Thursday, July 27, 2006

An exploration of names with 'Theo-' as their root

Theos is Greek for God so it is not unexpected that it is a common element in many names. The most popular of these is Theodore meaning 'gift of God'. This names has been borne by Presidents (Theodore Roosevelt), Popes and Saints, and has the nicknames Theo and Teddy (giving Teddy-Bear from Roosevelt). Theodore has several related names, and different spellings in other languages:

Todor - similar to Tudor the Welsh form of the name which became the surname of the royal family 1485-1603 including the infamous Henry VIII and his 6 wives.

Dorothea - this is a swap of the two elements of Theodore - theos and doron Dorothea (and Dorothy) has the same meaning as Theodore and shares two of its nickames (Dora and Thea) with:
Tea (Tee-ah)

Another 'Theo-' name is Theophanes meaning 'manifestation of God' - phanes means appearing. Theophanes coined the female name Theophania from which the modern name Tiffany comes. Theophania was used to refer to Epiphany when the Three Wise Men visited the infant Christ. In Medieval times girls born during the Twelve Days of Christmas (25 Dec - 6 Jan) were given a variant of this name. The French changed Theophania to Tifaina and Tifaine.

The next 'Theo-' name is Theodosius meaning 'giving to God' - dosis means giving. From Theodosius we get the female form Theodosia. This name was borne by several early saints.

Theodotus means 'given to God' - dotus means given.

Theodulus means 'slave of God' - doulos meaning slave. This is quite apt as a Christian slave - Zoe and her husband Hesperus, refused to eat the food their Master offered to the pagan Roman Gods when their son was born. The Master then ordered them and their two sons - Syriacus and Theodulus, to be tortured and roasted. Not exactly a pretty connection but an example of early Christian bravery and trust in God.

Theophilus means 'friend of God'. The Book of Acts and Luke's gospel are both addressed toa man name Theophilus. The female form is Theophilia. This is another name that can be rearranged - in Louis de Bernieres book Birds without wings the central female character is named Philothei.

'Judge of God' is the meaning of Theocritus from krites meaning judge. It was the name of a 3rd century Greek poet.

Theophylaktos is my final Greek, male name. As well as being a mouthful and difficult to spell it means 'guarded by God' with phylasso meaning 'to guard'.

Theokleia is a female name from kleia meaning glory and was the name of the first female saint. Her suffering was recorded in the Apocryphal book of 'Acts of Paul and Thecla'. Thecla is a contracted form of the name.

The non-Greek Theo- names

Namely Theobald and Theodoric. These two names are (confusingly) of German origin. The Theo part is from peud meaning 'people'. Theobald simply means 'bold people' and Theodoric means 'ruler of the people' - ric meaning power.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Elizabeth and its diminutives and alterations

History: Elizabeth is a fairly common throughout history. It is of Hebrew origin from Elisheva - 'God is my oath'. In the Bible Elisheba was Aaron's wife and John the Baptist's Mother (who is now known as Elizabeth).

An early recording of Elizabeth is a Russian Princess Elisavetta who was sang about by Viking king Harald Hardrada. The songs established the name in Scandinavia and so came the alterations: Elsebin, Lisbet and Helsa.

Changing of Elizabeth:
Elisheba to Elisabet by the Greeks
Elisabet to Elisabeth in Latin
Elisabeth to Lescinska by the Russians
Elisabeth to Elizabeth by the Germans
And Elisabeth to Isabelle in the 12th century

Creation in a nutshell: Belgian Princess Elizabeth married Philippe August of France and changed her name to Isabella. This became Isabelle, Isabel and Ysabel.

Elizabeth = Ellie, Ella, Eliza, Elsie, Elspeth, Elise, Liz, Liza, Lizzie, Libby, Lisette, Lilibet, Beth, Bet, Betsy, Bess, Bessie, Bettina, Babette, Betty, Bella, Belle, Izzy

Elisabeth also gives Lisa and Lissie

So what do I think of Elizabeth?
1) Terrific numbers of nicknames and alterations eg Isabel, even if Elizabeth is common the vast amounts of nicknames means that an Elizabeth will not get lost in the crowd. The only names with similar scope that I can think of are Alice (because of all the different Alicia spellings) and Katharine/Katherine/Catherine/Catharine/Kathryn.

2) Huge numbers of namesakes as well - Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth I and II of England, several St Elizabeths, for celebrities there's Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler and Elizabeth Taylor. Also included in plays and literature such as Eliza Dolittle in Pygmalion and My Fair Lady.

3) However, I also think that Elizabeth is common and can be plain. I consider Isabel to be a prettier alternative, especially in the middle name spot. However, Isabella is rising sharply in popularity - last year it was #6 in the USA. But Elizabeth is a safe choice - unlikely to attract the kind of teasing that other 'made-up' and 'unique' names will, and will last a lifetime.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Eglantine with comments '-ine' names

Certainly an unusual flowery name, Eglantine has over the last few weeks appealed to me.
Firstly, names such as Evangeline or Emmeline are getting popular - being used more - certainly around the name forums. I do not foresee Eglantine ever becoming popular and that adds to its charm. However, neither Evangeline or Emmeline have broken the top 1000 in USA for 40 years. Emmeline in particular, has never even got into the top 1000 and Evangeline's peak was way back in 1901 at #398. But nowadays more and more people are searching for unusually traditional names - Sarah, Alice, Rebecca are all being seen as lovely but too popular. Thus the rise of the '-ine' names - Josephine (2005 #229), Madeline (#69), Angelina (#43) and Katherine (which has been wallowing around #35 since 1978 with dips into the 20s in early 90s.).

Angeline, which was popular at the turn of the century, is back in the charts at #925 after an eighteen year hiatus. This could either be due to film star Angelina Jolie or because of its '-ine' ending.

Back onto Eglantine.
First thoughts:
The spelling - this is quite an ugly name really. The 'lantine' part is pleasing to the eye, but the 'g' is off-putting especially put next to the E.
Egg-lan-teen, Eg-lan-tin or Egg-lan-tine (to rhyme with twine)? My research seems to suggest teen or tine.

Meaning - possibly the most important part of a name - if you like sound and spelling then the meaning can break or make a name:
It is a flower name - sweet brier - from Old French aiglent which is from the Latin acus meaning 'needle' as the plant has a prickly stem.

So, does Eglantine have a long and illustrious history?
Depends which way you look at it.
It was used by Geoffrey Chaucer in 'The Prioress's Tale' and by JRR Tolkien as the mother of the Hobbit Pippin. A Wikipedia search comes up with it as the 'the estate of the Irish Mill Baron, Edward Thomas Green'.

My own thoughts on Eglantine are that it is a sing-song name, but should only be used as an alternative to Emmeline and Evangeline if they become popular. I like that it is unusual but dislike the spelling. Recently I have used it as a minor (who may become major) character in my current novel.