Name of the Day: Agatha

We discussed Agnes a few days ago. But there’s another way to get to the nickname Aggie.

Thanks to Lola for suggesting the intriguing Agatha as Name of the Day.

Agnes once topped the popularity lists. The unrelated Agatha hasn’t been so nearly as hot in centuries. Her heyday was probably Medieval England, but even then, she wasn’t as common as Joan, Alice – or Agnes.

Instead, she’s gone from steady use in the late nineteenth century to obscurity in recent years. Agatha last charted in the US Top 1000 in 1945.

And yet, she’s familiar to nearly everyone – and sounds quite smart – thanks to mystery writer Agatha Christie.

Speaking of mysteries, an even earlier Agatha has stumped historians for ages.

Back in 1016, Canute of Denmark routed the armies of King Edward II and took over England. Edward’s young son, also named Edward, was sent off to be murdered but instead ended up living in Kiev and Hungary. Known as Edward the Exile, he eventually became the official heir to the English throne – but met his end before he could be crowned.

Somewhere along the way, he married Agatha. She accompanied him to England in 1057. Some speculate that she’s German or Hungarian; others connect her to Kiev or Bulgaria. Her name is the basis of some arguments – if Agatha is unusual today, it was downright exotic circa 1057.

A little digging turned up a Princess Agatha born in 958 in Constantinople, but she ended her days in a convent. There have been plenty of other royal bearers of the name, but they tend to post-date the could-have-been-queen. A Russian royal wore the name in the 1200s; as recently as 1910, the society wedding of Berlin’s Princess Agatha von Ratibor was covered by the international press.

But perhaps the most intriguing Princess Agatha was the daughter of William the Conqueror. She was almost certainly born after the 1057 death of Edward the Exile, but before our mysterious Agatha left England for Scotland. Could she be named after the not-queen? There’s a historical novel just begging to be written.

Intrigue aside, the name’s origins are clear. She comes from the Greek agathos, meaning good. (The masculine Agatho was once used, too.) Back in the 200s, the well-born Agatha converted to Christianity and planned a celibate life. Instead, a frustrated suitor had her arrested and tortured when she wouldn’t change her plans. But Agatha kept the faith, despite some grisly punishments. She ended up a saint and many parents used her name for their daughters through the ages, translating it into most European tongues.
Agacia is the appealing Latin version of the name. In France, Agathe still ranks in the Top 100.

While Agatha almost screams to have “Great Aunt” preceding her, she’s far from the most unusual name currently making a comeback. If Hazel and Mabel can seem fashion-forward, why not Agatha?


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15 Comments

I was so excited to read this!!! If this baby is a girl she will be Agatha. I adore this name and can easily picture a sweet little faced girl answering to it. *swoon*

At the risk if being brutal, it reminds me of the lochnesse monster……
It’s just not very appealing to me; I don’t really like names with harsh sounds

Mmm.. I do like Agatha! Her cool old-lady feel attracts me the same way Iris did (and many others I’m fond of like Alice, Clara, Beatrix, Ada, Maeve and Florence!). I love that she’s regal, but not showy, and harsh but not too stern

She’s about on equal par with Agnes for me. I’d happily squeeze euther of them into the middle name spot, but probably wouldn’t use her up front, because my other kids have slightly lighter sounds, to my ears!

“Did you ever see the made-for-TV episodes with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry? Wodehouse was a great namer.”

Most definitely. I still rent them on occasion from the library. And I *love* Wodehouse’s brilliant name choices! Having grown up both on his works and the works of Agatha Christie herself, I was quite fond of the name Hermione (which they both use on more than one occasion) prior to the onslaught of Harry Potter. Now, sadly, the name has been ruined by HP’s popularity and I’ll never be able to use it.

One name, utilised by Wodehouse, that I shall never be able to disassociate from his use, and therefore never be able to use, is “Eulalie” — have you read the book that the name features in? It’s brilliant.

Swoon! Agatha ticks all my boxes, she’s got a wicked old-lady cool vibe and I totally agree with Lola’s description of her as stern but pretty, that’s exactly how I feel about her. Actually, I can’t decide which I like better – Agatha or Agnes, it used to be Agnes by a mile but Agatha is creeping up there…

LOL, Charlotte! That’s it! I *love* Bertie Wooster and his aunts! I couldn’t figure out how to work her in, so I hoped someone would see it. 🙂 Did you ever see the made-for-TV episodes with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry? Wodehouse was a great namer.

Lola, I love Aggie as a nickname. And I’m so interested in the mysterious royal Agatha. It sort of links Josephine and Agatha, too – they would both have names that royal women brought into fashion.

Ok, this is going to be rather random:

I rather like Agatha, although I don’t know that I’d ever use it personally. I once listened to a radio program where someone talked about “everybody’s Aunt Agatha”, saying that everybody has some kind of aunt named Agatha. And to be honest, I do have a great-aunt Agatha, but I still like the name (it was also my beloved grandmother’s middle name).

In P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster chronicles Aunt Agatha is the aunt who “chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth”.

I’ve heard Agatha pronounced two different ways: “AEG-uh-thuh” and “a-GAH-thuh” (excuse my poor transliteration).

I’ve really been loving Agatha lately, and have a few thoughts for combos that I won’t bore you with. 🙂

Agatha is so strong & pretty, I love her feel, rich heavy satin. I like how stern she sounds but her looks are light and breezy. She does seem as though she should be preceeded by “Princess”, doesn’t she? So regal! Thanks so much for doing Agatha for me, she’s definitely got potential for us, even if no one else likes her much!