If you’re searching for a feminine name that sounds perfectly current, can be worn with or without a nickname, and manages to be familiar without being common, here’s one that might just suit.
Thanks to Kelly for suggesting Larissa as Baby Name of the Day.
Larissa has been more common in Slavic Europe than the US, but her roots are ancient.
Travel back to Thessaly ten millennia BC and you’d find the area inhabited. The name is younger, of course, but still traces to at least the 600s BC. It is suggested that the name’s origin is an ancient Greek term for a stronghold or citadel. The picture above shows the remains of the city’s theater.
Plenty of historical events took place in Larissa. It’s said to be the birthplace of legendary warrior Achilles. Several real-life notables lived there, including medical pioneer Hippocrates. The first saint to call Larissa home was Saint Achillius, a bishop present at the First Council of Nicaea in the fourth century.
Even though the city remains, it seems like odd inspiration for a child’s name. But there are two figures to keep in mind:
- The mythological Larissa was a nymph, and the mother of several sons with sea god Poseidon. She’s said to be a native of Thessaly, and some suggest the city was named in her honor;
- While she’s not on the official list of Roman Catholic saints, Saint Larissa is recognized by Orthodox Christians. During fourth century prosecutions, it is said that a King of the Goths burned a tent’s worth of the faithful, including Larissa.
Sometimes spelled with one s, Larisa is a Top 50 pick in modern-day Slovenia, but has never charted in the US.
Larissa has appeared in the US rankings, debuting in 1967 at #908 and peaking at #364 in 1994. Today she stands at just #759.
A few references might have encouraged Larissa’s use:
- Some speculated that Larissa Tudor, who died in her late 20s in 1926, was actually a lost Romanov princess;
- Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel, and the 1965 film adaptation of Doctor Zhivago, made all things Russian quite fashionable, cold war or no. His heroine, Lara, might’ve pushed some parents to discover the longer Larissa;
- Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina dominated the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, and won a few more medals in 1964 before retiring;
- When a new moon of Neptune was discovered in 1981, it was named after the nymph.
Today, Larissa could serve as a substitue for the fading Alyssa and Jessica, and fits in with two emerging trends: a modest uptick in Russian names, thanks to First Daughter Natasha, coupled with a craze for names that start with L. Besides Lara, you can imagine a little Larissa answered to Lally, quite the on-trend choice.
If you like her style, Larissa balances being familiar without being at all overused.