A few years ago, a friend of mine was expecting. “We’re sticking with the basics,” she told me. “Mostly saints’ names.”

At the time, I nodded. I knew what she meant – they weren’t going for anything outlandish, and the name they chose for their son – Matthew – was as straightforward and practical as my friend and her husband.But limiting yourself to the names of Roman Catholic saints is not, well, limiting.

First, a quick note on sainthood, for the non-Catholics among us. For the first thousand years or so, a person became a Saint through local custom. Not so today – Rome has slowly codified the process. The result is over 10,000 saints and beati, some of doubtful historical veracity.

So, yeah, there are gonna be a few humdingers in there.

You can search the index over at www.catholic.org yourself. But you know I’ve already whiled away a few hours musing over some very underused, very interesting saints’ names.

Nestled among the myriad Mary and abundant Annes, here are a few gems:

  • Endellion – Like many early female saints, she was a virgin and a recluse. But your Endellion might live up to this Gaelic name’s meaning: fire soul. With the pretty nickname Della or the boyish Lio, it’s an interesting choice.
  • Leocadia – I first noticed this name on a painting in the Prado Museum in Madrid. While the woman in the portrait was no saint – she was believed to be Francisco Goya’s lover, and mother of his child – she bears the interesting name of a fifth century Spanish martyr. If Leo is hot for boys, then Leocadia seems like a valid choice for girls. It could also be freshened up as Leocadie or Leacadie. In French, it’s Locaie – perhaps a bit too like “location” to work in English.
  • Marina – She’s another virgin, this time from the eighth century. Marina lived near the Black Sea and the name has a wonderful sea-faring quality. Unlike most of these choices, its also somewhat familiar. It was #406 on the 2006 Social Security baby names’ list.
  • Aurelia is one of those names that isn’t just old school; it is positively BC. The Roman patrician clan even had a road named after their family – the Via Aurelia. Saint Aurelia was a princess, too, but a tenth-century Austrian one. She earned sainthood as a recluse. The name’s meaning – golden – is quite appealing. This seems like a better choice that modern inventions like Aubrianna and Ariella.
  • Everild – If you like the sound of the noun name Ever, this unusual Old English name might appeal. A seventy-century noblewoman and abbess, she is sometimes called Averil, perhaps a less extreme option. It’s one of the few Old English choices that might work in the 21st century – certainly the names of Everild’s companions, Saint Bega and Saint Wulfreda, are best left to obscurity.
  • Hermione – It will, of course, bring to mind the clever witch from the Harry Potter series.  but Hermione is an ancient martyr mentioned in the Bible.
  • Thais – If you’re looking for a simple name like Brooke or Paige, but want something a little less common, Thais might fit the bill.  The temptation is to say “Tice,” but this is actually two syllables:  TAH ees.  It’s a fourth-century name, but sounds just right in the 21st.

Sunday School dismissed, but check back for the boys’ edition, coming soon.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. haha i love the fact tht i have a saint name. she seems nice and loved god. so cool i had to do my report on her.

  2. the names are realy obscure,but i want something more exotic than obscure.endellion is the only name am feeling from this list

  3. Any idea what the etymology of the name Endellion is? Very interesting name and exactly the meaning and general sound I was looking for. Besides, I love Celtic culture, so it would be great to have a Celtic name with a verified meaning and origin.