Saintly nickname names

There are a few names that started as nicknames, by which here I mean short forms or diminutives of other names, but have come to be considered formal names in their own rights. Some examples are Jack (diminutive of John), Pippa (diminutive of Philippa), Alison (diminutive of Alice) and Alice itself (a short form of Adalheidis [Adelaide]), Nancy (originally a diminutive of Agnes’ variant Annis, and later of Anne as well), Emmett (diminutive of Emma) and Elliott (diminutive of Elias [Elijah]), Molly (diminutive of Mary), Robin (diminutive of Robert), Austin (contracted form of Augustine), and Bennett (short form of Benedict). Many of these date back to the medieval period.

I was reading about Mickey Mantle recently and the fact that Mickey was his given name, not a nickname for Michael (which is how I’m most familiar with it). (Funny enough, Mickey Mantle was named for Mickey Cochrane, whose given name wasn’t Michael — it was Gordon! But he’d been nicknamed “Black Mike” because of his “fiery, competitive nature,” which I’m assuming is where Mickey came from?) Other names that started as nicknames (diminutives or short forms) that we often see bestowed as given first names include Jake, Maggie, Sadie, Archie (hello, little prince), Liam, and Mia.

There’s another set of nicknames that have taken on a life of their own as given names, which a recent consultation post reminded me of. It included a discussion of Nell as a given name and the parents’ preference for it to be a nickname for a more formal, saintly given name:

Nell is a name we’d both be excited to use which isn’t so easy to find. The trouble is that it’s really a nickname and we don’t care for the options for a full name. If we don’t use a full name like Helen the saintly connection is less obvious.

In this case, the hesitancy to use Nell as the given name is less about style (its nicknaminess) and more about the saintly connection being less obvious. A couple of you suggested Little Nellie of Holy God for the saintly connection* — she’s mostly known as Nellie, even though her baptismal name was Ellen, and I can see parents naming daughters Nellie with her in mind, since that’s the name mostly attached to the stories of her holiness. In this same vein, I thought it would be fun to compile a listing of saintly names that are actually nicknames (I don’t mean religious names). These include:

St. Rose of Lima
Rose’s birth name was Isabel! According to this site, “Isabel del Flores y del Olivia, known to history as St. Rose of Lima … was baptized on the day of her birth, with her aunt, Isabel de Herrara, acting as her godmother. The baby was named after her aunt, Isabel. Because the child was so beautiful, she was nicknamed Rosa or Rose. History and her family would call her by this name.”

St. Francis of Assisi
Francis’ birth name was John! According to his Wikipedia entry, “[His dad] Pietro was in France on business when Francis was born in Assisi, and [his mother, a Frenchwoman named] Pica had him baptized as Giovanni. Upon his return to Assisi, Pietro took to calling his son Francesco (“the Frenchman”), possibly in honor of his commercial success and enthusiasm for all things French.” (cited as the source: Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1924). “St. Francis of Assisi” (14 ed.). Garden City, New York: Image Books: 158.)

St. Zelie
It’s perhaps not as unfamiliar that St. Zelie’s given name was Marie-Azélie, but she went by Zelie — and that’s the name I see her called and bestowed in her honor most often.

St. Bernadette
St. Bernadette’s given name was actually Marie-Bernarde! This site even refers to her as Marie, which I find kind of hilarious. As with so many of these nicknames, once you know that Bernadette (“little Bernarde,” where Bernarde is the French feminine form of Bernard) is a diminutive of her name, it takes on a such a sweet, affectionate feel.

Juanito (St. Juan Diego)
This one isn’t exactly like my previous examples, because I haven’t heard of lots babies being named Juanito when wanting to honor St. Juan Diego — in fact, I only know of one Juanito (the pastor of my parish), but I asked him about his name and it is, indeed, his given name, and it was bestowed in honor of St. Juan Diego, as Our Lady called him: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito, the most humble of my sons …” ❤

Lolek (St. John Paul II)
Like with Juanito, it’s rare to hear of a little Lolek, but I have heard it from time to time from Catholic parents looking for a different way to honor St. John Paul the Great, as it was his childhood nickname.

Can you think of other examples of Saints being known as a name that was not their given name (and not their religious name), which would be the name parents would be most likely to choose in their honor? Do you know of any little ones named in the style of Juanito and Lolek — nicknames that aren’t as well known and aren’t necessarily the names the Saints are known as, but are absolutely connected to them?

