What’s in a name? A lot, as it turns out.

Once upon a time a couple liberals got really mad at me when I suggested that a Christian saint’s name might be a good thing for their little stupor mundi, rather than the trendy abstraction with an incomprehensible spelling.

My advice to parents has always been pick a saints name and spell it normally.

This is from The Telegraph:

Pope rails against rise of un-Christian names [Not so sure about that… but read on.]

The Pope has warned parents against giving children celebrity-inspired names and urged them to turn to the Bible for inspiration instead.

While names such as Sienna and Scarlett have become fashionable in recent years, Pope Benedict XVI called for a return to tradition.

During Mass at the Sistine Chapel, he said: “Every baptised child acquires the character of the son of God, beginning with their Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit causes man to be born anew in the womb of the Church.” He added that a name was an “indelible seal” that set children off on a lifelong “journey of religious faith”. [I didn’t see that quote in the text of the sermon.  And the text of his Angelus address afterward didn’t say that either…  but… that doesn’t change the point: give kids real, Christian names.]

According to the Office for National Statistics, celebrity names such as Ashton – after the actor Ashton Kutcher – and Lily – after the singer Lily Allen – are among the most popular in England and Wales. The names celebrities give their own children can be even more exotic.

Sir Bob Geldof has daughters named Pixie and Peaches, while Victoria and David Beckham called their first son Brooklyn, after the district of New York. Katie Price, the glamour model, named her daughter Princess Tiaamii.

In Italy, the name of a child has particular significance. Children are often named after saints, who are considered a guiding force in their life.

The tradition, however, is increasingly under threat. Francesco Totti, the footballer, recently decided to call his daughter Chanel, while Flavio Briatore, the Formula One boss, named his newborn son Falso Nathan.

Cristina Odone, a former editor of The Catholic Herald who grew up in Italy, said: “There are so many of the church’s traditions which we have come to ignore and which are actually meaningful and have a big spiritual significance. To deprive our children of that sense of having a protecting saint is to rob them of something very significant. Many of today’s names are not just un-Christian but they are also crass and consumerist.” [Parents who do this are selfish.]

According to official statistics, the most popular name for newborns in Britain is Mohammed, after the Islamic prophet. A total of 7,549 newborns were given variations of the name last year. It overtook Jack, which topped the list for 14 years.

Monsignor Andrew Faley, the assistant general secretary to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said: “The name is not just a label but it moves us into a deeper significance of what it means to be human as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

“Naming children after perfumes, bicycles and countries is putting a limit on their potential. They are not merchandise or commodities.

“When I was a parish priest, if I didn’t agree with the name I’d suggest they should give the second name of a saint.”  [Yah… I’ve done that too.  It doesn’t always go very well.]

In 2008, Italy’s highest court banned a couple from naming their son Venerdi – Friday – saying it was “ridiculous” and would expose him to mockery from his classmates.

Judges from the Cassation Court in Rome ordered that the boy instead be christened Gregorio, after the saint’s day on which he was born. [And another thing!  When the calendar was changed around after the Second Vatican Council, people’s name days were changed!] The parents, from Genoa, had drawn inspiration from Robinson Crusoe’s manservant.

I don’t think the Pope said what is claimed in this article.   That doesn’t make a difference to the point of this, however.

That said, I looked in the Italian text of the sermon.  I didn’t find what the article said the Pope said.  In the English translation you read:

“It is not by chance, in fact, that every baptized person acquires the
character of son from the name Christian, indisputable sign that the
Holy Spirit brings man to be born “again” from the womb of the

This is about being called a by the name “Christian” rather than being named with a Christian name.

MY point, however, is still that parents should give saints’ names to their children and, for the love of God, spell them normally.

UPDATE 12 Jan 1428GMT:

Does the Church’s canon law have anything to contribute?

The esteemed canonist Ed Peters has a note about names.  Check it out!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TNCath says:

    Ohhhhhhhh, what a can o’worms this is, Father Z!

    How true this is! Names such as Madison, Taylor, Austin, McKenzie, and other so called “gender neutral” names which are actually surnames have become so prevalent in our society, even amongst Catholics. And then, there are others such as (no, I’m not kidding) Jeriliyah, Markell, Deontay, Taiveyuana, Daibrielle, Chayton, Sharnella, and Quatarius. If you don’t believe me, I’m reading these from my class roll!

    This is just another example of how un-Christian (and ignorant) American society has become.

  2. Dr. K says:

    Though I think a Christian name is preferable, who is to say there one day won’t be a St. McKenzie, etc.?

  3. AnAmericanMother says:

    Duly vested, Don Camillo approached the baptismal font. ” What do you wish to name this child,” he asked Peppone’s wife.
    “Lenin, Libero, Antonio,” she replied.
    “Then go get him baptized in Russia,” said Don Camillo calmly, replacing the cover on the font.

    (It’s not a new problem.)

  4. chonak says:

    Sure: when someone with the last name McKenzie is canonized, then it’ll be fine. For example, naming your kid Kolbe is good. Naming him Colby (like the cheese) is not as good.

  5. unsilenced says:

    My grandma used to tell me that in Puerto Rico people would name their children after the Saint’s name in the calendar. Now, in the calendars then it would name, not only the Saint, but also whether they were an Abbot, Virgin, Confessor, etc… so there are lots of people called: Abad (abbot in spanish), Virgen (virgin), Confesor, Santos (saint), etc…

    I was named after John the Baptist, but not because of the birthday but because he is the patron saint of the capital of the island.

  6. PomeroyonthePalouse says:

    There are a number of things I can get irritated with with our oldest daughter. But, thank God, not in her naming her children. Michael, Christopher, Thomas, and Victoria. Now we just need to continue praying that her youngest three are baptised.


  7. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    The sad thing is Fr Z., the trend in many Catholic churches is to drop the saint naming business. For my confirmation and this was back in 1997, no saints names. It was a shame, because I wanted Michael, and later I had much exposure to St. Michael the Archangel in high school. I’ve idolized the great commander ever since for banishing the Enemy to Hell in the great War in Heaven.

  8. robtbrown says:

    chonak says:
    11 January 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Sure: when someone with the last name McKenzie is canonized, then it’ll be fine. For example, naming your kid Kolbe is good. Naming him Colby (like the cheese) is not as good.

    I used to work with a guy with two daughters: One name Colby, the other named Brie. No joke.

  9. VivaLaMezzo says:

    We were not Catholic at the time our daughter was conceived or born. However, we did believe that her name was important, especially since our first child had died in utero at 28 weeks the year before. It wasn’t superstition; it was a desire to make our child’s very name a prayer to God. So, we had chosen the name during the first month of our pregnancy. We didn’t even purchase the baby book… we got as far as the second page of names for boys and we decided – girl or boy – that we knew our child’s name. Our second daughter ended up with a masculine Hebrew name: Avniel (God is my strength/rock). She was born at 28 weeks and only weighed 1lb 4oz. During her 4 months in the hospital, God was truly our strength; our Rock.

    And now her name is a constant reminder to her and to all of us to always rely upon God. Names matter.

  10. AmericanMother: The only problem in that don Camillo is that, eventually, don Camillo did baptize the baby "Lenin", but not only "Lenin".

    Anyone who wants to hear that don Camillo story can find it in one of my PODCAzTs.

  11. Mike says:

    What’s in a name?

    Bruno Stalin Alvarez. Murdered five people in Potomac, Md.

    You can look it up.

