Camila is the Spanish and Portuguese form of Camilla, both of which are derived from an Old Roman family name Camillus, which itself developed from a cognomen originally derived from a nickname. Camillus was a term (probably of Etruscan origin) referring to an acolyte (i.e., a performer of ceremonial duties of a religious or spiritual nature). A “camillus” was typically a pre-pubescent boy chosen from the plebeian or patrician classes to attend the Priests during rituals and sacrifices in the Roman Republic’s pagan era. In other words, the term described the ancient precursors to altar boys. The ancientness of this name is attested to by Marcus Furius Camillus (c. 446-365 B.C.), a famous Roman statesman and soldier dubbed the “second founder of Rome”. Camillus was likely given his cognomen-nickname during infancy in honor of a family relative who happened to be the High Priest of Rome (the “Pontifex Maximus”). Aside from Camila’s connection to ancient religious acolytes, a character named Camilla also appears in Virgil’s famous epic poem, “The Aeneid” (written in the first century B.C.). In Virgil’s version of the story, Camilla was the daughter of King Metabus, and, at birth, was promised to the service of Diana (goddess of the hunt). One day, while the king was escaping a revolt in his kingdom, he came upon a river as he was carrying the baby Camilla. He tied her to his spear and safely hurled her to the other side of the raging waters. Camilla was raised as a warrior maiden and became accustomed to the chase as a servant of Diana. Virgil claimed that Camilla ran so quickly she could turn blades of grass into ashes, and he described her as the strongest living female mortal ever. Moreover, as an aside, “kāmil” is the Arabic word for perfection.
The spelling of Camila in America hasn’t been around for very long. It first debuted on the U.S. female naming charts in 1997. Incidentally, however, the Spanish version Camila is now more popular than both Camilla (English) and Camille (French). The increased usage of Camila in America is certainly a factor of the rising Hispanic-American population compounded by a general revival interest in this ancient name. The “Camilla” names are classical, pretty and downright elegant. The Spanish Camila also has a certain European sophistication that makes her an excellent choice for any lucky little baby girl.