Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Haitian Personal Names - The Female Name "Wideline"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is the first post in a pancocojams ongoing series on Caribbean names. Other posts in this series can be found by clicking the "Haitian names" tag below.

This post provides information about the female name "Wideline" in Haiti. This post also includes my speculation about the source of the female Haitian name "Wideline". Information about some other Haitian female names and Haitian naming custom is also included in this post.

The Addendum to this post includes some information about the name "Wideline" in the United States.

For the second post in this series click That post contains examples of distinctive Haitian female names and information about some Haitian naming customs.

For the third post in this series click That post contains examples of distinctive Haitian male names and information about some Haitian naming customs.

The content of this post is presented for etymological and cultural information.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

I consider myself a volunteer community folklorist. In addition to other aspects of African American, African, and African Diaspora cultures, I'm interested in naming customs. By no means am I an expert on name origins and meanings (onomastics).

I'm not Haitian and I'm not of Haitian descent- that I know of. However, my maternal grandparents are from the Caribbean (Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados). And my granddaughter's paternal great grandfather was Haitian.

I started looking online for information and examples of Haitian names largely out of curiosity- mostly to ascertain whether the naming traditions of Haiti were similar to some of the contemporary naming traditions of African Americans. From perusing online web pages of Haitian names*, it appears to me that there are some general similarities but also considerable differences between Haitian naming traditions and African American naming traditions. Some of those similarities and differences will be noted in posts that are part of this series.

As is the case with my documentation and study of African American names, I'm most interested in "distinctive" Haitian names. By "distinctive" Haitian names, I mean personal names from Haiti that are unfamiliar to me and I think unfamiliar to most African Americans and most other people in the United States. I realize that many or most of the names that I consider to be "distinctive Haitian names" might not be considered "distinctive" by many or most Haitians.

*I'm particularly thrilled to have found the wonderfully rich (for people interested in names) pages at Special thanks and special hat tip to that blog!

My prayers, concerns, and well wishes remain for the people of Haiti. Here's a link to one Haitian relief organization:

Here's another link to a relief organization which works in Haiti and elsewhere:

Excerpt #1
Updated 1/17/2014 "the most popular haitian baby names"
"In the interest of getting you what you're looking for, this page makes a terrible fudge of the statistics. The truth is, it's impossible to know what the most popular Haitian baby names are. There's no central authority gathering and collating data, no registry that's open to private citizens--no data, basically. But by mining a couple of unofficial sources of data, I've created lists of the most common names among Haitian university and graduate school applicants, and among babies, children, and teens in sponsored school programs and other relief programs aimed at the rural working class.

There's also a massive table of Haitian girls' names, which I'm cleaning and editing as part of my ongoing project to create reliable frequency data. While the names below belong to children and young adults, the names on the linked table belong to middle-class adults born in the 1940's through the 1990's.

girls' names

City names
The most popular names among educated young Haitian women born in 1981 to 1993 are:
1. Stéphanie
2. Fabiola
3. Esther
4. Tamara
5. Roseline
6. Cassandra
7. Farah, Phara
8. Lovely, Lovelie
9. Darline
10. Samentha
11. Vanessa
12. Nadège
14. Judith
15. Manoucheca
16. Mardochée
17. Beatrice
18. Fabienne
19. Mirlande
21. Wideline
22. Johanne
23. Madeleine

Country names
The most popular girls' names among rural Haitian children and teens born in 1995 to 2013 are:
1. Widelene (twice as common as #2 and #3)
2. Mirlande, Myrlande
3. Islande
4. Lovelie, Lovely
5. Judeline
6. Angeline
7. Esther
8. Chedeline
9. Jessica
10. Rose-Merline
11. Madeline
12. Rose
13. Medjine
14. Samantha
15. Esterline
16. Nephtalie
17. Jesula
18. Roseline
19. Fredeline
20. Guerlande
21. Marie
22. Gaelle
23. Jenniflore
24. Lourdes-Gina
25. Fabienne
26. Anaïca
27. Nadia
28. Kimberly"
Italics added to highlight the name "Wideline".

That page also includes a list of Haitian “City names” for males– “The most popular names among educated young Haitian men born in 1981 to 1993” – and a list of Haitian “Country names" for males – “The most popular boys' names among rural Haitian children and teens born in 1995 to 2013”.

Excerpt #2
Here's an excerpt from another page on that same website. Although the name "Wideline" isn't included on that page, I'm including this excerpt because I found the information regarding names to be quite interesting and I found the information to be pertinent to the subject of this post on the name "Wideline" (particularly the sentences that I highlighted in this excerpt).

Haitian Female Names with Standardized Spelling.
“This is the same data as the other table* of Haitian female names, but I’ve standardized the spelling to get a more accurate idea of the real popularity of each name. Haitian spelling is flexible, especially where vowels and the letter R are concerned. For example, Guerline can also be spelled Guilene, Guirlene, Guilaine, Guirlaine, Guerlaine, Guerlyne, Guylene, Guilene, Gurlaine, Gurlene, Gyrlaine, or Gulene… and that’s not counting the misspellings.

