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.