Saturday, November 23, 2019


From The Omaha World-Herald:
Irma is a short form of Germanic names starting with “ermen,” meaning “whole” or “all.” Emma was originally a Norman French form of the same name. Several medieval saints in England and Germany had “ermen” names. Sixth-century forest hermit St. Ermelinde (“whole-soft”) is venerated in Belgium. St. Irmgard (“whole-enclosure”) of Chiemsee (830-866) was a great-granddaughter of Charlemagne who became an abbess. St. Ermenburga (“whole-fortress”) was a Queen of Mercia in England who founded a nunnery.
Unlike Emma, Irma wasn’t used as a name in its own right until around 1700. Though this began in Germany, Irma’s first big success came in France. In 1799, French author Élisabeth Guénard published “Irma, or The Misfortunes of a Young Orphan.” Though in the novel Irma is a princess of India, she was obviously based on Marie-Thérèse, the only surviving child of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette, beheaded in the Revolution six years before. The novel was wildly popular in France, going through 10 editions by 1816. Many girls were named after Guénard’s heroine. In the 1850 United States census, 136 of the 174 Irmas were born either in French-speaking Louisiana or France itself. (Read more.)

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