Names of the Week: Manech and Mathilde

A Very Long Engagement film poster, from

I watched A Very Long Engagement last week, and these two names are the names of the two main characters, a young French couple torn apart by the first World War. It’s actually a good film, if you happen upon it, although rather difficult to follow at times.

Finding the origins of Manech was, let’s say, a challenge, so much so that I swapped to French websites to find out more. Basically, Manech, or even Manex, is the Basque form of Jean. And I must say, Manech makes for a delightful alternative to John.

John himself is the English form of the Latin name Iohannes, deriving from the Hebrew name Yochanan, meaning Yahweh is gracious.

If you’re really into sheep, you’ll know that there is not one, but three breeds of sheep who bear the name Manech:

  • The manech black head
  • The manech red head
  • The small manech

All can be found in the Basque country, in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques region of France. There’s also a hamlet named Port-Manech in the Bretagne region.

There are two notable Manechs, albeit technically Manexs: Manex Pagola (born in 1941), who is a Basque songwriter and Manex Goyhenetche (born in 1942), a historian, specialising in the Basque region. We also have the character in A Very Long Engagement.

Now for our female name. I have been thinking about Mathilde a lot recently, she is rather darling, is she not? I’ve never had much time for Matilda, but I can’t spend enough time smiling at Mathilde.

But enough cooing over her, Mathilde is from the Germanic name Mahthildis, meaning strength in battle, coming from two Germanic elements:

  • maht, meaning might, strength.
  • hild, meaning battle.

A notable Mathilde is the current Duchess of Brabant. Historically the title Duchess of Brabant is given to the wife of the next in line to the heir apparen tof the Belgium throne, or even the heir apparent themself, should they be female. Her full name is Mathilde Marie Christiane Ghislaine. Neither of her two daughters bear her names one of their middles. The Duchess has four children:

  • Princess Elisabeth Thérèse Marie Hélène
  • Prince Gabriel Baudouin Charles Marie
  • Prince Emmanuel Léopold Guillaume François Marie
  • Princess Eléonore Fabiola Victoria Anne Marie

Isn’t it lovely that they all share the middle name Marie?

Either way, another exciting bearer is an asteroid, called 253 Mathilde, and it’s named after the wife of the man who at that time was the Vice Director of the Paris Observatory.

Finally, there is also the 2004 drama film, Mathilde, which is about a young girl attempting to kill a UN peace ambassator after the war in Croatia. I confess, I haven’t actually seen the film, so cannot really comment further on it.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Names of the Week: Manech and Mathilde

  1. Always been fascinated by the Duchess of Brabant since it featured in “Swann’s Way”. Another amazing sibset from Europe.

    I didn’t know that about Manech – thanks for sharing! Who would have guessed it was a form of John?

    I think Mathilde is lovely as well!


  2. Pingback: Names of the Week: Til and Audrey « Mer de Noms

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