Name of the Day: Aloysius

This one comes to us via Arthur – and Evelyn Waugh.

We’ll admit that while we haven’t seen the latest big screen adaptation yet, it was tempting to use the movie Brideshead Revisited to talk about the surprisingly popular Sebastian. Or perhaps Cordelia. But then we remembered Lord Flyte’s teddy bear, who inspired today’s Name of the Day: Aloysius.

Aloysius would be a lot of name for a small child. But we’ve covered – and considered using – the equally dramatic Ignatius.

Like Ignatius, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga was a Jesuit and left behind a considerable legacy. Schools are named in his honor on six continents; he’s the patron saint of young students. And Aloysius’ personal story is compelling – born into a wealthy and influential 16th century family, he eschewed considerable privilege to follow his faith.

Aloysius was born Luigi. If that seems like a stretch, hold on – it turns out that the almost theatrical Aloysius is a Latinization of the nearly ordinary, but very nice, Louis. Luigi is, of course, the Italian version of the name. Louis can also be linked to Lewis, Ludwig, Ludovic, Ludovicus and Clovis. All names share the same meaning – famous warrior, derived from the German.

You’ll find Alois and Aloys in the historical record. Both have a history of use in German and Czech and are sometimes listed as variants of Aloysius. The opposite appears to be true – Aloys was probably a variant form of Louis that was later Latinized as Aloysius.

Confused? The medieval tendency to use multiple spellings, to translate given names into the vernacular and to adopt the Latin for official purposes does muddy the waters. We think the story goes like this: Charlemagne’s son, Holy Roman Emperor Louis I – commonly known as Louis the Pious – was referred to as Aloys in the Provençal region. So Aloys likely inspired Aloysius, and not the other way around.

That said, Aloysius was not new when it was pressed into service. Instead, it had been a Roman cognomen – sort of a nickname that evolved into a family name – hundreds of years earlier. We couldn’t unearth the derivation of the original; perhaps it is lost to time.

It would be a rare choice for a child today. While it was never a popular name, it appeared in the US Top 1000 most years through 1940. Afterwards, Aloysius disappeared and has not been heard from since.

Aloysius lives in the hearts of children. In addition to the literary teddy bear, it is the first name of Sesame Street’s Mr. Snuffleupagus, once Big Bird’s imaginary friend and now his frequent side kick.

There’s also an old song that went, “Aloysius, Do the Dishes.” Recorded by Detroit-area jazz musician Pat Flowers, it’s tough to track down today.

Our biggest hesitation with Aloysius is the lack of an easy nickname. There’s Al, of course, and the whimsical Wish. Or you could go back to the name’s roots and use Lou.

Still, we find Aloysius interesting – if best reserved for the middle spot.

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16 Comments

Aloysius is definitely much more popular as a middle name than a first name, mostly for Catholics and blacks (don’t ask me why, cuz I’m not black, but black people are usually the only people who know how to spell it, for some strange reason. I couldn’t consistently spell my own middle name right until I was about 13). Another fictional character with the name was Theo Aloysius Huxtable from the Cosby show. My parents were thinking of names and they “laughed so hard, it seemed like a shame not to use it.” Be prepared for playground teasing to the tune of the French song “Alouette”.

Swoon! Lola, your list is to-die-for!

I think I’d have to say that Eulalie Frances and Edward Balthazar are my favorites. You just don’t meet enough Neds these days.

You want the whole thing, combos or just single names? I have a top ten somewhere, but it’s older, On the new 7 each list, August & Remus are most definitely on the for boys while my girls shifted order but nothing new there.

Nicole, that is SO cool! I couldn’t find any examples of the Luigi/Louis/Aloysius swap that didn’t refer to rulers or saints, so it is really exciting to hear that it happened – thank you so much!

And Catherine, I love Elvis Costello – I had NO idea that he’d adopted Aloysius as a middle name. It just went up a few more notches in my estimation.

My husband is big on this one because he’s a Georgetown grad and has serious admiration for the Jesuits. Unlike Ignatius, which I think we *might* actually use if presented with the opportunity, Aloysius still feels like it could only ever go in the middle.

Lola, do you ever post your list of contenders? It must be the most fascinating list.

I think it’s a cool name, but not one I would ever be willing to saddle a child with. I think it’s an excellent middle name, and I think I would shake the hand of a person willing to name their son this!

How interesting to see this . . . I recently found out that my great-grandfather, who I thought was named Luigi, was actually Christened Aloysius. He immigrated to the US from Italy when he was 18 and called himself Luigi . . . all of the records of him from Italy list Aloysius and all the ones from the US list Luigi. My mother and I were wondering how he came up with Luigi because we didn’t realize the two names were connected. Thanks for shedding light, AM!

As for the name itself, it might be kind of cool in the middle name slot now that I have a family connection to it. It’s a bit too conspicuous of a first name for me (though I would love nickname Lou or Louie on a little guy).

Aloysius is a crazy name. It’s just…out there. I do have a love for it though. I don’t like it enough to use, but enough to appreciate its zany appeal. Hey, it’s also Elvis Costello’s 2nd middle name! Sorry, I had to! He named himself after some comedian, apparently. I like the nickname Lou for this one. If I met a little Aloysius, I’d pat his parents on the back for having the cojones.

Aloysius is a favorite of mine, for his elaborate feel and swishy sound. I can’t really fit him anywhere just yet but I keep trying! My Dad used to sing “Aloyisus, Do the Dishes” to us when we were kids! I hadn’t thought of that in years, thanks for the smile. 🙂 If I used him, he’d definitely be in the middle, my boys already have Sebastian & Ambrose in the middle and Aloysius fits right in. If I used Aloysius as a first, he’d end up Lou. I like Lou. Aw heck, he’s going back on the list of potential middles, I really like him! 😀