Looking for a distinctive nature name? Parents are bypassing boho chic choices like River and Sky for a fresh category: foreign word names with nature meanings.

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting a Name of the Day from this intriguing category: Brisa.

If you honeymooned in Cancun, you might’ve downed a margarita in a bar called Brisa. Elsewhere in Mexico, you could’ve stayed at Las Brisas resorts. Restaurants wearing the name can be found in California and Texas. Even an observatory in Colorado bears the name. It’s the kind of word that many of us can translate, even if our Spanish language skills are otherwise limited to the menu board at a Taco Bell.

Before we go any farther, there’s the inescapable fact that product manufacturers have latched onto Brisa, too. There’s a Kia Brisa, a Portuguese soft drink and a Turkish tire distributor.

None of this has stopped parents in the US from embracing Brisa. She debuted in the US Top 1000 back in 2000 at #481 – quite the high debut – and while she’s fallen quite a bit, still stood at #787 last year. You may also see the spelling Brise. They share a pronunication – BREE sa – but the “e” ending is far less common.

Besides the nature name link, there are a few other possible origins for Brisa:

  • Homer mentioned Briseis, a widow taken a the spoils of war by the Greeks, in his Iliad. Pronounced BRISS ee iss, she’s not exactly a household name, but the character did apepar in the 2004 movie Troy;
  • French poet Benoît de Sainte-Maure penned his epic Le Roman de Troie in the twelfth century. He borrowed Homer’s name for Briseida, the love interest of Troilus. Over the years, the name morphed into Cressida, the version used by Shakespeare and, eventually Toyota;
  • In French, brise means broken – as in the architectural term brise-soleil, to refer to any technique that limits sun exposure;
  • Brise and Brisa are also sometimes heard as surnames, from corners of the globe as differnet as Puerto Rico and Hungary. It’s possible that some could relate to Saint Brice, an early fifth century Bishop of Tours, also recorded as Brixius and Bricius.

Overall, Brisa emerges as an interesting option. As we discussed with the Welsh Briallen, she fits in nicely with the Bree name trend, fueled by everything from the popularity of the literary Briana to Marcia Cross’s Desperate Housewives character. And yet, her status as a foreign import and her mythological and medieval ties give her quite an appealing story.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Mookie, that reminds me, Brita is a Swedish name that is not very common anymore because it rhymes with the Swedish word for the C word in English. There is a horrid song to go along with it Britas Fita. Not very pleasant associations. 🙁

    1. Well, we’ll just have to keep in mind that not many people know Swedish, less who would know what the C word in Sweden is, seeing as it doesn’t come up in mature conversation, and even less who would connect it as rhyming to the name Brita. But I guess I’m just an optimist — Perhaps there will be a native Swede some day that starts making fun of poor little Brita, but it seems highly unlikely.

      1. Yeah, I don’t think “rhymes with coarse Scandinavian vernacular for part of the female genitourinary system” should necessarily deter anyone from a name. Even Dick Cheney can walk around without people snickering. Well, at his name, anyway.

  2. I like it, not enough to use it myself but it is a nice name. I initially though BRISS a rather than BREE sa though. BREE sa seemed like too much effort to pronounce, until I read about “bris” that is 😉

    Also… do you not have those Brita water filters in the US that are oh so popular in Europe? Worth considering before using it… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brita

    1. Yes, as I mentioned in an above comment, Brita water filters are here in North America. But, seriously, the kid who teases another kid because of a name of a water filter is pretty pathetic. Now, if you named your kid Maytag, that’s another story.

  3. What a terrific choice! I just love when I learn about a new name, especially such a pretty one. I always liked the Bree/Brianna names okay, thought they were pretty if a bit downmarket in that Brittany kind of way. Brisa is truly lovely, and so much more sophisticated. The “a” ending is classy and fashionable, and its “breezy” origin give it a real leg up. I did a term paper on Troilus and Cressida; had no idea about the original name!

  4. I like Brisa. I think its very pretty. I know two little Mexican American girls with this name. I also have always love Briseis but I have always pronounced that (bree-ZAY-iss). I also really like Cressida.

    1. Interesting – I’ve not heard bree ZAY iss, but I can see how it would be a perfectly valid version of the name.

  5. Uh oh. Admittedly, the first thing I thought of when I read the name was a “bris”, or the Jewish term for circumcision. I know they are pronounced slightly differently, but I think that might keep me from the name, though it is pretty in a “breezy” sort of way.

    1. Funny, Kat – that was one of my first thoughts, too! Except I knew they couldn’t possibly be related …

      1. Oh wow — Didn’t even think of that! I guess that’s another reason to like Brita! 😉

  6. I took 9 years of Spanish, but still had to use Google’s translator to translate this one. Oy. It’s pretty, but too out there for my husband to ever consider, I’m sure. I also like Breseis, but knowing her fate makes the name seem like a jinx, almost. 😉

  7. Brisa is a really pretty name — I’ve never heard of it before. It reminds me of a Spanish-sounding English name I really like: Brita (BREE-tah). While it reminds me of the water filter, I highly doubt that would be a source of turmoil for a child. Would Briseida be pronounce Bree-SAY-dah?

    1. I’m really uncertain about Briseida. I think your guess is probably right, but Sebastiane makes me wonder if bree ZAY dah might an option, too. It is so infrequently used that it falls into that “Well, a medieval Frenchman would’ve said …” category.