Jacinta: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on February 21, 2013

Picture of a Garden Hyacinth en ( Hyacinthus o... Garden Hyacinth, Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s a subtle floral name, and a rarity in the English language.

Thanks to Shannon for suggesting Jacinta as our Baby Name of the Day.


Plenty of floral names have a long history, but Hyacinth might take the prize.  A boy born around the year 100 answered to the name.  He was Christian by birth, but worked as a servant in the Emperor’s household.  This proved to be a very dangerous assignment.  Hyacinth’s faith was found out, and he ended up tortured in prison, where he eventually starved to death.

Despite his status as a Christian saint and martyr, his name came straight from Greek myth.  Hyacinth was a handsome Spartan prince.  While frolicking with the god Apollo, Hyacinth was struck by a discus and died.  It may be that Zephyrus, the West Wind, re-directed the discus out of jealousy.

The flower was created by Hyacinth’s spilled blood.

Hyacinth’s origins are uncertain, but he probably pre-dates the Greek language.

The ancient Spartans held an annual summer festival called the Hyacinthia in his honor, and the name remained in use.

Another Christian martyr lived in the third century.  Hyacinth of Poland was a reformer ten centuries later.

In between, the name traveled throughout European languages: Jacinto, Jacenty, Giacinto, Hyacinthe.  The Polish saint was probably known as Jacek for everyday use.

Feminine forms evolved, too: Hyacinthe, Jacinthe, GiacintaJacintha, and Jacinta.

A sixteenth century Italian nun was known as Saint Giacinta or Hyacintha, but her birth name was Clarice.  There’s also Jacinta Marto, one of the children in Fátima, Portugal who witnessed apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

None of the forms ever made a splash in English.  Even in the era of Victorian flower names, Hyacinth was never big, though the name surfaces in US Census records for both men and women.  Still, the flower is lovely.  In the language of flowers, the blue hyacinth stands for constancy or sincerity.  They’re not all blue, though, and the bloom is also associated with sport, thanks to the original story.

In more recent years, two bearers of the name come to mind:

  • There’s the NSA agent/Bond Girl played by Halle Berry, Giacinta Johnson, known as Jinx.
  • Jacinda Barrett made her name on The Real World: London before embarking on a successful acting career.

There’s much to love about Jacinta.  She sounds like a sister for Isabella and Sophia.

Trendy short form Jacie is built right in, too.

Instead, none of the spellings have ever cracked the US Top 1000.  Jacinta did well in the 1980s, and Jacinda climbed briefly in the 1990s.  But Giacinta and Hyacinth are almost completely unknown in the US.

I’ll admit a slight preference for the -d spelling, if only because she brings to mind Lucinda, another favorite of mine.

The 1990s Britcom Keeping Up Appearances featured Hyacinth Bucket, a snobbish social climber.  She’s pretty well known, which could put parents off the name.  But it’s tough to compare the mellifluous Jacinta to the clunkier Hyacinth.

If you’re after a rare name with ties to the natural world, Jacinta is one to consider.  And if you’re stuck between Kaylee and Araminta, Jacinta splits the difference.

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