Medieval Names for Modern Girls

May 29th 2018

Finding the right balance of femininity and strength in girls’ names can be tough - why not take inspiration from the people of the Middle Ages? These monikers adorned princesses and peasants, saints and socialites, with unique sounds and interesting etymologies. Elegant and unusual, these historic names prove that the best modern choices can come from ancient sources.

Image: archeon/Flickr

Agnes. Though it was once a commonplace pick, adorable Agnes has yet to re-enter the Top 1000 after dropping off in 1973. Vintage yet unexpected, Agnes is a lovely name with a long history of namesakes and modern celebrity endorsements.

Thomasine. One of the few feminine forms of Thomas, stunning Thomasine exudes a combination of sophistication and friendliness. Beatrix Potter and Thomas Hardy used the name for characters in their writings, giving the name extra literary flair.

Iva. Simple and chic Iva manages to be extraordinary while also meshing well with current playground trends - Ava, Eva, and Ivy, for example. While the name has a complicated etymology, Iva feels substantial and ageless in a contemporary context.

Rosamund. With “Rose” names getting renewed interest, beautiful Rosamund merits a second look - even though it comes from a different linguistic background, meaning “horse protection.” English actress Rosamund Pike has helped this name rise, but it’s novel enough to work for a modern girl.

Petronella. Historically popular in the Netherlands, Petronella has a gorgeous melody dating back to its creation in Ancient Rome. This bold, romantic choice could work as an uncommon route to the nicknames Petra or Nell, but its full form is better on the birth certificate.

Sabina. Just one letter off from glamorous Sabrina, Sabina’s sound is a bit softer and more compassionate. It’s fairly well-used in a few European countries, but attractive Sabina hasn’t ranked on US popularity charts since 1926.

Melisende. The original French form of Millicent, pretty Melisende works much better today, with its ancient roots and mellifluous air. One notable namesake was Queen Melisende of Jerusalem, a strong female leader and a great patron of the arts.

Philippa. This bright choice is the first name of “Pippa” Middleton, giving this enduring name more context in the modern world. While the Brits have long appreciated peppy Philippa, it has never been given to more than 75 girls in any year in the United States.

Euphemia. A striking option for name aficionados, Euphemia comes from the Greek for “sweet speech,” and is the original source of the name Effie. This rare choice may raise some eyebrows, but Euphemia’s illustrious history and pleasing sound give it a firm foundation

Nicola. Despite Nicole’s popularity in the states, feminine Nicola never quite achieved the audience it once found on the British Isles. It’s a fantastic option for those looking to honor an Aunt Nicki or Uncle Nicholas, and it’s been worn by athletes, actresses, and authors.

Mathilde. Clunky-yet-cool Matilda has won the hearts of Anglophones - might its French variant one day ride up this spirited name’s coattails? Mathilde currently ranks in the top 50 in France, and could appeal to fans of names like Nathalie or Madeleine.

Isolde. A tragic heroine in Celtic legend, Isolde was the true love of Tristan, and their story influenced countless subsequent romantic sagas such as that of Lancelot and Guinevere. Isolde fits in well with the recent trend towards heroine names, such as Athena and Khaleesi.

Christiana. What a difference an A makes: Christiana manages to update Christina as well as join the ranks of Anna names popular today, such as Juliana and Adriana. A favorite choice among the royals of Europe, Christiana is a fun mix of nobility and modernity all in one.

Edith. The most popular name on this list (at least in the United States), Edith’s strength comes partially from its meaning: “prosperous in war.” Friendly nickname Edie helps with day-to-day use, but Edith’s inherent confidence and uniqueness are sure to impress.

Sibilla. The Italian form of Sybil, Sibilla is a pleasant compromise that keeps the name’s mythological roots while feeling fresh and unusual. This charming name has only been recorded once for girls in American name history - 5 girls were given the name in 2013.

Amata. From the Latin for “beloved,” Amata is a graceful name that renews the likes of Amy and Amanda. Though it’s never been recorded in US history, Spanish variant Amada has received similar attention for its simplicity and femininity.



May 31, 2018 11:12 AM

There are actually other feminine forms of Thomas, but Thomasine in a variety of spellings was definitely quite popular. The Beatrix Potter character is definitely Thomasina with an a, though, as is the mathematician in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. 

These Emily Cardoza posts make me miss Miriam and her reliable linguistics smack down.