* As far as I can tell, Little Nellie’s cause for canonization has not been opened, though it’s pretty amazing that she was the reason Pope St. Pius X lowered the age of Communion for children: “‘There! That is the sign for which I was waiting.’ — Pope St Pius X after hearing about the holy life of little Nellie. A few months later in 1910 he issued “Quam Singulari” which significantly lowered the age of Holy Communion for children.”


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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

 

Baby name consultation: A name for a ninth baby, ideally New Testament and/or saintly with its own initial

(A day late due to illness! Winter, bah! I know I owe a bunch of you emails — I’m working through them, slowly but surely!)

I previously posted two birth announcements for Laura — here and here — and have had some great email conversations with her about names, so I’m thrilled to offer some name ideas for her! She and her husband aren’t currently expecting, but want to be ready if God blesses them again. ❤ Their children on earth are:

Paul Stephen
Clare Michelle
Mark Joseph
Katharine Rose (Kat, Kitty, Kate)
James Philip (Jay)
Andrew Lawrence
Gabriel John (Gabe)
Thomas Gregory (Tommy, T)

And their babies in heaven are:

Becket
Patrick

Such solid, handsome/lovely, saintly names!

Laura writes,

Everyone has their own initial which is wonderfully convenient. It’s not exactly a rule but I do notice that I tend to worry about sibling names sounding to similar in beginning and ending sounds.

Luke and Rebecca are the names of our siblings so most likely not usable for first names for a baby.

I was originally opposed to nicknames but my husband loves a good nickname and tends to shorten any name he comes across.

A saint name is important to us probably for the first and the middle. We make a big deal out of feast days and typically if we go to daily Mass on the kids’ feast day it gets at least a passing mention. For the most part this requirement is easy because those are the names we like anyways, but we do both like Scott for example but it doesn’t meet that criteria.

First the boys-

A New Testament boys name would be obvious, but it feels like that well might be dry. Peter is probably our favorite of the remaining possibilities. Jude has floated off and on the list over the years.

I really love David! But having a James and Gabriel who frequently goes by Gabe in the same house is fairly confusing; I think we should pause before adding another name with a long A vowel.

As far as other Old Testament names goes. [Hubby] likes Samuel and Isaac but I don’t. Plus Sam and James seem a bit close for brothers. [Also,] Daniel is not usable for us.

When I was pregnant with Gabriel I strongly considered Henry. My husband likes Louis but I think it’s a bit fancy and the ending sounds match Thomas.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a girl. My husband’s favorite over those years has been Lucy. And I can give you a long list of why it’s an awesome name, but I’ve not talked myself into loving it. I thinks it’s perfect for someone else’s baby but maybe not my little girl.

Grace, Sarah and Nell are the other current names on our girls list.

Grace is a longtime favorite but seems so similar to Gabriel and Thomas’s name. One way to use it would be to call her Mary Grace.

Sarah is another name I’ve liked since childhood but it doesn’t seem as saintly as the other kids’ names and perhaps we know too many women my age name Sarah. It’s pretty but I worry that it’s not very interesting.

Nell is a name we’d both be excited to use which isn’t so easy to find. The trouble is that it’s really a nickname and we don’t care for the options for a full name. If we don’t use a full name like Helen the saintly connection is less obvious.

I also like names like Eve, Ruth, Stella and Frances but [hubby’s] pretty lukewarm towards those.”

I so enjoyed working on this for Laura! It’s so fun to have watched her family grow and to have followed her name thoughts through several babies.

I hadn’t realized until she pointed it out that all her living children have their own initial — that’s actually pretty amazing! It definitely informed some of my ideas for her — if they could keep that going, that would indeed be wonderfully convenient! I also really wanted to find some one-syllable names for her, since I know she really likes those; for my ideas that are longer than one syllable, I wanted to be sure they could shorten to a one-syllable name.

Speaking of, I’m so bummed they can’t use Luke! It would be perfect!

So I’ll address their boy parameters first. When Abby from Appellation Mountain did the consultation for me for my last baby, she noted that she found it somewhat difficult to come up with ideas for me because she knew that I’d likely considered All the Names through the years and could she really come up with something I hadn’t already considered? I feel similarly working on this for Laura, since I’ve “known” her for years on the Baby Name Wizard forums before here, and between there and our emails I know that she, too, has considered All the Names. So instead of coming up with ideas that I think she and her hubby might not have considered, I’m shooting for making strong arguments for my ideas such that they might take on a new sheen and come across as newly appealing.

