Spotlight On: Monserrat

MonserratBaby name watchers eagerly await the release of the U.S. Social Security Administration’s top 1000 baby name list each year. This list is very useful for spotting baby name trends for the entire country, but the results are reported in total and don’t necessarily represent baby name trends among different U.S. demographics.

Finding data on different populations is difficult, but thankfully for the U.S. Hispanic population, BabyCenter, a popular parenting blog, lists 100 Most Popular Hispanic Baby Names for 2012. This list consisted of names chosen by BabyCenter Latino parents.

Perusing this list, one will see some similarities with the general U.S. population. Number one is Sofia, which is #18 for the entire U.S. (in 2012) and is very similar to the U.S. number one Sophia. Number two is Isabella. For the entire U.S. Isabella was at #3 in 2012 and #2 in 2011.

Then there are some names that appear on both the lists, but with big differences in rankings. Number three on the Hispanic list, Camila is a good example. Camila isn’t nearly as popular for the general U.S. population, but ranked in the top 50 at #48. Conversely, Olivia, which is #4 for the general U.S. population, ranks at lower on the Hispanic list at #47.

However once the Hispanic list is fully inspected, a lot of stark differences emerge. Many of these names aren’t even in the U.S. top 1000. One such name is Monserrat.

Monserrat ranks #66 on BabyCenter’s top 100 Hispanic Girl Names. The name may be on the way down. The name fell a few places from its spot on BabyCenter’s 2011 top Hispanic name list.* As recently as 2009 Monserrat was in the U.S. top 1000. In 2012 there were 240 newborn girls named Monserrat.

Monserrat is a variation on Montserrat (with a T in the middle), which is the name of a mountain near Barcelona Spain. The meaning is “jagged mountain”. *Note: The spellings are different on the 2011 and 2012 BabyCenter top Hispanic name lists. In 2012 Monserrat was #66 and in 2011 Montserrat (with the T in the middle) was #59. I am not sure if one of these is a typo because only one spelling appears on both lists.

Pronunciation may not be intuitive to an English-speaker. One downside is that the stress is on the last syllable, focusing on the “rat” sound of the name. When pronounced, it almost sounds like “monster rat”, a sound which may be more clearly apparent in the Montserrat spelling said in English.

In Spanish, Montserrat (with the T in the middle) is silent, pronounced like this: mawn-ser-raht. Therefore, Monserrat may be a phonetic variant spelling of Montserrat, in the same way Ralph is a phonetic variant spelling of Rafe. Both spellings can also be surnames. The subtle difference between the English and Spanish pronunciations may be why BabyCenter’s Latino parents can overcome the “rat” part of the name.

With pronunciation challenges aside, the name has a presence. What I noticed about Monserrat (besides being on the long-side with 9 letters and 3 syllables) were the double r’s and the T ending. These qualities not only give Monserrat modern style, they give it some drama too.

The modern style is evident with the double r’s, also found in modern meaning name, Sierra, which ranked in the U.S. top 300 at #278 in 2012. The drama is created not only by the name’s length, but also the T ending. So many girl names end in the “ee” and “ah” sounds that girl names ending in a different sound, especially a consonant, stand-out.

With all of its style and drama, Monserrat could be unexpectedly traditional as well. The T ending is also found in traditional Margaret, which ranked in the U.S. top 200 (at #178) and may be slowly rebounding from its historical low of #188 in 2009.

Monserrat may not be conventionally pretty like Camila, but it manages to convey both modern and traditional style. One can see why the Spanish-speaking community appreciates this name.

Readers: What do you think of Monserrat?

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  1. I was surprised to see it as a girl’s name – to me it sounds masculine!

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