Cover of the first Australian edition of the v...Katherine is evergreen, an enduring name worn by queens and saints.  This variation is a little less expected.

Thanks to Roksalanna for suggesting Katinka as our Baby Name of the Day.

English speakers tend to shorten names to arrive at diminutives.  Katherine becomes Kathy and Katie and Kate and even Kay – from centuries of history and three syllables to just the sound of a single letter.

Other languages are different.  Diminutive endings can make the nickname forms of names longer than the original.  Anna becomes Anita.  Or maybe just plain different – which seems to be the case here.

European variations of Katherine include Katya, Katja, Kata, Katica, Katina, Katrina, Katinka, and even Katrinka.

They feel like different names, barely related to the original, don’t they?

A handful of girls have been named Katinka in the US – seven in 1964, five in 1978, and five in 1992.  I expected the name’s use to coincide with American productions of Katinka, an operetta composed by Rudolf Friml.  It debuted on Broadway in 1915, and was successful as late as the 1940s.  But by 1964, it was obscure, so it doesn’t track with any of those dates.

Katinka seems to have been an original production.  In fact, the play’s name was originally Elaine, after producer Arthur Hammerstein’s daughter.  Miss Hammerstein was initially lined up to play the title role, but she left New York for the bright lights of Hollywood instead.

Then there’s Ved Vedjen, an 1886 novel by Danish author Herman Bang.  Bang is a big deal in Denmark, and Ved Vedjen is a classic.  In 1988, Ved Vedjen was adapted as a film, titled Katinka, in honor of the main character, Katinka Bai.  All versions of the story are pretty obscure in English, so what could it be?

In 1964, writer Katinka Loeser published her first collection of short stories.  She was much published in The New Yorker, so plenty of future parents must have seen her name – at least enough to inspire five girls’ names that year.  But I’m stumped by the 1979 and 1992 uses.

Maybe it is just that we’ve always been interested in Katherine and her many variations:

  • In 1979, the US Top 100 included Katherine, Kathryn, Katie, Kathleen, and Katrina.
  • Katarina Witt won Olympic figure skating gold twice in the 1980s.
  • Katrina and the Waves scored a major hit with the upbeat “Walkin’ on Sunshine” in 1985.
  • By 1992, Katherine, Kathryn, and Katie had been joined in the US Top 100 by Katelyn and Kaitlyn.
  • Katrina was at her most popular in the 1980s, dipping into the Top 100 a few times.

Another notable use was Milla Jovovich’s character in 2001 fashion farce Zoolander.

She’s heard most often in Danish, where the usual form of Katherine is Katharina, and Hungarian, where the usual form of Katherine is Katalin.  But you’ll also find her in other Slavic and Scandinavian languages, as well as German and Dutch.  De Spelbrekers had a hit with their song “Katinka” in 1962 – though I’m guessing Katinka probably feels pretty dated in the Netherlands.  I’ve seen the spelling Katenka mentioned, but that’s rarer than rare.

Overall, Katinka is a quirky possibility for a daughter, but her ties to Katherine serve as an anchor.  She could be a heritage choice, depending on your family’s background, and if you happen to know that Great Aunt Katherine answered to Katinka as a girl, well, that’s a plus.  Nowadays, there’s no need to shorten Katinka, but choices like Kat, Kit, and Kate are all options.  With a retro, offbeat vibe, Katinka could wear well in 2014.

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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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What do you think?


  1. I think the film is probably behind the names for 1992.

    Katinka Matson had 3 books published in the late 1970s, including The Working Actor. Given the artistic vibe of this name, I suspect that this could be the source.

  2. There is this wonderful young Romanian actress named Catinca Untaru, who played Alexandria in “The Fall”.

  3. Ooooh, oooh, I have an additional usage for you! Have you seen the new engineering game aimed at girls, Goldie Blox (now infamous for their video and spat with the Beastie Boys)? The names that were chosen for the characters are fascinating, and sure enough, there is a Katinka! Katinka is a vaguely Russian pink ballerina dolphin (yes, I know that sounds crazy). There’s also Goldie herself, her pet basset hound Nacho, a Brazilian business-suited bear named Flavio, a grumpy cat named Benjamin Cranklin, and a sloth named Phil. As a naming aficionado, I’m loving it.

  4. Oh wow thanks so much! It’s such a nice surprise to see my suggestion as Name of the Day! It’s great to have all this detail and information for a long held name crush. Thanks again.