Baby Name of the Day: Aleydis


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A by Too Far North via Flickr

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:

  • Alice
  • Alix, easily mistaken for a feminine twist on Alexander but a valid feminine choice in its own right
  • Adele
  • Adela
  • Alicia
  • Alina
  • Allison

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 JeroenJerome.

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.

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19 Comments

We named our daughter (now 18 months) Aleydis and pronounce it “Al-eye-dis” similiar to the Dutch pronunciation (we live in Germany). One of Vermeer’s daughters was named Aleydis and this webpage with his family tree provides MP3s so you can listen to pronunciation (though admittedly the pronunciation given is a bit in between “A-lay-dis” and “Al-eye-dis”… See http://www.essentialvermeer.com/family_tree.html.

Very pretty! I still prefer the very German Adelheid, but have enjoyed discovering this variant today.

I feel a bit dumb admitting this, but I’d never realised before that Alice and the various Adele names were connected. I should have clued in earlier given that they’re generally attributed with the same meaning. When I was four I had the privilege of choosing my younger sister’s middle name. I settled on Alice. Then at twenty-four I used Adeline as one of my daughter’s middles. I guess in a way my taste in names didn’t change in the intervening twenty years.

That’s impressive, Charlotte. I was into names like Mystina when I was little. Luckily, I never named a sibling!

Hmmm, yes, well thankfully at that stage my favourite pick was an actual name with history, and not something made-up (I once named a Barbie Keena). I had a cassette tape of an abridged reading of Alice in Wonderland, which had caused me to fall in love with the name Alice.

I haven’t seen Aleydis in a long, long time – thanks for reminding me, Abby! I always think of Alexis when I see Aleydis, but it almost sounds like a part of a flower to me. Right? It’s cool, and I think the Aly nickname is fabulous, but it does look a bit peculiar and the melody isn’t quite there. By the way, I’m saying it as [uh-LAY-dis]. And, I did catch a few ladies named Alice in my family tree, so… (I’d probably just stick with Alice, though.)

Anyway, since this is related to Adalheidis, does anybody remember how Adelheid is pronounced in the Shirley Temple B&W version of Heidi? It’s not Adelaide, it’s [ADD-el-eyed] almost, which I find so, so neat! I realize that Adelheid isn’t the most attractive name to the modern eye, but I really do love that pronunciation and the spunky Heidi nickname…

I’m really fascinated with this name now- I have never heard of it before but I think it is a really nice name! Like someone mentioned up top, it would make an incredible middle name, I don’t know if I’m gutsy enough to use it in the front.

I’ve never heard this before, but I love it!

I’m pronouncing it uh-LAY-diss, similar to Alexis or Alanis.

It’s interesting — I have a lot of friends who are obsessed with the name Alexis. And other than the fact that I’m not into boys’ names on girls, I can really see why Alexis appeals. Like Naomi, it’s one of those names that sounds like no other (well, at least no other name that’s commonly used). And it’s kind of sexy, kind of feisty — it really has an attractive sound.

Aleydis has everything that’s appealing about Alexis or Alanis without being originally a man’s name or having too strong a pop-culture reference.

Who cares about the odd spelling? I think Aleydis is fabulous!

my name is acutally Aleydis and i’ve been searching for the meaning of name and the origins as i seem to be the only thus far w/ the name, in the 30 yrs. i’ve been living. i love my name and never knew that adelaide (though sounds very close…so duh) was a form or one of the original spellings for my name now and i also pronounce it uh-Lay-diss

I was denied this. I figured since Alice was going to upset my Nanny (horrible, evil, no good, waste of space aunt of hers), than Aleydis would be a nice compromise.

Like I said, denied.

I’d love to see this used over Adelaide. A million times over.

Aleydis is quite pretty. I would say it Ah-LEY-dis. It reminds me of the name of Emmy Rossum’s character in the movie Songcatcher, Deladis. Deladis is pronounced just like Aleydis but with a D at the beginning; Aleydis seems much classier. Thumbs up!

Aleydis is fascinating! My grandmother’s given name was the similar sounding Elida eh-LEY-deh (she called herself Nellie.) For years I assumed Elida was related to Aleida, but it’s more likely to be an unrelated Norwegian name.

Anyways, I love the sound of Aleydis, but I’m unsure about the spelling. It looks so “medieval” and is bound to be a spelling nightmare.

Aleydis is too weird for my taste. Reminds me of Aldys, Leelee Sobieski’s character in the film Never Been Kissed. I’d choose Adelaide instead. Adele and Alice are very nice, too.

I rather like Aleydis, it looks lovely. I’ve always said Ah-LEY-dis, myself. Sounds rather pretty. But my family tree suurprisingly has no Alice/Alex names in it (that I can fiind going back to 1630!) so it’s never going to be used by me. It would make a stellar middle, ala Jane Aleydis or Ruby Aleydis. Something short up front to make Aleydis really shine. 🙂

I like this name but I could see pronunciation issues… but then I named my daughter Hermione so it isn’t that big of a deal.

Thank you! Very interesting.

I have always pronounced it Al-eye-diss. But I also like Al-lay-diss.
Definitely one of my favourite names:)