This flexibility comes from the meeting of French orthography with Haitian Kreyol pronunciation. French spelling starts off flexible, with multiple ways to spell the same sounds and a plethora of silent letters. Then it meets Kreyol pronunciation, and certain distinctions are lost, adding to the number of homophonic spellings Kreyol speakers can use. Fashion comes into play with the liberal use of Y to replace just about any other vowel–this is happening throughout the Francophone world, and purists are having kittens over it. Haitians have the added choice of using the original French spelling or respelling the name to make it match the Haitian pronunciation, which is when R’s start disappearing from words or popping up in new places.

Name Number of Women Percentage of total (21, 935)
1-10 of 1,449 entired
GUERLINE -198-1.16%
NADEGE- 157-0.92%
CARLINE -128-0.75%
MIRLENE -124-0.73%
MICHELINE -119-0.70%
NATACHA -108-0.63%

Note that this applies only to “French” spelling. Haitian Kreyol now has a standard orthography** that’s fairly phonetic, so people who use Kreyol spellings have less latitude in respelling their names. However, the orthography has been around for only a few decades, and what came before was heavily French-influenced, so most of the people on this list were born before they had the option of spelling their name the Kreyol way.

More than that, there’s a deep divide between French/urban/cultured/educated/elite and Kreyol/rural/coarse/ignorant/peasant. Until recently, anyone who had a pretense to any kind of social status tried to be as French as possible, even if they were one of the many Haitians who didn’t speak French. I’ve seen signs of a Kreyol pride movement, but I have no idea how many inroads it’s made. At the moment, it’s safe to say that French spellings, even faux-French spellings, are more prestigious than Kreyol spellings.

Take these standardized spellings with a grain of salt. Not only am I not done cleaning the data, but I’m still wrapping my head around French spelling, Kreyol pronunciation, and how they collide. For example, I make the assumption that -ene and -ine are the same sound, though this is highly questionable; right now I’m relieved just to be able to group similar names together. The original spellings are in the other table* if you want to check them for yourself.

Last updated 6/30/2016. Number of women: 21,935."
*Here's a link to the other name table that is mentioned in this excerpt:

**Here's a definition for the word "orthography": "the art of writing words with the proper letters, according to accepted usage; correct spelling"

Notice how many female names end with "ine" or "line". Few if any of these names are given in the United States. Furthermore, a number of other female names (and some male names) that are found on Haitian name pages are seldom if ever given in the United States. Some of those names will be featured in upcoming pancocojams posts in this series.

Here's a news article that includes the Haitian name "Wideline":
From "One in a million: the girl who symbolises the orphan crisis facing Haiti" By Guy Adams in Port-au-Prince Tuesday 19 January 2010
"Her name is Wideline Fils Amie. She is nine years old. Both her parents are dead, and her only possession is the red tartan dress on her back. For the past week, she's been living and sleeping in the indescribably filthy back-yard of the Foyer de Sion orphanage in Pétionville. When you ask how she is feeling, Wideline whispers two words, through her broken teeth: "hungry" and "scared".”...
“Fils” means “son of“ in French. I wonder if "Fils" if its a common Haitian custom for last names to consist of the word "fils" plus a personal name.

Here's a link to another story about the 2010 Haitian earthquake that includes a photograph of another girl whose name is given as "Wideline":

I haven't found any follow up information about either of these girls named "Wideline" or about the plight of the Foyer de Sion orphanage in Pétionville which was featured in that first article.

Here's some information about the "ine" and "line" suffix in Haitian names. I've highlighted two sentences that I think may be relevant to the name "Wideline".

"French has a multitude of name endings. Claude can become Claudette can become Claudine; when the winds of fashion change and the English suffix -elle becomes the rage, Claudelle may become one of the hot new names. Name endings can be stacked: Claudeline, Claudelette. Although each ending has a meaning, the meanings are no longer significant. Parents don’t care that Claudette means “little Claude,” while Claudine means “like or of Claude”; the important consideration is how the ending sounds.

Haitian names use all the classic French endings, plus endings derived from several other languages.



-line, -lyne



-lene, -laine

-e is the classic French feminine ending. It turns the masculine Guerlin to the feminine Guerline, the masculine Claud to the feminine Claude, and the masculin Jean to the feminine Jeanne. It’s generally used only on French male names. The Haitian coinage Kervens can’t be changed to a girl’s name by spelling it “Kervense,” and the popular boy’s name Jeff doesn’t have a female derivative Jeffe."

Haitians are cavalier about -e. They use it abundantly, but it’s hit and miss whether it’s applied in the French way–a Berlin can be female, and a Berline can be male. I’m not sure why. The difference in pronunciation in mainstream French can be subtle, so my going theory is that the difference is lost in the translation to Kreyol.”...
This information may be pertinent if the name "Wideline" is a female form of the male name "Wide". However, as mentioned in the next section below "Wideline" may be a female form of the male name "Wendelin" (and that name is a form of the name "Wide" anyway).

