Fifteen years ago, a Marine Corps band member of our acquaintance wanted a musical name for his daughter. She became Cadence. At the time, we thought it was a charming and utterly distinctive choice. And when we first heard Harmony in the mid-90s, it seemed like a fresh and clever moniker, far more interesting than the tired Melody.
Today, both of those choices are increasingly common. In fact, Cadence has been swept up in the K-name kraze to spawn Kadence and Kaydence. And yes, we’ve even met a Harmonie.
Music-minded parents have to work much harder to find an appealing, lyrical choice. Emmy Jo suggested an interesting idea – today’s Name of the Day: Madrigal.
It would take a daring parent, indeed, to choose Madrigal for their daughter.
While plenty of choices ripped from the dictionary rank in the US Top 100 – Destiny, Trinity and Autumn all make the list, as well as classic virtue picks like Grace and Faith, and floral names like Lily and Jasmine – Madrigal does not appear in the Top 1000, or in fact, in most baby naming references.
But this one sounds like a name, and with both Maddie and Maggie as nickname options, it would offer a compromise – unusual name on the birth certificate, easy-to-wear short form for daily use.
The term refers to two separate, but similar, types of vocal music.
The first, dating from the 14th century, is part of the Italian Trecento – sort of the starting bell for the Renaissance. Dante and Petrarch penned their immortal works, painters explored new techniques and composers wrote simple pieces with pastoral themes for two, and sometimes three, voices. Manuscripts exist for many madrigals, but the origin of the form itself is debated. Some see links to troubadours’ ballads from the Middle Ages; others contend it is a secularization of church music.
In any case, there’s widespread agreement that madrigals died out circa 1400, and more than a century later, the largely unrelated Madrigal: The Sequel developed. The madrigals of the Italian Renaissance included parts for more voices – usually three to six, and sometimes as many as eight. The themes remained secular, and sometimes relied on the poetry of Petrarch and others for their lyrics. Later, the form would spread to England and Germany, and would persist as an important musical genre until eclipsed by opera.
There’s nothing in that (brief, and possibly flawed) thumbnail sketch of musical evolution to put us off Madrigral for a girls’ name. When we went digging for the roots of the word itself, it appears to have evolved from the late Latin term matricalis. That term means invented; or, more literally, refers to the Latin words for womb – matricis and mother – mater. In vernacular forms of Italian common in the 16th century, the word madrigal implies both simple and clever. It’s a term of praise for something created.
Madrigal’s prospects as a name just get better and better.
It also translates flawlessly. Your daughter Destiny might find her name a burden during study abroad, but Madrigal is virtually unchanged in European languages as different as French, Slovak and Swedish.
Madrigal also appears as a seldom-heard Spanish surname and place name.
If there is any drawback to this pretty appellation, it is a vague science fiction vibe. There is, in fact, a role playing game called Madrigal. You can sign up and take part in a weekend-long Revel, enacting the events of the mystical world Aerune.
Hey, we’re not here to judge. But a slight undercurrent of disaffected and sullen adolescence does attach to this name.
The positive spin on that problem is this: a madrigal was commonly sung not by trained performers, but by ordinary people. Imagine heading over to the neighbors’ house for dinner and then leafing through sheet music – more widely available during the Renaissance due to advances in printing – to choose something to sing with a friend. Most of us just don’t do that anymore; the line between performer and audience is well-defined. Madrigal, then, is a name with some equalizing, rebellious force – not merely creative, but something of a free spirit and a radical, too.
Parents looking for a successor to Cadence, Harmony and Lyric can consider Madrigal a thoroughly intriguing choice for a daughter.