Sabine: Baby Name of the Day

Sabine Sinjen

Photo credit: Wikipedia

She’s an ancient place name with a romantic quality – and a challenging association.

Thanks to EK and Photoquilty for suggesting Sabine as Name of the Day.

Like Delphine, Sabine is a place name heavy with meaning.

History tells us that the Sabines were a tribe established long before the founding of Rome.  The Sabines’ original territory was called first Sabininum, and today is known as Sabina, northeast of Rome.

Legend has it that the founders of Rome needed wives, but the Sabine elders declined to marry their girls to the interlopers. So the Romans threw a party, and invited everyone.  But it was a ruse to bride-knap their future wives.

It’s known as the Rape of the Sabine Women.

Writers like Livy tell us that it all ended happily ever after.  That seems unlikely, but who knows?  The women left behind no written records of their experiences.  Noble Roman families sometimes bestowed Sabinus and Sabina on their offspring to indicate descent from the ancients.

Artists have been big on the scene ever since, with everyone from Rubens in the seventeenth century to Picasso in the twentieth depicting the drama.

It makes for one of those unsavory associations – who wants their daughter’s name to be associated with the word rape?

Sabine did enjoy a rush of popularity in mid-20th century Germany.  Which reminds me – Americans would pronounce them sah BEEN and sah BEEN ah, German speakers would say the -ine and -ina endings the same way.

Sabine Sinjen is the ingenue pictured to the right.  She was a successful German actress.  In the late 1950s, she played a string of naive teenagers, like Ilse in Mädchen in Uniform with Romy Schneider.  She’s not well known in the US, but probably explains the spike in girls called Sabine in Germany.

Other notables include:

  • Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1942 drama “The Skin of Our Teeth” starred Tallulah Bankhead as Sabina, the pessimistic housemaid/beauty queen who utters the line that gives the play its title.
  • In 1991, Nick Bantock made waves with the debut of his first Griffin and Sabine novel, which is actually a series of postcards and pull-out letters. Bantock’s books appear to have fueled the rise of Griffin in the 1990s.
  • Ann Patchett’s 1997 novel The Magician’s Assistant is about a Sabine.

There were also ancient Sabinas aplenty, including several Roman noblewomen.  Hadrian was married to a Sabina – apparently unhappily.

Early saints answer to Sabina, Sabinus and Sabinian. The most famous is probably St. Sabina, converted by her maid, Seraphia, and martyred in a Roman persecution.  The basilica named in her honor – Santa Sabina – still receives visitors on Aventine Hill.

Sabine has never charted in the US Top 1000. Sabina last appeared in 1926.  But they share sounds with choices like Sabrina, Serena, and Selena, all of which have garnered some attention in recent decades.  No wonder, then, that Sabine seems to quietly gaining in use.

She’s also decidedly international.  While she’s never been huge in English, forms of the name are in use in Eastern European languages, as well as Spanish and Italian.

If you’re not troubled by the ancient association, Sabine could be a lovely, tailored name, rich with history and seldom heard in the US.

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24 Comments

I love the name Sabine. I first noticed it in Tamora Pierce’s Mastiff series (her most recent Tortall books); Sabine was a lady knight and a friend of the heroine, Beka Cooper. I heard it again in Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series (about a banshee and her friends); Sabine was the ex-girlfriend of the heroine’s boyfriend. Also, it’s a parish name in Louisiana!

I’ve always liked this for a girl, even though the only person I’ve ever heard of with the name was a guy! I found it in a hymnal, the man’s full name being Sabine Baring-Gould, born 1834. He wrote “Onward Christian Soldiers” among other hymns.
So while most people’s association is with the ancient, mine is a little newer, at least.

Not so find of this one. It’s the been/bean part of the pronunciation that I just can’t like. Though I do like other -een ending names like Irene. It’s the bean that gets me.

I am from England and my name has always been pronounced as “Sa-been-a”, which is the German pronunciation rather than the French, which is “Sa-been”.

When I was younger, I didn’t used to like my name because everyone pronounced my name incorrectly, especially in primary school. I was very aware that my name was not popular and was strange in comparison to school mates.

However, as I’ve grown older, I have learnt to love my name because it is unusual, rare and everyone I know now can pronounce it properly so there are no problems anymore in that aspect.

In terms of nicknames, in the past I have been called “Bean” by close relatives as a term of affection when I was little, but most people just call me by my full name – which is what I prefer, since I’m not a big fan of nicknames – but this is just my personal opinion.

I have loved Sabine/a since I was 10. When playing pretend or barbies, it was always the first name I picked. It was the name of Athos’ wife in the 1993 version of The Three Musketeers. He says it once, quickly, in passing. It just caught my ear. Unfortunately, my husband does not share my live of the name. Great choice though!

This was on my list of favorite girl names for a long time, and it still may make the cut. It suggests great strength and fearlessness. A very empowering name for a girl, IMO. And to back up with the previous poster said, “rape” in this context does indeed mean something more like “abduction” — think “The Rape of the Lock” by Alexander Pope, in which a lock of hair is surreptitiously taken from its owner.

