fem. proper name, from French Catherine, from Medieval Latin Katerina, from Latin Ecaterina, from Greek Aikaterine. The -h- was introduced 16c., probably a folk etymology from Greek katharos "pure" (see catharsis). The initial Greek vowel is preserved in Russian form Ekaterina.
As the name of a type of pear, attested from 1640s. Catherine wheel (early 13c.) originally was the spiked wheel on which St. Catherine of Alexandria (martyred 307), legendary virgin from the time of Maximinus, was tortured and thus became the patron saint of spinners. Her name day is Nov. 25; a popular saint in the Middle Ages, which accounts for the enduring popularity of the given name. It was applied from 1760 to a kind of fireworks shooting from a revolving spiral tube.
in reference to a kind of loose, full gown worn by women, 1878, from Old Mother Hubbard, nursery rhyme, which was printed 1805, written by Sarah Catherine Martin (1768-1826) but based on earlier material of unknown origin. The name is attested from 1591.
by 1938 in reference to Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin (1739-1791), favorite of Catherine II of Russia, especially in reference to the sham villages supposedly erected under his orders for the empress' tour of Crimea (1787) to create an impression of prosperity and progress. The silent film "Battleship Potemkin" dates from 1925, depicting (with elaboration) events of 1905 and the mutiny aboard a Russian battleship named for the Tsarist minister.