  12. teaguytom says:

    I’m thankful that my parents listened to the pastor of the time and named us with Christian names. You could tell though, that the idea of Christian names were changing in the Archdiocese. I was Thomas Michael, then my sister was Laurie Michelle. My Youngest sister was Jennifer Lynn. I don’t know where the Lynn came from, and Laurie must have been a popular name. But we all had some form of Christian name.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    One of my students, I am not kidding, was named Velveeta. I hope she changed her name. I also had a boy named Rainbow. I had three Tyrells in one class. One of the local priests, an old priest, sticks saints’ names in the Baptism, such as Madison Mary Jones, or Cody James O’Connor. Cody is very popular here, as well as Brittany. Here are some others I have come across lately of girls and boys in their late teens or twenties: Morgan, Zoe, Apollo, Destiny, Shanaenae, Cortez, Cordero, Hunter.

    Austin is actually from Augustine, and therefore, kosher, as it were.

    Some old Protestant families in our area name their children after the wife’s family, such as Montgomery, Addison, Berkley, Brewster, Piper, Tate, etc. Now, of course, Barack is popular, but that is actually a Biblical name, from Baruch. Barak is the Arabic form for blessing, as it is Baruch in Hebrew. There are some Israelis with the last name of Barak.

    I have seen the names change since I started teaching a long time ago. I have not had a Mary, or a variation of Mary in a class for many years. The young men seem to have more traditional names than the girls.

  14. zippityzach says:

    I heard a story from my brother (a seminarian for our diocese, and who was there when it happened) of a Priest that refused to baptize a child that didn’t have a Christian name! The most ridiculous name I’ve heard of yet is La-a (Pronounced “La-dash-a”)

  15. Joel says:

    Be strong. I was one of those parents once. In fact that is how I came to know Father Z as he gave my first child a second name. When Father did it I was not overly upset, ok maybe annoyed. But what really annoyed me over time was that I, as a young father did not understand the significance of the naming of a child. ( Thank you to all of the generation before me who robbed me of knowing my true Catholic culture.) In fact I am more annoyed with Priests I know or have known who did NOT challenge me in my thinking or belifs! In the end, my wife and I are eternally grateful for what Father did, and St Agnes (no surprise there) has been a great help to my family and of course my daughter!

  16. jesusthroughmary says:

    “Though I think a Christian name is preferable, who is to say there one day won’t be a St. McKenzie, etc.?”

    It is a legitimate point. The Church requires that a name “not be foreign to Christian sentiment” (Canon 855). This is not the same as saying that a saint’s name is required. For example, I have multiple devout Catholic friends named Travis. As far as I know, there is no St. Travis. But it’s an “old” name, and certainly not invented, trendy, or formed in the cauldron of modern consumerist sensibilities. Should no Catholic be permitted to name his child Travis until after the conversion and martyrdom of the pagan consul Travis?

    Of course, a true Catholic can scarcely think of a better gift to give to his newborn child than that of a powerful patron saint, at least as a middle name, but let’s not be more Catholic than the Church.. We need to use common sense and keep our religious sensibilities about us, but there are plenty of good, strong names that haven’t yet belonged to a member of that subset of the Church Triumphant who have been formally canonized.

  17. sugarlandsteve says:


    Of the names you list, Zoe at least has a saintly pedigree: St. Catherine Laboure was known as Zoe to most of her family, according to her official biographer, having been born on May 2, which was (is it still in the new calendar?) the feast day of St. Zoe, martyred in the reign of Hadrian, during the second century.

  18. jesusthroughmary says:

    The young men seem to have more traditional names than the girls.

    I think that’s because parents tend to want to outdo each other in the “awwww…..” factor with girls’ names, without considering whether anyone could actually respect an adult named Kylie or Serenity. People tend to name boys for the long haul, although even that is becoming less and less true.

    Also, surprisingly from the SSA: “Barack is not in the top 1000 male names for any year of birth in the last 100 years. Please enter another name.” And this includes 2009 (although 2010 info is not available yet).

  19. Supertradmum says:

    I forgot that when I lived in Minnesota, I knew Thors, Freyjas, Friggs, and a Haldemar, which is a last name. If people want some great saints’ names, my family has a phenomenal list: Olga, (Equal to the Apostles), Vladimir, Ludmila, Methodius, Vaclav, Cyril, Nicholas, Edmund, Charles, Felix, Marianne, Carola…

  20. jesusthroughmary says:

    “…having been born on May 2, which was (is it still in the new calendar?) the feast day of St. Zoe”

    Although that is her feast day in the Martyrology, in both calendars she rightly yields to the great Father of Orthodoxy, St. Athanasius.

  21. Supertradmum says:


    You are correct. I forgot about St. Zoe. However, this poor child is not baptized. Maybe St. Zoe will intercede for her. Another popular name now is Chloe, who is mentioned in Corinthians.

  22. Charles says:

    Ianua Caeli. Macarius Chrysostom. Philomena Gianna. Eulalia Sophia. Next on the roster — Ignatius Benedict.

  23. jesusthroughmary says:

    I already beat you to Ignatius. I came thisclose to actually naming him Ignatius Benedict, but chose Anthony instead as a middle name.

  24. Supertradmum says:


    Thanks, ditto. I actually like the name. Another girl’s “z”name we could use now is Zelie, the mother of St. Theresa, the Little Flower. Blessed Zelie would be a great patron. Speaking of saints, many years ago, a friend of mine sent me a card with a female, Roman saint squeezing the head of a martyr. This saint was one of the first to collect relics. I lost the card years ago in a book somewhere. She sent it to me because I looked like this saint. Does anyone know of this painting and this saint? It is not Sabina.

  25. DavidJ says:

    Is there anything unbecoming about naming a child a non-traditional name with the intent of giving them a traditional Baptismal name? While I’m not a fan of some of the outlandish names out there, and I’ve been fairly traditional in my own children’s names, I’d hate to think we’re “stuck” with the roster of names we’ve got at this point. Granted, I’ve got a Seraphina, a Roselynn (going by Rose) and Sebastian out of them, still I can understand selecting a non-traditional name as long as there is a Baptismal (and Confirmational) patron.

  26. Supertradmum says:


    Do we not act like the person, or try to emulate the person, after whom we are named? I think that is the reasoning of someone who names a child after the mother’s maiden name, re: grandpa’s last name, such as Haldemar. However, should we not encourage our children to emulate a saint, rather than a member of the family, who may or may not be a saint?

  27. The point is well-taken. Of course, there’s no guarantee how a child will turn out, so be careful with, say, Jesus, or, um, Madonna. (The famous singer’s real, given name is Madonna Louise Ciccone, which I find at times to be an embarassment.)

  28. samgr says:


  29. Supertradmum says:


    And on the Luxembourg side of the family, Felix is a generational name.

  30. I agree Fr. Z. Too bad someone couldn’t convince one of our previous Texas governors, Big Jim Hogg, of this. He named his only daughter Ima Hogg. There is an old story, which is false, that she had a sister named Ura. What was he thinking? snicker

  31. Peggy R says:

    My kids have the most ordinary, but strong, names in our town: Gregory and Michael. Middle names are saints as well (Russian spelling/western script). I had my PSR students do a patron saint project for class on Halloween. Some kids had no saint or saint like name for first or middle names. I felt sad for them. Two of them never did the project. Relatedly, Steven Levitt had a chapter on kids’ names in Freakonomics. The trendy names quickly go down market, so to speak.

    If I had a dollar for every Cole, Conner, or Kaitlyn in town, I’d be quite wealthy.

