “disciple of St. Columba” — St. Columba of Iona, also known as Columcille, is known as one of the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland,” and is a great patron. Malcolm’s a great option!
  • Nicholas, Simeon, Matthew: I’m glad Rachelle included these as names they like! Though they can’t use them, they were helpful in my research. I had two ideas about Matthew — one is that I know someone named Matthew who goes by Mitty (at least he did when he was little), which I think is awesome (though they’d have to decide if Mitt Romney being the most familiar Mitt to the general public is problematic). Another idea is Matthias instead of Matthew — you could look to the end of it for nicknames — Ties and Thijs are Dutch diminutives which are said like TEES and TAYS, which leads me to think they could do something like that maybe as a nickname? Maybe Tice or something like that?

Okay! On to new ideas! I mentioned earlier that Jesse and Casey are style matches for each other — you all know that that refers to the research I always do for consultations 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. I definitely went for a mix of biblical and non-biblical names, and I was happy to offer fun nickname options where applicable.

(1) Gabriel, Raphael

Gabriel is a match for Samuel and Caleb, and Raphael is a match for Veronica and Simeon, so I thought one of these angelic names might be perfect! I like that Gabriel is in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, which is a nice bridge for Rachelle’s Old- and New Testament-named kids, and I love the friendly nickname Gabe. If they don’t care for Gabe, I’ve seen Gib, Gil, and Eli used as nicknames for Gabriel. Raphael is much less used than Gabriel (it’s no. 521 compared to Gabriel’s no. 37), which can be really appealing, and I love the nickname Rafe. Ray is an even easier nickname.

(2) Nathan(iel)

The way I got to this idea was kind of a funny one — Nathaniel is a match for Nicholas, and Jonathan is a match for Matthew, and I know Rachelle loves Nicholas and Matthew, so I thought Nathaniel and Jonathan were meaningful since they connected to those other two names she loves, and since Nathan is contained within both Nathaniel and Jonathan, I thought Nathan might be the perfect answer, especially since Nathan itself is a match for Samuel! Or maybe they’d like the full Nathaniel with Nathan or Nate as a nickname? Or Nash! I could see Nash working as a nickname for Nathaniel! Also, Neal is a style match for Paul — Niel could totally be a nickname for Nathaniel! Some fun options here!

(3) Tobias

Rachelle’s girl names are a little more “exotic,” maybe, than the boy names they’ve used and most of those they like, so when I saw Tobias as a match for Simeon, I thought it went along nicely with how I think of Adelaide, Veronica, and Miriam as well! I think it’s so handsome.

(4) Oscar

Oscar is a match for both Adelaide and Hugo, I love that! Oscar is such a great name — I’ve been enjoying seeing it used more and more by the families I work with. This family welcomed an Oskar (that spelling) not too long ago has been calling the baby Ozzie, so cute!

(5) Milo

Milo is a match for Ezra and Hugo, isn’t that interesting? I normally wouldn’t think Ezra and Hugo had any overlapping characteristics, but there you have it — just one of the many reasons I lean on the Baby Name Wizard to help me out! An interesting thing about Milo is that it has traditional usage in Ireland as an anglicization of the old Irish name Maolmhuire, which means “disciple of the Virgin Mary” — just like Malcolm (Mael Coluim) means “disciple of St. Columba”! I love that! I’ve also sometimes suggested Milo and its cognate Miles as unusual nicknames for Michael, so if Rachelle and her hubby decide they’d like to use Michael after all, using Milo as a nickname could be perfect.

(6) Gregory

Gregory is a match for Veronica, and when I was briefly researching St. Martin, I saw that Pope Gregory XVI beatified him, which could be a way of nodding to St. Martin without using his name, so I thought those two things made me want to include Gregory here. I actually hear quite a bit from families I work with that Gregory is a favorite, but what usually stops people from using it in my experience is the nickname situation. While Gregory still sounds sort of stately and serious and handsome, Greg turns most current parents off. But I love Rory as a nickname for it — and in fact, Rory is a match for Casey and Jesse! I think Grey could also work, as well as Gus, especially if there’s a prominent S in the middle name, which Gregory Joseph does have.

