The name is an ancient Macedonian form of the Attic Greek, Pherenikë (Φερενίκη), which is composed of the Greek elements, phero (φέρω), “to bear” and nike (νίκη), “victory.” The earliest attestation of the name is a 3rd-century priestess of Demeter.
The name has often been associated with Veronica, but there is still debate as to whether these two names are actually related.
Berenice was a common one among the Ptolomy dynasty of Egypt, being borne by at least 9 Ptolomaic women. It also seems to have been common among the late Judaean Kingdom royalty, being born by 3 Jewish princesses, one of whom appears briefly in the New Testament as the name King Herod’s sister.
It was later borne by an early Christian Greek martyr, making the name remain common after the debut of Christianity.
In the English-speaking world, she has appeared interchangeably as Berenice and Bernice. In the United States, Bernice seems to have been the more common form, the highest she ever ranked was in 1921, coming in as the 39th most popular female name.
As of 2011, neither Berenice or Bernice appear in the U.S. top 1000, but Bérénice was the 279th most popular female name in France, (2010).
Other forms of the name include:
- Bjeranika Бераніка (Belarusian)
- Berenice (Catalan/Dutch/English/Italian/Portuguese/Spanish)
- Berenika Береника (Czech/Polish/Russian/Slovak)
- Bernice (English)
- Bérénice (French)
- Berenike (German)
- Bereníkē Βερενίκη (Greek: modern)
- Bereniké (Hungarian)