Mazen Duke Younger-Monson

Many of you asked how we chose Mazen’s name. Here’s the story!


In October of last year, we went on a hike and out to lunch with my parents. I obviously wasn’t pregnant yet, but my mom knew we were trying and brought up baby names.


On our drive home, we must have gone through 100 names and talked about ones we liked and didn’t like generally. I favored antique and nature names, and Matt liked anything non-traditional.

We all agreed that we liked Mason (and a lot of the names on this list) but we thought having Mason and Monson in the same name was too much.  Matt suggested: “We should just make up a variation of a more common name like Mason… like Mazen!”  I liked it immediately because I loved the nickname Maze. And it was unique enough for us both.


We like it because of Maze.

Because it has the word Zen in it.

Because it has a Z like Kanz : )

Because anytime anyone says “amazing” in it can be turned into A-Mazen!

Because “Mazen the Raisin” is a fun description for a little baby

Because it starts with an M just like Matt.

And because it’s different but not too strange.

And lastly, because while it has been used as a name before, it involved Matt’s creativity.

Months passed and we found out we were having a boy! We tossed around more names, but we just kept coming back to Mazen. It was unique yet not hard to pronounce or spell, and neither of us knew anyone with the name. And then, Matt actually was listening to a homebrew podcast on The Brewing Network and one of the guests was named Mazen – the brewer of 961 Brewery in California. He was shocked to hear the name, so we googled it and found that it has Arabic origins and rich heritage.


With a first name picked out, we started to brainstorm middle names. We wanted something short. Davidson was definitely a contender, but it was a little long for me, and with MonSON as a last name, we thought Davidson Younger-Monson was a little long. That’s when I thought of Duke.

The first conversation I ever had with Matt started like this:

“I see you’re wearing Duke shorts – are you a fan!?”

Indeed he was, and we started talking during our freshman orientation during a service project at a farm. He told me that he was a Duke fan because his Grandpa Don was a huge fan and bought Matt Duke things since he was little. He had become a fan.

On my side, my grandmother began the legacy as a 1946 graduate of Duke Women’s College. My uncle Chris and my mom both followed her footsteps and attended, and my mom met my dad there in the 70s. I obviously grew up a huge Duke basketball fan living just steps from the campus, and had Davidson not been a perfect match for my personality, I wonder if I might have ended up there for college. (I actually had an early admission application in to Duke and called at the last minute to switch it to regular so I could do early decision at Davidson instead – aren’t I glad I did because I met Matt!)

And the icing on the cake – Matt and I had our wedding reception at Duke Gardens. Our relationship started with Duke and was solidified there in marriage.


So needless to say, it was an easy middle name choice.

A bonus:

Mazen Duke’s initials are MD.

Matthew Donald’s are MD.

And Matt’s dad is Mark Donald – MD (and he happens to be an MD!)


Matt says he wants to call him Mazen.

I love Maze.

Karen and my mom have been using Mazey.

And my dad says when he’s older he’s going to call him Zen!

117 thoughts on “Mazen Duke Younger-Monson”

    1. We hadn’t decided on one so that was lucky – although we were sort of leaning toward naming a her after Great Aunt Kitty Lillian – Lily.

  1. Picking out baby names is so much fun! Love the name. (My daughter’s name is Mazie so I might be partial 😉 )
    Thanks for sharing all the pictures. Seems like you’re settling into motherhood well. Enjoy!

      1. I have a cat named Maizi. We call her “Maze” all the time. I LOVE it for a little girl’s name. I also love Mazen for a boy – I like that it’s different without being weird. 🙂

  2. Love this!

    One of my daughters is named Eliot and at my 2 week OB checkup post delivery a nurse there actually shook her head and said I should have thought how the name “Eliot” would look and sound for a girl, like what it would look like on her wedding invitation one day. I just smiled and said something to the effect of we did and that’s why we gave her that name, etc. but I did tell my OB she had a rude employee that needs to keep her mouth shut. Did she really think I would change the name because she didn’t approve? Also so many people at the hospital asked us what we would call her since we gave her a “boy’s name.” Hello, I loved responding that we would be calling her by her NAME!

