Religious or not religious?

My daughter is due the end of February and my partner and I are having a hard time finding name for her. My partner has a son from his first marriage, Sebastian, who was named after the saint. My partner is a devout Catholic while I'm not religious at all. He wants our girl to have a more "saintly" name, such as her brother, in the lines of Teresa, Lucia/Lucy, Cecilia, Anna, Catherine or Claire/Clara.

None of them fit my taste and they all seem just too plain and too traditional. I'm not a fan of creative spelling or trending names, but I really would love my baby to have a name that is more bohemian and unique, such as Petal, Coral, Sabine, Deva, Gaia, Fiamma (saw this in a movie and loved it, my nanna said it means "flame" in Italian), Oona, Neve, Neva, Riva, Artemisia, Malou, Alouette and Noemie... Unfortunately, he has vetoed all of these names.

Help please?


December 28, 2015 9:50 PM

How about Eden

Jael is unusual, but still biblical in Judges 4:17. The name Sapphira shows up in Acts 5:1. Selah is found in Psalm.

Maybe you could compromise with a lesser used virtue name like Amity or Verity.

The easiest solution might be to give her a saint name to satisfy dad, with a nickname that suits your taste. Genevieve sounds lovely with Sebastian and shortens to your choice of Neve or Neva.

December 29, 2015 7:32 AM

Genevieve is a great name, was my favorite for a long time because of the little dog in Madeline, that my step-son and I enjoyed watching together, but it was recently chosen by a close relative of ours for her baby girl. I love your suggestion of using it with Neve and Neva as nicknames, thank you!

December 28, 2015 10:09 PM

Sabina is a saint's name according to Very close to Sabine on your list, but hopefully religious enough for your husband?

December 29, 2015 5:50 AM

Sabina is actually a very common name on the Irish side of my family.  It is the name of a great great grandmother as well as some other female ancestors/ relatives. It waa usually shortener to Celia in my family. Perhaps that could work? A unique saint's name with a more conventional nickname associated?

December 29, 2015 7:38 AM

Sabina is just as beautiful as Sabine and I really love it. I had never heard of Saint Sabina and am quite sure that neither has my partner.

The greatest problem, I must emphasize, is that it's not just any saint name he wants, but the name of a saint he and his family are especially devoted to. That leaves me with very little options for names. Aside from those I wrote down in my original post, for a boy our selection of names would have been: Anthony, Francis, Jude, Thaddeus, Michael and Peter.

I'll see if he warms up to Sabina, but at this point I find it really impossible that he will.

December 29, 2015 12:44 PM

How annoying! I would leabe a dictionary on his pillow open to the word "compromise". I hardly think it's fair to insist on rules like that if you're not even religious!

That said, there are no end of appealing saints names. One that's popular where I live is Eulalia. Good nicknames include Laia and Eula.

I would also insist on Noemie's religious credentials. And how about tweaking Lucy to Lucia? I think it gives it s much lighter and more poetic vibe.

December 29, 2015 8:43 PM

I agree with you, extremely annoying and unfair. His selfishness over names has been the cause of several arguments between us and the reason why we're less than two months away from the due date without having even a shortlist.

By the way, I love your suggestion of Eulalia! It hadn't occurred to me as a saint name at first, I associated it with the plant/flower. I understand she is patron saint of Barcelona? I thought that was awesome, since my partner once spent an entire year abroad for studies and paid a memorable visit to Barcelona. Maybe that'll warm him up?

December 29, 2015 3:24 PM

I was looking at your list of favorite names on your profile and was drawn to:

-- Colette -- a friend recently named her daughter Colette because she has a devotion to St. Colette

-- Margo -- it's a variant of Margaret and lots of Catholics love the Sts. Margaret

-- Manon -- I actually think this might be one of your best bets, as Manon is a diminutive of Marie and I know very few Catholics who don't have a devotion to the Blessed Virgin

One of the fun things about wanting to stick to saints' names, in my opinion, is that in looking up names you learn about new saints and cultivate new devotions...I do find it strange that your partner isn't open to learning about new saints, or finding variants of the saints' names he does like. Examples: Catherine -- Kateri; Anna -- Anya, Anouk.

