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 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 Ts of Medieval names

Male:

Taki (Danish): “Receiver, surety, guarantor,” from Old Danish root taka (to take).

Tancred (Norman), Tankard (English): Derived from an Ancient Germanic name meaning “thought and counsel,” from roots thank (thought) and râd (counsel).

Tasufin (Moorish Arabic)

Tedaldo, Teodaldo (Italian): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Theudewald, with Ancient Germanic root þeuþ (people) and Gothic valdan (to reign). This is the name of a Decameron character.

Tedrick (English): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Theodoric (ruler of the people), from roots theud (people) and ric (power, ruler).

Temüjin (Mongolian): “Of iron,” from Turkic root temür (iron). This was Genghis Khan’s original name.

Temür (Turkic): “Iron.”

Terkel (Danish): Derived from Old Norse name Þórketill (Thor’s cauldron), from roots Þórr (Thor; thunder) and ketill (cauldron). This is also the modern Danish form. The modern Swedish and Norwegian form is Torkel.

Theodred (English): Derived from Anglo–Saxon roots þeod (people) and ræd (counsel).

Thorbern, Thorbiorn (Swedish, Danish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name  Þórbiǫrn (thunder bear; Thor’s bear), from roots Þórr and bjǫrn.

Thorfinn (Scandinavian): Derived from Old Norse name Þórfinnr, with roots Þórr and Finnr (Laplander, Sami). I’m planning a future post devoted to the many names derived from Thor! There are far too many to cover here.

Tikhomir (Slavic): “Quiet peace” and “quiet world,” from roots tikhu (quiet) and miru (world, peace). The modern form is Tihomir (Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Croatian).

Todros (Judeo–Catalan)

Toghon (Mongolian): “Pot.”

Trudbert (German): “Bright strength,” from roots thrud (strength) and bert (bright).

Tulir (Danish): Nickname for Old Norse name Þórlæifr (Thor’s descendant; thunder’s descendant). Its roots are Þórr and leif (heir, descendant, heritage).

Tumi (Danish): Nickname for names starting with Þórr/Thor, and containing M as their final element.

Tverdimir (Slavic): “Hard peace” and “hard world,” from Proto–Slavic root tverd (hard) and mir (world, peace). The modern form is Twardomir (Polish).

Female:

Tanguistl (Cornish), Tangwystl (Welsh), Thangustella (English): “Pledge of peace,” from Welsh roots tanc (peace, tranquility) and gwystl (hostage, pledge).

Tanzeda (Occitan)

Taudisca (Tuscan Italian), Tedesca (Italian): Derived from Proto–Germanic root *þiudiskaz (of the people, vernacular, popular). This is also the modern Italian feminine adjective for “German.”

Tegrida (Spanish): Form of Tigris, which may be of Celtic or Gallic origin.

Tekusa (Russian and Slavic): Form of Greek name Thekusa.

Temperantia (Italian)

Tessina (Italian)

Tortula (Italian): “Small twist.”

Tyfainne (French): “Epiphany,” from Greek root Theophania. This name was traditionally given to girls born on 6 January.

The Ses of Medieval names

Female:

Sabada (Basque): Possibly “Sabbath.”

Safya (Moorish Arabic): “Pure,” from root safi.

Saissa (Occitan)

Sajah (Arabic)

Salimah (Judeo–Arabic): “To be safe.”

Salomia (Italian): Form of Salomé (peace).

Salwa (Moorish Arabic): “Consolation.”

Sama (Moorish Arabic): “She became honoured, exalted.”

Sancta (Italian and French): “Holy, sacred, divine, pious, consecrated, just.”

Santesa (Italian): This is still used in modern Sardinian.

Sapience (Flemish): “Wisdom,” from a French word with that meaning. The Italian form was Sapienza, and the Occitan form was Sebienda.

Satara (Moorish Arabic): “One who covers.”

Scarlata (Italian): The masculine form was Scarlatto.

