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:
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.