  32. Supertradmum says:


    There is a Blessed Conor O’Devany, a martyr. Kaitlyn is from Katherine or Kathleen and is found in French and English documents early on in the Medieval era. Cole is short for St. Nicholas.

  33. dominic1955 says:

    Back in the old days, the priest would just change it at the font if he didn’t like the name. That usually wouldn’t go over too well, but I’d really push for a real Catholic name if I were a priest. Naming kids with secular names just sounds silly to me. At the very least, the middle name should be some sort of saint’s name.

  34. mpalardy says:

    Odd, nothing yet about a certain American political figure, who not only did not give her children saint’s names, but didn’t even give them people’s names.

  35. Elizabeth D says:

    “Another girl’s “z”name we could use now is Zelie, the mother of St. Theresa, the Little Flower”

    A very excellent devout Catholic couple I know who cannot have children of their own, is adopting an infant. She was born Monday and they named her Zelie. Terrific name! Also, I thought, there is a certain amount of likelihood of Bl Zelie and Louis Martin being canonized eventually, which would likely be a meaningful event for a girl named Zelie.

    Another Catholic couple here (pro life activists married on the Feast of the Holy Innocents last year) named their first child Andre, for St Andre Bessette.

  36. Supertradmum says:

    She is not a Catholic and as I mentioned above, many Protestants give last names to their children, such as Piper. However,Willow is a town in Alaska. Bristol is the name of a borough in Alaska-Bristol Bay. Trig is another Norse name, as I mentioned some above, but forgot this one, popular among Scandinavians. I have no idea of Track…

  37. Sliwka says:

    Considering the importance of names, my wife and I (her not even pregneant) have a ready-made list (top 3) for girls and boys. Claire (via Clare), Molly (via Mary), Anna/Ann/Annie, Bennett (although surname, via Benedict), Jack (via James and Jacob), and Samuel.

    Student teaching, I have a November. One of my female classmates is Mckensi.

    One classmate was glad to hear she shared her name with the martyr St Laura of Cordoba.

  38. jflare says:

    Heh. Guess I’m not as attuned to this conversation as I thought:
    When pmalardy referred to public figures, I thought the reference was for Nancy Pelosi….

  39. Soonerscotty says:

    Somehow, I’m thinking the retiring archbishop of Oklahoma City, Eusebius Beltran, would agree =]

    I’ve always thought that with a name like “Eusebius” there was nothing he could do except be a priest.

    I’ll miss hearing his name said at every mass when the new bishop is installed. Even though Archishop-designate Paul Coakley obviously has a saint’s name it just won’t be the same.

  40. Animadversor says:

    Jeriliyah, Markell, Deontay, Taiveyuana, Daibrielle, Chayton, Sharnella, and Quatarius.

    TNCath, you’re in Memphis, aren’t you?

  41. I have eight!

    David Allen — St. David of Wales (Allen is a family name). My son chose the confirmation name “Francisco”.

    Maria Michele — Our Lady and St. Michael the Archangel. Michele is also my wife’s name. My daughter chose the confirmation name “Veronica”.

    Thomas Becket — Self explanatory.

    Elizabeth Ann — Again, self explanatory.

    John Paul — Again, self explanatory.

    Teresa Louise — St. Teresa of Avila, the Little Flower, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Louise is a family name.

    Philip Joseph — Self explanatory. Both are also family names.

    Gianna Claire — After St. Gianna Molla and St. Clare (which was also my grandmother’s name, under a different spelling.

    NAMES MATTER!!!!!!!

  42. michelelyl says:

    The Bishop of my former Diocese (Orange), and a wonderful Bishop, is named ‘Tod Brown’. I’ll go with the ‘not offensive to Christian sensibilities’ which is what my current pastor (his name is Rogatian!yes, I know, a martyr of the Church) recommends for Baptism names. I agree that there will someday be a St. Nayali, St. Autumn, or St. Harrison. (some of the names of babies baptized at my parish)
    And, a few years ago, one student was confirmed “Bernardin”. She could articulate in a letter to the Bishop why she wanted to emulate the saintly Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who was so full of forgiveness for his false accuser.
    ~ Michele

  43. frjim4321 says:

    I love this topic. I had the honor to name my godson when good friends were having a hard time coming up with a name that seemed right to them. I suggested “Elliot,” a variation of Elijah, in the French meaning “The Lord is God.”

    I do so agree with using the Bible as a source for names. There are so many strong and underutilized names in the Bible. I can never figure out why the beautful name “Luke” is so rarely used.

    I’ve also loved the name “Jay” as a variation of “James,” another fairly underused name but occurring twice in my family. If I had ever had a son and if his mother would agree, I would have loved to name him “Jay.”

    Sadly our baptism register has many strange names. At least no girls are named “Female,” (fem-AH-lay) as I have heard in some quarters.

    I agree with the writer from Columbia that trendy names have a very short shelf life.

  44. Charivari Rob says:

    Supertradmum, you make me glad I scrolled down and read all the comments before hitting reply. I was going to reply to robtbrown’s comment about Colby with a joke about Velveeta. Now I see that it ain’t no joke.

  45. Some years back, I heard about a woman who named her child Latreen.

    I have my own story, circa 1990. I was in the checkout line at a supermarket in Caldwell, New Jersey. The cashier began ringing up my items. Eventually, she came to the Savoy cabbage, whose name appeared on her monitor. She turned to her interlocutor, who was bagging, and a glow appeared on her face. “Savoy,” she savored aloud. “I like that name. When I have a son, I’m going to call him Savoy.”

  46. Ellen says:

    I’m one of nine and we all have very traditional names – Anne, Clare, Susan, David, Charles ect.

    I teach part time and I have seen some real doozies. My favorite was Gynipher. Pronounced Jennifer. Every semester I run into names I can’t pronounce.

  47. Sorbonnetoga says:

    My wife and I have a simple method: get out Butler’s Lives of the Saints, go to the index in Volume 4 and start discussing the list! Last time Zoe came out on top (Martyr under Diocletian, but also used as the Greek form of Eve in the Septuagint). This time? We have a date with Butler this afternoon.

  48. Norah says:

    To deprive our children of that sense of having a protecting saint is to rob them of something very significant.

    I agree and I am sad that we are not calling our Catholic schools by saint’s names or titles of Jesus or Our Lady for the very same reason.

  49. jaykay says:

    Over here in Ireland the usual New Year newspaper “what was 2010’s most popular name” poll revealed that for boys if was James (Matthew in 2009) and for girls Anna (Lucy in 2009). Max was second for boys, followed by Hugo, Patrick and Oliver. For girls, second most popular was Grace, followed by Lucy and Lilly.

    Unfortunately silly names such as (boys) Kester and Mingus (I kid you not – he’ll feel like a right Charlie later!) and (girls) Ayana and Peaches (how original) also featured. The paper tactfully described them as “eclectic”.

    In regard to the name Chanel, though, which the article says Francesco Totti has given his little girl, there is in fact the 19th century French saint & martyr Peter Chanel, who founded the Society of Mary known as the Marists. They ran the school I went to.

  50. LaxMom25 says:

    Hope for you all…
    Last week two of my children had birthdays. With the help of my other kids, we had a party, inviting our closest homeschooling friends from our parish. My five year-old son (Finnian Joseph) invited Joseph Patrick, Michael Joseph, Andrew, and David (can’t recall their middle names). My seven year-old daughter (Margaux Fiona) invited Mary, Mary, Clare, Nichole, and Lexi (Lexi is a soccer-team friend whose parents are now fallen-away). I cannot recall the middle names for any of the girls, but they were solid. At the party we even talked about their great names; each of those children knew exactly why they were given their names from their parents. I have no doubt the name/patron saints are important to these children and will be models of holiness and virtue for them.
    Names do matter.

