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 many forms of Sophia

British novelist Sophia Lee, 1750–1824

Sophia, which means “wisdom” in Greek, has been extraordinarily popular over the last 15-20 years, after decades of being unfashionable and considered geriatric. In 1997, it shot into the U.S. Top 100, at #94, up from #124 the previous year. It continued rocketing upwards, reaching #1 from 2011–13. In 2017, it was down to #5.

It’s also #3 in Canada; #5 in Austria; #10 in Northern Ireland; #11 in England and Wales; #15 in Australia; #17 in Switzerland and Scotland; #18 in Ireland; #23 in New Zealand; #42 in The Netherlands; #54 in Belgium; and #90 in Norway.

Saint Sophia with her daughters Faith, Hope, and Love

Sofia, which is modern Greek, Italian, Catalan, Romanian, Slovak, Estonian, Finnish, Portuguese, Scandinavian, and German, has also been enjoying great popularity. It entered the U.S. Top 100 in 2003, at #97, and shot up to its peak of #12 in 2014. In 2017, it was #15.

It’s also #1 in Italy, Galicia, and Chile; #2 in Spain (as Sofía) and Finland; #3 in Switzerland and Denmark; #8 in Belgium and Portugal; #12 in Catalonia; #19 in Norway; #31 in England and Wales; #32 in France; #37 in Canada; #38 in Australia; #42 in Austria; #43 in Scotland and Ireland; #44 in The Netherlands; #45 in Sweden; #50 in Northern Ireland; #61 in New Zealand; and #97 in the Czech Republic.

Regent Sofya Alekseyevna of Russia (1657–1704), Peter the Great’s older halfsister, who would’ve been an excellent empress in her own right

Sophie, which is French, Dutch, English, and German, has also been experiencing great popularity. It entered the U.S. top 100 in 2007, at #82, and attained its highest rank of #51 in 2011. In 2017, it was #106.

It’s also #1 in The Netherlands; #4 in Scotland; #5 in Ireland; #6 in Northern Ireland; #8 in Austria; #9 in New Zealand; #11 in Australia; #16 in England and Wales; #23 in Canada; and #25 in Switzerland.

Heroic Sophie Scholl (1921–43) of the anti-Nazi White Rose group

Other forms of the name include:

1. Zofia is Polish, and my favourite spelling. The Z just gives it so much character, zing, and personality. I loved this name from the first time I saw it. The nickname is Zosia (ZO-sha). Its Slovak form is Žofia (Zho-fee-yah).

2. Sofya is Russian. Its base nickname is the familiar Sonya.

3. Sofiya is Ukrainian, Russian, and Bulgarian.

4. Sofija is Serbian, Macedonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Croatian.

5. Soffia is Welsh. The variation Soffía is Icelandic.

6. Zsófia is Hungarian.

7. Sofie is Czech, Dutch, German, and Danish. The last two letters are pronounced separately in Czech and Danish, not as one.

8. Žofie is also Czech, with the same pronunciation rules.

9. Sopio is Georgian. Another Georgian form is Sopia.

10. Kopi is Hawaiian. A rarer Hawaiian variation is Kopaea.

Polish writer Zofia Nałkowska, 1884–1954

11. Sovaia is Fijian.

12. Suvfia is Greenlandic.

13. Zofija is Slovenian and Lithuanian.

14. Sufia is Arabic.

15. Soffá is Sami. Another Sami form is Sofe.

16. Sofio is Esperanto. Traditional (as it were) female names in Esperanto end in O, despite that being seen as the mark of a male name in other languages.

17. Suffía is Faroese.

The various forms of Daphne and Laura (and other laurel names)

Pauline as Daphne Fleeing from Apollo, ca. 1810, Robert Lefèvre

Daphne is a naiad in Greek mythology, a female nymph presiding over bodies of water such as lakes, fountains, springs, and brooks. She’s variously cited as the daughter of river god Peneus (Peneios) and nymph Creusa, or Ladon and Gaia.

Versions of Daphne’s story vary, but they all have the crux of Apollo falling in unrequited love with her after a curse from Eros (Cupid). As Apollo chased her, Daphne begged her father to save her, and she was turned into a laurel tree in the nick of time. Laurels thus became sacred to Apollo.

