Ladina

 

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Romansch
Meaning: “Latin woman; Latin speaker.”
(lah-DEE-nah).

This is a name that is scarcely heard outside of Switzerland, with the pleasant nickname options of Dina or Ladi, it is a fairly common name in both the German and Italian speaking parts of Switzerland.
In 2010, she stands as the 47th  most popular female name in German-speaking Switzerland. It is somewhat of a patriotic name, as Ladin is the name of a dialect of Romansch, (a very minor Romance language said to be the closest in form and sound to Latin).
The dialect of Ladin is spoken by the inhabitants of Friuli in Northern Italy, and on the Italian-Swiss border in Switzerland. The language has an Italian sound with a Germanic rhythm. It is reminiscent in sound to Yiddish, audio can be heard here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladin_language.
Romansch, (including all its various dialects), is one of the 4 national languages of Switzerland, and while the language is dying off, the names survive long and well, sometimes being the preferred choice among Swiss parents. Many Romansch names, have a very pleasant, soft and Latin flavor to them.
Another Romance language, which is of completely different linguistic formations, is Ladino, the main language spoken by Sephardic Jews. It’s basically medieval Spanish mixed in with some Turkish, Arabic and Hebrew loan words. Though the female give name of Ladina has Romansch origins, the name might be an interesting choice for Sephardic Jewish parents, who might want to give a subtle nod to their heritage in their child’s name.

Maurice

Gender: Masculine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “dark; black”
Fr. (moh-REESE) Eng (MOR-ris).

He may seem a bit dated to some, but parents looking to vintage names like Leo and Brice/Bryce might see the appeal in this. Traditionally nicknamed Maury, parents who opt for the French pronunciation have the advantage of using Reese. Look past Maury Povich and the cartoon character in Madgascar, and you will find that the name has a long and rich history.

He is a derivative of the Roman name Mauritius, which is derived from the Latin Maurus meaning, “dark-skinned; dark complexion.”

The name was borne by Emperor Maurice of Byzantium (539-602). Known in Greek as Maurikios and in his native Armenian as Morik, he was one of the most influential and decisive rulers of the Byzantine Empire, so much so that he is a national hero in his native Armenia till this day.

StMaurice2 (1)The name is also borne by a very popular 3rd century saint. St. Maurice was an Egyptian by birth and a Roman citizen. He served in the Roman army and was apart of the Theban legions, which had been stationed in Switzerland at the time of the saint’s martyrdom. According to legend, Emperor Maximian ordered Maurice and his legions to destroy a local Christian community, when Maurice and his followers refused to harass fellow Christians, the emperor ordered them to be executed. The area of martyrdom is now known as Saint Maurice-en-Valais and the Abbey of Saint Maurice-en-Valais supposedly houses the saint’s relics.

800px-St._Moritz_by_nightThe saint also gave his name to another town in Switzerland: St. Moritz, (Top of the World), is a beautiful little resort town that sits in the Valley of Engadine and the canton of Graubünden. Their coat of arms actually features the legendary saint. St. Maurice is also venerated among Coptic Christians. In fact, the names Maurice and Maurikios are fairly common among Egyptian Christians.

The German form of Moritz is found in the popular German children’s series Max and Moritz written by Wilhelm Busch in 1865. The humorous duo is still a common pop icon in German speaking countries. Other notable appearances include a novel by E.M. Forster, (Maurice) written in 1913, a tale of same sex love in early 20th-century England.

The Island of Mauritius or L’île Maurice in French, is a former French colony off the coast of Africa. It was named in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands.

The designated name-day is September 22

Currently, Maurice is the 150th most popular male name in Germany, (2011), and he still lurks within the U.S top 1000 coming in as the 445th most popular male name, (2010).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Morik Մորիկ (Armenian)
  • Moïc (Breton)
  • Maurici (Catalan)
  • Maurikios (Coptic/Greek)
  • Maric Мариц (Croatian/Serbian)
  • Maurits (Dutch/Scandinavian)
  • Mauri (Finnish)
  • Maur (French)
  • Maurice (French/English)
  • Moriz (German: archaic)
  • Moritz (German/Scandinavian)
  • Móric (Hungarian/Slovakian)
  • Mór (Hungarian)
  • Muiris (Irish)
  • Maurizio (Italian)
  • Mauro (Italian/Portuguese/Romansch)
  • Mauritius (Late Latin)
  • Maurus (Latin/Romansch)
  • Morics (Latvian)
  • Maurycy (Polish)
  • Maurício (Portuguese)
  • Maurin (Romansch)
  • Murezi (Romansch)
  • Murezzan (Romansch)
  • Mauricio (Spanish)
  • Meuric/Meurig (Welsh)

Its feminine counterparts are Maura, Mauricia and Maurizia.

Common English short forms are  Maury, Moe and Morry.

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)


Ursula

ursulaBritishMuseumGender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “little she-bear; she-cub; little female bear.”
Eng (ERS-uh-LAH)

The name is of Latin origin but is suggested that is may be a latinization of the old Germanic female name Yrsa meaning “bear” and was popularized by a medieval Christian saint said to be martyred in Cologne. Not much is known about the saint, other that she was martyred under Huns along with 11,000 other virgins, which is now believed to be a misprint from the written source of the legend. What is known for sure is that there was a basilica built in honour of a virgin Christian martyr in Cologne and from this arose several different legends referring to a St. Ursula and St. Cordula. According to the legend, St. Ursula was a British princess who was sent by her father to Germany to marry a prince, along with her, were sent 11,000 maidens, however,  her ship was taken off course due to a storm and instead ended up in France where she then decided to do a pan-European Christian pilgramage before meeting her future husband. She made a pilgramage to Rome where she tried to pursuade the pope to do a pilgramage with her and her 11,ooo companions. When she reached cologne she and her companions were massacred by the Huns.

