Daily Archives: November 12, 2006

St. Austin?

Here’s my quick rundown on some currently popular boys’ names. Again, it’s a lot easier to detect the Christian names among them than among the girls!

Austin is really just an old-fashioned form of the name of St. Augustine.

Other saints’ and Biblical names: St. Aidan (also St.Aidan of Lindisfarne), St. Nicholas, Jack (Jackson), William, Justin, James, Zachary, Caleb, Noah, Nathan, Benjamin.

Hopefully, Jaden and Jayden are meant to be the Biblical name Jadon, “thankful”.

Connor/Conor comes from the extremely old Irish name Conchobar (con – “of the hound” + cobar – “help, assistance, aid.” Warriors were also called “hound,” so it would mean both “hound’s help” and “warrior’s help.”).

Conchobar mac Nessa was the kingly protagonist of huge chunks of the Ulster Cycle,  and is mostly known for trying to marry Deirdre, treacherously killing the Sons of Uisnach, and being the the uncle of Cu Chulainn. However, the storytellers also say that he was so enraged when he heard of the unjust death of Jesus Christ that he burst an old wound, which killed him. Possibly this is why his name was always treated as a good baptismal name.

Obviously, the O’Connors (the clan of his descendants) are all fond of him. The martyred bishop Blessed Conor O’Devany is an excellent patron saint for all Conors, Connors, and Conchobars. However, in the old days, there used to be functional equivalents laid out for this purpose for Irish names not specifically associated with saints. Back then, Conns and Conors considered themselves under the protection of St. Cornelius, and often used this as their name with non-Irish people. That’s why a lot of older men named Cornelius have the nickname Connie.

I suppose the functional equivalent thing might be one way to deal with all the crazy names people give their kids…. For example, Ryan, like Reagan, comes from the Irish word for king. So presumably these guys are under the protection of Christ the King.

I don’t know what you’d do with “Logan”, good Scottish last name that it is, since it just means “little hollow”. Likewise, what do you do with “Cameron”, which means “crooked nose”? Camillus or Camilla, maybe.

Brandon actually does have a St. Brandan, though the English name means “broom-plant hill” and the Irish one means something totally different. Or you could just go with Brendan.

But it really is a lot easier if you just go with a normal name. I mean, you can call your kid Logan as a nickname or middle name as much as you want! Just not a good idea as a baptismal name, ne?


1 Comment

Filed under Church, History

St. Hailey?

This one isn’t on the list, but it’s such a popular girl’s name that I have to try!

Well, we’ll go to the English martyrs again. There’s no Hailey, Haley, or Halley, but there is Father John Haile, who was martyred on May 4, 1535. I’m pretty sure that’s all part of the Hale/Hall surname group, so hopefully Father Haile will look after the Haileys of this world.

I’ll do a quick rundown on some other popular girls’ names:

Kaitlyn and Caitlin are really forms of Kathleen (St. Catherine).

Madeline is St. Mary Magdalene (the French is Madeleine).

Kaylee is a bit more problematic. Ceilidh is just the Irish for “party”. But if you take the name as literally meaning Kay + Lee, Kay is another form of Catherine. Ditto for Kayla. Kylie… that I can’t find anything for. Unless you count it as standing for the Kyles of Bute, in which case you can pick among such popular Bute saints as Ss. Brendan, Ronan, Michael, and Cathan.

(UPDATE: Kylie is an aboriginal Australian synonym for “boomerang”. However, I do have some info on saints’ names that go with Kyle.)

Naming children with surnames instead of Christian names is in general problematic; you end up having to give them a middle name for a Christian name. Unless you can find some handy English martyrs with the right last names, I guess. (I like presidents as much as anyone, but I still don’t get the thing with Taylor and Tyler. You’re naming your kids “a person who sews up men’s clothes” and “a person who lays tiles”.) The patron saint of tailors is St. Homobonus Tucenghi, a medieval merchant known for his cheerfulness and virtue among the good people of Cremona, who petitioned for his canonization after his death (feastday: Nov. 13). The patron saint of all members of the building trade, including tilers, is St. Stephen, the first martyr.

“Riley” is proclaiming your kid a descendant of Raghallach. If she were a descendant of Raghallach, her family patron saint would be St. Maedoc, but it seems a bit hard to go that far from a baptismal name! A Mackenzie is at least associating herself with St. Kenneth in a more direct way. Morgans go under the martyred Welsh priest Venerable Edward Morgan, who was hassled about being too cheerful on the Tyburn scaffold. The martyr replied, “Why should anyone be offended at my going to heaven cheerfully? For God loves a cheerful giver.”

Alyssa, Alicia, Alison, and Alice ultimately come from Adelaide, and there’s a couple different St. Adelaides (one a Holy Roman Empire one), as well as a St. Alix. There are a couple of different Ss. Alexis, though I hate to break it to you — Alexis throughout history was a male name! Not until Dynasty came out did that change.

Grace and Sophia are virtue names, and Zoe and Chloe are both ancient and venerable saints’ names for Christians.

Megan is a Welsh diminutive of Margaret.

Jordans are looked after by Blessed Jordan of Saxony (another man’s name!).

Laurens are covered by the numerous St. Lauras: a widowed abbess martyred by the Moors in boiling lead in Spain, a Italian martyr from Roman times, and a couple of South American religious.

Briannas are under Blessed Brian Lacey, one of the London Martyrs of 1591.

