This name belongs to a Roman goddess and the most famous princess of the twentieth century.
Thanks to Anat for suggesting Diana as our Baby Name of the Day.
Diana: 21st Century Goddess
Names borrowed from Greek and Roman myth have been on trend in recent years. Fast-rising favorites like Phoebe and Penelope, Orion and Titan have opened the door for even more surprising choices: Persephone, Achilles, or Mars, anyone?
Diana is hiding in plain sight. She’s a major figure in Greek myth, her name derived from either dius – god, divine – or possibly an even older word meaning shining, as in the moon. Diana was goddess of the moon, but also the hunt, wild animals, and childbirth – though Diana is one of the goddesses who vowed to never marry.
The Roman Diana is considered the equivalent of the Greek Artemis – both are depicted with a bow, perpetually young and athletic.
Shakespeare was fond of her, referring to the goddess in several of his works. Plenty of artists chose her as a subject for their paintings and sculptures, too.
Unlike most ancient figures, the goddess is still worshipped. Since at least the 1970s, a form of Wicca known as Dianic has centered on the worship of female deities from several traditions.
As goddess names go, Diana might be the most commonly bestowed choice. The name has ranked in the US Top 1000 every year with the exception of 1888, and has been in the Top 500 most popular names every year since 1918.
Diana: Before the People’s Princess
Notable Dianas have been plentiful:
- Legendary singer Diana Ross graduated from Motown girl group The Supremes to chart-topping solo artist. Her story has been much told, including Dreamgirls, a 1981 Broadway musical turned 2006 big screen success with Beyonce as Deena Jones – the character based on Ross.
- Diana Rigg made a splash as Emma Peel on The Avengers in the 1960s.
- DC Comics heroine turned 1970s television icon Wonder Woman was Princess Diana – known incognito as Diana Prince.
Those are just the most famous examples. From 1941 through the mid-1970s, Diana was a Top 100 favorite. Possible credit goes to Lady Diana Manners, an aristocratic Englishwoman prominent in stylish, intellectual circles pre-World War I. Her marriage to politician Alfred Duff Cooper meant that she remained a well-known hostess for years.
Despite all of these reasons for the name’s rise to prominence, it’s worth noting that the simpler Diane was actually the more popular form of the name. A Top 100 name from 1937 through 1972, Diane reached as high as #14 in 1955, and spent nearly two decades in the Top 20.
Diana: Future Queen
Lady Diana Spencer was born in 1961, named after an eighteenth century relation. In 1981, Lady Di rocketed to international fame when she became engaged to Charles, the Prince of Wales. The couple announced their engagement in February. The world watched the couple exchange vows in July of that year.
Chances are that you know the rest of the story, ending with the royal couple’s separation and the princess’ tragic death in 1997.
Plenty of women imitated her style, but as a given name, Diana was fading by 1981. Even the princess couldn’t spark a comeback.
Diana: Under the Radar in 2015
All of this makes Diana an under the radar possibility for a daughter in 2015. As classic as Charlotte, as ancient as Penelope – but far less common than either. Diana ranked just #270 in 2013.
If you’re after a classic choice for a daughter that won’t be shared by many, Diana is one to consider.
I bet with the amazing success of the new Wonder Woman film, Diana will get a big boost.
Big fan here. I was named after Diana Rigg, actually. My father was a big fan of hers. I don’t think it’ll get a huge bump, though, honestly. It didn’t when Princess Di was around. I have met only one or two other Dianas in my entire life. Charlotte is already huge, and Elizabeth is evergreen.
Thank you very much for featuring my suggested name! My husband and me just read your article and we love it, it reinforces our fondness for this name.
You’re welcome, Anat! It really is a lovely, underused gem.
Another famous Diana: sexy bombshell actress Diana Dors (born Diana Fluck).
If the royal baby is a girl, she may have Diana as one of her middle names, which could raise interest in the name Diana.
Ooh … excellent point, Anna! Though I’m betting on Frances. Less controversial, right?
Two thumbs up to this name. I’d totally give it to a baby girl if that weren’t crazy awkward. Personally, I was named for Dame Diana Rigg.
Also a literary reference that comes to my mind: Anne’s bosom friend Diana Barry in the Anne of Green Gables books.