Sciencia (English)

Sedania (English): Form of Sidonia (from Sidon). In the Middle Ages, it became associated with the Greek word sindon (linen); i.e., the Shroud of Turin.

Sendina (Spanish)

Servanda (Spanish): “To protect, save, preserve,” from Latin root servandus.

Sestrid (Swedish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Ástríðr, with Old Norse roots áss (god) and fríðr (beautiful, belovèd). The familiar modern form is Astrid.

Setembrina (Italian): September.

Shifa (Arabic): “Remedy, cure, healing.”

Sibilia (Catalan, Occitan, Italian): “Female prophet, sibyl,” from Greek root sibylla.

Siggun (Swedish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Siggunnr, with roots sigr (victory) and gunnr (fight, battle).

Sighni (Danish and Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Signý (new victory), with roots sigr and .

Sireda (English): Possibly derived from Old Norse name Sigríðr (beautiful victory), with roots sigr and fríðr (beautiful, fair). It may also be a feminine form of Anglo–Saxon name Sigeræd, from Old English roots sige (victory) and ræd (counsel).

Smirenka (Russian and Slavic)

Sobeyrana (Occitan)

Solavita (Italian)

Soliana (Italian)

Solomonida (Russian and Slavic): “Peace,” from Hebrew root shalom.

Sosipatra (Russian and Slavic)

Spania (Occitan and Italian): Spain.

Sperança (Occitan): “Hope.”

Splendora (English): “Brilliance, lustre, brightness, distinction,” from Latin root splendor.

Sukayna (Moorish Arabic): “Cute, sprightly, adorable.”

Suna (Moorish Arabic): “Gold,” from a Persian word.

Sunnifa (Scandinavian): Derived from Old English name Sunngift (sun gift), from roots sunne and giefu. The modern form is Sunniva (Norwegian).

Sweetlove (English): From Old English roots swet (sweet) and lufu (love).

Male:

Sadoq (Judeo–Italian): “Righteous,” from Hebrew root tzadok.

Safwan (Moorish Arabic): “Rock.”

Salvi (Italian): “Unharmed, well, safe,” from Latin root salvus. This is still used in modern Catalan.

Santsol (Basque): Possibly “Saint Zoilus,” referring to a saint martyred in Córdoba. Its possible root is zoós (living, alive).

Saraceno (Italian): Saracen (i.e., a Muslim Arab).

Sebastie (Basque): Form of Sebastian (from Sebaste).

Sebbi (Danish): Nickname for Ancient Scandinavian name Sǽbiǫrn (sea bear), from roots sær and bjǫrn.

Selvi (Danish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Sialfi, from Old Norse root sjalfi (himself).

Sewolt (German)

Shorter (English): Exactly what it suggests. It was a nickname like Junior.

Sigfast (Swedish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Sigfastr (fast victory), from Old Norse roots sigr (victory) and fastr (fast, firmly).

Slavogost (Slavic and Croatian): “Guest’s glory,” from roots slava (glory) and gost.

Snio (Danish): Derived from Old Norse name Snær (snow).

Sobeslav (Slavic): “Glory for oneself,” from roots sebe (for oneself) and slava. The modern form is Sobiesław (Polish).

Splinter (Dutch): Possibly related to modern Dutch word splinter (exactly what it means in English).

Squire (English)

Stali (Danish), Stale (Swedish): Derived from Old Norse name Stáli (steel), from root stál.

Stanfled (English)

Sture (Scandinavian): “To be contrary,” from Old Norse root stura.

Sulon (Breton): “Sun.”

Suni (Danish): “Son,” from Old Norse root sunr.

Svetoslav (Slavic): Hypothetical original form of Russian name Svyatopolk (blessèd people), from roots svetu (holy, blessèd) and pulku (people, army, host).

Svinimir (Slavic): Possibly from Proto–Slavic root svin’a (swine, pig) and Slavonic mir (world, peace). Others feel it’s an older form of Zvonimir (the sound of peace).

