Looking for something more feminine than cowgirl Cassidy, but less elaborate than the tragic Cassandra? Here’s a nature name that just might suit.
Thanks to Laney for suggesting Cassia as Name of the Day.
First off, the Cass- family is made up of completely unrelated names, though two of them rose together in recent years. The Greek Cassandra, she of ancient myth, peaked at #49 in 1990 and stands at #284 today. The Gaelic surname Cassidy peaked at #99 in 1999, a few years after morning television’s Kathy Lee chose the appellation for Cody’s little sister. Today, she’s #228.
Cassia herself can claim at least three derivations, and just as many pronunciations. There’s:
- KAH shah;
- KAH see uh;
- kah SEE uh.
Parents choosing Cassia circa 2009 are probably thinking of the nature name. She’s more subtle than Willow or Sage. She’s less common, too – Cassia has never appeared in the US Top 1000.
Cassia cinnamon is an evergreen found in the Far East. The bark and buds alike are used as a spice. Technically, cassia is not true cinnamon. (That’s cinnamomum verum – also an evergreen.) But most of the cinnamon you’ll find in the US is actually cassia. (The good stuff is more readily available in Europe.)
Still, cassia is no fraud. She’s preferred for some recipes, where true cinnamon is a notch too sweet. And she’s just as ancient – Moses used cinnamon and cassia, as well as other spices, to anoint the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. Job’s daughter was called Keziah – a Hebrew variant of cassia. (Some have speculated that modern American names like Keisha are derived from Keziah.)
The Chinese knew about cassia, too – as did the Ancient Greeks. In myth, it was one of the phoenix’s preferred materials for nest-building. And while two bucks will buy you a Cinnabon at any shopping mall today, back in Rome, cassia was pricey stuff. Ancient cookbooks mention it, as do temple rituals and medical guides.
But if Cassia’s status as an also-ran to cinnamon makes you nervous, there are two other derivations for the name:
- The Cassius family was a big deal in Ancient Rome. The Via Cassia was a significant part of the Roman road system; members of the family founded the city we now know as Lisbon. Saints wore the name, as did an American abolitionist – which is how boxer Cassius Clay ended up with the name he’d eventually shed to become known as Muhammad Ali;
- Spelled Kasia, it is the Polish equivalent of Kate – a diminutive of Katarzyna. Head to Warsaw or Gdansk, and you’ll meet plenty of women wearing the name.
There’s also a county in Idaho known as Cassia, named after the Cassia Creek. The creek, in turn, is thought to be named after James John Cazier, an early settler, or possibly the term cajeaux, described as a “peasant French” term for raft.
Overall, Cassia is an appealing rarity. She’s a possible short form for Cassandra or Katherine, but stands well on her own. Sassy nickname option Cassie makes her wearable for a child. She offers a nice balance of standing out and fitting in, too.