Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ursula

Ursa_Major2


Disney kind of did it wrong. When picking a name for a sea-witch, a name that means "little she-bear" seems a bit ridiculous for a character that lives underwater.

Like the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, which mean "she-bear," these are the feminine Latin diminutives of Ursus, "bear." Both Ursa Major and Ursa minor have unique stories from several different cultures. Ursula (Ursa too) is a girl's name most do not consider using today, but one that is rich with history and culture.

Saint Ursula of the 4th century was a virgin princess of Britain whose popularity during the Middle Ages may have increased the name's usage. Her [now accepted as fictional] tale says that she sailed with 11,000 virgin handmaidens to meet her future husband, but when a storm brought them to their destination in just a day she decided to on a pilgrimage around Europe with the pope and bishop. They soon arrived in Cologne, all 11,003 of them, where the town was being raided by Huns. I. The end all of the virgins were killed, Ursula specifically being shot with an arrow. It is unclear what happened to the pope and bishop. Saint Ursula has been a very popular subject of paintings throughout history. A little known fact is that Christopher Columbus named the Virgin Islands after Saint Ursula and her handmaidens, and later Ferdinand Magellan named Cape Vigenes after the virgins.

Saint Ursula Ledochowska came later. Born in Austria to a Count and Countess, her birth name was Julia Maria. She founded the Congregation of the Ursulines of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus. Two of her other accomplishments were starting an orphanage, and starting a home for female university students.

Author Ursula K. Le Guin is known for her fantasy novels, one of which - Tales From Earthsea, was made into an animated film by Studio Ghibli.

Actress Ursula Andress was a gorgeous Swiss-American 60's movie star known for her roles in "Dr. No," "Casino Royale," and later in 1981 she was in "Clash of the Titans." A few other actresses have been named Ursula.

Ursa was also one of the bad guys in Superman II, but in the newer versions her name is Faora. In Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing there was a character named Ursula. Ursula has also been a name used by Honore de Balzac, J. K. Rowling, Sheila Lavelle, and a few TV shows and other stories.

Ursula has several variant forms, including Orsola, Orsolya, Orsina, Orsa, Ursa, Ursulina, Ursuline, Ursola, Ursella, Urselina, Usulie, Ursie, Urska, Urszola and Urszuli. Ursula is related to the even more rare Ursinia, which includes Ursina, and is the botanical name of the "solar fire" plant, Ursinia anthemoides, which looks like an orange daisy. Ursinia is a variant of Ursula, created by botanist Joseph Gaertner in honor of Johann Heinrich Ursinus who lived in the 1600's. The boy's name Orson also means "bear."

I would immediately blame Ursula's decline in popularity on Disney's "The Little Mermaid," except that movie came out in 1989 and Ursula was already on a downward slope. In 1983 Ursula ranked at #984 and has not been back on the SSA list since. Before her disappearance Ursula had been given since at least the 1880's in the U.S., with high points in the early 1900's and the late 60's/early 70's. Currently Ursula is given to less than 30 baby girls a year, at its lowest point since the 1880's.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Branwen vs Bronwen vs Bronwyn & Branwyn

First things first: a -wyn ending to a name in Welsh means it is a boy name, while a -wen ending means it is a girl name. So if you're looking for a name for your baby girl, whether it be Branwen or Ceridwen or Tanwen, make sure you take this into consideration. Very few people outside of Wales and the surrounding area will know the difference, but now you do.

Secondly, Branwen is pronounced BRAHN-wen (not BRANN-wen) and Bronwen is pronounced BROHN-wen depending on your accent.

Third, both Branwen and Bronwen have their own respective meanings. Branwen means "white, blessed raven," while Bronwen means "fair, blessed breast (breast not necessarily meaning boobs - chest works as well, or, alternatively, the heart which lay beneath the breast)."

They also have their own respective histories. Branwen in legend was the daughter of Llyr in the "Mabinogi," tales from Welsh mythology. She is known as the most beautiful girl in the land and turns out to be a great ruler. Branwen also features as a character in Madeleine L'Engle books. Bronwen, on the other hand, is not a mythology name. Instead it has been used on a few Canadian, Irish and English namesakes, and has been a given name for quite some time.