Hi there – Just to clarify that the word ‘rape’ when used in the correct ancient context meant kidnapped. They were not taken, sexually assaulted and then returned or abandoned as often happens in some places in Africa.

The Romans needed to increase their population and so they invited the Sabine Tribe to a big feast where, caught off-guard, the Roman men kidnapped all the single women. When the Sabine men gathered their army and returned years later, the women were already married and had children.

As you often see depicted in various paintings showing this conflict, the Sabine women stepped in between their fathers/brothers and their husbands to stop the war. Either way, the women would have had to bare witness to their families being killed and their children left fatherless or grandfatherless.

In any case, for me the name Sabine represents anti-war sentiments and the eventual empowerment of women.

Incidentally, I named my daughter Sabine Arabella.

Thanks, Nicole – it’s a good point, and a needed reminder that words evolve over time.

Sabine Arabella is lovely.

In general I’m not a big fan of the name — its negative history or its sound — but the only Sabine I’ve ever known is a very wonderful woman. She’s French, and my mother is actually visiting her in France this very week. Basically, Sabine will never make my list of favourites, but I do have positive personal associations with it.

I want to add that seeing Verity on the list of Next Year’s Hot Baby Names filled my heart with dread since it’s a strong contender should Mark and I have another girl in the near future.

A lovely name, but rape has hit much too close to my family for me to ever stomach a name even distantly associated with the word. However, I do like Savina, like the Milanese saint.

All I can think of is the musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, when the brothers sing about the “sobbin’ women” (mispronouncing Sabine) as justification for kidnapping their own would-be wives. It was all fun and games in the musical (sort of) but in real life, I could never name a daughter Sabine — for the very reason Abby mentions: too associated with the historic rape.

I love that you mentioned Seven Brides, Kelleita. I dropped the reference because I couldn’t quite make it work in the post … but I was wondering whether anyone else would think of it – thank you!

Yep, I was thinking “Them women were sobbin’ sobbin’ sobbin’ fit to be tied” the whole post! Also, I live near a Sabine River, which isn’t the prettiest. Finally, I don’t line the “bean” sound and possible nn. So, not for me!

I’ve had a fondness for this name ever since the publication of Griffin and Sabine. It also makes me think of the Sabena airline, although it is now in bankruptcy.

A similar name would be Moulin Rouge heroine Satine, although Sabine seems far lovelier. I have to admit though, that Sabrina is on my short list of favorite girl names.

I never used to like Sabine- but now really like it ! Specifically as a MN. I toyed with the idea of Phoebe Sabine awhile ago & I have it as a MN for one or a few of the names on my list (can’t remember – COMPLETELY re-ordered the list on Friday). It’s not one I’d choose to use first as a FN, as I have literally about 15 or 20 ‘s’ names that I love (‘s’ is my letter) ,but I really do like it. However, I’m not as fond of Sabina . Maybe as a middle name, but my first choice for either a FN/MN would be Sabine. I generally tend to prefer the more quietly ending names as opposed to the ‘a’ ending variations. Example, Elle to Ella, Gabrielle to Gabriella etc

I like Sabine and Sabina, but wonder if Sabine might be mispronounced occasionally as sa-BIGHN and Sabina might be confused with Sabrina by those taking a cursory look at a name. Neither really is a major concern, though.

On my family tree, my maternal great-grandmother is Sabina. While I am not into honoring, I’m completely fine with plucking good names off of the family tree… but my husband and I didn’t entirely see eye to eye on what was a ‘good’ name. My mother claims, however, that her grandmother went by sah-BIGH-nah… ugh!

My own biggest barrier to the name is the lack of nns. When it was on my list I could only come up with a few (and most are stretches): Sanna, Bean, Bina (BEE-nah), and Bee and Bia (BEE-ah, which was also the nn of choice for our pick of Beatrix had our son been a girl, but spelled Bea).

I do agree that it’s got potential and, despite my personal preference for Sabina, I can definitely see Sabine being the one that climbs higher… but I’m not so sure it’s going to go BIG, maybe just in certain circles.

On another note – we’ve had an exciting couple of weeks with a bumper crop of babies in our circle of friends (all girls!): Alice (NC), Amelia (PA – would have been Matteo if it were a boy – they went old-school and waited for a surprise regarding the gender!), and Lorelai (CA). We have several more we are waiting on – one of which will be Olivia (NC). A few more are holding out until the birth to reveal names – a few due in May and the latest of the bunch is due to come in July – that will be my second niece!

I had a great friend in high who was named Sabina. She was from Sweden and her family moved to the U.S. b/c her father worked for a Swedish automotive company who had business with Ford here in the Detroit area. I loved the way her mother pronounced her name, accenting, almost holding the “ee” sound in her name. Her dad called her “Bean” which was cute and affectionate, but generally, everyone called her by her full name. Incidentally her brothers name was Oskar. I love the name Sabina.

I don’t think Sabina really needs a nn, but Bean and Bina are cute. You could also stretch it and use Sable, Benny, Sally, Abi/Abby or Ani.