How should one view the names Christian and Christiana, the two central characters of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress: as allegorical (i.e. "followers of Christianity", Christiana being a feminine version of Christian), or as proper names (like John, or Robert, etc.)?

Older translations of The Pilgrim's Progress into other languages tend to favor the first, while newer ones, the latter.

I am asking the question because I need to translate those names, and in my native language they are different.

As a side note, not all characters in the novel are named allegorically. For instance, Christian's boys are named Matthew, Joseph, Samuel, and James. Also, their hosts in the second part are named Gaius and Mnason.

1 Answer 1


No, it's not just a proper name.

Christiana is, according to several sites I've looked at (e.g. here), simply the Latin form of "Christian." Even in English (ignoring the Latin meaning), as you noted this can simply be a "feminized" version of the word "Christian."

Also note: if you drop the letter "a" from the end, this is simply "Christian." In order to argue that this was "just" a proper name in the same sense that "John" or "Joe" was, you'd have to argue that this linguistic relationship was purely a coincidence (which strikes me as wildly implausible, both from a linguistic perspective and from the perspective of the text).

The "best" way to translate this would, I think, be if you could simply "feminize" the word "Christian" somehow. (Many languages have at least some way of doing that).

Also, I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to say that Matthew, Joseph, Samuel, and James aren't allegorical (or, at least, symbolic). I can't defend a specific allegorical "meaning" for these names offhand, but I think it's very significant that all of these are Biblical names - for example, Samuel was a priest, prophet, judge in Israel. Joseph was the name of both a Biblical patriarch and the father of Jesus. Matthew wrote one of the Gospels, and James was also a prominent leader of the early church and Biblical author.

  • Christian has never been a common masculine name in Britain - in fact, it was used as a woman's name in Bunyan's time - so I would say that it definitely has a symbolic significance in the book. Jan 23 at 19:20

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