Editor’s note: This post was originally published on October 25, 2008 and substantially revised and reposted on November 5, 2012.
Today’s choice sounds surprisingly modern for a medieval moniker.
Thanks to Lola for suggesting our Name of the Day: Cecily, and Jennifer for suggesting that this one be updated!
- 20th century staples like Natalie, Kimberly, and Stephanie
- Modern noun names like Destiny and Trinity
- Surname and stolen-from-the-boys choices like Avery and Mackenzie
Meanwhile, Cecily has only appeared in the US Top 1000 a handful of times.
The name likely comes from the Roman Caecilius, which means blind, though there are plenty of more elaborate explanations.
There’s a semi-legendary Saint Cecilia, dating from the 300s. Legend has it that she a noblewoman, martyred for her beliefs. As she died, she sang out to praise God. She’s the patron saint of musicians. Cecilia was popular in the Middle Ages, and her name caught on as Cecily. If that sounds unusual, remember that Margery was the preferred form of Margaret through much of the medieval era.
Scan the historical record in Medieval England and you’ll find a number of bearers, including two royals. In the 1400s, Cecily Neville was Duchess of York and mother of two future kings of England: Edward IV and Richard III. (Her signature suggests that she spelled her name Cecylle.) King Edward IV named one of his daughters Cecily in her honor.
- Cecily Bonville, a baroness and heiress in fifteenth century England
- Cecily Bodenham, a well-born woman who served as Abbess of Wilton until Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries
By the eighteenth century, the Latinate Cecilia had eclipsed Cecily, and that remains true today. She may sound charmingly English, but she’s not particularly popular in the UK, either.
The name does pop up from time to time:
- Cecily Cardew is one of the characters in Oscar Wilde’s enduring work, The Importance of Being Earnest
- World War II heroine Cecily Lefort
- Actress Cicely Tyson wears an alternate spelling of the name, one that is also used for an herb, as does nineteenth century suffragette and writer Cicely Hamilton
- The fictional Alaskan town where Northern Exposure took place is another Cicely
- Cecily von Ziegesar is the creator of Gossip Girl
Two starbabies wear the name. Comedienne Sandra Bernhard named her daughter Cicely Yasin. British supermodel Stella Tennant has a Cecily.
For nicknames, Cecily could answer to Cece, Ceci, or Cyl.
Overall, Cecily makes for a great option for parents seeking something uncommon but not completely novel. She’s pretty, even prim, an alternative to Abigail and Hannah. This is one medieval name that sounds just right in the 21st century.