Thanks to Clio for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
The baby name Kerensa comes from the Cornish word for love.
Names that mean love are plentiful. There’s Carys, Amy, Esme, and Davina, to list just a few.
But Cornish names are an especially interesting bunch.
Some are traditional. Jennifer, the runaway hit from the 1970s, has deep roots.
Others are quite new, like Elowen. They reflect a newfound interest in preserving the culture. Kerensa is among this group, a name adopted in recent generations.
Located at the southernmost tip of England, Cornwall is traditionally a Celtic nation, with a language closely related to Welsh.
The language nearly died out in the 1800s, but experienced a revival early in the twentieth century. Many of the popular Cornish names date from this period.
Alternative spelling Kerenza appears in the data, too.
KERENSA IN FICITION
The baby name Kerensa first appears in US popularity data in the year 1965.
That’s thanks to a novel, The Legend of the Seventh Virgin.
Written by Victoria Holt – a pen name for Eleanor Hibbert – the 1964 novel hit the New York Times bestseller list. The story goes something like this: many years ago, seven novices in a Cornish convent struggle with their vows. Time passes, and the convent becomes a private home. Kerensa Carlee is hired as a lady’s maid, where her fate becomes intertwined with the past.
BY the NUMBERS
The novel’s success pushed the baby name Kerensa into sparing use in the US.
In 1971, 30 girls received the name – a new high.
But by the end of the 1970s, the name was slipping out of use again.
As of 2020, it’s been given to fewer than five years for seven years running.
Spelled Kerenza, it’s even rarer. Five girls were named Kerenza in 2019.
Karensa, another spelling variation, appears in the data during the 1970s, too.
Carenza seems like yet another take on the baby name Kerensa.
However, it first appears in an Occitan poem, Na Carenza al bel cors avinen. Written sometime in the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, by sisters named Alais and Yselda, the poem’s title translates to “Lady Carenza of the lovely, gracious body.”
The origins of the name Carenza remain unclear.
KERENSA in REAL LIFE
Young actor Kerensa Cooper has made appearances in Batwoman and Supernatural.
And the name occurs elsewhere in the real world, too.
NOTHING SOUNDS QUITE LIKE KERENSA
Efforts to preserve the Cornish heritage, culture, and language are significant and ongoing.
But the population numbers just above 500,000.
Even if every child born in Cornwall received a Cornish heritage name, the numbers would be small.
That leaves the baby name Kerensa a rarity, with a distinctive, romantic sound.
Easy nickname Keri helps it blend in. Except Kerensa seems like a choice meant to stand out.
If you’re looking for a name your daughter will never have to share, the baby name Kerensa could be just right for you.
What do you think of the baby name Kerensa?
First published on June 15, 2011, this post was revised and re-posted on December 15, 2021.