The many forms of Magdalena

The Repentant Magdalen, Philippe de Champaigne, 1648

Some people express surprise the name Magdalena, so popular for so long in Europe and parts of Latin America, isn’t particularly common in the Anglophone world. It is, but the onomastic connection may not be so immediately obvious. English-speakers know this name as Madeline.

Magdalena, used in German, Dutch, Romanian, Spanish, Catalan, the Scandinavian languages, Occitan, the Southern Slavic languages, Polish, and English; Czech, Slovak, Hungarian (as Magdaléna); Latvian (as Magdalēna); and Icelandic (as Magðalena), comes from the Latin Magdalene. That in turn derives from a title meaning “of Magdala.” Magdala is a village on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kineret), meaning “tower” in Hebrew.

Though nothing in the Bible calls Mary Magdalene a prostitute, she’s historically been conflated with Mary of Bethany and an unnamed “sinful woman” who anoints Jesus’s feet in Luke 7:36–50. Since the Middle Ages, this apocryphal story has snowballed, and many people still think she was a prostitute, decades after this misinformation was officially corrected.

Painted ca. 1520–40, by a group of Flemish artists retroactively named Master with the Parrot

Magdalena is #20 in Austria; #31 in Poland; and #65 in the Czech Republic (#33 as Magdaléna). The English form, Madeline, was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1994–2016. Its highest rank to date was #50 in 1998.

It’s rather depressing to see the kreatyv spylyng Madelyn is much more popular, Top 100 since 2008. In 2017, it was #63. If you’ve been paying attention to name popularity charts over the last 20 years, it’s obvious this name has become so trendy because it sounds similar to the massively overused Madison, and still produces the overused nickname Maddie. It’s like how Jessica replaced Jennifer, and Emma, Amelia, and Amalia have successively replaced Emily.

Danish artist Magdalene Bärens, 1737–1808

Other forms of the name include:

1. Madeleine is French, and used to be extraordinarily popular. It was Top 10 from 1900–27, with the highest rank of #3 from 1914–24. It remained in the Top 20 till 1938, was in the Top 50 till 1947, and in the Top 100 till 1955. This name is also #78 in Australia.

2. Magdalina is Russian and Bulgarian.

3. Magdolna is Hungarian. It’s unreal how many times this name pops up in the interviews from the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive! If the witness isn’t named Magda herself, her testimony includes at least one friend or relative named Magda. Lili is also a hugely oversaturated name in these interviews. The name is still Top 20 in modern Hungary.

4. Maddalena is Italian.

5. Mădălina is Romanian.

6. Matleena is Finnish.

7. Madailéin is Irish.

8. Maialen is Basque.

9. Magdalini is modern Greek.

10. Magali is Occitan.

Titanic survivor Madeleine Astor, 1893–1940

11. Madalena is Portuguese.

12. Magdaleena is Finnish.

13. Madli is Estonian.

14. Maguelone is Provençal and a rare French variant.

15. Malane is Manx.

16. Matxalen is Basque.

17. Maclaina is Romansh.

18. Madalen is Breton and Basque.

19. Madlena is Sorbian, as well as a Georgian, Bulgarian, German, and Croatian variant.

20. Madlaina is Swiss–German and Romansh.

Madeleine Brès (1842–1921), first Frenchwoman to earn a medical degree

21. Madelena is Medieval Spanish and Portuguese.

22. Magdalin is Medieval German.

23. Magdaline is Creole. Another Creole form is Magdaleine.

24. Matale is Basque.

25. Mátalîna is Greenlandic.

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The Ms of Medieval names

Female:

Madiana (Italian)

Madolina (Italian): Probably a form of Magdalena.

Madore (Italian)

Madrona (Spanish, Catalan): “Lady,” from Latin word matrona.

Magnifica (Italian): “Magnificent, excellent, splendid.”

Malmfred (Scandinavian)

Malore (Italian)

Marquessa (Spanish): “Marquise,” from Old French marchis and markis. The ultimate root is the Old High German word marka (fortified area along a border; march).

Marsibilia (Italian)

Mascarose (Occitan)

Massaria (Italian)

Massipa (Judeo–Catalan): Derived from Christian Catalan surname Massip/Macip, from Latin word mancipium (learner, servant, younger).

Maymuna (Moorish Arabic): “Blessed, prosperous, thriving.”

Melior (English): “Better,” from a Latin word with that meaning. The modern form is Meliora.

Melisende (French): Form of Millicent, derived from Ancient Germanic name Amalasuintha. Its roots are amal (labour, work) and swinth (strong).

Memorantia (English and Dutch): “Remembering,” from the Latin word.

