Thanks to Emmy Jo for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
LITERARY, MUSICAL MADRIGAL
Madrigal’s exact evolution is tough to pin down, but it seems to begin with a Latin origin. Matricalis means invented. It’s the same root as mater – mother. Matricis is the Latin word for womb.
The meaning of madrigal evolved to imply something both simple and clever, at least in Italian.
And fourteenth century Italy is where a type of music, written for two voices, develops. It’s called a madrigal.
But it would be sixteenth century Italy where an unrelated type of secular music developed. Also called madrigals, and they became an important type of secular music.
The form spread. German composers borrowed it. The English Madrigal School flourished from the late 1570s into the 1620s, featuring a capella works, some of which are still performed today.
To complicate things further, a madrigal might also be a medieval short lyrical poem – the kind of thing that could easily be set to music.
It makes the baby name Madrigal musical and literary, too.
Except Madrigal is effectively unused as a girl’s name.
Instead, it’s a place name, found in Spain. In Avila, Burgos, Cáceres, and Guadalajara, there are Madrigals. In this case, the word shares the same origins – the Late Latin root matricale – but it refers to a river bed.
From the map, it became a surname.
The surname appears in the real world, but also in fiction.
Armistead Maupin and Edith Bagnold are two authors to give us a fictional Miss Madrigal.
In YA fantasy series Daughter of Smoke and Bone, there’s a significant character by the name.
It’s also a family surname in the long-running series The 39 Clues.
But all of this pales compared to the characters who come next.
THE FAMILY MADRIGAL
In November of 2021, we met Disney’s Madrigal family. Daughter Mirabel introduced them in song, and we quickly learned their backstory.
As a young mother, Alma fled her war-torn home with her triplets: Julieta, Pepa, and Bruno. She loses her husband in their flight, but finds a new home, a magical Casita in a protected village, shielded by mountains.
So much magic centers on the Casita that every family member receives a gift – making flowers bloom, talking to animals, super strength, even seeing the future. But Mirabel, the fifteen year old granddaughter of Alma and daughter of Julieta, receives no special powers.
And yet, it is Mirabel Madrigal, the only ordinary child, who ultimately saves her family.
Because the movie takes place in a fictional country inspired by Colombia, a Spanish surname like Madrigal makes sense. But the meaning works, too. Just as Mirabel means wonderful, and sounds like miracle, highlighting her ability to save the magical house and her grandmother’s legacy, Madrigal seems exactly right, too.
THE POWER OF THE ORDINARY
The last name Madrigal fits the family’s ethnicity and the film’s musical soundtrack.
But it works for another reason: during the Italian Renaissance, it was widely assumed that ordinary people could read music and sing or play an instrument. Madrigals were not performed only by those with a unique ability or training; they were something you’d do for fun, with your friends and family members.
Mirabel’s ordinariness then, is a virtue. The tale of the Madrigal family would’ve ended very differently if not for Mirabel’s great care and love for her abuela Alma and the home she’s built.
MAGGIE and MADDIE
Even without the hit animated movie Encanto and its killer soundtrack, Madrigal has potential.
Word names dot the current US Top 100. If Willow and Ivy, Serenity and Aria can be mainstream favorites, why not a musical term like Madrigal?
It also helps that Madeline and Madison both lead to the nickname Maddie – and so might Madrigal. Maggie, too, seems like a possible short form.
MEANINGFUL POP CULTURE POWERHOUSE
The word Madrigal works as a given name on so many levels – the meaning is rich and nuanced, and it can easily work for the child of a musical family, or one who prizes uplifting baby name meanings.
Factor in the rich nickname options, and Madrigal’s prospects as a given name just get better and better.
The original 2008 version of this post described the baby name Madrigal as “a name with some equalizing, rebellious force – not merely creative, but something of a free spirit and a radical, too.”
While Mirabel Madrigal proved to be the force that held together the rest of her family, there is something powerful and maybe even disruptive about her character, too.
Madrigal might work equally well for a son, just like word name Lyric and Reign. After all, the surname belongs to Mirabel and Bruno, too.
For parents who love musically-inspired choices like Cadence, Melody, and Harmony, the baby name Madrigal fits right in. Whimsical and wearable, it could be the perfect inspiration for a musician’s daughter, or just a strong choice for any parent hoping their child grows up to be capable and loving – magical gift or not.
What do you think of the baby name Madrigal?
First published July 14, 2008, this post was revised substantially + re-published on June 15, 2022.