What’s In a Name: Reflections on Naming Baby

Two weekends ago, my husband and I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out name choices for our newest little one. We typically avoid having the “what shall we name it” discussion until we’ve narrowed down 50% of the options. Unbeknownst to me, days later there were going to be various thoughts to consider, on top of what we already consider, when it comes to naming a child.

Wednesday of last week was the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Other bloggers made some pretty fantastic posts about naming. One of the reflections, a microblog by Amy at Passionate Purpose: Passionately Catholic and Truth Driven, was perhaps my favorite. I had never considered the feelings Jesus’ name evokes in me, when I hear it; Amy’s piece made me reflect on that a bit. It reminded me the power of a name – the first impression of names.

Then, there was the piece written by Ginny over at Not So Formulaic, highlighting choosing your children’s patron saint – not for Confirmation, but as a role model to look toward as your child goes through their childhood. In our family, so far we have incorporated our children’s saint names into their legal names; however, given this newest child’s patron saint, I’m finding it difficult to accommodate that saint in this little guy’s legal name.

So, as I ruminated on our naming options, and then the pieces I read from Amy and Ginny, I began wondering about naming children – each family seems to do it differently.

In our home, we have two tests which must be run on any potential name.

“The Playground Test”

Children can be cruel, vicious creatures. I understand it’s all part and parcel of learning to live and work with each other in the world, but the last thing my husband and I want a child to live with is the merciless teasing of other children on the playground. Our last name already opens up a host of possible torturous ways to tease; I don’t want to add a first name which would send the wrong message to other children.

My husband, who is used to his last name a “few” decades into bearing it, is quite experienced with this test. Thankfully, he also has enough wit to come up with creative ways in which to tease himself over the last name. Sometimes, I’m pretty sure his jokes are far more advanced than children on an elementary school playground, but the jokes immediately rule certain names out.

“The Yell Test”

I am, by habit, a yeller. Sometimes, it just feels good to let out a yell. Whether it’s upstairs to get a child’s attention, or out the back (or front) door, calling the kids in, I yell. I try very hard to not yell at them when they are in trouble, but it just feels cathartic to yell their full names at certain times.

Therefore, because I like to yell the whole name – to denote seriousness, and also to get their attention – I require the name to have a certain flow. It has to roll off the tongue, but must also convey strength.

And, as I’ve told my husband – hearing some of the shenanigans he is credited with masterminding growing up, I also need the name to convey the message, “Uh-oh, Mom means business.”

I’m not a huge fan of modern names – or, naming my children with fads. Growing up, I envisioned naming my children after European royalty – Edward, Victoria, and Isabella were all high on my list. Then, a popular book series turned those names into non-contenders, since the names became too much of a fad.

For our first two, I was able to easily turn to the saints as inspiration for classical, strong names. With our oldest, it wasn’t so much because I realized many Catholic families used saint names for their children – we actually chose the name because it was strong and went well with the predesignated middle name. Only after re-joining the Church did I realize just “how Catholic” we had named our son! However, our daughter’s name was purposefully chosen as a nod to family history and God-given talents, with the hope that her patron’s saint serves as an example to her, to use the gifts she is already naturally displaying.

Naming a child has some pretty serious stakes involved. It’s a moniker which will be with them the rest of their lives – or, at least until they are old enough to legally change the name. It’s a daunting mission, and I appreciate being able to narrow the field down as easily as possible – my Catholic Faith has allowed me to do a little more narrowing, in the effort of highlighting quality, God-fearing, God-loving attributes when we discuss their patrons.

Which leads me to ask – how do you name your children? Or, how did you choose names when you had little ones? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

10 thoughts on “What’s In a Name: Reflections on Naming Baby

  1. There’s such a weight to giving someone a name! We’ve tried to incorporate a saint and a family name for each of our children. I love browsing https://sanctanomina.net/ and http://www.babynamewizard.com/ for ideas. This latest baby has been the biggest challenge because we’ve already used up so many of the names we agree on. Hopefully we figure something out before he or she arrives. 🙂

    1. Haha! I may be guilty of saying our older boy has the best boy’s name! 😳😂

      I haven’t heard of the first site you recommended – I’ll check that out – thank you!

      And, we’ve toyed with a family and saint name with this one. My oldest has that. My daughter is straight up saint. Well, praying fervently to her patrons. 😈😂

  2. Since my husband is not Catholic, I try to get family names that are also saint names for their middle names. There are so many saints, it hasn’t been hard. My biggest stretch – to date – was St. Martial for Marshall, who I hadn’t heard of until days before his baptism. Thanks be to God I did, because my husband was S.E.T. on Marshall!

    1. Skipping on over to Google to check out St. Martial!

      It’s definitely nice and convenient when family names line up with saint names! Thanks for sharing your naming traditions!

  3. I tried to comment earlier, but I think I hit something wrong.

    My husband isn’t Catholic so I try to choose family names that are saint names for the middle name. We (Catholics) are blessed with so many saints, it hasn’t been hard. The biggest stretch – to date – was St. Martial for Marshall, who I hadn’t even heard of until a few days before the baptism. Praise be to God for the friend who had known about him because my husband was set on Marshall!

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