Name of the Day: Calista

She’s been around for millenia, but televisions catapulted her into everyday use.

Thanks to Laney McDonald for suggesting Calista as Name of the Day.

Bonnie. Linda. Isolde. Jolie.

Names that mean pretty or beautiful often catch parents’ imaginations. While it is no guarantee that your mini-me will be a supermodel, but it is easy to see the appeal.

In Greek, kallistos translates to “most beautiful.” The earliest use was probably as an epithet for a goddess – Kalliste Artemis. The masculine Callistus or Callixtus was worn by three popes and a handful of saints.

Feminine variants abound, including Callisto and Callixto. Calista is the most accessible. She was sometimes heard in the nineteenth century, but truly owes her popularity to the small screen.

Actress Calista Flockhart starred as fledgling attorney Ally McBeal in FOX’s smash hit from 1997 to 2002. The quirky show pushed Calista in the US Top 1000 for the first time since 1881.

She ranked #697 in 1998 and reached #519 a year later. But by 2004, she had fallen to #866 – and then headed right back towards obscurity. While Ms. Flockhart is in the spotlight again, as Kitty Walker on Brothers and Sisters, her name has not made a comeback.

Perhaps some parents dislike her sci-fi connection. On Xena: Warrior Princess, Callisto was a sadistic psychopath with a mean right hook. The show ran from 1995 to 2001, with Callisto appearing as Xena’s nemesis – and sometimes grudging ally – throughout the series.

In the X-Men, Callisto was a scarred and eye-patched subterranean dweller who eventually embraced her powers and joined the fight for good. Along the way, she lived up to the promise of her name and became a supermodel.

Plenty of villains have inspired baby names, but Callisto has never appeared in the US Top 1000.

The original Callisto wasn’t an attorney, an archnemesis or a mutant. She was a nymph in Greek mythology, in service to Artemis. Zeus seduced her and after Callisto gave birth to a son she was booted out of Club Nymph. Zeus’ jealous wife Hera saved the girl with a punishment – she’d live out her days as a bear.

Gaze up at the night sky and the rest is probably familiar. Callisto lives out her days seeking honey and pic-a-nic baskets until Junior, toting bow and arrow, stumbles upon Mama Bear. Zeus finally does the right thing – sort of – by reuniting mother and child in the heavens, as constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

A second Callisto can be found in the night sky. It’s the name of one of Jupiter’s moons.

Overall, Calista is more than just a pretty face. She fits right in with Sophia and Samantha; Chloe, Claire and Katherine. But she’s far less common. And her mythological roots give her an edge. The nickname option Callie is also appealing.

If Calista seems too safe, you can always go with Callisto or even Callixto. Though the last skews masculine in Spanish-speaking cultures, ends-in-o names for girls are increasingly common in English. And you’d get that great “x” sound, too.

If you’re hoping for a name that is feminine and familiar, but rarely used, Calista is a safe bet.

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16 Comments

This is my daughter’s name, and I had it picked out way back in 1994. It is still my favorite name, and mu daughter is 15-years-old now. I think it is quite beautiful.

I have a question about Calista can it be spelled Callista? Is that a valid alternate spelling? I’ve seen the name both ways and was wondering if anyone knew.

There’s no reason it couldn’t be spelled Callista, Annamaria! I think Calista Flockhart’s one-l spelling has made us more familiar with that spelling, but the original masculine form is Callistus – or Callixtus. Or Greek … so I think Callista is just fine.

I actually have a middle name to go with Callista (I prefer this form of the name). What do you think of Callista-Sonnet? You could use it as part of her first name, just hyphenated like I just did, or you could get rid of the hyphen and use Sonnet as the middle name. Either way it’s up to you. Personally I think Callista-Sonnet is classy without being pretentious, and just beautiful. For a name as lovely as Callista, it needs an equally lovely name to follow it. And something as mundane as claire or rose just doesn’t quite cut it. Besides “filler” names tend to be severely lacking. I tend to veer towards originality.

I love Sonnet in the middle spot. (In the first spot, I’d fear it would be shortened to Sonny – not my style.) I’m not big on hyphens, at least not when they create a five syllable given name. But Calista Sonnet as a combo is lovely!

I want to like Calista – I love her sound and she is rather snappy, but to me, she feels a little ‘two-dimensional’ or shallow. Know what I mean? I don’t know how to explain it – she just feels a little ‘blank’, like there’s no depth behind her. I don’t know 🙂

Still, I’d be charmed to see her on another little girl.

Kat, I love Calla too. Unfortunately my dear boyfriend isn’t crazy about it. He’d rather name her Calista and use Calla as a nickname.

Love Calista! Greek names are awesome, and this is one of my favorite names. I’d totally use it for a little girl if I can get my and Eric’s parents and grandparents to warm up to it. They are very old fashioned people so they want names like Charlotte (which I hate) or Emma, and we know several of those. lol

Calista is a beautiful, classy name. Still working on middle names.

Calista is nice, but seems so flighty for me. I don’t think I would use it. I actually really like Calixta though. The X grounds it down. I love x’s though. (Beatrix, Calixta, Felix!)

I like Calista, but I like Calla much better. Calla was kiboshed early by my husband AND mother in law, saying that it sounded like half a name, but I love its simplicity and grace. Maybe I can make another bid for it before its too late.

I think what makes me hesitate on Calista is the -ista ending. Makes me think of “fashionista” or something. It’s also a suffix often used in Spanish, which takes away the Greek feel for me.

I’ve had some people recommend this name to me on message boards (Lola, was that you? LOL). I think I would enjoy this name on someone else’s lil girl. Saying the name aloud, it has a tinkly bell sound to it whenever I say it. It gives me the same feeling as when I say “castanets”. I tend to avoid names with actress associations, just because I don’t want everyone to say, “oh, you mean like the actress?”

I like, but don’t love Calista. It is a nice enough name, but much like Kate, it doesn’t get me all revved up. When I was younger… like back in grade school, I had a thing for “C” names and really loved many (although, I can’t say that Calista was one of them). Now, C-starters float my boat much less often – there are still a few that have spark for me, but Calista is not one of them. Still, I do like it… just not loving it.

Calista’s certainly got interesting roots and such a strong and arresting yet feminine look, plus as Verity has pointed out, she is at once familiar yet rare; all of which ticks my boxes and yet I feel rather nonplussed about her. I can’t say that she doesn’t stand out because she does, but she just doesn’t set my world on fire and I quickly discount her whenever she gets mentioned, just a gut feeling I suppose. Interesting choice though!

I think Calista is a really pretty names. like a few people i guess i only became aware of it through Calista Flockhart. Its a name which translate to me like birds and flying and freedom. I love it but not liking the nicknames like Bonnie or Linda or Jolie

I like Calista but prefer Callisto. It’s that -o ending that grabs me. There are so few for girls, I’ll tal what I can get!

I wonder though, Why Calista, Callisto & Callixto? Whee did Calista’s other ‘l’ go? Or is Callista legit as well?

It doesn’t really matter, I thoroughly like Calista, whatever the spelling. I frequently toss her out on suggested lists, hoping someone will pick up on her. No luck so far, but I’m still hoping to meet one someday. Calista’s lovely in sound, got strength in her mythological roots and beats the pants off of Madison any day! 😀