December 29, 2015 3:51 PM

I was going to say something along these lines.  There are hundreds and hundreds of officially recognized saints, and no one, however devout, knows the story of each and every one in detail.  If you see a saint's name you are drawn to, and it belongs to an unfamiliar saint, then learning about that saint's life may open a new devotional door for dad-to-be.

December 29, 2015 8:51 PM

I love all of these variants, Anya, especially. And Margo and Colette are very close to my heart, but he says they're too French and we have no French ancestry. As for Manon, my favorite of the Mary variations, he doesn't approve of because it has the word "man" in it...

December 30, 2015 8:44 PM

You're giving birth. You get final say. I wouldn't name my kids any of the ones you listed from him either. :)

December 28, 2015 10:24 PM

How do you feel about Philomena? It has some of the panache of Artemisia, while still being a Catholic-associated name.

Perhaps you might also like Junia? It has a strong feminist bent which you might find pleasing, and it has a very nature-y feel to me due to the similarity to June.

December 29, 2015 7:43 AM

Philomena is a great suggestion!

December 29, 2015 11:03 AM

Given the circumstances you have described, it is possibly relevant that the Vatican removed Philomena from all liturgical calendars because of doubts about her authenticity.

December 29, 2015 2:21 PM



This is very true, and why I referred to it as a Catholic-associated name rather than a saint's name.  I initially thought it might split the difference between a saint's name and not, but you are right (especially now that more backstory has been posted) that this may make the name not acceptable to the religious spouse. It's a pretty choice, though, and I'd try. If there is a great-aunt Philomena kicking around somewhere on the family tree that may bring it into more acceptable territory!


December 28, 2015 10:50 PM

I love the suggestion of Genevieve nn Neve/Neva--what a great compromise! Sabine is also a saint's name (variant of Sabina), and I do believe Naomi (Noemie in French), as an Old Testament matriarch, is considered a saint's name.

Fortunately there are saints' names to fit any style. Kateri, Quiteria, Avila, Vianney, Clairvaux, Zelie are all saint names borne by little girls I actually know is one of my favorite sites--you can search for any name to see if there's a saint who bears it. There's also a new book out called, "My Badass Book of Saints" by Maria Johnson, which might offer some good ideas (I've not yet read it). There are also some great, offbeat, unexpected Marian names, like Nieves, Pilar, Lola, Liesse, Salette... There are def names that can fit both you & your partner's taste!

December 29, 2015 12:22 AM

Apollonia, Felicity, Clotilda, Colette, Justina, Seraphia (I had a colleague with this name), Chantal, Maud, Petronilla, Zita, Marcella, Thecla, Aquilina, Aurelia, Carissima, Carmen, Fabiola, Hild, Flora, Kiara, Lelia, Marina, Martina, Maura, Maxima, Melania, Merryn, Thais, Verena, Thea, Winifred, Marciana, Anastasia, Albina, Aleydis, Fara, Alix, Gemma, Gwen, Imelda, Belina, Julitta,

All of the above are names of Catholic saints.  At least some of them might be considered "bohemian."

December 29, 2015 5:54 AM

For a Bohemian saint's name, you can't go wrong with Agnes.

(Sorry...while the Irish side of my ancestry possibly provided a helfpul suggestion above, I have enough Czech ancestry to not let the word "bohemian" be used without commenting on it :D)

December 29, 2015 7:45 AM

Lots of really beautiful names here, I really appreciate your suggestions of Zita, Thea, Colette, Flora, Maura, Maxima and Fara.

Thais is my sister-in-law's name, so cannot be used. I still find it to be beautiful, though.

December 30, 2015 5:36 AM

I actually have to agree that it's unfair that your husband and his family insist not only on a saint name, but on only saints that they have a personal spiritual connection to when you, her MOTHER, don't!  I also share your 'ho-hum' response to the kind of traditional, classic names that you mentioned.  A lot of people think that these names are lovely and eternal and that's fine, but they kind of make me yawn.

One good thing I have to say about these classics is that there are a lot of variants of them which are more fun (I think).  For example, your husband's list includes Teresa which I think is a bit dull -- but Tessa is a fun, fresh, bohemian-sounding variant of it.  I'm wondering if you might list the Official Approved Saints and then we could identify variants or nicknames derived from those?  For example, Catherine --> Catilin, Margaret --> Rita (via Margerite/Margarita), Claire --> Clarissa, Lucy --> Lusila (Portuguese), Anna --> Anya, etc.