Branwen happens to be more rare than Bronwen. As it has only really been around (in the US) for the last decade, Branwen has only been used a handful of times, but Bronwen has been used since at least the 1940's, never used more than 25 times in a year, not being used some years at all. Obviously the difference in how rare isn't much, but if you're torn between both spellings then this might help out.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kyria, Kyrie, and Kyrian

Kyria, the unisex Kyrie and the boy's name Kyrian are variants of the Greek girl's name Kyra, which currently ranks at #401 (in decline). They each mean "lord" in Greek but have a connection to ancient Persian and Egyptian in which they referred to the sun god Ra. The Greeks connected their word for lord to the Persian name for king, Kourosh (equivalent to Cyrus and possibly Cyril), which meant "throne." Several Persian kings were named Cyrus. In Egyptian, Ki-Ra meant "like Ra," or like the sun. There is no ancient connection to the word valkyrie, although if you were to name a daughter Valkyrie there is no sound reason to not nickname her Kyrie.

Kyria (KEER-ee-uh, and less often KY-ree-uh) is a variant of the popular girl's name Kyra. The spelling Kyria specifically means "noblewoman, respectable lady" and has been a Greek title of respect for women, much like "madam" or "miss." Kyrios was the male version of this title. It is a very rare name, with less than 40 girls given the name annually. The "Electa Kyria" was the second epistle of John in the Bible, and the woman to whom it is adressed is thought to be a noble woman from Syria who John cared for, I believe as a friend. She was considered humble and intelligent.

Kyrie (KEER-ee-ay, less often KUR-ee-ay or KY-ree) means "lord," and it has only ranked in the US top 1000 for two years now on the boy's side, rising quickly from #868 in 2012 to #590 in 2013. It does not currently rank for girls, but there are over a hundred born each year. During mass "kyrie eleison" are the only Greek words spoken, and they mean "Lord have mercy."

The boy's name Kyrian (KEER-ee-an, less often KY-ree-an) is the male variant of these names, and a more modern-boy look to the title "kyrios." There is a character named Kyrian that was created by author Sherrilyn Kenyon. As mentioned above, Cyrus (Ciro, too) is another Greek boys name meaning "lord," from the same origin.

Kira is also taken to be a variant of Kyra, although Kyra is sometimes said "KY-rah," not "KEER-uh." Kira in Russian is taken from the masculine Kir, and means "mistress, ruler." Kira is also a Japanese name.

There are towns named Kyra in both Cyrus, Greece and Zabaykalsky, Russia.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wendy as a nickname?

Sure! If Wendelina (wen-dell-EE-nah) is your style. Its similarity to Gwendolen and Wilhelmina make it approachable. If the female variants are too much for you, perhaps Wendel would be better. But since Wendy, a name invented by J.M. Barrie for Peter Pan, currently ranks at #703, the idea of using it as a nickname might appeal to those who don't want something so common. And although Wendy is sometimes used as a nickname for Gwendolyn, Wend- names get straight to the point.

Wendelina is the super rare feminine counterpart to Wendel. She is a German and Swedish name meaning "wanderer" in Old High German. Wendela, Wendeliena, Wendelin and Wendeline are other female Scandinavian variants of the name, although Wendelin is used as a boys name as well, as in the case of Saint Wendelin.

Saint Wendelin of Trier was a hermit and abbot, the son of a Scottish king, who made a pilgrimage to Rome. He founded the Benedictine Abbey of Tholey in Saarland, Germany. When he died a chapel was built over his grave and soon after the town of Sankt Wendel formed around it. He is now patron saint of herdsmen and country folk, and is still venerated in that part of Germany as well as the countryside of Austria and Switzerland.

Wendelin has also been used as a surname, as in the case of Flemish astronomer Godefroy Wendelin, though it is rare. Wendelin Weissheimer is another namesake - he was a 19th century German composer.

