Spotlight on: Cornelius

Today is the feast of Pope St. Cornelius, so what better name to spotlight than his?

Cornelius. Not a common name. I’m not quite sure what to think about it. On the one hand, it’s a Pope’s name, and a pope who became a saint (he combated heresy and an anti-pope and died a martyr). It’s also an old Roman family name, and has become one of those pan-European names, with a variant in nearly every European language. Some of them are quite cool, like Cai/Kai/Caj/Kaj (Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish), and there are some interesting diminutives too, like Cees/Kees (Dutch). I knew a man whose first name was Cornelius, but he always went by Neil, which is also a possibility. And I just discovered that Connie Mack‘s given name was Cornelius McGillicuddy, Sr. That is really cool. (I cannot recommend strongly enough to always always read the comments for each entry on Behind the Name — there is so much great real-world information there.)

On the other hand, though, Corny is a pretty natural nickname. Corny just doesn’t work these days. Right? I think kids still say it: “You’re so corny,” “That’s so corny.” Which is a bad thing. Or at least not a good thing. Right? Additionally, Corny always makes me think of Cornflake S. Pecially, which shouldn’t be a bad association (Mr. Rogers!) but isn’t a good one, in my opinion, for a baby. And as cool as the Connie Mack connection is, Connie just doesn’t seem doable for a boy these days (see also: Carroll, Meredith, Courtney …). Really, for me, I can’t see being able to warm up to Cornelius.

Which is really unfortunate, because I do love its historical and religious pedigree and international flavor. It’s got all the elements I look for in a boy’s name, but sometimes … that’s just not enough. (Alexander is another name that I feel similarly about — it hits all the right notes except the one that makes me like it. A post for another day.) If you love Pope St. Cornelius, or have a Cornelius in the family you’d like to honor, I could see it being a smashing middle name. Or, consider the female variant Cornelia, with its own history (the name of a woman considered to be the “ideal Roman woman”) and many sweet nicknames (Corrie, Lia, and my favorite: Nell).

Do you know anyone named Cornelius? Does he like his name? Does he have a nickname?

5 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Cornelius

  1. There was a super cool hipster Cornelius who went to my college–he was known as Cory. I think it’s totally usable! These are the days of Atticus and Penelope, after all. 🙂


  2. Cornelius has been a family name for us for a couple of generations back, and I love it, but I was concerned my son would hate it. So what we ended up doing was to have him baptized Cornelius and he’s called Niall ( the Irish version). It’s worked out pretty well so far.


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