Also, it makes no sense to veto French names because you're not French.  Sebastian/Sebastien are much more common in Germany and France than in English-speaking countries!  And on the French front, the above-suggested name Colette nicknames into Coco with is bohemian and funky and fun!



December 30, 2015 7:01 AM

Thank you for your insight! I think reading your comments will really help him see the light. I agree with you that the different variations of the saints' names could be ideal. I really love the name Rita, because of Rita Hayworth and such, but he dislikes it. Other names I tried were Annika, Anita, Antonia (he said it's ok, so at least it's not a full-on no), Catharina and Miriam as a variant to Maria/Mary... At this point I am open to settling for anything that is a stretch from the traditional names I find so boring.

December 30, 2015 9:03 AM

I noticed you liked Birdie on another thread, and I believe it's a traditional nickname for Bernadette, which is a saints name that I love. While it might be a bit French for your husband, I think it's pretty well accepted in Anglo culture because of the 1940s film Song of Bernadette and s gorgeous Leonard Cohen song if the same name. :)

December 30, 2015 10:29 AM

Another way to open this up a bit is what are the male saints names he/his family would approve of?  There are usually feminine forms, and often funkier ones.  Like Francis... becomes Francesca!!!!  And either Frankie or Cheska seem to fit the kind of names you like.

Some other standard male saint names turned into bohemain girl names:

Andrew --> Andromeda

Peter --> Petra

Paul --> Polly

Gabriel --> Gabriela

Joseph --> Josefina / Josie

Nicholas --> Nika

Simon --> Simone

Raymond --> Monda (eastern European nickname for Raymonda)

Philip --> Pippa

Albert --> Alba

Jerome --> Romy



I also feel compelled to promote my daughter's name Mairead - rhymes with parade - the Gaelic form of Margaret.  ;)

Also, do you like Moira?  Now there's a classy, traditional yet funky variant of Mary.


December 30, 2015 11:19 AM

"..Miriam as a variant to Maria/Mary.."  Just to pick a nit, Mary/Maria are variants of Miriam, not the other way round..

December 30, 2015 12:04 PM

You beat me to it!

(Although to be fair, I suppose Miriam is itself a variant, because the original isn't written in the Roman alphabet...)

December 30, 2015 2:55 PM

I would say Miriam is a transliteration, not a variant.

December 30, 2015 12:12 PM

I guess I expressed myself in the wrong way, I know that Maria and Mary are variations of Miriam. I meant to say that I prefer Miriam over the others.

December 30, 2015 2:56 PM

So do I!

December 30, 2015 3:24 PM

Maybe you've already done this, but have you talked to him about your naming process as a couple?  It does seem terribly one-sided and unfair.  Rather than suggesting individual names, you could outline his current stance, how it impacts you (you feel like you have no say), and ask if he can't compromise in some way while still respecting his wishes.  Perhaps he can agree that if you suggest a saint's name, he should read about the saint before rejecting the name out of hand.  Or if you agree to a saint name of his chosing, you have primary say in chosing a nickname.  To be most effective, you should broach it as a topic independent of any specific names otherwise it will just go back to rejecting that individual name. 


December 30, 2015 3:32 PM

I see what you mean! Thanks for the advice!

December 30, 2015 3:30 PM

All right everyone, so thanks to many of your sharp and accurate remarks, my partner has agreed to think outside the box in order to find a name for our little one.

He's now more open to diferentes saint or religious names, as long as they are easy for everyone to write and pronounce... Which means he's opened up to Eulalia and Miriam.

I on the other hand, adore these names but am really wanting a name with a strong "V" sound. It's my favorite sound, and the V in Roman numerals represents the number five, which is my lucky number. Am I being too silly and picky?

Mavis, Veva, Reva, Deva, Veda, Vita, Vera... These are all names I would use for my baby. What do you all think?

