I always planned on giving any daughters I’d be blessed with a form of Mary in their names, in either their first or their middle names. My parents did so with me and my three sisters, and many of the women in my family have Mary as their first name (though most go by their middle name), including my grandmother Mary Loretta, who always went by Loretta — which is itself a Marian name!
I’ve long loved the Catholic tradition of giving Marian names to girls, but I didn’t realize how many different ways there are of honoring Our Lady by name — far more than just Mary, Marie, and Maria — until I started researching and compiling a list of them nearly ten years ago. There are so many! There are names from a wide variety of cultures and countries that connect to titles, apparitions, and characteristics of Our Lady, and many of the names have centuries of usage.
As God would have it, of my six born children, exactly zero are girls. But I’ve actually found quite a few boy names that can honor Our Lady as well! Many of you know that Mary, Marie, and Maria have a history of use for boys — often as a middle name — as can be seen in several of the saints, including St. Anthony Mary Claret, St. Jean Marie Vianney, and St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe. Priests and brothers in some religious orders such as the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word (MFVA) and the Dominicans still include Mary in their new religious names. Not everyone is comfortable giving a girl’s name to their baby boy, however, so it was exciting to me to find quite a few masculine names that have clear ties to Our Lady.
I have the great pleasure of sharing that I condensed all of my research on this topic into a book: Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018)! For each entry I’ve provided pronunciation(s), history, nickname(s), variant(s), feast day(s), and for many of them I also provided examples of their usage in real life, literature, and culture. I basically wrote the book that I wished existed — indeed, there are no other name books that focus exclusively on Marian names, and I haven’t found any existing name books that contain all of the names in my book.
My hope is that my book blesses many expectant parents as they choose names for their babies! It’s the perfect baby shower gift or Mother’s Day gift (make a note for next year!), as well as a perfect gift for anyone you know who loves names, especially those of our faith.
Endorsement for Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady by Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, NY:
“What’s in a name? A lot more than I for one ever imagined. Katherine Morna Towne’s loving and witty, story- and history-packed paean to Marian inspired names might have been subtitled “Towards a Theology of Onomatology.” Names can be almost sacramental. What their origins, variations and meanings might suggest reveals the fathomless mystery of the persons who will bear them and, if gifted with a Marian name, the special person they honor. This book is a godsend for anyone naming loved ones, rooting their identities for life in the Mother who gave the world the Name that gives life.”
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Copyright 2018 Katherine Morna Towne