(UPDATE: There is a St. Brienna! (Bryene or Bruene in Greek, but Brienne or Briena or Brienna in Latin.) Her feast day is June 15, and she is listed as being an abbess in Sivapolis/Sibapolis, close to Nisibis. Despite her advanced age, she was on fire for martyrdom and longed to follow her niece St. Febronia’s example of martyrdom, but she ended up dying of natural causes two years later. So her name doesn’t derive from Brian at all, but she’s a great patron saint if you don’t want a guy as patron.)

Btw, there is a St. Bailey — Venerable Lawrence Bailey, who was executed in Lancaster on Sept. 16, 1605. And for those romance novelists among us who insist on naming their brainchildren “Tempest”, the Jesuit Nicholas Tempest was sent to the scaffold. (But I’m not clear on his official status.)

And for Amy — Hercules Welborn was sent to prison and put in chains.


Filed under Church, History, Saint Names

Top Ten Popular US Boys’ Names

The top ten boys’ names are a lot easier! Biblical and saints’ names, and nothing but….
Jacob: Well, duh.

Michael: I think we all know the angel in question.

Joshua: fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down. Also the name of some guy from Nazareth who got crucified.

Matthew: the evangelist.

Ethan: Ethan the Ezrahite was notoriously wise, and was also supposed to have written one of the psalms.

Andrew: the apostle.

Daniel: lion’s den prophet. (And in the apocrypha, a lawyer and dragonslaying detective.)

Anthony: St. Anthony of Padua, and St.Anthony of Egypt, founder of monasticism, among many others. “Anthony” means immortal, so it’s always been a popular name for Christians.

Christopher: tons of saints, including the one who legendarily carried the baby Jesus across a ford.

Joseph: Jacob’s son who interpreted dreams and saved Egypt and his tribe from famine. Also, the foster-father of Jesus, who had a dream that saved his family and took them to Egypt. Also tons of other saints.

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, History

St. Ashley?

Actually, yes! A bona fide martyr! You just can’t get any more christened than this, so it’s okay that it’s the tenth most popular baby girl’s name in the US.

Blessed Ralph Ashley was a cook at Douai College, then went to Spain and joined the Jesuits as a brother, not a priest. He returned to England in 1598 and served there until he was captured with Father Edward Oldcorne, due to trying to hide Father Garnet and Brother Nicholas Owen during all that Gunpowder Plot nonsense. He was tortured and imprisoned in the Tower of London, then hung, drawn and quartered at Worcester in 1606. His feast day is December 1.

So all you Ashleys out there are safely under the protection of your name saint! 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, History

St. Ava

Ava is the 9th most popular baby girl’s name in the US. I don’t know where, as I’ve never met anybody who’d even named their kid Eve. But clearly, somewhere this is occurring.

St. Ava was the daughter of one of the King Pepin’s. After being miraculously regaining her sight thanks to St. Rainfredis, she became a nun and later an abbess at Dinart, in Hainault. Her feastday is April 29.


The Dictionary of Saintly Women, Volume 1, says that Bucelin said that Ava was the daughter of Adelbert, Count of Austrofandia, and Regina, niece of King Pepin.

Here’s St. Ava’s listing in the Acta Sanctorum for April. In Latin.

A very informative story about her miraculous healing. In French. This Ava she went on a ton of pilgrimages and offered rich gifts at many shrines, but an angel directed her to St. Regenfredis/Renfroi’s tomb. After she got her sight back, she decided to stay there at Denain as a nun in gratitude to God; and eventually she became abbess.

St. Ava’s listing in an old German encyclopedia of saints.

A different Ava, St. Ava the Powerful (die Kraeftige), from Melk in Austria. Her feastday is February 7. She was the mother of two sons who became priests. When widowed, she became an anchoress, and she wrote poems on “John,” “The Life of Jesus,” “The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit,” “Antichrist,” and “The Last Judgment.”


Filed under Church, History

St. Isabella

The sixth most popular name is yet another popular medieval name, Isabella. It’s a Spanish form of Elizabeth.

St. Isabel of France was the daughter of King Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile. She refused many suitors, cared for the poor and sick, lived as a consecrated virgin, and founded an monastery; but refused to become a nun. Seeing as consecrated virgins have come back in a fairly big way in the US, she is clearly a saint for today. (And February 26, her feastday.)

Blessed Isabel Fernandez was a Spanish woman living in Japan at the time of the Martyrs. She sheltered Blessed Charles Spinola, and was beheaded for it at Nagasaki along with her four-year-old son. (Her husband was burned alive.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, History

St. Olivia

The fifth most popular girls’ name in the US. This is an easy one, though.

This name was apparently semi-popular in the Middle Ages, at least in romances. Since Roland’s best friend was named Oliver, Oliver’s sister who was Roland’s true love is sometimes called Olivia. Also, there’s a Charlemagne-related story of Queen Olive held captive in a pit full of snakes, and of course Shakespeare’s Olivia. This follows the pattern of other adventure heroines being named after trees; one Breton lai even stars girls named Le Fresne and Le Codre. (The common American girl’s name of LaFrayne apparently comes from this story.) Also, olive trees starred in the Bible as well as being important and beautiful economic resources throughout the Mediterranean.

St. Oliva was a martyr under Hadrian (feastday March 5).  Blessed Olivia was a Palermo girl carried off to Tunis by the Muslim slave raiders, and martyred for her evangelism and cures (June 10). (On the male side, there’s St. Oliver, an Italian monk (February 3), and St. Oliver Plunkett, the martyred Irish archbishop (July 11).


Filed under Church, History