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 Fs of Medieval names

Unisex:

Freewill (English)

Male:

Fadrique (Spanish): Form of Frederick (peaceful ruler), from Ancient Germanic elements frid (peace) and ric (power, ruler).

Farraj (Moorish Arabic): “Jubilant, happy, joyous.”

Farulf (Scandinavian): Derived from the Ancient Germanic root fara (journey), Gothic root faran (to travel), or Langobardic fara (family, kind, line), and the Ancient Germanic root wulf (wolf). This is also the Old Swedish form of the Old Norse Farulfr, in which case it would be derived from Old West Norse root fara (to travel, go), and related to Old Icelandic far (passage, ship).

Fasti (Danish): Derived from Old Norse root fast (firmly, fast).

Fatherling (English)

Fellow (English)

Ferrand (French, Occitan, Provençal): Form of Ferdinand, which derives from an Ancient Germanic name with roots fardi (journey) and nand (brave, daring). The Medieval Italian, Spanish, and Aragonese form was Ferrando.

Filimor (Anglo–Norman): “Very famous,” from Ancient Germanic elements filu (very, much) and meri (famous).

Freidank (German): “Free thought,” from roots frei and dank.

Frienday (English)

Frosti (Danish): Derived from Old Norse root frost (which means the same as it does in English). This is the name of a dwarf in Norse mythology. The name is still used in modern Icelandic.

Female:

Falcona (Spanish): “Falcon,” from Old High German falco.

Faoiltighearna (Irish): “Wolf lady,” from roots faol and tighearna.

Fatyan (Moorish Arabic): “Seduction.”

Favia (Occitan)

Fazila (Arabic): “Generosity, grace

Fina (Occitan): Derived from Old French root fin (tender, delicate).

Fiva (Russian, Slavic): Form of Greek name Thebe.

Floria (English): Feminine form of Latin name Florius, which in turn derives from Florus (flower). The Medieval French form was Florie.

Frederuna (German): Older form of Friderun, derived from Old High German root fridu (peace) and Gothic root rûna (secret).

Fressenda (English): Older form of Frideswide, which descends from the Old English Friðuswiþ. Its roots are friþ (peace) and swiþ (strong).

The Cs of Medieval names

Unisex:

Creature (English): “Living being,” from the Latin creatura. Given to infants who survived just long enough to be baptized. At least one such infant, female Creature Cheseman, survived into adulthood. Other forms were Creature-of-Christ and Creature-of-God.

Female:

Calomaria (Italian): “Beautiful Maria,” from the Greek kalos (beautiful) and the name Maria.

Caradonna (Judeo–Italian): “Precious lady,” from the Latin cara (precious, dear, beloved, costly, valued) and Italian donna (lady).

Chichäk (Khazar): “Flower.”

Christoffelina (Flemish): Feminine form of Christopher.

Coblaith (Irish): “Victorious sovereignty.”

Comitessa (English): “Countess,” from the Latin comitissa.

Corelia (Italian).

Crestienne (French): Christian.

Cristofana (Tuscan Italian): Feminine form of Christopher.

Male:

Calandro (Italian): “Beautiful man,” from the Greek kalos andros. The feminine form, Calandra, is a rarely-used modern name.

Chedomir (Slavic): “Child of peace” and “child of the world,” from roots chedo (child) and miru (world, peace). The modern form Čedomir is Macedonian, Serbian, and Croatian.

Conomor (Breton): Possibly derived from *Cunomāros, a Brythonic name which in turn derived from Common Celtic roots *kwon- (hound) or *kuno- (high), and *māros (great). This name was borne by 6th century King Conomor the Cursed, who appears as a villain in Breton folklore. He’s believed to be the inspiration for Bluebeard, and King Mark of Cornwall in the tale of Tristan and Isolde.

Costelin (English)

Cresconio (Spanish)

Cresques (Judeo–Provençal, Judeo–Catalan, Occitan): Form of Latin Crescens, from crescere (to grow). It also means “growing,” from Catalan adjective creixent and verb créixer (to grow). In Medieval Occitania, it was a form of the Hebrew Tzemach.

The Bs of Medieval names

Male:

Baghatur (Khazar): “Brave warrior.”

Bazkoare (Basque): Form of Pascal, which means Easter. The feminine form was Bazkoara.

Berislav (Slavic): “To take glory,” from roots birati (to gather, take) and slava (glory). This name is still used in modern Croatian.

Bernwulf (English): “Bear wolf,” from Ancient Germanic elements bero and wulf. Other forms were Berowolf, Berowulf, and Bernwelf.

Bogumir (Slavic): “Famous/great God,” “God’s peace,” and “God’s world,” from elements Bog (God) and miru (world; peace), or meru (famous, great). Modern forms are Bogomir (Slovenian) and Bohumír (Czech and Slovak).

Bratomil (Slavic): “Gracious/dear brother,” from elements bratu (brother) and milu (dear, gracious). The modern form Bratumił is Polish.

Buyantu (Mongolian): “Good, blessed.”

Female:

Banafsaj (Moorish Arabic): “Violet.”

Baraka (Moorish Arabic): “Blessing,”

Belcolore (Italian): “Beautiful colour,” from bel and colore. This is a Decameron name, in one of the more famously raunchy stories. I love all the double entendres about the mortar and pestle!

Bonafilia (Ladino [Judeo–Spanish], Judeo–Provençal, Judeo–Catalan): “Good daughter,” from Latin roots bona (good, noble, kind) and filia, This was often used as a superstitious amuletic name, to try to trick the Angel of Death and keep him away.

Bonajoia (Judeo–French): “Good joy,” from Old French roots bone joie.

Bonajuncta (Catalan): Form of Judeo–Catalan Bona-Aunis, from Latin root bona and Catalan root aunir (to unite).

Brightwyna (English): “Bright friend,” from Ancient Germanic roots beorht (clear, bright) and win (friend),