But first, my thoughts on the boy names Laura said they like/have considered:

  • Peter: Although Peter breaks their all-different-initials pattern, I kind of like that they started with Paul and might end with Peter — there’s something really pleasing about that to me. I wonder if they’ve considered Pierce? I like that it’s one syllable and not obviously biblical (while still being biblical), which opens up more options for this family for the future.
  • Jude: Since they can’t use Luke, Jude seems the next best thing. I think Jude has more of a Gabriel feel than Peter, for example, which could be perfect.
  • David: I’m not surprised at all that Laura loves David! A lot of her kids’ names had a strong peak in the 50s/60s, and David did as well. I have three Uncle Davids, two born in the 50s and one in the 60s — one has a brother Mark, one has a brother Stephen, and one has brothers Thomas and Jay! I can see what she means about the long A thing, though I know a family with three boys named Jacob, Nathaniel, and Gabriel: Jake, Nate, and Gabe. I definitely don’t think it’s problematic from an outsider’s perspective, unless it’s really confusing for Laura and her hubby and kids, which sounds like it might be. (That should probably be a consideration for Grace as well.)
  • Samuel and Isaac: I’m not considering these as real possibilities since Laura doesn’t like them, but I probably would have suggested Samuel otherwise. Funny, I wouldn’t have thought Sam and James are too close, and I’ve been thinking about it since she first emailed, and I still don’t think they’re too close. But I totally get not being able to move past something like that!
  • Henry: It’s a great name and is a good match for Laura’s girls’ names I think, both Clare and Katharine as well as Grace, Lucy, and Stella from their list of considerations. Being that it’s a great fit as a brother to Clare and Katharine, I like it for them — I’m always a fan of names that provide a bridge between different styles, or between the boys’ and girls’ names in a family.
  • Louis: I’m laughing over Laura’s characterization of Louis as “a bit fancy”! I can see what she means. I can also see how she doesn’t like the matching endings of Thomas and Louis (but also, perhaps this is a consideration for Grace as well). It’s funny what rubs a person the wrong way, and what doesn’t.
  • Scott: I had to look Scott up to see if there was any saintly connection that could be made! There’s a Bl. William Scott, which I loved discovering, as William was a name that I was going to include in my list of official suggestions anyway. I wonder what they would think of William Scott as a first+middle combo? Will is a nice, one-syllable nickname that would go great with the other kids, OR they could call him Scott from his middle!

And some thoughts on their girl names:

  • Lucy: I love Lucy, which makes it easy for me to see why Laura’s hubby loves it. But I think maybe I can see why Laura doesn’t like it: it’s a very sweet name to me, very soft and darling, and while Clare especially approaches having a similar feel, its hard K sound gives it a little bit of a harder edge, which Katharine shares and even Grace more than Lucy. Eve, Ruth, and Frances from the list of names Laura likes don’t have the harder sound, but have a more severe *feel* I think, if that makes sense. Maybe what I’m trying to articulate is that whether sound-wise or style-wise, Laura’s not terribly into soft or frilly girl names. Do you agree, or do you think I’m way off?
  • Grace: It’s beautiful and to the point, and I know Laura’s loved it for a long time. It starts with G and ends with S, so I can see why it strikes Laura as similar to Gabriel and Thomas, but I have to say that I don’t see them as all that similar. Laura has thought of the possible solution of Mary Grace, but I also know that’s has been problematic for her, since she’s never liked that Mark and Mary are only one letter different. I wonder what she’d think of Sarah Grace instead? Used as a double name, like Mary Grace would be? Laura would get to use two of her favorites, and it would move the whole first name away from Gabriel and Thomas. Sarah Grace (or Sarah-Grace, if they prefer) is very different from their other kiddos’ names to me, while still fitting in really well.
  • Sarah: The idea of Sarah Grace would make Sarah feel more saintly (with Grace being so Marian) and give it a fresher feel so it wouldn’t feel so much like the women Laura’s (and my) age and would also make it feel more interesting. Could be a nice option! For what it’s worth, a friend of mine whose children are similar ages as mine had a baby girl the same month I had my Luke and named her Sarah. I was surprised, as I don’t usually hear Sarah on little girls, but pleasantly so!
  • Nell: I came away from my first reading of Laura’s email DETERMINED to come up with formal name ideas for Nell that she might like. How fun that she and her hubby both love Nell!! I first have to be sure they’ve considered all the options: Nell works for any El- name (as I understand it, girls named Elizabeth, Eleanor, etc. would affectionately be called “Mine El,” which morphed over time into “My Nell” [this also happened with Ann(e) — “Mine Ann” became “My Nan,” and then also Nancy]). My favorite for Laura and her hubs is Elizabeth — it’s a great match with their other children’s names! Eleanor also works, which taps into the Henry/Louis feel and is great with Clare and Katharine. Of course I had to come up with some offbeat/unexpected ideas! One is Natalie. The initial N and the strong L makes Nell totally doable I think. Another possibility is Noelle — I know a little Noelle whose family calls Nelly. Christmas would be her feast day, and with “The First Noel/Nowell” there’s a chance she’d hear her name, like Laura’s other kids do on their feast days. Christmas can also work for Natalie, though there are also two Sts. Natalia that could be patron instead (though I don’t think they’d be mentioned at Mass on their feast days). I also like the idea of something like Nora Louise or Nora Lucy nn Nell. We’ve discussed Eleanor on the blog, which could be patron for Nora (whether through Helena, if they take Eleanor and Helena to be related, or through Bl. Archangela Girlani, whose birth name was Eleanor, or through Ven. Honora Nagle).
  • Eve, Ruth, Stella, Frances: I’m glad Laura included these, as they gave me a fuller sense of her taste, though like with Samuel and Isaac, I’m not considering them realistic options because her husband doesn’t care for them. My only additional thought was, would they consider Francis for a boy?
  • Theresa: Laura didn’t include Theresa, though I know she’s also loved it for a long time! I wonder if it’s off the table now that they have a Thomas? I did use Theresa as inspiration in my research.

Okay! In addition to Pierce, William Scott, Sarah Grace, Natalie/Noelle/Nora+L___ nn Nell, and Francis-for-a-boy, which were all based on ideas Laura and her husband already had, I also did my usual research for them in the Baby Name Wizard, which I’m assuming they’ve already done as well! But hopefully my take on these ideas might be worthwhile:

Girl
(1) Ann(e)
Laura didn’t mention Ann(e)/Anna anywhere, so maybe they’ve considered it and dismissed it? But Ann/Anne is a lovely, trim, one-syllable, super saintly name with a great patron and feast day that fits in really well with the older children! My only worry is that it might be too close to Andrew’s name?

(2) Hope
I really wanted to come up with some ideas that were different than what Laura might normally think of, while still fitting in. Hope showed up a few times in my research in the BNW, being similar in style to Kate, Grace, and Eve. It’s a virtue and Marian name like Grace, but less familiar, and has such a lovely meaning.

(3) Julia
Julia is so classic, feminine, and strong, I love it for this family. It can nickname to the one syllable Jules, but they could also do Jude, especially if they paired it with a D middle name. Could be a neat way to work Jude in!

(4) Susan(ne)(na)
In keeping with the midcentury feel of many of their favorites, Susan popped up a bunch of times: in the style matches for Mark, Thomas, and Peter, and in matches that also included Stephen, Philip, and Theresa. My mom was nearly named Susan, and her brothers share several names with Laura’s boys! Her mom really wanted to name her Susan, but her dad wanted to name her Anne, so they compromised with Susanne. Maybe that would be a combo (Susan+Anne) that Laura would also like? Or maybe Susanna, which is the saint’s name? (The most well-known St. Susanna’s feast day is the same as St. Clare’s, which could be cool or not cool for their Clare, and would also likely mean Susanna wouldn’t be mentioned at Mass. But there are other Sts. Susanna with different feast days!)

(5) Bridget
I included Scott in my research, since Laura and her husband both like it, and was interested to see that Bridget is a style match for it. It felt like a good suggestion for them! It’s got those harder sounds, like Clare and Katharine (and Paul, Mark, Becket, Patrick, and Thomas), and is Irish like Clare and Patrick, and has a great saint as patron. Bridge can be a one-syllable nickname, but I also love Bridie/Bridey.