(8) Charles

Rachelle said she loves the name Caleb (on their list of names they can’t use), so I wanted to see if I could come up with any names that might be feasible alternatives. I thought Charles was one, with the nickname Cal, which can also be a nickname for Caleb. I love Charles with Samuel and Paul — what a smart sounding trio of brothers! — and Cal is really cool. If they prefer Charlie as a nickname, that’s fine too, because I think one of the things that’s so great about Caleb is that it’s both masculine and sweet, and I think Charles nn Charlie fits that nicely. (Charles also has a bunch of other nickname possibilities that they might like to look through.)

(9) Jacob

This final idea is also inspired by Jacob — Jacob is usually the name that I see paired with Caleb as either an actual brother name or a name that people who like Caleb also like. I’ve even seen Cubby used as a nickname for both Caleb and Jacob for a little guy (probably not so much as he gets older)! If not Cubby, I always love Jake, and I’ve also seen Coby used as a nickname for Jacob. 

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of Samuel, Adelaide, Paul, Veronica, and Miriam?


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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Birth announcement: Leo Nicholas!

Don’t forget to check out the two consultation I posted this week — yesterday’s and Monday’s!

I did a private consultation last fall for Sarah and her husband, and I’m delighted to share that their baby boy has been born and given the fantastic name … Leo Nicholas!

Sarah writes,

I wanted to let you know that our boy, Leo Nicholas arrived on March 5! We are all delighted. We had great naming debate, the front runners all along were Anthony and Leo (I was able to convince my husband to bring it to the table and eventually he grew to like it), though we strongly considered Charles (and others from your list — Dominic and Benedict were discussed often).”

Leo Nicholas!! So strong and handsome!!

Congratulations to Sarah and her hubby and big sibs James and Gianna, and happy birthday Baby Leo!!

Leo Nicholas

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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Birth announcement: Matthias Daniel!

I did a private consultation for Maria and her husband earlier this year, and she’s let me know her baby boy has arrived! He’s been given the ah-mazing name … Matthias Daniel!

Maria writes,

Our sweet baby has arrived! Thank you for helping us with the name and your encouragement on Matthias! We love his name and love him! 😊 Matthias joins big brothers, Kolbe, Andrew, Isaac, and Benjamin, and big sister, Therese.”

Congratulations to Mom and Dad and their older children, and happy birthday Baby Matthias!!

Matthias Daniel ❤️


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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Birth announcement: Isla Frances!

I posted a consultation for Melissa and her husband back in September, and I’m so happy to share that Melissa’s let me know her little girl has been born and been given the gorrrgeous name … Isla Frances!

Melissa writes,

Wanted to share the birth of our little girl, Isla Frances! Thank you for your help and I look forward to working with you again in the future!

I absolutely love the name Isla, and I love love it paired with Frances — what a stunning combo!!

Congratulations to Mom and Dad and big sibs Graham, Joseph, Lucy, and Zelie, and happy birthday Baby Isla!!

Isla Frances

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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: Baby girl needs a super-Irish name like her big sibs

Diana and her husband are expecting their fourth baby — their third girl! Little Miss joins big siblings:

Lillian Nicole

Saoirse Irene

Aidan James

Which you know have me all 😍😍😍 — I love those Irish names!

Diana writes,

My husband and I are having a hard time naming this next child. I don’t like his suggestion and he doesn’t like mine or neither of us feel like it’s right. Our pattern so far has been an Irish name and a family name. We are trying to avoid names that start with the same letter as a sibling or sounding the same.”

The list of names that Diana likes includes:

  • Megan
  • Maighdlin
  • Brigit
  • Marjorie
  • Claire
  • Ellen*
  • Margaret*
  • Madelyn
  • Ester
  • Tamsyn
  • Rhea
  • Mary

And her husband’s list includes:

  • Bianca
  • Isabel
  • Isabella
  • Inis
  • Vera
  • Grace
  • Molly
  • Naomi
  • Amara
  • Talia
  • Natalia*

(Asterisks denote each of their favorites.)

Okay! So first off, Lillian, Saoirse, and Aidan are fantastic names! I like Diana’s rules of avoiding using the same first initial for this baby girl, as well as names that sound similar to her older siblings’ names — that definitely helped to narrow down the field of names.

