In the book The Da Vinci Code, protagonist Robert Langdon explains that the Mona Lisa's name is an anagram of the hieroglyphic names for the Egyptian gods Amon and Isis. Needless to say, that's not right. Although theories still vary on the subject of the painting, most people believe the account in Italian painter Giorgio Vasari's 1550 biography of da Vinci, which identifies her as Lisa di Antonio Maria, the wife of Florentine merchant Francesco Giocondo. Mona in Italian is a formal honorific for women that originated as a shortening of madonna, itself from ma donna, "my lady" (this is similar to how madam - "my dame" - got shortened to ma'am in English). The Italian name for the portrait, however, is La Gioconda, after the feminine version of her husband's surname, and this gets transcribed in French as La Joconde. Both of those names come from the Latin adjective iucundus, meaning "pleasant", which I find humorous because it also describes her smile.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.