She’s a French appellation, a sister for Madeleine or Genevieve.
Thanks to Christina for suggesting Sidonie as our Baby Name of the Day.
Sidonie is another saintly appellation.
Back in the fifth century, Sidonius was the bishop of Clermont. A Gallo-Roman nobleman by birth, we know an awful lot about Sidonius because his letters survive.
Another figure wore the name in the seventh century, a monk who founded monasteries, but it is hard to say if Sidonius was in general use.
The name refers to Sidon, an ancient Phoenician city. Today it is located in Lebanon, and known as Saida. In the Old Testament, Sidon was a descendant of Noah, his great-grandson.
The Crusaders made it to Sidon. The photo shows a castle they built in 1228, transforming a small island into a fortress, complete with a bridge from the mainland. This makes Sidonie a place name – a glittering, exotic borrowing from the ancient world.
There’s also Sidonia, another feminine form. In Spain, there’s Medina-Sidonia, in Andalusia. The city’s name is borrowed from the Phoenician original. In fact, archeologists think it may have been founded by the Phoenicians. The settlement dates to the second century BC, and Medina-Sidonia is the oldest dukedom in Spain.
Probably because of the saint and the Crusades, Sidonia and Sidonie are found in use over the years:
- The King of Bohemia welcomed twin daughters named Sidonie and Catherine in 1449.
- Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria, had a daughter named Sidonie in 1488. Her sisters were Sybille, Sabina, and Susanne.
- Sidonie of Saxony was born in 1518.
- Another bearer of the name was a Pomeranian noble tried and executed for witchcraft in 1620.
Her heyday in France seems to have happened later:
- In 1777, Gluck’s opera Armide debuted in Paris. It included a character named Sidonie.
- Alphonse Daudet’s first major work was Fromont and Risler, sometimes known as Sidonie. It was an incredibly popular novel in the 1870s.
- French novelist Colette made her mark in the early twentieth century. She was born Sidonie-Gabrielle, named after her mother.
She seems to have peaked in France early in the twentieth century, after the opera and the novel, but before Colette became famous. And she seems to have remained in sparing use amongst French speakers. She’s amongst the names of the Krewe of Rex’s Mardi Gras court.
The 2012 French drama Farewell, My Queen is adapted from a 2002 novel. It’s about the final days of Marie Antoinette, told from the perspective of her loyal servant, Sidonie.
There’s also a Spanish alt rock band out of Barcelona by the name.
All of this adds up to a name that should fit right in with many of the names parents have embraced in recent years, like Elodie and Vivienne.
Except for one little issue.
While Sidonie has never cracked the US Top 1000, she sounds an awful lot like Sydney, Sidney, and Sydnie. Sydney has been in the US Top 100 since 1994, meaning that Sidonie will almost certainly be confused for Sydney. Probably a lot.
So despite her winning combination of ooh la la and exotic origins, Sidonie is one that isn’t likely to catch on in 2013.
My name is Sidonie, and as a kid I often wondered why my mom chose the name. She says she saw a French film in the 80s with a character named Sidonie, but she has never been able to remember what the title was. I love the French pronunciation of Sidonie, or even an americanized sounding “See-doh-nee” or “See-duh-nee”, but I can’t stand being called “Sih-DOH-nee”. It reminds me of how teachers would clumsily stumble over my name on the first day of class in grade school. Unfortunately, I always hastily told everyone to call me “Sydney” in school because the other kids would use a very exaggerated “Sih-DOWH-nee” to taunt me. I’m glad Sidonie is my name now, though. I go by Sid, Sido or the full See-doh-nee, refraining from using Sydney as much as possible. I think Sidonie will always pop up here and there for those few people who like quirky, mysterious, “exotic” sounding names. It may be difficult for most Americans to grasp because of the Sydney confusion (and the tendency to say the DOH with an obnoxious emphasis), but it is a special, lovely name nonetheless.
We named our daughter Sidonie — and surprisingly the Sydney issue has not come up at all. People hear it and grasp that it’s “Sih-doe-nee”, a completely different name, right away. There have however made a connection with Sedona the city on several occasions. I speak French and the French people I know love the name. In French it is pronounced with a long I — so See-doe-nee. The dual pronunciation bothered me at first, but as we plan to raise her to be bilingual it makes sense. Her nickname is Sid. Her father was especially eager to give her a name that could be gender neutral so Sidonie works because it is both feminine and masculine/neutral depending if you use the whole name or just the nickname. All in all it’s an ancient name that feels very contemporary to us and which people happily get right away. I’m glad it’s a rare name, but if there are other people out there interested in it I wouldn’t let the similarity to Sydney stop you — it’s actually a completely different name and people hear it as such.
Sidonie is the name of the heroine in the second trilogy (books 4-6, though she first appears in book 3) the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey, as well. She is the Dauphine of her realm and is featured on the covers of Kushiel’s Justice and Kushiel’s Mercy. (Can’t say much more because SPOILERS!)
To note, those books are a treasure trove of lovely names” Phedre, Ysandre, Joscelin (m), Melisande, Alais, Dorelei, Hyacinthe, Isidore, Benedicte, Remy, and Moirin are just a few, but there are nine books in all and an extensive cast, so there are many more!
My name is sidonie and is pronounced sid-oh-nee i dont know anyone else who has this name and i really love it 🙂
My name is Sidonie but its said like Sydney. Everyone assumes its sid-oh-nee. My parents found it in a Celtic baby name book before I was born. I’ve never met anyone that spells it the same way. You would be surprised by how many times people get it wrong and call me sid-oh-nee.
I like Sidonie, but it’s that Sydney thing that keeps it off my list.
I’m not quite sure where to place the emphasis on her name. I find myself saying it like an elaboration of Sydney: SI-doh-nee. It’s pretty, but the rhythm reminds me of the struggle I had getting my mother in law to say Daphne correctly. She always added an extra syllable to get DAF-a-nee.
Ich und die Namen says
There is also a German book called “Abschied von Sidonie”, which can be translated as farewell to Sidonie. Written by Austrian Erich Hackl, it is about a little gypsy girl called Sidonie who grows up in Nazi Germany. In the end, she is taken away from her adoptive parents and murdered. The book is quite famous in Austria and was also turned in a movie. The book is based on a true story.
Sidonia would most likely be more likely to catch on than Sidonie. The -a at the end makes it sound less like Sydney thus much fresher
That’s a nice point, Averella – I think Sidonia also fits with Olivia, Sophia, etc.
Sidonie was also the given name of the French author Colette, (Sidonie-Gabrielle, actually) so it has serious literary cred, too. She wrote Gigi, among other popular works, and I believe discovered/gave the first starring role to Audrey Hepburn.
Thanks, Kathryn! I love Gigi … though I’ve only seen the movie.
I’ve been playing around with ways to get to Sidda. Sidonie topped my list at one point, but I feel like Sido would be the more logical nickname choice. I also like the idea of Lucinda nn Sidda but my sister named my neice Luci and knocked that one off the list. :\
SIDA is AIDS in Spanish, so I’d advise you to be careful with that, if your little girl is going to like traveling.
I much prefer Sidonie to Sydney, but you’re right. Sidonie would be forever misunderstood as Sydney.
C in DC says
I can see Sidonia catching on, though, or Sedona.
Hadn’t thought of it, but you’re quite right, C. Sedona = another place name that could take off …
Christina Fonseca says
Sidonie is so pretty. I had not considered its similarity in sound to Sydney; at the very least maybe more people will consider it for their daughter’s middle name.