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Can We Honor the Man Without Using His Name?

Suppose you love or admire someone very much, and would love to give him/her a namesake ... except that you can't STAND this person's name! My husband and I love Pope Francis but don't like the name Francis, and as we are not of the proper ethnicity we don't feel comfortable naming our son "Francisco" or "Franz" or some other variation. We would love advice on this name in particular and this problem in general.

--Not a Francis Fan

You've run into a classic problem of modern baby naming: when your heart and your fashion sense point in opposite directions. Many parents have run into this with a beloved Grandpa Herbert or Grandma Bernice, but Pope Francis has made his chosen name (the 2013 Name of the Year) one of the most debated in the land.

A popular solution is to stash the honor name in the middle, where meaningfulness often takes precedence over style. A classic name like Francis can work with almost any first name you’d like to pair it with. You'd stll be able to tell your son about the man he's named after, and the values that homage represents to you.

Another option is to use an initial to honor a special loved one. Any name starting with “F” could work, from Felix to Finnegan. Again, the meaning of the tribute would come from the value you place on it.

You can also think more broadly about the honoree to find creative ways to honor him. In the case of Pope Francis, you might consider his birth name, Jorge (George, in English). Or you could find inspiration in the man who inspired his papal name, St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis has said of Francis of Assisi:

“For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.”

From this, you could choose a name like Pax, or another name that relates to the concept of peace: Absalom, Axel, Calum or Colm, Jonah (“dove” in Hebrew), Oliver (for the olive branch of peace), Solomon or Shiloh.

St. Francis of Assisi also symbolizes stewardship of nature, so almost any nature name could be a fitting tribute. In particular, Francis is known for having preached to a flock of birds and for taming a wolf, so you could consider a bird name (Eagle, Lark, Raven, Jay, even Byrd) or simply Wolf. It may seem a far cry from the peaceful Pope, but the man himself has already showed us that we should expect the unexpected from him.


December 24, 2013 12:31 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I couldn't agree more. Nice insights for that matter name Lady. This is truly something a couple of my mom friends encounter. - Marla Ahlgrimm

December 24, 2013 1:14 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Falcon, Fraser, Field, Finch, or Fox might work...nature names that start with an F. And you didn't mention Franklin, Frank, Frankie, or a variation like that. Personally, I think Cisco is a pretty cool name, whatever your ethnicity.

December 24, 2013 5:31 PM
By Juulie with two 'u's (not verified)

FRANK!! It's a great name, and it's the English form of Francis. We named one of our sons Frank after my grandfather. Still we knew he might not like it (old-fashioned, too something or other) so we gave him a trendy name in the middle that he could use if he wanted (and he does!). He is Frank Mason Lastname, but everyone calls him Mason. Which is my other suggestion. Name him Francis Whatever Lastname, and let him go by his middle name, if he or you want. F. Mason Lastname has such a dignified, upper crust sound. 9963285

December 24, 2013 8:37 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

LOVE Franklin! By far my favorite!

December 30, 2013 10:47 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

As Pope Francis is a Jesuit would Xavier or Ignatius work for you? Xavier is very cool but I would put Ignatius in the middle!

Personally I like Francis as a middle name.

January 17, 2014 8:55 AM
By ar condicionado automotivo (not verified)

Thanks so much for writing all of the excellent information!
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February 7, 2014 5:59 PM

His name signifies the greatness of the saint he honored, if you can't stand the name you can modify it, retaining the prefix Fran-

February 11, 2014 10:24 AM
By atlanta wedding limousine (not verified)

Hi, that's a great name but if you dislike it, you can modify it without entirely changing it.

May 31, 2014 5:42 AM
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