Spotlight on: Wenceslaus

My saintly friend for 2021 according to Jen Fulwiler’s The Saint’s Name Generator is … St. Wenceslaus.

Do you choose a yearly Saint? I admit, most of the initial thrill for me has always been the possibility of discovering a new, cool name to add to my list of Catholicky Catholic names! Haha!

St. Wenceslaus’ name is not one I usually see on little ones and doesn’t have the elements that tend to be attractive to today’s American parents. But his feast day is my wedding anniversary, and I really have come to love most names once I learn more about them, so here we go: let’s start by finding out more about the name Wenceslaus!

Behind the Name’s entry piqued my interest right away:

Medieval Latinized form of Veceslav (see VÁCLAV). The spelling may have been influenced by the Czech word věnec meaning ‘wreath, crown’.”

I love finding things out like “the spelling may have been influenced by the Czech word meaning ‘wreath, crown'” — to make a brief connection to Theresa’s guest post yesterday on “sorrowful” names, this reminds me of the name Tristan and how it’s the “Old French form of the Pictish name Drustan, a diminutive of DRUST. The spelling was altered by association with Latin tristis ‘sad'” (which is why it’s in my book of Marian names as a nod to Our Lady of Sorrows). In the case of Wenceslaus, I like that “wreath, crown” has a connection to Václav’s (Veceslav’s) meaning:

Contracted form of the older name Veceslav, from the Slavic elements veche ‘more’ and slava ‘glory’.”

So Wenceslaus could be thought of as meaning “crown of glory,” which is lovely, and fits in well with who St. Wenceslaus was: royal (“Good King Wenceslaus”) and martyr (“killed for political reasons [by his brother no less], but normally listed as a martyr since the politics arose from his faith”).

A very cool bit is that his grandfather is said to have been converted by Sts. Cyril and Methodius! St. Wenceslaus is the patron saint of the Czech Republic and his feast day is a national holiday, so his name would be a really great nod to one’s Czech heritage. He also had a wonderful grandmother, St. Ludmila, whose name I spotlighted nearly five years ago — using her name (or a variant) could also be a nice way to nod to St. Wenceslaus for a girl, as he is said to have been very influenced by his grandmother and her faith. He is also the subject of the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas,” making his name a Christmas name as well.

Some of its variants are intriguing, like the Czech Václav and its diminutive Vašek, the German Wenzel, the Hungarian Vencel, and the Russian Slava (if you want to consider these, be sure to look up their pronunciations!). If you went with the full Wenceslaus, it might be easiest in the middle spot (how handsome is a combo like John Wenceslaus?!); as a first name, nicknames might include Wence (reminds me of Wes — actually, Wes itself would work! That’s a really easy and familiar option!) and Wencel (reminds me of Wendell).

What do you think of Wenceslaus? Have you ever considered it (or a variant), or would you? Do you know anyone with the name Wenceslaus (or a variant)? Does he like his name? Does he go by a nickname?

Have a great Friday, and a great weekend!


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 (not affiliate links) — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

17 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Wenceslaus

  1. Thanks for a great post!

    Václav is still reasonably popular here in the Czech Republic. Pronounced vahts-lahv (the c in Czech always makes the ts sound, unless it is č, which is ch; c never makes the k sound – only k makes the ck/k sound).

    I’ve met quite a few, from tiny to old. My husband’s grandfather was Václav, and I think that if we had another son, Václav would be a real contender. (It might take some adjusting for my Midwestern US family, but probably easier than the likes of Vladimir!), Of course, Václav Havel gives the name awesome modern hero weight as well.

    I really like the nicknames Vašík (vah-sheek) and Vašek (vah-shek). According to my husband (I bombarded him with Czech name questions this morning…):

    Vašík is for little boys, probably until age 8 or 9.
    Vašek is for young men, probably from 8 or 9 until about 30 or so.
    Then he would likely become Venca (vents-uh) and stay that way.

    That’s not a hard/fast rule, but it is generally how the name Václav would evolve. Plus, you’d be Václav on official documents/announcements, but as my husband says, no one would ever actually call you Václav!
    Czech names and nicknames are truly fascinating!

    Wenceslas Square is a main square here in Prague, called Václavské náměstí in Czech (but English speakers often still just call it Wenceslas Square – it is widely called both names here). It is much more modern than many areas you’ll find in Prague (like the Old Town Square). It’s packed full of history, of course, including Soviet tanks rolling down the street in the ’68 Prague Spring. These days its lined with modern, global stores, so is popular for shopping (and apparently it has quite a shady nightlife, particularly on one end…). Yet, the huge statue of St. Wenceslas (svatý Václav) on horseback still looms over it all – famously sculpted by Josef Václav Myslbek. There are 4 other Czech patron saints surrounding him: St. Ludmila, St. Agnes of Bohemia (I’ve mentioned her here before – fascinating story!), St. Prokop, and St. Adalbert. The inscription reads: St Wenceslas, Leader of the Czech Lands, our Prince, do not let us die nor those yet to come.

    Of course, September 28th is a very important Czech holiday, so yay for school/office closings on that day (otherwise, there are no celebrations, of note surrounding it). Interesting, the Czech culture is said to be one of the most atheist cultures in the world, yet they hold very tight to saints’ name days and many otherwise religious traditions/holidays.

    In sum, I do love the name Václav and all his history!

    Liked by 1 person

    • And to add – my husband loved the tidbit about Václav probably being derived from věnec! He didn’t know that, but said that makes sense. He says that in everyday Czech, it is really used to refer to a wreath, rather than a crown. So great job teaching a Czech some Czech!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Of course!! Post away and use any of it 😀 I’m happy it’s interesting! I had a blast chatting with husband about it – Czech names/nicknames are fascinating. If you need any more info or have questions, let me know!

        I also find that with non-English-speaking naming traditions, there’s only so much online (Behind the Name is great!). It really takes talking to people/living in those cultures to really learn more. Sort of a name lovers dream, to be honest!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome! And yes re: non-English-speaking naming traditions — I’ve had the privilege of working with many families whose heritage and family are non-English-speaking and I’ve learned so much from them! And also been frustrated at how little info I’m often able to find when I’m doing consultations for them. Thanks!!

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  2. There were five boys in the country last year who were named Wenceslao. I would assume that’s either the Spanish or Portuguese version. Wenzel is apparently the Old English version of the name as well. The German version is pronounced with a V but I most in the U.S. would say it with a W. I have seen Wenzel more as a surname than a first name. I’ve never seen Wenceslaus, even among older men. I like the name mainly because of the song.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My three times great grandpa’s name was Vaclav. He came over from Czechoslovakia in 1873. It’s very hard to find information about his ancestry because it was common to switch your name to something easier to pronounce when immigrating back then. Anyway thanks for doing this spotlight!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I honestly don’t know. I am very interested in ancestry and tried to find immigration documentation on him and his wife, but can’t find anything. I do know his son, according to my family, was named James. But the more research I do, I found he also went by Valcav as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for everything you do on this blog! I have really enjoyed it.

    I had Wenceslaus on my list for Baby #3 and Baby #4, but it wasn’t a top contender for me. I don’t think my husband would have chosen it even if it had been my very favorite. When we were in college, we would pray the rosary outdoors in a group every week, and we would invoke St. Wenceslaus for good weather, so I like the callback to that time in our relationship. However, the difficulty in spelling and pronunciation is ultimately outside of my comfort zone. (I even had to look up the spelling in order to write it on my list of potential boys names!) I would be so delighted to meet someone by this name.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s so great that you love the name enough to have had it on your list! I love the story of invoking St. Wenceslaus for good weather too, I didn’t know he had that connection!

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