Mere Mortals and Myths
With the current popularity of old-fashioned names, don't be surprised if you see more of the names of Greek and Roman goddesses used as given names. One in particular to watch for is Selene, thanks to the continuing popularity of the slain Tejano singing star Selena. Parents who like singer Celine Dion may also find favor with this name, as Celine is a spelling variation of Selene.
If you like the name Corinna but feel it's too old-fashioned, try any of its variations, such as Corinne or Corrina, or give it the traditional Greek spelling by exchanging the "C" for a "K."
The names of Greek and Roman leaders, as well as other esteemed individuals, both real and not, also made a strong contribution to the name pool:
- Anthony: If you've ever heard the tales of Cleopatra, or saw the classic movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, you'll recognize this name as belonging to one of her Roman lovers – the other being Julius Caesar. Spelled Antony, this was a Roman clan name meaning "beyond price" or "invaluable." Antonio and Antoine are variants.
- Alexander: Best known for belonging to Alexander the Great; it comes from the Greek alexein, "to defend," and andros, "men," meaning, literally, "defender of men." A very popular name the world over and in many different forms, including Sender, Alex, Aleck, Alexis, Sandy, Alexandre (French), Alessandro (Italian), and Alejandro (Spanish).
- Corinna: This was the name of a Greek poetess who was awarded a wreath of victory at Thebes for her valor.
- Helen: Greek myth has it that the beautiful Helen of Troy, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, started the Trojan War when she was captured and taken to Troy by Paris, the son of the King of Troy. The name comes from the Greek Helene, possibly related to helios, meaning "sun."
- Jason: In Greek legend, Jason was a prince who led the Argonauts in their persuit of the Golden Fleece. The name comes from the Greek and Latin name Iason, meaning "healer."
- Thais: She was the Greek courtesan who accompanied Alexander the Great on his Asiatic campaign in the fourth century B.C.E. It is pronounced they-us or tey-us. This pretty name, like Thalia, is a good candidate for a girls' name that's a little out of the ordinary.
Chloe, Melissa, Amanda, Miranda, Sophia, and Stephanie are all names from this category that are in broad enough use to land them on the 1998 top 100 most popular names list. They're good choices if you're looking for a classically inspired name that is not too uncommon.
If you're looking for a more uncommon name from this category, try Thalia, Theresa, Antonia, Phoebe, or Bella. All are popular but not overused, although Phoebe might rise in popularity faster than the others due to the character of the same name on Friends.
Both the Greeks and Romans were also fond of descriptive names with spiritual or intellectual meanings. In fact, some of the most beautiful names in the name pool today come from this classically popular name fashion.
- Adora: This very feminine name, which means "one who is adored," comes from the Latin adorare ("to worship").
- Althea: It comes from the Greek althainein, with means "to heal."
- Amanda: This lovely name means exactly that. It's based on the Latin amor ("to love").
- Amara: Another "lovely" name, this time in a Greek version and meaning "forever lovely."
- Anthea: This name comes from the Greek anthemion ("a flower") and means "flowerlike."
- Antonia: This is the feminine form of Anthony.
- Ardelle: It comes from the Latin word ardere ("to burn") and, indeed, means "burning with enthusiasm."
- Barbara: From the Latin barbarus, meaning "foreign," "strange," or "ignorant." In the ancient world, anything that was non-Greek, non-Roman, or non-Christian was called barbarous.
- Bella: From the Latin bellus ("beautiful"). Belle is a very popular middle name these days, and Bella is widely used in other name forms like Arabelle, Belinda (Belle + Linda), and Isabella.
- Callista: The Greek word kallos ("beautiful") is the basis for this lovely name, currently in the spotlight thanks to actress Callista Flockhart. You can also spell it Kallista, Calista, or Kalista.
- Chloe: From the Greek khloe, meaning "blooming" or "verdant."
- Dorothy: It's from the Greek words doron, "gift," and theos, "God," meaning, literally, "gift from God."
- Melissa: From the Greek word for "bee."
- Miranda: It's from the Latin miraculum, meaning" miracle" or "miraculous."
- Phoebe: In Greek, phoibos means "bright." It's another name from Greek mythology for Artemis, the goddess of the moon.
- Sophia: The Greek word for "wise" or "wisdom" is sophos.
- Stephanie: The feminine form of Stephan, which is derived from the Greek stephanos, meaning a "crown" or "garland."
- Thalia: It comes from the Greek word thalein, meaning to "flourish" or "bloom." In Greek mythology, Thalia was also the muse of comedy and pastoral poetry.
- Theresa: In Greek, therizein means "to reap" or "gather in."
Three classically inspired names – Christopher, Nicholas, and Andrew – are currently very popular, with Nicholas and Christopher running the risk of becoming overused due to their strong popularity – they ranked fourth and sixth, respectively, on the 1998 most popular names list. Use any of these names with the knowledge that your son probably will be one of several in his class with the same moniker.
- Ambrose: This very old-fashioned name comes from combining the Greek prefix a- ("not") with the word brotos ("mortal") and means "immortal" or "deathless." In mythology, ambrosia was the food of the gods and immortals.
- Andrew: Andros means "masculine" or "manly" in Greek.
- Christopher: From the combination of the Greek words Christos (Christ) and pherein ("to bear"), meaning, literally "bearing Christ."
- Eugene: In Greek, eugenes means "well-born."
- Nicholas: Meaning, literally, "victory (nike) over the people (laos)."
- Paul: Paulus means "small" in Latin. This was a Roman tribal name.
- Peter: Petros means "rock" or "stone" in Greek.
- Theodore: From the Greek theos ("god") and doron ("gift"), meaning "gift from God."
More on: Choosing a Name
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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