Wendell (WEHN-del, WIN-del)  is much more common, seen as a surname and given name in America, Sweden and Germany. Perhaps the most well known namesakes are Wendell Berry, an American novelist known for writing Hannah Coulter as well as nonfiction and poetry, and Wendell Meredith Stanley, a Nobel prize winning biochemist. This name has not been popular since about the time Wendell Wilkie ran for president in 1940. Windell, Wyndell and Wendel are alternate spellings.

The only Wendelina I can dig up with my limited resources is the wife of Sir Mark Collet, a 1st Baronet, merchant and Governor of the Bank of England in the 1880's. However, there were several notable women named Wendela. Vendela (Wendela) Skytte was a Swedish noblewomen who some use as an example of a well educated woman from history; Wendela Gustafva Sparre was a Swedish textile artist and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts; Wendela Hebbe was considered the first professional female journalist in Sweden.

All of the female variants are too rare to rank, and not commonly used. Wendella does not seem to be a used spelling, but two L's would make the pronunciation different from Wendela, where the stress is on the first syllable.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ermintrude, Irma, or Trudy?

The Old Germanic girl's name Ermintrude has a meaning that can be interpreted a few different ways. This ancient and archaic name comes from irm/erm, meaning "entire," and either traut, meaning "beloved," or thruth, meaning "strength." From this the total meaning could be "entirely loved," or "entire strength." However, it is possible the name refers to Ermen, the Germanic god of war, and thus her meaning would be "Ermen's maiden." Her name can also be spelled a handful of other ways, including Ermentrude, Ermyntrude, Ermentraude, and other variants with an I replacing the first E. Ermengard (Irmingard) is another variant meaning "whole enclosure." Ermintrude was used occasionally until the 19th century.

There are two Ermintrudes you should know about. The first is Ermentrude of Orleans, Queen of the Franks and wife to Holy Roman Emperor / King of West Francia. (Interestingly, her mother was named Engeltrude.) She and her husband Charles had ten children. The second Ermintrude is actually Erminethrudis, a nun from Merovingian aristocracy, who it seems is most known for leaving us with a will that gives an example of the times. There is also an Ermintrude in Terry Pratchet's novel Nation.

The name Irma, which follows today's 100 year rule since it was most popular in 1911, is simply the first element of Ermintrude (Irmintrude) meaning "entire, universal." It is related to the super popular Emma, being that Emma originally came about as a short form of names like Ermintrude, although Emma didn't really become stable until the Norman conquest. About the time Emma was increasing in use in the 18th century, Ermintrude was dying out. Some may recall Irma was the name of April's best friend in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," and there is an Irma Pince in Harry Potter. Irma is also a character in The Adventures of Tintin. In the 40's Irma gained a little popularity thanks to the radio show, and later television and movie version, "My Friend Irma." Irma featured in a few other places in the 50's and 60's, including the film Irma la Douce. Irma is traditionally pronounced EER-mah in other countries, URR-mah in English speaking countries. Irma last ranked in 1995. Imma and Irmina are two rare variants of Irma.

For those looking for something more modern, Trudy has often been used as a nickname for Ermintrude and Gertrude. It means "strong spear" and could easily work as a vintage revamp today. Trudy is a name most are familiar with, yet it hasn't been in the top 1000 for over a decade. It had an incredible rise and fall - from about 5 girls per year in the late 1800's/early 1900's to almost a thousand per year in the 1940's and 1950's, then back down to less than 20 in 2013. To further make Trudy accessible today, you could further reduce the name to Tru. There have also been several namesakes, including Australian fantasy writer Trudy Canavan, British women's rights activist "'Trudie" Gertrude Denman (a Baroness), and three actresses. In fiction, Trudy appears in many places from Disney Comics to the TV show "Mad Men."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pulcherie

Caesalpinia_pulcherrima
Pulcherrima


The girl's name Pulcherie (POOL-sher-ee) is rare worldwide. See this link for recent French statistics. In ancient times the name was known due to Saint Pulcheria (this spelling pronounced pool-KAY-ree-uh), also known as Roman Empress Aelia Pulcheria. Her name means "beautiful," from the Latin word pulcher, pulchra. From the same root word we get the name of the Caesalpinia pulcherrima, seen above, which is a flower in the family of pea plants and is native to the American tropics such as the West Indies.

