29 May 2012


Adel Jord, by Masha MelGender: Masculine
Usage: Hebrew
Meaning: "crown of God"
(approx. cut-rhee-ELL)

כַּתְרִיאֵל (Katri'el) is a traditional Jewish boys' name, probably meaning "crown of God" or "the Crowned Lord". Supposedly it was the name of an angel in Hebrew tradition.

The first element is thought to come from the root of Hebrew כֶּתֶר (kether) meaning "crown, circlet, diadem" ("a symbol of the highest significance in Kabbalah"), and second is the ubiquitous element אֵל ('el) "God". Its meaning is sometimes interpreted as "my crown is God" (or "God is my crown").

Katriel Jaffe, mariner
A notable bearer was Jewish Haganah commando Katriel Jaffe (1909-1941), who was one of 24 casualties in what Israel regards as the first military action of the Israeli army. Commander of an illegal immigrant ship in 1939, Jaffe was killed two years later, aged 31, in "Operation Boatswain": a failed British and Haganah attempt to blow up the oil refinery in Tripoli, "which was channelling oil to Rashid Ali's pro-Nazi regime in Baghdad". A Zionist immigrant ship was named the SS Katriel Jaffe in his honour.

In use since at least the Middle Ages, Katriel may be considered old-fashioned or dated by Israelis today. In Israel, Katriel is ― like most boys' names ― occasionally given to girls.

In the U.S. last year (2011), 5 baby boys were named Katriel compared with 13 girls (which methinks has to do with its similarity to "Katherine"; I wonder, too, how non-Jewish American parents are pronouncing it ― KAY-tree-ull, à la "Gabriel"?).

Other forms of the name include:
  • Catriel, Casriel, Kasriel, Kathriel (alternative transcriptions)
  • Kati (diminutive)
  • Katriela (כתריאלה, a rare strictly feminine variant; pron. kah-trhee-EH-lah)


‘Her chariot ready straight is made’:
frontispiece for a 1906 edn. of Nimphidia (via)
Gender: Feminine
Usage: Graeco-Roman, Literary
Meaning: "bride"
(Eng. nim-FID-ee-a)

Only slightly more wearable than Nymphadora, this fantastical name is a mouthful, but so much fun.

Nymphidia is attested as an ancient Greek name (Νυμφιδία); it literally meant "of a bride, bridal" in Classical Greek, and appears to have been a genitive form of the feminine name Νύμφη (Nymphē; Latin: Nympha) meaning "bride, young wife".

The masculine form was Νυμφίδιος (Nymphidios), Latinized as Nymphidius, which was borne by a Roman officer who acted in the final conspiracy against Nero. Nymphidius Sabinus was the son of a former slave named Nymphidia, who had been a mistress of Emperor Caligula. After Nero's suicide, Nymphidius tried to have himself declared Emperor, but was killed by his own soldiers.

The extended form Nymphidianus was also used as a name. It belonged to a sophist-Neoplatonist of the 4th century AD.

It's worth noting that the source of this name, Greek nymphe "bride", later developed the meaning of "beautiful young woman", then "semi-divine being in the form of a beautiful maiden" (the one we English-speakers are familiar with), which is why nymphidia translates differently in Modern Greek ― not as "relating to brides", but "nymphet".

iiIt was in this "little nymph" sense of the name that the poet Michael Drayton used it in his fantasy epic Nimphidia (1627). The eponymous fairy Nimphidia is an attendant on Queen Mab who tells the poet everything that happens at Mab's court. (Drayton, a friend of Shakespeare, is also credited with coining the term nymphet.)

Nymphidia is also found in the scientific names of several butterflies, including the Columbine (Stiboges nymphidia).

To slim down this extravagant appellation, there's nickname potential in Nydia, Nia, Fidda and Nym, even Nimfy or Pixie. (Nimue is too far of a stretch, right?)

22 May 2012


mayflowersGender: Feminine
Usage: Albanian
Meaning: “born in May”

This pretty May name from the Balkans consists of two elements: maj — simply the Albanian name for the month of May, combined with some derivative of the verb lind “to bear (child), give birth to.”

(The second element makes her a relative of Lindita, meaning “the day is born,” Mirlinda “well born,” Rilinda “born again” and Arlinda “born of gold.”)

Dr. Majlinda Bregu (born 19 May 1974) is Albania’s photogenic Minister of European Integration (she says: “Albania has a strong European perspective and clearly sees its future as a member of the EU”).

