Spotlight on: Matthias

A reader asked for a spotlight on Matthias, one of my favorite favorite names! Specifically, she wrote,

Biblically, I have only seen it as Matthias, but when I ask my family members who are not as familiar with the biblical spelling, they think it is spelled Mathias. When I read the name, I pronounce it as ma-THIGH-as, whereas, in Germany, for example, where the name seems to be more popular than in the US, it is pronounced Ma-TEE-us. It has the same meaning as Matthew (gift from God), but the spelling of Matthew is far more prevalent than the use of Mathew, although there are some of those. Matthias, on the other hand, is much more uncommon than Matthew, so it seems as if there is more room for variance and not an assumed way to spell it.”

Indeed! It’s just as she said: according to Behind the Name there are two traditional spellings with the “th” (Matthias and Mathias), though Matthias is the one used in the  English Bible (not sure about other translations?), and it seems that both spellings have usage in a bunch of languages as listed on Behind the Name, with Matthias having broader usage:

Matthias: Greek, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, French, Dutch, Biblical, Biblical Latin, Biblical Greek

Mathias:  French, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish

Pronunciation-wise, it seems that Mathias is only pronounced ma-TEE-as (and there’s also the variant Mat(t)ias, which makes that pronunciation more obvious), while Matthias can be either ma-THIGH-as or ma-TEE-as. I looked both Matthias and Mathias up on SSA and was interested by the results:

matthias

mathias

Matthias is slightly more popular BUT 2003 is the first year it made it into the top 1000, while Mathias has been on and off since 1900. Also, I found this very telling:

matias

Over the same time period, Matias — which of course has that ma-TEE-as pronunciation — has been like 100 spots more popular than either Matthias or Mathias, so just from these charts Americans might be more familiar with the ma-TEE-as pronunciation and/or might be baffled by having an “h” in the name, never mind two “t”s. (The spelling Mattias has never been in the top 1000.)

So it’s definitely one of those names that requires some decisions, and then firm consistency when sharing the name with others.

I think it’s a name that’s totally worth it though. I mean, it’s a Matthew variant, so it has the same great meaning (“gift of God”), and it can take the same friendly, accessible nicknames (Matt, Matty), but names that are a twist on the familiar are some of my favorites, and Matthias totally fits that. Never mind that I always think of Matthias as a Catholicky Catholic name because he was chosen by Peter and “the brothers” to replace Judas in, dare I call it, the first Church Council??  😉

During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place). He said … ‘Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.’

So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.’ Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:15,21-26)

(I also need to point out, because it can be confusing, that the Apostle Matthew, also known as Levi, who was one of the original twelve, is not the same person as Matthias. I’m guessing that we use Matthew and Matthias (and also Levi for Matthew) to distinguish between the two, because they’re both more recent variants of the original Hebrew Mattiyahu via the Greek variant Matthaios.)

Anyway, I’ve always loved Matthias’ story, and I’ve always loved his name. Not only are Matt and Matty possible nicknames, but I’ve seen Mitt/Mitty for Matthew, which can work for Matthias as well, and the Dutch nickname Thijs and its variant Ties I find so appealing — Matt Lauer has a son named Thijs, pronounced TICE. Love it! (But that would probably interfere with getting everyone on board with the ma-THIGH-as pronunciation, huh?)

What do you all think of Matthias? Which pronunciation do you prefer? Do you like the spelling Matthias or Mathias better? Do you know anyone named Mat(t)hias? Does he like his name? Does he go by a nickname? All of which is my way of saying the same thing as the reader who requested the spotlight: “I would be interested in hearing your opinions on it and the opinions of your readers.”

34 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Matthias

  1. I grew up in the midwest hearing Mathias pronounced as Ma-thigh-as. There was elected official with that name so I think his family (he is a jr. and his father was active in the community before he was) might have created a pronunciation bubble.
    I love Mathias but my BiL’s middle name is Matthew and my parents’ would only think of the prosecutor as they knew of him all of their lives so I don’t think it is usable for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know a 6-year-old Matthias whose mom is Polish and has given all her sons Polish nicknames, so he goes by Maciek (pronounced MAH-check). This is a typical diminutive for Maciej (Polish form of the name). It totally works! Also, when I post comments like this I am ALWAYS afraid that the person is going to find it via Google and think I’m super creepy! But that wasn’t the intent if my friend ever finds this!!! 😉 You just gave your son a cool name!

