She’s hidden in the history books, but if you look closely, you’ll find this intriguing medieval moniker hiding between the lines.
Thanks to Emily of In the Name for suggesting Aleydis as our Baby Name of the Day.
Aleydis is a form of Adalheidis, from the Germanic elements – adal – noble – and heid – type. Adelaide was worn by an empress/saint in the 900s. Thanks to another regal Adelaide from the nineteenth century, it is the most common form today – and quite stylish, too.
A long list of appellations trace their origins to Adalheidis, including:
- Alix, easily mistaken for a feminine twist on Alexander but a valid feminine choice in its own right
Aleydis belongs on this list, but she’s just barely visible in the historical record and nearly gone from use today. I’m guessing she’d be pronounced ah LAY dess, or ah lay DESS, but I’m not really sure.
Her evolution went something like this: Adalheidis was Adelheid in German and Dutch. Aleida would’ve been the diminutive, and Aleidis or Aleydis a Latinised version of the short form. The name was transformed by those who wrote about the saint, along the lines of Confucius (Kong Qiu until the 1600s, when Jesuits missionaries translated his writings) or Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, born Jeroen – Jerome.
In the first half of the thirteenth century, a Brussels-born girl entered a convent. She eventually founded a religious order aimed at instructing poor children. She contracted leprosy and spent the rest of her life in isolation, slowing becoming blind and paralyzed. Today she’s know as Saint Alice, patron saint of the blind and paralyzed, but in her lifetime she was called Aleydis.
Other women have worn the name, too:
- There’s a fleeting mention of a Prussian woman named Aleydis from the 1100s;
- Val-Duchesse is a castle owned by the Belgian Royal Trust. Once the home of Henry III, Duke of Brabant, his widow, Aleydis or Alice, turned it into a priory in the 1200s. The place owes its name to her – the Valley of the Duchess. It’s now the site of international conferences;
- A thirteenth century religious movement included a leader called Aleydis, but the only information I can find is that she was executed for heresy in northern France in the 1200s;
- In the 1600s, Dutch painter Vermeer gave the name to one of his daughters;
- As late as the eighteenth century, there’s a prioress of a Cistercian Abbey in Germany answering to Maria Aleydis.
An old thread at Behind the Name suggested a completely separate evolution. It strikes me as little more than a guess, attempting to connect Aleydis to the goddess Alea, later an epithet of Athena. The thread also mentions Aleydis was popular in Catalonia, an area known for some truly extraordinary names. I found one medieval reference to Adalyde in Catalonia, but nothing suggests that it is a separate name.
Parents might hear Aleydis in 2003’s film adaptation of Girl With a Pearl Earring, based on Tracy Chevalier’s carefully researched – but fictional – tale of the inspiration behind one of Vermeer’s most famous works.
Overall, Aleydis strikes a nice balance between names of recent coinage and gentle antiques. She’s lively but historic, obscure but legit.