In Christian usage, the title of saint refers to a holy person. The title was created shortly after the death of Christ when the Latin word sanctus meaning "sacred, holy" was applied to the Apostles, Evangelists and other early Christian martyrs and confessors. Since the 12th century the papacy has claimed the exclusive right of bestowing the title.

These days the process of declaring a person to be a saint can be lengthy. One may be considered for sainthood no sooner than five years after death. If research proves the candidate lived a virtuous life then the title of venerable is bestowed. After evidence of at least one miracle has been accepted then the person is beatified and given the title of blessed. Finally, a posthumous miracle ensures canonization and the title of saint.

The church strongly encouraged the giving of saintly names to children, and this encouragement continues in Catholic countries. Some of today's most common saintly names come from the New Testament, such as John, Matthew, Mary, Peter, Luke, Stephen, Paul and Mark. Other saints do not appear in the New Testament but play roles in later history and legends, for example saints Katherine, Patrick, Anthony, Barbara and George.

See also European names.

On this site

List of Saints

See also