Names for a Yuletide Babe: The O Antiphons

Names for a Yuletide Babe: The O Antiphons

By Kate at Sancta Nomina (Katherine Morna Towne)

I recently went back through the Nameberry archives to see what posts have been done about Christmas names and found articles listing names relating to Christmas movies (Ralphie, Zuzu) and TV specials (Linus, Virginia), seasonal foliage (Holly, Ivy), colors (Crimson, Scarlet), Elf on the Shelf names (Buddy, Nick), and, of course, the major players (Mary, Joseph, Emmanuel). What can be said about names relating to Christmas that hasn’t yet been said?

I uncovered an untapped source of inspiration in what’s known as the O Antiphons, the short verses recited, sung, or chanted before the part of Evening Prayer called the Magnificat in the Catholic Church in the week before Christmas Eve (December 17—23); a different one is sung on each of the seven nights. They’re called the O Antiphons because each one begins with the exclamation “O,” and “antiphon” refers to the fact that it’s recited before a psalm or canticle (in this case, they’re recited before the Magnificat, which is a canticle, or song of praise. It comes from the book of Luke in the New Testament, chapter 1, verses 46-55).

Each of the O Antiphons highlights a title for the Messiah, stemming from the prophecy of Isaiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Using the O Antiphons as inspiration, here’s a selection of names that make sense for a Christmas baby (especially one born during the week before Christmas Eve):

O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

SageSage is used as a name for both boys and girls and means “wise.”

Sophia, Sofia, Sophie, Sofie—These names literally mean “wisdom.”

O Adonai (O Lord)

Adonis—While using Adonai itself feels too close to being irreverent, in my opinion, Adonis is a Greek variant of Adonai.

DominicDominic is a solid, traditional name meaning “belonging to the Lord.”

Kyrie, Cyril—These names are related, referring to “the Lord.”

O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)

JesseJesse is the father of King David, through whose lineage Isaiah said the Messiah would come.

O Clavis (O Key of David)

DavidKing David was Jesus’ ancestor, and a hero in his own right.

KeyLong ago I read an article about a girl named Key and it stuck with me. I can see it working here.

O Oriens (O Rising Sun)

AuroraAurora is Latin for “dawn,” the time of the rising sun.

Dawn—The time of the rising sun.

Roxana, Roxanne—These names mean “dawn” or “little star.”

Stella, Estelle—These names mean “star.”

O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)

King—You could certainly go right to the word itself.

LeroyLeroy means “the king” in French.

RegisRegis is an old French name meaning “kingly” (familiar from Regis Philbin).

RexRex is Latin for “king.”

O Emmanuel

Emmanuel—This is the name given to the Messiah in the prophecy of Isaiah; it means “God is with us.”

Jesús—Jesús is the Spanish version of Jesus, and is common in the Latino community. Note that using the English Jesus is generally considered disrespectful.

Joshua, Yeshua—These are variants of the same name, the name of Jesus in Aramaic, meaning “the Lord is salvation.”

Other related names

Isaiah—All of these titles for the Messiah come from the prophecy of Isaiah as recorded in the Old Testament book named after him.

VesperVesper, meaning “evening star,” refers also to Evening Prayers—they are called Vespers.

There’s a little overlap here with some of the Christmas name lists, but most of these are fresh ideas. Some of them may seem too removed from Christmas to really feel like Christmas names, but as I wrote in Good-Intention Baby Naming, I believe intention to be the most important thing when it comes to honor names.

What do you think about the O Antiphon names? Would you consider any of them for a Christmastime baby? What other names can you think of that would connect to each of these titles?