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She’s a Greek cautionary tale and a lovely name.

Thanks to Laney for suggesting Cassandra as our Baby Name of the Day.

You probably know the bones of Cassandra’s story:

She’s a princess, and a looker, too.  Apollo notices her.  Somehow – either because she spurns his advances, or maybe because she doesn’t – Cassandra ends up able to see the future.  But there’s a catch: try as she might, Cassandra’s prophecies will never be believed.  She can’t change her fate, and she can’t convince those she loves to choose differently, either.

And Cassandra has quite a bit of calamity ahead of her.  She’s a princess of Troy, and her country is about to go to war.

Despite all of that tragedy, her name’s meaning is positive.  Most suggest that the first part means shining, and the latter is the familiar ander – man.

Cassandra and Cassandry were in use in medieval England – probably because tales of the Trojan War were popular.

But she fell out of use and languished for centuries.  She made a modest comeback in England – Jane Austen’s mom, born in the mid 1700s – was a Cassandra.  So was Jane’s big sis.

Up until the 1940s, it was rare to meet a Cassandra in the US.

Dodie Smith deserves much credit for reviving the name when she chose it for her heroine in I Capture the Castle.  Smith’s tale told of the Mortmain family, living in genteel poverty in a moldering castle – their family estate from better times.  The Mortmains are wonderfully eccentric, and Cassandra is the younger daughter, the narrator, and something of the hero for her entire family, though it comes at a price.

I Capture the Castle was published in 1948.  It’s gone in and out of print, been adapted for the stage and screen, and remained a beloved novel.  Miss Mortmain has done her name proud.

Except that Cassandra was already on the rise, and I’m wondering if Smith was inspired by a news story that might explain things.  French journalist Genevieve Tabouis was ahead of her time – a well-born female political correspondent in the early twentieth century.  Tabouis called for France to respond to Hitler’s aggression early, prompting a diplomat to call her Cassandra for her dire predictions.  It wasn’t exactly a barb – after all, the diplomat conceded that Tabouis was often right.  An article in Time Magazine in 1942 was titled “They Called Me Cassandra.”  Could it be that post-World War II, Cassandra briefly meant not doomed princess, but astute political observer?

Pop culture Cassandras followed:

  • Falcon Crest included a character named Cassandra in the 1984-85 season.
  • A young Demi Moore answered to the name in 1986’s One Crazy Summer.
  • Cassandra Cain was one of the later incarnations of Batgirl in the DC Comics universe.
  • Tia Carrere wore the name in 1992’s Wayne’s World.
  • She’s done well on British television.  Do you remember Hex?  Cassandra was the name of the main character.  There was also a Cassandra on Skins.

That’s just a few.

Cassandra peaked in the 1980s, spending 1982 through 2000 in the US Top 100.  She’s been falling ever since, and at #422 in 2011, you could argue that she’s headed for obscurity.  After all, short form Cassie and cowgirl Cassidy also had a good run in the same era.  Are Cass- names best left to hibernate?

I’d say no.  While there’s a whiff of shoulder pads and big hair about Cassandra, she never reached as high as other elaborate classics, like Alexandra or Elizabeth.  I’d file her with Veronica – names that are no longer at their most popular, but that remain solidly wearable now that we know they won’t be reaching the US Top Ten anytime soon.

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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. I really like Cassia (both Cass-ee-uh & Cash-uh) but Cassandra has, not so much the ’80s in general, but a very particular gother-than-thou Raven/Jinx/Lilith/Wednesday sound to me, and its not even my favourite of those.

    Cassie and Callie are both appealing to me as nicknames, though. Sandra, not so much.

  2. I really love Cassandra. I’ve only known two. One was a few years ahead of me in high school, and the other is four. If I could get past using another C name, I think I would consider it for a future daughter. One thing I’ve noticed is that pronunciation varies through the States. Where I’m from, it was always ka-SAHN-druh. In the Midwest, I mostly hear ka-SAN-druh.

    1. I’m originally from Pennsylvania and we pronounce it ka-SAN-dra. I hear that pronunciation here in Florida too.

      I have only known a few Cassandra’s other than my sister.

  3. I really like this in a lot of ways but it does feel dated to me, too. I think particularly in the UK as well the “Cass-ARN-dra” sounds ‘dreadfully posh’ and doesn’t appeal to me in sound as much as other names of a similar origin.

    Cassie though does sound much more up-to-date I think, even if it was popular a while back – fits in with the y/ie trend and the nicknames-as-names thing. For us though it’s a no go as it was also the name of my aunt’s dog!

  4. I’m intrigued with SJ’s Cass. I think that’s kinda cowboy cool.
    My favorite Cass- name by far is Cassia, and my husband Josiah and I were strongly considering it if our boy, who was born last November, had been a girl.

    1. Cassia is gorgeous! I’ve been considering it too. It would be a great way to honor my little sister.

      1. I, too, LOVE Cassia! I was going to suggest it on this post, but you beat me to it!

        How were you pronouncing it? I know there are a number of ways to say it. In the U.S. I think you’ll mostly get CASS-see-uh, although I’ve read it could be said CAWSH-uh or KAYSH-uh. I’ve never personally met anyone with this lovely name….

        1. I pronounce it CASS-ee-ah. I really dislike the -sha sound at the end of certain names for some reason.

  5. Abby, I love your writing style and the name stories you tell!

    As for Cassandra, it feels dated to me: all those Sandras and Sandys a couple of generations ago, plus “Mama Cass”…

    Cassie is sweet for a little girl though. We sometimes called our daughter Catherine/”Cathy” also “Cassie” when she was very young. That name never stuck though.

  6. If Sandra/Sandy is the grandmom name, and Cassandra heading into mom name territory, I think the reboot could be Caxandra/Cashandra. I went to college with a Xandra (Shandra).

  7. There is a Cass in my daughters grade 1 class. I think it’s a sweet and solid one syllable name for a little girl.

  8. My little sister (17 years old, 18 in November) is named Cassandra Marie. She mostly goes by Cassie or sometimes just Cass. She seems to like her name. My mom and step-father chose it simply because they liked the sound of it. Marie is my mom’s middle name too.

    We all thought she was gonna be a boy, but she surprised us. Her name would have been William John if she were a boy, but instead we saved it for next time and then they had a boy a couple years later and he’s now 14 years old, 15 in July. He was named for his grandfathers on both sides (maternal grandfather’s middle name is John also. I wanted my brother to be named after him), my step-father, and my step-father’s late brother John who died at only one year old.

    I think it’s a beautiful name, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be using it as a first name. It would be too confusing. lol