Thanks to Clare for suggesting Salvina as our Baby Name of the Day.
A cluster of names starting with Salv- had a good run in the ancient world, and in some languages, especially Italian, the names endure. Salvador and Salvatore, plus Salvo, Salvino and yes, our featured name for today.
They all come from salvus – safe. Our word salvation shares the same Latin root. It also makes me think of salve – a Latin greeting that means something like “be well” or “be healthy” in English. It was used as a greeting in Latin, came to mean salute in Italian, and eventually referred to gunfire – initially because important visitors were greeted with a 21-gun salute, or the equivalent. But now salvo refers to an attack with gunfire or other weapons, or maybe the first round in a debate or other contest – an opening salvo.
There’s a fourth century Saint Savina of Milan, but I can’t tell if her name is related – or not.
Back to the names. Some of the Salv- choices are fairly familiar, but Salvina is incredibly rare. Back in 1962, six girls born in the US received the name. But the rest of the time, fewer than five girls were called Salvina in any given year.
The most famous uses of the name aren’t for a girl at all:
- Antonio Maria Salvini was a seventeenth century Italian scientist. His surname comes from the given name Salvino. Salvinia is a type of fern named in honor of Salvini, a floating fern found in lakes and ponds.
- Saint Salvo was a French bishop. There’s a town in Italy called San Salvo.
- There’s also Salvo D’Acquisto. A member of the Italian military, he sacrificed himself to say 22 civilians from execution by the Germans.
Then there are two Salvinas.
The first gives this name some serious roots. Saint Jerome wrote a letter to the widowed Salvina around 400 AD. It’s been described as heavy-handed – Jerome apparently knew her late husband, but had never met Salvina. He tells her to “Take no well-curled steward to walk with you, no effeminate actor, no devilish singer of poisoned sweetness, no spruce and smooth-shorn youth.” In other words, honor your late husband’s memory by raising your children and doing good in the community.
It appears that Salvina took his advice, though we don’t hear much of her after his letter.
There’s also Salvina Vitale, author of The Littlest Vampire series. It’s not the children’s series – this is a series of graphic novels and spin-offs, and it is not rated G.
Still, that’s proof that from a fifth century dutiful wife to a twenty-first century creator, Salvina is alive and well.
And why not? She has something in common with Sophia and Savannah. She’s not as popular as the first, and has more history than the second. There’s also Serena and Sabrina, as well as Angelina, Valentina, and Seraphina.
True, her sound is so close to her meaning that Salvina could feel like too much to wear. And I’m tempted to declare Salvinia – the more obviously botanical choice with the -ia ending – a more wearable possibility.
But let’s not count Salvina out. With her on-trend sound and long history of sparing use, there’s something strangely appealing about this rarity.