Today’s choice belongs to a Greek goddess and a character from Shakespeare, and yet the name remains obscure.
Thanks to Anonymous for suggesting Hippolyta as our Baby Name of the Day.
Hippolyta: Ancient Roots
In Greek, hippos is a horse. (A hippopotamus is a river horse!) So Hippolyta is an equine name extraordinaire. The second element comes from a word meaning to free, so Hippolyta is a freer of horses.
There was a third century Christian theologian, now known as Saint Hippolytus, and around half a dozen more ancient saints with the same name. Hippodamia, Hippomenes, and other hippo- names saw some use, too.
Hippolyta: Amazon Queen
The most famous bearer of the name is Hippolyta, ruler of the Amazons. According to legend, she was the daughter of Ares, god of war. Dad gave her a magic girdle.
Retrieving the girdle was among the Labors of Hercules, and most accounts report that Queen Hippolyta died at his hands.
And now we come to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
At the center of Shakespeare’s play is the wedding of Duke Theseus and Queen Hippolyta.
The picture above is the lovely Dorothea Jordan, a famous actress of the late 1700s, dressed for the role. (Mrs. Jordan was also the long-time mistress of King William IV, and mother to their ten children.)
Dream brings to mind fairies – Titania, Oberson, the mischievous Puck – but all of the otherworldly creatures on on hand in the forest to celebrate the wedding.
Hippolyta: Comic Book Hero
Both Marvel and DC Comics give us various incarnations of the ancient queen. With a Wonder Woman movie expected in 2017, it’s possible we’ll hear much more of this name.
Diana, after all, was an Amazon warrior princess, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta. A successful television adaptation ran from 1975 to 1979, with Cloris Leachman and Carolyn Jones both playing Diana’s mom. (That’s Cloris in the picture.)
In the comics, Diana and Trevor eventually have a daughter, named after grandma Hippolyta and known as Lyta. Lyta eventually becomes Fury, yet another another superhero in the DC Comics universe.
Hippolyta: Rare, Rare, Rare!
All of this makes for a strong female character with ties to myth and literature, with just enough of a pop culture reference to make her name familiar. It sounds like the kind of name that would enjoy some use.
But no. While a handful of women have worn the name in US Census records, it’s never been given to as many as five newborn girls in a single year – not even when Wonder Woman aired.
It looks like most of the American Hippolytas were born elsewhere – Greece and France, along with some Italian-born women named Ippolita.
Blame the first part of the name – lions and birds, yes. But few parents are eager to give their child a name that brings to mind the lumbering hippo.
And yet, if you’re after a name that’s outside of the mainstream and yet easily recognized, Hippolyta has potential. Lyta is a great short form, and Polly could work, too.
Plus, with a movie scheduled for release in 2017, it’s possible that Hippolyta isn’t too far away from becoming just a little more familiar.
Ippolita I really like. Hippolyta, not so much.
I adore Hypatia though so clearly it’s the Hippo- thing that breaks it for me.
I think the possibility of hippopotamus related teasing is kind of a hurdle. I know that I would not have appreciated hippo-related nicknames on the playground.
I love Polyhymnia.
I didn’t finish my thought on Polyhymnia – I was interrupted. I like the sound and flow of the name, the similar mythological connection, and there’s a literary connection through Madeleine L’Engle’s Poly(hymnia) O’Keefe.
Jolis Prénoms says
Hippolyta is such a gorgeous name! <3
By the way, is it just me or does Cloris (another great name)
Leachman look uncannily similar to Dorothea Jordan?
Ippa and Ippie (like pippa for Phillipa) would make great dimuitive names as well. Thank you for your hard work, research and work up on this name. I think the name is a rare beauty. I’m excited to share this with my spouse! Fantastic job!