  51. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    “Naming children after perfumes, bicycles and countries is putting a limit on their potential. They are not merchandise or commodities.”

    I guess I’ll have to pick a different name for Lil’ Lichtenstein (aka “Lil’ Lichtie”) and his twin brother Schwinn (aka “Schwinn the Twin”).

    What will I tell my wife Chanel?

  52. bookworm says:

    “While names such as Sienna and Scarlett have become common in recent years”

    Couldn’t Sienna be used in honor of St. Catherine of Siena, even if not spelled exactly the same?

    Also, just kind of a trivia note here, the Scarlett O’Hara family in “Gone With the Wind” are clearly portrayed in the novel (not so much in the movie) as Irish Catholics. (Not that this makes Scarlett any kind of role model for Catholic womanhood, of course!)

    Some female names come from titles or attributes of the Blessed Mother, like Dolores (Mother of Sorrows). Names like Sharon (short for Rose of Sharon) or even Lily could fall into this category, as the lily is a symbol of purity.

    Although this is more of a Protestant tradition one can also name a child after a virtue to which you hope they aspire, like Hope or Faith. Cara (short for “caritas,” or charity), Grace, or Justine (justice) would fall into this category.

    Finally, many saint’s names have numerous ethnic variations. My name, Elaine, doesn’t formally belong to any saint (yet) but it is a French variation of the Greek name Helen, therefore I could count St. Helen as my official patron.

  53. VivaLaMezzo says:

    As a fellow school teacher, I have to drop into the craziest name game: I taught a girl named Belavna (the “V” was silent) and this year I have a boy named Ed’Zaviah. One year, we even had a boy named Master. So…

  54. Scott W. says:

    I compromised and went with Gabriel, Miriam and Francis because my wife would have nothing to do with my first choices like Scholastica, Perpetua and Pius. :)

  55. chcrix says:

    And nobody mentioned “Moon Unit” and “Dweezil”?

  56. Gail F says:

    Bookworm: Scarlett O’Hara’s name was Katie (Katherine) Scarlett, so she did have a saint’s name.

    My children were born and named when we were nominal (child no. 1) and very uncatechized (child no. 2) Catholics. I thought the “saint name thing” was just an old tradition. Nevertheless, both my children do have saint names as either their first name, middle name, or both names — we just happened to like them when picking out names.

    One can fix this, though, with confirmation names — IF you get the chance to pick one. I was confirmed as an adult and the practice at the time in our Archdiocese (Cincinnati) was not to have confirmation names. You were just supposed to use your baptismal name to “strengthen the symbolism of baptism” or something. I was disappointed. Someone told me I could do it anyway (who doesn’t want another name??) so I called the priest and asked. He asked me why I wanted one and I only got a few words out before he said “fine.” I think he just wanted to know that I had a reason at all. Anyway, now our parish allows children to choose a confirmation name if they want to, and they almost always do. Even my son, who doesn’t seem to care about such things, put a lot of thought into his confirmation name. Any time I hear of someone who isn’t allowed/encouraged to have a confirmation name and seems sad about it, I tell them to call the priest and say they want one.

    BTW: I think La-dash-a (La-a) is an urban myth, I’ve heard it many times. But many kids have made-up names, or “jazzed up” normal names — I know a boy named “Maxximum” or “Maxx” for short.

  57. Kerry says:

    Almost the only funny scene in the horrible film An American Carol…The two antagonists are walking in what we suppose to be a rocky hillside in Afghanistan-like terrain and one of them shouts, “Mohammed!” From behind 14 different big rocks up pop 14 different guys, “YES!”

  58. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’m not a schoolteacher – but my mom was. She swears on a stack of Bibles she had a girl in one of her classes named Formica Dinette.

    The ultimate resource for bizarre names: Remarkable names of real people

    Father, I know what happened to little Lenin Libero Antonio, but it was too good to waste.

  59. MaryMaria says:

    I record sacrament reception at our parish and I kid you not we had parents come in who named their little girl…….ABCDE…..pronunciation……absidee….Fr. did not believe me until I showed him the birth certificate!!!

  60. Supertradmum says:

    and, this is not urban myth, I asked one girl how she got her name “Female”, pronounced Fey-mah-lee. She said her mother told her the people at the hospital named her. She was in the same school as Velveeta and the 3 Tyrells. I wish these things weren’t true. Rainbow was in that school as well. I have also taught youth named Darvin, Darven, Darwin, Derrick, Jackson, Courtney, Kourtney, Caley, (last three girls), (and more girls) Sunday, Tuesday, Robrina, Shayla, Venus, added to the groups above…..

  61. Banjo pickin girl says:

    It was probably pretty common to change the name at the font in the old days. A Dominican priest in Lancaster, Ohio gave Tecumseh Sherman the name William because Tecumseh is a heathen name. This happened when he was baptized by his foster family at age 9.

  62. jesusthroughmary says:

    Teresa Louise — St. Teresa of Avila, the Little Flower, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Louise is a family name.

    Louise is the feminine variant of Louis. Allen I can’t help you with, although we have multiple holy priests in our diocese with various spellings of the name, so it may just be a matter of time.

  63. I don’t want to be harsh either way, here. But a lot of people are complaining in this thread about names which _are_ saint’s names (like “Kester”, which is a diminutive of Christopher), or about the use of old Christian traditional names (like “Sunday”, which is arguably St. Dominic’s name – from Dies Dominica, the Lord’s Day). A lot of last names are saints’ names (particularly of the English, Irish, and Scottish martyrs). A lot of last names are derived from saints’ names (like Madison, which means son of a woman named Magdalene or a man named Moddi), or names which became traditional Christian names (like the perfectly normal Scandinavian names listed above). Also, nobody mentioned that you can name kids after virtues, attributes of God, or even doctrines of the Church. (Ones with happy implications for the kid. Father won’t let you name your kid “Original Sin”, though he’ll probably let you name her “Trinidad”.)

    There are a lot of bad names being given; but there are also a lot of people who are just clueless about whether the names they want are Christian or not. On the whole, they’re happy to know that their kid has a saint’s name or a Catholic name of some kind. Admittedly, priests shouldn’t have to be onomasticists to do their job; but there’s a whole world of historical saints beyond Butler.

  64. jesusthroughmary says:

    I compromised and went with Gabriel, Miriam and Francis because my wife would have nothing to do with my first choices like Scholastica, Perpetua and Pius. :)

    Direct her to Lk 1:60-64 when you exercise the nuclear option in the future. Of course, I say this having a wife whose confirmation name is Perpetua and who freely consented to my naming our sons Ignatius and Bonaventure. She’s also fine with the other two names you listed, but prefers Veronica to Scholastica and Cyprian to Pius. However, she is against naming a girl Apollonia and calling her Apple.

  65. Beth says:

    Is there anything wrong with giving children Old Testament names like Moses, Elijah, and Joshua ( a variant of Jesus) ? I always wondered why we don’t call them St. Moses, etc. Even though they lived before Jesus, they were faithful to God, and one presumes, in Heaven.

