Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Katherine

Katherine is the typical English spelling of the French Catherine, a name made famous by a 4th century saint, St. Catherine of Alexandria, whose legend and cult grew during medieval times. 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 Katherine shares her roots with the Greek Titan Hekátē (Hecate), goddess of the wilderness, childbirth and the crossroads (see the name Catherine for more information). The “h” in Katerine was added much later in the 16th century 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 virgin saint Catherine of Alexandria, Egypt who was revered for ideals of innocence and purity (she was tortured on the wheel – a particularly cruel method of punishment – for upholding her Christian beliefs which was against Roman law at the time). See historical figures below for more information on St. Catherine of Alexandria. Americans, Canadians and the English prefer the Katherine spelling over Catherine.

All About the Baby Name – Katherine

Personality

OF THE GIRL NAME KATHERINE

The number one personality is a leader - strong and competitive. They are willing to initiate action and take risks. One personalities work hard toward their endeavors and have the ability to apply their creative and innovative thinking skills with strong determination. They believe in their ability to succeed and are too stubborn to be hindered by obstacles. Ones meet obstacles head-on with such mental vigor and energy that you better step aside. They resent taking orders, so don't try telling them what to do either. This is an intensely active personality, but they are also known as starters rather than finishers. They have a propensity to become bored and will move quickly to the next project if not properly challenged.  They are the ones to think up and put into action new and brilliant ideas, but they are not the ones to stick around and manage them. This personality has an enthusiastic and pioneering spirit. They are distinctly original.

Popularity

OF THE GIRL NAME KATHERINE

Like the name Catherine, Katherine has been a popular name for girls in America for over a century. In recent years, the name Katherine has become the most popular spelling variation in the United States (over Catherine and Kathryn). Katherine has consistently been on the Top 100 list of girls’ names for over a century (except for a brief period in the 1930’s). The name has a timeless essence without feeling old-fashioned, and it’s extremely flexible in terms of creating pet forms (Katie, Kathy, Kathleen). Given the many K/Catherines of royalty and nobility through the ages, the name has a queenly, stately quality that adds to its appeal.

Quick Facts

ON KATHERINE

GENDER:

Girl

ORIGIN:

English

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

3

RANKING POPULARITY:

77

PRONUNCIATION:

KATH-ə-rin

SIMPLE MEANING:

The far reaching one; Pure one, clear, innocent

Characteristics

OF KATHERINE

Independent

Individualistic

Ambitious

Strong-willed

Inventive

Successful

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Katherine

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME KATHERINE

This classic romance novel by Anya Seton tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. This epic novel of conflict, cruelty, and untamable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954.

Kate is the sharp-tongued, wild and “shrewish” elder daughter of Baptista in Shakespeare’s much-performed 1590/94 play, “The Taming of the Shrew”. Kate has what we today would consider some very valid objections to the institution of marriage and the roles of men and women therein. Poor Kate – she is being forced into an unwanted marriage because her father will not allow the sweet younger sister, Bianca, to be married before the elder. (Bianca, in fact, is being auctioned off to the highest bidder, in the usual Shakespearean whirl of subterfuge, chicanery and double identities.) Long criticized for the physical abuse enacted by husband upon wife in a comical setting, the play remains one of Shakespeare’s most controversial. Whether or not Kate actually succumbs willingly to Petruchio, or whether she only appears to do so and works within the limitations of her circumstances, she is one woman not to be taken lightly. Our suggestion: put it in the context of its time and enjoy it – a little politically correct attitude goes a long way. We’re voting on the side that says #1 – it shines an early light upon the ancient inequality of the sexes, and #2 – it’s all in fun.

Popular Songs

ON KATHERINE

Katherine the Grateful
a song by Knapsack

Katherine, Please
a song by Tokyo Rose

Katherine of Oregon
a song by Al Stewart

Famous People

NAMED KATHERINE

Katharine Hepburn (actress)
Katherine Heigl (actress)
Katherine Anne Porter (writer)
Katherine Jenkins (Welsh singer)
Katherine Mansfield (writer)
Katherine Swynford (14th century English royalty)
Katherine Dunham (dancer/choreographer)
Katherine Harris (politician)

Children of Famous People

NAMED KATHERINE

We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Katherine

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME KATHERINE

We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Katherine