Illustration for Edgar Allan Poe's story &quot...
Illustrain for Edgar Allen Poe's story; Image via Wikipedia

Hoping to raise a Goth supermodel?  This could bet the choice for you.

Thanks to Emilie for suggesting Ligeia as our Baby Name of the Day.

There’s haunting beauty, and then there are beauties who haunt.  An early Edgar Allan Poe short story places Ligeia in both categories.  The pronunciation – lie GEE ah – sounds like few other given names.

Her tale is irresistible:  A young man is madly in love with his new bride, the brilliant and lovely Ligeia.  Their happiness is cut short when Ligeia falls ill.  As she’s dying, she tells her husband that sheer will can conquer death.  It appears she’s wrong, however, as she succumbs to her illness not long after.

Ligeia’s widower mourns, then marries again.  Wife #2 – Rowena – is as different from Ligeia as can be.  But she also becomes seriously ill.  She’s on the verge of death, her burial arranged, when she re-emerges, alive once more.  Only she’s no longer Rowena, but Ligeia reborn.


It’s not clear if Poe meant the story as a straight-up supernatural thrill or something else, maybe even satire.  But Ligeia’s Goth credentials are rock solid – she looked like an extra in a Cure video circa 1986.  (Emaciated, raven-tressed, etc.)  She was appropriately mysterious, too – the narrator seemed to know only the bare minimum of facts about his wife.

Ligeia has come to life on the big screen twice.  In 1964, Vincent Price played the narrator in The Tomb of Ligeia.  In 2009, the story was brought into the modern era as The Tomb.  Russian ballerina Sofya Skya played the leading lady, this time an all-out, soul-stealing villain.

Prior to Poe, Ligeia was a siren, her name derived from the Greek lygis – shrill, whistling.  Today “siren” is synonymous with “seductress” and implies an ample amount of va-va-va-voom.  In myth, the only thing alluring about the sirens was their voices.  The clawed bird-girl hybrids lured sailors to their deaths on rocky shores.  Their number varies – some say just two, others, a flock.  Few of their names have made it into common use.  Others include Aglaope, Leucosia, Parthenope, Peisinoe, Teles, and Raidne.  Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, includes a lake named Ligeia Mare.

Poe could’ve heard the name in myth, but there’s a second possibility: John Milton’s masque Comus includes a reference to Ligea.  Written in 1634, Comus was written in praise of chastity, originally commissioned by the Earl of Bridgewater.  Masques were big at court, and tended towards the bawdy.  Milton’s was different in tone, but it was popular.  Still, the reference is a passing one.

The name can be found in sparing use in the US Census records, but she’s never appeared in the US Top 1000, and in 2009, fewer than five girls received the name.  (Though the Portuguese variant, Lígia, was given to thirteen newborns.)  Unlike the equally Goth Lucretia, there aren’t nineteenth century suffragettes and the like.  (Though can’t you just imagine stumbling across a collection of poetry from the 1800s penned by Ligeia Davidson Hale?)

Nickname options Gigi, Gia, and Lia make Ligeia slightly more wearable.  But she’s still an exotic choice, with a lot of history for a child to carry.  Then again, Annabel hasn’t been hurt any by her status as one of Poe’s tragic heroines.

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. In 1965 my mother named me Ligeia and it has been a wonderful gift that i have carried with me throughout life. in regards to miss pronouncing my name it happens periodically in the first introduction but once i enunciate it doesnt become an issue.

    as an adult I was told that my name had a sensitive, sensual and mystique sound to it.
    I could not be more happier with my name and would never change it. everyone I meet says its a name that can never be forgotten.


  2. Ligeia is surprisingly pretty. But it does sound very much like an ancient place name to me — couldn’t you just imagine Paul writing an epistle to the church at Ligeia or something?

  3. It sounds medicinal or medical related e.g Savannah is in hospital with a raging case of Ligeia type 2.

    It’s ok.

    1. I totally agree – it sounds like some kind of disease or problem to me. Not really that fantastic…

      Maybe it’s the proximity to ligament that makes me see it that way?

      1. For some reason your comments reminded me of the New Testament story where Jesus casts the demons out of a man and into a herd of swine:

        They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
        When he had come out of the boat,
        immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
        who had his dwelling in the tombs.
        Nobody could bind him any more, not even with chains,
        because he had been often bound with fetters and chains,
        and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the fetters broken in pieces.
        Nobody had the strength to tame him.
        Always, night and day, in the tombs and in the mountains,
        he was crying out, and cutting himself with stones.
        When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and bowed down to him,
        and crying out with a loud voice, he said,
        “What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the Most High God?
        I adjure you by God, don’t torment me.”
        For he said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
        He asked him, “What is your name?”
        He said to him, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
        He begged him much that he would not send them away out of the country.
        Now there was on the mountainside a great herd of pigs feeding.
        All the demons begged him, saying,
        “Send us into the pigs, that we may enter into them.”
        At once Jesus gave them permission.
        The unclean spirits came out and entered into the pigs.
        The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea,
        and they were drowned in the sea. (Matt 5:1-20)

        I used to think Ligeia was pronounced LEE-gee-uh, so similar to Legion.

        1. There is something very eerie about Ligeia. I didn’t watch the movie, but the trailer gave me the creeps. And while I’m inclined to take it in a light-hearted way … imagining Wednesday Addams growing up to have twin daughters named Lucretia and Ligeia, say … there is a reading that is downright sinister. I think you’ve hit exactly with the passage and the sense of the word legion.

          You’ve also hit on one of my favorite words. I’m fascinated by legion. Disheartened is another favorite. Oh, and sorcery. There’s a lot of dark in my favorite word list … I need to work on that!

  4. The name is certainly pretty — hauntingly so almost even without knowing the name’s history. However, I don’t think I could bring myself to give a child this name; it’s too connected to the dark and foreboding.

  5. I have never heard of this name, but I do really like it. I also love Poe, so maybe that is why. It’s also pretty and moody. Definately have to add this one to my lists! I like Gia as a nickname.

  6. I agree with Claire… this name is surprisingly attractive yet the pronunciation would be a real world problem. I see this girl always going by her nn rather than her given name, which would be sad cause Ligeia is beautiful and gigi sounds more cutesy and hip.

  7. I’m surprised at myself, but I really like Ligeia. It has a similar vibe to Nigella but is a little more suave. Pronounciation would be key, though; teachers are going to have trouble with it every year. And Ligeia is a lot of name for a little one so the nn’s are a must.

    Haha, I can hear a mother scolding her daughter in the supermarket “Ligeia Mae, if you don’t stop that this instant…”