Looking for a floral name that’s more subtle than Lily, rarer than Rose?
Thanks to Fran for suggesting one option: the botanical Anthea.
Flora is clearly all about the blooms, what with the Roman goddess and the Latin root. Anthea is far less well known, but her story is similar.
The Greek anthos means blossom or flower. As for a goddess link, Hera, Queen of the Greek pantheon, answered to Hera Antheia – Hera of the Flowers.
There’s a second mythological connection. The Kharites, or Three Graces, were minor deities charged with life’s pleasures. Their names vary, and occasionally their number is greater than three. In at least some uses, Antheia appears as a goddess in her own right.
Seventeenth century English poet Robert Herrick is best known for the opening line to another poem: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” He also dedicated poems to women named Corinna and Anthea. His “To Anthea, who may command him Anything” puts a poetic, dramatic spin on the name.
Anthea has never charted in the US Top 1000, and to an American ear, she remains a decidedly British-sounding appellation. Other uses that might ring a bell include:
- Agatha Christie used the name for one of the three sisters in her 1971 Miss Marple novel Nemesis. The sisters are Lavinia and Clothilde and there’s also a niece called Verity;
- David Bowie played The Man Who Fell to Earth in a 1976 adaptation of an earlier sci fi novel about an alien from the planet Anthea;
- Anthea Turner hosted a show called The Perfect Housewife on BBC Three from 2006 through 2007. As host, she visited chaotically-kept homes and ensured the lady (or man) of the house acquired the skills to keep things shipshape. Turner is more television presenter than English Martha Stewart. Other gigs have included everything from hosting a children’s show to appearing on Celebrity Big Brother;
- In the UK, Channel 4’s successful teen drama Skins replaces their entire cast when the kids graduate – a foreign concept in the land of Gossip Girl and 90210 – but during the first two seasons, one of the main characters had a mum who answered to Anthea.
- Beginning in 1900, Edith Nesbit created a series of stories, which grew into a novel and then a trilogy, titled Five Children and It. The “It” is a bad news fairy called Psammead. The five children are siblings named Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and baby brother Hilary. Anthea answers to the nickname Panther.
At least in the US, none of these associations feel so strong as to overwhelm the name. Anthea feels like a wearable rarity. Her pronunciation is straightforward, and there are nicknames aplenty: Annie, Thea, Tea.
Anthea also has some weight to her. Like Minerva or Renata, she’s not a simple, pretty name. It makes her sound smart, but might also make her feel less fashionable than the current group of girls called Olivia, Mia, and Lily. Then again, not so long ago, Sophia and Isabella seemed out of step, too.