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Quick Facts on Catherine

  • Gender:
  • Girl
  • Origin:
  • French, Greek
  • Number of syllables:
  • 3
  • Ranking popularity:
  • 172
Simple meaning:
Pure, clear, innocent

Characteristics of Catherine

  • Inspirational
  • Highly Intuitive
  • Spiritual Teacher
  • Extremely Bright
  • Uplifting
  • Truth-seeker

Etymology & Historical Origin - Catherine

The etymology of Catherine is debated, but the earliest derivative of the name is most likely the Greek Hekaterine, stemming from “hekateros” meaning “the far reaching one”, suggesting that Catherine shares her roots with the Greek Titan goddess Hekátē (Hecate). In ancient Greek mythology, the Titans were overthrown by their descendent Olympian gods and goddesses, yet Zeus held Hecate in such high regard, he allowed her to remain and preserve her magical powers over humanity. Mythologies around Hecate vary greatly (as do many ancient legends). For more information, see Hecate below in literary references. The Greek Hecate may also be connected to the Egyptian goddess of childbirth (Heqet). The “h” in Katerine was added much later in order to connect the name with the Greek “katharos” meaning “pure, clear, innocent” (which gave us the English word “catharsis” meaning to purge or cleanse). This Christian-driven folk etymology is apropos given the influence of the 4th century saint Catherine of Alexandria, Egypt who was revered for ideals of innocence and purity (see historical references below). The name Catherine is generally considered the French form of the name, while Katherine is used more typically among English speakers. It’s a name with much literary and historic currency. Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Bennet and Catherine Sloper are all very memorable fictional characters. Historically, the name was borne by Catherine de' Medici of France, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, and three of King Henry VIII's six wives (which may have saved Henry some time in adjusting to the new names of his oft-replaced spouses.)

Popularity of the Name Catherine

The more French Catherine was usually the more popular spelling (over the more English Katherine) in America until the 1970s. Although Katherine is more common today, both names have enjoyed an illustrious career on the female naming charts. Catherine was at the height of her popularity in the 19-teens and 20s when she generally held a position on the list of Top 25 most favorite girl names. In fact, Catherine was a Top 50 choice for decades, and a Top 100 for over 100 years since the government first began tracking naming trends in 1880. Shockingly, Catherine fell off the Top 100 this century in 2002 (but Katherine is still holding strong to the list). Don’t get us wrong; Catherine is still a timeless classic, but she appears to be faltering on the charts ever so slightly. We also have to admit (we are closeted Francophiles), we prefer the French spelling of Catherine over the more English Katherine. And so did the English parents of Duchess Kate Middleton (they dubbed their daughter Catherine and not Katherine). But really, it just comes down to a preference of C over K or vice-versa. Catherine just feels a tiny bit more refined. There are scores of pet forms for Catherine which adds further flexibility and charm to this perennial favorite: Kate, Katie, Kitty, Cathy, Kathleen, etc. It’s just one of those names with so much poise and grace, you simply cannot go wrong.
Popularity of the Girl Name Catherine
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Cultural References to the Baby Name - Catherine

  • Literary Characters of the baby name Catherine

    Literary Characters of the Baby Name Catherine

    Catherine Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) Catherine Bennet is the fourth of the five Bennet daughters in Jane Austen’s 1813 master work, Pride and Prejudice. Poor little “Kitty” – she really can’t be blamed for her rather vacuous ways – she is just suspended there in that bevy of females, looking one way or another for inspiration, and receiving scant help from any quarter. As a result, she seems inclined to follow the lead of her younger, headstrong and flirtatious sister, Lydia, although not to such extreme means! While her eldest sisters make successful marriages, her younger sister at least makes a (finally) respectable marriage, and the middle sister, Mary, leaves us with a big question mark, what we really hope for Catherine’s sake is that she gets out from under the control of that silly mother and absent father, and gets some real parenting – we count on Jane and Elizabeth for that!

    Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights) Catherine Earnshaw is the main female character in Emily Bronte’s 1847 classic, Wuthering Heights. (Adapted to many media, the most memorable is the 1939 movie in which Catherine is played by Merle Oberon.) Catherine is spoiled, willful and headstrong, but she is also motherless, and her rough edges are to be expected. As a child, she forms a preternaturally close bond with Heathcliff, the orphan whom her father has adopted, and together they roam the moor, living a life apart, and delighting in each other’s company. When young Catherine suffers an accident near the home of the neighboring Lintons (formerly objects of scorn to Cathy and Heathcliff), they take her in and tend to her for several weeks. Alas, this exposure to the finer side of life has its effect – Cathy takes on the mantle of refined snobbery, and no longer feels Heathcliff is a suitable companion for her. Heathcliffe, overhearing her testament of disdain for him, runs away. As she grows up, Catherine accepts Edgar Linton’s marriage proposal; too late, she realizes the kinship she has with Heathcliff, the magnificence of the passionate ties between them that transcend mere earthly love. Heathcliff returns, a rich and accomplished man, bent upon revenge, part of which plan involves his entering into a loveless marriage with Linton’s sister. Heathcliff becomes more and more vengeful and black-hearted; Catherine descends into madness and early death. Only in death will they be reunited, where the tempering effects of the after-life may just prevent Catherine from having to re-live her tragic story.

    Catherine Sloper (Washington Square) Catherine Sloper is the painfully shy, plain and virtuous protagonist of Henry James’ 1880 serialized novelette, Washington Square, also adapted to other media, including a very successful 1949 film, The Heiress, starring Olivia de Haviland. Catherine is a disappointment to her wealthy, widowed father, who worries about the possibilities of ne’er-do-wells wooing her for her fortune. In fact, one Morris Townsend does exactly that, and Catherine, in her sweet naivety, believes him to be true, and falls in love with him. Upon ascertaining Townsend’s real motives, Dr. Sloper takes his daughter on a year-long tour of The Continent, during which time he tries to convince her of the foolishness of her plans to marry Townsend. His threat of disinheritance convinces her that there is, indeed, a streak of contempt in him for her, and she resolves all the more to marry. Alas, the would-be groom is having none of that; he absconds, taking Catherine’s innocent hopes with him. Catherine lives her life alone in reduced circumstances, refuses any other offer of marriage and even has the opportunity of rebuffing Townsend when he reappears later in life, looking for a second chance. Her story is a tragic one, and one of its time and social strata, yet we cannot help but be impressed by the iron resolve that this timid woman finds within herself – to defy her powerful father, to spurn the man upon whom she built her dreams, and to live on her own terms, no matter what. This is the stuff of which modern women may be proud to be made.

    Hecate (Greek Goddess) Hecate is one of those more elusive goddesses from Greek mythology in that there is no one definitive story behind her symbolic existence. Rather, there are several legends. First and foremost, Hecate was one of the Titans who ruled the heavens, earth and underworld before being overthrown by the Olympians. Zeus treated Hecate with great respect given the magnitude of her powers to bestow good luck and fortune upon mortals (she could also apply more sinister Black Magic when it fit her fancy). She has taken on several forms in ancient mythology: from her awesome powers which greatly impressed Zeus to being considered a moon goddess to the manifestation of a thrice-goddess of the household, childbirth and crossroads. By the Middle Ages, people even transformed her as a witchcraft goddess (a reputation which has prospered). Hecate has also been depicted as a companion to Artemis (goddess of the hunt) or a three-headed creature with the face of a lion, horse and dog, able to see in all directions (hence the etymology “the far reaching one” or “the farsighted one”). In some legends, it was Hecate who was able to find Demeter’s daughter Persephone in the Underworld (having been abducted by Hades), and who gave companionship to the kidnapped girl during her confinement. Hecate was the protectress of the down-trodden, underdog and those living on the edge. In some legends, she is the goddess of the night, roaming among ghosts with her ever-loyal hounds. She also protected women during childbirth or assisted those making a transition from life to the otherworld in death. She was wise to the earth’s mysteries and could wield her power over the heaven, earth and underworld. She was the “Queen of the Night” who would keep those who invoked her safe from the darkness. She was a counselor to all those at the crossroads.

