Catharine - Catherine - Katharine - Katherine

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Catharine, Catherine, Katharine and Katherine are simply different spellings of the same name, which was originally recorded in Greek, a language in which the '-k-' sound is represented by Κ (lower case κ). (Note that the K- version is felt to be best spelled with two '-a-'s in the middle, the C- version with an '-a-' and an '-e-'.) The first C/Katharine - St Katharine of Alexandria - was a woman said to have been martyred in Alexandria, in Egypt, in 307; she is said to have miraculously survived an attempt to impose on her the horrible execution of being broken on a wheel, only to be beheaded instead. The emblem associated with her in art is such a wheel, and she gave her name to a firework, the catherine wheel (always spelled thus). It is also called a pinwheel. She is probably fictional: there is no evidence of her existence.

There have been several other saints called Katharine, and hagiographies normally spell it that way. The most notable is the mystic, Katharine of Siena (1347-1380).

There are many forms of the name - Cathryn, Kathryn, Kay; Caitlin, Cathleen, Kathleen (Irish, where Caitlin is pronounced 'cat-LEEN', IPA: /kæt ˈliːn/, although English speakers most usually realize it as KATE-lin', IPA: /ˈkeɪt lɪn/); various spellings of Catriona in Scots and Irish Gaelic; Katarina, Karen (in Germanic languages), and in Romance languages Catherine (French where it is pronounced 'cat-e-reen'), Catarina (Italian) and Catalina (Spanish); (E)katerina, Katyusha and Katya in Slavonic - to name a few. There are many shortenings, such as Cathy, Kate, Katie and Kitty.


There is a famous monastery in Sinai dedicated to Saint Katherine, and two Oxbridge colleges, Saint Catharine's College in Cambridge, and a St Catherine's College in Oxford. Kat Astley or Ashley (née Champernowne; d. 1565) was a favourite formative influence on Elizabeth I, whom she served as governess, and, after her accession to the throne, as chief gentlewoman of the privy chamber (ODNB).
Etymological note: Katarina (the earliest form) represents in the Roman alphabet Greek Αἰκατερίνα or Αἰκατερίνη (Aikaterina, Aikaterinē), whose origin is unknown. The '-t-' was changed to '-th-' in the belief, or propaganda, the name was derived from καθαρός‚ ('katharos'), 'pure'. In English, this remains strong; the form in other languages, which don't use the '-th-' sound, often reverts to '-t-' - or even does away with it altogether.
A street in Barton on Humber, Catherine Street, has the local pronunciation 'CATh-er-EYEn Street', IPA: /ˌkæθ ər ˈaɪn/, street. The name is usually pronounced, as seems natural to native speakers of English, with the stress on the first syllable and no perceptible vowel in the 'central syllable': 'CATH-rin', /ˈkæθ rɪn/.