A versatile, international classic

Catherine (Yekaterina) the Great (née Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg) as a Grand Duchess

Though I’ve previously featured the many nicknames for Katherine in all its forms, and my personal favourite forms of the name, I’ve never done a post on the name itself in all of its many international variations.

Katherine derives from the Greek name Aikaterine, which has a disputed etymology. It may come from another Greek name, Hekaterine, with the root hekateros (each of the two), or be derived from Hecate/Hekate (possibly from the root hekas, far off). It also may come from the Greek word aikia (torture), or a Coptic name meaning “my consecration of your name.” Eventually, it became associated with the Greek word katharos (pure), and the Latin spelling was thus changed from Katerina to Katharina.

The name has been extraordinarily popular ever since the fourth century, on account of St. Catherine of Alexandria, an early Christian martyr. Because some scholars believe she was fictitious or confused with Neo-Platonist philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria and St. Dorothea of Alexandria, she was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969. In 2002, she was put back in as an optional memorial.

Princess Katarina Konstantinović of Serbia, 1848–1910

The spelling Katherine has long been a staple of the U.S. Top 100, from 1880–1934, in 1936, and 1940–2016. Its highest rank to date was #25 in 1991. The spelling Catherine (which is also French) has also long been a Top 100 mainstay, from 1880–1997 and 1999–2001. It was in the Top 50 until 1939, and then again from 1942–61, with its highest rank of #18 in 1914 and 1917.

Kathryn was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1881–1928, 1941–68, and 1974–2001. Its highest rank was #45 in 1951.

Other forms of the name include:

1. Katharina is German and Scandinavian.

2. Katarina is Scandinavian, German, Slovenian, Sorbian, Serbian, and Croatian. The alternate form Katarína is Slovak.

3. Katarzyna is Polish.

4. Kateryna is Ukrainian.

5. Katsyaryna is Belarusian.

6. Katariina is Estonian and Finnish.

7. Katerina is Macedonian, Bulgarian, Russian, and Greek. Kateřina is Czech, and Katerína is Icelandic.

8. Katarin is Breton.

9. Katelijn is Flemish.

10. Katelijne is also Flemish.

Hungarian singer and actor Katalin Karády (1910–1990), who was posthumously honoured by Yad Vashem in 2004 as Righteous Among the Nations for hiding a group of Jewish children in her apartment

11. Katharine is German and English.

12. Katalin is Hungarian and Basque.

13. Kattalin is also Basque.

14. Kotryna is Lithuanian.

15. Katrina is English. The alternate form Katrīna is Latvian; Katrína is Icelandic; and Katrîna is Greenlandic.

16. Kakalina is Hawaiian. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this name in an Anglophone area.

17. Katell is Breton.

18. Kateri is Mohawk, pronounced Gah-deh-lee.

19. Katarzëna is Kashubian.

20. Kateryn is Manx.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, 1656–1680

21. Kattrin is a rare Coptic form.

22. Catarina is Portuguese, Galician, Gascon, Occitan, Provençal, Languedocian, Aragonese, and Sicilian.

23. Caterina is Italian, Galician, and Romanian.

24. Catrin is Welsh.

25. Catalina is Spanish, Corsican, Sardinian, Occitan, Catalan, and Galician. The alternate form Cǎtǎlina is Romanian.

26. Caderina is Sardinian.

27. Caitrìona is Scottish.

28. Catriona is Irish and Scottish.

29. Catala is Asturian.

30. Gadarine is a rare Armenian form.

Russian human rights activist and humanitarian Yekaterina Pavlovna Peshkova, 1887–1965

31. Kaa’dren is Sami Skolt.

32. Kasia is Vilamovian. This is also a Polish nickname for Katarzyna.

33. Catheleine is Picard.

34. Cathrène is Norman.

35. Cath’rinne is Jèrriaias.

36. Katel is a rare Cornish form.

37. Katarino is Esperanto.

38. Keteriine is Yakut.

39. Chatrina is Romansh.

40. Ekaterine is Georgian.

41. Ekaterina is Bulgarian and Macedonian.

42. Yekaterina is Russian.

The Ys of Medieval Scandinavian, Breton, Basque, Flemish, French, Cornish, Galician, and Spanish names

Because Italian has no names starting with Y, today is another wildcard day. I took great care not to repeat any of the Medieval Y names from my 2018 post.

