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.