Echo: Baby Name of the Day

Narcisse ballet, The Nymph Echo

She’s a mythological name that bears repeating.

Thanks to Ette for suggesting Echo as our Baby Name of the Day.

Let’s start with the dictionary.  Echo comes from the Greek ekhein – to resound.  We think of the word in relation to acoustics, a reflection of sound, something the listener hears repeating, like footsteps echoing in an empty room.

But Echo was a name first.  In Greek mythology, she was a mountain nymph, gifted with a beautiful voice.  Zeus was fond of Echo, and a little too fond of mountain nymphs in general.  Echo would distract Hera while her husband indulged in his flirtations.

When Hera found out, she punished Echo in the worst way possible – she took away her voice.  All Echo could do was repeat others’ words.

This is Greek myth, so cue additional tragedy.

Echo fell for a terribly good-looking mortal called Narcissus.  She followed him, and when he caught a glimpse of his reflection in a pool of water, Echo repeated his words of praise.  Narcissus fell in love with own image, and stayed there – until he drowned, died of despair, or took his own life.  He came back as the narcissus flower.  She wasted away to nothing but her voice.

There are other stories, and other explanations for Echo’s sorry fate.

A very few women have worn the name over the ages, some doubtless inspired by the nymph’s story.  There’s also:

  • Our Gang included Little Rascal Dorothy DeBorba, sometimes known as Echo for her tendency to repeat other character’s lines.
  • Indie band Echo and the Bunnymen found success in the early 1980s – though there was no one in the band who answered to the name.
  • One Life to Live introduced Countess Echo DiSavoy in 1983.  The character’s storyline only lasted a few months, but 1983 and 1984 would be peak years for Echo’s use as a girls’ name in the US.

More recently, the name was used by that master namer, Joss Whedon, when he gave the name to the main character in Dollhouse in 2009.  Eliza Dushku played Echo, a “doll” who could be programmed to take on assignments of various types.  Echo and her fellow dolls were all named for the NATO phonetic alphabet: Victor, November, Alpha, Whiskey.

Layer in a few comic book characters, like Marvel’s Maya Lopez, a sidekick to Daredevil who wore the name, and the tragic nymph fades into the background

There’s also the clothing brand Ecko – sometimes seen as a spelling variant.  Marc Milecofsky graduated from designing graffiti-inspired tee shirts to running a billion-dollar fashion house known as Ecko.  The story behind the name?  When Marc’s mom was pregnant, the doctor heard an echo when he listened for the baby’s heartbeat.  It turned out that the echo was a second baby – Marc and his twin sister, Marci.

A handful of men have answered to the name, including actor Echo Kellum.

Musician Nick Hexum named his daughter Echo Love in 2009.  As of 2012, 71 girls received the name.  Echo fits right in with other ends-with-o choices for a daughter, not as classic as Margo, maybe not as out-there as Bardot.

With a rich and interesting history and an on-trend sound, Echo could appeal to many parents.  But she’s still pretty rare, making her the kind of name that your daughter will likely never share.  Despite Echo’s roots as a feminine name, it seems like a possible choice for a boy, too.

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5 Comments

There’s a tiny town next door to my hometown named Echo after a 19th-century Echo, the founder’s daughter. Supposedly she died in her 20s from drinking wood alcohol. (She had a drinking problem and had just been released from treatment in a sanatorium.) The name has always seemed to go with Ethel, Edith, etc., to me because of that association, although I guess it would strike most people as hippy-ish.

I have quite the soft spot for girl names ending in -o; Hero, Calypso, Cairo, etc are some favorites of mine. I was really surprised when I brought up Echo one day and my fiance, whose tastes generally run towards trendy or traditional, really loved it! I think it would make a very sweet middle name.

Charming, my husband’s favorite girl name is Emily, but he gave Echo the thumbs up, too! Maybe there is some secret list of names that men will like, even though they don’t usually like adventurous names?

I’m a fan of many ends-in-o names for girls, but for some reason I don’t think I would be brave enough to use Echo. Being someone’s echo just doesn’t sound that positive to me. Even though I’m not brave enough to use it, I would still love to hear it used more often.

One association I have with Echo is Ecco the Dolphin, a Sega Genesis game. It was a pretty interesting game, so I suppose it is not a negative association.