Merewen, Merwenn, Merewynn (English): “Famous joy,” from Old English name Mærwynn. Its roots are mær (famous) and wynn (joy).

Merilda (English): Form of Old English name Mærhild.

Midonia (Italian)

Militsa (Slavic): “Gracious,” from root milu. It was originally a nickname for names beginning in Mil-. Its modern form is Milica (Slovenian, Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian).

Mirea (Judeo–Catalan): “Myrrh,” from Ladino (Judeo–Spanish) mira; a variation of popular Catalan name Mira (notable); or a nickname for Miriam,

Mireti (Moorish Arabic)

Miriana (English)

Munisa (Arabic): This is also a modern Uzbek, Bosnian, and Tajik name.

Muscata (Italian): “Nutmeg.”

Mutayyam (Moorish Arabic): “Captive of love.”

Muzna (Moorish Arabic): “Cloud, rain.”

Male:

Mechislav (Slavic): “Sword of glory,” from roots mechi and slava. The modern form is Mieczysław (Polish). The original form is a rare modern Russian name. Like all names ending in -slav, -mir, and -mil, it can become a female name by adding an A to the end.

Merkel (Silesian–German): Nickname for Markward, which ultimately descends from Ancient Germanic name Marcaward. Its roots are Celtic marca and Old High German marah (horse), or marka (border), and Old High German wart (guard).

Metfried (German): From roots maht (strength, might) and frid (peace).

Mezamir (Slavic): “Great boundary,” “Boundary of peace,” or “Boundary of the world,” from a Proto–Slavic root meaning “limit, boundary, landmark” (which evolved into Old Church Slavonic mežda), and mer (famous, great) or mir (peace, world).

Milogost (Slavic): “Gracious guest,” from roots milu (dear, gracioius) and gosti. The modern form is Miłogost (Polish).

Miqueu (Occitan): Form of Michael (Who is like God?). This is also the modern Gascon form.

Mundi (Swedish and Norman): Nickname for Old Norse Agmundr, derived from elements ag (edge of a sword) or agi (terror, awe), and mundr (protection).

Mundir (Moorish Arabic): “Cautioner, warner.”

Munio (Basque): The feminine form was Munia.

Mundzuk (Turkic): Possibly “bead, jewel,” from root mončuq.

Violet names

Violet Jessop (1887–1971), survivor of the sinking of the Titanic and Brittanic, and a collision of the Olympic, the oldest of the three sister ships

Violet is one of many formerly unfashionable names which has seen a stunning vault up the charts in recent years. It entered the U.S. Top 100 in 1901, at #91, and attained its highest rank of #74 in 1919. It slowly descended the chart, and fell out in 1972. In 1973, it returned at #926, but fell out again in 1975. Violet came back in 1981–82, and didn’t enter again till 1998.

In 2016, it had jumped quite a bit to become #47. The name seems to still be rising. It’s even more popular in Canada (#32), New Zealand (#44), and Australia (#43). It’s also popular in England and Wales (#65) and Scotland (#94).

Other forms of the name, and names whose meanings relate to the word “violet,” include:

1. Violette is French.

2. Violetta is Russian, Italian, and Hungarian. The alternate form Víóletta is Icelandic.

3. Violeta is Spanish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Serbian, and Macedonian.

4. Wioletta is Polish.

5. Wioleta is an alternate Polish form.

6. Ibolya (EE-bo-yah) is Hungarian.

7. Vjollca is Albanian.

8. Violetë is also Albanian.

9. Viola is English, Italian, German, Czech, Hungarian, and Scandinavian. The alternate form Víóla is Icelandic and Faroese.

10. Wiola is Polish.

U.S. artist Violet Oakley (1874–1961)

11. Iole is Greek.

12. Violante is Italian.

13. Yolande is French, and may be derived from Violante.

14. Yolanda is Spanish and English.

15. Jolanda is Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Croatian.

16. Jolana is Czech and Slovak.

17. Iolanda is Romanian, Italian, and Portuguese.

18. Jolanta is Polish and Lithuanian. One of the Polish nicknames is Jola.

19. Ljubica can mean “little violet” in Serbian and Croatian, in addition to “little love.”

20. Ione means “violet flower” in Greek.

French ballerina and choreographer Violette Verdy, née Nelly Armande-Guillerm (1933–2016)

21. Sigalit means “violet flower” in Hebrew.

22. Sigal means “violet, purple” in Hebrew.

23. Iolanthe is Greek and English, and means “violet flower.” Given the spelling and sound, its creation was doubtless influenced by Yolanda.

