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.