Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ferelith

ferelith young
Ferelith Young

Ferelith is an intriguing name that seemingly did not survive the medieval period, although a quick search online will reveal it is still used today, albeit rarely, thanks to a revival in the 19th century. Ferelith Ramsay is a prime example of that revival, as is the novel Ferelith written by Victor Hay, who named his own daughter Ferelith (Rosemary Constance Ferelith) a year later. Ferelith Young, the actress pictured above, seems to be the most well known contemporary namesake, while Anne Ferelith Fenella Bowes-Lyon aka Princess Anne of Denmark is another widely known namesake, yet Ferelith is her first middle name. Ferelith can also be spelled Forbhlaith, the Gaelic way, and in which case Ferelith the Countess of Atholl is another namesake. Not much is written about this Ferelith, nor her sister Isabella, nor Ferelith's daughter Ada. While Ferelith married a knight, her sister married an important man of Scotland for the times, which was sometime around 1211 AD. There was also an abbess named Ferelith from the Middle Ages. The name dates back to at least 8th century Ireland, and this abbess may be the source.

Ferelith (FEHR-el-ith, fEH-reh-leeth) means "true sovereignty" in Gaelic, a truly spectacular name for a baby girl when the name was at its most popular. For example, when the Countess of Atholl was living, the author Marie de France was presumably writing her lais, which focused on the female character's point of view (thus making her work stand out) and the main subject of one of Marie's lais was that women desired sovereignty over their own lives, rather than let the husband control their affairs. At a time when Arthurian romances prevailed, this was not a far-fetched idea, but still defied traditional patriarchy standards.

Forflissa and Forveleth are other variants. Ferelith is a character in White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick. Ferelith Hamilton is behind the World Encyclopedia of Dogs. Ferelith Eccles Williams is a book illustrator. Sculptor Ferelyth Wills. Ferelith Lean, performing arts. Supposedly in the Hamilton and Ramsay families, both mentioned above, the second element of Ferelith is taken to mean "princess," from the Gaelic word flaith, therefore the name means "true princess." Worth noting is that the name may not have originally been pronounced the way it is today, and that it probably sounded more like Furla or Forvla. The name in fact may have been a scholarly revival.

1 comment:

  1. I heard of this name through the dog trainer Ferelith Hamilton, and thought it was so pretty (I had her book when I was a little girl).

    One of my baby name books translates it as "perfect princess", which must make it attractive to many parents.

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