Daphne is also used in English and Dutch. The variation Daphné is French. Other forms include:

1. Daphnée is French.

2. Dafni is modern Greek.

3. Dafina is Macedonian and Albanian.

4. Dafne is Italian.

5. Daffni is Welsh.

6. Dapine is Georgian.

7. Dafna is Hebrew. I chose this as the last part of my Hebrew name (Chana Esther Dafna) for numerous reasons, all of them relating to how it means “laurel.” Primary among those reasons is honouring Stan Laurel, my humble way of saying thank you for how watching Laurel and Hardy on AMC got me through one of the darkest, most depressing periods of my life.

8. Defne is Turkish.

Laura Bridgman (1829–1889), America’s first blind-deaf person to get a full education and become a celebrity, fifty years before Helen Keller

Laura, which comes from the Latin name Laurus, is English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Scandinavian, Romanian, Finnish, German, Dutch, Estonian, Hungarian, Slovenian, Polish, and Croatian.

It’s been an English name since the 13th century, and was extremely popular in the U.S. until it began a rapid decline in the late 19th century. Laura was #17 in 1880, and stayed in the Top 100 till 1934, sinking in popularity a little bit more almost every year. It was Top 100 again from 1945–2001, attaining its highest rank of #10 in 1969. In 2017, it was #340.

Laura has greater popularity in Europe. It’s #6 in Austria; #11 in Denmark; #12 in Switzerland; #13 in Portugal; #14 in Hungary; #16 in the Czech Republic and Poland; #22 in Galicia; #31 in Spain; #37 in Belgium; #40 in Slovenia; #47 in Catalonia; #58 in Italy; #63 in Ireland; #78 in Bosnia; #101 in The Netherlands; and #104 in France.

Laura de Noves (1310–1348), Petrarch’s great muse and unrequited love, similar to Dante’s love for Beatrice

Other forms of Laura include:

1. Lára is Icelandic (and not to be confused with the Russian Lara, a nickname for Larisa).

2. Laure is French.

3. Lavra is Slovenian.

4. Lowri is Welsh.

5. Laoura is modern Greek.

6. Lâvara is Greenlandic.

7. Lora is English and Italian.

8. Loretta is English and Italian.

9. Lauretta is Italian. This is the name of one of the members of the brigata, the ten storytellers, in The Decameron.

10. Laurette is French.

American actor Loretta Young (1913–2000) with Lon Chaney, Sr.

 Other laurel-related names:

1. Kelila, or Kelilah, means “crown of laurel” in Hebrew.

2. Lalela means “laurel” in Hawaiian.

3. Lovorka means “laurel tree” in Croatian.

Leonine names

Pope Leo XIII (1810–1903), painted by Philip de László (né Fülöp Elek László)

Leo, which means “lion” in Latin, is English, German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Finnish, and Croatian, and currently enjoying great popularity. In 2017, it was #61 in the U.S. (and has been jumping up the charts since 2000), after having been a Top 100 staple from 1880–1937. Its highest rank was #37 in 1903.

It’s #1 in Australia, Canada, and Finland; #7 in England and Wales (and in France as Léo); #11 in Spain, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Sweden, and Catalonia; #19 in Switzerland (and #96 as Léo); #9 in Scotland; #8 in Galicia; #33 in Ireland; #22 in Austria; #58 in Norway; #91 in Belgium; and #71 in Slovenia.

As abovementioned, Léo is French. Another alternate form, Leó, is Icelandic and Hungarian.

French artist Léon Augustin Lhermitte, 1844–1925

Leon, which means “lion” in Greek, is English, German, Dutch, Polish, Slovenian, and Croatian. It was Top 100 in the U.S. in 1883, 1885, from 1887–90, and from 1892–1942. Its highest rank was #73 in 1926. In 2006, it began jumping up the charts, and had risen to #244 by 2017.

It’s also #4 in Switzerland; #11 in Austria; #15 in Belgium (and #36 as Léon); #22 in Sweden and Poland; #23 in Slovenia; #77 in Scotland; #68 in Bosnia; #98 in England and Wales; #28 in Norway; #85 in New Zealand; #53 in Ireland; #96 in Australia; and #40 in France (as Léon).