  • Popular Songs on Catherine

    Popular Songs on Catherine

    Catherine - a song by Inkubus Sukkubus

    Catherine - a song by PJ Harvey

    Catherine at the Wheel - a song by Skyclad

    Catherine Howard's Fate - by Blackmore's Night

    Catherine Wheel - a song by Sarah Brendel

    Catherine Wheels - a song by Crowded House

    Colours Fly and Catherine Wheel - by Simple Minds

    Song for Catherine - a song by K's Choice

  • Children's Books on the Baby Name Catherine

    Children's Books on the Baby Name Catherine

    A Story of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Brother Flavius) - Beautifully illustrated. This is a magnificent story of another of God s great saints meant to serve as an example to young girls and Catholics of all ages and time. Catherine was born a pagan princess of Egypt, the land of the Sphinx and Pyramids. In her thirst for knowledge and wisdom she soon grew into a wise and very lovely young woman. This is an account of Catherine s conversion to Christianity, her ascension to the throne as Queen of Alexandria, the persecution of her Christian subjects by the Romans and her own suffering at the hands of the Emperor for her love of Christ. Recommended for ages 7-10.

    Catherine de' Medici "The Black Queen" (Janie Havemeyer) - This series of historical accounts profiles strong women who took extraordinary measures to achieve and maintain power—including murder, deception, and black magic—examining the women’s reputations in the context of their eras. Dubbed the "Black Queen" of France, Catherine de' Medici came from one of the most powerful families in 15th-century Europe and, marrying into the French Royal Court, led a precarious life. This history details how Catherine, anxious to secure the power of her family, became the target of rumors about poisoning those who opposed her, was blamed for the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and reportedly dabbled in the dark arts. Gorgeous illustrations and an exciting narrative bring to life the woman who fought to keep her children in power but ended up blackening their names instead. Recommended for ages 9-13.

    Catherine the Dragonfly (Jeanie Meyer Jeans) - Mother, Jeanie Meyer Jeans and Great Aunt, Laney Jeans, have teamed up to produce a memorial tribute to their beautiful Catherine who lost a brief battle with Leukemia when she was only five years of age, February 2, 2003. In "Catherine the Dragonfly," Catherine flits around with other dragonflies who's characters are drawn from important people in Catherine's young life. This colorful volume takes the reader to visit whales, lions, and polar bears. Only the crabby frog knows none of it really happened. Come take a colorful and fanciful journey that will be enjoyed by youngsters as well as the parents who may read it to them. Proceeds from this book will be donated to "The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society" and to "The Catherine Jeans memorial Garden" in Missouri. Recommended for ages 4-8.

    Catherine, Called Birdy (Karen Cushman) - The hilarious diary of Catherine (called Birdy) in the year 1291. Catherine is 14. It's high time she was married - or that's what her father thinks. But Catherine is going to do everything she can to get rid of Shaggy Beard, the most disgusting suitor, 'whose breath smells like the mouth of Hell, who makes wind like others make music, who is ugly and old'. And she has no intention of becoming the perfect medieval lady like her mother wants, either. Whether she's grappling with spinning, or giving tips on flea removal, Catherine's fight for freedom is as funny as it is poignant. But can she find a better life for herself? Recommended for ages 10-14.

    Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! (Cari Best) - A little English, a little Russian, and a lot of heart make a birthday celebration you won't want to miss! When Sara's grandma, Catherine the Great, suddenly announces, "This year for my birthday, I want no presents! I have music in my Russian bones, and laughing in my heart. I have the day and the night, and I have all of you," Sara is surprised. How can Grandma have a birthday party with no presents?" Her mama explains that a “NO PRESENT” can be anything from a kiss or a hug to a game of gin rummy -- as long as it comes from deep inside you. But what kind of NO PRESENT would be good enough for Catherine the Great? Mr. Minsky, Monica, and her dad, Mary Caruso and her baby, Mimmo, already have good ideas. But it isn't until Sara is surrounded by Grandma's bundles of Russian newspapers and books that she gets her won idea: She will teach Grandma to read and write English. This lively borscht-and-blintzes birthday celebration shows that sometimes NO PRESENTS can be the best presents of all. Recommended for ages 4-8.

