Clarissa

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “clear; bright; brilliant.”
Eng (kluh-RIS-sah); Germ (klah-HRIS-sah)

The name is possibly a modern English form of Clarice, which is an Anglo-French form of the Latin Claritia, a derivative of Clara.

Clarice was introduced into the English-speaking world through the Normans and was a fairly popular female name in Medieval England. It fell out of usage during the Reformation, and was revived in the 18th-century in the form of Clarissa. This may have been due to the eponymous novel by Samuel Richardson (1748), a tragic novel which recounts the unfortunate circumstances of a nouveau-riche girl by the name of Clarissa Harlowe.

It was borne by Clara Barton, née Clarissa Harlowe Barton, (1821-1912), foundress of the American Red Cross.

It is also borne by Clarissa Eden, Countess of Avon (b.1920) and American poet, Clarissa Pinkola Estés (b.1945).

In the early 90s, the name was brought to the spotlight via the Nickelodean sit-com, Clarissa Explains It All.

In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925), it is the first name of the heroine.

Currently, Clarissa is the 396th most popular female name in Germany, (2011).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Clarice (English/French/Italian)
  • Clarissa (English/German/Italian/Portuguese)
  • Clarisse (French)
  • Clarisa (Spanish)
  • Klarysa (Polish)
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Allegra

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Italian
Meaning: “cheerful; happy.”
Eng (uh-LAY-grah); (uh-LEG-rah); It (ahl-LAY-grah)

Allegra first appeared in Medieval Italy and was used as an auspicious name. It was especially common among Italian-Jewish families and more common in Central and Northern Italy.

It was introduced into the English-speaking world through Clara Allegra Byron (1817-1822), the short lived daughter of Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont. It was also borne by Anne Allegra Longfellow (1855-1934), the daughter of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who is mentioned in the 1860 poem The Children’s Hour.

It is currently borne by Allegra Versace (b.1986), heiress to the Versace fashion house.

Allegra is also the Romansch word for hello and is used by Romansch-speakers as a given name.

Another Italian form is Allegrina. A Spanish and Ladino cognate is Alegría.

Allegra is the 413th most popular female name in Germany, (2011).

 

Chantal

Gender: Feminine
Origin: French
Meaning: debated
Fre (CHAn-TAHL); Eng (SHAHN-tel)

The name comes from the surname of a popular French Catholic saint, Jeanne Françoise de Chantal (1572-1641), a French noblewoman and widow who became a nun upon her husband’s death, eventually founding the order of the Visitation of Holy Mary.

Originally, the name was used by devout French-Catholic parents, but due to its pleasant and feminine sound, its usage has spread elsewhere. It has been used in the Netherlands, the English-speaking world and in German-speaking countries. In Germany, the term chantalismus was coined, referring to German parents who like to give their daughters foreign and exotic sounding names.

Its popularity in other countries may have been due to the false assumption that the name is derived from the French verb chanter (to sing). In reality, the name may actually be related to a Provençal place name, cantal, (stony place). Even then, the origins of the surname are still a subject of debate.

In France, the name has spun off several double names, such as Marie-Chantal, Jeanne-Chantal and Anne-Chantal.

It is currently the 395th most popular female name in Germany (2011) and the 491st most popular in the Netherlands, (2010).

It is borne by Chantal, Princess of Hanover (b.1955), heiress to a Swiss chocolate fortune and Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece, Princess of Denmark (b.1968).

Philine

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Greek
Meaning: “friendly; loveable.”
Germ (fee-LEE-neh)

The name was possibly coined by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for a character in his 1796 novel, Wilhelm Meister’s Aprenticeship. It is most likely derived from the Greek, philein, philéo meaning “friendly, loveable”.

The name has been borne by German actress, Philine Leudesdorff-Tormin (1892-1924) and German opera singer, Philine Fischer (1919-2001).

Currently, Philine is the 407th most popular female name in Germany, (2011).

 

Mareike

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Frisian
(mah-RIE-keh)

The name was originally a Frisian diminutive form of Maria, but has been used as an independent given name since at least the 1940s. The name was a subject of a 1962 Jacques Brel song in which the singer recounts his love affair with a Flemmish girl.

Currently, Mareike is the 398th most popular female name in Germany, (2011).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Marika (Czech/Estonian/Finnish/Greek/Hungarian/Polish/Slovak)
  • Marijke (Dutch)
  • Marike (Dutch)
  • Mareke (German)

 

Verena

 

The name is possibly derived from the Latin, verus, meaning “true.” Others have suggested that the name may actually be of some unknown Egyptian source.

The name was borne by a 3rd-century Egyptian saint who found her way to Switzerland while marching along with the Theban legions. She is considered the patron saint of hairdressers as she was known for converting young native Swiss women to Christianity while washing and styling their hair. There is a shrine dedicated to St. Verena in Zurich, Switzerland.

The name has been popular in Germany and Switzerland and has even experienced some usage in the United States during the 18th and 19th-centuries, no doubt, brought over by German immigrants. It is also an especially common name among Mennonite, Hutterite and Amish families and is a popular name among Egyptian Christians.

It is also the name of a fictional goddess in the popular fantasy/video game series Warhammer. She is the goddess of healing and learning and is based on both Minerva and Athena.

Currently, Verena is the 383rd most popular female name in Germany, (2011).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Virina (Coptic)
  • Vérène (French)
  • Verena Верена (English/German/Italian/Russian/Slovene)
  • Werena (Polish)
  • Frena (Romansch)
  • Varena (Romansch)
  • Vreni (Swiss-German)
  • Vreneli (Swiss-German)