  66. Liz says:

    Names do matter so much. You all have come up with some great names. By the way, ABCDE doesn’t even make any sense b/c they pronounce the names of the letters not the sounds they make. (More like Abkdee or something?) That and Geniphyr or whatever! Wow. I have enjoyed this post and these comments immensely. I always thought that one would “run out” of names with a large family, but it is quite the opposite. With numbers 7 and 8 (they came together) I was wanting to name the kids four names. (So many saints so little space!) My beloved said how about two? Oops, I had gone too far; so, they have three names each.

  67. Supertradmum says:

    I cannot forget the multiple of Shannon, Kenra, Kendra, Lyndsey, Lyndsay, Lyndsy, Deanne, Brianna, Misty, Duke, Tyrone, etc. I give anything for a Jane, Alice, Mary Beth, or Maria. What happened to those great names? Even my Latinas and Latinos have non-Christian names, like Chianta, Maya, Jewel, etc. Sometimes before I take role, I say the Michael the Archangel prayer, as I feel like I am calling up gods and goddesses of ancient religions….

  68. jesusthroughmary says:

    Non-English speaking Catholics can get away with that – Assumpta/Asuncion, Jean-Baptiste, Concepcion, Corazon, Coeur, Fleur… I doubt I could get away with naming a kid “Heart” or even “Sacred Heart”. I could maybe name her Corazon and call her Cora.

  69. jesusthroughmary says:

    I always wondered why we don’t call them St. Moses, etc.

    I believe the Roman Martyrology does just that. However, the Protestants have the market cornered on Old Testament names. LOL.

  70. There was a long time when foreign-trained Irish priests were under the impression that none of the traditional Irish names counted, since their (numerous) saints weren’t usually in the Roman martyrology. You got a lot of Conn being baptized as Cornelius, Teig as Timothy, I forget what as Jeremiah…. But although it was a terrible point of ignorance, people still got their kids baptized more than today.

    Ed Peters’ article on this (linked somewhere around here) points out that the priest who baptized his mom thought that Nancy wasn’t a Christian name (probably thinking it was after the French placename). Actually it’s used in English as a diminutive of Nan, which is Ann; or of Ancy/Annis, which is Agnes — both of which are definitely saints’ names! But it didn’t apparently didn’t scar the poor girl to have her patronesses unknown, and to be given the additional name of Mary.

    So yeah, when in doubt, add a name.

    Oh, and nobody’s mentioning the medieval decree that Catholic kids are specifically not supposed to be named Muslim names, like “Mohammed”. I guess that is folded into “Christian sensibility”.

  71. Oh, and “Bernardin” was a saint’s first name before it was ever anybody’s last name. Sheesh, there’s a tonload of Bernardines and Bernardins and Bernards. Usually it’s St. Bernardino of Siena, the great preacher of the Holy Name of Jesus.

  72. Danny says:

    what do you do if you named your child after a family name? My son is named Teddy after my father and there are a few St. Theodores. Should I formally change his name? I did consecrate him to Mary when he was still in the womb and again when he was born.

  73. jesusthroughmary says:

    So his patron saint is Theodore. Done and done. Don’t stress yourself out.

  74. McKenzie/Mackenzie — a clan name meaning “son of Kenneth”, aka Cainnech/Canice. (Which is a big Scottish saint’s name. Don’t be dissing St. Kenneth.)

    Morgan – Ven. Edward Morgan, priest and cheery martyr.

    And so on. It’s a little research, but not much. Still, there’s a very good book on contemporary Catholic names out there, but I can’t remember what it’s called.

  75. jaykay says:

    Suburbanshee: “a lot of people are complaining in this thread about names which _are_ saint’s names (like “Kester”, which is a diminutive of Christopher), ”

    Doh! That was me! A simple Google has since revealed that it’s of Scottish derivation – therefore quite suitable for an Irish kid (don’t much like it myself but then that’s a matter of personal taste).

    (I think it’s actually St. Bernardine, not -ino)

  76. Re: Teddy, a lot of family names are naturally going to be saints’ names, if you live in a Christian civilization. What a happy grace! It’s a several-barreled name, because it means “gift of God”, it’s a saint’s name, and it’s a family name too!

  77. Re: Jewel, that’s exactly the same as St. Gemma. You could easily argue that it refers to the stones of the New Jerusalem, or any number of allegorical interpretations. Re: Lily and the like, there are tons of those because of Song of Songs and Mary. Anyway, jewel names and flower names have always been given to girls down the ages, so there’s plenty of saintly precedent.

    Just don’t name the kids “Blood Diamond” and “Nakedladies Lily”.

  78. Latriagiver says:

    How did the parents of the today saints regard this tradition. Are all Saints names rooted in the Bible or Christian heritage? While I agree totally that the name means something, I have to ask the question if this principle is not a new idea….(now that we have alot of christian/saint names to choose from). The exponiential exansion of Christian names grew as time went on, with the addition of new saints etc. But what about those living in 500 AD? How do we not have a greater number of christian names now if not because parents expanded their options. Are all new christian names from saints converts to the faith?

  79. A lot of early Christians were known by their own names (which were uniformly pagan, if they were pagan converts). But people seem to have started taking Biblical and martyr names pretty early on, and/or giving them to their kids. The idea of giving converts a new name may have come from people entering into monastic life, because they often took pseudonyms or new names; but maybe it was the other way ’round. I don’t know if anybody knows.

    Re: Chanel, St. Peter Chanel is a perfectly good patron.

  80. I’m not saying I like all these names. I’m not saying their parents are prudent, either. I’m just saying that, when it comes to saint names/Christian names, there’s a lot of leeway. Even more, if you add the “not contrary to Catholic sensibility” rule. I’d say — don’t name your kids Sterculinus or Lucifer, even if there are saints by those names. But don’t be automatically scandalized if you run across a kid with a weird name, because they may have a Christian name they don’t have on the roll or it may just be a weird, weird Christian name.

  81. jesusthroughmary says:

    Doh. I thought I mentioned St. Peter Chanel. It appears upon further review I did not. I have a good friend named Chanel, and St. Peter shares a feast day (April 28) with St. Louis de Montfort and St. Gianna.

  82. Charivari Rob says:

    “I always wondered why we don’t call them St. Moses, etc. “

    As JesusThroughMary said, they are counted among the Saints. Father Z. has posted on that a few different times.

    Besides, there are other Moses. For example, there’s St. Moses the Black.

  83. jesusthroughmary says:

    I will say it’s a bit maddening to watch parents go through all the machinations of how a saint’s name can be twisted, mashed and rearranged to come up with some cute trendy names. The Gaelic saints are particularly victimized by this, although with what some of their names actually are I am tempted to say they bring it on themselves.

  84. pseudomodo says:

    I named my daughter Tiffany. My mother-in-law retorted, “Why would you name your child after a lamp?!” My hope and prayer is that my Tiffany will be a saint!

    Of course we did not know it at the time (because we just liked the name) that Tiffany is a form of Theophania or ‘The manifestation of God”.

    Strange how God always works things out in the end.

  85. irishgirl says:

    This is such an interesting discussion!
    When I used to work in the local Catholic bookstore, I was always pulling out our copy of a dictionary of Saints’ names (I can’t remember the exact title) whenever a customer asked whether a certain name was derived from a Saint.
    Give me the names of Saints anyday! Why do parents name their kids such weird ones? They’re going to have to live with them for the rest of their lives.
    I sure hate to see the list of names in a nursing home in the future!

  86. LaxMom25 says:

    Just yesterday before I saw this thread, my children and I were chatting about names (a favorite subject). The youngest said that our next six boys will be named “Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian.” One of the girls then added that future girls will be “Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, and Anastasia.”

    As much as I trust in the names we chose for our children, I do think that we would have chosen different names for them had we been more serious in our faith at the time.

