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.

The many forms of Ferdinand

Explorer Ferdinand Magellan, ca. 1480–1521

I’ve long been fond of the name Ferdinand, in all its many forms. It’s such a timeless classic, one of those names that used to be somewhat more popular but was never Top 100. Its highest rank in the U.S. to date was #242 in 1882. The name’s popularity moved up and down over the years, and dropped from the Top 400 in 1919. In 1931, it dropped from the Top 500.

Over time, the name continued to drop further and further, with a few short periods out of the Top 1000 entirely. To date, its last hurrah on the U.S. Top 1000 was 1971, at #984.

In France, Ferdinand enjoyed more past popularity, and stood at #59 in 1900. It left the Top 100 in 1929, crept back in the next year, and then fell out again. Its last year with a ranking was 1964, at #407.

In Switzerland, Ferdinand was #90 in 1925, and in the former Czechoslovakia, it was Top 100 from at least 1935–49. Its highest rank was #60 in 1941. In 1952, it left the Top 100.

Ferdinand is used in English, German, Dutch, French, Czech, and Slovenian. The alternate form Ferdinánd is Hungarian, and Ferdínand is Icelandic. It comes from an Ancient Germanic name derived from the roots farð (journey), frið (peace), or frith (protection), and nanth (daring, brave) or nand (prepared, ready). The original form may have been Frithunanths or Ferdinanths.

Fernando Pessoa, prolific Portuguese writer, 1888–1935

Other forms of the name include:

1. Fernand is French and modern Russian.

2. Ferdinando is Italian.

3. Fernando is Spanish and Portuguese. The Spanish nickname is Nando.

4. Fernão is Portuguese.

5. Ferdynand is Polish.

6. Ferran is Catalan. The alternate form Ferrán is Aragonese.

7. Hernando is Spanish. The nickname is Hernán.

8. Nándor is Hungarian.

9. Ferdinandas is Lithuanian.

10. Ferdinands is Latvian.

French composer Fernand Halphen, 1872–1917

11. Ferdinant is Breton.

12. Ferrand is Occitan and Provençal.

13. Fredenando is Basque.

14. Herran is Gascon.

15. Vêrtinât is Greenlandic.

Archduchess Auguste Ferdinande of Austria, 1825–1864

Feminine forms:

1. Fernanda is Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

2. Ferdinanda is Italian and German.

3. Fernande is French.

4. Ferdinande is German and French.

The Ps of Medieval names

Male:

Palni (Danish): Possibly from Old Danish root pólina or páll (pole).

Pangratio (Italian)

Paregorio (Judeo–Italian)

Parsiprestre (Occitan)

Pätar (Swedish): Form of Peter (stone), from Greek root petros.

Predimir (Serbian and Croatian): Derived from Proto–Slavic root perd (against, in front of), and Slavic mir (peace, world) or mer (famous, great).

Predislav (Serbian and Croatian): From roots perd and slav (glory).

Premislav (Slavic): Possible form of modern Polish name Przemysł and modern Czech name Přemysl. Its roots are pre (over), mysli (idea, thought), and slav. Together, it means “stratagem, trick.”

Pribimir (Slavic): “Breaking peace/the world,” “More peace,” “Against peace/the world,” or “To help peace/the world.” The modern form is Przybymir (Polish).

Pribislav (Slavic): “Breaking glory,” “More glory,” “Against glory,” or “To help glory.” The modern form is Przybysław (Polish).

Pridbor (Slavic): “First battle,” from roots prid and borti. It found its way into Danish and Norwegian as Pridbjørn (modern form Preben).

Putimir (Slavic): “Path of peace/the world,” from roots pǫt (path, road, way) and mir.

Putislav (Slavic): “Path of glory.” from roots pǫt and slav.

Female:

Pacifica (Italian): “Peacemaker,” from Latin root pacificus.

Palmeria (Italian): “Pilgrim,” from Latin root palma (palm tree). Pilgrims to the Holy Land carried palm fronds home, to prove they’d gone there. The masculine form was Palmerio.

