Madelyn is more or less an Americanized respelling of Madeline (the traditional English spelling), which itself was borrowed from the Old French Madeleine. In France, Madeleine developed as another form of Magdalene, a name given to “Mary of Magdala,” in order to distinguish her from the other Marys in the New Testament (i.e., the Virgin Mother and/or Mary, the sister of Martha) Mary Magdalene was from “Magdala,” a small village on the Sea of Galilee, from the Aramaic “Maghdela” meaning “tower.” In Luke 8:2, Mary of Magdala was one of the women who had been “healed of evil spirits and infirmities”, later becoming an important part of Christ’s ministry and one who had witnessed His resurrection. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, although later Church tradition held that to be true (to marginalize her importance as one of Jesus’s disciples). In any case, the French brought Madeleine to England after the Conquest of 1066 where it was adopted as “Maudelen” in Middle English, later evolving into Madeline. Another interesting factoid? The English vocabulary word “maudlin” meaning “tearful” was born from this name (in reference to Mary Magdalene’s depiction in art, often weeping as she repents for her sins). Given the importance of Mary Magdalene’s role in the New Testament, it’s no wonder the name has persisted among Westerners. Parents pay homage to this woman by naming their daughters Magdalena (Spanish); Magdalene, Marlene, Magda (German); Madeleine (French); Madeline (English) and several new respellings like Madelyn (largely considered American).
In the United States, the spelling variation of Madelyn has existed on the female naming charts for over 100 years, which is basically as long as the traditional English spelling of Madeline. In fact, Madelyn just surpassed the Madeline spelling for the first time in 2009. And don’t be deceived by the name’s 67th place on the charts. With the many spelling variations in existence today, the name is actually quite a bit more popular than first meets the eye (about 12,000 baby girls are given this name in some spelling form per year). However, then it comes to names American parents are “mad” about, the modern-day Madison is now more common that the sweet, old-fashioned Madeline. Madelyn is still a classic name that has a “cute” essence to it (thanks to the popular children’s book character), and yet ages gracefully into adulthood.