  • Famous People Named Catherine

    Famous People Named Catherine

    Famous People Named Catherine - Saint Catherine of Alexandria (popular 4th century saint); Catherine de' Medici (16th century Franco-Italian noblewoman); Catherine the Great (Empress of Russia); Catherien of Aragon (wife of Henry VIII); Catherine Howard (wife of Henry VIII); Catherine Parr (wife of Henry VIII); Catherine Deneuve (French actress), Catherine Zeta-Jones (actress), Catherine O’Hara (actress); Catherine “Kate” Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge)

  • Children of Famous People Named Catherine

    Children of Famous People Named Catherine

    Famous People who Named their Daughter Catherine - Martin Scorsese (director); Joan Crawford (actress); Tony Danza (actor); Peter Falk (actor)

  • Historic Figures

    Catherine - Girl Baby Name - Historic Figures

    Catherine de' Medici (13 Apr 1519 - 5 Jan 1589) - Catherine de' Medici was a very powerful woman of the late Middle Ages, known mainly for her role as Queen Consort to King Henry II of France. Born into the ruling family of Florence, Italy in the early 16th century, young Caterina (as she was known in Italian) was sent to France at the age of 14 to marry the second son of King Francis I. She became Queen Consort Catherine of France from 1547-1559 when her husband became king after his older brother Francis contracted one of those medieval colds and died. King Henry II was more enamored with his mistress (Diane de Poitiers) than his wife so he largely excluded Catherine from power and prominence at court. Nevertheless, Catherine was a baby-making machine and produced 11 children in all. She was also the ultimate Medieval “Momager” – three of her sons became Kings of France, one daughter became Queen Consort of Spain and another daughter eventually became a Queen Consort of France, as well. After Catherine’s husband King Henry II died in a freakish jousting accident when she was forty, three of her sons would rule in succession between 1559 and 1589 (Francis II, Charles IX and Henri III). These 30 years are often referred to as "the age of Catherine de' Medici". Unfortunately for Catherine de' Medici, history has been unkind when remembering what troubles she caused, but there’s no denying that ambition and gusto of hers! She was a bossy, sometimes ruthless Aries after all (and she was also really into astrology, séances, consultations with the famous “seer” Nostradamus, etc). She enthusiastically injected herself into the reigns of her sons but her misguided attempts at jockeying for power were thwarted by the raging civil war between the Catholics and Huguenots (French Protestants) at the time. Historically, she is given the shameful blame for ordering the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572) where 10,000 Protestants were killed. Still, Catherine was a woman in a man’s world, so she took her power as mother to play regent and minister to the kings of France (her sons were, for the most part, “Mama’s Boys” so this wasn’t too difficult). As her last reigning son King Henri III said in apparent defense of her: “Was she not compelled to play strange parts…in order to guard, as she did, her sons, who successively reigned through the wise conduct of that shrewd woman? I am surprised that she never did worse.”

    Catherine of Aragon, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr (16th Century) - The notoriously much-betrothed King Henry VIII of England had three wives by the name of Catherine – his first, fifth and last. The first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was a Princess of Spain when she came to England in 1501 to marry into the royal family (as such were predestined political alliances of the day). As Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon was unable to produce a male heir beyond infancy, and so the King quickly tired of her. In the meantime, old Henry knocked-up his mistress Anne Boleyn. Certain that the pregnant Anne was carrying his male heir and the future King of England, Henry VIII went to the Pope and requested his marriage to Catherine be annulled so he could swap “I Dos” with Miss Boleyn. But devoutly Catholic Catherine of Aragon was having none of that. Fortunately, she had her own “friends in high places” (her nephew was the Holy Roman Emperor after all), so the Church refused the annulment in her favor. Furious, King Henry VIII broke ties with Rome and created the Church of England instead! Catherine of Aragon and her one surviving daughter, Mary I of England, were banished from court yet remained steadfast loyal to Catholicism. The next Catherine, commoner Catherine Howard, met an even more unsavory fate. Accused of treason by reason of infidelity, Henry VIII ordered the beheading of his fifth wife when she was around 20 years old. The sixth and final wife of Henry, Catherine Parr, was ironically named after Catherine of Aragon (Parr’s mother had been a lady-in-waiting to the then-Queen of England). So Catherine Parr became the sixth wife of Henry, and he became her third husband at the ripe old age of 31. The King died during their marriage, and she went onto marry for a fourth time. After Henry’s death, Catherine Parr became the guardian of the future Queen of England, Elizabeth I (daughter to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn).