Male names:

Yagu (Breton) is a form of Jakob, which derives from the Hebrew name Ya’akov. Though traditional etymology claims this name means “heel” and “supplanter,” many modern Biblical scholars believe it comes from Semitic roots meaning “may God protect.”

Yowann (Cornish) is a form of John (God is gracious).

Yrian, Yryan (Scandinavian) is a form of Jurian (i.e., George, which means “farmer”).

Ysaque (Galician) is a form of Isaac, which comes from the Hebrew name Yitzchak (he will laugh).

Ythier (French) derives from Ancient Germanic roots id (labour, work) or idhja (negotiate), and hari (warrior, army).

Yuzhael (Breton)

Female names:

Ybba (Swedish) is a form of Eyba, a diminutive of names starting with the Ancient Germanic root ebur (wild boar). The modern form is Ebba.

Yden (Flemish)

Yenega (Basque) is a form of Iñiga, a feminine form of Eneko. The name may derive from the Basque words ene (my) and ko (a diminutive suffix).

Yfame (French)

Ynes (Spanish) is a form of Agnes, which derives from the Greek word hagnos (chaste). Since St. Agnes was frequently depicted with a lamb, the name acquired the secondary meaning of “lamb,” from the Latin word agnus.

Yzabé (French) is a form of Elizabeth (my God is an oath).

The Ws of Medieval English, German, Slavic, French, Norman, Flemish, and Cornish names

Seeing as there are no Italian names, Medieval or otherwise, from any region of Italy, starting with W, today is another wildcard day featuring other Medieval names. I’ve taken special care not to include any repeats from my 2018 post on Medieval names starting with W.

Male names:

Waelweyn (Flemish)

Waltram (German) derives from Ancient Germanic roots wald (to rule) and hraban (raven).

Wenceslaus (Czech) is the Latinised form of Veceslav (more glory). The modern form of this name is Václav.

Wilkin (English) is a nickname for William (will helmet)

Wilky (English) is also a nickname for William.

Wischard (Norman) is a form of Guiscard, which derives from Old Norse roots viskr (wise) and hórðr (hardy, brave).

Wszebąd (Polish) derives from roots wsze (always, everything, everyone) and bąd (to live, to exist, to be).

Wynwallow (Cornish) is a form of the Breton name Gwenole, derived from Old Breton roots uuin (white, blessed, fair) and uual (brave). The modern Breton form is Guénolé.

Wyot (English) is a form of the Old English name Wigheard, which derives from roots wig (battle) and heard (brave, hardy).

Female names:

Wantliana (English) is a form of the Welsh name Gwenllian, which is composed of roots gwen (fair, white, blessed) and lliain (flaxen).

Wastrada (German)

Weltrude (German) derives from Proto–Germanic roots wela (good, well), and þrūþ (strength) or trut (maiden).

Wigfled (English)

Wilburga (Polish)

Willberna (German) derives from Old High German roots willo (will) and bero (bear).

Williswinda (German) means “strong desire, strong will.”

Wilmot (English) is a feminine form of William. This is also a male nickname for William.

Wistrilde (French) derives from Proto–Germanic root *westrą (west) and Old High German hiltja (battle).

Cornwall’s most popular export

William Morris painting of legendary Queen Guinevere, 1858

Being the age I am, every other woman within ten years of my age either way is named Jennifer in the Anglophone world. Though my personal tastes strongly tend towards classical eccentric and classical unusual, I’ve always had fond feelings for Jennifer. I can’t think of a single bad Jennifer I’ve ever known, and I’ve encountered quite a few over forty years!