    My other two children also have names on the unusual side but like Mazen (and Eliot!) they are not difficult to pronounce or spell and I am glad I chose what I did.

    1. i wish people would just learn to bite their tongues!! There are a bajillion names out there and if everyone were named the most common ones the world would be boring! We’d have to start adding letters and punctuation. I love Eliot for a girl 🙂

        1. I had the same experience with one of my nurses! Sheesh. Also love Eliot, I like boy names for girls and girlish names for boys (like Kelly for example)

      1. I went to college with a girl Elliot. I never thought it was unusual, but she was accidentally assigned to the all boys dorm for freshman year!

      1. Thank you all! We love the name and now that Eliot is almost two years old we still think she looks just like an Eliot and we know we made a good choice.

        1. I have a friend who named her first little girl Elliot, and she calls her Ells. 🙂 Btw Kath, Kaci and I have a cat named Mason, so I thought it was so neat that you and Matt chose a variation of that name! I love Mazen Duke, and the meaning behind them both is so special.

  3. Kath, that is an absolutely beautiful story and the names mean so much to you and Matt, so it’s extra special.

    That last picture with Maze pointing is just too cute!

  4. That’s sweet. I felt the same way about my own baby; right after we got pregnancy, I knew what he was going to be named , and luckily my husband went along. Sometimes you just know!

  5. love his name! unique and different without being strange. We used Quinn which isn’t unique but it’s not common either and I loved it the minute we found it when I was only 14 weeks pregnant or so! It just stuck in our heads same as yours 🙂
    he’s such a cutie!! hope you are finding your groove in this crazy time. My son is 4 weeks old already and I can’t believe it!

  6. Good story! How funny that your parents knew the name all along but didn’t realize it! I wonder if they suspected Mazen as the choice? My friend has a Mason and they call him Masey…I must confess I prefer the ‘z’ sound over the s!

    We’re going with family names for first and middle names but we got lucky with some good ones to choose from. I also like ‘antique’ and nature categories!

    Long comment but I still can’t believe the pregnancy story is over and this little baby came out!

  7. Too sweet! Such a great story. I always love hearing the background on baby names. People just assume with Wrigley that we love the bubble gum and/or the Cubs, but there is more to it than that. 😉

    1. Yes, we were pretty set on it from the beginning. Although we admit hyphenation isn’t pretty, it’s what we felt was the most fair and involved us both equally. It’s getting more and more common too, so it isn’t like he’s the only baby out there with two last names. If he wants to drop one of them later in life, that’s his decision and we’re OK with it too. But as a little minor, we wanted both parents to be represented.

      1. I dont understand why having 2 last names is weird in the usa. In my country, Venezuela, everyone has both last names. First the one from the dad and second the one from the mom, like “María Luisa González Pérez”

        Love the name Mazen : )

      2. Love the story behindthose baby’s name! In my cultural background everybody inherits a last name from one of their parents – dad’s last name first then mom’s. No hyphenation. If you have a daughter, when she marries she drops her second last name and adds her husband’s last name in the first last name slot. So Jane Doe Jones becomes Jane Smith Doe. sounds way more complicated than it is but it strikes me as fair (especially with kids in the picture) since the family name reflects a union. Of course everyone has long names and ultimately it’s the male’s last names that get passed down form generation to generation.

    1. I like how his name has such a good background especially his middle name. And love how his first name has the “Zen” feeling! Perfectly balanced and apt Kath!

  8. I think Mazen is a cute name and Mazen is a cute baby! I just don’t understand the middle name… I guess I feel like your reasoning was like if I had named my daughter after my husband’s and my favorite Mexican restaurant just because we ate their all the time during our marriage. Although, Riley Tlaquepaque does have a ring to it, eh?

