We interrupt rerun week to post something a little bit different. I was certain I’d written a full post about this saint’s name, but instead she’s just mentioned in an early list of obscure saints’ names.
Inspired by British PM David Cameron’s new daughter, our Baby Name of the Day is Endellion.
The littlest Cameron is actually named Florence Rose Endellion. There’s very little chatter about her botanical first name and first middle – both fairly common in the UK and familiar throughout the English-speaking world.
But Endellion is quite the rarity, and almost certainly would never have appeared on the new baby’s birth certificate, except that Samantha Cameron unexpectedly delivered while on a pre-baby holiday in Cornwall.
If obscure saints are your thing, Cornwall is home base. Starting in the fifth century, missionaries from Ireland and Wales came to the isolated peninsula at the south-western end of Great Britain, a place so distant the Romans barely made it there.
Historical evidence for many local saints becomes problematic. St. Brychan is listed as the father of perhaps as many as two dozen children – all of whom are listed as saints themselves, many with villages named in their memory. One of Brychan’s daughters wore the name Endellion.
The Camerons babymoon took them to the area near St. Endellion, also known as Sen Endelyn in Cornish. You may have heard of the music festivals that have taken place in the area for decades. The fifteenth-century parish church is still called St. Endellion.
Endellion appears on the catholic.org list of saints, but that’s not quite the same thing as saying there’s rock solid evidence for her life. For hundreds of years, saints were established by local custom. Most of the process we think of for becoming a saint was added in the twentieth century.
Her name was Latinized as Endelienta, and she also appears as Endelient, Edellienta, and Endelyon. That last one gives a clue to one of the more common pronunciations: en DEL yon. But I’m hearing end del EE on in British news reports of the birth.
Most accounts list her as a virgin and recluse. The stories are more fantastic from there: she was King Arthur’s goddaughter, she subsisted only on cow’s milk. Two wells were named in her honor.
Regardless of the saint’s backstory, the world now knows much about the tiny Cornish village. It gives Endellion an air of mystery and rugged outdoors appeal, too. The name lands somewhere between the tailored Allison/Madison crowd and the elaborately feminine Isabella/Olivia cluster. While Endie doesn’t make for much of a short form, Della and Delia and the boyish Lio are options.
The name had never surfaced in the US Top 1000, is not listed on most conventional baby name websites, and her origins are obscure. (A handful of sources give her meaning as fire or fire soul, but I couldn’t confirm the derivation.) She sounds something like the Greek shepherd of myth, oft-borrowed by poets and a Mardi Gras krewe, Endymion – but there’s no connection.
Congratulations to the Camerons. I believe we owe them our thanks for introducing an obscure gem into circulation once more!