Rosalia, Rosalie

Gender: Feminine
Origin: French
Meaning: “rose festival.”
(ROZE-uh-LEE-uh); (ROZE-uh-LEE)

Rosalie Cullen is described as an utterly beautiful yet cold creature. She is the more stand-offish of the Cullen bunch. If you don’t know what I am talking about, I am referring to a character in the popular Stephanie Meyer books, Twilight.

For a character that was supposedly born at the turn of the century, Ms. Meyer certainly named her character well, since Rosalie has not been in the top 1000 names since 1988, coming in at a mere # 942 when it was last seen. In fact, the highest the name ever reached was # 66 back in 1938!

If Rosalie Cullen doesn’t hold enough supernatural appeal for you, then you might want to look into the history of this rare little gem, as the name has enough gothic and romantic charm behind it to fit a beautiful vampire.

It is assumed that the name is just an elaboration of the name Rose, but in actuality, it comes directly from the name of an ancient Roman and Greek festival, the rosalia. Known to the Greeks as the Anthesteria, the celebrations usually took place around the 11th to 13th of January or February. It was basically the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored in previous years. During the festival, the vintages were opened, representing the beginning of Spring. Likewise, on these days, slaves and masters reversed their roles, it was the one and only festival where slaves were allowed to participate. It was also a day that celebrated the expulsion of the lost wondering souls of the dead. It had many similar aspects to Hallow e’en and Mardi Gras. Though a popular festival, the name was never used as a human moniker till perhaps the Middle Ages.

As a give name, it seems to have first appeared around the 1600s after the bones of a mysterious hermit saint were found in a cave in Sicily.

Known affectionately in Sicily as La Santuzza, (the Little Saint), all that is known of St. Rosalie is that she and her family were of noble blood and were French-Norman immigrants who had settled in the city of Palermo.

St. Rosalie chose to live a life as a hermit, and tucked herself away in a cave till she died.

Legend has it that she was lead to the cave by angels. On the cave wall, she wrote, “I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of the Roses, and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my lord, Jesus Christ.” (

In the 1600s, Palermo had been struck by the plague, and, according to legend, the saint appeared to a hunter dying from the pestilence. She led him to the cave where her bones were found. Rosalia then instructed the hunter to transport her bones back to Palermo and to have them carried in a procession throughout the city. The hunter did what she asked and supposedly, the hunter, and the city, were cured of the plague. Since then, St. Rosalie is honoured as the patron saint of Palermo, and each July 15, a huge festival is held in her honour to commemorate the event.

Known as the festino, it is still a big holiday in Sicily, and even throughout the United States, the same festival is celebrated by Italian Americans, only it has been switched to honour Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, while St. Rosalie’s feast is held off till the beginning of September.

Another interesting side note is that St. Rosalie is also designated as the patron saint of evolutionary studies, due to the fact that a scientist by the name of G.E. Hutchinson conducted a study of a pool by the saint’s cave where he observed water boatmen.

The name was never really used in the English speaking world till the influx of Italian immigrants to the United States at the turn of the century.

In 2006 French popularity lists, Rosalie came in at # 342.

Currently, in Slovenia, its contracted form of Zala is the 8th most popular female name, (2008).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Rosalia (Afrikaans/Catalan/German/Italian/Sardinian)
  • Rozalija (Croatian/Latvian/Serbian/Slovene)
  • Rozálie (Czech: raw-ZAHL-yeh)
  • Rosalie (Danish/Dutch/French/English)
  • Rozália (Hungarian/Slovak)
  • Rosolia (Italian: obscure)
  • Rozalia (Polish/Slovene)
  • Rosália (Portuguese)
  • Rusulìa (Sicilian)
  • Zala (Slovene: originally a diminutive form, now used exclusively as an independent given name)
  • Rosalía (Spanish)

An Italian masculine form is Rosalio.

2 thoughts on “Rosalia, Rosalie

  1. I think Rosalie might get a boost from Twilight – she's one of the good vampires. I'm hearing a lot of her on name boards.

    My mother's family is Sicilian, but we don't have any Rosalias – instead, we have Maria Rosas. I do like Rosalia's sound, and Rosalie's retro vibe. But I'm still all about Rosemary.

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