Santa Cova Chapel near the Abbey Santa Maria d...
Santa Cova Chapel near the Abbey Sant Maria de Montserrat; Image via Wikipedia

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.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.