December 30, 2015 4:16 PM

Would you both be open to Sts. Veronica (well known) or Verena, less wll known, with nickname Vera?  As for Vita, it is the feminine form of Vitus.  St. Vitus was one of the Christians martyred under Diocletian.  His cult was popular during the Middle Ages and in Italy/Sicily where the name Vito has been in common usage.  Unfortunately there is also the association with the neurological disorder St. Vitus Dance, although I don't think that association clings to the feminine Vita.  Vitus/Vita are derived from the Latin root for life.

Given the devout Catholicism in the family, I wouldn't recommend Deva or Veda, both of which are associated with Hindu religious beliefs.

December 30, 2015 10:15 PM

The first thing that comes to mind for me is Valentina for St. Valentine, but that could have too much of a relation with the day...

Elisheva/Avital/Avigail/Devora: I have not met anyone not Jewish with this name, so that would have to be a consideration, but Elisheva is the Hebrew version of Elizabeth//Abigail/Deborah

Livinia: I really like this one.  It is close to Livinius, and I think sounds really nice with Sebastian.  It can also become "Livvy"

Nova: a little bit of a stretch from Novatus, but maybe it could work?


Vivian: two v's, but might sound too matchy with Sebastian...


Seem a little different from your list, but could be good: Flavia, Octavia, Vashti, Evangeline

More common v names: Valerie, Veronica, Victoria, Olivia/Olive, Eva, Evan, Eve/Eva

There's also a famous church in Ravenna– It probably would be vetoed by your partner, but if it is not, I think it would make a really pretty name

December 30, 2015 10:50 PM

"Elisheva/Avital/Avigail/Devora: I have not met anyone not Jewish with this name, so that would have to be a consideration, but Elisheva is the Hebrew version of Elizabeth//Abigail/Deborah"

-- I don't understand. Can you explain? Are you saying that Elisheva, Avital, Avigail, and Devora are all the same name in some sense?

December 30, 2015 11:44 PM

Oops! That is a typo from changing the format of the comment. 

What I meant to say is that Elisheva, Avigail, and Devora are the Hebrew versions of, respectively, Elizabeth, Abigail, and Deborah. (I am unsure if Avital has an English version; I do not think so)

I included them as one because I wanted to mention them, as they are beautiful Biblical names with v's, but they might not be as fitting as other choices since the goal is a Catholic name.

December 31, 2015 2:46 AM


January 9, 2016 6:14 PM

Barbara is a saint's name. A variantion of Barbara is Wava. Maybe that's pushing it too far out for your husband, but it does include the -va sound. I also love Nova, which again might be off base? 

December 30, 2015 9:57 PM

It sounds to me like he has an odd idea of Catholic naming practices. I am a Catholic, and have manu friends who are as well, including sone fairly hard-core traditionalists. No one I know is as limited with names as you say he is.  While I like all the names you say he likes, I also like a lot of other names. 

I know one family with several children where the names are almost all saint names except one. It is similar to "here are our children: Athanasius, Zita, Perpetua, Donato, Colt, and Mary Catherine." There is no actual rule that a child be named for a saint, though it is an encouraged practice. Furthermore, I would poit out those names he likes could always be middle names. 

While I have some sympathy for the "mom gets the final say" argument above, I would think it is far better to come to an agreement. It reminds me of the Irish song "The Orange and the Green" wherein a child of a Protestant father and a Catholic mother is "Christened David Anthony/ but still in spite of that/ to my father I was William while my mother called me Pat."

December 31, 2015 12:07 AM

Back to Genevieve -- Viv, Vivi, etc.  There are lots of V nicknames that can come out of this aside from the Neva that was already discussed.

Also, while you said that there is already a baby in the family named Genevieve -- I don't think the name is 'taken' if the two girls are called different things a la Genny and Viv.  It's also not the end of the world.  Almost everyon in my large Irish Catholic family has, well, names to match.  There are multiples of Patrick, Molly, Katie, etc. and in the end it doesn't really matter much. 

You could also differentiate the name from your niece's by going with the French pronounciation (zhawn - vee -- ehv) although that might be hard to enforce.  But if she's routinely called Viva or something, so what.

There is also a Saint Vivian.

Here is a list of saints whose names begin with V:

 What about Geneva or Vienna?  There's got to be a religious excuse to be found for either of those place-names!






