St. Kendra?

Okay, first the bad news. “Kendra” is a totally modern name. There’s no evidence of its existence before the 1940’s, in the US. The best guesses I’ve seen are that it was meant as a sort of feminine form of “Kenneth;” a blend of Kenneth + Sandra/Alexandra, or Kenneth + Andrew; or as a feminine form of “Kendrick.” If there had been any historical name Kendra, it probably would have been a male name — like “Andra,” which is a Scottish boy’s name derived from the Scots pronunciation of Andrew.

“Kendrick” is the kind of name that sounds pretty plausible in several languages; but historically we don’t really see it except in the last name “McKendrick” — which is really “Mac Eanruig” or “Mac Eanruic,” depending on whether you’re going Scottish or Irish. And “Eanruig/Eanruic” is the Gaelic form of the French/English name “Henri/Henry.”

The good news is that obviously, St. Cainnech of Aghaboe (spelled “Kenneth” in Scotland and “Canice” in Ireland) is a real saint and we know a fair bit about his travels and deeds in Ireland and Scotland. He was the son of the poet Lugadh Leithdhearg and his wife St. Maul (or Mella). He is listed as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Kilkenny, Ireland is named after him, and he built the first church at St. Andrews in Scotland. His feast day is Oct. 11.

The other good news is that there was a Welsh female saint named “Ceindrych” or “Ceindrech.” (It was a reasonably common female name in early sources, too.) A fair number of border Welsh saints with that first syllable “Cein” get it pronounced “Ken” by the Scots. The name didn’t historically turn into Kendra; but it’s close enough to ask her for patronage.

St. Ceindrych, Virgin, is listed as one of the 12 saintly daughters of the famous King of Brytheiniog, St. Brychan. She is associated with churches at Caer Godolor, Thywin in Merioneth, and Llandegwin. No feastday is known.

(Her name may be a different diminutive of the name of one of St. Brychan’s most well-known daughters – the virgin St. Cein, aka Ceinwen (white/Blessed Cein), Keyne, etc. Her feastday is October 8.)

In the land of “close enough,” there’s also the Irish St. Kentigerna or Caintigern, widow and hermit. She was the daughter of Cellach Cualann, King of Leinster, and was named after her mother. She married Feriacus, some sort of petty king. Her brother was St. Comgan of Lochalsh, and her son was St. Fillan of Munster. Her feastday is Jan. 7.

There’s also her more famous male namesake, the monk St. Kentigern aka St. Mungo, patron saint of Glasgow. (Also patron saint of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world hospital.)

So here are a fair number of nameday patron saint ideas for you.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “St. Kendra?

  1. I can imagine a future American kindergarten after the Welsh feminine -wen is discovered: Kenwen, Bradwen, Jeffwen, Tomwen, Danwen…

    • Oddly enough, there are a fair amount of people who try to do Welsh feminine names by spelling -wen (feminine) as -wyn (masculine), probably not knowing that it’s masculine in Welsh. Now, I understand how it looks more romantic and girlish to English speakers, but it would be really bad if you ever got thrown into a Welsh-speaking fantasy world.🙂

      But yeah, there’s Bronwyn instead of Bronwen (particularly funny in the masculine because Bronwen means white breast – so I guess Bronwyn is white pecs!), Blodwyn, Cadwyn, Rhonwyn… the whole schmole. Of course, if you’re doing a last name or naming the girl after a male relative, that’s understandable; and it wouldn’t be surprising these days for a girl to have a boy’s name on purpose. But it would be nice if parents were given honest info about what they are doing, since that’s what baby name books and websites are supposed to provide. (But mostly don’t, alas.)

  2. Hmmm, I never thought about the difference between -wen and -wyn. My son is named Ewan, which is supposed to be a Welsh form of John. I wonder if there is a more historically correct version of the name? I’ve read is also comes from Hywyn (if I remember how to spell that correctly).

    • Actually, Hywyn and Hywel are related names (along with the Breton name Hoel) and mean “eminent.”

      The usual Welsh forms of John are Iago/Jago (technically more Cornish than Welsh), Ianto, Iestin, Ifan, Ioan, and Ieuan, which is spelled ALMOST the same as Ewan. (But pronounced “YAY-yawn” or “YI-awn.”) There’s also Owain (Oh-wine), which almost certainly is from the Roman/Greek name “Eugenius.”

      Ewan or Owen is actually the Welsh form of the Irish/Scottish name Eoghan (pronounced Owen or Ewan, depending on the part of Ireland or Scotland). Eoghan means “born of the yew tree.” (Basically a poetic way of saying that somebody has ruddy skin, like a yew berry.) Sometimes it’s associated with Eugenius too. HOWEVER, during times when Irish and Scottish saint names were not well understood, it was common to have an Eoghan or Ewan baptized as John, and then use Ewan as the ordinary daily name.

      So your son’s name means “yew-born,” but it is also commonly used for “John.”🙂

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