While it’s hard to imagine bestowing the moniker Ralph on your baby boy, there is an appealing, dramatic twist on that sadly dated name that bears consideration: Raphael, and the breezy nickname Rafe.
Thanks to Natalie for suggesting today’s Name of the Day.
Say the name to a school-aged child and the Raphael that springs to mind is probably a turtle – a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, to be precise. Like his fellow crime-fighting testudinates – Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello – he was named after a Renaissance painter, the Italian Raffaello Sanzio.
Raphael is also an archangel, referenced by name in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Hebrew translation of his name means “God heals.” There have been two Saint Raphaels, both in recent times, and dozens of communities are named in his honor: Saint-Raphaël in France and San Rafael through the Spanish-speaking world.
In fact, the influence of Spanish is significant. Rafael ranked #228 in the US Top 1000 boys’ names for 2007. Raphael, however, languished at a relatively obscure #705.
Regardless of spelling, it is normally pronounced rah fye EL and the nickname is always spelled Rafe, with an f.
It’s worth noting that Ralph is not, in fact, related to Raphael in origin or history. However at least one famous Ralph – actor Fiennes – favors the pronunciation “Rafe.” There’s also a similar Arabic name, Raef, again not linked to Raphael or Ralph.
What is certain is that the name is quite familiar throughout the world. Raphael is a Top 20 name in Quebec and Rafael ranks in the Top 50 in Spain.
While the name has a romantic quality, it’s not quite as extreme as calling your boy Romeo. And the short form Rafe makes the three syllables easier to wear.
If you’re hunting for a name with a certain pan-European flair and a long history of use, this is certainly one to consider.