Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Elvira
Elvira is a Spanish name left over from when the Visigoths invaded and occupied the Iberian Peninsula after the Decline of the Roman Empire (5th century). The disintegration of the Roman Empire and Rome’s sacking by the Visigoth’s in 410 A.D. pretty much marked the beginning of the Dark Ages. The Visigoths were a nomadic tribe of the Germanic peoples, also referred to as Barbarians, who pushed their way from northeastern Europe across the Rhine into southwestern Europe during what came to be known as the Völkerwanderung (the Migration Period). After they successfully attacked “the eternal city” (Rome), the Visigoths would eventually establish their own Kingdom which spanned the distance between present day southwestern France down through Spain and Portugal (having expelled another Germanic tribe, the Vandals, down into Northern Africa). It was from this “Gothic” group of people where the Spanish and Portuguese would adopt personal names of Germanic origin. Elvira is one such example of a female given name of Gothic origin, meaning “all true, trustworthy” from the Germanic elements “al” (all) and “wer” (true). We should also mention that the Spanish pronounce this name as “el-BEE-rah” while the English say “el-VIE-rah”. The Visigoths soon converted to Roman Catholicism by the end of the 6th century and pretty much adopted the language and customs of the original native Roman citizens (it would be the conquerors who ultimately assimilated – in other words, the Visigoth’s took on the Latin language, the Christian religion and the Roman “civilized” ways of society). Much later in the 8th century the Iberian Peninsula would come under Moorish (Muslim) rule, but by that time the Visigoths were fully integrated. Several members of the Visigothic nobility would create a new kingdom in the early 8th century, separate from and independent of the Moorish Rule, known as the Kingdoms of León and Castile. Several queens and princesses from both medieval kingdoms were named Elvira, even a couple regent rulers. Elvira was a popular name among the Visigothic nobility on the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages. It seems unclear when Elvira took on a more macabre quality; you know, the spooky one associated with Halloween (as in Elvira, Mistress of the Darkness). It probably has to do with her “gothic” origins. Today the name Elvira is most popular in the Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Norway – which, apropos, is where the Goths are ultimately believed to have originated many, many centuries B.C.