What’s in a name?

When I was growing up, my mom had a small book of saints’ names that I pored over and marked up with asterisks and underlines to highlight my favorites. I used the book to make lists of the names I would give my future children. Names have a striking importance for people of faith. St. John Chrysostom said, “So let the name of the saints enter our homes through the naming of our children, to train not only the child but the father … this too will greatly help us and our children. Do not because it is a small thing regard it as small; its purpose is to succor us.” Whether you’re naming a baby, choosing a Confirmation or religious name for yourself or you simply enjoy names, spending time reading about and considering names that honor Mother Mary will keep her top of mind and bring you closer to her.

My view of Marian names was forever expanded when my friend and her husband gave their daughter the middle name Immaculata. Even though I consider my taste in names to be somewhat adventurous, I’d never considered that a name like Immaculata wasn’t only for religious sisters and nuns, but could, in fact, be bestowed on children. Not only that, but Immaculata is a clearly Marian name, and it had always been important to me to give any daughters I might have a Marian name like my sisters and I had been given. Despite my years poring over name books, my working list of Marian names was small and consisted mostly of variants of Mary, with only Rose as the exception non-Mary name. But Immaculata opened my eyes! I immediately set out to make a list of non-Mary Marian names for my own enjoyment. I found so many interesting and unexpected options.

In creating my list, I formulated my thoughts into different naming categories such as:

Characteristics of Our Lady, like Clementine (“merciful”) and Pio (“pious”), drawn from prayers and hymns.

Apparition sites and other places related to Our Lady, like Fatima, Lourdes and Nazario (Nazareth).

Names related to Marian titles, like Regina and Caeli (from Regina Caeli: Queen of Heaven).

Relatives of Our Lady, like Anne (for her mother), Joachim (for her father), and Elizabeth (for her beloved cousin).

Visionaries, like Francisco and Juan Diego.

Saints known to have strong Marian devotion, like Louis de Montfort and John Paul II.

I especially loved finding boy names that could be considered Marian! While adding a form of Mary to a boy’s name wasn’t uncommon in the past, especially in Europe, it’s quite uncommon today, and even parents who would love to honor Our Lady in their sons’ names tend to shy away from using a girl’s name. I’ve discovered unquestionably masculine options that point directly to Our Lady. In addition to the few mentioned above, there are strong contenders like Campion, David, Gratian and Miles. There really is a Marian name option for every sensibility,even if the connection takes a little explanation to see!


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