      1. LOL, Bread or Shoe. Yes, Duke is a real name! Just because they used the name Duke because it meant something to them personally, doesn’t mean she’s saying the everyone should do that same because obviously it doesn’t always work out that way! Oy vey… 🙂 I think the background of the significance of the name Duke is cute and a fun story he’ll be able to tell many years from now!

      2. I don’t really keep up with celebrities, but I was just scanning yahoo articles, and noticed that Bill and Giuliana Rancic named their baby boy Edward Duke. So, people do use it as a name.

      3. I went to school at Tennessee, and I still live here in Knoxville. Tons of East Tennesseans name their children “Knox” because of their UT ties. That kind of thing happens all the time.

        I think it’s SOOO cool that you guys used that middle name. I would love for my middle name to be the thing that caused my parents to start talking for the first time!!

      4. I personally love the name Duke! We are naming our son Duke (which is actually how I found your blog!). Love to see other people enjoy the name too – it’s such a strong, masculine name!

  9. We also wanted something different for a our daughter…Being a Sara, there were so many other Sara(h)’s around me growing up! We new we wanted something out of the box, but not off the wall. We chose the name Rylynn for our daughter after the name of a song by Andy McKee (an AMAZING guitar picker). Ever since we had heard the song it was at the top of our girls name list. We chose Harper for her middle name and I just love how it sounds together…Rylynn Harper. Traditionally the name Rylan is for a boy, but we felt by changing the ‘lan’ part of the name to “lynn” it was more feminine. I have no regrets over choosing something uncommon. Hopefully she’ll love having a unique name just as much as we like it!

  10. I was still voting for Baker (we have never regretted naming our sons Baker and Forrest) but I like Mazen!

    My own mother cringed when I told her Baker’s name when i was pregnant but now she says she loves it. People will always have opinions but what matters is that you guys love is name. He is precious!

  11. So cool to hear the story behind the name! I was amazed at how much pressure I felt picking out my daughter’s name – so much responsibility, especially since research shows that your name affects your success in life (have you read Freakonomics?). I remember I spent HOURS Googling every permutation of her potential name, making sure there wasn’t some famous porn star or evil dictator or criminal with the name! 🙂

    Have you gotten any feedback from using a traditional Arabic name? My aunt got a lot of flack for using a very traditional Hispanic name for her son (neither her nor her husband’s family are Hispanic); a lot of people thought it was very inappropriate to “co-opt” another culture without having any ties to that culture (to the point where my cousin has now chosen to go by his middle name), but that was back in the 80’s, maybe things have changed since then!

    1. Only the dozen or so rude comments on the blog. Generally most people aren’t aware of the Arabic connection because it sounds so new age (and I think the Arabic version is pronounced differently?), and those who are think it’s cool because they might have a friend or family member with the name. We have gotten tons of wonderful positive feedback.

      1. I certainly don’t think your intentions were bad when you chose the name Mazen and I don’t think it will cause you much trouble, particularly if he goes by Maze (which is adorable, btw), but cultural appropriation is a real thing and people should be aware of it when choosing names. Here’s a link for more info about what cultural appropriation is and why it is so harmful:

        1. I agree that cultural appropriation is a very real thing, but it seems that some of these comments re: the Arabic origin of the name are just trying to take a jab at Kath and her husband rather than to share what they know about the name and its supposed implications. She stated very clearly that they came up with the name on their own and that it has a unique meaning to them. It also happens to be an Arabic name, which they later discovered. That is different from them discovering it as a meaningful part of another culture and then wanting to have it as their own.

          I’m not sure what I’m trying to say here. I’m by no means trying to discourage conversation around topics such as this, but the way that some people are bringing it up is just plain rude. No matter how nice you frame the comment, saying that you don’t think her intentions were bad is still saying that they did something wrong by naming their son that. Maybe I’m missing something, but I got that impression with a few past comments.

          You have a beautiful son, Kath. Congrats to you and your family! Long time reader, infrequent commenter 🙂

          1. “She stated very clearly that they came up with the name on their own and that it has a unique meaning to them. It also happens to be an Arabic name, which they later discovered. That is different from them discovering it as a meaningful part of another culture and then wanting to have it as their own.”