24. Ianthe means “violet flower” in Greek.

25. Calfuray is Mapuche, an indigenous language spoken in Argentina and Chile.

26. Banafsha, or Benafsha. is Persian.

27. Banovsha is Azeri.

28. Fioled is Welsh.

29. Fjóla is Icelandic and Faroese.

30. Ia is Greek and Georgian.

U.S. silent actor Viola Dana (1897–1987)

31. Kalili is a type of Hawaiian violet.

32. Manishag is Armenian.

33. Manoushag is also Armenian.

34. Manushaqe is Albanian.

35. Menekşe is Turkish.

36. Shouka can mean “violet sun fragrance” in Japanese.

37. Sumika can mean “violet summer,” “violet poetry,” “violet song,” “violet mist,” “violet river,” “violet air,” and “violet sky” in Japanese.

The many forms of Mary, and its plethora of nicknames

The Umileniye (Tenderness) ikon, believed to show Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, before which the popular St. Serafim of Sarov, Russia was fond of praying

Mary, the #1 female name in the U.S. from 1880–1946, #2 from 1947–52, #1 again from 1953–61, #2 again from 1962–65, in the Top 10 until 1971, and in the Top 20 until 1975, now positively feels like a breath of fresh air and an original choice after falling to #127.

This historically most common of all female names, across many languages, likewise was #1 for many years in Canada and other parts of the Anglophone world, but has now either fallen off the charts or diminished greatly in popularity.

Mary is to older generations what Jennifer is to my generation—you’ve known too many to count, since the name was so ubiquitous. (On a side note, I honestly can’t think of a single bad Jennifer I’ve ever known or known of. I have universally good associations with the name.)

This name has such a sweet simplicity, works well on all ages, and isn’t associated with just one type of girl or woman. It’s a truly timeless classic, borne by so many incredible women throughout history. Though I’m not Christian, I also find the image of Mary as a loving, universal mother figure very touching.

Mary Pickford, one of my favourite female actors of the silent era, and one of the most powerful women in Hollywood in her day

Other forms of this venerable name include:

1. Maria is German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Scandinavian, Catalan, Occitan, Dutch, Faroese, Basque, Sardinian, Corsican, Finnish, Romanian, Polish, Greek, Frisian, and English. Nicknames include Mitzi, Mia, Ria, Marita, Maja, Mariele, Meike, Mareike (German); Mariella, Marietta, Mimi (Italian); Mariona, Ona (Catalan); Mariazinha (Portuguese); Marzena, Maja, Marylka, Marika, Mania, Marysia, Marynia (Polish); Majken, Mia, My, Maja, Maiken (Scandinavian); Maike, Mareike (Frisian); Miep, Mies, Mieke, Ria, Mia, Meike, Marita, Mariska, Marike, Maaike, Marieke, Marijke, Mariëlle, Mariëtte (Dutch); Marietta, Marika (Greek); Marjatta, Maritta, Marika, Marita, Maarika, Marjukka, Marjut (Finnish); and Maia (Basque).

The alternate form María is Icelandic (nickname Mæja), Spanish (nicknames Marita, Maritza), and Galician (nickname Maruxa). Mária is Hungarian (nicknames Mariska, Marika, Marietta, Mari, Marica) and Slovak (nicknames Maja, Marika).

2. Marie is French and Czech. The Czech name pronounces the last two letters separately instead of as one. Nicknames include Marise, Manon, Marielle, Mariette, Marion (French) and Maja, Marika, Madlenka, Maruška, Mařenka, Majka, Máňa, Mánička, Márinka (Czech).

The awesome Queen Marie of Romania

3. Mariya is Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian. Nicknames include Manya, Masha, Marusya, Manyechka, Manyenka, Marusha, and Mashenka.

4. Mari is Breton, Welsh, Finnish, Estonian, and Scandinavian. Estonian nicknames include Maarika, Marika, and Mare.

5. Miriam is the original Hebrew form.

6. Mirjam is Hungarian, Dutch, German, Slovenian, Estonian, and Finnish. Nicknames include Miri (Hungarian) and Jaana, Mirja (Finnish).

7. Mariam is Armenian and Georgian.

8. Maryam is Arabic and Persian.

9. Mariami is Georgian.

10. Maryya is Belarusian.

Empress Maria Theresa

11, Meryem is Uyghur and Turkish.

12. Maryamu is Hausa, a Chadic language spoken in much of Western Africa.

13. Marja is Sorbian, Finnish, and Dutch. The alternate form Márjá is Sami.

14. Marija is Latvian, Lithuanian, Slovenian, Serbian, Macedonian, and Croatian. Nicknames include Mojca, Marica, Maja, Maša, and Mare.