    My oldest son, the only child thus far confirmed, put much prayer and thought into his Confirmation name. Leo, after Pope Saint Leo the Great. I was so grateful to the Holy Spirit for helping him choose the name.

  87. jaykay says:

    “although with what some of their names actually are I am tempted to say they bring it on themselves.”

    Bit confused about this: “with what their names actually are” ? Do you mean that they’re unpronounceable in the original Irish version? They’re not to those of us who speak it. Same would go for some Slavic names, I suppose, which certainly can look a bit offputting with (to us) “odd” combinations of vowels.

  88. Daniel Latinus says:

    The idea of giving converts a new name may have come from people entering into monastic life, because they often took pseudonyms or new names; but maybe it was the other way ’round. I don’t know if anybody knows.

    Actually the giving of new names to people when they enter a new state of life (which conversion most certainly is) can be found in the Holy Scriptures: Abram is renamed Abraham; Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the Apostle; and of course, Simon bar Jonah becomes Cephas, the Apostle Peter. I am sure there are others I have forgotten.

  89. Fr. Basil says:

    You’re quite right.

    Use name of Christian saints such as Achmet, Mohammed, Aphrodite, Mercury, Horus, and Demeter.

    ALL of these appear in various martyrologies and synaxaria.

    In other words, they BECAME saint’s names.

    \\Olga, (Equal to the Apostles), Vladimir, Ludmila, Methodius, Vaclav, Cyril, Nicholas, Edmund, Charles, Felix, Marianne, Carola…\\

    And most of these were pagan names to start with.

  90. Supertradmum says:

    Also, Second Corinthians 5:17, where St. Paul tells us that in Christ, we are new creations, new creatures. Therefore, at Baptism, we are given a new name, and hopefully, one of a saint, which, of course, includes SS. Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, David, Moses, etc.

  91. Ed the Roman says:

    There is a small positive correlation between the rarity of a boy’s name and the likelihood that he will be arrested. Just sayin’.

  92. robtbrown says:

    KU has a white basketball player named Tyrel. He was named after one of the Sackett Brothers (Tell, Orrin, and Tyrel) in the Louis L’Amour book. It is in fact an old name.

    One of the best names was Baskerville Holmes, who played Bball for the U of Memphis some years ago. When his mother was in the hospital for his birth, the Hound of the Baskervilles was on TV.

  93. Jenny says:

    Don’t forget Anfernee Hardaway. My mother had a girl in class named Dnomyar (4 syllables de-no-me-ar). She was named after her father, Raymond.

    I am not a fan of trendy names. As one of the 10 million Jennifers born in the 70s, I really wanted to give my children solid, non-trendy names. Apparently a lot of the other 10 million Jennifers had the same idea because my girls names are a lot more common than they used to be:

    Grace Elizabeth
    Olivia Rose
    Samuel David

    Now I will grant you that they not particularly Catholic names, but they are solidly Christian and have strong family roots.

    Names have gotten so crazy even if some of them do have some tenuous connection to a saint. I assure you that most of us Jennifers were not named after any saint even if you can construe a connection.

  94. Laura R. says:

    I once heard a story about an Anglican nun assisting at baptisms. When she asked one mother for the child’s name, the mother said “Virgin Mary.” The nun, without missing a beat, handed the baby to the priest and said “Virginia Mary.”

  95. Katherine says:

    European Catholics have generally not bought into this TEA Party/ libertarian anti-government craziness. Several Catholic countries have official lists from which you can pick your child’s name from (with all saints included on the list) saving children from silly parents giving them nonsense names.

    It would not be a bad idea here in the USA.

  96. Jayna says:

    My name isn’t a saint’s name, but I was named for my aunt (slightly modified, as her name is Jayne). My middle name is Christine, though. If nothing else, at least give your kid a normal name. Don’t burden it with Apple or Moon Unit (though I guess if you’re a Zappa, it’s expected).

  97. Shellynna says:

    Dr. Peters mentioned that his mom’s name was Nancy and the priest who baptized her insisted it wasn’t a Christian name. That priest was incorrect. Although Nancy has become a given name in and of itself, it was originally a nickname for Anne — a very solid Christian name. Common names like Molly, Polly, and Heidi all started out as nicknames (respectively, Mary, Margaret, and Adelaide). If people know more about the history of names, they can pick less-common names for their child that are indeed Christian in origin even if not immediately recognizable as such.

  98. LaxMom25 says:

    In response to Katherine at 12:44:

    I don’t think the trend to ridiculous names can at all be correlated to the Tea Party/Libertarian/anti-government “craziness.” I think there are other political correlations possible, but it is probably more of a tendency against tradition/faith in God and toward an elevation of self., i.e. “my” idea for a name is far better than the Church’s recognition of names of virtuous souls praying for us in Heaven.

    Also, I would hardly call those European countries “Catholic” in there naming restrictions. I actually gave birth and registered a child while we were living in Germany. Yes, the names are traditional in that they must be “recognized” but many of them are those used by the Turkish and other non-Christian immigrants.

    I do agree that only approved names could have some merit, but it is certainly possible that such restrictions could be used against a faithful traditionalist.

  99. Jayne/Jane/Jeanne/Jehanne is the name of a good many saints, and of course is derived from Jochanan/John. Spellings and languages change a bit, but that’s no great matter.

    I just found this out, for instance. The placename “Brie” is a Gallic Celtic cognate of Professor Tolkien’s placename “Bree”, and of all the other Celtic Bri- placenames and personal names, like Brigid and Brian. So as you’d expect from that, Brie just means “hill” or “high place”. It’s coming the long way around, but unknowingly, people have arrived at something very normal in the way of naming. (And since a lot of people pick Brie because it sounds like Brianna or other Celtic-ish names, it’s ironic that they found something more authentically Celtic than what they started with.) There’s a lot of “hill” saints’ names, though most of ’em are male saints.

  100. Girgadis says:

    Are Biblical names ok if they don’t happen to be a saint’s name? For instance, names such as Samuel or Rebecca?

    I have the most boring name on the face of the planet because my father was guaranteed (in the days well before ultrasound) that I was a boy, and I was to be named after him. As a consequence, no girl’s name had been picked out for me, just in case, so I was named Joyce, after my mother. Both of us have Ann as a middle name. I’m fairly certain there is no Saint Joyce, though after 52 years with my very stubborn father, my exceedingly patient mother has certainly earned the title with a small “s” .

  101. Maria says:

    One thing I really thought was so kind of my Mother, was when she named me Maria.

    Our Ladys’ name is so special to me and as a child I was so very proud of it.
    It was also my Mothers’ middle name and her Mothers’ Christian name. My Greatgrandmother was also a Maria.

    When I was confirmed, I chose Maria as my Confirmation name as well, and when anyone calls me Maria, I am reminded of my Confirmation Name.

    Sadly in England, with such a high Moslem population, we are called to be ‘politically correct’, and fear being targetted as ‘racist’, so on forms such as National Health Service forms, we are asked to fill in our ‘First Names’ as opposed to ‘Christian Names’. The same applies to other Government forms.

  102. kat says:

    I can’t help adding this amusing anecdote, that I just heard the other day. Someone saw a cashier at a store with the name “Placenta.” When she was asked, the girl said her mom had heard the word at the hospital, and thought it was beautiful, and named her child thus!


    And no on need think, as has already been pointed out, that there is a minimum of Christian names. I have a little booklet called “Is it a Saint’s name?” and it has more variations of saints’ names than anyone could ever think to use!

