On the heels of the regal Leo, today we turn our attention to a queenly appellation.

Thanks to Laney for suggesting one from her family tree for today’s Name of the Day: Regina.

You may know that Regina means queen, from the Latin. It’s related to rex, which traces back to the Sanskrit raj and perhaps the Persian rahst. It’s a deeply ancient name, first adopted by early Christians. And that’s an interesting twist – the ruler honored by Regina is not of this world. Instead, parents originally chose the name in honor of the Virgin Mary. (In some cultures, Mary has been considered too holy a name to bestow on a child – hence the rise of the Marian monikers, like Assumpta.)

There have been two Saints Regina, the first martyred in the third century and the second among the African martyrs.

Despite her religious roots, most modern parents probably think of Regina as regal rather than spiritual. It’s used to refer to virtually any queen. Many of us link it with Queen Victoria for a host of reasons, including the fact that Regina, Saskatchewan was named in honor of the ruler.

But you’ll also find the following bearers of the name: a snake, a Swedish passenger train, a car in Grand Theft Auto and the heroine of Lillian Hellman’s play The Little Foxes. For a name with a narrow and unambiguous meaning, it’s become terribly versatile.

While virtually every Regina opts for the pronunciation reh JEE nah, should you find yourself in Saskatchewan’s capital, you’ll actually be standing in reg EYE nah. Odds are that the possible mispronunciation won’t be a problem should you choose this name for your daughter, but it’s worth noting that it could be an issue.

Regina enjoyed steady use from early Christian times through the Middle Ages, but then fell out of favor. She was revived in the 19th century, but her peak of popularity in the US came a bit later. From 1914 to 1926, she was a Top 200 choice, before falling slightly. In the 1960s, she climbed again, reaching #80 in 1967.

We’re not quite certain why Regina peaked in the 60s. The play and the movie adaptation of The Little Foxes – featuring Bette Davis as a memorable Regina – was more than twenty years old by then. Perhaps Regina rode Gina’s coattails – the diminutive was even more popular at the time, as was Tina. Or maybe she just fit with other appealing feminizations from the era: Denise and Jacqueline were Top 100 choices, and Michelle was in the Top Five.

Today, she’s fallen along with other 60s favorites like Barbara, Patricia and Deborah. All would sound just right sharing the same jungle gym with Samantha, Brianna and Sophia, but we do tend to dismiss names from our parents’ generation. Today, Regina comes in at #578 – not quite her least popular, but close.

Despite this fall, we find Regina timeless. She’s been in use for generations and especially since she never reached the heights of Barbara or Jessica or other three-syllable, ends-in-a names, it’s easy to imagine a Regina born in 2008. With nickname options including the boyish Reggie, the simple Gina or perhaps even the French-fried Gigi, it’s easy to see this name wearing well from childhood to maturity. And it’s far more sophisticated than calling your little princess Princess.

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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  1. I have this name and have loved/hated it at different periods of my life. With friends and family, I go by Gina and my daughter loves that it means queen (she’s 5) because she is, of course, then the princess. I have also liked that the ethnic origin of it is hard to pin down and it is easily pronounced in other languages. The worst part about it for me was the teasing from the Canadian pronunciation. It still haunts me sometimes, when I meet a particularly immature male.