Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Bridget
Bridget is arguably the most successful female name of all time within Celtic communities. The name is related to the Celtic noun “brígh” meaning ‘power, strength, vigor and virtue’. There are compelling reasons for the popularity of the name Bridget most notably among the Irish people. In Irish mythology, Brighid was an important pagan deity foremost associated with fire: the fire of inspiration and poetry; of healing and fertility; and of blacksmith and martial arts. She was born at the hours of dawn and lit up the sky with her fiery flames. She was the daughter of Dagda, the all-powerful “father god” and protector of the tribe, and she was the wife of Bres, man-god of agriculture. Her name means “exalted one” or “the high goddess” from the Celtic word “breed”. In some legends, Brighid is said to have forged Excalibur (King Arthur’s sword) due to her fiery smithcraft skills. Brighid and Bres came from two warring tribes in Ireland. They hoped their union would put an end to the bad blood that existed between the clans. Together they had three warrior sons, one of whom (Ruadan) was killed on the battlefield. This event sent Brighid into such deep morning and acute lament – her grief was enormous. Her keening and heart rendering howls were said to have been heard throughout Ireland which effected unity among the Celts. Later, as Christianity mixed with the ancient paganism of the Gaelic Celts, Brighid became known as Muime Chriosd, "Foster-Mother of Christ" and was said to have swaddled the baby Jesus at Mary’s hour of weakness. By medieval times, praying to Brighid brought protection and she was said to have leaned over every cradle watching over newborn babies. The legends and lore of this illustrious goddess continue to this day and is perhaps the most well-known of all Gaelic deities. This lovely “Flame of Ireland” will forever burn brightly. Eventually, as Christianity took over Ireland, the goddess Brighid was fused with and adapted into the cult of Saint Brigit. The 4th and 5th century Saint Brigit is one of Ireland’s patron saints and probably second in popularity among the Irish people after St. Patrick. Indeed, she is one of the most powerful religious figures in Irish history. Her parents were baptized by St. Patrick himself and she formed a close bond with this important Irish character. The pious Saint Brigit was drawn into religious life early and “took the veil” (i.e. became a nun) in her youth. She is known for her extraordinary spirituality, boundless generosity to the poor and deep compassion for those in distress. At the age of 17, Brigit became the first Irish Abbess of a convent she herself founded in Kildare. Her clean living obviously had an impact on her longevity as St. Brigit died in Kildare on February 1, 524 past the age of 70. In the 9th century amidst Scandinavian raids in Ireland, St. Brigit’s relics were purportedly taken to the tomb of St. Patrick where they remain alongside her fellow Irish patron saint. Given the pagan goddess and the Christian St. Brigit’s enduring importance in Ireland, it’s no surprise that the name has come to us in many forms: Bríd, Brighid, Brigid, Brigit, Breda, Bride (Irish); Bridget, Bridgette (English); Brigitte (French); Brigitta, Brigitte, Gitta, Gitte (German); Birgit, Brigitta, Brita, Britt, Gittan (Scandinavian); and Brígida (Spanish and Portuguese). Diminutives of this name include Biddy, Bridey and Bee.