Aelia Pulcheria ruled the Roman Empire during the Byzantine Era as regent over her brother, Emperor Theodosius II. She became Augusta and took a vow of chastity but when her brother died Pulcheria married and became Empress. She died three years later, becoming a saint. During her reign she held a great deal of power, including religious influence and patronage/commissions.

While Pulcherie is rare in France it is even more rare in America, with no more than 20 people nationwide named Pulcherie, likewise for Pulcheria.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Orpheus

Jean-Baptiste-Camille_Corot_-_Orphée 
Orphée by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot

Orpheus (or-FEE-us), from Greek mythology, has a sad but beautiful story. His name means "darkness," which is befitting for his tragic story, yet I see him as a role model. The legendary musician, poet and prophet was the founder of Orphism, a religious belief revering those who went to Hades and lived to tell the tale - Persephone was one such person. But Orpheus is most known for going into the underworld with the goal of returning his beloved wife to the land of the living. With his music he was able to convince Hades to let his wife, Eurydice, come back to the land of the living with him. Hades agreed as long as Orpheus led her out without looking back to see her - and Orpheus was able to do so until he reached the last part of their journey, Eurydice still partially in the underworld. Because she was not completely out of the underworld, Orpheus was not able to save her. Orpheus was also well known for being one of the Argonauts, and he helped saved the ship with Jason on it by playing music to combat the songs of the sirens trying to lure the crew to their death. The Classical Age Greeks knew him as the greatest of all poets, and it was said he could charm all living things with his music. A collection of Orphic Hymns (orphic is taken to mean "mystic") still exists, to which he is credited for creating.

Orpheus was used a handful of times throughout the years, never rising past obscurity, and today there could be a few hundred at most. Orfea is the Italian feminine variant, while Orfeo is masculine, both equally rare.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dido

Dido_Elizabeth_Belle
Dido Elizabeth Belle

Dido is a name with deep historical roots. 

The Queen of Carthage who Virgil wrote about in the Aeneid was also known as Elissa, meaning "queen." She was written about by other Roman historians as well but their works have been lost. Elissa/Dido of Carthage may have originated as a goddess, however, if her brother Pygmalion (not to be confused with the one in the story with Galatea) was a real person as some evidence claims, then she may have been as well. In Virgil's story, Dido commits suicide when she can no longer be with Aeneas whom she loves. She later appears in several operas and dramas.

The most recently talked about Dido is Dido Elizabeth Belle, daughter of John Lindsay and a slave woman from the West Indies. Dido was later taken by her father from the West Indies where she was born to live with the Earl of Mansfield, Lindsay's uncle, and she lived there for 30 years until marrying John Davinier. It is perhaps because of his love for Dido that her uncle, who was Lord Chief Justice, ruled in two slavery cases that resulted in the end of slavery in England. There is a recent (2013) movie about her so I will not spoil any other details.

Dido may also refer to a stunning butterfly called Philaethria dido, an asteroid, and a British singer.

There are extremely few women in the US named Dido - probably under a hundred.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Odin

Odin_(Manual_of_Mythology)


Because most of the world is familiar with the Norse/ancient Germanic god Odin, father of the uber-famous Thor (thanks to the new movies), this could be an easily wearable baby name for a boy today. His name means "fury," and he is known as "The Furious One," father of the gods in the Norse pantheon. His name means many other things, when also taken from Old English, such as "mind," and "poetry."

As ruler of Asgard, a place many are familiar with because of modern media such as Marvel comics and even "The Witches of  East End" (book and TV), Odin was responsible or attributed to many things, such as war, victory, death, wisdom, magic and poetry. He was written about by Adam of Bremen, the Sagas of Icelanders, Gesta Danorum, and in the Poetic Edda. He has three familiars (magical animals tied to him) - Sleipnir the eight-legged horse, and the pair of ravens named Huginn and Muninn (thought and memory). Some of Odin's traditions, beliefs and folklore still exist.