Syroslav (Slavic): Possibly from Proto–Slavic root širok (broad, wide) or Russian root syroy (raw), and Slavonic slav.

The Rs of Medieval names

Unisex:

Razin (Moorish Arabic): “Composed, dignified, calm.”

Male:

Raduard (Dutch and French): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Radward, with Old High German roots rât (counsel) and wart (guard).

Rainfroy (French): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Raginfrid (peaceful advice), which in turn derives from Ancient Scandinavian name Ragnfríðr. Its roots are Gothic ragin (advice) and Old High German fridu (peace).

Rambaldo (Tuscan and Venetian Italian): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Ragimbald (bold advice), with roots ragin (advice) and bald (bold).

Ratimir (Slavic): “World battle” and “battle for peace,” from roots rati (battle, war) and miru (peace, world). This is still used in modern Croatian.

Razon (Moorish Arabic)

Redhar (Swedish): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Hræiðarr (home army), with roots hreiðr (home, nest) and herr (army).

Redimir (Slavic): “Rare peace” and “rare world,” from Proto–Slavic root rěd’k’ (sparse, rare) and Slavonic mir (peace, world).

Rek, Rink (Danish): “Warrior,” from Ancient Scandinavian root rekkr.

Relictus (English): “Relinquished.” This name was often given to orphans.

Remedium (English)

Reyer (Dutch): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Reginher/Raganhar, with roots ragin (advice, counsel) and hari (army).

Rhain (Welsh): “Stretched-out” or “stiff.”

Rhiryd (Welsh)

Rinieri (Italian)

Robaldo (Italian): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Rotbald, whose other forms included Chrodobald, Hrodbald, Hrotbald, and Rodbald. Its roots are hrôthi (fame) and Old High German bald (brave, bold).

Rosten (Danish): Derived from Old Norse name Hróðstæinn (famous stone), with roots hróðr (fame) and steinn (stone).

Ruberto (Italian)

Ruggieri (Italian): Form of Roger (famous spear), from Ancient Germanic roots hrod (fame) and ger (spear).

Rustico (Italian): “Rural, rustic,” from Latin root rusticus. This is one of the protagonists of my all-time favourite Decameron story, its most famously dirty story.

Female:

Raha (Moorish Arabic): “Rest, comfort.”

Rahil (Judeo–Arabic): Form of Rachel (ewe).

Raimunda (Catalan): Feminine form of Raymond, derived from Ancient Germanic name Raginmund. Its roots are ragin (advice) and mund (protector). The Occitan form was Raymunda.

Rametta (English)

Ravenilda (English): Derived from Ancient Scandinavian name Hrafnhildr (battle raven), with roots hrafn (raven) and hildr (battle).

Raziya (Arabic)

Redigon (Cornish and English): Form of Ancient Germanic name Radegund/Radgund (war counsel), from Old High German roots rât (counsel) and gund (war).

Regelinda (German and Slavic): Derived from Ancient Germanic roots regin (counsel, advice) and lind (linden tree, lime, lime wood shield; soft, gentle).

Regna (Danish): Nickname for names starting in Ragin (advice, counsel).

Reinika, Renika (Swedish): Nickname for names starting in Ragn (counsel, advice).

Reyna (English): Form of Regina (queen). The spelling was influenced by Old French word reine.

Rhainfellt (Welsh): Derived from roots rhiain (maiden; originally “queen”) and mellt (lightning).

Rigmár (Danish): Derived from Old High German name Ricmot, with roots rīhhi (distinguished, rich, mighty) and muot (courage; excitement, concern, wrath).

Rima (Moorish Arabic): “White antelope.”

Rixenda (Occitan). The French form was Rixende.

Rohese, Rohesia (English): Derived from Ancient Germanic name Hrodohaidis, with roots hrod (fame) and heid (sort, kind, type).

Rossia (English)

Rubea (Occitan)

Rumayla (Arabic)

Rusha, Rusa (Arabic)