Interpretation of the Name Cecilia

William Caxton, Golden Legend, The Life of Saint Cecilia (1483)

Here foloweth of Saint Cecilia, virgin
and martyr & first of her name.

Cecilia is as much to say as the lily of heaven, or a way to blind men. Or she is said "of celo" and "lya" or else "Cecilia" as "lacking blindness."

Or she is said "of celo" (that is, heaven) and "leos" (that is, people).

She was an heavenly lily by cleanness of virginity, a way to blind men by information of example, heaven by devout contemplation, "lya" by busy operation, lacking blindness by shining of wisdom, and heaven of the people.

For the people beheld in her as in following the spiritual heaven, the sun, the moon and the stars; that is to say, shining of wisdom, magnanimity of faith, and diversity of virtues.

Or she is said a lily for she had the whiteness of cleanness, a good conscience, and odor of good fame.

Or she is said heaven, for Isidore [of Seville, author of a book of "etymologies"] saith that the philosophers say that heaven is moveable, round, and burning.

In like wise was she moving by busy operation, round by perseverance, and burning, by fiery charity.

[The Life of Saint Cecilia follows.]

Modernized from Caxton's Golden Legende, ed. 1483, printed in Originals and Analogues, Part II, Chaucer Society, 1875 [Widener 11483.7].