Cecilia, Cecily


Gender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning “blind”
Eng (seh-SEE-lee-yuh); Lat (kay-KEE-lyah); Italian (chay-CHEEL-yah).

This four syllable, melodic name has been in usage throughout the Western World since the early Middle Ages. Thanks to the cult of Saint Cecilia, an early Christian martyr, considered to be the patron saint of music and musicians.

Geoffrey Chaucer made the saint a subject of his writings and refers to the name as meaning “lily of heaven”; “the way for the blind”; “contemplation of heaven and an active life”; “as if lacking in blindness”; “a heaven for people to gaze upon.”

However, these were only epithets used by the early English writer describing the wondrous attributes and virtues of the saint, and should not be confused for its real meaning.

The name is a feminine form of the Latin Caecilius which comes from the word caecus meaning blind.

The name was introduced into England after the Norman conquest in the form of Cecily (SES-ih-LEE). The name was very popular in England until the Protestant Reformation where it fell out of usage.

Its Latin counterpart of Cecilia was not introduced into the English speaking world until the 18th-century, afterwards, its early English form of Cecily became quite popular during Victorian England.

As of 2010, its Danish form of Cecilie was the 30th most popular female name in Denmark. Her rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 39 (Silje, Denmark, 2010)
  • # 65 (Silje, Norway, 2010)
  • # 277 (Cecilia, United States, 2010)
  • # 385 (Cécile, France, 2009)
  • # 486 (Cecilia, France, 2009)
  • # 741 (Cecelia, United States, 2010)

There is the masculine English form of Cecil. Other forms of the name include:

  • Aziliz (Breton)
  • Cicilia (Corsican)
  • Cecilija (Croatian)
  • Cila (Croatian)
  • Cecílie (Czech: tset-TSEEL-yeh)
  • Cecilie (Danish/Norwegian)
  • Cille (Danish)
  • Sille (Danish)
  • Cecile/Ceciel (Dutch)
  • Cecilia (Dutch/Finnish/German/Italian/Romanian/Spanish/Swedish)
  • Cilla (Dutch/Swedish)
  • Cecelia (English)
  • Säsil (Estonian)
  • Sesilia (Faroese)
  • Selja/Silja (Finnish)
  • Cécile (French)
  • Silke (Frisian/German: ZIL-kə)
  • Síle (Gaelic)
  • Kek’ik’ilia კიკილია (Georgia)
  • Cäcilia/Caecilia (German: tsay-TSEEL-yah or tsay-TSEE-lee-yah)
  • Cäcilie (German: tsay-TSEEL-yə or tsay-TSEE-lee-yə)
  • Zilla (German: originally a diminutive form sometimes used as an independent given name, another diminutive is Zilly)
  • Kekilia (Greek Modern)
  • Sissiilia/Sissii (Greenlandic)
  • Kikilia (Hawaiian)
  • Cecília (Hungarian/Portuguese/Slovak)
  • Cili (Hungarian/Slovene)
  • Szöszill (Hungarian)
  • Seselía, Sesilía, Sesselía, Sessilía (Icelandic)
  • Sisilia (Indonesian)
  • Sheila (Irish)
  • Caecilia (Latin)
  • Cecilė/Cilė(Lithuanian)
  • Cissolt (Manx: SIS-solt)
  • Sidsel (Norwegian/Danish)
  • Silje (Norwegian/Danish)
  • Sissel (Norwegian/Danish)
  • Cilgia (Romansch)
  • Tsetsiliya (Russian)
  • Sìleas (Scottish)
  • Cecília (Slovakian)
  • Šejla (Slovakian)
  • Cecilija (Slovenian)
  • Cilika (Slovenian)
  • Cilka (Slovenian)
  • Sisel (Yiddish)
  • Zisel (Yiddish)

Male forms include

  • Cecil (English)
  • Cecilio (Italian/Spanish)
  • Caecilius (Latin)
  • Cecilijus (Lithuanian)
  • Cecilián (Slovakian)

Czech diminutive forms are: Cecilka, Celia, Cilia, Cilka and Cilinka.

English diminutive forms are: Cece, Celia and Sissy.

The designated name-day is November 22nd.

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7 thoughts on “Cecilia, Cecily

  1. I found this article to be very interesting.
    Just a little side note on the German Caecilia: I’ve never heard it pronounced with a -k-sound; granted, this is one of the Latin pronunciation possibilities – but all the old German ladies named Caecilia (or Cäcilia, which is another, slightly more common spelling of this name) I know use the “Germanized” pronunciation “tsay-TSEEL-yah” or “tsay-TSEE-lee-yah”. Another, rather old-fashioned, German variant is Cäcilie, approximately pronounced “tsay-TSEEL-yə” or “tsay-TSEE-lee-yə”. Nicknames common among the older generation are Zilla and Zilly (both pronounced with a TS-sound); a common form used in Northern Germany – which experienced some popularity throughout the 1980’s in the rest of the country as well – is the Frisian variant Silke, pronounced ZIL-kə.

    The Scandinavian short forms of this name, Silja and Silje, and the Icelandic variants Seselía, Sesilía, Sesselía, Sessilía and Sesselja might be interesting, too.

    Uhm, I hope you don’t mind my smart-alecky comment.

    • You don’t sound smart-alecky at all! I love it when you or any member contributes more information. That is really interesting about how the C is softenend in German pronunciation. I will have to update my post ;). And please, keep commenting, that is what I make these posts for. 🙂

  2. I just remembered another form of Cecilia and thought I’d let you know; maybe someone will find it appealing: the Breton form of Cecicila is Aziliz.

  3. I have notes from a relative giving a Danish ancestor’s name as Marie Cecila. I’ve been suspicious of that spelling, and your article makes me believe that her name was actually Cecille, which would have sounded the same. Some day maybe I’ll discover a record to confirm it, but for now, I think I’ll resist the attempt of another on Ancestry.com to rename her “Cecelia.”

    Thanks for the information…

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