(6) Emily
Emily popped up enough in my research in the BNW that I couldn’t not include it: it’s a match for James, Andrew, Sarah, and Katie. There are actually a whole bunch of Blesseds and Saints that could be patron for Emily, including St. Emilie de Villeneuve, St. Emily de Rodat, and St. Emily de Vialar. I’m thinking Nell could also work as a nickname for Emily — it starts with E and has a prominent L, like Elizabeth and Eleanor, and something like Emily Louise could hammer that home.

Boy
(1) Matthew (or Matthias?)
They must have considered Matthew and decided against it, but it’s an obvious choice being that it’s a New Testament name and one of the evangelists. I’m quite taken with the idea of Matthew Scott called Scott, it’s one of my favorite ideas for this family. If they don’t care for Matthew’s ending being the same as Andrew, maybe Matthias could work? Like Jude, it has a little more of Gabriel’s vibe, and can shorten to Matt, or Matthias Scott could go by Scott.

(2) Nicholas
This is another New Testament name that they must have considered and dismissed, but it’s such a good fit with Andrew and Gabriel especially, I think. Nick is a great, friendly nickname.

(3) Alexander (or Alan?)
Ditto Matthew and Nicholas — Alexander is a New Testament name that would fit in nicely with the older kids. Alex is also specifically a match for Kate and Sarah. I was also quite intrigued by how often Alan/Allen showed up in my research, being similar in style to Paul, Mark, Peter, and Theresa! We actually read about Bl. Alan de la Roche (aka Alan de Rupe) at my most recent Lay Dominican meeting, he’s a great patron. But I was thinking that of the Al- names, Alexander might be a better fit, since it’s biblical and specifically New Testament.

(4) Adam
Speaking of biblical A names, Adam is another that did well for this family — it’s a match for Kate, Andrew, and Sarah. If they were open to venturing into the Old Testament (like David), Adam could be perfect. It’s not one syllable, but it’s nice and short. There are also some non-biblical holy Adams!

(5) Martin
Venturing out of biblical territory altogether (like Henry and Louis), Martin is a match for Paul, Mark, Lawrence, Philip, Peter, and Theresa. Wow! Martin’s a great name with a lot of great patrons, and Marty’s a great nickname. Although, I’m thinking Laura probably won’t love that Mark and Martin would share their first three letters.

(6) Grant
Grant is a match for Clare and Kate (and Emily and Hope), and I really wanted it to work for this family, since it’s a one-syllable name. We’ve talked a bit on the blog about it being able to nod to “grant us peace” in the Mass, and this site provides sixteen instances of the word “grant” in the bible, including in the New Testament, however I started cross checking them against the version on the Bishops’ site and “grant” isn’t used in it most of them. But it is used in Luke 1:73, so that’s cool!

And those are all my ideas for Laura and her husband! What do you all think? What names would you suggest for the little brother or sister of Paul, Clare, Mark, Katharine, James, Andrew, Gabriel, and Thomas?


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 the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Baby name consultation: First baby (girl) needs a classic, saintly, not-unusual name

Merry Christmas Eve’s Eve! (Or Christmas Adam, if that’s the way you roll. 😂) I hope your house is as full of joy and anticipation as mine is! A very happy and holy Christmas to you all! ❤ ❤ ❤

Today’s consultation is for a dad! Chris and his wife are expecting their first baby — a girl! He writes,

[W]e’re having a really hard time coming up with girls names that we love. We like classic names, and would like a strong saint connection. So no Kateri or Perpetua or Felicity or anything like that (too unusual). Also, no place names, no objects, no common nouns. Ana, Alexandria, Catherine, Lynn, Jennifer, and Madeleine are out due to them being in use by cousins already. The nickname is just as important since that’s going to be what we hear every day!

We had a boys name that we love, Nicholas Anthony, but that will have to wait for a future child, God willing.

For a girl, we’re toying with Victoria Nicole, nickname would be Tori because neither one of us likes Vickie, but just can’t seem to pull the trigger and say that’s definitely the one.”

Expecting your first baby is such a wonderful, exciting time! From a name perspective, I always think it’s fun to work with first-time parents because they have a blank slate –they can choose any kind of name they want, without any worries about it “going with” older children’s names. That said, it can be daunting to have so many options in front of you, and I do encourage parents in this position to give some thought to their future children’s names so that they don’t make a decision with their first baby’s name, style-wise, that they might regret with later children. For example, if Galaxy is your very favorite name, but other names on your list are Kate, Jane, and Mark, Galaxy probably isn’t the best name to choose.

