Today’s Name of the Day is one from the curiosity cabinet – Rocking Fetal’s grandmother’s name: Magina.
Some names seem truly unusual – perhaps invented by a creative parent. Our instinct was that Magina must fall into that category. We were especially intrigued because Rocking Fetal mentioned that her grandmama pronounced her name mag EYE nah, without regard to certain parts of the female anatomy with which it might rhyme.
But a quick search of the census records revealed that Magina was steadily, if sparingly, in use in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the US, Canada and Australia.
It appears that the name is one of those monikers that was never terribly popular, and today has gone extinct. We’re guessing it has to do with that little rhyming problem, though it certainly could be said mah GEN ah or mah GEEN ah.
We have a wealth of theories for Magina’s origins:
- Sometime in the later Roman era, Maginus evangelized the Roman colony of Tarraco. For his efforts, he was beheaded and later sainted. The region is now known as Tarragona in modern day Spain. They still celebrate la Festa de Sant Magí every August. Magina appears to be a feminization of the saint’s name.
- The Hebrew word magen means shield. Some have used Magen as a boys’ name. Magena, Magenah, Magina and Maginah are possible feminizations.
- The Old Norse feminine name Magnhild might have inspired Magina. Based on the Germanic element magn or magen, it means strong.
- Buried in the most extensive listings of Catholic saints, we find Magina herself, usually alongside Claudius, Crispin, John and Stephen. Because the martyrs of Africa tend to be commemorated as a group, it’s difficult to pin down any details of the individuals – or even be certain of their names.
- A few sites list Magina as a Russian name. We can’t substantiate this one, but -ina is a common ending – think Galina, Polina and Antonina.
- While it is rare, some families, especially of Italian descent, bear the surname Magina.
All of these possibilities are valid, but we’re most tempted to view Magina as a variant of Margaret. It’s been among the most popular and widespread choices for daughters for generations. Given the dazzling array of variants and diminutives – Gretchen, Margot, Magali, Marjorie, Maret, Megan, Rita and so on – it’s reasonable to assume that some have been lost to time.
Magina has never charted in the US Top 1000, and we rather doubt she’ll be appearing any time soon. Still, with a slightly different pronunciation, this becomes a pretty appellation that seems tempting to revive – maybe for the middle spot.