The baby name Kerensa combines an intriguing sound with an appealing meaning.
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.
There’s a tiny villa on the island of Tortola, available for rent on VRBO, called Kerensa. There’s a Cornish cottage near St. Ives with the same name.
It’s heard at least occasionally as a surname, too. Comedian Paul Kerensa was born in Truro, Cornwall. Though his birth surname was Young.
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.
Kerensa, the name of my daughter, three years old..love…
I’m not a huge fan of K names as our family is run amok with them, but I have read every Victoria Holt novel and I thought it was a beautiful name as well. I prefer Carensa, though I feel a tad guilty that it isn’t the “authentic” spelling.
That’s my name and I love it a lot. Though because it was not common for an Asian born Australia to have that name I had a lot of trouble getting people to pronounce it properly over the years … ah ha the ways they try to remember 🙂 I’m hoping I can find a rare and beautiful name to call my child 🙂 still looking for one!
My middle name is Kerenza ! Not sure i like it though:/
I think Kerensa is so sweet, I like that it is definitely different but with a familiar sound
How interesting that this was posted on June 15th – my mother Karen’s birthday was that day! 😀
I’ve often considered Kerensa as a way to honor my mother, but the tenuous connection always holds me back. I prefer Karina anyway – which, by the way, I didn’t see in your master list (though I did notice Katrina). Any way you could sneak in Karina for a NotD? 😉
I have a separate question – does anyone think that, not as first names together, Katherine and Karina would be acceptable for siblings? My grandmother’s name is Katherine and my mother is Karen. I know the names are related, but I’m afraid just using one name to honor both wouldn’t quite make it through to them. (I doubt my grandma knows that Karen is related to Katherine.) Katherine would be a middle name. For example, two combos I have right now are Karina Florence and Eloise Katherine. It’s a niggling thing in the back of my mind; I’m just wondering what others think.
Not pregnant yet, of course, this is all just speculation.
I don’t think it would be an issue at all if one was a first name and the other was a middle name. They sound distinct enough not to be confused, and the fact that they are family names is always special and significant.
My sister was given the middle name Helen because my mum liked the fact that it was a variant of her own name, Elaine, and my name, Eleanor (this was when all name books listed Eleanor as “a variant of Helen”). No one else gets the connection, but we quite like the sentiment behind it.
Thanks so much for featuring Kerensa! I first came across this name while looking for a way to honor my best friend Karen! I fell in love with the meaning, sound, & look of the name! Oh, I hope no one famous uses this name….I don’t want it to become too popular!
Very pretty and usable; I think it would only take one prominent person to name their daughter Kerensa or Kerenza, and this name would take off like a rocket.
Lady Gwyn says
Ah, one of my fave K names. I like the Kerenza spelling, but it is pretty with the S, as well. I really like this one, and my love affair with Welsh names (Arianwyn, Brynna, Gwynn, etc.) is obvious in this choice! And, unlike other Welsh or names with difficult spellings (like any authentic Gaelic name), it is easy to pronounce.
Sarah A says
My mother’s name is Karen, so I’m definitely intrigued by Kerensa! All of the names on our girl list are 2 syllable, and with a 2 syllable last name we really want to find some 3 syllable middles. I could see using Kerensa as a variant of Karen to honor my mom, especially with that gorgeous meaning! My favorite variant (sound-wise) is still Karenina though.
I do find the pronunciation a tad bit difficult and I’m not psyched about her murky origins, but on the whole I like Kerensa 🙂
The pronunciation is further complicated by the fact that the ‘s’ is a ‘z’ sound.
It automatically makes me think of “credenza”. I has a nice sound, but I’m not a fan as a name.
You know, this is really gorgeous. My only concern would be that people might think, as a couple posters above said, that it’s a modern, made-up moniker. (Kind of like how some would assume Jessamine is just a combo of Jasmine and Jessica.) Still, as soon as you told them that it was actually Cornish for “love” I think you would win over some fans!
I’m intrigued by Kerensa’s meaning, but sound-wise I just hear Credenza. I like the Biblical and more straight-forward Keren more.
Oh, yes, also about the Kerenza/Kerensa spellings. Z and S are often interchangeable in the Cornish language. You see this in other names such as Rosen/Rozen and Demelsa/Demelza
I adore Kerensa. When I was a teenage I was obsessed with having twins called Cerys and Kerensa. Both are great…maybe not together…
According to the Civil Birth Index for England and Wales (started in 1837) there is a Kerenza listed in 1893, and one in 1902. The spellings Kerensa and Carenza isn’t found until the 1930s. It’s always been a pretty rare name — it still is. I listed it under the general term traditional because it has much older usage that the recent ‘word-names’ and compounds such as Rosenwyn or Delennyk. “Cornish” names are notoriously difficult to find in the records. Even the digitised records are patchy and the long-standing names like Jory and Lowena are few and far between. I think that because Cornwall was so rural — and notoriously insular for many hundreds of years — they didn’t register the births officially (this happens in other similar areas). Most “Cornish” names in the records actually appear in Wales.
I remember trying to do some research into Cornish names back when I was in the SCA and the lack of records makes it so frustrating.
There is an old joke about how insular the Cornish were which said that the people of Cornwall considered even people from other villages to be “outsiders”. Ironically Cornwall gets it’s name from the Anglo-Saxon word for “foreigner”.
It doesn’t help that Cornish almost died out by the 18th century — at least in the records — although it has has a revival since. I reckon that, like with Scottish and Welsh names, many Cornish names were being heavily Anglicised.
Now that’s interesting – the whole Cornish/Welsh crossover – and yes, there’s even a similar effect in the US, as social security numbers weren’t standard-issue for newborns until after 1937.
It’s got a lovely meaning but all I hear is the Karen in there and Karen was my childhood nemesis. Can’t do more than admire Kerensa from afar!
Kerensa Scott says
Ahhh that is because the pronunciation is often wrong. It is not Karen-sa but Keren-sa with a long first E and a soft S. I am Cornish and called Kerensa and I love it but often have to pronounce it for people first. I don’t mind, as I have got older i have least it is good to be different
Ms Vanessa Claire CLACK says
I named my daughter Kerensa in 1983 after reading Victoria Holt’s Legend of the Seventh Virgin at age 18 , 14 years later. Our family has always loved it and Myself and my daughter are very proud of its beauty and individuality. xx
It’s got that sci-fi and/or made-up feel to me. Sounds African, too. Definitely not my naming style.
Charlotte Vera says
Kerensa is pretty, but I too get the sci-fi/made-up feel.
I remember reading a book, I think by Victoria Holt (“The Seventh Virgin”??) with a main character named Kerensa – set in Cornwall, I believe, and there was talk about the name’s roots and meaning. As a twelve year old, I remember thinking it was such a beautiful, exotic name.
I read that book too and loved it! That’s also where I fell in love with Kerensa 😀
Christina Fonseca says
Love the sound, love the meaning – such a pretty name.