Laetitia, Latitia, Letitia, Lettice

+5 votes
Latitia Perrot will soon be merged with her duplicate Lettice. Genealogy apart I have never seen Laetitia, Latitia or Letitia used in 16th century works. Always seems to be Lettice as in Lettice Knollys. The other names appear maybe a hundred years or more later. Does anyone know if Lettice was a diminutive?
WikiTree profile: Lettice Chichester
asked in The Tree House by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (127k points)

1 Answer

+2 votes
Laetitia is the Latin name, so it has existed as a legitimate spelling for a couple of thousand years.  

Whether any given parent, clerk or scribe working in the 16th Century knew or cared to spell it that way is a different question.  You're probably seeing its appearance in the 17th Century due to the contemporary revival of classical studies in England.  I've seen Lettice as an English given name - but, again, you're dealing with with clerical options, which also included "Polly" as a birth name when later records clearly indicate the child was "Mary, also known as Polly."
answered by Susan Anderson G2G6 Mach 1 (16.5k points)

The Latin word laetitia "gladness" has certainly been around for millennia, but the use of it as a name probably only goes back about 900 years ( Withycombe's Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names under Lettice says "It is not clear how or when the word came to be used as a christian name, but it was in general use in England in the 12th C and remained a favourite until the 17th C. The usual English form was Let(t)ice, but the French Lece (latinized as Lecia) was common in the 12th and 13th C. ... Lettice went out of fashion  in the 18th C and was replaced by the Latin form Laetitia, but it has now [1976] come back into use."

Laetitia was also the name of a Roman goddess or an epithet for the goddess Ceres. Wikipedia 

Interestingly, there was also a St. Laetitia (or Leticia), supposedly a virgin martyr from Roman Britain, associated with St. Ursula as one of her companion martyrs.  Wikipedia 

According to the "The Penguin Dictionary of Saints"  and " The Oxford Dictionary of Saints," the cult of St. Ursula (St. Laetitia supposedly being one of her fellow martyrs at Cologne ca. 4th Century) became popularized in the 12th century, in the wake of the discovery of a large number of bones (probably an old graveyard) in Cologne.  Her legend was subsequently subject to wild elaboration, including, presumably, the addition of names for her companions. Since Ursula and her companions supposedly came from Roman Britain, that might be the origin of its popularity in the form of Lettice in England.  

Thanks for the reference for the actual English name Lettice as a variant, rather than a nickname.  Good to know.  Like "Austin" for "Augustine."

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