It’s a J- name not used by the Duggars … or any other family for that matter.

Thanks to the Kelly for suggesting Jocasta as Baby Name of the Day.

The only thing more taboo than naming your little girl Jocasta is calling her brother Oedipus.

Too bad. After all, Jocasta was a unwitting victim. To make a long tragedy short: Jocasta is well into her third trimester when her husband, the king, learns of a horrible fate awaiting him. Their baby-makes-three will grow up to murder him and marry mom. The king tries to dodge death by sending the infant off to die on a mountainside, but the servant ordered to abandon the babe saves him instead. Years later, the grown Oedipus does, indeed, do exactly what the oracle foretold.

Jo might’ve been a cougar – after all, Oedipus must have been two decades her junior or so – but she’s not the first well born woman to make an off-kilter match. And plenty of figures from ancient literature and myth boast problematic backstories.

But Sigmund Freud used the term Oedipus Complex to refer to a specific developmental process. Pop culture mangled the concept, morphing it into something seriously incestuous and snicker-worthy. Jocasta’s name doesn’t often come up in conversation, but unlike many a myth, as soon as it does, the story is well known.

The name’s origins are lost, though they were Greek and her name was originally closer to Iokaste, leading to variants Iocaste, Jocaste and Jokaste.

She doesn’t have much of a voice in the original Oedipus cycle, but sixteenth century Venetian Renaissance man Lodovico Dolce titled his adaptation of the ancient tales Giocasta. Dolce’s work inspired English poet George Gascoigne. Gascoigne’s translation was presented at the venerable Gray’s Inn in 1566. Despite some modern authors’ attempts to fill in the blanks, she remains a little known character.

Early in the 21st century, astronomers discovered a new moon of Jupiter. The satellite is known as Iocaste. She’s never appeared in the US rankings, and uses of the name are sparing:

  • One of Ironman’s fellow superheros and member of the Avengers is called Jocasta, a robot built by the bad guys who chose to fight on the side of right. Should the 2012 movie version of the comic be successful, maybe she’ll appear in a future edition;
  • Along the same lines, Jocasta Nu is a Jedi knight in the Star Wars universe;
  • Diana Gabaldon’s time-traveling romance series Outlander includes a minor character by the name;
  • Then there’s Camilla Rutherford’s Jocasta, a character in HBO original series Rome.

While no figure has emerged to eclipse the unfortunate queen of the ancient world, Jocasta feels like the name that could rise above tragedy. She sounds like a successor to Jessica and a sister for the fashion-forward Paloma. Besides Jo, nickname options include Cassie and possibly Josie. And as Jo-names from Josephine to Johannah to Jodi to Jolene have found favor with parents over the years, Jocasta feels wearable.

At least until she hits high school English class or Psych 101. But on sound alone, she’s quite the winning choice.

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. Jocasta’s etymology is known, though there are two schools of thought regarding meaning, not derivation.

    The PIE etymology is *yek + *h2ste(r). I know that looks very technical but the first stem means ‘speech, talking’ and survives in modern English joke and yak (as in ‘yakking away’), and the second stem means ‘star’ and survives in many words like ASTROnomy, stellar, sear (‘burning’ like a fiery star) and of course the word star.

    So when considered together we get something like ‘star speech’ or ‘bright talk’. One group of etymologists believe this connotes a meaning something like ‘eloquent speaker’. Another group thinks this is not so illustrative of capability as disposition, and believe the name has a meaning of something like ‘(light) airy speech (thought)’ which would suggest Jocasta was ‘cheerful’ (as someone not ‘weighed down’ by burdensome thinking).

    Given her husband Laios (‘left handed’) and father in law Labdakos (‘lame’) the thematic weight would predispose us to interpreting her name as the latter possibility. A ditzy, unconcerned woman, flighty in temperament, credulous and uncritical.

    Still a great name, though.

  2. Australians are fond of Jacinta with a hard J (not the Spanish pronunciation at all). And Jacinta and Biblical Jerusha both seem to fit a similar sound as Jocasta without the squick issues?

    As far as successors to Jessica I’m pulling for Jessamine.

  3. This is actually a name that I have like since I saw it during my research of The Tudor Dynasty as Kathryn Howard’s mother was a Jocasta (nickname Joyce). When reading the story of Queen Jocasta, it doesn’t bother me, I guess in the same way that I also like Salome and even to some extent Jezebel and Lolita (though I probably wouldn’t use the last two).

  4. I love the name Jocasta, although I haven’t gotten many good reviews because of the stoyr :/

  5. I don’t really like Jocasta, even though I feel like I should. It’s not the Oedipus reference that bothers me, it’s just the sound. I find it awkward. When I’m looking at it, I want to say ho-CAS-tuh or yo-CAS-tuh, even though I don’t find those attractive either.

  6. In college I was in a production of Oedipus Rex, so I personnally can’t get past the Queen. But I have to say, since other people name their daughters Jezebel, Salome and Lilith based purely on the name’s sound… Jocasta could be a winner.

    I have a really vague recollection that there is a British artist or designer named Jocasta, but I’m probably mistaken.

    1. * personally not personnally.

      (The designer I was trying to think of is Jocasta Innes.)

    2. Exactly, Julie – if sound was all that counted, Jocasta would be in the Top 100!