I haven't found any etymological information for the name "Wideline" on names pages or elsewhere online.

My guess is that the Haitian female name "Wideline" is an adaptation of the male name "Wendelin". Here is some information about that name, its source name, and related names:
"Given Name WENDELIN
GENDER: Masculine
USAGE: German, Dutch, Ancient Germanic
PRONOUNCED: VEN-de-leen (German)
Meaning & History
Old diminutive of Germanic names beginning with the element Wandal (see WENDEL). Saint Wendelin was a 6th-century hermit of Trier in Germany.

VARIANT: Wandalin (Ancient Germanic)

OTHER LANGUAGES: Vendelín (Czech), Vendelín (Slovak)"

Given Name WENDEL

"GENDER: Masculine
USAGE: German, Dutch
Meaning & History
Old short form of Germanic names beginning with the element Wandal meaning "a Vandal". The Vandals were a Germanic tribe who invaded Spain and North Africa in the 5th century. The tribal name was later applied to other groups such as the Wends, a Slavic people living between the Elbe and the Oder."

Given Name WIDE
GENDER: Masculine
USAGE: Frisian*
Meaning & History
Frisian form of WIDO
OTHER LANGUAGES: Wido (Ancient Germanic), Vid (Croatian), Vít (Czech), Guy (English), Guy (French), Guido, Veit (German), Vid, Vida (Hungarian), Guido (Italian), Gvidas (Lithuanian), Wit (Polish), Vít (Slovak), Vid (Slovene)

OTHER LANGUAGES: Wandal, Wandalin, Wendelin (Ancient Germanic), Vendelín (Czech), Vendelín (Slovak)"
"Frisian names are used in Friesland in the northern Netherlands and in East and North Frisia in northwestern Germany"

Here's a page that I found online:
From Wideline Spelling And The Sound Of Letter Pronunciations
"Name Wideline syllable is: wi-de-li-ne (we separated the syllables with dashes)."
I didn't find that page to be very helpful. I still don't know how Haitians pronounce the name "Wideline".

My guess (based on African American pronunciation customs) is that the syllables "Wi" and "de" are pronounced "Why dah".

But how is the "ine" or "line" ending pronounced?

Is the "line" at the end of the name "Wideline" pronounced the same as the English name "Lynn" and the English words "tin" and "sin"?

Or does the "line" ending in "Wideline" rhyme with the English words "mine" and "fine"?

Or does "ine" in the name "Wideline" sound like the "ine" ending in the name "Francine" and the English words "lean" and "mean"?

If you know how "Wideline" is pronounced in Haiti, please share that information. Thanks!

WIDELINE is ranked as the 61981st most popular given name in the United States with an estimated population of 51.
This name is in the 78th percentile, this means that nearly 22% of all the first names are more popular.
There are 0.02 people named WIDELINE for every 100,000 Americans.
Based on the analysis of 100 years worth of data from the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Baby Names database, the estimated population of people named WIDELINE is 0
According to our algorithm there are 20 last names associated with the first name WIDELINE."

The race and Hispanic origin distribution of the people with the name WIDELINE is 30.9% White, 3.6% Hispanic origin, 56.7% Black, 1.0% Asian or Pacific Islander, 7.3% Two or More Races, and 0.5% American Indian or Alaskan Native. These figures should be considered only as a rough estimate. The purpose of this graph is to compare the name's specific race and Hispanic origin distribution to the distribution in the general population of the US.

...On this basis, the people with the name WIDELINE have a higher likelyhood of being Black and a lower likelyhood of being White."

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1 comment:

  1. Hi! Hope you don't mind my creeping on your blog--it's bad manners to pop up when you're mentioned in someone else's blog, but so few people are talking about Haitian names, and you have such interesting ideas...

    Wideline is pronounced as though it were French: "wid-LEEN." You can hear it at the beginning of this video:

    To be derived from Wandalin, the Wand- root would have to lose the medial N, which usually doesn't happen in Haitian names. Medial N is one of the sounds that translates well into Kreyol and Haitian French, so it tends to be pretty solid. It's more likely that the Wid- root comes from Widmar or some other Germanic/Slavic import. However, I haven't had any luck tracing which name Wid- came from, since there aren't any common Wid- names for either sex that are established names in other countries.

    It's also possible that another Caribbean country had a boom in Wid- names, and Haiti picked up the derivatives, but not the original name. Augh! Frustrating! Is there an expert on Cuban names in the house?

    Fils-Aime is a common last name that appears to have originated in Haiti. According to, in standard French it's a nickname for a favorite son. How did it become a last name? Your guess is as good as mine. The ways freed slaves got last names are underresearched, but the upshot was a ton of new surnames.

    Some surnames that might be of interest to you: Lundy, Mardy, Mercredi, Jeudy, Vendredy, Samedy, Dimanche. There's not much evidence of day names in Haitian personal names, but they used the whole set, translated, as surnames.