Pantasilea (Italian): Form of Greek name Penthesilea (to jeer at grief), from roots penthos (grief) and sillaino (to jeer at, to mock). This was the name of the Amazon queen.

Papera (Italian)

Parette (French)

Parnella (English): Derived from a contracted form of Petronel, the Middle English form of Petronilla. Its possible root is the Latin word petro, petronis (yokel). The name fell out of favour after the word “parnel” became slang for a promiscuous woman in the Late Middle Ages.

Pasquina (Italian)

Pavia (English): Possibly from Old French proper adjective Pavie (woman from Pavia, Italy), or Old French noun pavie (peach).

Pelegrina (Occitan)

Peretta (Italian)

Petrumīla (Baltic): Probably a form of Petra.

Petrussa, Peritza (Basque): Elaborated form of Petra. Other forms included Petrissa (German) and Perussia (French).

Piccarda (Italian): “From Picardy.”

Piruza (Italian)

Placia (Spanish)

Plazensa (Occitan)

Plezou (Breton): Possibly “little braid,” from roots plezh (braid) and ou (a diminutive suffix), or “female wolf,” from root bleiz.

Pollonia (Italian): Short form of Apollonia, derived from Apollo.

Posthuma (English): “Posthumous,” given as a middle name to girls whose fathers had died before their births. The masculine form was Posthumus.

Prangarda (Italian): From Ancient Germanic roots brand (sword) and gard (enclosure, protected place).

Preciosa (English, Judeo–Catalan, Ladino [Judeo–Spanish]): “Precious,” from Old French root precios and Latin pretiosa.

Pressedia (Italian): Form of Greek name Praxedes (accomplishment, success, a doing), from root praxis.

Primavera (Italian): “Spring.”

Proxima (English): “Closest, nearest,” from Latin root proximus.

Prudenzia (Italian): “Prudence,” from Latin root prudens.

The Js of Medieval names

Male:

Jankin (English): Nickname for John (God is gracious). It eventually turned into Jackin, and ultimately became the familiar Jack.

Jaunti (Basque): “Mister, lord.”

Jawar (Moorish Arabic)

Jayaatu (Mongolian)

Joceran (French): From Ancient Germanic roots Gaut (Goth) and hramn (raven). It may also have been influenced by Latin word gaudium (joy, delight).

Joldwin (English)

Jorand (Breton)

Josquin (Dutch, French): Gallicized form of Josken, which can either be a nickname for Joseph (he will add) or Jodocus (lord). This name was borne by venerable French composer Josquin des Prez (ca. 1450/55–27 August 1521).

Jurian (Low German): Form of George (farmer), derived from Greek name Georgios and root georgos (farmer, earthworker). The specific roots of georgos are ge (earth) and ergon (work).

Female:

Jaida (Arabic): “Virtuous, good.”

Jawhara (Judeo–Arabic, Moorish Arabic): “Gem, jewel.”

Jerinne (Flemish): Possibly an elaborated form of Frisian name Jera (a nickname for Gertruda) or a feminine form of Jeremiah (God has uplifted).

Jocea (English): Feminine form of Joceus (lord).

Jocosa (English): Form of Joyce (lord). The spelling was inspired by the Latin word iocosus or jocosus (merry, playful).

Joia (English, French): “Joy,” from Old French joie, Late Latin gaudia, and Classical Latin gaudium. In the Jewish community, this was sometimes used as a secular form of Simcha (joy).

Jolicia (English)

Judur (Moorish Arabic)

Junipera (Italian): “Juniper.”

The Hs of Medieval names

Male:

Hakun (Danish): Form of Haakon, derived from Old Norse name Hákon (high son). Its roots are  (high) and konr (descendant, son).

Haldan, Halden (Swedish): Form of modern Norwegian and Danish name Halfdan, which derives from Old Norse name Hálfdan. Its roots are hálfr (half) and Danr (Dane). Originally, it was used for half-Danish boys.

Hamdun (Moorish Arabic): “Praiseworthy, praise.” The feminine form is Hamduna.

