Thanks to Shannon for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
It all starts with a mythological tragedy.
A Spartan prince named Hyacinth was sporting with Apollo. The handsome youth was struck by a discus and died. (Some say Zephyrus, the west wind, re-directed the discus out of jealousy.) As he died, a flower bloomed where drops of his blood spilled.
That’s how the hyacinth got its name. Though we’re not sure exactly which flower the ancient Greeks were thinking of – possibly larkspur, or iris, or maybe even gladiolus.
The ancient Spartans held an annual summer festival, the Hyacinthia, in his memory.
There’s a Christian martyr from the year 100 known as Saint Hyacinth, so this name has history aplenty. Another followed in the third century BC, and yet another from Poland circa 1300.
The name traveled across Europe, transformed into Jacinto, Jacenty, Giacinto, and Hyacinthe to name just a few.
Feminine forms evolved, too: Hyacinthe, Jacinthe, Giacinta, Jacintha, and Jacinta.
A sixteenth century Italian nun was known as Saint Giacinta. But this name’s biggest boost comes from Jacinta Marto, one of the children in Fátima, Portugal who witnessed apparitions of Mary.
The year was 1917. Jacinta, her brother Francisco, and their cousin Lucia tended their family’s sheep in the fields outside the town. They reported seeing an angel, and learning prayers from him. And then, about a year later, Mary appeared, telling them to pray the rosary – and to continue to return to that site. In October of 1917, a large crowd reported witnessing lights in the sky over Fatima.
In 1971, a visitor to the shrine took a Polaroid. The developed image seems to show the words “Jacinta 1972” across it.
Today it’s among the most-visited Catholic pilgrimage sites in Europe. Jacinta was canonized, along with her brother.
CONSTANCY AND CHANGE
Despite our affection for flower names, no form of hyacinth has ever caught on in the US. The flower symbolizes constancy and sincerity in the language of flowers, though, which feels like an auspicious meaning.
If you’re not Catholic, you might have heard this name in other places.
Halle Berry played Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in 2002’s Die Another Day, opposite Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.
Or maybe you’ll think of Jacinda – with a ‘d’ – Barrett. She started out on the The Real World: London before launching a successful acting career. (Fun fact: the native Australian’s birth name was Giacinta Cordelia Arabella Luciana Rosalina Barrett.)
And it’s possible all that talk of hyacinth reminded you of 1990s British comedy Keeping Up Appearances and the comically opportunistic Hyacinth Bucket. Except even when you know Jacinta comes from the flower name, it feels plenty distinct.
RARE BUT WEARABLE
Jacinta spiked in use right in the 1970s, likely inspired by the saint. It peaked in 1982, the year Pope John Paul II first visited Fatima. As for Jacinda, it rose in use along with the actor’s career.
I think the ‘d’ spelling might feel more obvious, at least in the US where it reflects our default pronunciation and mirrors Linda, Lucinda, and similar choices.
Either way, this name offers much to modern families. It has a strong nature name tie-in, nicknames like Jacie, Jazz, or Joss built-in, and a sound that fits with Isabella and Sophia and Camila.
If you’re looking for a name that marries the religious to the natural world, and remains both rare and accessible, Jacinta might be the name for you.
Do you like this name better with a ‘t’ or a ‘d’?
Originally published on February 21, 2013, this post was revised substantially and re-published on January 9, 2020.