Name of the Day: Assumpta

Today’s Name of the Day is not only an endangered species herself, she’s part of a cluster of names once much in favor in Roman Catholic countries and now seldom heard. They’re the Marians – names taken from titles given to the Virgin Mary, or in some cases, from her major life events or places with shrines to the saint.

Thanks to Katharine for challenging us with Assumpta.

Assumpta is from the Latin for assumption. If you’ve studied your catechism, you’ll know that for Roman Catholics, Mary’s soul and body were assumed into heaven as one. (Those of us who did not give birth to the saviour must shuck our physical selves before entering the pearly gates.) It’s one of many miraculous events associated with the Blessed Virgin. You might hear the name in use in Italian or Irish families – pronounced ah SOOM tah – but most are probably more familiar with Asunción – ah soon see OHN, the Spanish version.

While it’s an undeniably religious choice, compared to some favorites in recent years, it’s actually almost subtle. Consider the popularity of Nevaeh (#31), Trinity (#72) and Genesis (#139), and the Marians don’t sound impossibly holy after all.

Ever since Madonna became a 20th century pop icon and called her firstborn Lourdes – one of the few Marian names that can almost be considered mainstream – the Marians need not be reserved only for Catholics.

Rest assured, though, that most bearers of the name Assumpta in the US were Roman Catholic. Many, in fact, were women who took the name along with religious orders. Check old census records and “Assumpta” or “Mary Assumpta” is frequently preceded by “Sister.” But not always – in fact, enough women were called Assumpta in both the US and Australia that it must’ve been an uncommon, but not unheard of, choice for women in the 19th century.

The name is staggeringly pretty, and today calls to mind the cathedrals of Europe, the smell of incense and the sound of chanting. With plenty of Catholics nostalgic for the Latin mass, it’s easy to imagine that some would consider reviving these old school choices.

Assumpta Serna is a well-known Barcelona-born actress. Back in the 1980s, she even guest-starred on Falcon Crest. In the late 1990s, Assumpta Fitzgerald was the defiant and ill-fated pub owner on the BBC’s drama Ballykissangel, set in Northern Ireland. It’s a throwback name, and one that has never appeared in the Top 1000 in the US, but not one ever completely out of circulation, either.

All that said, Assumpta is among the least wearable of the Marians. There’s no viable nickname option – those first three letters really are a problem, even for those of us disinclined to giggle. And Umpta doesn’t quite work as a diminutive, either.

Here’s a short list of other Marian monikers, some of which might be worth considering:

  • Consuelo
  • Dolores
  • Lourdes
  • Luz
  • Maris
  • Mercedes
  • Pilar
  • Rosario
  • Soledad

And, of course, Mary, Marie, Maria and her infinite variants have done just fine through the centuries, too.

Assumpta is a dramatic choice – the kind of name that will never go unnoticed and rarely pass unremarked. We can’t help but feel that while there’s much to love in this spiritual name, it’s ultimately best reserved for the middle spot.

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22 Comments

I love my name as well. But when I was in elementary and middle school, I did have some issues with it. Children can sometimes be awful to others. But as we all got older I began to appreciate my name because it was no longer a joke. People started to ask questions and complimented it, instead of criticing the spelling. I only started to resent my name when others responded to it poorly. I would hide it by asking to be called by my middle name, even though I liked Assumpta. But when I got into High School I went back to my first name. If you are an Assumpta and have actually read this all the way through, I know first hand that you are or had experienced something similar. However, don’t try to hide your name like I did. It’s beautiful and one of a kind. Today I still get those people who feel they need to express to me how much they dislike my name, but all I can say is don’t listen to them. Your name is awesome don’t let anyone tell you other wise. Best part about having this name makes you a step more instersting compared to someone who is named Sarah, or John. Not that those aren’t great names but usually someone knows more John’s and Sarah’s, than Assumpta’s.

My name is Assumpta and my whole life I have been receiving compliments and questions. People always say how lovely my name is. It sticks. It may make it easier to find me on social media but I like that people know me as the one Assumpta in their lives. It makes for great conversation too about its origin, meaning etc. I would definitely recommend it if anything as a middle name. It sounds pretty too. Would I have liked other names? Sure. But I don’t think many match the uniqueness and curiosity this one attracts.

i love my name so dearly .many people also love the name why some promise to name there daughter if they give birth.

Is it possible to get a picture of St. Maria Assumpta? I have a Parish whose patron saint is this mother.
Galiwango Raymond

I love Spanish names! I’m part Puerto Rican. But I’m not Christian, so Assumpta is not a name I would consider. It’s almost impossible to find a Spanish name that has nothing to do with Catholisism, it’s so ingrained in their culture.

