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Catherine Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

Learn about the name Catherine including the meaning, gender, origin, popularity, and more.

Catherine Overview

  • Meaning: Catherine means ‘pure’.
  • Gender: Catherine is traditionally a female name.
  • Origin: The name Catherine originates from the Greek name Aikaterine, meaning ‘each of the two.
  • Pronunciation: “kath’-rin”
  • Popularity: The name Catherine is popular in the US, ranking within the top 300 girls names, and has been in consistent and constant use since the 18th century.
  • Nicknames: Cat, Cathay, Cate, Katie, Kay.
  • Variations: Catarina, Katrina, Katherine, Cathryn.
  • Namesakes: Catherine of Aragon, Cate Blanchett, Catherine Middleton, Catherine Tate.

Catherine is a classic name with a rich history and significant meaning. From popular culture to famous namesakes, the name Catherine continues to integrate itself into cultures and languages across the world. Here, we offer an in-depth look into the name Catherine and why it is always a strong contender to consider in the quest to select a name.

What Does Catherine Mean?

Catherine, spelled with a “C,” is the French form of Katherine and a popular spelling for the name in English. Katherine with a “K” is derived from the Latin Katerina.

The Latin girl name was influenced by the Greek word for “pure,” katharos, and the name means “pure” today.

What is the Origin of the Name Catherine?

The name’s first use, which eventually became Catherine, was Aikaterine, a Greek feminine name. The etymology of this Greek ancestor of Catherine is unclear; there are several possible meanings.

One possible meaning of the Greek name is “each of the two.”

Another possible meaning is “torture,” from the Greek root aikia. This particular meaning is loose speculation, though. It is proposed as a potential root because there was a martyred saint in the fourth century bearing the name Catherine.

This saint, St. Catherine of Alexandria, was murdered on a spiked wheel, a torture device in the ancient and medieval worlds that became known as the Catherine wheel.

Yet another etymological origin of the name Catherine is that it comes from a Coptic name meaning “my consecration of your name”.

The most commonly accepted meaning of Catherine today is “pure.” It is the meaning that is the most positive out of the proposed options, and it honestly makes the most sense.

How Popular is the Name Catherine?

Catherine has been a consistently used and beloved name for two millennia.

In the US, Catherine is more popular than ever, and it is currently ranked the 267th most popular name for girls.

Catherine was especially popular during the Middle Ages, as two of Henry VIII’s wives bore the name, and dozens of saints carried the name, Catherine. It has been the name of many women throughout literature and throughout history alike, always respectable and classic.

It was the 18th most popular name for girls in the early twentieth century, but its popularity waned over the decades. However, it rose again to the 81st most popular name for girls by 2000.

While it seems like Katherine is more popular than Catherine, babies being born in recent years seem to show that the gentler, softer Catherine with a “C” is overtaking Katherine as the spelling of choice. It also appears that the spelling variant Catharine is becoming one of the most popular spellings of the name in the United States (1).

We think the popularity of the name Catherine will continue to grow in the United States as classic and historical names continue to make a steady comeback. Catherine has never left, and it’s here to stay.

How Do I Pronounce Catherine?

Catherine is pronounced kath’-rin. Even though the name appears to have three syllables, it’s said smoothly in two syllables, with the first holding the emphasis.

Is Catherine a Boy or Girl Name?

Unlike many names still in modern use, Catherine has always been a feminine name, even from its inception during ancient times. Nowadays, many popular feminine names were either male names in the past or surnames. However, Catherine has never been anything else but a name for girls.

Variations of Catherine

Catherine has many variations from different languages and cultures. A few of the most common include:

  • Catarina (Portuguese, Spanish)
  • Catharine
  • Cathryn
  • Katherina (English, German)
  • Katherine
  • Kathryn
  • Katrina (Scottish, English)

Nicknames for Catherine

The name Catherine is synonymous with a wide variety of nicknames. Some of these include:

  • Cat
  • Cate
  • Cathy
  • Catie
  • Kate
  • Kathy
  • Katie
  • Kay
  • Kaye
  • Kit
  • Kitty

Similar Names to Catherine

If Catherine is not quite your cup of tea, these are a few similar names to consider:

Middle Names for Catherine

With a strong and classic name like Catherine, you’ll likely want to complement it with a solid middle name. Some options include:

Sibling Names for Catherine

Many girls named Catherine have siblings with the following names. We’ve also listed some that go well with Catherine.

Famous People Named Catherine

There are several famous Catherines throughout history and today. Some famous people bearing the name include:

  • Saint Catherine of Alexandria: Egyptian princess, scholar, martyr
  • Catherine of Aragon: Princess of Aragon, Queen of England, Henry VIII’s first wife
  • Cate Blanchett: Australian actress
  • Catherine the Great: Czarina of Russia
  • Catherine de’Medici: Italian matriarch and Queen of France
  • Catherine Middleton: Duchess of Cambridge
  • Catherine O’Hara: Canadian-American actress
  • Catherine Parr: Queen of England, Henry VIII’s sixth wife
  • Saint Catherine of Siena: Italian mystic and activist
  • Catherine Tate: English actress and comedian
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones: Welsh actress

Catherine in Popular Culture

Catherine also finds itself integrated into popular culture. A few characters bearing the name include:

  • Catherine Barkley: Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
  • Catherine Earnshaw: Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
  • Catherine Morland: Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
  • Cathy Ames: John Steinbeck’s East of Eden

Catherine FAQs

Are you interested in more information about the name Catherine? These are a couple of frequently asked questions.

Does the Way Catherine Is Spelled Affect Its Meaning?

No, the meaning stays the same. Spelling variations of Catherine have to do with Greek, Latin, or Anglicized origins, but the original meaning remains the same no matter how it’s spelled.

However, changing the spelling of the name too much can create problems for your child later in life, like misspellings or mispronunciations. Spelling differences can reflect your family history or your child’s coming individuality, but it’s best not to stray too far from tradition for this lovely name.

Is Catherine Old-Fashioned?

While it’s true that Catherine was most popular in the nineteen-aughts and nineteen-teens, it did make a comeback in the 1950s and is becoming a popular choice again. It’s not so old-fashioned as a classic and timeless name.

Catherine is a name that will always be respectable, and it will always have a rich history behind it. Catherine has been the name of queens, empresses, saints, and ordinary women throughout the ages, and we still have royalty that bears the name today. Katherine may remain popular, but our old friend spelled with a “C” is here to stay.

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