Wednesday is named after Odin from his Western name, Woden, as an early Germanic translation of Mercury's Day - an effort to combine or compare Roman gods to the gods of other cultures.

Odin has ranked on the US popularity charts since 2008 when it ranked very low at #984. In 2013 it rose to #573, and one can assume it will continue becoming more popular.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Quitterie

This French saint name, pronouned KEY-tehr-ee (said very fast in native tongue), is lively and upbeat. Unsurprisingly, this girl's name means "quiet," from Latin quietus. This French spelling is a variant of Quiteria (key-TAY-ree-uh), known as the 5th century virgin martyr who had her own cult. She is known as Quiteira (key-TERR-uh) in Occitan. It is possible the true origin of her name is from Kythere, meaning "the red one," which was another title of the Phoenician goddess Astarte, or it could be from Cytherea, another name of Aphrodite, which is associated with the island Kythira.

Legend has it Quitterie was the daughter of a Galician prince who disobeyed her father, refusing to marry. She suffered the same fate as her sister Liberate - both were captured and beheaded for refusing to renounce Christianity. There is a church in Aire-sur-l'Adour, France devoted to her. Santa Quiteria in Brazil is also named for her.

In Portuguese religious tradition, however, Quiteria was the leader of the "Nine Nonuplet Sisters," Eumelia (Euphemia), Genebra (Ginevra), Vitoria (Victoria), Liberata (Virgeforte), Marica, Basilissa (Vasilisa), Germana, and Gema (Margarida). The tale is very similar to that of Saint Marina from Galicia. I am uncertain why it was such a bad thing, but the mother of these girls was so disgusted that she had nine children at one time that she ordered a maid to drown them in a nearby river. The maid did not follow orders and eventually the girls met their father as adults, but when they refused to marry who he wanted them to he locked them up in a tower. They were able to free themselves as well as all the other prisoners, and then a guerilla war started. In the end, Quitterie was caught and beheaded, while her sister Euphemia ran off a cliff away from soldiers.

Quitterie and her variant spellings remain rare worldwide (see here for French information). White Pages tells us there are about 4 women in the US named Quitterie, and 44 named Quiteria.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wycliff

Alternatively spelled Wycliffe, the Old English boy's name Wycliff (WY-clif) means "white cliff." Originating as a place name and surname, one of the first recorded spellings of the name was Witclive, and the title belonged to an old village that dates back to at least 1086. Other spellings over time include Wyclif, Wiclef, Wicliffe, Wickliffe and Wyclef.

One of the most famous namesakes was John Wycliffe (1320 - 1384), a Protestant reformer known for translating the Bible into English (which is now known as the Wycliffe Bible). He had his own group of followers called Lollards, while Lollardy was a political and religious movement that started in the middle of the 14th century and continued into the English Reformation. Wycliffe was a very well educated man associated with more than one college/university.

Wyclef Jean is a rap singer born in Haiti.
Wycliff Gordon is an American jazz musician and music educator.
Wycliffe Well is the "UFO Capital of Australia."
Wycliff Palu is an Australian rugby footballer.

There are approximately 85 people in the U.S. with their first name spelled Wycliff, 239 spelled Wycliffe, 12 Wyclif, 3 Wyclife, and 6 Wyclef.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ailova

Ailova (EYE-low-vah, alternately AY-low-vah) is a stunning Old English name meaning "noble love" from Aðellufu. The components are the common Old English Ædel, meaning "noble," and Old English lufu, meaning "love." Spellings (sounds) such as Ailofa or Ailufa could be found as well, since not all names had an accepted spelling or were written down at all. It is not to be confused with Elgiva, meaning "noble gift" or "elf gift." It is possible Ailova can be found in the Domesday Book, although it might be under a variant spelling. Ailova is too rare of a girl's baby name to rank, and there are no people with this name in current records, although a Google search reveals there might be some world-wide.

Source A