I was really interested to see what names were on their lists, since Lillian seems to me a different style than Saoirse and Aidan — I wondered if their lists be mostly Irishy Irish names, or less so? I was impressed by the range of names on Diana’s list and that of her husband! Here are my thoughts on them, in case they’re helpful:

  • Megan, Marjorie, Margaret: I grouped these together because they’re from the same name family — Megan is a diminutive of Margaret (and can be used as a nickname for it), and Marjorie is a medieval variant of Margaret. Margaret, Megan, and Maggie all have an Irish feel to them, so I think something here would be great. I wonder if the Gaelic version Mairead (rhymes with “parade”) might do the trick? Maisie is its traditional nickname, which is darling.
  • Brigit: I like that names like Margaret and Brigit are a nice middle ground between Lillian’s style and Saoirse’s. If they spelled it Bridget, they could consider using Bridie as a nickname, which I love.
  • Claire: Claire’s a great name! I wonder, though, if Clare might be the better spelling for this family? Like Co. Clare in Ireland?
  • Ellen: On the one hand, I was surprised by Ellen as it seems to have a different feel than the other names on Diana’s list. But then, my grandfather was born and raised in Ireland and his sister Eileen went by Ellen sometimes (or was it vice versa?), so I can see how Ellen can fit in with an Irish sensibility. I wondered if Eileen or Eleanor (nickname Nora, which has a nice Irish feel) are Ellen-ish names that might appeal to Diana’s husband?
  • Madelyn, Maighdlin: I’d never seen the Irish form of Madelyn (Maighdlin) before, I love it! I think finding the Irish variant of names they like is a good strategy.
  • Ester: Like Ellen, I was surprised by Ester on Diana’s list, but delighted to see that it’s similar in style to Naomi and Talia on her husband’s list — since they’re both having a hard time coming to a name they both like, it’s great to look for any commonality! However, I do think it would be a bit jarring to have a name that comes across as so Old Testament with Saoirse and Aidan as siblings, for example.
  • Tamsyn: I had Tamsin on my own list for my oldest if he’d been a girl, in honor of a Thomas — I liked that Tamsin is a feminine variant of Thomas via Thomasina. The fact that Diana has it on her list says to me that she’s okay expanding their names from strictly Irish to more broadly Celtic/British Isles, as I’m not familiar with its usage in Ireland, though I do think it has traditional usage in the U.K. (I could be wrong though!)
  • Rhea: Wow, another surprise! I think it fits with the “old lady” type names, like Ellen and Ester. One of my readers has a little Rhea.
  • Mary: I was excited to see Mary on Diana’s list, as there are so many pretty Irish Mary variants! Molly is one example, which I noted on her husband’s list — Mary as a given name with Molly as a nickname is how Molly arose as a name to begin with, and might be a nice option for this family. I also love Moira and Maura/Maureen.
  • Bianca, Isabella, Natalia: I’m grouping these together because they have a distinct Latinate feel that’s really beautiful but is at odds with the Irish style I think. But since Diana’s husband loves Natalia, I tried to think of some similar-ish names that would seem more natural with Lillian, Saoirse, and Aidan, which I included in my “official” suggestions below.
  • Isabel: Isabel is lovely, and could fit better with their kids than Isabella I think, but even still, it doesn’t have that Irish sparkle.
  • Inis: Is this like “Inish,” like Inis Mor? I’ve never seen it considered as a name before!
  • Vera: Vera strikes me as similar to Ellen, Ester, and Rhea in the sense of it being kind of an “old lady” name, which are definitely back in style right now. But again, it feels like a mismatch with the other kids.
  • Grace: I love Grace, and I think it might normally go nicely with their other kids, but that I don’t love that it shares several sounds with their last name. The Irish variant Grainne takes it one step away, and normally I wouldn’t recommend it because its pronunciation is impossible to figure out for those who don’t know how to pronounce it, but I suspect Diana and her hubby deal with that all the time with Saoirse.
  • Molly: I think Molly’s a great option — see my comments re: Mary above.
  • Naomi, Talia: Naomi is a very Old Testament name, like Ester; I don’t think Talia is an Old Testament name, but it is a Hebrew name and I believe it’s most common among Jewish families? (Except when it’s used as a nickname for Natalia, for example.)
  • Amara: I’m having a hard time figuring Amara out — I thought it might be a Hebrew name like Talia, but what I’m finding is that it’s an Igbo name (from Nigeria) or also the name borne by multiple characters from a couple fantasy shows. So I’d recommend crossing this one off the list, as it’s pretty far away from the style they’ve already established. Maura is an Irish name that is similar in sound which might appeal to Diana’s husband.

So those are my thoughts on the names Diana and her husband have on their lists, which I hope they only find helpful — I don’t want to disparage any names they both really like or make the task of choosing a name for their little girl harder.

