Today’s choice was worn by an obscure eleventh century saint, but would sound right at home on the playground with Isabella and Matilda.
Thanks to Ko for suggesting Casilda as our Baby Name of the Day.
Girls’ names have range. There are the short, nickname-proof names; the gender neutral surnames; the perky diminutives. But plenty of parents crave an elaborate, feminine option, pushing choices like Olivia in the US Top Ten. Many of the names are frilly, but they’re not really lightweight – think of Gabriella, Alexandra, Angelina, and Madeline.
Casilda fits right in. She’s lovely and flowing, just right on a ballerina. But she’s not out-of-place on a district attorney.
Cass names have had their day in the sun:
- Cassandra appeared in the Top 100 in 1980s and 1990s, and now ranks #328;
- Cassie has appeared as a given name, too, but at #958, she’s really falling;
- Cowgirl Cassidy now ranks #248.
A handful of K- spellings have ranked, too, but they’re mostly fading.
Casilda is a relatively obscure Spanish saint. Her name isn’t related to Cassandra or Cassidy (they’re Greek and Irish, respectively, and unrelated to each other, too). Instead, you’ll sometimes find her meaning related to the word casa – house. But that seems less than likely. Instead, I like Nancy’s theory. She links Casilda to all of those Germanic -ilda names: Romilda, Clotilde, Brunhild, Gunhild. Germanic elements appear in plenty of names that are forgotten in Germany, but persist elsewhere in Europe. The Visigoths ruled the Iberian peninsula until the Moors invaded in the eighth century.
It’s also possible that Casilda has Arabic origins, in which case I’m without a theory.
But this does bring us to the saint’s story. Casilda, it is said, was the daughter of Muslim king of Toledo. Toledo – a walled city on a hill – was the capital of the Visigoths’ domain, and served the same function for the Moors. I’m not sure if I can describe the religious climate during Casilda’s life. Much of Toledo’s history is characterized by relatively peaceful coexistence between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, though there were also periods of persecution.
Let’s say this: Casilda tended to Christian prisoners, smuggling bread to the unfortunate. When she was stopped by soldiers, legend has it, the bread miraculously changed to flowers. Whatever the soldiers – or dear dad – thought of the episode, Casilda survived into adulthood, and when she fell ill, traveled to a Christian shrine. The cure took, and when she recovered, she was baptized a Christian and lived a long life.
At least two places bear the name, in Argentina and Cuba. The Argentine city is named after the mother of the Spanish merchant who helped establish the settlement in the nineteenth century. There’s also a park in Bilbao, Spain named after a donor called Casilda who gave the land.
A handful of other references include:
- Gilbert and Sullivan used the name for a character in The Gondoliers. The play is set in Venice, but Casilda’s family is from Spain;
- Daniel Auber’s nineteenth century opera La part du diable gives the name to his heroine, the virtuous sister of the hero;
- There’s a character on the Mexican telenovela Amarte es mi Pecado by the name, too.
If you’re looking for an alternative to Matilda, a rare saint’s name that doesn’t end with a gory death, or possibly just an attractive rarity for a daughter, Casilda is an attractive option.