Sidonie: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on February 6, 2013

The Sea castle in Sidon, Lebanon The Sea castle in Sidon, Lebanon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s a French appellation, a sister for Madeleine or Genevieve.

Thanks to Christina for suggesting Sidonie as our Baby Name of the Day.

Sidonie is another saintly appellation.

Back in the fifth century, Sidonius was the bishop of Clermont.  A Gallo-Roman nobleman by birth, we know an awful lot about Sidonius because his letters survive.

Another figure wore the name in the seventh century, a monk who founded monasteries, but it is hard to say if Sidonius was in general use.

The name refers to Sidon, an ancient Phoenician city.  Today it is located in Lebanon, and known as Saida.  In the Old Testament, Sidon was a descendant of Noah, his great-grandson.

The Crusaders made it to Sidon.  The photo shows a castle they built in 1228, transforming a small island into a fortress, complete with a bridge from the mainland.  This makes Sidonie a place name – a glittering, exotic borrowing from the ancient world.

There’s also Sidonia, another feminine form.  In Spain, there’s Medina-Sidonia, in Andalusia.  The city’s name is borrowed from the Phoenician original.  In fact, archeologists think it may have been founded by the Phoenicians.  The settlement dates to the second century BC, and Medina-Sidonia is the oldest dukedom in Spain.

Probably because of the saint and the Crusades, Sidonia and Sidonie are found in use over the years:

  • The King of Bohemia welcomed twin daughters named Sidonie and Catherine in 1449.
  • Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria, had a daughter named Sidonie in 1488.  Her sisters were Sybille, Sabina, and Susanne.
  • Sidonie of Saxony was born in 1518.
  • Another bearer of the name was a Pomeranian noble tried and executed for witchcraft in 1620.

Her heyday in France seems to have happened later:

  • In 1777, Gluck’s opera Armide debuted in Paris.  It included a character named Sidonie.
  • Alphonse Daudet’s first major work was Fromont and Risler, sometimes known as Sidonie.  It was an incredibly popular novel in the 1870s.
  • French novelist Colette made her mark in the early twentieth century.  She was born Sidonie-Gabrielle, named after her mother.

She seems to have peaked in France early in the twentieth century, after the opera and the novel, but before Colette became famous.  And she seems to have remained in sparing use amongst French speakers.  She’s amongst the names of the Krewe of Rex’s Mardi Gras court.

The 2012 French drama Farewell, My Queen is adapted from a 2002 novel.  It’s about the final days of Marie Antoinette, told from the perspective of her loyal servant, Sidonie.

There’s also a Spanish alt rock band out of Barcelona by the name.

All of this adds up to a name that should fit right in with many of the names parents have embraced in recent years, like Elodie and Vivienne.

Except for one little issue.

While Sidonie has never cracked the US Top 1000, she sounds an awful lot like Sydney, Sidney, and Sydnie.  Sydney has been in the US Top 100 since 1994, meaning that Sidonie will almost certainly be confused for Sydney.  Probably a lot.

So despite her winning combination of ooh la la and exotic origins, Sidonie is one that isn’t likely to catch on in 2013.

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