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.

All about Martha

Martha Washington, first First Lady of the U.S., 1731–1802

Martha is one of those names which hasn’t very many variants, but there are more than just a handful. This name is English, Scandinavian, Greek, German, and Dutch. The alternate form Märtha is is Swedish.

The name means “the lady, the mistress,” from Aramaic marta (feminine form of mar, master). Despite being the name of a prominent Biblical woman, it didn’t become widespread in England till the Protestant Reformation.

Martha used to be hugely popular in the U.S., at #16 when records began being kept in 1880. Its highest rank was #14 in 1882, and it remained in the Top 20 till 1888, the Top 30 till 1945 (except for 1905 at #32, 1907 at #31, and 1908 at #32), the Top 50 till 1954, and the Top 100 till 1965.

The name gradually sank down the charts, frequently losing 20+ ranks each year. In 2019, it was #795.

Martha is currently much more popular in England and Wales. It’s been on the Top 100 since 2006, and was #95 in 2019.

Princess Marthe Bibesco (née Marta Lucia Lahovary), Romanian–French writer and socialite, 1886–1973

Other forms of the name include:

1. Marta is Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Latvian, modern Russian, Icelandic, Slovenian, Romanian, Georgian, Macedonian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Belarusian, Catalan, Polish, Slovak, Czech, Swedish, and Croatian. This name is #33 in Spain, #62 in Sweden, #52 in Portugal, #43 in Galicia, #31 in Italy, #81 in Catalonia, and #61 in Poland.

Variants include Márta (Hungarian), Mártá (Sami), and Märta (Swedish).

2. Morta is Lithuanian.

3. Maata is Maori.

4. Martta is Finnish.

5. Marthese is Maltese.

6. Marte is Norwegian.

7. Marthe is French and Norwegian. The French pronunciation has one syllable, and the Norwegian has two. This is the name of the wonderful plastic surgeon who removed my second-degree burn scars.

8. Moireach is Scottish.

9. Marfa is traditional Russian and Ukrainian. As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a fan of names where F replaces TH in the middle! It doesn’t bug me as the first letter (e.g., Fyodor), but it sounds ugly in most other instances.

10. Maleka is Hawaiian.

Finnish painter Martta Wendelin, 1893–1986

11. Mareta is Gilbertese, a Micronesian language.

12. Markva is Mordvin, a Uralic language spoken in Russia.

13. Marpa is Mansi and Khanty, Uralic languages spoken in Russia.

14. Marthey is Manx.

15. Marthi is a rare Greek form.

16. Mathiri is Malayalam, a language spoken in India.

17. Zujenia is Caló–Romani, spoken in Spain, Portugal, Southern France, and Brazil. This form makes more sense when you know the Caló word zhulyi means “lady, woman,” and thus has the same meaning as Martha.

The many forms of Raphael

Rudolph Valentino, né Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi, 6 May 1895–23 August 1926

The German and English name Raphael comes from Hebrew Rafael, “God heals.” Most people are familiar with Archangel Raphael, whose primary role is as a healer. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all recognise him and hold him as one of the most important archangels. He’s also a saint in Christianity.

Though the name has never been particularly popular in the Anglophone world, it’s a different story in other countries. Raphael was #20 in Austria in 2018, and has been in the Top 40 since at least 1990.

In Belgium, Raphael was #19 in 2018, and has been in the Top 100 since at least 2004. In Switzerland, it’s been Top 100 since at least 1998 (when it was #22), and was #84 in 2018. In France, as Raphaël, it was in the Top 100 almost every year from 1900–28, and rejoined the Top 100 in 1966. In 2018, it was #2.

Self-portrait of Italian artist Raphael (né Raffaello Sanzio), 1483–1520,
ca. 1504–06

Other forms of this name include:

1. Rafael is Hebrew, German, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, Slovenian, Galician, Romanian, Catalan, Czech, Slovak, Azeri, Belarusian, Cebuano, Finnish, Macedonian, Scandinavian, Tagalog, and Croatian. The alternate form Rafaël is Dutch.

2. Raffael is German.

3. Rafail is Russian, Montenegrin, Persian, Arabic, and Greek.

4. Raffaello is Italian.

5. Raffaele is also Italian.

6. Rafel is Catalan, Aragonese, and Maltese. The alternate form Rafèl is Occitan.

7. Rafayil is Ukrainian.

8. Rafał is Polish.

9. Rafaelo is Esperanto.

10. Rapolas is Lithuanian.

1835 self-portrait of Polish artist Rafał Hadziewicz (1803–83)

11. Rafailo is Montenegrin and Serbian.

12. Rafôł is Kashubian.

13. Raiféal is Irish.

14. Rafiele is Sardinian.

15. Refoel, or Rifoel, is Yiddish.

16. Rapiel is a rare Georgian form.

17. Räffu is Swiss–German.

18. Raffaellu is Corsican.

19. Rafèu is Provinçal.

20. Rafayel is Armenian.

Russian painter and photographer Rafail Sergeyevich Levitskiy (1847–1940), painted 1878 by Ilya Repin

21. Rafaels is Latvian.

22. Rafaelis is Lithuanian.

23. Rafaäl’ is Tatar.

24. Raafael is Finnish.

25. Îsrafîl is Kurdish.

26. Arrafieli is Sardinian.

27. Arrafiele is also Sardinian.

28. Ráffo is Sami.

29. Râvfaile is Greenlandic.

30. Rafajlo is a rare Serbian form.

Italian actor Rafaela Ottiano, 1888–1942

Female forms:

1. Raphaela is German and English.

2. Rafaela is Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Galician, Polish, Kashubian, Czech, Greek, and Croatian.

3. Raffaela is German.

4. Raphaele is French.

5. Raphaella is English and Brazilian–Portuguese.

6. Raphiela is a rare Latin American–Spanish form.

7. Rapolė is Lithuanian.

8. Rafaella is Brazilian–Portuguese, Latin American–Spanish, and Hungarian.

9. Rafaëlle is a rare French form.

10. Raphaëlle is the more common French form.

11. Raffaella is Italian.