The alternative form León is Spanish, and Léon is French. Other forms of this name include:

1. Levon (LEHV-ohn) is Armenian. I can’t stand the Anglo LEE-von mangling!

2. Leoš is Czech.

3. Léonce is French.

4. Leone is Italian.

5. Leoncio is Spanish.

6. Lionel is a French diminutive.

7. Leontiy is Russian, with the nickname Lyonya.

8. Lev is also Russian, with the nickname Lyova.

9. Levan is Georgian.

10. Leonzio is Italian.

Armenian physiologist Levon Orbeli, 1882–1958

11. Leonas is Lithuanian.

12. Lew (LEF) is Polish.

13. Leão is a rare Portuguese form.

14. Lejo is Sami and a rare Finnish form.

15. Ledjo is Sami.

16. Lîu is Greenlandic.

17. Lleó is Catalan.

18. Luan is Albanian.

19. Liuni is Sicilian.

20. Liūtas is Lithuanian.

21. Leons is Latvian.

Lithuanian nobleman and politician Leonas Sapiega, 1557–1633

Feminine forms:

1. Leona is English and German.

2. Leone is English. The alternate form Léone is French, and Leonė is Lithuanian.

3. Leontina is Italian.

4. Leola is English.

5. Léontine is French.

6. Leontyne is a rare English form.

7. Leonie is Dutch and German. The alternate form Léonie is French.

8. Leonia is Latin.

9. Léonine is French and Dutch.

Leona Vicario (1789–1842), one of the most important people in Mexico’s War of Independence

Other leonine names:

Unisex:

1. Arioch means “lion-like” and “venerable,” or “a fierce lion,” in Hebrew.

2. Aset is Kazakh and Chechen. In the former language, it’s male-only; in the latter, it’s unisex.

3. Sangay is Tibetan.

5. Singye is also Tibetan.

Female:

1. Ariella means “lion of God” in Hebrew.

2. Asida means “lioness” in Abkhaz.

3. Azida means “lioness” in Circassian.

4. Kefira means “lion cub” in Hebrew.

5. Leaneira means “lion man” in Greek.

6. Lý is Vietnamese.

7. Seyha means “lion” or “August” in Khmer.

Ariel Serena Hedges Bowen, African–American temperance activist, music professor, and writer (1863–1904)

Male:

1. Ariel is the male form of Ariella.

2. Kefir is the male form of Kefira.

3. Aleeki means “brave lion” in Somali.

4. Ambesa is Ethiopian.

5. Anibesa is Amharic.

6. Aristoleon means “best lion” in Greek.

7. Arsalan is Persian, Punjabi, and Urdu.

8. Arslon is Uzbek.

9. Arstanbek means “lion master” in Kyrgyz.

10. Aryşlan is Bashkir.

Azeri politician Aslan bey Safikurdski, 1881–1937

11. Arystan is Kazakh.

12. Arystanbek means “lion master” in Kazakh.

13. Azam is Arabic.

14. Beslan means “master of lions” in Circassian, Chechen, Ingush, Abkhaz, and Abazin.

15. Demoleon means “lion of the people” in Greek.

16. Guryon means “lion cub” in Hebrew.

17. Lavoslav means “glorious lion” in Croatian. The Slovak form is Levoslav.

18. Leofred means “lion of peace/love” in Norwegian.

19. Ari is Hebrew.

20. Areli means “lion of God” in Hebrew.

Argentinean politician Leandro Alem (né Alen), 1841–96

21. Aryeh is Hebrew.

22. Asad is Arabic and Urdu.

23. Aslan is Chechen, Kazakh, Circassian, Ossetian, Azeri, and Turkish.

24. Aslanbek means “lion master” in Circassian, Ossetian, and Chechen.

25. Leandros means “lion man” in Greek. Other forms are Leandro (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese); Leander (English, Latin); and Léandre (French).

26. Haidar is Arabic.

27. Leonard means “brave lion” in German. Other forms include Leendart and Leendert (Dutch); Lennart (Scandinavian); Lenart (Slovenian); Leonardo (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese); Leonhard (German); and Léonard (French).

28. Pantaleon means “all lion” in Greek.

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.