Where did the baby name Arcilia come from?

The baby name Arcilia popped up in the U.S. baby name data several times during the 1940s and ’50s, starting in 1942:

  • 1944: unlisted
  • 1943: unlisted
  • 1942: 7 baby girls named Arcilia [debut]
    • 5 born in Texas specifically
  • 1941: unlisted
  • 1940: unlisted

I think this 1942 debut may be attributable to a 6-year-old girl named Arcilia Mora from El Paso, Texas.

In January of 1942, the El Paso Herald-Post ran a photo of Arcilia, along with an article about how she’d been struck with polio in August of 1941. (“Little Arcilia, with her curly hair and her bright eyes and her smile, was a pathetic and stilled figure.”)

Following her diagnosis, she was put in an iron lung for a month and spoon-fed (she could swallow, but not chew). After that, she was put in a full-body cast and had daily physiotherapy treatments. By early 1942, she was in leg casts, getting weekly physiotherapy, and was able to walk (“with a sailor’s rolling gait on thin “pipestem” legs”) for an hour a day.

It’s plausible that Arcilia’s photo and story were also published in other Texas papers that year, as the objective of the article was to highlight the support she’d received from the Texas Crippled Children’s Bureau.

Where did Arcilia’s name come from? It’s a variant of the name Araceli, from “Virgen de Araceli,” a title for the Virgin Mary used in Lucena, Spain. Araceli comes from the Latin words ara, meaning “altar,” and coeli, meaning “sky.”

What are your thoughts on the name Arcilia?

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