She’s a spin on the classic Katherine, and a popular island destination, too.
Thanks to Laura for suggesting Catalina as our Baby Name of the Day.
Most baby name books attribute Katherine’s origins to the Greek katharos – pure, but she might trace her roots to the goddess Hecate, or maybe the name Aikaterine. Katharos influenced her spelling, and over the years, she continued to evolve, to Katerina, Caterina, Katrina, and more. I can’t find a single satisfying explanation for the r-to-l shift, but it occurs in several languages, hence Kathleen, Caitlin, and Catalina.
There have been plenty of saints Catherine, starting with Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the whip-smart daughter of a pagan governor. She converted to Christianity in her teens, refused to marry, and eventually died for her faith. Historical evidence for Catherine’s life is lacking, but her biography is strikingly similar to that of Hypatia of Alexandria, a real-life pagan scholar who was killed by a Christian mob around the era attributed to Catherine.
Nonetheless, Saint Catherine was incredibly important in the Middle Ages, and her name has been widely used ever since.
Catalina has appeared in the US Top 1000 in the 1920s and 30s, and again from 1989 to present. She stands at #683 today. But unlike Katelyn or Karen, Catalina hasn’t quite taken hold as an independent given name in the US.
You’re likely to see the names used interchangeably. There’s Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, born Catalina. My favorite quirk is in California: Santa Catalina Island is the only place you can find a plant known as St. Catherine’s Lace, and the island was also home to St. Catherine’s Hotel. The famous mountains that form the backdrop for the city of Tuscon, Arizona were originally referred to as both the Santa Catarina and Santa Catalina mountains, before the latter was formally adopted.
Other references include:
- When the Spanish invaded Colombia, they kidnapped a chief’s daughter from the coast to serve as guide and translator – her given name is not known, but her captors called her Catalina;
- W. Somerset Maugham’s last novel was Catalina, set in 16th century Spain;
- On My Name is Earl, Catalina was the Brazilian wife of Earl’s little brother Randy;
- Catalina Moreno scored an Oscar nomination for her role in 2004’s Maria Full of Grace.
Australian disc jockey Jackie O named her new daughter Catalina Mae last year, but calls her Kitty. While we’re on a world tour, Catalina is in the Top Ten in Chile, and popular in Argentina, too.
But my first association isn’t any of those things – it is the island, pictured above, and the Four Preps’ hit 1958 song, “26 Miles.”
26 miles refers to the distance from Los Angeles to Santa Catalina Island. The island has oodles of history, and in the 1920s the S.S. Catalina began ferrying pleasure-seekers from L.A. Service continued into the 1970s, with a brief break for World War II. Spanish explorers reached the island as early as 1542, but it was a later group that landed in 1602 that gave the island its current name. Catalina picks up some Hollywood glam thanks to her proximity to L.A. – and popularity as a backdrop for hundreds of movies and television shows.
With all of this history, it is hard to imagine why Catalina hasn’t taken hold. She shares plenty of attributes with popular picks like Alexandra and Gabriella – elaborately feminine, but without sacrificing any strength. If you’re looking for an alternative to those Top 100 appellations, Catalina is one to consider.
How about Catalonia? It sounds like a combination of Catherine and Leona.
Catalina is a gorgeous name! And I LOVE the nickname Lina! This post just made my day 🙂
I think it’s a lovely name, and possibly my favorite Catherine variant. I don’t have either the salad dressing or island association, but it’s not like they’re bad ones for those who do. And I like the nickname opportunities– Cat or Lina.
Like many others, I think salad dressing and place. The sound is not bad, but I’d prefer Katerina.
Thanks for the post! I’ve always been iffy on Katerina or Catalina but the post really changed my mind!
Beautiful name but not my style. I’d love to see it on someone else’s daughter though!
Lady Gwyn says
I like most of the Cat/Kat names, and this one is no exception. I think it is very pretty, and easy to spell and pronounce. Out here in landlocked Nebraska, the island would not be something we would think of immediately, which makes it more usable here, I would think. I like Lina as a nickname, as well as the usual ones of Cat, Cate, et al.
Sarah A says
Interestingly, the only Catalina I know is a 10 year old girl who is half Indian and half Palestinian. I think her parents compromised by giving her a “pretty” name from neither culture 😉
I like Catalina; I don’t think she’s too tied to the dressing or the location. I like that she’s frilly with 4 syllables but shortens easily to Cat.
I like it a lot more than any of the ad infinitum forms of Caitlin, but to me Catalina is 1. the island 2. Salad dressing. Still, it’s very pretty and I would be pleased to meet a little one.
Lou @ Mer de noms says
She’s pretty, fo’ sure, but not really my cup of tea, maybe it’s because I can’t seem to get my head around the fact that there’s a second a – I keep saying Kat-lee-na.
I’m so glad you featured Catalina. My mom was born and grew up in Colombia, so when I found out that this name had a history in Colombia it immediately went on my list, should I ever have a daughter. I didn’t know about the Colombian chief’s daughter. Catalina Sandino Moreno (whom you mentioned above) is from Colombia. There is also an island off the coast of Colombia called Santa Catalina. And Miss Colombia 2011 was Catalina Robayo Vargas. I don’t know where to find a current list of the top names in Colombia, but I’m sure Catalina is on there somewhere. I love the name and would definitely use it as a nod to my Colombian heritage.
I too think of the salad dressing first, but I still like Catalina, it’s so pretty both in sound & looks! I like most of the Cat/Kat names and Catalina’s no exception! 🙂
Charlotte Vera says
Too much of a well-known place name for my tastes, despite its compelling nickname options.
Catalina always makes me think of salad dressing, so it’s hard for me to really consider as a given name. Maybe it’d help if I met a Catalina.
This is a favorite!! Beautiful and elegant with a connection to the regal Catherine. The only downside is the Kraft salad dressing of the same name. However, the association with a beautiful island and the long history more than make up for it. I think Catalina is a keeper!
This is my lucky day! I was trying to think of names that can be nicknamed Cat and forget about this one. Thanks, Abby ! It’s a pretty name.
Nook of Names says
‘r’ to ‘l’ (or vice versa) isn’t an uncommon linguistic shift — the two are so closely related. In some languages, the sound falls half way between the two — hence the problems the Japanese have with English words with ‘l’s and ‘r’s. Similar things can be seen in the Austronesian languages. Not infrequently, where you have an ‘l’ in Hawaiian, you have an ‘r’ in Maori — eg the classic Hawaiian ‘aloha’ is ‘aroha’ in Maori.
Catalina always makes me think of the unrelated Catiline (Latin Catilina), a Roman conspirator in the 1st C BCE. But that’s just me :).