Español: Parroquia María Auxiliadora. Córdoba ...
Español: Parroquia María Auxiliadora. Córdoba (Argentina). English: Maria Auxiliadora church. Cordoba, Argentina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s another fascinating rarity with religious overtones.

Thanks to Pree for suggesting Auxiliadora as our Baby Name of the Day.

If you meet an Auxiliadora, she’s probably actually Maria Auxiliadora.  This is a Marian name, like Lourdes or Consiglia or Pilar or Assumpta, and she was a bit of a challenge to track down.

That’s because in English she’s Mary, Help of Christians.  You have to know the Latin – Sancta Maria Auxilium Christianorum – to decipher the origin of the given name.

She feels clumsy in English, but Auxiliadora has quite the backstory.

Saint John Chrysostom was the Archbishop of Constantinople and quite the thinker, back in the 300s.  He’s not without controversy, but his influence is undeniable.  He’s the first to refer to Mary as Auxiliadora, but not the first to understand Mary as a helper – that’s among the earliest tenets of the organized church.

The phrase is used sparingly over the years, and then came the sixteenth century, and the battles against invading Ottoman forces.  Pope Pius V asked Christians to pray to Mary, asking her to help the Christians ward off the thundering horde.  European forces carried the day, and Mary got the credit.

The future saint John Bosco boosted the title in 1800s.  An educator and founder of religious orders, the priest helped spread the use of the title throughout the world.  Parishes and their affiliated schools can be found throughout the US.  There’s a neighborhood in Santo Domingo, Chile called Marie Auxiliadora, and I bet there are other streets and places, too.

Finding women by the name?  That’s another story:

  • Maria Auxiliadora Jimenez Gonzalez played women’s soccer in Spain, and answered to the short form Auxi.
  • A German genealogist includes a Maria Auxiliadore on his family tree. Her surname is Italian, but it isn’t clear where she was born or lived.  But he does include a fun snippet – her nickname was Dodo.
  • Searching US Census records turns up dozens of women by the name, most born in California or the American southwest or in Spanish-speaking countries.  Most are combined with Maria, but not all – I spotted an Ethel Auxiliadora and my favorite, Anais Auxiliadora.

It’s no wonder she’s rare in English.  I can’t hear her without thinking of auxiliary – an aid or support, like the Ladies’ Auxiliary or the auxiliary power supply.  It isn’t a problematic meaning in any way, but it isn’t one that logically lends itself to a personal name, either.

File Auxiliadora under the mostly unwearable in the English-speaking world, but don’t count her out in every language.  And she’s a lovely surprise in the middle spot, especially if you’re looking for something extravagant, unusual, and Catholic with a nod the Spanish language.  And if you’re the kind of parent willing to consider Alexandria and Elisabetta, maybe a longer name isn’t unthinkable.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Very happy to see this article about my very unusual name…Auxiliadora is my middle name. It was passed to me in memory of an aunt who passed away shortly before I was born. I desperately avoided using it as a kid. As an adult, I have grown into it and learned to appreciate the meaning. Thank you so much for this article.

  2. It is right up there with other old world names that you find in old records. Many of them I like or have come to appreciate Such as; Annunciata, Audefleda, Clariandra, Candelaria, Esclarmonde, Ermingarde, Evochilde, Godeleve, Yseult, and Innocentia to name a few. I think Auxiliadora, including the names listed up above and so many others are an acquired taste, but I don’t think that they should be ruled out entirely. I think they age well, are rich and steeped in history, and have a mysteriously charming appeal to them. Outside elementary schools, your child needn’t worry about being teased. I’m finding that as you get older, the most appealing names are the ones that you know anything about. People in general are drawn to intrigued, especially adults who have the rationale to understand it, kindergartners are drawn to fitting in. It takes a bold person and meaningful purpose to bestow a big and out of the ordinary names on their child, but I see advantages to it as well, especially if it is a name from within the family tree.

    Having grown up with a different name than most of the elementary kids that I went to school with, I felt like I was breaking the mold. My mother often told me that sometimes in life, there are instances where you have to go about things in life on your own, and there will not always be a group pf people to coddle you, hold your hand or support you and that would include your name too. Both require you to carry your own weight, both impact your life and both stand out. If you can carry yourself in those tough moments than you can carry the weight of your name and what it respresents.

    I think Auxiliadora represents a piece of that aspect. Breaking the name mold is another way and a nod toward understanding that there other bigger things to embrace, preserve, and respect in life besides choosing names that fit a specific name-mold-mentality. I learned that lesson as child in elementary school. Perhaps other children who have excellent parents who have navigated those rough waters would be just the type of people who are inclined to fancy Auxiliadora. I personally would be tickled pink to meet a little Auxi.