Thanks to Virginia for suggesting Charitina as our Baby Name of the Day.
Charitina almost certainly comes from the Greek charis – grace. Charis also implies beauty and kindness, the kinds of qualities parents might seek in a daughter’s given name.
The word charity is first used in the current sense in English in the 1100s, ultimately from the Latin caritas – love or affection – via the French. Today, charitable has two senses: first, benevolent acts to support those in need, and second, a tolerant or forgiving attitude towards others.
They’re all virtuous, appealing meanings, and the bearers of the name have been saints.
First is Charitina of Rome. Hers is the typical virgin saint story: a pretty, pious girl, devoted to her faith from a young age, Charitina determined never to marry and devoted her life to prayer. The only problem? Charitina lived during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, and he was fond of torturing Christians. Charitina survived more than one gory torture, but ultimately was martyred, and her body throw into the sea.
The fourth century saint inspired parents for generations – at least her name remained in sparing use in Europe and the US. It was also taken as a religious name by more than one woman, so US Census records list Sister Charitina and Sister Mary Charitina with some frequency.
There’s an Orthodox saint from the thirteenth century, too. It’s said that she was born into a noble Lithuanian family at a time when Christianity was not in favor. Grand Duke Algirdas ruled her homeland. While some accounts say that Algirdas converted to Orthodoxy, other accounts list him as an unrepentant pagan who ordered the deaths of three missionaries.
Because of this, Charitina made her way to Novgorod in Russia, entered a convent and eventually became abbess and later a saint.
Could it have been her birth name? Maybe. Some of the Charitinas in later records were from Eastern Europe. But it seems much more likely that the noblewoman took it as her name when she ended the convent.
In Greek, the ‘ch’ in charis takes a k sound – karis. And so when I hit a brick wall searching for contemporary women called Charitina, I decided to dig around using alternate spellings Karitina and Caritina.
Much to my surprise, Karitina was a bust. But Caritina yielded a Spanish-speaking lifestyle expert called Caritina Goyanes. She has a new daughter named Carolina. If I’m reading this article correctly, Carolina, Caritina, and two more generations of women in their family have all worn Cari- names. Carolina’s grandma is Carla.
Overall, she’s terribly rare – in 2002, five girls were named Caritina, but most years, it is fewer than that. Of course, nearly any -tina ending names feels the tiniest bit dated in 2013, though Christina and lots of others do deserve to be considered classic choices, due for a comeback … eventually.
And yet, in our age of Isabella and Alexandra, Charitina and Caritina are wearable. If you’re after an unusual name with ties to saints and to Lithuanian history, this name is a very real possibility.