Euphemia from Code Geass at Saboten-Con in Mes...
Euphemia from Code Geass; Image via Wikipedia

She’s a regal rarity, with a surprisingly global reach.

Thanks to Charlotte for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Euphemia.

Euphemia appeared on the edges of the US Top 1000 a handful of times between 1880 and 1903. Eu- is an unusual combo today, completely absent from the 2010 rankings. But in the nineteenth century, you’d find:

  • Eula (and Beulah, Beula, and Eulah)
  • Eunice
  • Eugenia
  • Eulalia
  • Eugenie
  • Eura
  • Eulalie
  • Euna

So Euphemia fit right in. Like most Eu- names, she’s Greek, and that first bit means “good.” Phemi means “to speak,” so Euphemia is one who speaks well. The original Eupheme was a minor goddess, charged with praise and acclaim.

The name caught on thanks to a third-century martyr. The daughter of a senator from the city of Chalcedon, Euphemia converted to Christianity young. During a wave of persecutions, Euphemia was among the Christians rounded up and tortured. And then tortured some more. It is believed that Euphemia finally met her death in the arena, finished off by a bear.

The martyr and the saint inspired an awful lot of namers, many of them royal:

  • Empress Euphemia was the wife of Justin I, Byzantine Emperor in the sixth century. She was born Lupicina. It’s not certain why she changed her name, but the eminently respectable saint made a good namesake. The empress also dedicated a church to the martyr;
  • Queen Euphemia of Hungary was the daughter of a Grand Prince of Kiev in the twelfth century;
  • In the thirteenth century, there’s a Euphemia on the throne of Norway, wife to Haakon V. She hailed from Rügen, a short-lived principality composed of a large island in the Baltic Sea;
  • Also in Scandinavia, there’s Eufemia of Sweden, wife of Albert II, Duke of Mecklenburg, and mother to a future king of Sweden;
  • Then there’s Euphemia de Ross, Queen of Scotland as the wife of Robert II in the fourteenth century.

The fictional princess pictured above comes from the Japanese anime Code Geass, featuring the ruling family of fictional superpower The Holy Brittanian Empire. Family members all wear a mishmash of historical appellations: Clovis, Cornelia, Odysseus, Charles, and Euphemia.

Real life Euphemias often answered to Effie – so much that it can be tricky to determine which women were actually baptized Euphemia. Effie Gray – also known as Effie Millais – was born Euphemia. She was also the wife of Victorian art critic John Ruskin when she fell in love with an artist, Ruskin’s colleague, John Everett Millais. It was quite the scandal, and fictional re-tellings abound. A new one is said to be in the works with young actress Saoirse Ronan attached.

Today, Euphemia is both in step with Olivia and Amelia, but still completely different. Effie feels Southern-fried, but she’s not so different than Sophie or Sadie. And nickname options also include Emme, Mia, or even Fifi. Which reminds me – the French Euphémie is yet another option.

Overall, if you’re determined to stand out with a name that feels deeply rooted in history, Euphemia has some possibility.

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. Eppie is also a nickname for Euphemia, as used in the classic 1861 novel Silas Marner. I love the nickname Eppie, not completely sold on Euphemia, but I don’t hate it.

  2. My grandmother was called Euphemia. She had Scottish parents. My grandfather called her Famy and her friends called her Amy. I don’t think anyone of us got our original names. Most people end up with nicknames. It’s an old name that fell out of popularity and never really made a come back. I don’t think I would give it to a child. Maybe a cat.

  3. My grandmother was a Euphemia born in 1918 in Scotland. And both her grandmothers are also named Euphemia. My daughter’s middle name is Euphemia. Since middle school she has gone by Euphemia and most of her friends call her Effie or Euphie. With the popularity of Hunger Games and Effie Trinket her friends and teachers just love her name.

    1. What a great name – and how fun to have that connection across the generations!

    1. It’s done! 🙂 Just leave a comment on the post stub and I’ll grab it … if I don’t get it before then. I’m still slowly moving them over.

  4. Effie is traditionally short for Euphemia rather than Elizabeth, and both Euphemia and Effie have seen most use historically in Scotland (probably because of Euphemia de Ross). In Ancient Greek, euph

  5. Euphemia is really interesting. I’ve actually been thinking recently about Eu- names for girls as a way to honor my FIL Eugene. Eugene is out for a boy for us because of a bad family association on my mother’s side. I don’t really care for Eugenia, but I quite like Eulalie even though I immediately think of a lolly pop! Euphemia sounds a bit too much like ephemeral. But you hit my “name style” kind of on the head, Abby, with Euphemia’s description: “determined to stand out with a name that feels deeply rooted in history” 🙂

  6. I’m actually more interested in Lupicina 🙂 She’s new to me!

    I love that a Euphemia was queen of Norway in the 13th century, that’s awesome! Especially since Norwegian name snobs always insist that any name with an ‘outlandish/foreign’ ring to it is very much unsuitable for a Norwegian child, and they especially love the old king and queen names of Norway, like Haakon, Olav, Harald, Astrid etc… Although Constance is widely accepted, praised actually, but only if you spell it Konstanse, using only ‘Norwegian’ letters…. They bug me so much I’ve just stopped talking with them. They just come off as ignorant, and they have a tendency to be very disrespectful on forums, outright calling people’s choices cow-ugly (an internet slang thing). It makes me very sad…

    Euphemia is wonderful, but Eumelia is my current favourite among the Eu-names. I also love Euadne, Eugenie, Eulalie, Eunomia and Euodia, but that last one means ‘good odour’ so I’m a bit hesitant. I could pretend it’s perfume, but it doesn’t feel better…. ^^

  7. I suggested this name, not because I find it particularly attractive, but because I do find it quite interesting. I’d love to meet a little Euphemia, but it would have to be someone else’s child. I wonder whether the upcoming movie will give the name a boost at all. . .

      1. Same here! I hate it, but a lot of people that I meet ‘like’ it, and what not. I didn’t actually come up with a nickname until like 1998!