Pol (VAHN-dah); Eng (WAHN-duh).
The name first appeared in a legend presented by Polish historian, Wincenty Kadlubek (12-13th century). In his version of the legend, Wanda was the daughter of a Polish king Krak, (founder of the city of Krakow), who inherited her father’s throne. An evil German prince wanted to marry her and take over the Polish lands, but the princess repelled him and drove him to suicide. The prince threw himself into the Vistula. Wanda went on to live a happy and long life, remaining a virgin and vowing to be married only to her country. The most famous account, however, is completely different. In the most beloved form of the tale, rather than have her country taken over by the German invaders, Wanda threw herself into the Vistula. In Poland, she is a symbol of the nation, representing the sacrifice and hardship of the nation of Poland throughout its history. She is a symbol of Polish independence and its victory over German imperialism.
Tradition has it that she is buried in one of the seven mounds of Krakow. Till this day, the Wanda Mound (Kopiec Wanda) rests on the outskirts of Krakow, (in what is now known as the suburb of Nowa Huta).
Wanda is probably one of the very few Polish names that became popular in the English speaking world. It was introduced via author Ouida who used it for heroine in the novel Wanda (1888). The name no longer ranks in the U.S. top 1000, but was once a fairly popular name, coming in at # 47 in 1934, the highest the name ever ranked in U.S. naming history.
Many sources list the name as being a derivative of the Ancient Germanic wend, a name for a group of people who lived near and around the Vistula, however, some Lithuanian sources have argued that it is derived from an ancient Baltic element vanduo meaning “water” while many others speculate that its true origins have been lost and that its true introduction into the world was through Kadlubek.
In Poland, a popular nickname option is Wadzia (VAHD-jah). An alternative is the Czech/Slovak, Italian and Lithuanian, Vanda. There is also the elaborated Swedish name Wendela, though it is speculated if she is truly related to Wanda or if in fact she is a completely different name of Germanic origins. The name has experienced occasional usage in Germany, Spain, Brazil, Hungary and Russia.