She’s part Everest, part Assumpta.
Thanks to Tina and to Poesy, too for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Montserrat.
At first glance, Montserrat is a mountain name, and not a terribly creative one. A little bit of Latin will give you serratus – jagged, the source of our word serrated, while mont is a mountain.
But it’s not just any ol’ jagged mountain we’re talking about. Head to Catalonia, now a part of Spain, but with a long independent history of its own, too. You can fly into Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, where Catalan is a separate language.
Many visitors find themselves day-tripping to Montserrat. The mountain is home to the abbey Santa Maria de Monserrat, a major religious retreat in the region, and home to la Moreneta, one of the many images of a dark-skinned Virgin Mary found in Europe and beyond, known as a Black Madonna.
The story goes like this: the image was carved by St. Luke and brought to Spain. It had to be hidden from the Moors in a cave; after many years, la Moreneta was rediscovered by shepherds. The local bishop was summoned. He ordered the astonishing find moved to his church, but the statue wouldn’t budge.
So the Benedictine monks came and built their abbey around her.
Historians suggest that la Moreneta is of more recent vintage, but she has plenty of importance anyhow. Ignatius Loyola visited the shrine in the midst of his conversion. Monserrat is also known for helping to preserve Catalan culture over the years and for being just plain ol’ drop-dead gorgeous.
Montserrat is often listed as a Catalan name. Like Lourdes, she has some pretty heavy religious symbolism, too.
If that appeals to you, Montserrat might still give you pause. The name sounds like this: mon sur AHT. Or possibly MAWN sur AHT. There’s just the tiniest hint of a “t” in the first syllable.
Both Tina and Poesy actually suggested Monserrate, the version of the name that I, too, thought was most common, and that Tina found on her family tree. Monserrate is in use two places:
- It is the spelling favored in Portugal – there’s Monserrate Palace in Sintra;
- In Bogota, Colombia, the mountain that dominates the city’s skyline is named Monserrate, named after Montserrat in Spain.
There’s also a Caribbean island named after the Catalan mountain, but it is spelled Montserrat. (And, incidentally was named by Christopher Columbus.)
I suspect Monserrate might be the tiniest bit easier to wear in English. Removing the “t” and adding the “e” at the end seems to give more guidance. It also removes the visual similarity to “monster.”
A few uses have made the name more visible:
- Barcelona-born soprano Montserrat Caballé has had quite the career in twentieth century opera, earning considerable fame in the 1960s and 70s;
- Montserrat Lombard, a London-born actress from Spanish and Italian descent, appears regularly on television shows in the UK, and had a small role in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus;
- The 1994 movie Barcelona included a character called Montserrat.
While Montserrat has a history of use in the Spanish-speaking world, she’s nearly unknown in the US. You’ll have to gauge whether her pronunciation is too much of a hurdle, but she’s really quite lovely – that rare name that feels tailored and yet ethereal, too.
Funny you mentioned Belén in this post, as I just names my newborn daughter Belén Monserrat! I’m trying to decide if I want to amend the birth certificate and add the T. I hadn’t even thought of the monster rat thing but I live in a border town with Mexico so most people are familiar with the name I’m not worried about it. The T looks elegant to me.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the Beach Boys sing Montserrat in their song Kokomo: Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take you
To Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama
Key Largo, Montego baby why don’t we go
Down to Kokomo
We’ll get there fast
And then we’ll take it slow
That’s where we wanna go
Way down to Kokomo
To Martinique, that Monserrat mystique
I noticed in my blog’s stats that someone had done a search for “Montserrat Girls Name” and thought I’d try it too and landed here. What a fun post! Thought I’s comment even though it is an old one.
My grandfather was born and raised in Barcelona and Montserrat is a family name. My father loved it and talked my Mexican mother into using it. . .only he didn’t tell her about La Moreneta. She found out when they brought me to Barcelona to visit his grandmother when I was 10 months old. My mother was a tad mad….we are Mormon not Catholic so it has been a big joke in our family that my parents named me after a Catholic relic.
Growing up in the states with a foreign name hasn’t been too bad. I go by Montse which is a bit easier for people to pronounce. Most people actually first guess that it is French rather than Spanish (or Catalan) when they first hear it pronounced. I didn’t have problems with people calling me “Monster Rat” except for my younger brother. Although, funny story my Costco card read Monsterrat and I didn’t even notice for six months!
Montserrat is actually a boy’s spelling of the name. Montserra (without the T) is a girl’s spelling. It was that way for centuries until around the last century when you notice the trend for girls and boys names to be used for either one. My grandmother loves genealogy and found a male Montserrat who shares the same birthday I do but was born back in the 1500s.
I love my name because of the ancestral connection and it is unique here in the US. My parents also named my brother Pere (peda), a Catalan name for Peter. Our other siblings all have normal American names: Vanessa, Jonathan, Rebecca.
Melina Montserrat says
My first name is on this site (well, a version of it)…and so is my middle! Crazy. Yes, I have gotten the “monster rat” jokes. My aunt and her daughter both have Montserrat as their first names, though they have shortened them to Montse (mohntsay) and Montsina (or Sina for short).
To be honest, I keep my middle name a secret. It’s too hard for Americans to pronounce (my mama is Spanish), and too easy to make fun of.
My high school English teacher (a woman) was Montserrat Fontes – I always loved her name and her. She’s written a couple of books that are really good too. She went by “Monsy” and she was such a firecracker that I don’t think anyone would dare make fun of her name! Aw, Ms Fontes I miss you!