I only explain this in case it’s helpful to any of you, but Chris and his wife actually seem to have a great handle on this already! Nicholas Anthony and Victoria Nicole are well-matched style-wise, and they give me a good idea of what other kinds of names they might like.

Before discussing my additional ideas for them, I want to talk about Victoria Nicole for a minute. There are a bunch of Saints and Blesseds named Victoria, so they have a lot of options for a patron saint if they name their daughter Victoria, and it’s also a Marian name by virtue of the fact that one of Our Lady’s title is Our Lady of Victory. Chris said he and his wife are thinking of Tori for the nickname since neither of them likes Vickie, which makes me think that they might like to consider some of the other nicknames I’ve seen considered for Victoria: Vee, Via, Vicka, Cora, Tia, Ria, and Ree (like the Pioneer Woman! Though Ree for her is a nickname for Ann Marie). As for Nicole, while I quite like how it sounds with Victoria, I wonder if they want to have a daughter with the middle name Nicole and a son with the first name Nicholas? It doesn’t have to be a big deal and I know a lot of families who have done similar things, but I thought I should point it out, just in case they hadn’t realized that they’re basically the same name (Nicole being a feminine variant of Nicholas).

You all know that I start my consultations by looking up the names the parents like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I then look for overlap among those results — a Venn diagram of names — to find names that the parents are most likely to like. It’s uncannily accurate most of the time! I also poke around in my own mind for ideas that feel like the parents’ style, and I’m a big fan of nicknames, so I liked that Chris said, “The nickname is just as important since that’s going to be what we hear every day” — you know I love coming up with nickname ideas!

Based on my research and my own ideas, these are names that seem like they would be a good fit for Chris and his wife:

(1) Elizabeth, Isabella
Chris said they like classic names with a strong saint connection, and since Victoria also has such a strong royal vibe, I thought Elizabeth was a great suggestion, as it’s similarly classic, saintly, and royal. It’s a great name on its own, but one of the best things about Elizabeth is that it has so many nickname options! Liz/Lizzy, Beth, Betsy, Eliza, Ellie, Elsie, Libby, Libbet, Lily, and a whole bunch more all have traditional usage as nicknames for Elizabeth. Another Elizabeth variant that I thought Chris and his wife might like is Isabella. It’s currently popular, but it’s got a long history of usage, including several queens. Izzy, Isa, and Bella are sweet nicknames for it. Both Elizabeth and Isabella can have Our Lady’s cousin Elizabeth as patron, or any of a whole bunch of holy Elizabeths/Isabellas.

(2) Margaret
Like Victoria and Elizabeth (and Catherine, which is on their no list), Margaret is a classic, saintly, royal name. There are quite a few holy Margarets, and there are quite a few traditional Margaret nicknames, including Maggie, Meg, Maisie, Peg/Peggy, Rita, and Daisy. I’ve also seen Molly used as a nickname for Margaret, though they’re technically not linguistically related (Molly is a variant of Mary). That said, Margaret nicknamed Molly is a great way to have a Marian connection without naming your daughter a Mary variant.

(3) NatalieNatalia
Elizabeth, Isabella, and Margaret were my gut-reaction ideas before doing any research for Chris and his wife, but the rest of my ideas here are all based on the results I got from the BNW. Natalie is listed as a style match for Nicholas, Anthony, and Nicole! It’s a beautiful, traditional name that literally refers to Christmas (it comes from the Latin natale domini, which means “birth of the Lord”), but of course it’s suitable for a baby girl born any time of year! Nat and Natty are sweet nicknames, and if they wanted to get a little creative, I could see Nolly working too. Natalie’s a variant of Natalia, which is also a lovely option, and opens up the nicknames Talia and Lia. Natalia is where a patron saint would come: there are two Saints and two Blesseds named Natalia.

(4) Caroline
Caroline is a style match for both Nicholas and Victoria per the BNW. I love the name Caroline — it’s so classy and elegant, and has some pretty great patron saints. It has a lot of nickname options too, like Callie, Carrie, Caro, and Carly. Carly’s actually a style match for Tori!

