Flowers 1
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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 AntheiaHera 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.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My name is Anthea and I love it! I’m British and have only met 2 or 3 other Antheas in my whole life – I like having an unusual name but also knowing there are other Antheas out there somewhere too. Weirdly, I got 2 prominent flower tattoos before I knew it’s meaning. It never really gets shortened to anything, although some family members and close friends sometimes call me Anth informally – which has an affectionate sweetness about it. People frequently call me Andrea, sometimes Athena, even when they’ve known me for a while or when replying to an email with my name right there on the screen! I’ve got so used to it over the years (I’m in my mid-30s now) that I joke that I’ll answer to anything starting and ending with an A! I’ve considered trying to become known as Thea, but it doesn’t feel right for me – I like having 3 syllables and beginning with A. People who are not native English speakers sometimes have difficulty pronouncing my name – either with the ‘th’ or knowing where to put the emphasis. But overall it’s a lovely name and I wouldn’t change it 🙂

  2. I love my name very much. Whenever I pronounce the name you just imagine a lady full of class and confidence, a real flower. A woman that has dignity and is God-fearing. I also love the poem by Robert Herrick ” To Anthea who may command him anything”. He sound like he was really in love with her.

  3. My name is Anthea, and I think it’s very unusual! So many people call me Andrea when they first meet me, and I always wonder what is so difficult about remembering “Anthea”?! My nicknames are Ant, Anth, and Anthy. I’m in my mid-thirties, by the way, so I don’t think it’s THAT old-fashioned!

  4. Anthea is very sweet. I love that she can be shortened to Anne, Annie or Thea. Nice meaning too.

  5. Anthea is cool – one I haven’t heard of! It’s soft and lilting yet it has a subtle strength to it, which is exactly what appeals to me in a girl’s name. It reminds me of Althea, yes, and “anthem,” to an extent, but Anthea is a fun choice with cute nicknames – Ana, Annie, Thea, heck, even Teddy might be passable!

    I wanted to share a “new” name I’ve recently discovered with the App Mtn clan – Alverta. It’s an Alberta relative with a bit of an extra jaunt, right? I think it’s neat!

    Oh, and Abby, I wanted to tell you that I had a dream about a future child a week or so ago and her name was Caroline Elizabeth Olive – I called her Cleo, which reminds me of your Clio, of course. And, people, my newest name crush – I’m seriously loving on this name! – is Eliza Wren. Swoon!

    1. I do like Teddy from Anthea! At least when she’s bitsy. Might not wear so well at 12.

      Alverta … interesting. Both current and clunky at once.

      Caroline Elizabeth Olive called Cleo – how cool! And Eliza Wren is great.

      1. Hm. I think Teddy could work on a grown woman, but maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy! I would want to use Anthea in full at least some of the time – it’s too good to pass up!

        As for Alverta, this was the name of my uncle’s Grandma H., who passed away right after Christmas at 102 years old. Clunky? Yes. But I think it’s oddly chic, too.

        Along with my latest obsession with Wren as a middle name – both for my nickname, Birdie, and architect Christopher Wren – I’ve become rather taken with March. It’s spunky for a boy or girl, I think, and it conveys a unique energy…