    We have a couple families in our parish who use the Irish names and spellings, and also use several names (not just the one middle name). Abigael, Enya, Aidan, Moira, Egan, Zoe, Trea, Caelin. ‘

    So many good saints’ names, so few children LOL : )

  103. Mark R says:

    There is an encyclical addressing this from over 100 years ago, I believe, when some Catholics in Bosnia and the vicinity were giving their children Muslim names. There were many interconfessional families at the time and both religious groups generally got on very well, until that war in the 1990s.

  104. profcarlos says:

    In Brazil, after the Council, we had an explosion of Protestant sects coming in. Most of their members are poor.
    One of the consequences is that the poor started to give their children weird names, as they no longer would give the name of the Saint of the day. At first they would pick “American-sounding” names from TV. That is why there are plenty of poor people called Washington (often mispelled as Uosto), Wellington (I knew a lady called Uélita, the supposed feminine form of the name), Magaiver (a.k.a. McGyver), Maicon (or even Maicon Jackson), Joleno (a.k.a. John Lennon) Madson, Sanderson, Wilderson, and so on.
    At the same time, the higher middle class started to give their children Indian-sounding names: Cauâ, Cauê, Tainara…
    When they realized the “unorthodox” names would make their kids sound poor, especially after some of the “Indian” names started to be adopted by the poor, they reverted to traditional names. More or less at the same time, the Protestant poor started to adopt Biblical names.
    Thus, a kid called João, Antônio, Joaquim, etc., is certainly higher middle-class, but not necessarily Catholic. A kid called Isaías, Abimael, etc., is certainly poor and Protestant. And a kid called Washington, Steve, Brucewillys or David (the Portuguese form is Davi, pronounced “Dah-VEE”; I mean “David”, pronounced DAY-vee-gee) is certainly poor, and can be either a Protestant or a Catholic.
    Anyone above 40 y.o. will have a regular Catholic name.
    There was a newspaper article another day about the poor people who are going to beaches in Rio that were traditionally higher-middle-class only. One of the higher-middle-class people from the neighborhood, asked about the “invasion”, said her trick was to go early, because the poor live far away and don’t arrive early, and leave the first time she hears someone yelling “David, grab Suellen’s hand, now!”…

  105. Tim says:

    I’m so grateful to my parents that they gave me a proper Christian name and (albeit unintentionally) a patron saint. The only unfortunate part has been the messing around of my onomastico — the 24th January in the traditional calendar then in 1969 lumped together with St Titus on the 26th.

  106. AnAmericanMother says:

    My oldest had a narrow escape. If the first born is a boy, it’s traditional in our family to name them Nimrod, after a remote progenitor (b. 1800) who had 17 children who lived to grow up. (He wasn’t Catholic, he was a Baptist deacon.) Our last big family reunion had over 450 people there.

    Good thing my first born was a girl, ’cause my husband put his foot down. “No son of mine is going to be named Nimrod!” “Not even as a middle name?” “Not even as a middle name.”

    It is a Bible name though (Genesis). I have six cousins named Nimrod.

  107. K. Marie says:

    I’ve always loved obscure saint’s names like Fintan and Fursey, both of Ireland. My nephews are Matthias and Blaise so obviously my sister and brother-in-law share that love.

  108. TheRani says:

    Helpful tip: If the name ends in “son” or starts with “Mc”, it’s a boy’s name!

    When people introduce their baby girl to me as “Madison”, I say, “Really? Did you know that it means, “Son of Maude”? I guess just naming her say, Maude, would have been uncool or something.

    I know a woman who named her daughter “Addison” and calls her “Addie”. I asked, “If you were just going to call her Addie, why not Adelaide or Adele, instead of “Son of Adam?”

    Variations on McKenzie are rather popular for girls lately, but it means “Son of Wise Ruler”.

    It bugs me when people don’t actually check what a name means before they give it to their kid.

  109. AnAmericanMother says:

    The Scots Gaelic method is to substitute “Nic” for “Mac” – then it means “daughter of”.

    So you get Nic Coinnich (“Daughter of Kenneth”). Problem with Gaelic names is that nobody can spell OR pronounce them.

  110. ksommer76 says:

    My Husband, a biblical scholar, wanted to name one of our sons (we have four) Abemelech (probably spelled wrong). It is biblical in nature. When I asked him why, he said because it means “my father is king.” Needless to say, our sons are: Anthony, Joseph, Sean (gaelic for John) and Jeromy (for Jerome).

    Our daughters both have saint related names (Victoria and Charlotte), but it is their middle names that we emphasize when we talk to them about their patron saints (Felice and Marie respectivly). I don’t think simply giving a child a saint name is enough. It is important for them to know where the name came from and why you chose it. My children love to find anything related to their saints. It is a great way to catechize about those wonderful people.

  111. Dr. Eric says:

    I’m giving away my source:


    It’s an alphabetical list of all 10,000 or so saints. It even has variants and little biographies of the saint.

    My kids are:
    Dominic Sean
    Mia Nicole (Mia is a Danish variant of Mary, Nicole is the feminine form of Nicholas)
    Alys Chiara (Alys is a variant of Alice and Chiara is the Italian form of Claire)
    Justin Alexander
    and soon to be born (in about 2 weeks) Ava Claire (Ava being a variant of Eve)

    I’m so sick of the Chamoongas and Truggs and Fitzpatricks that everyone is naming their children these days. I lost a patient once because I told her that her daughter’s name meant “son of Kenneth.” She never came back after that first visit.

  112. chloesmom says:

    Before our older child was born, my husband and I had many discussions about names. We eventually had a son and named him Carl Gregory. The Carl was St. Charles Borromeo, the Gregory -self-evident! Our second child is Timothy Joseph — what a Protestant acquaintance described as a “real Catholic” name (I’m sure it was meant as a compliment). My own names are Patricia Bridget (with “Pius” as a confirmationname after our beloved first-grade teachers, Sr. M. Pius). My husband’s names are Thomas Orlando Arthur …. does anyone know if “Arthur” has a corresponding saint? Most of my Mom’s sisters had “Mary” somewhere in their names, while her brothers were James, Gerald, Francis … good solid saint’s names. My Dad’s father was Anglican, so there was a “mix”: Dad was Augustus Joseph, his brother Chesley, his two sisters Teresa Rebecca and Evelyn Mary. If our first child had been a daughter, I would have chosen Teresa Rebecca or Eileen Mary — the last name, coincidentally, of my Mom and my late mother-in-law.

  113. Cincinnati Priest says:

    For those who subscribe to HPR (Homiletic and Pastoral Review), one of the recent back issues has an article by Fr. David Endres, a priest of Cincinnati, who wrote a decent short article in defense of giving children Christian names at baptism. Worth reading.

  114. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Are Biblical names ok if they don’t happen to be a saint’s name? For instance, names such as Samuel or Rebecca?\\

    The righteous of the Old Testament are considered saints of the Church and are commemorated in both the Roman Martyrology and Eastern Calendars.

    || I’m fairly certain there is no Saint Joyce, though after 52 years with my very stubborn father, my exceedingly patient mother has certainly earned the title with a small “s” .\\

    Joyce is basically a translation of Felicity, Martyr of Rome.

    And when a certain future bishop was told that there was no St. Fulton, he said, “Not yet, but there may be.”

    You do the same.

  115. Girgadis says:

    Thank you Father Basil, for your generosity in responding. And I will.

  116. bookworm says:

    “I sure hate to see the list of names in a nursing home in the future!”