Jennifer is the Cornish form of the Welsh Gwenhwyfar (white phantom), which derives from Old Celtic roots •windos (white, fair, blessed) and *sebros (magical being, phantom). Almost everyone is familiar with Norman–French form Guinevere, the wife of King Arthur. Though they sound nothing alike, the Old Irish form is Findabair (Fionnabhair in modern Irish).

It’s just a coincidence that Jennifer sounds very similar to Juniper. The names have completely different etymologies.

U.S. actor Jennifer Jones (1919–2009) in 1953

Jennifer was extremely rare outside of Cornwall before the 18th century, and only began gaining in recognition and popularity in 1906, when Sir George Bernard Shaw used it as the name of the female protagonist in the play The Doctor’s Dilemma. In 1934, it entered the Top 100 in England and Wales. It attained its highest rank of #11 there in 1984, and stayed in their Top 100 till 2005.

Jennifer entered the U.S. Top 1000 in 1938, at #992. It jumped to #891 the next year, then #686, #604, #527, #397, #263, #199, #156. Its big leaps in popularity during the 1940s were likely strongly influenced by the above-pictured Jennifer Jones. The name continued gaining in popularity, and entered the Top 100 in 1956 at #97.

By 1965, Jennifer was #20, and it was #10 the next two years. It then rose to #4 and #3 before landing at #1 in 1970, a position it occupied till 1984. Jennifer stayed in the Top 10 till 1991, the Top 20 till 1998, and the Top 100 till 2008. In 2018, it was #344.

It’s common knowledge that Jennifer got its biggest boost of popularity thanks to the 1970 novel and film Love Story (with the hideous catchphrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”).

A suggested reason it remained on the chart so long past that film is that it was the first love story with a tragic ending many young women saw, and it remained with them all those years. When they had daughters, Jennifer was the natural choice. For similar reasons, the oversaturated Madison is still hanging around the Top 100 years after 1984’s Splash!

Jennifer remained #1 in Delaware, Massachusetts, and Illinois till 1985. Tellingly, its immediate replacement on the overall chart was Jessica. Parents tired of Jennifer turned to a name with a fairly similar sound, just as Emily was replaced by Emma, Madeline overtook Madison, and Amelia replaced Emma. The original names never stopped being widely-used, but many people desired a close-enough substitute.

Italian aristocrat Ginevra de’ Benci (1457–1521), painted ca. 1474–78 by Leonardo da Vinci

Other forms of this hugely popular name include:

1. Guenièvre is French.

2. Ginevra is Italian and Portuguese.

3. Yenifer is Latin American–Spanish.

4. Jenifer is Spanish, Cornish, and English.

5. Jenefer is another Cornish variation.

6. Gwenivar is Breton.

7. Ginebra is Catalan.

8. Ginewra is Polish.

9. Gvinevra is Russian. Not a name that translates well into this language!

10. Xenebra, or Xenevra, is Galician.

U.S. socialite Ginevra King, 1898–1980

11. Gaenor, or Gaynor, is Welsh.

12. Dzsenifer is Hungarian. Also not a language that’s naturally suited to translating this name as-is.

13. Gkouinevir is Greek. What I said about Hungarian and Russian.

14. Dženifera is Latvian. Not exactly fond of this form either.

15. Gennifer is English.

16. Ginnifer, or Ginifer, is English.

17. Jeniffer is a rare Scandinavian form.

18. Jennifera is a rare English form.

19. Llénifer is a rare Spanish form.

The many forms of Thomas

American inventor Thomas Alva Edison, 1847–1931

Thomas, a name used in English, German, Dutch, French, Greek, and the Scandinavian languages, comes from the Aramaic name Ta’oma (twin). This name has long been a mainstay of the Christian world (in a variety of languages) due to Thomas the Apostle, who famously doubted the veracity of Jesus’s resurrection till he saw and felt the wounds himself. According to tradition, he was martyred in India.