Now on to my new ideas! You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already 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. I did so for this baby; Saoirse doesn’t have her own entry, but there is a list of Celtic names in the back of the book that includes Saoirse and also a nice mix of names that I think would fit well with their older kids, which I also looked through. Based on that, these are my new ideas for Diana’s baby girl:

(1) Catriona (Cait/Cate, Katie)

Catherine is a style match for Margaret; Catalina is a match for Natalia; and Caroline/Carolyn is a match for Margaret, Claire, and Ellen, so I thought Catriona, which is an Irish form of Catherine/Katherine and has similar sounds to Catalina and Caroline, might be perfect. Catriona can take the nickname Cait/Cate as well — Kate is a match for Claire and Katie for Molly, so I like this idea for them a lot.

(2) Isla

Isabel(la) and Inis from Diana’s husband’s list made me think of Isla, which I thought they might like. It’s got both Scottish and Spanish usage — pronounced EYE-la for the former and EES-la for the latter — and I included it as an entry in the book of Marian baby names I wrote, as “its Marian character comes from the title ‘Our Lady of the Isles’ (Moire ro Naomh nan Eilean in Scottish Gaelic, referring to a statue of Our Lady on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland), or any of the devotions in the U.S. and Canada to Our Lady of the Island or Our Lady of the Isle.” Isla is such a pretty name!

(3) Eilís/Eilish

I love these Irish variants of Elizabeth — they are definitely very Saoirse-ish but perhaps a little more accessible, which swings them a little more to the Aidan/Lillian side.

(4) Fiadh

Sophia is a style match for Lillian; Sophie is a match for Isabel and Grace; and Safiya is a match for Amara, but I didn’t think any of those were names Diana and her husband would really like, especially since they begin with S like Saoirse and they don’t want to repeat initials. But Fiadh is said just like the last syllable of Sophia, and like Saoirse it has a meaning of freedom: “wild, untamed.”

(5) Rosemary/Rosemarie, Róisín/Roisin

Rosemary is a style match for Marjorie, and as soon as I saw it I thought of my friend Rosemarie, who is native Irish and grew up in the Gaeltacht, speaking Irish as her co-first language, I believe, so I thought maybe they’d like to consider Rosemary or Rosemarie, especially since Diana has Mary on her list. Rosemary/Rosemarie made me think, too, of Róisín, which is Irish for “little Rose” and is the name of a girl I knew when I was younger. I’ve always loved it, such a pretty name!

(6) Ríona/Ríonach/Ríoghnach

Speaking of pretty Irish names that begin with R, these names are all variants derived from the Irish for “queen,” making them cognates of Regina and therefore they’re Marian names as well, via her title as Queen. One of my readers used Ríonach for her baby’s middle name, it’s amazing!

(7) Nollaig

This might be a strange idea, since I haven’t seen it used as a name, but it’s Irish for “Christmas,” making it like Noelle and Natalia. The final G is said, but otherwise I think it sounds a lot like Molly, especially when said with their G last name, so maybe this would be a good compromise for Diana and her hubby?

(8) Niamh, Naomh

What about one of these names? Naomi on Diana’s husband’s list made me think of both Niamh and Naomh because of the similarities in spelling (though Naomi is said much differently than Niamh and Naomh of course), which I spotlighted here and discussed faith connections.

(9) Maeve/Medb/Méabh/Meadhbh

Finally, I had to suggest Maeve — it’s one of the easiest for those who aren’t familiar with Irish names to figure out, as long as the Maeve spelling is used. If they wanted to get more Irish, though, they can choose from Medb, Méabh, Meadhbh and there might be other spellings too — so many letters for such a little name, haha!

And those are all my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little sister of Lillian, Saoirse, and Aidan?


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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)

Baby name consultation: Parents need fresh name ideas for boy no. 6

Mary and her husband are expecting their seventh baby — their sixth boy! This little guy joins big siblings:

  • John Paul
  • Simon Joseph
  • Magdalen Therese nn Maggie
  • Mark Francis
  • Damian Bernard
  • Leo Abraham

Such great naaaames!! I love them all!!

Mary writes,

So here we are, needing a name for our 6th boy and I’m feeling tapped out. Part of the problem is that the more kids you have the more rules you have: I don’t really want another M name, or another that ends in the -an sound and it needs to feel like it matches with our other kids’ names. Our last name is also a bit of a problem — any final T or D especially gets swallowed up by beginning D of our surname. This takes some otherwise great names like Clement or Benedict out of consideration. Finally there’s my feeling that names we considered for previous kids are now reject names and I don’t want my baby to have a reject name. I recognize that this is pretty silly and that’s why I’m not going to share these names with you — I want a fresh perspective with no baggage!