December 31, 2015 1:12 AM

Well, the "religious excise" for Geneva is that it was the home of John Calvin and the seat of the Calvinist movement during the Reformation, so in a devoutly Catholic context maybe not.

January 3, 2016 1:03 AM

" I would poit out those names he likes could always be middle names. "

There are still a lot of Catholics who don't give middle names, though, so that might not fly. "They can always use a saint you care about as a Confirmation name", on the other hand...

January 2, 2016 12:14 PM

All right, so the past two days we've been doing an exercise here at home. I logged on to and and had my partner write down the name of the saints he found to be pretty or who had interesting stories and all... I did the same thing. Next, we had to trim our lists and select only our 7 favorites.

So here are his:

  1. Catherine
  2. Edith
  3. Emilia
  4. Flora
  5. Juliana
  6. Phoebe
  7. Teresa

I was very surprised to find that there were new names on his list, namely Emilia, Edith, Phoebe, Flora and Juliana. My husband is very vintage and classic with his name choices and I couldn't help but feel giddy that he put Phoebe in his top 7. Yes, it is a saint name referenced by St. Paul in the Bible, but to me it's a very quirky choice and feels a lot more modern... in part due to the beloved Friends character.


My list:

  1. Colette
  2. Eulalia
  3. Genoveva (I found this lovely Italian variation of Genevieve and love the "Veva" ending)
  4. Sabina
  5. Vita
  6. Rosa
  7. Miriam


I think it would be really helpful if you all could select your favorite names from each of the lists and tells us what you think of them.

January 2, 2016 1:05 PM

The name that immediately jumped out to me from his list is "Edith".  Even though Edith itself is not popular, it's right there in the same camp as all of the granny revival names that are growing in popularity right now so it has a fresh feeling.  I had a great-aunt Edith so that's probably part of why it's firmly alongside Hazel, Lillian, Ruby, and Evelyn (also great-aunts, actually).  

A name like Teresa, while a classic, traditional name, lends itself to the younger-sounding nn Tessa.

From your list, Eulalia really jumps out to me as quite unique and, at least for me, refreshing.  The "eu--" names tend to be a bit divisive for many people though.

Miriam strikes me as unexpectedly traditional compared to your other name preferences.  

Has your partner seen your list yet and anything jump out to him?


January 2, 2016 1:09 PM

He says he's neutral about most of them and that he's ok with Miriam and Eulalia. He doesn't love them like I do.

January 2, 2016 1:10 PM

My favorites from his list are (in order) Phoebe, Flora & Edith.  I think they seem like the best compromises in that they appeal to him but also feel more creative/bohemian than his other names, which all feel very safe.  Phoebe & Flora are especially appealing to me because they also have fairly obvious connections to mythology (which you seem to like) in addition to meeting your husband's Catholic requirement.  Edith got bonus points because I adore the nickname Edie.  

From your list, my favorites (also in order) are Miriam, Colette/Sabina (tied) and Rosa.  I picked these because they feel most like the names you want, while still being safe/familiar enough that they should reasonably appeal to him. 

I'll add that in a spirit of compromise, I might suggest to him that whoever gets the "winning" name, the other parent gets to pick the middle name.  This could mean that you end of up agreeing on Phoebe and then using one of the V names you love as the middle.  Or you could end up using Vita with a very safe & very Catholic middle name like Theresa.


January 2, 2016 1:26 PM

I think you're right about Phoebe, Flora and Edith being the best compromises for our daughter's name... I guess it's difficult for me to imagine any of them (even Phoebe which I like most of the 3) on my child.

Would you consider for instance, Vita a boring name in comparison to the others?

January 2, 2016 5:10 PM

Vita is not a boring name at all! I think immediately of Vita Sackville-West, who was a very interesting lady.

What helped me when I was trying to warm up to a name that I liked very much but didn't really seem like a perfect fit on my child (the spouse had undergone major compromise for our first child, and I really wanted to reciprocate for our second) was to read books featuring protagonists bearing that name. I discovered some new favorite books that way, and along the way the name's associations were broadened considerably. By the time we delivered, I was fully on board the name feeling right. Your library might have a subscription to the Novelist database which can help, but also Wikipedia, the Namipedia and also Behind the Name comments are usually pretty good at listing all the different associations for a name.