The legend is based off of a 4th century inscription written in the Basilica which was built in the saint’s honour. It is believed that the 11,ooo handmaidens was confused with a female martyr named Undecimilia, Undecimila or Xemilia and that the abbreviation XI.M.V was misread as a number. The same saint has also been referred to under the names Pinnosa or Vinnosa. The name was quite prevalent in Great Britain before the Reformation and went out of usage afterwards. The name is also borne by Swiss actress Ursula Andress (b. 1936). It has also appeared in popular culture as the name of the evil sea-witch in Disney’s the Little Mermaid and as the name of the wife of Nigellus Phineas Black in the Harry Potter Series.

In Poland, the name is associated with a great piece of Polish Literature written by Jan Kochanowski. Known as Laments (Treny) 1580, they are a series of 19 elegies which talk about the author’s grief after the death of his two and half year old daughter Orszola (Urzula) which he refers to as the Slavic Sappho.

Other forms of the name are (divided alphabetically by nationality):

  • Orsula (Corsican)
  • Uršula (Croatian/Czech/Slovakian/Slovenian)
  • Yrsa (Danish/Faroese/Icelandic/Norwegian/Swedish)
  • Orsel (Dutch)
  • Ursule/Ursuline (French)
  • Ursula/Ursel (German/Dutch/Estonian/Finnish/Spanish: German diminutive forms are Ulla, Uli and Uschi)
  • Orsolya (Hungarian: or-SHOH-lah was the 56th most popular female name in Hungary in 2006)
  • Úrsúla (Icelandic)
  • Orsina/Orsola/Orsolina (Italian)
  • Ursa (Latin)
  • Urzula (Latvian)
  • Uršulė (Lithuanian)
  • Urszula/Orszola/Warszula (Polish: Latter two forms are older forms and are rarely used. Diminutive form is Ula and Urszulka. Older diminutive forms are Ulicha and Ulita)
  • Úrsula (Portuguese)
  • Ursetta/Ursina/Urschla (Romansch)
  • Urška (Slovenian: originally a diminutive now used as an independent given name, it was the 51st most popular female name in Slovenia in 2005)
  • Orscheli (Swiss-German: ORSH-lee)

There are a few male equivalents which include:

  • Orso/Orsino/Ursio/Ursino (Italian)
  • Urs (German)
  • Ursinus/Ursus (Latin)
  • Ursyn/Ursycjusz (Polish: very rare)
  • Ursin/Urosin (Romansch)

Regula

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “rule; law”
(REG-oo-LAH).

This name may seem unusual to the common English speaker, but when in Switzerland, specifically in the German speaking parts, you will find quite a few of them of varying ages.

It is safe to say that the name is a “Swiss German” classic. She is even apart of a lyric in Florian Ast’s, (a Swiss pop singer), song entitled Sex. Sung in the traditional schwyzertuutsch, the main dialect spoken in Germanic Switzerland. To see the lyrics, in which you will see a variety of very popular Swiss German female names, you can see the text here, http://www.allthelyrics.com/lyrics/ast_florian/.

The name doesn’t seem to get much usage out of Switzerland, and surprisingly, it’s even unusual in the French and Italian speaking parts of Switzerland. I always found it rather odd that an obscure name of Latin origins should be popular in a very minor part of the world, especially in a German speaking area, while being virtually unheard of in say, Italy or Spain, where the languages are Latin based.

Further research brought me to the legend of Ss. Felix & Regula, two 3rd century saints who were martyred in what is now Zurich.

The story is rather interesting, the saints, being long dead, later played a huge role in Swiss Religious-Politics during the time of the Reformation, when the adherents of Huldrych Zwingli, raided the monastery of Ss. Felix & Regula, and exhumed the graves of both the saints, they ran off with the bones, attempting to throw them into the river, somehow, a pious Catholic man of Uri managed to rescue the bones where he buried them in the village of Andematt. The skulls of both saints can be seen there till this day, and carbon dating later proved that one skull dated to the Middle Ages, while the other consisted of two different skull fragments, one part dating back to the Middle Ages, and the other dating, interestingly enough, back to Roman times.

The legend of the saints themselves is even more gory. Ss. Felix and Regula were siblings who happened to be members of the Egyptian Theban legions who were stationed in Valais Switzerland. Many of the members converted to Christianity, all to the consternation of the Roman Empire. When an execution was posted for the Christians of the legions, Ss. Felix and Regula fled to what is now Zurich. There they were caught and beheaded.

According to legend, their headless bodied walked several paces before collapsing down on a patch of dirt where they were later buried and a monastery erected in their honour.

Before the Reformation, the monastery was a huge pilgrimage site for Catholics across Switzerland. Apparently, where 40% of the country remains Catholic, the legend of the two saints still holds, as Saint Regula continues to inspire Swiss parents to name their daughters after her.

She has a pleasant appeal, strong, yet distinctively feminine, she might make an interesting alternative to Regina, with the nickname of Regi to boot.

Other associations with the name include the Regula Benedicti, (the Rules of St. Benedict) a 7th century document written by St. Benedict of Nursia which gives out precepts on how to live a monastic life. The book is still used by modern day Christians monks and nuns as a source of inspiration.

There is also a masculine version: Regulus, which is the name of a character in the Harry Potter novels a la JK Rowling.

Two other forms include the French, Régula and the Italian, Regola.