Take one medieval saint, transport her to Paris and what do you get?
Thanks to Mariuccia and JNE for suggesting today’s Baby Name of the Day: Elodie.
In the age of Ella, plenty of parents are searching for creative ways to arrive at that nickname, or the equally appealing Ellie. Factor in the fashionable allure of French appellations for girls, and it comes as no surprise that Elodie is attracting quite a bit of attention.
She sounds like modern noun name Melody, but goes much farther back.
Sisters Alodia and Nunilo lived near Cordoba in the ninth century. It had been more than a century since the Muslims had come to power in Spain, and the girls’ mother remarried a Muslim man. The girls refused to convert.
It was a perilous time for Christians – the tolerance that had characterized the first century of Muslim rule was fading. Four dozen Christians would be executed for apostasy in the 850s.
Nunilo and Alodia were both martyred for their beliefs, are both considered saints. The carving pictured to the right is from a church in the small town where the sisters once lived.
Alodia is probably a Visigoth name – the Visigoths ruled the area for centuries. That means that Elodie is a cousin to Otto – both are derived from od – wealth.
It is also a place name. Part of Nubia was called Alodia while under Christian rule during the Middle Ages. It was established before the girl known as Alodia was born, and would last for several centuries after her death. We’re not sure how the state got its name, but it may share the same roots as the saint’s name.
As the saint’s story traveled from Spain to France, Alodia eventually became Élodie.
Variants like Elodia and Alodie appear occasionally in various European languages, and all forms appear in the US Census records, too. But they’re very rare. In the late 19th century, British citizen Elodie Lawton married a Serbian diplomat, learned his language and translated many classic Serbian works. Women religious sometimes took the name.
Alodia is nearly unknown today, but Elodie is at her most popular:
- She peaked in the 1980s in France, peaking in the 1980s, and ranks in the Top 50 in French-speaking Canada.
- French actress Elodie Bouchez appeared in the final season of television sensation Alias, playing a secret CIA assassin.
- Gail Carson Levine gave the name to the heroine of her 2011 novel, A Tale of Two Castles.
- My favorite? Short-lived cast member of The Hills, Elodie Otto, because of the link between her first and last names.
Elodie charted in the US a few times in the late nineteenth century, then disappeared. But she looks to be making a comeback. 149 girls received the name in 2012. That’s double the number in 2010. Judging by the positive attention Elodie generates, she’s likely to continue her rise.
Overall, she’d wear well on a modern girl. Elodie is tremendously historic, in step with current trends and still nicely uncommon.