Laura Rose says
I was reading this, and kept thinking “Interview with a Vampire for some reason. I think it’s because the -at ending combined with the t in the middle makes me think “Lestat”.
I agree with some other posters that this name makes me think “boy”, especially with the -at ending reminding me of Lestat. Definintely not my favourite M name, but it’s not Mahkynzeeeh, either.
Mere Mere says
We were completely baffled in high school when we read the name of the exchange student coming to live with us–Montserrat, with the nickname of Montse. Now having lived in Barcelona (and visiting the mountain), it reads to me as the quintessential Catalan name. I personally witnessed many Americans slaughter the name, so it’s not an option in my book, but it has a beauty to me, perhaps tied up in the beautiful people I know that wear the name so well.
I know two Montserrats– one is a boy who goes by Monty (not sure if his parents just heard it somewhere and didn’t know what gender it was supposed to be, or what) and the other is a Hispanic girl who goes by Monse (mon-say).
I actually accidentally spelled it Monsterrat when typing it out, so this probably wouldn’t be the easiest name to live with (at least in an English-speaking place). With the right heritage it could be nice, though.
“I don’t know where I’m a gonna go when the volcano blows” is what I’ve been singing since I saw this post! I tried getting it out of my head before I posted but alas, no such luck.
Being the huge, geeky Buffett fan I am, Monserrat is all beautiful island with a nasty volcano on it to me. I might, (being the huge, geeky Buffet fan I am) use Monserrat in the middle for either a boy or girl though. It’s got a lovely rhythm to it, I think. *shrug* I’m gonna go put “Volcano” on now and sing at the top of my lungs while I make supper!
This is really ironic — I just got back from lunch with my husband and we were discussing names for this baby, due in less than 3 weeks… and he really likes Montserrat. He’s Mexican though, so it does sound nicer when he pronounces it. My initial reaction was that it’s a cool name but she’ll always be teased with the Monster Rat thing. In sum, it got vetoed.
Charlotte Vera says
Add me to the group who thought this was supposed to be a boy’s name. For me, the name has a tragic history. The only Montserrat I knew anything about prior to reading this post was the island. My aunt and uncle used to vacation there quite frequently before it was devastated in the 80s and 90s by both Hurricane Hugo and the eruption of the Soufri
I’m actually Tina. That’s my real name. And there are two unrelated Monserrate’s in the Puerto Rican side of my family tree, along with Fidelina, Roque, Ramona, Mercedes, Niome, Walberto, Hormen (a woman’s name, quite possibly the ugliest I’ve heard), Nemesio, Fermina, Clotilde, and Dionizio. I have an awesome family tree! For name nerds.
I’ve actually seen Monserrate sometimes listed as a boy’s name. I think it would work well for either gender. Obviously, because of my heratige I can only picture using it for a daughter myself. But in the middle spot, like Viola Monserrate or Faline Monserrate.
And a note on the pronunciation, this is a Spanish name. So if there’s a double “r” you’re supposed to trill it. Not many English-speaking people are going to catch that. But I like it without the trill too.
Oh yeah, and I’ve also seen Monet listed as a nickname for Monserrate.
Viola Monserrate is quite lovely particularly since you have the family history to support it. I agree – you have some fun names on your family tree!
Monserrate on a boy … I had NO idea. Thanks!
Yes … that double r. That is something that I cannot quite manage. But I think I can say it without completely torturing the name.
Then again, I can see that it would take some doing …
And WOW am I jealous of those names! I’d kill for a Clotilde. 🙂
I had to re-read this name a few times… at first glance, the combination of letters said “menstrate” to me, not very appealing. I read it again, then it said “mounts a rat”, also not very appealing. Then i got it right… I agree that it doesnt sound feminine and rang boy for me too. Um, I dont like putting down names, but this one just gets put on my “huh??” list
I think it appeals to me because of the movie Barcelona. I barely remember the film, but I backpacked through Spain a few years later, and completely fell in love with the country. Along with Belen and a bunch of other Spanish names, I kind of love Monserrate – even though I can’t quite imagine using the name myself.
Sarah A says
I totally read boy on this one too! I thought Montserrat was a dashing, debonair name for a boy…until I read the rest of the post. But I guess that happens sometimes when we haven’t heard a name before and thus have no frame of reference. I’ll ask my husband if he likes a certain Arabic name and his response is frequently ‘I haven’t heard that before and I don’t even know if that’s for a boy or a girl’. But with plenty of girls wearing names like Jordan, Ryan, Kyle, etc. this distinctive appellation could fit right in. Montserrat might be a good choice for parents who want a name that sounds gender neutral but is distinctive and doesn’t sound trendy.
Whitney Gigandet says
All I can see, sadly, is “Monster Rat” 🙁 I don’t think she could ever make it in the rural south!
I grew up in Byron, GA right in the heart of the rural South and had no problems. In fact the only one to call me “Monster rat” was my younger brother when he got mad at me! Most people thought it was a beautiful name, especially my black friends who had very different names as well.
British American says
I’m getting lots of these recent names ‘wrong’ lately. I think the boy names are girl names and the girl names are boy names. :/ Montserrat read boy to me – possibly because I was thinking ‘Monty’ for a male nickname. The “rat” portion of the name would make it a no-go one for me too – even though “rat” doesn’t really seem to be part of the pronunciation.
The few places I saw Montserrat mentioned online mentioned the same thing about “monster rat.” I really do prefer Monserrate for that reason.