Name of the Day: Veronica

by appellationmountain on November 4, 2009

Her roots are ancient, but her sound remains edgy – even in 2009.

Thanks to Kelly for suggesting Veronica as Name of the Day.

A Top 100 choice from 1898 into the 1930s, today Bernice sounds dowdy and dated. And yet, she and Veronica share roots.

More than 300 years BC, Egyptian royals wore the name Berenike or Pherenike, derived from pherein – to bring and nike - which meant victory centuries before it meant sneaker. At least five queens answered to the appellation, as did other notables into the early Christian era.

This brings us to the saint. As Jesus struggled under the weight of his cross, a pious woman lent him her veil. He wiped the sweat from his brow and returned the fabric – miraculously imprinting his image in the process.

Or so the legend of Veronica’s Veil tells us – it isn’t found in the Bible. The woman may’ve been real, and her name may’ve been Berenice. But the Latin phrase vera icon means true image. So either Berenice was altered to fit the phrase, or a misunderstanding transformed the Latin phrase into the woman’s name.

There’s also the possibility that Veronica is a place name for a woman from the city of Verona. (Some say that the veil was once kept at Verona.)

A second Saint Veronica lived in Northern Italy in the early 1700s, but she was actually born Ursula. A very different Veronica lived in Venice in the 1500s – Veronica Franco was a prominent courtesan and poet.

Veronica had a good run in the 20th century. In 1900, she charted at #213. In 1950, she ranked #194. Last year she was #261. In the late 1970s and early 80s, she reached as high as #68 more than once.

The name conjures up:

  • Veronica Lake, she of the peek-a-boo ‘do and film noir fame. Born Constance Ockelman, she was booted from Catholic school – a Paramount producer chose the saintly appellation. Lake was huge in the 1940s, and while she died destitute, her image lives on – think Jessica Rabbit and Kim Basinger’s character in LA Confidential, for starters;
  • Veronica Lodge, of the Archie comics, was apparently named after Lake and a wealthy Boston family;
  • Veronica Mars was a latter-day Nancy Drew on the small screen in recent years;
  • Elvis Costello’s 1989 memorable single was about an aging “Veronica”;
  • In 1989 Winona Ryder played Veronica Sawyer in the enduring black comedy Heathers, about the perils of popularity in high school.

 

You’ll also come across Veronica in bullfighting terminology (it’s a pass made by the matador) and botany (it is a type of flowering plant sometimes called speedwell.)

With Ava and Olivia in the US Top Ten, and Victoria, Nevaeh and Avery not far behind, Veronica’s v sounds current – and yet she’s got plenty of history. She’s a saint and a pin-up, a queen and a teen. Best of all, she offers up plenty of nicknames, from Vera to Nica to Ronnie to Vee.

If you love Alexandra but fear she’s too popular, perhaps Veronica would make the perfect substitute. Despite steady use, there’s still something unexpected about her.

 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren February 25, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Veronica was my grandmothers name and we’re going to use it for a middle name if this baby’s a girl. I think it’s such a classic name!

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Juliet December 25, 2009 at 4:26 AM

The name has much history, it just doesn’t grab me. It is definitely a name that I will never consider – that’s pretty much guaranteed. I much prefer Veronique, which is very popular here in SA. One year in our Idols, there were two girls in the top 12 with the name.It was the first time in interjectional Idols history.Their nicknames were Vee and Nikki

Overall, I just don’t like Veronica. It isn’t a very soft name. It’s not bad and I can understand the attraction, it just isn’t an approachable name, in a way.

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appellationmountain December 27, 2009 at 9:35 AM

Ah, I love Veronica’s chunky feel. I didn’t realize Veronique was so big in SA.

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photoquilty November 6, 2009 at 3:47 PM

Veronica is one of the most sultry, curvaceous sounding names I can think of. I totally love it. I do think of Veronica Sawyer first and foremost (“What’s your damage?”) and Veronica Lodge second. The only downside is its nickname. Ronnie sounds very yuck to me. Very 60 year old with short hair, jazzy-piano-playing, mah-jong loing ol’ lady. Nope. But Veronica as a whole? Nice!

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Sebastiane November 5, 2009 at 6:04 PM

I think Veronica is very pretty and seems to convey a lot of character. She also has tons of great nickname options, a nice meaning and a long history, which is cool.

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Christina Fonseca November 5, 2009 at 2:07 PM

I like Veronica. The V up front balances out the harsh R and K sounds; and the final A gives it a girly feel. It would be a great way to honor a Vera or Erica in the family tree.

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Bek November 5, 2009 at 11:44 AM

Veronica, while not necessarily a conventional “pretty frilly” name, has a real princessy vibe to me. And yet I also feel like it has a really forced and kind of unattractive sound.

So while it’s awesome that her history is so full and rich, I don’t find it an appealing name in the least.

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Charlotte Vera November 5, 2009 at 11:07 AM

Wow, that’s some ancient history! Did the Egyptians borrow nike from the Greeks?

I love it when names have a rich history, but I wish this name had never been used in the Archie comics. For me, it instantly conjures up images of Veronica Lodge. I’d be more likely to use Bernice

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