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Baby name advice from Jennifer Moss, founder of BabyNames.com. Have a question for Jennifer? E-mail it to question@babynames.com

What does Malthace mean?

Hi Jennifer!

There’s a character in a book I read in school as a kid (The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare) named Malthace, which I’ve always thought was a very interesting name. The book is set in biblical times, specifically during Jesus’ life, and the character is a young Jewish girl. The name is only mentioned once at the beginning of the book, I think, and throughout the rest of the story she goes by nicknames—Thacia or Thace. Anyway, as someone who’s been fascinated by names for a long time, it caught my attention as a kid and I’ve never bb forgotten it, but I can’t seem to find any information on it even though I don’t have the impression the author would create names for such a story. Any ideas? I’d love to know what it means.

Thanks for your help!
Emily

Dear Emily,
You are correct in that Malthace is a historical being, the wife of Herod the Great the Roman-appointed king of Judea (37–4 BCE) and the mother of Archelaus and Antipas. I have not seen the name used anywhere else, with exception of the novel The Bronze Bow, which you mentioned.

We are not quite sure what the name means, although if you break down its elements, it could be a combination of the elements Mal (meaning bad or unfortunate) and Thace, which is probably was variation of the name Thessaly (ancient region of Greece), meaning a person from the region. So the closest we could render would be “Bad person from Thessaly.”

Probably not what you’d like to hear, sorry!

Sincerely,
Jennifer