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.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. You’re welcome, RF! This was so much fun. 🙂

    As for the “Have you hit your head, woman?” comments – what can I say? It is a doozie of name! But after pouring through etymologies and old directories of the saints, it struck me that this name was from a kinder, gentler (and okay, less informed) era. The term vagina is relatively modern – most date it from the late 1600s, and it wouldn’t have been used outside of medical circles until more than a century or two later. And while I couldn’t confirm this, my hunch is that you wouldn’t hear vagina bandied about so casually until the 1960s.

    In other words, I’m guessing that in Magina’s days on the playground, kids were content to call each other stupid. 🙂

    Would I use it? Magina does scare me, because I’m well aware that kids do use anatomical terms as insults. And yeah, everyone else would be thinking it, too.

    But my husband has an aunt Margaret – actually she’s Malgorzata, the Polish version of the name. If we’d had (or have) more than one daughter, we’d considered Margo/Margot to honor her, but as I wrote this, I found myself really liking Magena, especially in the middle spot.

    Laney, Regina will be NotD on 10/21. It’s one of the names I wanted growing up, especially because of the nickname options. I wanted to be called Reggie in the worst way!

  2. I agree with Corinne and Brandy. It does look and sound too much like vagina. It’s a terrible thing to name anyone, especially a kid. If that isn’t considered child abuse, it should be. That name is just dreadful! Poor kid would be getting the crap kicked out of her everyday.

    Regina is much more appealing to me and there’s less of a chance for teasing. How about Regina for a NoTD if you haven’t done it already? It was my paternal grandmother’s name (she died in Jan. of ’07 and I was really close to her. I had an aunt named Regina too who died in April ’05). Gina is a nice nickname, or she could go by Gia or Jeannie as my grandmother was often called, or GiGi (G.G.), or possibly even Reggie if she’s a tomboy.

  3. LMAO! Many, many thanks, AM! This made my day. I’m going to print it out to show all my friends and family.

    I find the theories fascinating, especially because – like you – I assumed it was old school creative or perhaps a very peculiar ethnic name. I was intrigued after hearing of two other women w/ this name – the woman my grandmother was named after along w/ a girl someone told me of online. The connection to Margaret is particularly interesting, especially considering my husband and my secret nn for her is Madge.

    The most baffling aspect of all this is my grandmother has never gone by a nn or expressed one ounce of distaste for her name. She seems proud actually. Perhaps it was simpler times? I do think it would be downright cruel for a child today. Pronounced like Regina it does sound rather regal, though I don’t particularly care for that name either.

    Thanks again for shining some light on a family head scratcher. Now when people question me IRL – I’ve never heard them question her, btw – I’ll say, “It’s a variant of Margaret, don’t you know?!”

    Oh, and I’ve never heard of Benis. But Magina’s bff at the senior center is Peena. 😉

  4. You can’t POSSIBLY serious that this one is up for revival. This is cruelty above cruelty. Would you name your son Benis? It doesn’t matter how YOU would like it pronounced, it will always be pronounced like it looks (which is Vagina).

  5. I first said it aloud as mah GEE nah, and want to keep it that way because, to me and my hubby, mag EYE nah rhymes with vagina. Yeah, we’re in the gutter…

    Magi seems like a cute name for a dog, to me, but I can’t wrap my mind around Magina.

  6. Well, I’ve seen RF mention her Grandmother before and while it’s not my cup of tea, if Magina was my Grandmother, I might want to stick it in the middle somewhere, despite my dislike of the sound (I’m not charmed by Ma-GEEN-ah either though). it’s Interesting, yes, with a capital I. Not horrible but not gorgeous either. I’d definitely consider her for a middle. With a family link like that, what a story she’d have! 🙂