25 Baby Girl Names Inspired by Saints

Dec 2nd 2014

Stirring Up Baby Names 

Originally appeared on The Stir.

Know you have a baby girl on the way? Congratulations! Now it's time to pick a baby name, and you'd be smart to pick one with a good history. You can't do better than a saint name -- particularly one of the patron saints who can look over your little one as they grow.

From Alexis to Zita, we've got you covered with 25 names for little girls inspired by saints. Each one is a patroness of something special.

1. Alexis -- St. Alexis was a man and patron saint of beggars, but his name has become popular with parents of little girls looking for a strong moniker. After all, it means to defend.

2. Agatha -- Looking for a throwback name? There won't be a ton of Agathas in your little girl's preschool, but she'll certainly have someone to look up to. St. Agatha is the patron of nurses.

3. Apollonia -- Another name that falls under the "unique" category, it's never been ranked in the top 1,000 baby names. Ever! Speaking of things that won't happen -- she's patroness of toothaches. May the teething stage be smooth sailing.

4. Catherine -- Set your little scholar on her way to greatness with a name from the patroness of students.

5. Bernadette -- The patroness of shepherds, St. Bernadette Soubirous is famous for being the first to see Mary appear in a field in Lourdes, France. Although an uneducated peasant, she wasn't afraid -- or willing to be quiet when people didn't believe her. The name was popular in the 1940s but has fallen out of fashion.

6. Brigid -- Irish moms who want to keep their culture alive have a perfect pick in St. Brigid of Kildare -- the patron saint of Ireland.

7. Jeanne -- You've heard of Joan of Arc? Well, her name in her native France -- for which she's the patron saint -- was really Jeanne, meaning God is gracious.

8. Cecilia -- A lyrical name for the patron saint of musicians.

9. Clare -- Who would have thought there'd be a patron saint of television? No surprise the name means famous!

10. Colette -- The patron of women trying to conceive, this triumphant name means victory of the people.

11. Felicity -- A happy name for the patron saint of moms!

12. Louise -- St. Louise de Marillac is patron of social workers.

13. Genevieve -- A name of both Celtic and French origins, your little girl could share it with the patron saint of Paris. Ooh, la la!

14. Gianna -- One of the more recently canonized saints, Gianna Beretta Molla was a doctor and mother in Italy. Naturally she's a patroness of moms and physicians! The Italian name means God is gracious.

15. Maria -- The patron saint of the young (and young at heart!), the name means "wished-for child." How appropriate! 

16. Lucy -- The patron of the blind and eye disorders, Lucy was a Sicilian martyr.

17. Kiara -- Not much is known about this Irish saint, but her name is lovely. As for its meaning, it's a little mysterious: black-haired one.

18. Kateri -- A relatively new saint -- she was canonized in 2012 -- Kateri was Native American and lived in the 1600s in what is now New York. She is the patron of environment and ecology.

19. Monica -- A favorite with moms, Saint Monica is the patron of mothers! No wonder the name means "to advise."

20. Philomena -- It only seems fitting for a little girl born after her parents struggled with infertility to be named for the issue's patron. And you can bet she'll be feisty with a name that means "lover of strength."

21. Rita -- The Beatles aren't the only ones who have a thing for lovely Rita. She's the patron saint of parents!

22. Rose -- St. Rose of Lima is watching over all of South America, so why not your baby girl too? 

23. Ursula -- Think the patron of young girls, not the sea witch, for this name with a nod to nature that means "she-bear."

24. Teresa -- Prone to migraines? Hopefully a little girl named for St. Teresa of Avila, patron saint of -- you guessed it -- headaches, can help!

25. Zita -- A unique name but a beautiful one, it comes from the patroness of domestic workers.

Which ones are your favorites?

No, Muhammad Isn't the Top Baby Name In England. But...

Dec 2nd 2014

First things first: ignore any screaming headlines you see claiming that Muhammad is now the U.K.'s #1 name for boys. The most recent national statistics for England and Wales rank the name Muhammad at #15, only half as popular as the real #1. In the rest of the U.K. it's even less common.

