Gertrude


James C. Christensen

Gender: Feminine
Origin: German
Meaning: “spear strength.”
Eng (GER-trood); Ger (ger-TROO-də)

She has adorable nickname options; Trudy, among others. She has a similar feel to other current vintage trend-setters such as Matilda and Eleanor, yet Gertrude, for the most part remains unloved. Like Hildegard and Brynhild, this is one of those names where I often ask myself: why not?

She is strong, vintagy and no-frills, as mentioned before, she has tons of adorable nickname options. Is she really anymore grandmotherly or old sounding than Emma, Eleanor, Matilda or even Abigail? We have gotten used to hearing these names but I remember a time when the above names were considered “too old” until it took one famous person to use them and voila, they are automatically endearing and trendy.

Ok, I’ll get off my high horse and get onto the what the name is really all about.

Portrait of Gurtruydt van Leyden.
by James C. Christensen via http://www.greenwichworkshop.com/saintsandangels/17.htm

Gertrude is composed of the Germanic roots, ger (spear) and þruþ (strength).

The name was borne by several illustrious medieval women, two of whom are saints. Gertrude of Nivelles (626-659) is revered as the patron saint of cats! I am not quite sure how she came to be known as a feline patron, but she was the daughter of Pepin I and was supposed to be married off at the age of ten, but steadfastly refused, insisting that she would only marry Christ. After the death of her father, her wealthy mother constructed Gertrude her very own convent, making her the abbess. She is also invoked against mice and rat infestations.

Another Gertrude is Gertrude the Great (1256-1302) a German nun, mystic and great theologian of her time.

The name has been borne by German and Dutch royalty alike.

Gertrude is pretty well-known in the English-speaking world, but actually never experienced much usage. It was introduced into England in the 15th-century by Dutch settlers, where it was ocassionally used. It appears in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600) as the name of the hero’s mother.  It was used sparingly in the United States at the beginning of the 20th-century, possibly being introduced by German immigrants. The highest it ever ranked was in 1898 coming in as the 573rd most popular female name.

In the United States, its most famous bearer is Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), famous writer and poet.

As of 2011, her Finnish form of Kerttu was the 20th most popular female name in Finland and Geertruida came in as the 491st most popular female name in the Netherlands, (2010). Meanwhile, its Dutch diminutive offshoot of Geertje is the 368th most popular female name in the Netherlands, (2010).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Gartred (Cornish)
  • Gertruda (Croatian/Czech/Lithuanian/Polish/Romansch/Slovene)
  • Geerdina (Dutch)
  • Geertje (Dutch)
  • Ge(e)rtruida (Dutch)
  • Geertrui (Dutch)
  • Gertrude (Dutch/English/French/German/Italian/Platdeutch)
  • Trudy (Dutch/English/German)
  • Truus (Dutch)
  • Kelli (Estonian)
  • Kertu (Estonian)
  • Kärt (Estonian)
  • Ge(i)rtrúð (Faroese)
  • Gortra (Faroese)
  • Jertru (Finnish)
  • Jerttu (Finnish)
  • Järtty (Finnish)
  • Kerttu (Finnish)
  • Kerttuli (Finnish)
  • Gesa (Frisian)
  • Gesche (Frisian/Platdeutsch)
  • Geesche (Frisian)
  • Gesina (Frisian)
  • Gerta (German)
  • Gertraud (German)
  • Gertrud (German/Scandinavian/Romansch)
  • Gertrúd (Hungarian)
  • Jerta (Hungarian)
  • Geirþrúður (Icelandic)
  • Jarþrúður (Icelandic)
  • Geltrude (Italian)
  • Gertrūda (Latvian)
  • Gjertrud (Norwegian)
  • Jartrud (Norwegian)
  • Geretrudis (Old High German)
  • Geirþrúðr (Old Norse)
  • Jarþrúðr (Old Norse)
  • Gertrudes (Portuguese)
  • Gearte (Sami)
  • Kearte (Sami)
  • Gertrúda (Slovak)
  • Trudla (Sorbian)
  • Gertrudis (Spanish)
  • Gardrud (Swedish)
  • Gertru(n) (Swedish)
  • Hjertrud (Swedish)

Common German and English short forms are Gertie and Trudi/Trudy.

Artwork

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