If calling your daughter Paris isn’t your thing, why not consider the name of the city’s patron saint?
Thanks to Nessa for suggesting the Name of the Day: Genevieve.
Baby name chatter has been all about French names for girls, especially since the birth of Vivienne Marcheline Jolie-Pitt. Not only is Genevieve authentically French, she occupies a special place in history.
Back in the fifth century, Attila the Hun prepared to march on Paris. Residents were packing up their worldly goods when Genevieve suggested another course of action – pray, fast and ask for God’s protection. Believe it or not, Attila directed his troops elsewhere, and the city was spared. Little wonder she’s been the patron saint of Paris for centuries.
A later medieval legend gives us a second admirable Genevieve. This time she’s the wife of a nobleman, wrongly accused of infidelity. In the story, Genevieve flees with her son and, after many years in hiding, her husband discovers the truth and restores her good name. Historians suggest that her tale is based on a real life wife who was not so fortunate – her husband learned of her innocence after she’d met her maker. The legend inspired a nineteenth century operetta by Jacques Offenbach, but is not well known today.
The medieval Genevieve is also sometimes referred to as Genovefa, which is probably closer to the name’s original form. But her origins are murky, with some citing Celtic roots and others arguing a Germanic derivation. There’s also Ginevra, from the Harry Potter franchise and the lives of Leonardo Da Vinci and F. Scott Fitzgerald – but most agree that she’s related to Guinevere.
Once a Top 100 choice in the US, Genevieve reached as high as #76 in 1916. She slowly fell out of favor, declining even while other French monikers like Suzanne and Jacqueline gained in use.
In the 1950s, Genevieve was a successful movie musical about a road race. But Genevieve wasn’t the driver – she was the stylish 1904 Darracq race car.
She piggy-backed on the wild popularity of Jennifer in the 1970s, but it didn’t last. As Jennifer fell slowly out of use, so did many of the other Jen/Gen variants.
Perhaps the best known modern Genevieve is TLC designer Genevieve Gorder, part of the Trading Spaces series during its heyday. In the year 2000, Genevieve ranked #507. A year later, she started to climb – along with host Paige’s moniker.
Today Genevieve stands at #344 and this time, I think she’s headed back to her former place of prominence. There’s much to love about this choice – it’s familiar but far from common, fits with current trends while remaining a classic and offers easy nicknames.
Genevieve is undeniably feminine. But unlike many female figures from early history, this one was a woman of action and influence. Regardless of your religious beliefs, it lends the name a certain strength that could serve a daughter well.