Editor’s note: This post was originally published on July 12, 2008, and substantially revised and republished on July 9, 2012.
Like Jemima, today’s choice is one of those names heard from time to time in Europe, but virtually unused in the US. Thanks to Unknown for suggesting this charming moniker, a name that deserves some notice on our side of the Atlantic.
Without further ado, here’s today’s Name of the Day: Saskia.
She sounds like she ought to be a variant version of a more familiar name; maybe even a pet form of Alexandra. But Saskia is a formal name in her own right, and her origins are a bit on the violent side. The name appears to mean simply Saxon woman. Dig into the etymology of Saxon, and you find yourself at the point of a knife. The Old English seax and Old German sachs referred to a characteristic short sword or dagger used by the tribe.
Hard to believe such a pretty name came from such an aggressive beginning. And yet, it does give this name a certain edge that choices like Sasha and Sarah lack.
The most famous bearer of the name was Saakje van Uylenburgh, better known as Saskia, the wife and model of legendary painter Rembrandt van Rijn. Today, you’ll find images of the original Saskia hanging in many a museum, and her name remains in steady use among the Dutch.
Saskia is also heard in England and Australia, but in the US, she’s never charted in the Top 1000. Notables include:
- British actress Saskia Reeves
- Dutch musician Saskia Rao-de Haas
- Distinguished Columbia University sociology professor Saskia Sassen
- Poet Saskia Hamilton
- There’s a modern-day princess of Hanover called Saskia, cousin to British princes William and Harry
Both SAS kee ah and ZAS kee ah are valid pronunciations, but the “S” sound is the more intuitive choice amongst the English-speaking.
A 1998 coming-of-age novel called The Saskiad told the story of a twelve year old girl named Saskia, eager to set out for adventure.
Interestingly, there’s really no religious connection for Saskia. For parents hoping to avoid Biblical choices, saints’ names and appellations with spiritual meanings, this is one of the few that fits.
Actress Anne Dudek – you might remember her from House – welcomed a daughter called Saskia in February of 2012, but that’s not quite the same as, say, Drew Barrymore choosing the name, so it is likely to remain safely under the radar.
Saskia makes for a great alternative to the lovely, but oh-so-overused Sophia, and fits in with popular choices like Olivia and Amelia. Madame van Rijn adds some artistic flair to the moniker. It’s that rare find – easily pronounced but seldom heard, feminine and vaguely familiar but without baggage.