Other forms include:
  • Majlindë (a variant)
  • Majlind, Majlindi (masculine)

  1. BabyNames.ch


A devoção Gender: Feminine
Usage: Brazilian
Meaning: “appeared”

Aparecida is taken from the Brazilian Portuguese title of the Virgin Mary Nossa Senhora Aparecida meaning “Our Lady Who Appeared.” It is ultimately derived from the Latin verb apparere “to appear, come in sight, make an appearance” (itself from the elements ad- “to” + parere “to come forth, be visible”).

Aparecida is, first and foremost, the name of a statue, which gave its name to the church containing it and eventually to the village that grew up around the church.

19 May 2012


Witold Pruszkowski, 'Falling Star', 1884
The Greek feminine name Astero (Αστέρω), pron. “ah-STEH-ro,” literally means “the stars.”

It was used for the beautiful title heroine of a 1929 silent film, a Greek melodrama inspired by the Hollywood blockbuster Ramona (1928). Set in a remote mountain village sometime in the 19th century, it tells the story of an orphan girl smitten by her adoptive brother (Thymios) but made to marry a rich shepherd instead; in desperation she runs away, telling herself that she’ll “marry the sky & the stars & the darkness.” When news of her disappearance reaches her foster father his heart is softened, & eventually he & his son retrieve Astero, traumatized & incoherent, from a mountain cave; soon afterward Thymios sings a folksong that returns Astero to her senses & the young sweethearts are wed.

This “foustanella classic” was remade 30 years later with screen icon Aliki Vougiouklaki in the title role. The 1959 version of Astero (French: Astéro) was hugely successful.

Aliki Vougiouklaki as a lovelorn Astero, 1959
Astero’s Greek nameday is 7th August, which it shares with Asteris (Αστέρης), presumably its masculine form, as well as the related names Asterini (Αστερινή), Astrini (Αστρινή), & the male names Asterios (Αστέριος), Asterinos (Αστερινός) & Astrinos (Αστρινός).

Naturally it is also a close relative of the mythology names Asteria (used by Edmund Spenser in the anglicized form Astery (“AS-tər-ee”) for a nymph turned into a butterfly in his 1591 poem Muiopotmus; or, the Fate of the Butterfly), Astraea (which Aphra Behn adopted as a pen name; I like the French Astrée) & Astris (Greek: Αστρης; belonging to a star-nymph), as well as the modern English coinages Astra & (botanical) Aster (& its Hebrew form Astera).

Potential nicknames for this strong ‘ends-in-O’ choice include Astroula (Greek: Αστρούλα; pron. “ah-STROO-lah”), Asta & Astaire (kidding).

15 May 2012


Anne-Marie Zilberman: Larme d'Or (Tears of Gold)
Vanadís (“VAW-naw-dees”), one of the names of the Norse goddess Freya, was apparently given to Viking girls.

In the 13th-century Prose Edda, Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturlusson made this mention of it:
Óðr went away on long journeys, & Freya [his wife] weeps for him, & her tears are red gold. Freya has many names, & this is the cause thereof: that she gave herself sundry names, when she went out among unknown peoples seeking Óðr: she is called Mardöll (“Sea-Shining”) & Hörn (“Lady of Flax”), Gefn (“the Giving”), Sýr (“the Sow,” “the Protector”). Freya had the golden necklace Brísingamen (“flaming necklace”). She is also called Vanadís (“Lady of the Vanir”).


Its second element is the popular name suffix dís meaning “goddess.” The first element, Vana, means “of the Vanir” (= the tribe of Norse gods who are associated with fertility as opposed to the more warlike Æsir), & since Freya is the goddess of beauty, it is sometimes linked to Swedish väna “fair, beautiful.”


  • A chemical element, vanadium (V), takes its name from hers — maybe because its reddish ore vanadinite evokes the gold/amber tears that the love goddess sheds, pining for her absent husband.
  • There is also an asteroid named in her honor.
  • Vanadis is the eponymous heroine of German writer Isolde Kurz’s “great tragic novel” (1931).
  • Ásdís, currently Iceland’s 34th most popular female name, is a sort of counterpart of Vanadís, since it has as its first element Old Norse Ás, the singular form of Æsir, & thus could be interpreted as meaning “goddess of the Æsir” (perhaps a reference to Frigg).