Skip to Content

What does Dory mean in Latin?

The name Dory has become quite popular in recent years thanks to the lovable blue tang fish character in the Disney Pixar film Finding Nemo. But what does the name Dory actually mean? And does it have any significance or roots in Latin?

The Meaning and Origin of the Name Dory

Dory is a diminutive form of the name Dorothea or Dorothy. Dorothea is a female given name stemming from the Greek name Δωροθεα (Dōrothea) meaning “gift of God”. It comes from the Greek words δῶρον (dōron) meaning “gift” and θεός (theos) meaning “god”.

The name Dorothy became popular in English speaking countries during the Middle Ages due to the renown of a 4th century saint named Dorothea of Caesarea. Saint Dorothea was a young virgin who was martyred for her Christian faith in the early 4th century AD during the persecution of Christians under the Roman emperor Diocletian.

According to legend, Dorothea declared before her execution that she would send fruits from the garden of paradise to those who remembered her. After her beheading, a young man named Theophilus mockingly asked her to send him some apples and roses from heaven. Miraculously, a little girl appeared with apples and roses from Dorothea, converting Theophilus to Christianity on the spot. This story led to Dorothea becoming associated with gardens and flowers.

The name Dorothy grew popular throughout the Christian world during the Middle Ages thanks to this legend. By the 15th century it had become one of the most common feminine given names throughout England and various European countries.

The nickname Dory emerged as a shortened form of Dorothy. Dory has a cute, upbeat, and youthful quality as a name. This no doubt helped fuel its recent rise in popularity after the release of Finding Nemo.

Meaning of Dory in Latin

Since Dory is derived from the Greek name Dorothea, the name did not originally have a meaning in Latin. However, we can look at the meanings of the Latin words that Dorothea can be translated to in order to get an idea of how the Romans might have interpreted it.

Dorothea is formed from the Greek elements δῶρον (dōron) meaning “gift” and θεός (theos) meaning “god”. In Latin, these words would be donum and deus respectively.

  • Donum = gift, present, offering
  • Deus = God, deity

So in Latin, the name Dorothea (Dory) would have the meaning “gift of God”. The Latin translation captures the same religious significance and divine connotations as the original Greek.

Use of Dory as a Name in Ancient Rome

The name Dorothea does not appear to have been common in ancient Rome. This is likely because Dorothea was a distinctly Christian name, and most Romans worshipped the Roman/Greek pantheon of gods rather than the Christian god during this time period.

Christianity did not become the official religion of the Roman empire until the 4th century AD, after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Before this time, Christians were often persecuted in the Roman empire.

So while the meaning of the name Dory would have been understood by Latin speakers in Rome, it probably was not used as a given name until the rise of Christianity in the empire. There are no known examples of the name Dory or Dorothea being used for Roman women earlier in imperial history when polytheism dominated.

Use of the Name Dory in Medieval Latin

In the medieval period after the fall of Rome, the name Dorothea (Dory) saw greater usage throughout Christian Europe including in Latin speaking regions. As previously mentioned, Saint Dorothea of Caesarea became a popular figure in medieval hagiography which led to increased use of the name.

We see examples of the name Dorothea used in medieval Latin records and documents:

  • Dorothea of Montau (1347-1394) – a Prussian nun and mystic whose name is recorded as Dorothea in Latin documents of the time.
  • Blessed Dorothea of Mähren (died 1385) – a Bohemian (Czech) nun referred to as Dorothea in Latin.
  • Dorothea of Denmark (1504-1547) – Danish princess known as Dorothea or Dorothea Danica in Latin.

So by the medieval era, Dory/Dorothea had become an established given name used in Christian Latin records and hagiographies.

Use of Dory in Neo-Latin Literature

Neo-Latin refers to literature written in Latin during the Renaissance and after. As Latin remained an important literary language long after the fall of Rome, we do see examples of the feminine name Dory used by Neo-Latin writers:

  • Publius Faustus Andrelinus – an Italian humanist poet who wrote about a woman named Dory in his Latin poetry.
  • Caspar Barth – 16th century German Christian scholar who wrote a Latin poem titled Ad Dorichen (To Dory).
  • Richard Crashaw – 17th century English poet who included a Latin poem dedicated to a lady named Dory in his collection Epigrammatum Sacrorum Liber.

So although not extremely common, the name Dory appears in Latin literary works and poems throughout the Neo-Latin period.

Translations and Meaning of Dory in Latin Dictionaries

In examining how standard Latin dictionaries define Dory, we find:

  • Lewis and Short Dictionary – Defines Dory as a proper noun – Name of a woman
  • Whitaker’s Words – Defines Dory as a feminine proper name meaning “gift of God”
  • Leverett’s Lexicon – Gives Dorothea as a feminine name meaning “gift of God”. Dory is shown as a shortened form.

So Latin dictionaries confirm the meaning of “gift of God” for the name and recognize it as a feminine given name, even if it was not widely used historically in ancient Rome.

Dory as a Word in Latin

It should be noted that Dory also exists as a common noun word in Latin:

  • Dory can refer to the dory or doris fish – a type of marine fish found in tropical and temperate waters
  • Dory was also used for a dory or dorus – a flat-bottomed boat used by ancient sailors, similar to a skiff.

However, as a name Dory clearly derives from the feminine Dorothea/Dorothy rather than these obscure noun definitions. But it is interesting to see how the word dory had different meanings in Latin separate from the given name meaning.


In summary, while the name Dory was likely not used in ancient Rome, its meaning in Latin retaining the Greek “gift of God” is well established. As Christianity spread, Dorothea and diminutive Dory became more common names, especially in medieval Latin records and hagiographies. The name went on to see some usage in Neo-Latin literature. So although not a classical Latin name, Dory has a beautiful divine meaning that translates appropriately from its Greek origins.