(5) Veronica
I often think of Victoria and Veronica as being similar, since they’re both long, feminine names starting with V and ending with A. But they have very different feels to me — Victoria has that royal English feel I mentioned before, while Veronica has a biblical feel (though she’s never named in the bible). I think many parents would think daughters Victoria and Veronica in the same family are too much, so if Chris and his wife like Veronica I could see them thinking Victoria is off their list — which will be a good litmus test for them. If it makes him and his wife really unhappy to cross Victoria off their list, then they should definitely forget Veronica! But if they like it, some nicknames include Nic/Nica/Nicky (like Nicole and Nicholas, so maybe not?), Ronnie, Vera, Evie, Nona, Ricki, and there are some that are shared with Victoria, like Vee, Via, and Vicka. Maybe even Nora? I spotlighted Veronica here.

(6) Julia
Julia is a match for Victoria and is biblical like Nicholas, and has that same classiness and loveliness that all of these names have, in my opinion. Julie and Jules are the nicknames for Julia that most people are familiar with I think, but Juliet is actually a diminutive of Julia and used to be used as a nickname for Julia so they could do that if they wanted. Other nickname possibilities for Julia include Lia, Lula/Lulu, and Jilly. I spotlighted Juliet here, which included a conversation about Julia patron saints.

(7) Rebecca
I’m not convinced that they’ll love Rebecca, but it’s a style match for Nicholas, and I liked that it’s classic and lovely in a different way than Victoria, Elizabeth, Isabella, Margaret, Natalie, Caroline, Veronica, and Julia, even though two of those are biblical like Rebecca. I think it’s because it’s such an Old Testament name — its echoes of the ancient past are inspiring and royal in their own way. Of course Becky is a very modern nickname, which, it occurs to me, might strike Chris and his wife as overly similar to Vickie, which they don’t like. I saw a birth announcement once for a baby Rebecca whose parents were calling Ruby as a nickname — I loved that! Because of that story, I was inspired to do a spotlight of Ruby (here). Other Rebecca nicknames include Becca, Bex, and Reba, and there are two saints to choose from as patron.

(8) Tessa
I feel like I have a good sense of Chris and his wife’s taste in given names based on Nicholas, Anthony, Victoria, and Nicole, but I don’t feel like I have a great sense of their  taste in nicknames. That they prefer Tori to Vickie says to me they like more modern nicknames, but I don’t know if they like (or at least don’t mind) creative nicknames (like some of the ones I mentioned above, that aren’t traditional for the given name) or if they prefer to stick with a formal name’s established nicknames and find creative nicknames to be irritating. But Tessa is a style match for Tori, per the BNW, and I immediately thought they might like it. It can work on its own as a given name, but as such I don’t think it has the “classic names” cachet Chris said he and his wife prefer. It originated as a diminutive of Teresa/Theresa/Therese, and I think it could also work as a nickname for Thomasina, so any of those can work as a given name, but I’m not convinced they’d like them (though Theresa is a style match for Anthony). So if they like Tessa, maybe they wouldn’t mind getting creative? I once saw Tess listed as a nickname for Elizabeth — Tess has a slightly different feel than Tessa, but this at least is one idea; the spellings Elisabeth and Elisabetta make the connection even stronger. Another way I like to come up with nicknames is by combining elements of the first and middle names — so maybe a first name with a strong T sound and a middle name with a strong S sound that ends in A? Like … Tara Susanna, Trinity Vanessa, Tegan Jessica, and Talia Marissa (or Natalia Marissa, because of how the T is stressed in Natalia …. OR, for that matter, Victoria! I could see something like Victoria Jessamine taking the nickname Tessa quite well!). (I know those combos aren’t Chris and his wife’s style, I’m just using them as examples.) (Don’t worry if you think I’m crazy! My poor husband has been tormented by my outside-the-box thinking through each of my pregnancies. 😂 😂 😂 I just like to make sure parents have lots of options.)

And those are my ideas for Chris and his wife’s baby girl! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for parents whose list consists of Nicholas Anthony and Victoria Nicole?


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 — a perfect🎄Christmas gift🎄 for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

Cool nickname sites

When I was researching nicknames for Agatha, I came across the site England Female Nicknames (National Institute), which has loads of traditional nicknames for both common and unusual names — I’m sure you’d all like to check it out!