Other names we don’t want to use for various reasons:

  • Thomas
  • Sebastian
  • Lawrence
  • Jerome
  • Augustine
  • Gregory

The current, extremely short list is:

  • Cosmas. Simon especially is really gunning for this and I do like it a lot but I wonder if it’s too weird outside of Catholic circles. 
  • Matthias. But it’s an M name and we already have 3 of those. Also [Hubby] seems pretty ambivalent.”

I think Mary’s definitely come to the right place, because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about boy names! Haha! I really love the names Mary and her hubby have given their older boys — John Paul, Simon, Mark, Damian, and Leo are all really fantastic and really convey the faith well. (Magdalen too — one of my favorites! Such a beautiful name for a girl with so many brothers!) I’m excited to try to find some ideas for their sixth boy!

Before I get to my official suggestions below, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on the names that they’re considering and their name rules, in case they’re helpful:

  • Cosmas: I really love that Mary and her husband are willing to consider such a cool name! Its faith connections are impeccable, but her question about whether or not it’s “too weird outside of Catholic circles” is a valid one. It’s hard for me to tell, since I’m so deep in Catholicky Catholic names all the time, so I sometimes have a hard time looking in as from the outside. On the one hand, I immediately think of Sts. Cosmas and Damian (which in itself presents something for them to think about as well — do they like Damian having a brother named Cosmas, or is that a negative?) — Cosmas feels familiar to me because Cosmas and Damian is a familiar reference point for me. On the other hand, Cosmas wasn’t in the top 1000 names bestowed in 2019 (the last year that the Social Security Administration shared name stats), so I dug deeper to see how many baby boys were given the name in the U.S., and it doesn’t show up in the data at all in 2019 (the SSA reports all names given to five or more babies each year, so its absence on the list lets you know how very few babies were given the name — maybe even zero). I looked back each year until 2010, and it was given to five babies in 2012, 2014, and 2016, and less than five in the other years. So it’s a very very rare name, which is probably the best marker of whether or not it’s too weird outside of Catholic circles. It’s variant Cosmo gets a bit more usage, maybe (probably?) because of the character of Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld — it was given to 49 boys in 2019. But even though Cosmo is a variant of Cosmas, and so can take the same saint as patron, I do think it has the added element of “the cosmos,” which could feel a little astrological maybe? In addition to the Seinfeld reference, which may or may not be a positive.
  • Matthias: Matthias was high on our list through several of our boys, I love it! But the fact that Mary really doesn’t want another M name, combined with the fact that her hubby doesn’t seem all that jazzed about it, tells me it would be best to keep looking.
  • “Reject” names: Mary’s perspective of not wanting to use names that they decided against for their other kids is one that’s new to me since starting the blog, but I’ve found that it’s not unusual at all! It might help to try to reframe their thinking as, “We didn’t reject that name because it was bad, we decided against it for *that* baby because it didn’t seem like the right name for him/her. But it might be the right name for *this* baby.” But if that doesn’t help, then hopefully some of my ideas here are new ones that will be helpful!
  • Their other rules: I like all their other rules! No M names seems right; no ends-in-the-an-sound sounds right; “needs to go with the other kids” sounds right. I did break Mary’s rule of no-ending-in-T-or-D, though, as there was one name that I thought they might like that I didn’t think was overly problematic that its ending sound runs into their last name. And for that matter, I don’t think Clement sounds bad with their last name, nor does Benedict. But then, my maiden name is Towne, so I was Kate Towne my whole growing up, and some people would mishear my name as Kay Towne, which I hated, but it really wasn’t a huge deal — I learned to enunciate the T in Kate, and I loved my name then and still do. So it’s definitely a preference, but if they don’t like it, they don’t like it!

So those are my thoughts on the names Mary and her husband are considering — now on to my new ideas! You all know that I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have already used and those they like/are considering 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 — I did so for this family, with a particular eye toward finding names that are early-Church-ish and of course that go with their other kiddos’ names. Based on that, these are my new ideas for them:

(1) Thaddeus

One of the first names that jumped out at me as a name they might like was Jude — a style match for Simon — but with its D ending and the fact that his name would sound like Jew D___, I thought it probably wasn’t a great idea after all. But the other part of St. Jude’s name — Thaddeus — is a match for Magdalen, Matthias, and Benedict (which I used in my research since Mary called it an “otherwise great name”), and it has some great nicknames — Thad, Tad, and Taddy (which I guess don’t fit with Mary’s rule, oops!).