            Yes! THIS, exactly. I’ve been thinking the same thing while reading some of these other comments but couldn’t figure out how to articulate it.

        2. It’s an interesting thing to consider, but must people rule out names that are not of their culture, or for fear of cultural appropriation, if the name has meaning to them? I would say not. Names/words develop different (often multiple) meanings over time.

          1. Of course you don’t HAVE to rule out a name you like for fear of cultural appropriation, but what I was trying to point out in my previous post is that it is a very privileged position to be able to consider names from other cultures without having to worry about how they could negatively affect your child. Take Claire’s aunt for example (from the original comment): she gave her child a traditional Hispanic name, but she has (probably) never had to personally deal with the disgusting amount of anti-Hispanic sentiment in this (and many other) countries. Giving your child a name from an oppressed culture isn’t offensive because you’re taking a name from them, it’s offensive because you haven’t lived that culture. You don’t know what it feels like to be profiled because of your name or appearance. You don’t worry that giving your child a traditional name that is meaningful to your past will forever brand him as an outsider or an other. You don’t worry that your culture is being reduced to a caricature, that people are picking pieces at random and deciding they are cool while the context is being lost. It’s offensive because it’s another example of “well-meaning white people” flaunting their privilege. Sure names and words develop different meanings over time, but it’s usually white people who get to decide what those meanings are and that’s why it is so problematic.

            I did not mean to offend Kath and Matt or to suggest they did something wrong by choosing the name Mazen. I’m sure that as educated, compassionate people who were raised in the South, they have an adequate understanding of issues of race and oppression and, if necessary, would be able to explain their name choice to anyone who was initially offended by it.

      2. The arabic pronunciation is different, you are correct- it’s pronounced “Mazz-en” instead of “Maze-en”. I actually dated a Lebanese guy a few months ago with the name.

  12. I love the story behind the name and I was just asked by my daughter’s school why we chose the name b/c they’re doing a lesson on names…I wish I would have had a post like this…b/c almost 6 yrs later the exact reasons fade a bit and I was left to say, well, ultimately, we just both liked it! ha!

    I love how much meaning his name has for you guys!

  13. My first thought was that Mazen looked like Matt + Karen, with a Z in the middle. It’s a great choice and I think he will grow to love it as he gets older. 🙂

  14. I have to tell you that you’ve completely ruined my 4-year-old daughter’s name. Backstory: my husband is a Duke graduate and his life revolves around it. He fought me HARD to name her Cameron Indoor OurLastName. I’m not joking. I eventually talked him out of it and we named our daughter Elizabeth Ava after her two grandmothers because my mother-in-law passed away while I was pregnant. It meant a lot to her and to us to do that. Well, we’re a one and done family but after I told him your baby name, my husband is SO PISSED he never thought to make Duke her middle name. To make matters worse, there is a kid in her preK class this year named Duke (first name). This might be the closest I’ve ever gotten to talking him into a second kid — just the promise of naming him/her Duke.

    And if you guys want to properly brainwash your child, you have to see the Blue Devil propaganda my husband has taught her:

    Bottom line? In our house, the Blue Devil is Santa’s best friend and helper. The Tar Heel steals toys and hate birthdays and Christmas. And Duke Gardens means a lot to us too. We’ve spent many, many days there during our trips up from Florida and his parent’s cat even came from there. She was a poor, sick stray that my husband took in during college and she now lives with my father-in-law!

    Congratulations on the adorable Mazen! It’s the greatest adventure you’ll ever have. And since there are so many Duke haters out there, it’s nice to have some company in the brainwashing campaign!