The headlines were inspired a Babycentre.co.uk press release, which reported on the top names submitted by that site's users. Their list may differ from national stats for multiple reasons. Most obviously, a website's user base isn't a representative sample of a whole country. For instance, no Spanish boys' names ever crack the USA top-100 list produced by Babycentre's U.S. sister site -- no José, no Angel, no Luis.

Further, the Babycentre tally combined variations of some names in its count. They apparently treated most global forms of Muhammad/Mohamed/Muhamet as one, while names like Sophie and Sophia, Eve, Eva, and Evie were all counted separately. My take-away lessons: when you're studying name popularity demand actual government stats, and list every name for clarity.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get to the real heart of this story. The apparent rise of Muhammad struck a nerve because it seemed to signal a momentous change in Britain's population. If you look closely at the names, though, I think there's a subtler factor at work. Imagine for a moment that the headlines hadn't read "Muhammad Is Now the #1 Baby Name in Britain!" Imagine that they said instead:

"More British Babies Are Named Muhammad Than Oliver!"

That doesn't seem nearly so momentous, does it? The single baby name Oliver obviously represents only a tiny slice of the population. Yet tiny-slice Oliver is the U.K.'s real #1 name.

To me, this story isn't only about the rising Muslim population in England. It's about the rapidly changing way non-Muslims name their babies.

The fact that Muhammad is even in the discussion of top names is remarkable, given that the Muslim community represents only one in ten births in the U.K. In centuries past, the names John and Mary alone would have dwarfed that entire Muslim baby population. But John and Mary no longer crack the top 100 in England. Only one English boy in a thousand is named John. Even the #1 boy's name accounts for only one boy in fifty.

Muhammad, in various spellings, is given to one in five Muslim boys in the UK. The "anchor names" of Islamic tradition continue to dominate, while the anchor names of Christian tradition are being abandoned on fashion grounds. It's telling that more English girls today receive the Arabic name Maryam than its English equivalent Mary.

What we're seeing is two changes in the baby name population at once. The first is a religious demographic shift, the second an attitude/style shift away from tradition -- one which varies by religious demographic. The result is a huge name-style gap. Given that names represent our hopes, dreams and values, that's a gap worth paying attention to. In the United States, growing differences in how groups name their babies have signaled deeper rifts in mutual understanding and good will.


38 Sweet Bird-Inspired Baby Names

Dec 1st 2014

Stirring Up Baby Names

Originally appeared on The Stir

Choosing the perfect baby name is one of the most important decisions parents-to-be will make. People look for ideas in all sorts of places -- their favorite TV shows, elder relatives, cities they've visited, and even their favorite foods. However, the perfect moniker could be found flying the friendly skies. No, I'm not suggesting calling your little one Virgin Atlantic or Delta. Take a look at 38 amazing names inspired by beautiful birds:

1. Adelie (Adelie Penguin)
2. Anna (Anna's Hummingbird)
3. Argus (Great Argus)
4. Blue (Blue Jay)
5. Brent (Brent Goose)
6. Blyth (Blyth's Tragopan)
7. Carolina (Carolina Wren)
8. Cliff (Cliff Swallow)
9. Corella (Little Corella)
10. Elliot (Elliot's Pheasant)
11. Emerald (Emerald's Toucanet)
12. Fox (Fox Sparrow)
13. Grey (Grey Plover)
14. Hazel (Hazel Grouse)
15. Hudson (Hudsonian Godwit)
16. Ibis (Glossy Ibis)
17. Ivory (Ivory Gull)
18. Jack (Jack Snipe)
19. Kea
20. Kori (Kori Bustard)
21. Lark (Crested Lark)
22. Linnet
23. Red (Red Junglefowl)
24. Robin
25. Rock (Rock Ptarmigan)
26. Rosy (Rosy Starling)
27. Ruby (Ruby Topaz)
28. Saffron (Saffron Finch)
29. Sage (Sage-Grouse)
30. Savanna (Savanna Hawk)
31. Scarlet (Scarlet Ibis)
32. Sora
33. Tawny (Tawny Frogmouth)
34. Victoria (Victoria Crowned Pigeon)
35. Violet (Violet Sabrewing)
36. Virginia (Virginia Rail)
37. Willow (Willow Ptarmigan)
38. Wren (Rock Wren)

Which of these names do you like the best?