    Also, having spent time in Germany, there are several names that I think sound AWESOME pronounced in German, but just okay the way we’d pronounce them in the US. Matthias is one of them. Also Florian and Tobias.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How funny- my friend just posted this to me and asked if I’d submitted the question. We just had a baby boy we named Matthias two weeks ago! We are using the Ma-thigh-as pronunciation. There’s already been a lot of confusion about the spelling and pronunciation. It’s such a wonderful name isn’t it!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Congratulations on the birth of your son Jacinta!!! I LOVE that you used Matthias! It’s so good for other parents to see examples of real-life usage. And you have a great name yourself, one of my favorites!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a Matthias (Ma-thigh-us)! My husband studied in Germany long ago in Trier where St. Matthias is buried (although I think he’s reputed to be buried a couple of other places too), and so he has had an affinity for St. Matthias for a long time. When our Matthias was born we thought he would be nicknamed Matty when he was little. But his 2 year old sister called him “Baby Ias”, so we called him Baby Ias (Eye-uss), until he was almost 4, when he finally told us he was just Ias. We had another baby when he was 2 and then we had a Baby Sim (short for Simeon) and a Baby Ias. It was embarrassing to yell out Baby Ias to a 3 year old on the playground. I use Matthias and Ias with about the same frequency. People don’t seen to find his name too weird, and it’s always nice when someone recognize the name as Biblical.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My girl has a Matthias (ma-TEE-as) in her Catholic school preschool class. I was always scared to say the name, unsure how to pronounce it. But I like the look of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a Matthias! So many people have questioned the spelling, I feel vindicated after reading this! My son is Matthias (Ma-tee-us) Wolf. We call him “Wolfie.” Loved reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In the Czech Republic, I’ve seen Matýaš (pronounced Mah-tee-awsh) and Matěj (Mah-tyay) or Matej (Matt-ay). For the little ones, the English kids call him Maty (basically Mattie). I really like Matej! Other nicknames might be Matyášek (Mah-tee-ah-shek), Matýsek (Mah-tee-shek).

    All that said, I’m not sure these would work very well for your average American, lol, but as a middle-American, I’ve grown to actually prefer these versions! Same with Tobiaš, which is pronounced Toe-bee-awsh, Tobík as a nickname (Toe-beek).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really love learning about names in other cultures/languages — variant spellings and nicknames are so interesting. I love the sounds of all these nicknames, even though I think you’re right — they probably wouldn’t work well for “your average American” haha!

      Like

  8. I really like this name!! I would put it in my top twenty. I prefer the Matthias spelling and ma-THIGH-as pronunciation, but I agree that either spelling and either pronunciation are both familiar enough and not-too-set-in-stone to work in any combination (with, perhaps, the understanding that you’ll have to correct people at least occasionally). I like it better than Matthew, mostly because I know sooo many Matthews of all ages.

    I vaguely remember someone from high school named Matthias with the thigh pronunciation…

    The only other person I know with the name was one of our tour guides when I went on a pilgrimage to Poland, so he wasn’t exactly “Matthias” but Maciek like Annie’s friend above. Our first tour guide gave us his Polish name but then we always called him by the English equivalent because it was easier. Maciek offered for us to call him Matthias, but “ma-check” was so accessible that we just called him his real name. After meeting him was when Matthias really got on my radar. I still kind of like Maciek the best though. I’m usually not a nicknamer, but I might make an exception for this name and nn since Maciek as a given name would really be asking for pronunciation issues. But in reality this is a name my family will probably not grow enough to include, so I love seeing these stories of other people using the name! Thanks for this post (:

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve seen it from time to time in North Dakota. There are a lot of families of German and Scandinavian descent here, so in some cases the boy might be named after an ancestor. Other parents probably just like the spin on Matthew. I’ve heard it pronounced with the long I sound.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I was doing genealogy research a few years ago, I discovered that one of my three times great grandfathers was called Matti. This is the Finnish version of Matthew, which might be another option for parents. Its main drawback is that it sounds feminine to Americans, though I’ve heard of boys being called Matty as a nickname for Matthew.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I know a Matias. They are Spanish speakers, so I assumed this was the Spanish language variant of this name. I consider the Matthias spelling and ma-THIGH-as pronunciation to be the English language variant.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I know a teenage Matthias (ma-THIGH-as) that goes by Matt.

    I didn’t realize there was a different pronunciation as well. I kind of like that – it sounds more like Mateo which is my favorite ethnic variant on Matthew.

    Hey, when you do the spotlights if people added sibling names you could work it into the sibling project as well. The Matthias I know is in the middle of Peter, Richard, Martha, Mary, Kara, Ean, and Claire siblings.

    Liked by 2 people

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