  15. I love your name meaning and selection being different is good! I have the least common girls name and the most common middle name for a girl. Ashton Marie and seriously I used too hate my name as a kid because kids are mean and make fun of you for everything and I always got compared to guys because I was a late bloomer per say and have more of a boyish look growing up. But seriously, my boyfriends have always thought my name was awesome, I get told all the time how beautiful and unique my name is. I have only met two other girls with the name Ashton with the same spelling. And Ironically I kind of hate the name Ashley (sorry an Ashleys who read this comes from a life time of being asked/ called Ashley)

  16. i know people might be critical, but i was hoping you would do before/after photos and tell us about how you feel now that you are not pregnant. I know that weight loss is not the first thing on your mind, obviously, but I am sure there are some residual baby bounds to lose and I am just interested in how long it takes and what the body goes through. I am more of a traditional name person, maybe because my name is Jane (hah) but I think Mazen is a really cute name. and it has meaning to you, very special!

  17. Loved reading the story of how you decided–and all the MD synchronicities. (also, the “No, that’s totally off the list!”)

  18. Gosh Kath, Mazen is just so precious! Cutest baby I’ve ever seen.
    And the last picture is great, he looks like a little cowboy pointing his pistol at you as if saying “I’m watching you. I’m amazing!”. Adorable!!!

  19. Congratulations on your gorgeous baby!

    One of my biggest pet peeves in life is when people negatively comment to the parents regarding their choice of baby name. I’ll never understand why people think that’s acceptable. I am sure you have heard a lot having such a public blog!

  20. I can’t count how many times since he was born that I have said his name Mazen in my head. Thank you for sharing your very important story on naming your beautiful baby. His name is exceptional, memorable, and unique and will become even more meaningful because of WHO HE IS WILL BECOME in your loving life. You and Matt are all about love, and Maze’s eloquent name is a loving gift. I just love these first days with Maze! Thank you both!

  21. I’m all for more unusual, less traditional names–I come from a family of them (except me, haha!). My oldest sister is Alessandra, and my middle sister is Pippa (which before people used to butcher when they tried to pronounce it, but thankfully Pippa Middleton has changed all of that).

    I hadn’t heard of the name Mazen before you announced, but I really like it!

  22. Mazen is so cute!!!! Very cool how you came up with the name choice. When I was pregnant with my daughter, we were hounded by everyone for her name. We knew that her middle name would be Cynwil (a Welsh family name) but had a terrible time picking a first name. We had it narrowed down to about 5 names right before she was born and just figured we would pick one of them once we met her. (My neighbor called her Lola until we named her). When she was born, we still had a horrible time deciding and finally settled on Carys (also a Welsh name… my Mother’s side is Welsh). Once we named her, I never hesitated (although we always said that we would never name our kid something hard to pronounce or spell… yeah right, so much for that one). I love her name and it fits her so well.

  23. I’m a Kentucky fan so I won’t comment on the middle name, except to say at least it’s not Laettner! 🙂 I LOVE Mazen and the story behind it!

  24. Love love love Mazen’s name. My oldest daughter was named Brandy after the song and everyone thought she was named after liquor. Yougest daughter Darianna was named after a glassware collection in the Chicago Museum. Maze will like his name and the story behind Duke. Take care!!!

  25. What a great story! I love when names have meaning and heart behind them. What I don’t like is when people think their opinions matter in the naming of a child that’s not theirs. Butt out!

    Had Dominic been a girl his name was going to be Hazel. We loved the ‘z’. My husband wanted to call her “Hazy”. I thought it was a warm, sweet name and if I had hear the stupid joke “Ya giving birth to an old lady?” one more time I was gonna pop someone!

    Now we look at D and couldn’t have picked out a better name for him. Mazen is a sweet name! I’m sure it will suit him more and more as he grows 🙂

  26. Most important thing is that you and your husband love the name. As he grows up, I am sure he will enjoy the family story about how he got his name!

    Our baby girl is 3 months old. She is our ninth child and only our second girl (yes, 7 boys!). My 18 year old daughter chose her little sister’s name. I loved the name she came up with and it just meant the world to her that we chose “her” name.

    Congratulations!! Beautiful baby and lovely name!

