Baby Name of the Day: Thisbe

Pyramus and Thisbe

If you love Zoe and Chloe, but fear they’re too popular, here’s one to consider.

Thanks to Urban Angel for suggesting Thisbe as Baby Name of the Day.

Thisbe rhymes with Frisbee, but think Ancient Roman, not college quad. Ovid included the sad story of Pyramus and Thisbe in his enduring Metamorphoses back in the year 8.

Even if the name isn’t familiar, their story should ring a bell. Pyramus and Thisbe come from rival families, and though they fall in love they’re forbidden to marry. The couple plans to elope, but a horrible misunderstanding occurs. Pyramus believes Thisbe has died. Distraught, he commits suicide. When Thisbe discovers her lover’s lifeless body, she takes her own life, too.

Their story is set in Babylon, not Verona, and involves a lioness instead of a potion, but surely Thisbe is the original Juliet.

Thisbe picks up a nature babe twist thanks to the mulberry tree – but beware, it’s a grisly one. The deep red color of the fruit honors the blood the couple spilled in the name of love.

Their tale was retold in Boccaccio’s Decameron as well as the writings of Chaucer. Shakespeare used it as a play-within-a-play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Adaptations faithful to Ovid’s version can be found for centuries, including several operatic versions. The best known is probably eighteenth century composer Johann Hasse’s Piramo e Tisbe, but it’s not exactly Carmen.

Forbidden love is big no matter the era. Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo includes a similar plot, but his pair is Maximilien and Valentine and their tale ends with both lovers still among the living. Long-running musical The Fantastiks also includes a young couple separated by a wall, but they’re Matt and Luisa.

The origins of Thisbe’s name are lost to time. There was an ancient city northwest of Athens that wore the name. There’s also a region of Ancient Greece called Boeotia, and a nymph associated with the Boeotians may have been called Thisbe.

The name has never entered the US Top 1000, and odds are that introducing your daughter as Thisbe would earn you a few surprised looks.

Or maybe not.

Young adult novelist Sarah Dessen’s Along for the Ride was published in 2009. Dessen’s novels have already been adapted for the big screen, in 2003’s How to Deal, starring Mandy Moore.

Should Along for the Ride follow, a few unusual names could rise. There’s the central character, Auden Penelope; her love interest Eli; her friend, Esther; older brother Hollis; and baby half-sister, Thisbe Caroline. The baby answers to nickname Isby. Dessen also tends to revisit her characters from book to book, so an adventure highlighting Isby isn’t out of the question.

Of course, Isby is also a possible nickname for Isabella, and maybe a few other more mainstream choices.

But if you’re looking for a truly unusual choice, Thisbe has a certain quirky charm.

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13 Comments

I love Thisbe! I think it’s so cute, but due to the myth, definitely could be refined as she gets older. Bee is one of my favorite nns and Thistle is so cute, too!

I find Thisbe to be beautiful. For me, it’s like the better version of Phoebe. However, I also feel that the name is too strongly tied to the tragedy of its most famous bearer’s fate. For that reason, I’d never use it.

It’s definitely growing on me– maybe as a guilty pleasure. I like the sound, and it reminds me of Daphne and Phoebe a little. It first caught my attention in Along for the Ride… I noticed Sarah Dessen mentioned names and naming a lot in that book!

My only encounter with Thisbe is from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so it has too much of a comical effect for me. Quite the opposite of the original tragedy!

Thisbe is a pretty-sounding name, but it’s not one I really like, or hate for that matter. I just can’t seem to take the name Thisbe seriously; there’s a parody of the story of Thisbe in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and that’s all I can really think of when I hear the name.

I like it, but don’t love it – there are many other names originating from Greece that I prefer. That said, I’s be pretty thrilled to run across a Thisbe… I keep thinking Ibsy is a possible nn, yes, it’s a little dyslexic, but I like it a bit more than Isby (but that is a fantastic option for all those Isabellas out there!)… In the vein of cutesy, Bitsy could be stretched as another nn… other contenders, to add to those already suggested (and yes, some stretch it): Thistle, Tibby, Thibs, Tess, Bess, Thissy, Thizzy, Bizzy, Beth… I like that you could really go to town on the nns, if you don’t mind being creative there… I could definitely see Ibsy or Bitsy for a baby and I like Thistle a lot, as well as some of the ‘conventional nns like Tess and Beth being used for an unexpected full name… hmmm… coming around a bit more to the name… to bad it’s association is so tragic!

Thanks for doing Thisbe as NOTD !

I also love the story.As a name, I’m on team Switzerland for the sound. I neither love it nor hate it. It does lean more to the ‘growing on me I like it’ than disliking it side of the fence. Overall, fascinating history & it’d be awesome to meet a little Thisbe

Izzy,Tizz(y),Bee, & Beebee are some possible nicknames?

I kind of fell in love with Thisbe while I writing this! And I like Beebee – or Bibi – as a nickname.

When I took a course in mythology in college, this myth was at once one of my favorites and also the one that saddened me the most. It was such a beautiful, romantic tale of true love and then it ended so tragically. I thought the name Thisbe was gorgeous then, and I still think it now. But I’m a bit torn about using it for a hypothetical daughter. On the one hand, a name that evokes such a powerful vision of love is beautiful and haunting. On the other, however, it also evokes the sadness of losing that love. It’s a gorgeous name with a beautiful and sad story, and I think Isby is precious. I’m just not sure if I could use it or not!