Harik (Swedish): Form of Old Norse name Hárekr, from Ancient Germanic root ha (uncertain origin) and Old Norse ríkr (rich, distinguished, mighty).

Härjulf (Swedish): Form of Old Norse name Hæriulfr, ultimately descended from Proto–Norse name Hariwolfar. Its roots are hariar (warrior) and ulfr (wolf).

Härlek (Swedish): Form of Ancient Scandinavian name Herleikr, from roots herr (army) and leikr (fight, game, sport, play).

Härlög (Swedish): Form of Ancient Scandinavian name Herlaugr, derived from Old Norse name Hærlaugr. Its roots are herr and laug (to celebrate marriage, to swear a holy oath; to be dedicated, promised).

Hasten (Swedish, Danish): Form of Ancient Scandinavian and modern Icelandic name Hásteinn, from roots hár (high) and steinn (stone).

Haveron (English): Form of Harvey, derived from Breton name Haerviu (battle-worthy). Its roots are haer (battle) and viu (worthy). This name was borne by a 6th century Breton hermit who became patron saint of the blind.

Hellenboldus (German)

Hellenbrecht (German)

Hemkil, Henkil (Swedish and Danish): Form of Ancient Scandinavian name Hæimkæll, from Old Norse roots heimr (home, house) and ketill (cauldron hat, helmet).

Heranal (Breton): I obviously wouldn’t recommend this name in the Anglophone world!

Herdan (German)

Heri (Scandinavian): Possibly a nickname for names starting in Herr, or from Old Norse word héri (hare, hare-hearted). This is still used in modern Faroese and Danish.

Hizquia (Judeo–Catalan): Form of Hezekiah (God strengthens).

Hopkin (English): Nickname for Robert. A lot of English nicknames which appear to make no linguistic sense arose from the custom of swapping letters. E.g., Rob became Hob, Rick became Dick, Meg became Peg, Will became Bill.

Humfroy (French): Form of Humphrey and Onfroi (peaceful warrior), from Ancient Germanic elements hun (bear cub, warrior) and frid (peace).

Female:

Halawa (Moorish Arabic): “Sweetness.”

Halhal (Moorish Arabic): “Agitation.”

Hamda (Moorish Arabic): Feminine form of Ahmed (more commendable).

Helissent (French): Possibly a form of Ancient Germanic name Alahsind, from roots alah (temple) and sinþs (path).

Helzbieta (Polish, Slavic): Form of Elizabeth, ultimately derived from Hebrew name Elisheva (“my God is abundance” or “my God is oath”).

Herannuen (Breton): From Old Breton root hoiarn (iron) and feminine suffix -uen.

Herborg (Swedish): From Old Norse roots harja or herr (army) and björg (help, protection). This name is used rarely in modern Swedish and Danish, though it’s somewhat more common in Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese.

Hereswith (English): From Ancient Germanic roots hari (army) and swinth (strong).

Herlinde (German): From Ancient Germanic roots hari and lind (linden tree, lime; soft, gentle; lime wood shield).

Hervor (Scandinavian): Form of Hervǫr, from Old Norse roots herr (army) and vár (woman; truth).

Heylzoete (Flemish)

Heyndrynen (Flemish)

Hodierna (French): From Old French name Odierne, derived from Ancient Germanic name possibly made of elements od (wealth, riches, fortune) and gern (desiring, eager). The spelling was probably changed to resemble Latin word hodierna (present, of today, existing now).

Holuba (Polish, Slavic): “Pigeon, dove.”

Honesta (Italian): From a Latin word meaning “respected, reputable, distinguished, honourable.”

Hudria (French–Swiss)

Hullah (Moorish Arabic): “Dress, garment.”

Human (Moorish Arabic): “Melted snow.”

Hunydd (Welsh): Possible from the Welsh word huan (sun) or hun (sleep).

Husa (German): Probably related to the modern German word Haus (house), as its dialect form is Hus.

Hyssop (English): A type of aromatic shrub from the mint family.