Back in part of my grad student days, the nurses, psych assistants (of which I was one) and the resident psychiatrist were sitting around the station chatting about names as we charted our observations, orders, and treatment plans for our patients. I mentioned that I didn’t like my middle name, which was “Jerome” and that I thought I might like to have something different.
At which point Dr. Kroll asked if I knew what it meant. I said “No…”. And he said it meant “Ye Blessed of the Lord”. Which upon reflection, I thought was pretty cool and asked how he knew. And he said “My first name is Jerome”. To which I thought oops, open mouth, insert foot, about mentioning that I didn’t like it in the first place.
As I remembered this, I thought I would look around the internet and see if I could find how Dr. Kroll came by his definition as he is something of a scholar.
Cursory definitions of Jerome such as the one from Our Baby Namer, delineate it as “sacred name, holy name”. Which is a far cry from “Ye Blessed of the Lord”. So in order to see if I could reconcile the two, I dug deeper, and here is what I came up with.
The website “Behind The Name, The etymology and history of first names” defines Jerome as: “From the Greek name ‘Ιερωνυμος (Hieronymos) meaning “sacred name”…”.
It further says that Jerome is used thusly in other languages: ” OTHER LANGUAGES: Hieronymos, Hieronymus (Ancient Greek), Jeronim, Jerko (Croatian), Hieronymus, Jeroen (Dutch), Jérôme (French), Hieronymus (German), Gerolamo, Geronimo, Girolamo (Italian), Ieronimus (Late Roman), Jerónimo (Portuguese), Jerônimo (Portuguese (Brazilian)), Jerónimo (Spanish)”
And that the nickname for Jerome is “Jerry”.
This made me think of two things. The first was, going off on a tangent, “Huh, Geronimo–the famous Apache leader and I have a name in common”. This because as Wikipedia puts it “Geronimo’s chief, Mangas Coloradas, sent him to Cochise’s band for help in revenge against the Mexicans. It was during this incident that the name Geronimo came about. This appellation stemmed from a battle in which, ignoring a deadly hail of bullets, he repeatedly attacked Mexican soldiers with a knife. The origin of the name is a source of controversy with historians, some writing that it was appeals by the soldiers to Saint Jerome (“Jeronimo!”) for help. Others source it as the mispronunciation of his name by the Mexican soldiers”.
I believe that the Mexicans, speaking Spanish, used it for him because he must have been blessed in order to fight and not get wounded by their gunfire.
Secondly, I think I was probably named after Jerry Littlecreek who was one of my ancestors.
To get back on track, this still didn’t explain the discrepancy I originally mentioned. So I decided to tease things apart. Which one has to so often do, when working with words.
So when “Behind the Name.com” says that Hieronymos means sacred name, they are basically dividing it into two parts. “Hiero” and “nymos”. I can accept Hiero, as it is the same Greek root as the Hiero in Hieroglyphics–or sacred writings.
It is even refined a little according to The Free Dictionary which describes “Hieron” as: “Hi´er`on: noun 1. A consecrated place; esp., a temple”.
So if Hieron as applied to a temple means a consecrated (or blessed) place. Applied as a person’s name would mean that person is blessed as well.
But I don’t accept that nymos means name in this case. Not that it can’t. There is plenty of evidence that it does, but many a word has more than one meaning to it.
For instance, if you look at words which have this suffix:
You find that they all describe “the state of”, or “the state of [being]” something. So Hieronymous can also mean “The state of being consecrated [blessed]“.
The assumed/unspoken part of this, is that the person to whom the name belongs is either consecrated/blessed by deity, or consecrated to deity. Either way, you can designate them as “Ye Blessed of the Lord”, given the Judeo-Christian history of the name Jerome.
Therefore, Jerome, which is a derivative of Hieronymous, can either be literally translated as a sacred/holy name; or interpreted as a person who is blessed [by deity] in this case–the Lord. Perhaps the latter is a stretch, but it is a plausible one, and stretching can be good for you.
Two lessons I learned along the way:
- When it comes to Indian names, (or any name for that matter) you may not get the full story or complete meaning at first glance, or if you take it at face value,
- Geronimo and I have a good name in common.