Thomas was introduced to the Anglophone world by the occupying Normans, and became quite popular thanks to the martyred St. Thomas à Becket, a 12th century archbishop of Canterbury. From the 13th to 19th centuries, it was among the five most common male English names, and is still fairly popular today.

Portuguese-born Brazilian poet Tomás Antônio Gonzaga, 1744–1810

The name was #8 in the U.S. in 1880, when records were first kept, and ranged from #8 to #12 till 1968. In 1969, it was #13, and then began gradually descending in popularity. Thomas remained in the Top 50 till 2005, and has never ranked below #63 (in 2011 and 2012). In 2018, it was #49.

Thomas also enjoys popularity in Northern Ireland (#9), Ireland (#12), England and Wales (#12), Scotland (#14), New Zealand (#14), The Netherlands (#14), Italy (#34), Belgium (#38), Austria (#53), France (#58), Switzerland (#76), and Norway (#90).

Polish Prime Minister Tomasz Arciszewski, 1877–1955

Other forms of Thomas include:

1. Tomos is Welsh. Nicknames include Tomi and Twm (pronounced kind of like “tomb”).

2. Tàmhas is Scottish. Anglicisations include Tavish and Tòmas.

3. Toma is Romanian, Georgian, Macedonian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Croatian.

4. Tuomas, or Tuomo, is Finnish, with nicknames including Tomi and Tommi.

5. Tomass, or Toms, is Latvian.

6. Tomasso is Italian.

7. Tamati is Maori.

8. Toomas is Estonian.

9. Tomaz is Breton. The alternate form Tomaž is Slovenian.

10. Tomé is Portuguese.

Tomasso I, Marquess of Sanluzzo (1239–96)

11. Tomasz is Polish.

12. Tomas is Lithuanian, Norwegian, and Swedish; Tomás is Spanish, Irish, and Portuguese; Tomaš is Sorbian, Serbian, and Croatian; Tomáš is Czech and Slovak; Tomàs is Catalan; and Tómas is Icelandic.

13. Tamás is Hungarian.

14. Thomaase is Manx.

15. Thonmas is Jèrriais.

16. Toman is Vlach.

17. Tammes is a rare Danish form.

18. Tomasi is Tongan, Fijian, and Melanesian.

19. Tomasy is Malagasy.

20. Tomisav is Vlach.

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, first President of Czechoslovakia (1850–1937)

21. Tomašis is Romani.

22. Tommes is Limburgish.

23. Tomôsz is Kashubian.

24. Tömu is Swiss–German.

25. Tovmas is Armenian.

26. Tuma is Arabic. The alternate form Tüma is Vilamovian.

27. Tumasch is Romansh.

28. Tummas is Faroese.

29. Tûmarse is Greenlandic.

30. Foma is Russian.

Romanian hospital director, bacteriologist, educator, and humanitarian Dr. Toma Ciorbă (1864–1936)

31. Lillac is Caló–Romani.

32. Duommá is Sami. Other Sami forms of Thomas are Dommá and Duomis.

Female forms:

1. Thomasina is English.

2. Tomine is Norwegian.

3. Tamsin, or Tamsyn, is Cornish.

4. Thomaḯs is Greek.

5. Thomaḯda is also Greek.

6. Thomai is another Greek form.

7. Tuomasiina is a rare Finnish form.

8. Tommasina is Italian.

9. Tomazja is Polish.

10. Tomásia is Portuguese.

Portuguese noblewoman Leonor Tomásia de Távora, 3rd Marquise of Távora (1700–59)

11. Thomine is French and Danish.

12. Tomasina is a rare English form.

13. Thomassine is a rare French form.

14. Thomassin is French–Cajun.

15. Thomasine is a rare Swedish and English form, and archaic French and Danish form.

16. Thomasin is English.

17. Thomasse is archaic French and English.

18. Tomasine is archaic Norwegian, last recorded in the 1940s.