The lady-like Irene has a tailored, retro flair. But how about this version, closer to the original goddess?
Thanks to Sarah for suggesting Eirene as our Baby Name of the Day.
First things first: Eirene doesn’t sound like Irene. Depending on who you ask, she’s either eye REE nee or eh REH neh or somewhere in between. I’m partial to eye REH nee, but let’s face it – I’m just picking and choosing. What’s clear is that Eirene is slightly different from Irene, and I think the changed first letter, combined with our general unfamiliarity with Irene as a child’s name, gives this Greek goddess a window for consideration.
After all, Phoebe and Penelope and Daphne and lots of other appellations with mythological origins are in vogue at the moment, and ends-in-e for girls has been big, from Zoe to Chloe, in the twenty-first century.
There are actually two goddesses in the pantheon. The first is the Greek personification of peace. Her Roman equivalent is Pax. She’s one of The Hours, charged with all sorts of tasks. Eirene and her sisters guard gates, usher in the seasons, and generally keep order over the natural world. There’s more than one trio, actually – sisters Thallo, Carpo, and Auxo are associated with the seasons, while Eunomia, Eirene, and Dike dealt with order, peace, and justice.
My favorite image of Eirene is the one above. That tot in her arms is Demeter’s kiddo, the infant Ploutus – plenty. The harvest goddess might be the mother of abundance, but peace is his baby-sitter. Poetic, don’t you think?
There’s a second use of the name, for one of Poseidon’s daughters. The Greek island of Kalaureia was once known as Eirene, back several centuries BC. A major temple to Poseidon once stood on the island.
The name was in some use in the ancient world. Three early Christian saints, and an artist wore the name, plus a character on the BBC/HBO series Rome included a minor character called Eirene.
So if all we had to go on was the goddess name, Eirene would be a shoe-in for an obscurity that could suit daring baby namers. The trouble is, of course, that the simplified Irene was a hit in the 1910s and 1920s. As the hundred-year rule suggests, she’s starting to feel fresh again, boosted by the adventurous Irene Adler in the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Nameberry put Irene on their Headed for Harvard list, along with other brainy appellations like Beatrice and Portia.
That complication aside, Eirene has an awful lot of energy. The Slavic Irina is slightly more elegant, and Irene has a sepia-toned throwback quality that appeals. The modern Greek Irini is intriguing, too. But with three syllable names like Penelope and Eleni being considered by parents, maybe Eirene has enough oomph to step out of her younger sister’s shadow.
I spotted Erena on whimsical girls name list when I googled and I wondered why it looked familiar and I now know it’s a version of Irene. I quite like Erena!
My name is Eirene (eh Ree neh) and its been mistaken for Irene more times than I care to talk about.
I LOVE and have considered Eirene [Nickname wise: Reminds me of the gaelic Eire for Ireland, good if you have Irish roots, and I like ‘Irie’, Jamaican patois for excellent, pleasing. Irie, mon. LOL]. However, my concern is not the similarity or confusion, but that it would instead be taken as a ‘cre8tive’ spelling-You know, the add a letter or syllable trend…I also shy away from names that have so many pronunciation differences at first glance. I think on paper, Eirene is just so gorgeous and especially love it for the original Goddess association. Irene is a rockin’ name in m book, however one spells it.
Heather Elizabeth Asbury says
What a beautiful name….Still classic, but with a unique twist.
Love this name! The correct pronunciation in Greek is actually “ee-REE-nee,” therefore Eirene and Irini are actually the exact same name spelled differently (the E and I together in Greek make an “ee” sound). It was my grandmother’s name as well as 2 of my cousins (though they all go by Irene). It’s a really pretty name with a beautiful story behind it- thanks so much for featuring this! 🙂
Sarah A says
I’ve watched HBO’s series Rome twice now and while the character Eirene is minor she is very important as well as good and honorable. I fell in love with the name and the character is a positive association. I’m quite partial to the pronunciation on the show: ee REH nee. I’ll admit that if I’d never heard the name on TV I wouldn’t know how to pronounce it and would probably take a stab with “eye ree nee”. The pronunciation issues make me feel like Eirene is best relegated to the middle slot, which is too bad because it’s a beautiful name. The respelling Ereni just doesn’t satisfy.
Lady Gwyn says
I admit, that I have fallen madly for Irene, based on a book series I read once. Irene Adler (of Sherlock Holmes fame-the books, not the movies) was the heroine, who went about Paris with her husband Godfrey and her best friend, Penelope (called Nell, who is the Watson-esque narrator of the stories). Unfortunately, I can’t remember anything else about them, but they made me see the name Irene in a different light. I think I can add Eirene to the list, since I rather like the three-syllable pronounciation of the name. I prefer Eye-Reh-Neh as the pronounciation. Love this!
Eirene/Irini is pronounced ee-REE-nee in Greek. It’s my mother’s name and she was named so because it’s the Greek word for “peace” and she was born during World War II.
Nook of Names says
I say “eye REE nee.” “eh REH neh” is closer to the original Greek pronunciation, but as most names from Greek mythology have evolved established English pronunciations, there’s no reason to stick to it; even Classical scholars generally don’t!
Given how Irene is now almost universally pronounced with two syllables, using the perfectly legitimate but much rarer alternative Eirene would be a good way to ensure three syllables if that’s the version you like most.
I may be confused on the pron. but would (eye REH nee) sound like Irony? If so I could see it causing some confusion. The (eh REE neh) pron. I imagine would sound like “Eh, Renee,” Renee is a name that is very popular where I live.
C in DC says
My first thought was “Irony” too. I would probably use Irini (eye-REE-NEE) if I wanted a variant of this name.
Further complicating matters is Eileen / Eilene. The spelling similarity is to much for me to easily grasp Eirene’s pronunciation.
I love Irene, but I’m not sure about Eirene. Extraneous letters and unclear pronunciations concern me. Although judging by the recent birth announcements out here in the Midwest, most people don’t share that worry. Either way, I love the beautiful symbolism of the goddess.
Charlotte Vera says
I rather shamefacedly admit that I’d never before encountered Eirene and her two sisters in what I’m beginning to realise was quite a superficial study of the classics. Still, I’m having a difficult time disassociating her from the very similar Irene in my mind. I have two strong associations with Irene: The first is the heroine of George MacDonald’s Curdie books (whose name is pronounced eye REE nee in the early 90s animated rendition of The Princess and the Goblin); and a family friend who, when I was very young, made a Bad Life Decision which strongly impacted my young mind. I’m afraid the latter has left a rather bitter taste in my mouth.
Once upon a time, Irene was pronounced as you say! I didn’t realize that was true of Princess Irene, too … how did I miss that? Hope you’re settling into NZ!