From Patient Griselda to Auntie Grizelda

On Monday afternoon, my husband randomly acquired free tickets to a Monkees concert. So that’s what we did Monday night. :)

I’m not a huge Monkees fan, but I did grow up watching Monkees reruns on MTV, so I happen to know a lot of their songs.

And one of the songs they played, called “Your Auntie Grizelda,” reminded of an interesting fact.

Did you know that the name Griselda (the original spelling of Grizelda) is sometimes used as a synonym for patience? Specifically, the name represents “the ideal of a patient, uncomplaining wife.” The connection comes from medieval folklore:

The allusion is to the heroine called Griselda (or Patient Griselda) who features in the final tale of the Decameron (1351-53) by the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75) and also in “The Clerk’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales (c. 1387) by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343-1400). Griselda is depicted as the wife of a rich nobleman, who tests her faithfulness to him by pretending that he has killed their children and is preparing to marry another woman: she patiently remains true to her vows and is ultimately rewarded when her husband admits his deception. If he thinks he has married a Griselda who will put up with his infidelities, he will soon discover that he is sorely mistaken.

(Here’s the English translation of the story of Griselda as it appears in the Decameron, if you’d like to read it.)

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt twisted the reference a bit by calling her periodic bouts of depression her “Griselda mood,” in honor of the long-suffering Griselda.

Where does the name Griselda come from? The Italian version is thought to be based on a Germanic name made up of the elements gris, “grey,” and hild, “battle.”

What are your thoughts on the name Griselda?


  • Manser, Martin H. The Facts on File Dictionary of Allusions. New York: Facts on File, 2008.
  • Marton, Kati. Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History. New York: Random House, 2010.

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