    Catherine the Great (21 Apr 1729 - 6 Nov 1796) - Catherine the Great (Empress of Russia) - The Russian empress, Catherine the Great, ruled between 1762 and 1796. Her given name at birth was actually Sophie, and she came to Russia to marry the heir to the throne (Peter the Great’s grandson). Her marriage was loveless, and she found her husband unfit to rule. Although not Russian by birth (she was German), she converted to the Russian Orthodox faith and quickly adopted all things Russian in an effort to gain support of the people. Apparently, her cunning and sharp-intellect worked, as she was instrumental in overthrowing her husband and jockeyed ambitiously into power. Once Empress of all of Russia, she took the name Catherine II. During her reign, she expanded the empire down to the Black Sea and into central Europe. She is most known for modernizing Russia. Highly educated herself and heavily influenced by the Enlightenment, she westernized the country and transformed St. Petersburg into a major capital.

    Saint Catherine of Alexandria (4th Century) - Almost all living women named Catherine today can thank St. Catherine of Alexandria for their name. As her legend and cult grew in the Middle Ages, she gained quite a following (particularly among women who began naming their daughters after her in veneration). Often referred to as “Catherine of the Wheel”, St. Catherine was martyred in Alexandria, Egypt around 307 AD yet “herstory” was largely unknown until around the year 800 when her relics were purportedly discovered on Mt. Sinai (apparently her hair was still growing and healing oils were secreting from her body). Um, yah, kind of creepy, but such stories of saintly relics were hugely popular in medieval times and Catherine was a glowing example of the so-called Virgin Martyrs. Catherine of Alexandria was born a pagan princess at the end of the 3rd century in Alexandria, Egypt, but converted to Christianity before the age of 20. She was renowned for her beauty, intellect, education and articulation. She took her religious arguments to the Roman Emperor Maxentius in an effort to stop the cruel persecutions of Christians under his rule. In doing so, Catherine managed to convert almost all of those around him to Christianity, including his own wife. When Maxentius tried to thwart her by proposing marriage, she refused, declaring herself the wife of Christ to whom she consecrated her virginity. Incensed, the emperor ordered her death on the spiked wheel (a rather cruel method of execution during Antiquity). Legend has it that the wheel miraculously broke and freed Catherine as she prayed. So her executioners switched to Plan B instead: they beheaded her (the angels then swooped down and carried her off to Mt. Sinai). The name Catherine became a particular favorite among the French after Joan of Arc declared that St. Catherine of Alexandria was one of the saints who appeared to her in a dream instructing her on what she needed to do. St. Catherine is remembered among Catholics as a woman who would not abandon her true faith and stood bravely against the opposition despite the consequences. She is now the patron saint of philosophers and preachers, and her feast day is November 25.

    St. Catherine of Siena (25 Mar 1347 - 29 Apr 1380) - St. Catherine of Siena, along with St. Francis of Assisi, holds the distinction of being one of the two patron saints of Italy. Caterina (as she was called in Italian) was born in Siena, Italy in the 14th century and was (gasp!) the 24th child of her mother (obviously, in those days, not all of them lived). Apparently, Catherine had her first apparition of Christ when she was a mere six years old and swore chastity by seven. She was devout to say the least: fasting, cutting off her hair, taking vows of solitude and silence, tending to the sick and poor, and giving away her earthly possessions (regardless of the cost to her family). Later, moved by Christ again, she was called into public life where she championed Church reform and encouraged peace among the various provinces of Italy. Although Catherine had little education, she became one of the leading theological minds of her day and wrote prolifically (contributing to the establishment of the Tuscan dialect as the Italian standard). Her other purpose: playing mediator in the “Great Western Schism” (a split within the Catholic Church when two different men claimed Pope). She was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1970 (one of the first women to be named so) and, aside from Italy, she is the patron saint of fire prevention, as well. Her feast day is April 29 or 30.

Personality of the Girl Name Catherine

The number 11 is a Master Number, and embodies heightened traits of the Two. This personality is on a life journey to find spiritual truth. They are extremely idealistic and intuitive. Elevens have a rare and exceptional spiritual energy that brings a sense of obligation to illuminate the world around them. It's a very powerful responsibility, but these people have far more potential than they know. It's important that they surrender to higher ideals. They have the capacity to see the bigger picture, and they possess the skills to inspire others spiritually. Elevens have strong diplomatic skills and can become great peacemakers. Master numbers can be both a blessing and a curse, as they walk the fine line between greatness and the potential for self-destruction.

Variations of the Baby Name - Catherine

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