Spotlight on: Agatha

One of you readers asked me to spotlight Agatha, specifically nicknames for it. You know that nicknames are my jam! And I’ve seen Agatha being considered and used more and more, so I’m sure that one reader wasn’t the only one who has wondered about this.

So! St. Agatha is a great saint! She (St. Agatha of Sicily, to be precise) was a martyr who’s listed in the Canon of the Mass, and has a brave but terrible story, as martyrdom stories tend to go. (I will never understand why some people think women are weak.) (I know the terrible martyrdom stories put some people off of naming after those saints — fortunately, there are a bunch of other holy Agathas! And some other really interesting historical Agathas, which Abby from Appellation Mountain discusses in her post on the name.)

Many people think of it as an old name, and it’s not just their perception:

agatha
Screenshot from the Baby Name Wizard’s NameVoyager tool 

Here’s a different version of the same info:

agatha2
Screenshot from the SSA’s Popularity of a Name tool

It was never very popular — it peaked at no. 392 in 1913, and fell out of the top 1000 altogether in 1945. 1945! That’s why it feels like an old name — it has a “stuck in the early part of the 1900s” feel because it was exponentially more popular then than has been since.

But! It never totally disappeared, and is coming back a little bit! Here’s how it’s looked since 2000:

2018: 102 girls named Agatha
2017: 95
2016: 77
2015: 87
2014: 71
2013: 62
2012: 44
2011: 51
2010: 49
2009: 36
2008: 38
2007: 47
2006: 50
2005: 53
2004: 24
2003: 38
2002: 25
2001: 23
2000: 28

Since 2013, it’s been on an upswing! Which is good for those who don’t like names that have an outdated feel, but it’s still got rare enough usage that those who prefer uncommon names won’t be disappointed either.

So how about those nicknames? Aggie is the obvious — it’s adorable, with the same sounds as the super popular Maggie, but the lack of that initial M makes a big difference. And I think a lot of people who might consider Agatha would be thrilled to have such a sweet, spunky nickname for their girl to use on an everyday basis. However, the mama who asked for the Agatha spotlight specifically said that Aggie is a no-go for her because the Texas A&M association is “way too strong”! I do know some people who love that association and consider Aggie because of it (alumni maybe?), but for others, especially those from Texas, I can see Aggie being problematic.

One of the nickname ideas I found in my research that I thought had promise is Gatha. Maybe? I also saw Agatine — I thought that could be cute — nicknames/diminutives aren’t necessary shorter, after all (e.g., John/Jack, Thomas/Tommy, Mary/Molly, Ann/Nancy). And I could see Agatine becoming something like Tina as time goes on, and then people would be like, “Why does your sister Agatha go by Tina?” and you can send them this post. 😂

There was actually a thread on Nameberry with this exact dilemma (Texan family who likes Agatha but doesn’t like the A&M association), and some of the suggestions were brilliant:

I have considered Hattie or the even rarer, cuter Hatsy! I think it works cuz you have the name ending in “ha” and you sort of just transmute the t and there you go!

Hattie and Hatsy are cuuuute! Others that commenters listed included

Ace
Aga, Ags
Ath, Atha
Gats, Gatsby
Gatta, Gattie
Gigi
Hatha
Tag, Tags, Taggy

I think Taggy’s brilliant — it’s an old nickname for Agnes, I totally should have thought of that!

What do you all think of Agatha? Would you consider naming a daughter Agatha, or have you? What nickname would you use, if any? Do you know any Agathas in real life? Do they go by a nickname? Happy Friday!!


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

19 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Agatha

  1. I absolutely LOVE the name Agatha. I would seriously consider using it if I didn’t already have an Augustine nn Augie. Can you imagine? An Augie and an Aggie? Keeping my kids names straight is confusing enough! Agatha is beautiful though. I think of it as a feminine, peaceful name with a soft sound.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually think Cat could be a nickname for Agatha. Yes, I’m biased but my Spanish name in HS was “Gata” and the hard c/k and hard g are actually the same consonant sound, just one is voiced and one is unvoiced. (I took 1 semester of Linguistics 15 years ago, and that’s what I remember, LOL. But make the sounds in your mouth and you’ll see what I mean.) Here’s a link: https://www.really-learn-english.com/english-pronunciation-lesson-26-k-and-g-sounds.html

    So the name Agatha actually lends itself well to nicknames like Cat, Kitty, Cutty, Tuck, etc.

    I like Ace on your list, but Ax would probably be a pet name if I had an Agatha.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love Hattie and Gatsby as nicknames!

    You could also do a lot with a well-placed middle name: Agatha Josephine (AJ), Agatha Louise (Allie), Agatha Valentina (Ava), etc.

    We live in the Czech Republic and Agata (pronounced uh-gat-uh, emphasis on the gat, rhymes with cat) is quite popular (especially in the younger set – I know quite a few school-aged girls named Agata). Strangely, in this nickname-dominant place, I don’t hear a nn for it too often… maybe Agatka.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am not a big big fan of Agatha, I guess I prefer Agnes, but I do like it anyway. Aggie is lovely, and I looove Hattie and Hatsy and Gatsby and Gattie and Gussie, and awww! Agatine, how cute! It’s been always a bit of a surprising thing for me – since I’ve become more into names all around the world – that while the English Agatha and our Polish Agata look so similar, and the pronunciation difference isn’t overly striking, those names have quite a different feel, at least to me, I guess only because of their different popularity and different periods during which they’ve been popular. Agatha feels staid and serious, definitely old-lady-ish (but not in a bad way), majestic and aristocratic, very strong and down to Earth and quite intellectual/nerdy as well. While Agata (I think it’s become popular in the 70’s and has been on quite a steady position since then) feels so much more youthful, a bit playful and energetic, and when I think of it I tend to imagine either a milennial mum or a sporty teen, I know only two Agatas who are over 50. But I think I’m more drawn to Agatha’s majestic charm, probably just because I see and hear Agata a bit more often, so it feels more casual, my sis has two Agatas in her class and it’s one of my cousins’ name as well. The most common nickname over here is Agatka, I’ve also heard Agacia (ah-GAH-chah) though most Agatas I’ve come across rarely use nicknames. Aga is also popular, though in most people’s consciousness for some reason it’s more tied to Agnieszka. I think Aga could perhaps work for some English-speaking parents who don’t want to use Aggie and want something a bit outside the box. I really like the connection to saint Agatha of Sicily, I think she is a great patron saint, despite her horrific martyrdom story (or perhaps in a way thanks to it, as it shows her strength in faith).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, Agatha is my cat’s name. I named her after Agatha Christie. I occasionally call her Aggie as a call name. I think Agate might be an interesting nickname, as in the stone.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like Agatha. It’s on my baby name list. I also like Agnes, my 1yo’s middle name. You should do a spotlight on Agnes too. I think these names need to come back!

    Liked by 1 person

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