It also notes,

Alan Bardsley’s First Name Variants should be consulted for a much more extensive selection. He lists over 230 for Elizabeth alone!

Guess what went right in my Amazon cart?! 😍😍😍

There’s the boy version as well, England Male Nicknames (National Institute). I haven’t perused either of these as deeply as I’d like to — a fun project for the rest of the summer!

Do any of these jump out to you as particularly perfect? Do you have any other insights? Happy Tuesday, feast of St. Monica!


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!

Nickname as given name?

A mama who I did a consultation for recently had a great question:

I was wondering if you are willing to share your opinion on choosing a nickname for baby’s full name? I am starting to lean towards the name Alexander- but it’s so long! 4 syllables! I prefer shorter names, especially with our longer last name. I like the idea of naming baby just Alex, but am looking for other opinions. If you are willing to share your thoughts, I would love to hear them!

It was so funny for me to receive this email because I had JUST been thinking about this (bestowing a nickname instead of a full formal name)!

So since she asked for my opinion, I’ll give it, but just know that I’m in NO WAY saying that parents who disagree are wrong!

In general, I prefer the full formal name — I like the idea of the child having options — if he decides he’s just not an Alex later in life, having the full name Alexander would allow him to change to Xander or Sander or Sandy or Zan/Xan and though I think all of you (and me!), as parents and namers, might feel disappointed if one of your children decided he didn’t like the name you intended him to go by (Alex), the fact that he could choose a wide array of nicknames stemming from the full name that *you* chose might soften the blow. I also like how a full name looks on a diploma and a wedding invitation — traditional nicknames as given names (or even just choosing to have a nickname put on a diploma or a wedding invitation) always feels incomplete or even (depending on the name) a bit irreverent to me. I like for a person to have a name appropriate for use in formal and solemn occasions, even if he or she always goes by something different in every other area of life.

However, there are some traditional nicknames that aren’t cutesy and do still provide options and I would put Alex in that category. An Alex can be a lawyer or a doctor or a writer or an athlete, no problem, and he could still shorten it to Al if he felt more like an Al, or AJ if his middle name was James, or Ace if he wanted to be a little more offbeat. I’ve always felt like Kate is similar — a Kate could still go by Katie or Kat or Kay or Key if she wanted, and I think it works fine across an array of professions. Then there are the traditional nicknames that have been used as given names for so long that they’ve lost their nicknaminess — Molly, Nancy, Jack, and Harry come to mind immediately.

I’ve also been liking the idea that a child given a nickname as a given name could still embrace the traditionally associated long name as their own — so given-name Alex could choose to go by Alexander, given-name Maggie could choose to go by Margaret or Magdalene, given-name Katie could choose to go by Katherine or Kathleen, given-name Gracie could choose to go by Grace or Graciela. It’s no different, really, than Margaret choosing to go by Maggie, right? It’s sort of like “reverse nicknaming” or “the opposite of nicknaming.”

And sometimes, despite a parent’s best efforts to give all the options and avoid any future professional embarrassment, the child hates the name anyway and legally changes to Buttercup! Or insists on Slugger going on his diploma or wedding invitation. There’s just no predicting something like that! I read a while ago about a guy who was given a nickname in college — I think it was something like Maverick, something that could conceivably be a given name — and he came to identify with it so strongly that he goes by it exclusively now with everyone but his family, and even put Maverick on his wedding invitation, partly because it felt more like him, and partly because he was worried his friends wouldn’t know whose wedding they were being invited to!

So anyway, back to the question! I think Alexander’s a great name — papal, saintly, and pan-European — every language seems to have a variant of Alexander, and I’ve seen it used with long last names with no problem. But “just Alex” isn’t terrible (not that it matters whether I think it’s terrible or not!). Alex has a long history of use as a given name on its own for boys, and though I initially worried about its use among girls — I know some girls named “just Alex” — I looked it up in the SSA stats and Alex is clearly much more predominantly male:

alex&alex

And of course an Alex can take any of the Sts. Alexander for patron.

What do you all think? Do you prefer formal names as given names, or are you okay with nicknames as given names? Are there any exceptions to your rule? That is, do you prefer formal names in general, but there’s one nickname that you love so much you could see yourself bestowing it as is? Do you have any thoughts regarding Alexander vs. Alex specifically? I’d love to hear any stories you have, either about yourself or people you know!