15. Mele is Hawaiian and Samoan.

16. Mere is Maori.

17. Moirrey is Manx.

18. Màiri is Scottish.

19. Mair is Welsh.

20. Máire is Irish. Nicknames include Máirin and Mairenn.

Grand Duchess Mariya Nikolayevna of Russia, third daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Aleksandra

21. Miren is Basque.

22. Maarja is Estonian.

23. Malia is Hawaiian.

24. Mirjami is Finnish.

25. Marij is West Frisian and Dutch.

26. Miriama is Fijian and Maori.

27. Mareia is Romansh.

28. Mariamu is Swahili.

29. Maryat is Chechen.

30. Maryja is Vilamovian.

When Y replaces I

Another of my favourite onomastic letter swaps is that of I for Y. This occurs in many Polish and Ukrainian names, and is an easy way to spot a Polish name in particular. I also love when this switch occurs at the beginning of a name. It’s so unexpected, and really adds a special something to make a name truly stand out. When Y occurs as the first letter, it tends to be in older Spanish and French names, though a few are also Dutch and Scandinavian.

Some fellow name nerds, who often act more like name snobs, might think this looks illiterate and/or like a kreatyv spylyng, but that attitude just reveals how narrow their view is. A legitimate spelling variation may have been chosen because the parents wanted to honour their ethnic heritage or a particular person by that name. Perhaps they also just liked how it looked.

Besides, many of these names aren’t exactly in the Top 100. I don’t think anyone choosing them, in any spelling, is trying to be trendy.

Female:

Albertyna

Augustyna

Beatrycze is the only female Polish name ending in E.

Benedykta

Brygida

Cecylia

Celestyna

Edyta

Ernestyna

Eryka

Felicyta

Florentyna

Fryderyka

Geraldyna

Halyna

Henryka

Iryna

Izydora, Isydora

Judyta

Justyna

Kateryna, Katarzyna, Kataryna

Klarysa

Klementyna

Krystyna, Khrystyna, Krystiana

Larysa

Lucyna

Marharyta

Martyna

Maryna

Matylda

Mykhayla, Mykhaila

Myroslava

Otylia

Patrycja

Rozyna

Sybilla

Sydonia

Ulryka

Valentyna, Walentyna

Vasylyna

Władysława

Ydoya is a variant of the Spanish Idoya, which may mean “pond” in Basque.

Ygraine is a variant of Igraine, King Arthur’s mother. It was used in the BBC series Merlin (2008–12).

Ylane

Yleana

Ylenia

Ylse

Ymbjørg is a regional Norwegian form of Ingeborg, which means “Ing saves/helps/rescues.”

Ynez, Ynes, Ynès

Yngva

Yngveig

Yngvil, Yngvill (Ing’s battle)

Yngvör, Yngvor (Ing’s spring)

Ysabeau

Ysabella

Ysabelle, Ysabel, Ysbal

Ysabet

Ysaline

Ysanda

Ysanne

Ysemay

Ysentrud means “iron strength” in Ancient Germanic.

Yseult, Ysolt, Yseut

Ysidra

Ysmaine

Ysoria

Yvaine

Yveline

Yveta, Yvetta

Yvette

Yvonne

Yvonni

Ywona

Yxta

Yzavela

Zozyma

Zygfryda

Zyta

Male:

Alaryk

Augustyn

Benedykt

Borys

Bożydar

Celestyn

Cyryl

Davyd

Denys

Dmytro

Eryk

Ferdynand

Floryn, Florentyn

Fryderyk

Gavrylo

Henryk

Izydor

Justyn

Klymentiy

Korbyn

Kostyantyn

Kryspin, Kryspinian, Kryspus

Krystyn, Krystian

Krzysztof

Kyrylo

Maksym

Maksymilian

Martyn

Maurycy

Mykhayil, Mykhaylo, Mykhailo

Mykola is the Ukrainian form of Nikolas.

Mykyta is the Ukrainian form of Niketas.

Narcyz

Patryk

Pylyp is the Ukrainian form of Philip.

Roderyk

Ryszard

Seweryn

Spyrydon

Szymon

Tymon

Tymoteusz

Tytus

Ulryk

Valentyn

Vasyl

Volodymyr is the Ukrainian form of Vladimir.

Władysław

Ygnacio

Ylan, Ylann

Ymbert

Yngvar

Yngve

Ysbert is the West Frisian form of Isbert, which means “bright ice” in Ancient Germanic.

Ysbrand means “iron wolf” and “ice wolf” in Dutch. The West Frisian forms are Ysbrân and Yssebrand.

Ysidro

Yves

Yvo

Yvor

Zygfryd

Zygmunt