    I’m sure that within my lifetime (I’m 47 years old) we will see nursing homes full of Jennifers, Jasons, Melissas, etc. and also having Woodstock and disco-themed social gatherings.

    When I worked at a Catholic newspaper we used to sometimes run lists of First Communion and Confirmation classes from various parishes. I noted that in the early 1990s there began to be a lot of first Communicants named Ryne — most likely after Ryne Sandberg, who was playing for the Chicago Cubs in the mid-1980s, around the time most of these kids were born.

  117. pseudomodo says:

    I remember long ago a good holy priest once stated that if he had to baptise another Jason or Jennifer he’d kill himself!

    That being said, we have to appreciate the strange humour of some who would give odd names to thier children. A case in point it Bill Lear, inventor of the Lear jet and the 8-track cassette tape. He namded his daughter Shanda…


  118. Orlando and Arthur both are saint names (St. Orlando, a lay brother of the Vallombrosans, and Bl. Arthur Bell, a martyr).

    It’s also fair to say that both Count Roland and King Arthur were revered as saints popularly. (One of Charlemagne’s knights, William of Orange, retired to become a monk and became a canonized saint, and his monastery a stop on the road to Compostela. Charlemagne’s a Blessed. So it’s not surprising that Roland and Oliver’s tombs were stops on the pilgrim road, too.)

  119. Btw, it turns out that “Chianta” means “plants” in Italian. So it’s just Flora with a flourish, really.

  120. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dr. Peter’s article was fascinating in the context of the Don Camillo story: the name offered was (calculatedly?) in keeping with the 1917 Code, thanks to the Antonio – and perhaps the ‘Libero’ if it is derived from the name of Pope St. Liberius (then again, perhaps calculatedly just not so derived…). Don Camillo might have been on stronger ground under the 1983 Code, with its call to see that “a name foreign to Christian sensibility is not given”.

    On the other hand, that would seem wider than ‘existing Saints’ names’: e.g., presumably it would (or could) include such ‘Hebrew-style’ 16-17th-c. English names as “Flee Fornication” or “If-Christ-Had-Not-Died-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebones”. (Query: Who gets to decide about ‘foreignness to Christian sensibility’ in cases of disagreement? Could a Don Camllo refuse?)

    In any case, I wish all joy of the Feasts of St. Kentigern (a.k.a. St. Mungo) and the Cordoban martyrs, St. Gumesindus and St. Servusdei, today! (Incidentally, I wonder how many people the Harry Potter books have gotten looking up St. Mungo, to see if he exists? – or, naming children Hermione and Nymphadora – with or without first discovering that they are Saints’ names?)

    Does anyone have recommended online sources for the matters of how quickly the ‘pool’ of Saints’ names started to dwindle in the early Church, with the custom of naming with the names of already canonized Saints? Or when and how the different customs of East and West took shape (now, at least among the Orthodox, no Mary is named after Our Lady, and there are no boys named Jesus)?

    And does anyone know good online sources neatly tabulating ‘state interference’ in naming, at present? Some European laws have been discussed above. One source was a Law of “11 Germinal an XI” (i.e., 1 April [!] 1803), enacted under Napoleon as First Consul – and later imposed, for example, on the Netherlands, in 1810 – to remain in force (with some modifications) there until the late 1960s! (It had the good intention of curtailing ‘Revolutionary’ names like Café Billard (after a famous Jacobin Club meeting place!) – though I cannot see that such ‘secular’ dictation of, e.g., which ‘Christian names’ are permissible is anything but odious.) I seem to recall at one point an Argentine innovation designed to crush the fostering of, e.g, Patagonian Welsh heritage, by fobidding any but ‘Spanish’ names – is it still in force? And how many and varied laws not unlike it, are, around the world?

  121. Melody says:

    We should compromise by encouraging all the strange saint names that are not often used. Many parents these days want a unusual name that will express how unique and precious they consider their offspring. I’ve thought of naming a girl “Faustina” after St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.

    Ironically, “Francis” was a name invented by the saint’s parents because he was born during a trip to France.

  122. Agnes of Prague says:

    Fascinating thread! There’s a story about St. Gemma Galgani–her mother had decided to name her Gemma, and said with charming naivete “Surely there are gems in heaven, after all!” Later in life Gemma learned that there had already been a little old St. Gemma in some Italian town, so she did have a patroness already!

  123. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    In 1921, the Flemish novelist, Ernest Claes (1885-1968), published a fascinating reminiscence about his own name: his godfather had registered him (as required) at the Townhall, as “Andreas”, but the parish priest, Father Munte, took exception to this – “‘Andreas’, that’s one of the Twelve Apostles… You mustn’t have so great a pretension for such a humble child. […] We’ll name him ‘Evaristus’, that’s good enough.” And then decided to add “Ernestus… that was one of the Holy Innocents and my brother’s son is also called by that name…You never know what it may be good for…” And then he remembered that baby Evaristus Ernestus Claes’s father was nick-named ‘Jef’ – from ‘Joseph’ – “And why shouldn’t we also make a ‘Josephus’ of him!… That’s the most glorious Saint in Heaven and it can always do some good later […]”. What about the Civil Register, his godfather objected? Fr. Munte declared emphatically that “the priest was boss in the Church and the Burgermaster in the Townhall.” His godfather persuaded the Town clerk to add ‘Ernestus Josephus’ after the ‘Andreas’, but he refused to alter that to ‘Evaristus’, so that Civil and Parish Registers forever preserved two different names for him, though when he turned eighteen, Fr. Munte’s successor as parish priest agreed to draw a line through ‘Evaristus’. This was apparently not uncharacteristic of Fr. Munte, who, when people came with “one of those newfangled” Saints’ names like “Gaston, Philémon, Gonzague, Armand” refused, angrily saying, “Is that the name for a child here in Zichem? ‘Jan’, or ‘Lewie’, or ‘Nand’, that’s good enough for a farmer’s son” and calmly assigned them names like “Johannes, Ludovicus, or Ferdinandus.”

    (See http://users.telenet.be/ernest.claesgenootschap/ under “Bestel” for some works of his available, variously, in English, French, and German translation.)

  124. Fr. Basil says:

    \\or, naming children Hermione and Nymphadora – with or without first discovering that they are Saints’ names?)

    They are.

    St. Hermoine is one of the daughters of St. Philip the Deacon who had the gift of prophecy.

    Ss Nymphadora, Metrodora, and Menadora are three virgin martyrs commemorated on the Byzantine calendar on 10 September. A dear departed friend of mine, chrismated Menadora, had her pictures made with two Orthodox nuns: Mothers Metrodora and Nymphadora.

  125. Fr. Basil says:

    \\I remember long ago a good holy priest once stated that if he had to baptise another Jason or Jennifer he’d kill himself!\\

    They are both saints’s names. Jennifer is a variant of Genevieve of Paris, and Sts. Jason and Sosipater are Apostles of the 70.

  126. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    For any other late or re-visitors: breaking news from Belgium! ‘La Libre Belgique’ reports on Monday 24 Jan. that Gaùl and Lydwine de Sauvage gave their daughter Laure-Line the baptismal names: Belgique Marie Espérance Félicité Emmanuel. This the Registrar in Etterbeek (a subdivision of Brussels) refused to record: ‘Belgique’ might cause confusion as it is coincides with the surname of the Royal Family. Francoise Bertieaux of the Etterbeek Council has suggested the sequence: ‘Laure-Line Espérance Félicité Belgique’. The parents must decide within two weeks.

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