Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 3, 2008, and substantially revised on March 12, 2012.
There are underused gems, and then there are true rarities. Today’s choice is definitely in the latter category.
Thanks to Lola for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Pomeline.
Pomeline was all but unknown when Princess Caroline of Monaco named her second child Charlotte Marie Pomeline in 1986. Her first name honors her grandmother. Charlotte is presently fourth in line to the throne of Monaco.
The tiny principality on the French Riviera officially recognizes both French and Italian, and Monégasque, a local dialect, is also spoken, making their names a mix of the familiar and the stunningly unexpected.
Pomeline is straight from the Grimaldi family tree. Back in the 1400s, the Genoese aristocrat Pomellina Campo Fregoso married Jean I of Monaco. In French, the name became Pomeline. When her husband and son predeceased her, the princess became regent for her granddaughter Claudine. Pomellina is almost certainly the inspiration for Charlotte’s unusual middle.
Other Pomellinas appear in medieval Genoa from the 1300s through the 1500s, but Pomellina’s roots are unclear. A few theories include:
- Saint Poma is no longer listed in the official Roman Catholic saints’ directory, but appears in several references from the Middle Ages and before. Legend has it that Poma lived in the first century and took an impressive vow of silence. Pomellina could be an elaboration of Poma;
- Pomona, the ancient Roman goddess of fruit trees, might’ve influenced Pomeline;
- Pomella meant apple in some Italian dialects and the Latin pomum refers fruit, so it might be an adaptation of a word name;
- There’s also the maclura pomifera – the Latin name for an orange tree;
- Most obviously, it’s tempting to draw a connection to the French word pomme – apple.
Others suggest that the name could derive from Pamela – but since Pamela was a poetic invention circa 1600, it doesn’t fit the history.
Instead, most of the inspirations suggest a link to the apple. This puts Pomeline in the company of the equally edible Clementine – a subtle nature name. Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter Apple still makes the list of wackiest celeb baby names, but no one would raise an eyebrow for Pomeline. Apple names have appeared here before, and the category is surprisingly rich.
Pomeline has never ranked in the US Top 1000 and appears quite sparingly in the census records. Following the birth of Charlotte Casiraghi, a handful of girls received the name in France.
French names for girls are having a moment in the US, opening the door for parents to consider Pomeline. She needs no nickname, but Polly is one possibility, and Poppy, Millie, and Lina might work, too. With Madeleine so popular and Vivienne so Jolie-Pitt, more obscure French names continue to appeal. They’re feminine, yet tailored, and while Mireille or Agathe might not translate flawlessly into English, most are quite portable.
Pomeline’s pronunciation is pom uh LEEN, but you might hear variations.
If you’re looking for a combination of continental style, nature-name vibe and sophisticated sound, Pomeline makes for a deliciously rare appellation.