January 2, 2016 8:11 PM

I don't consider Vita at all boring!  It's a great name and if you can get your husband on board I would wholeheartedly encourage you to use it.  However, compared to the other names on your lists, Vita feels a bit too adventurous for him. In picking my top choices from each list, I weighted the names based on the ones I thought were most likely to be decent compromises.  If I had ranked them based on my own personal preferences, I would have done so differently.

I agree with the suggestion of trying to broaden your experience with names from your husband's list. A couple of fun associations might be all that's needed to turn a so/so name into something you could really feel excited about.

Another option would be to consider/expore associations with nicknames.  Fi or Bea for Phoebe could also open you up to people or characters with given names like Fiona, Josephine, Beatrice, etc.  An exciting Fiona frequently called Fi could make Phoebe nicked Fi more feel exciting for you.

I also suggested using a middle name from one list (whoever doesn't get the first) because it would allow you to keep a much loved name.  I see no reason why a daughter named something like Phoebe Vita couldn't sometimes be called Vita or Vee as a pet name by her mother.  I remember you also have other V names that you were excited about, so giving a saint name as the first and letting you have free choice on the middle would be a nice way to use one that has already been ruled out as a first.  

On the flip side, you've now got your husband at least thinking about names he hadn't considered before.  Perhaps you could sway him to letting you have the first name (even if it's not a saint name) if it means he can use his favorite boring saint name as the middle.  It's still giving a saint name.  Most Catholic families I know who follow the saint name suggestion usually use the saint's name as a middle.  There is no rule or even official Catholic tradition that dictates the saint name has to be the 1st name.


January 2, 2016 3:29 PM

Love Catherine. Elegant and timeless with lots of great nns. Strikes me as likely too safe for your tastes.

I'm not a fan of Edith. It's middle-aged rather than vintage for me, but it does have a cute nn. 

Emilia is very pretty. Lots of similar names are popular now, so it may be more conventional than what you're after. 

I am the only person on this site who doesn't like Flo names. I just don't find the sound pretty, and the, "Aunt Flo," reference is just completely off putting to me. Everyone else on here loves it, though, so that's just me! 

Juliana is a great name. I'd echo my comments on Catherine.

Love Phoebe. Spunky, quirky name that is familiar but not at all common. 

Teresa  This is a, "Mom," name for me. I know several in their 40s and 50s. I do love the nn Tessa.

Colette is a very pretty name. It's a touch on the precious/fragile side for me. I can never quite decide if I'd love it on a little girl or if it's better on a French poodle (forgive me). I'm a big fan of the similar Cosette, but I don't think that one has a saintly reference-though we've estalished that I know nothing about saints. lol

I honestly just can't get my head around Eulalia. I'm not sure what about it bothers me-maybe the front sound is just too unfamiliar for me?

I think Genoveva is very pretty. I think it would often be heard wrong and spelled wrong, but that need not be a deal breaker.

I love Sabina, just not as much as some of your other choices.

I'm not a huge fan of Vita. It has sounds similar to names in style now, but something about it is grandma for me, but not vintage-a la Edith, I guess.

I like Rosa very much, but I prefer just Rose or a variant. 

I like Miriam very much, largely because it has so many appealing nns, which makes me think it would be a fine choice for a young girl or a grown up.

On balance, I prefer his list, but I am a low-risk namer, and my boys have popular names. 

Rosa or Miriam seem like the names on your list that would fit in with his list. Emilia and Flora seem like the names on his list that would fit in with yours.  I agree with others that Phoebe seems to meet the two in the middle.

The other thought would be to play around with some of these and see if you can come up with nns that allow for a more traditional name with an unusual, spirited nn, or a more eclectic full name with a more conventional nn.

Genoveva, for example, could go by something as, "Ordinary," as Jenny or Genie or Evie

Juliana could go by something as offbeat as Uli (I'm totally making that up, but I don't know why you couldn't.....)



January 2, 2016 5:07 PM

I know a little Uli! In his case it's short for Samu3l, but he exclusively goes by the nickname. I think it's a really fun, unexpected quirky choice, and I've seen it be very well received. It's a brilliant suggestion for bridging styles here!