  27. I was so, so confused when you were explaining it to me with the examples of Coolio and Cool, haha. Now it all makes sense! I think it’s a very cool name, and super cute story to share with him when he’s older, and then he can share it too. The first night of college we had a hall meeting in our dorm and the icebreaker was to share our name story, mine was that my older brother actually picked out my name when my mom was reading a baby name book to him before bed one night 🙂 Name stories come in handy later in life!

  28. Oh Kath sometimes I think it must be so draining to be be criticized about the most ridiculous things – even trying on a pair of shorts got you in trouble!

    If I wanted to hear these debates I would got to a polisci class -not read your charming, and PERSONAL baby blog! Thanks for sharing with the rest of us anyways 🙂

    Your ‘new’ family is so beautiful together (and for what its worth I think the name is super cute) Little man is going to have yummy cheeks!

  29. I had never heard of the name Mazen before but I loved it instantly when I read it in your blog when Mazen was born 🙂
    I truly like that name, it was a great choice you two did and your baby do look like Mazen!
    Nice story behind choosing his name, you two are serious inspirations!

    1. Oh, and in Brazil (where I am from), we all get both mom and dad’s last name (mom’s first and dad’s last). My name is Ana Paula Ruy Cardia (Ruy is my mom’s last name and Cardia is my dad’s), and with my son we did the same thing: Matheus Cardia Moraes (Cardia from me and Moraes from my husband). He never had an issue with his name (he is 10 now) and he always have a story to tell about why it is that way which brings him to his Brazilian background.

  30. My name is Thea ( NOT pronounced TEA-ah) and throughout my life I have had to repeat and spell my name out to EVERYONE I meet. my mom actually named me after one of her old friends. Constantly I am asked if this is my REAL name and not short for anything but I always reply yes then they proceed to ask me if this is indeed my real name as if I don’t know what my name is.
    As a little girl I hated my name including my last name because no one could ever pronounce my name but I really like it now because it is unique!

  31. I know this may seem a little wierd, but my name is Coral and it might be a name you would like for a girl. It is nature-y, but yet professional at the same time. I live in the panhandle of Florida and soooo many people think my name is so unique. In fact, I use to work at a grocery store and a customer came through with their newborn baby and her name is Coral. I don’t know if they came up with that name originally, but I think seeing me in Publix might have inspired it.
    This may come off a little pretentious, but just letting you know haha

  32. KERF! I had no idea you had this babykerf site! Awesome! As I read the story of Mazen’s name I couldn’t help but think that people in the Arab world would be shrugging their shoulders. I mean they would certainly like the name but it really isn’t that original in the Arab world of names. I’m from the US and have taught overseas for 11 years now – 11 of which were in Muslim countries. Anyway, I love it and love your site!

  33. My son’s name is also Mazen. Boys names always seem so hard. I loved the name Mason but it seems way too common. So then my mom out of no where says “how about Mazen?” I feel in love with it ♡.

  34. woooow

    my name is MAZEN and i LOVE my name

    it’s more used in eastern cultures(where I’m from) but not that common
    i only know one guy named Mazen even back home.

    however, ur kid is soo pretty and I’m so glad u chose this nice name 🙂

  35. Hello there :), my name is mazen actually and it’s the arabic pronounced mazen, and I have to say that it is quite a rare name amongst arabs as well. My father is spanish and my mother Lebanese so they decided on naming me Mazen Miguel and I have to say that it’s a name only used in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, I would gladly send you a voice note if you would like to hear it’s Arabic pronunciation, the only difference is that in Arabic you wouldn’t pronounce it like Mayzen, it would rather sound like the pronunciation of the Ma of Marla coupled with the zen ending, I don’t know if this helps, anyway, nice choice of a name

  36. you have chosen a very nice name for your beautiful boy.
    my name is Mazen, I am palestinian. I was told the meaning is “the one who praises”.

  37. I just read your story and quite frankly was delighted. You have indeed picked a great name. good luck to Mazen Duke.

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