Thanks to Dahlia for suggesting Jupiter as our Baby Name of the Day.
Jupiter is the Roman equivalent of Zeus, king of the gods, and their names are linked etymologically, too. Zeus comes from dyeus, among the oldest known terms to refer to the sky god, a rare persistence of early Indo-European roots. It literally means shining, and has referred to god for countless generations.
Take dyeus, add the Latin pater – father, smoosh ’em together and dyeus-pater becomes, eventually, Iuppiter and then Jupiter.
He’s also sometimes known as Jove.
The symbolism attached to the god is rich: thunderbolts, the eagle, the oak tree, the color white. He appears on coins. He reigned supreme in the state religion of the Roman empire until the advent of Christianity. The mighty Roman army pledged him loyalty.
So Jupiter had a good run, and even in ancient times, the largest planet in the night sky bore his name. Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun, and even though modern technology has revealed more and more of the heavens, he remains the largest planet in our solar system. Only our moon and Venus shine brighter.
But let’s take another look at the god. Jupiter wasn’t exactly a boy scout. He seems to have been more dignified a figure than his cousin Zeus, but ancient gods weren’t exactly virtuous role models.
And yet, Jupiter might be an inspired choice for a child. There’s been a boom in ends-with-r choices for boys, and ancient choices like Atticus and Orion have gone mainstream. Plus there’s that vowel sound – Jude, Luke, and … why not Jupiter?
Jupiter Jones was one of the Three Investigators, a trio of adolescent gumshoes who solved crimes in a popular book series from the 1960s through the 1980s. Jupiter’s backstory is intriguing – he’s a former child star whose parents died young. He now lives with his aunt and uncle in a junkyard, which also serves as HQ for the boys’ adventures. He answers to the nickname Jupe.
Based on the popularity of the books, I expected to find more Jupiters. But no. Five boys were given the name back in 1981, and seven in 2012.
Sailor Moon includes a female character called Sailor Jupiter, but it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll hear Jupiter on girls.
Cars, ships, symphonies, and businesses have been named Jupiter, but none of the references seem especially problematic. Place names share the name, too, including a resort in Romania and a beach in Florida.
If you’re after an unusual name that would stand out but still wear well in 2014, Jupiter is one to consider.