Thursday, March 8

let's talk about: Sabine

detail from a fresco by Cavalier d'Arpino  in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, via dirk huijssoon on Flickr

The Sabines were an ancient people who lived in central Italy. Legend has it that Roman soldiers kidnapped Sabine women in an attempt to get them to marry Romans and populate their new city, but the women refused, throwing themselves between the Roman army and the Sabine men trying to defend them  —  in some versions of the story, the women were able to make peace between the two sides. This event has been depicted by many artists, including the sculptor Giambologna and painters Nicolas Poussin, Peter Paul Rubens, Jacques-Louis David, John Leech and Pablo Picasso. A short story parody of the legend was adapted into the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Sabina is version of the name closest to Latin Sabinus, but I prefer the French and German version, Sabine, for its simplicity and refined look. (There's something very unattractive about the "-bina" sound, personally, plus it looks a little incomplete, like Sabrina, missing an R.) Sabine has never been popular in the US, and does not appear in the top 1,000 for the past 120 years. There were around 100 Sabines born in 2009 and 2010, making it a very uncommon choice. However, I think its familiar elements and rich history make it quite usable.

It makes the top 500 in the  Netherlands, and is also found as a surname (physicist Wallace Sabine is credited with the discovery of the Sabin, a unit of sound energy absorption). It is a place name in Australia, the US (Texas and Louisiana), Canada, Greenland and New Zealand, as well as the region in Italy. In pop culture it is most recognizable from the 1991 best-selling novels in The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy by Nick Bantock, and in 2011 the name appeared in two films:  Léa Seydoux's character in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was named Sabine Moreau, and Keira Knightley's character in A Dangerous Method was based on Russian psychoanalyst Sabina Speilrein.

Italian variant Savina is a softer choice, and other lovely choices include Dutch Sabien, Hungarian Szabina, and masculine forms Savino and Sabinus. Some names of ancient Sabines that I found interesting were (these are all male) Numa, Ancus, Quintus, Attius, Clausus, Crispus and Varro. Names of Sabine gods also include some gems: Feronia, Salus (feminine), Lucina, Flora and Fortuna.


  1. I think Sabine is just lovely, much nicer than Sabina. There's a Sabine coming up in the BAs for this month!

    I have also had a Sabella on the blog, which can be from the Italian surname, based on the word "Sabine", so you can see that as another Italian form.

  2. I've found Sabine to be quite popular over on continental Europe - mostly in the southern Germany area. I like the name, slightly more so than the similar-sounding Sabrina.


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