My name is Assumpta. And it was never a problem growing up. Once in a while I get concsious of the first three letters, but noone is ever taken aback from it really. I also get complimenets and questions about my name. My name is me. It really defines me.
🙂

If memory serves me correctly they pronouced Assumpta emphasising the ‘sump’… & Lola – the more you mention Mary Ottilie the prettier it gets!! 🙂

That Sister Mary Assumpta, I typed earlier should have had a question mark after her, the rest of the list were nuns I encountered before getting kicked out of catholic school. Yeah, I was not cut out for Catholicism. (In second grade I got suspended for asking who exactly decided God was a man. It got worse form there.) I’m 41 (for a week now) so the nuns I knew then would, for the most part, be in their 80’s now. I think Sister Mary Ottilie might be in her 60’s, as she was the youngest of the bunch of them, in her 20’s back then, in the 70’s. And I know Sister Mary Olivia is long gone, I attended her funeral when I was in High School.

Katharine, how did they say her name on the show? Everything I find says that it should be an “oo” sound in the middle – ah SOOM tah – but seeing your comment, I wonder if that’s true only in Italy, or if it applied to Ireland, too?

Ah Assumpta… I first came across the name Assumpta when I was watching the aforementioned tv show Ballykissangel and was enthralled by the fiery, fiesty and very Irish character of that name. I fell instantly and hopelessly in love with the name, but the love affair ended when realised how Assumpta was spelt (ie. before I realised Assumpta had an ‘Ass’ issue!) In my head she was spelt Ussumpta which looked sassy and edgy and not unlike Ursula, shame that isn’t the case!!

I’m an atheist who became Catholic, believe it or not, and so perhaps I’m more attracted to the religious vibe of this name than most! But what can you do when the first three letters are A-S-S? It’s just not wearable.

And honestly, I tend to agree with you, Lola, that religious names are best avoided. Whether they’re in-your-face, like Genesis, or more subtle, like Angela, I always feel like they’re too heavy to put on a child who may or may not choose the same path as her parents. (I used to work with a Christine – who converted to Judaism.)

I do adore Maris – but I’d probably leave it in the middle spot. And Soledad, but alas, I’m not even a little bit Latina.

BTW, as for the sisters Mary Assumpta? As I understand it, some orders stopped changing their members’ given names after Vatican II in the 60s. So we could meet a Sr. Tiffany. Given the declining numbers of women religious and the decreased pressure to take a new name, chances are that there are very few Mary Assumptas with us these days, and they’re quite elderly.

But who knows? The most recent nun I met was called Sister Arc – short for Sister Mary Arc of the Covenant. And she was about 22.

I can’t use Assumpta either. It’s far too religious for me, an atheist from an atheist family. But I don’t really like the sound of Assumpta either, the first three letters and the fact that it closely resembles the word assume. As for the other names, I quite like Mercedes (nickname Mercy, but the car ruined it), Lourdes and Maris.

I learned something today! I always thought Assumpta was said more like the word Assumption. I think it is a pretty sounding name, but all I can see out of it is Ass -sump, like sump-pump. Too much for me, but an interesting middle name choice for a subtle and devout family.

Mercedes is by far my favorite Marian name. Stupid car . . .

The rest feel a bit too heavy for me. Coming from a Roman Catholic family, but not being Catholic myself, I can appreciate the beauty in these names but would be disinclined to use one.

Assumpta is not my thing, Ex Roman Catholic that I am. Far too Religious (Evangeline and the Angel- names are out for the same reason). On top pf that, that first syllable (or first three letters, take your pick) really bug me in a girls name. Even the sounds of those three letters kills a name for me (Aspen, anyone?). And growing up Roman Catholic, going to Catholic private school, I never ran into one, even in passing. A Sister Mary Assumpta, Sister Mary Attila, Sister Mary Olivia, Sister Mary Fabian, Sister Mary Ottilie (where I first fell in love with Ottilie), yes but not Assumpta. Maybe a bit too ass-y for the Benedictine Nuns I was surrounded by for 11 years. If it was a family name, I might be persuaded to use it as a middle but that’s about as far as I can go with it.

It’s got a lovely history and as you said great imagery, as well as looking pretty written out but that beginnng does indeed ruin it.

I would happily use Dolores, Mercedes or Soledad or even Marian instead though. I just learned that Marian was his mother’s favorite maternal Aunt.. I never knew. it may shouw up somewhere in a combo sometime soon. Dolores, I love but is too close to my own nickname (for Laura, actually)that I’d be afraid she’d end up Lolita (little Lola) and that would be too much, for me. And Soledad MacKenzie is a bit too culture clashy for me, but undeniably pretty! 😀