The ritual of baptism or christening is common throughout Christian societies, and similar rituals are common in other societies.1
A typical baptistening (I just made that up—easier to write than baptism/christening) requires at least two essential roles: someone to do the actual baptistening (usually some type of member of the clergy), and someone to be baptistened (often an infant). In the case of infants, there’s a third role as well, namely the parents of the infant being baptistened.
There are well-established single-word names for the first of these roles that go with both terms for the ritual: someone who baptises you is a baptist, and someone who christens you is a (more transparently formed) christener.
But what do you call the second role? The one who gets his head dunked under the water (if that happens to be the ritual of choice) and frequently starts bawling his eyes out?
The two obvious choices would be baptisee and christenee, but those both sound exceedingly clunky and neologism-like. A simple Google search of the terms yields very few hits (though at least some of them appear to be real, actual uses), whereas the same search for ‘baptist’ or ‘christener’ yields millions of hits.
Not many dictionaries include these words either: Oxford Dictionaries Online includes neither, nor does Merriam-Webster, Collins, or even The Free Dictionary. The OED doesn’t have christenee, though it does have baptizee—but that’s an old entry that hasn’t been updated since 1885, and there’s only one single citation.
In sum, I think it’s fair to say that baptisee is a very rare word, and christenee is downright nonexistent.
I currently find myself needing a word for this in a description of a letter from the 1830s:
The letter gives an account of a christening ball in the house, which was held despite the [baptisee], the governor’s infant son Alphonse, being severely ill.
Of course, a rewrite is possible (“the child being christened” could work), but that ends up being quite inelegant as well. A proper word for the wee bugger would be preferable. (By ‘proper’, I mean something that reasonably unambiguously refers to this specifically, is in at least somewhat common use, and is not limited to highly technical use within church jargon but would be understood by a casual reader.)
Are there any words for a person being baptistened that are actually used by anyone?
- There are subtle differences between what constitutes a baptism and what constitutes a christening, but for the purposes of this question, let’s consider them equivalent, since the difference doesn’t really matter in the context I am talking about it. We have a question about the difference between the two that you can read if you’re interested.