The name is derived from the Latin unda meaning “wave.”
In early European folklore undines were a sort of water sprite who could gain a soul if they married a mortal and bore a child, the downside was that as soon as they became mortal they would age and die.
The Swiss scientist and alchemist Paracelsus spent a considerable time writing about them.
In 1812, the German writer, Baron Friedirch de la Motte Fouque, made the legend a subject of his famous romantic novel Ondine.
In it Ondine falls in love and marries the local knight Huldebrand. She bears his child, but as soon as the baby is born, she starts to age. Huldebrand has an affair with a lowly local woman and Ondine catches her husband in the act. She lays a curse on Huldebrand that he would die in his sleep. Afterward, Ondine rushes to the town square’s fountain and disappears in the midst of the waters, never to be seen again. The same story was later adapted by E.T.A. Hoffman into an opera.
Ondine and Undine became popular first name choices in both France and Germany. Nicknames include Ondy, Ondinette and Dina.
Other forms of the name include:
- Ondina (Asturian/Italian/Portuguese/Spanish)
- Ondine (French)
- Undine (German/English)
- Undina (Icelandic)
- Undīne (Latvian)
- Undinė (Lithuanian)
- Ondyna (Polish: very obscure)
Designated name-days are: April 18 (Lithuania) and November 15 (Latvia)