River Dan within kibbutz Dafna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is she an old saint’s name?  A spin on Daphne?  Or something entirely different?

Thanks to Vicky for suggesting Dafna as our Baby Name of the Day.

Dafna fits with a group of names that have always appealed to me.  There’s a long list of clunky names with double consonants: Norma, Lorna, Thelma, Wilma, Bertha, Velma, Verna, Erma, Hilda, Melba, Selma, Zelma, Nedra, Glenda, Belva, Velda, Vonda, Elna.  Completely dated, right?  Back in the 1920s and 30s, they were the height of fashion.  Skip ahead to the 1950s, and it was Linda, Brenda, and Debra, plus Nancy.

There’s also Dymphna, a seventh-century Irish saint, but despite a superficial resemblance, she’s not related to Dafna.

In 2011’s hit list, there’s just nothing comparable.  Samantha, maybe? Brooklyn?  Not quite.  By this measure, Dafna is a possibility who missed her moment, and might have to wait until Norma sounds fresh once more.

Except that Daphne – a name long in use, but never terribly popular – is a rising favorite these days.  On the heels of Chloe and Zoe, names like Penelope and Daphne are attracting lots of positive attention.

Could this open the door for Dafna?

Also spelled Daphna, she’s derived from the word laurel, just like Daphne.  But while Daphne is Greek, Dafna is Hebrew.  There’s a kibbutz in Israel by the name, as well as at least a few women.  Do you remember the reality show Rock Star: INXS?  One of the finalists was named Daphna Dove.

If you remember your Greek myth, you’ll know that Daphne was a nymph who resisted the amorous attentions of Apollo.  When she appealed to the gods for help, they turned her into a laurel tree.  Laurel has had a good run as a girls’ name, and the symbolism of laurel leaves is appealing.  Used to crown the victors in athletic events, the leaves are associated with accomplishments of all kind.  The phrase poet laureate is derived from the same source.

Dafna has definitely been in use, but Census records tell us that she was most popular in the 1920s and 30s – the same era as Norma and company.  If you met a younger Dafna today, there’s a good chance she’s Israeli.  What I can’t confirm is how Dafna would be perceived amongst Israeli parents today.  She’s definitely not one of the more popular names, but whether she’s a Beatrice 0r a Gertrude, I cannot say.

How would Dafna wear in 2012?  I think she might fare better than we expect.  She’s close to the stylish Daphne, and two-syllable, ends-in-a names for girls are a tried and true formula.  Like Daphne, it is something of a challenge to come up with a nickname – but Dafna really doesn’t need one.

If you’re looking for a true rarity, a name with Greek and Hebrew roots, and one with ties to the natural world, Dafna could be one to consider.

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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’m so happy to see this post!
    What I like a lot about Dafna is that despite being unheard of it is intuitive and straightforwad both in pronounciation and spelling!
    With the meaning of ‘laurel’ I have always felt like it would be a nice symbolic nod to my own name (meaning victory) should I ever name a daughter Dafna.

    I’ve learned that Dafna is most popular in Israel and Hungary, which seems so random. Like in Israel it seems to have been most popular a couple of decades ago.

    Oh, and I like Duffy for a nickname, but agree it can pass so well without one!

  2. I don’t mind Dafna/Daphna but am not drawn to it, either. Same for Daphne. Though I think I prefer Daphna of the two. Daphna Dove is sort of wonderful.

    Of 20s clunky double consonant names, my most favourite is Zelda.

  3. I like Dafna, the spelling Daphna more, and Daphne the most. I, too, have a soft spot for the type of names you listed, especially Bertha. Poor Bertha. To me, Daphna seems polished, elegant, and restrained. Like the perfect black dress and strand of pearls. I’d love to meet a little Daphna. Daphne is more my speed, however. I prefer her dewy romanticism.

    As it happens, Daphne is our front-runner, should we ever be blessed with another girl. Her lack of nicknames was somewhat off-putting to me until I heard my toddler try to pronounce it. It came out Dovey. So, now I’m thinking of Dove, Dovey, and Daffodil as occasional nicknames for a Daphne. 🙂

  4. Dafna is pretty, but only if it’s pronounced with a long A (as in NOT rhyming with laugh). Otherwise it sounds a bit, well, daffy.

    My sister actually has a Dutch friend named Daphna AND just last month I overheard a Dutch mother in the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport call her little girl Dafna/Daphna. Maybe she’s more European?