(2) Gabriel

Gabriel is such a fantastic name — it’s biblical and Marian and a great style match for Mary’s other kids’ names. Gabe is one of my very favorite nicknames — friendly and masculine — and I’ve also seen Gil, Gib, and Eli used as nickname for Gabriel.

(3) Tobias

I really wanted to find an alternative for Matthias for them — Matthias seems to me like the exact kind of name they’re looking for, but with it starting with an M, I agree that it’s probably not ideal (though if they decided to go for it, I wouldn’t be disappointed!). I wondered what they’d think of Tobias? It rhymes with Matthias but doesn’t have the problematic M, and just like I consider Matthias to be a particularly Catholic New Testament name (since he was basically chosen at the first Church Council! Haha!), so too do I consider Tobias to be a particularly Catholic Old Testament name, since it comes from the Book of Tobit, which isn’t in Protestant bibles. And Toby is such a darling nickname!

(4) Joachim

One of my very favorite names, which I tried to convince my husband of through all of my boys I think, is Joachim — the name we traditionally assign to Our Lady’s father and, due to that fact, another name that I consider to be particularly Catholicky Catholic. It’s not really well known in America (though it’s got more usage than Cosmas! It was given to 28 baby boys in 2019), but it’s got pretty good usage outside of America — I wrote more about that here. Joe is an easy nickname, and they could even think of it as a nod to St. Joseph in this Year of St. Joseph, which is a nice way to work him in without repeating Simon’s middle name. Or if Joe isn’t working for Mary, we would have used Jake as the nickname, which I still love.

(5) Luke/Lucas

Lucas is a style match for Matthias, and while I think that a Matthias-type name is the kind Mary and her hubs are looking for, I didn’t want to forget about Mark, who has a bit different style than his siblings’ names, which is funny since his name is a New Testament name and four of their other six have New Testament names! I wanted to include at least one name in this list that loops Mark in more, and Luke really struck me as being a great option. I would understand if they didn’t want to follow Leo with another L name, so maybe they want to hold on to Luke/Lucas for the future if they were to have another boy, but otherwise I think Leo and Luke are darling together — if this baby and Leo are particularly close in age, it might even be a perfect idea.

(6) Dominic

Dominic is such a natural idea for this family, to me, that I feel like they must have considered it and decided they don’t like it, so this might be a wasted suggestion, but I couldn’t not include it here! I considered whether or not I thought having two sons with D names, especially with their D last name, was too much, and decided that I kind of love it. I’m a big fan of alliteration anyway, so Damian D___ and Dominic D___ are awesome in my opinion! Dom, Dommy, and even Nic/Nicky/Nico are nickname possibilities for Dominic.

(7) Isaac

They could think of Isaac in the bible as patron for a little Isaac, or they could think of one of my favorite Saints, St. Isaac Jogues (I live quite close to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs, where St. Isaac’s remains are said to be on the grounds somewhere, never found). I read a book years ago by Susie Lloyd I think — she has two: Please Don’t Drink the Holy Water and Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids — and she gave an example of the kids’ names in Catholic families by describing a boy who introduced himself as “Isaac Jogues Callahan” (or a similar last name) and it made me laugh then and it still does! Isaac Jogues as a first+middle combo would be so cool, and so clearly saintly to anyone who knows about St. Isaac! (But also Isaac just on its own, no pressure!) Ike and Zac are traditional nicknames for Isaac.

(8) Edmund, Campion

Finally, Edmund is a match for both Clement and Benedict (both of which I used as inspiration, since Mary indicated that she would like them but for their last letter), and like them, ends in one of her problematic letters. However, when I say “Edmund,” I rarely hear the D, or barely, so I don’t think Edmund D___ sounds bad! But then I saw that Abby from Appellation Mountain recently spotlighted Campion, and I immediately thought it sounded like a name Mary and her hubs would like, and could still take St. Edmund Campion as patron. I love the nickname Cam! I know St. Edmund is later than the Saints of their older kids’ names, but I wanted to include it here just in case.

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother of John Paul, Simon, Magdalen/Maggie, Mark, Damian, and Leo?


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) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life! (And check out my buy-the-book-get-a-consultation deal!)