He’s one letter removed from Elroy, but this name has an intriguing heritage all his own.
Thanks to Christina for suggesting Eloy as Name of the Day.
Eloy is pronounced just as you’d probably guess – EE loy. He’s been whispered down the alley from French to Latin to Italian and Spanish, but still retains his original form.
Back in the late 500s, Aquitaine-born Éloi was a master metalsmith appointed to manage the royal mint of King Clotaire II. Managing money has always led to power – and too often corruption. All accounts indicate Éloi was scrupulously honest and unfailingly generous. He built churches and monasteries, gave to the poor and ensured proper burials for criminals.
What happens next is open to debate. Some say that Éloi finally fulfilled a life-long desire to enter the priesthood. Others suggest that he reluctantly accepted the office of Bishop at the urging of Clotaire II’s son and successor, King Dagobert I. If coercion was involved, it would be just a little bit ironic – Éloi comes from the Latin word eligere – to choose.
Either way, as Bishop he converted Flemings, Frisians and plenty of other pagans, and was eventually considered a saint. The Latin version of his name is Eligius, and that’s the one that appears to have endured over the centuries.
The French-born Eligius Fromentin was a priest who fled the guillotine. After some years in America, he also left the church and became a lawyer in New Orleans, eventually helping with Louisiana’s bid for statehood and serving as a US Senator.
There’s also the Baron Eligius Franz Joseph von Münch-Bellinghausen, a nineteenth-century Austrian writer. The aristocrat disguised his lofty roots, publishing under the pen name Friedirch Halm.
In Italian and Spanish, Eligius sometimes becomes Eligio. But in the US, the only version used with any frequency has been the Spanish Eloy. Eloy charted in the US Top 1000 most years between 1920 and 1986. Though he was usually at the fringes, he reached as high as #689 in 1946. (I’m probably missing some famous Latino Eloys, or possibly a fictional character or two.)
The name is also sometimes linked to Loye, but the French surname has distinct roots. (It’s an occupational name for a keeper of geese.)
And while a few sites insist that Eloy means fierce fighter, I can’t find any support for that defintion.
Eloy has the advantage of sounding close to current favorites Eli, Elijah and Elias. And yet the “oy” sound is distinctive. I like him a bit better with a French pronunciation – eh LOY – but I’m not sure it would catch on.
On balance, Eloy is interesting. He might substitute for parents who love Eli but are looking for a twist. And obscure saints’ names are certainly valid choices. But I’m undecided about how Eloy would wear circa 2009. The “oy” sound – Troy, Joy, Roy, Joyce – isn’t terribly fashionable. And yet with celebrities naming their babies Walter and Frank, maybe that’s an open door for choices like Roy and Eloy.