The baby name Calista combines an intriguing sound, lovely meaning, and familiar-but-rare quality, too.

Thanks to Laney for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


Bonnie. Linda. Bella. Jolie.

Names that mean pretty or beautiful often catch parents’ imaginations. The baby name Calista fits this list perfectly.

In Greek, kallistos translates to “most beautiful.” In the ancient world, it was used to refer to a goddess: Kalliste Artemis.

There’s also the story of the nymph – or possibly a princess – Kallisto. Her beauty attracted the attentions of the god Zeus. What happens next varies from story to story, but ultimately, Kallisto was turned into a bear to spare her from a worse fate – and then, again, transformed when danger loomed.

We know now her as the constellation Ursa Major.

The masculine Callistus or Callixtus was worn by three popes and a handful of saints.

In addition to Kallisto, Callisto and Callixto emerged as feminine forms.

And then there’s Callista and Calista.

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Both Calista and Callista are used in small numbers in the US over the years. The baby name Calista charted in the US Top 1000 just twice, way back in 1880 and 1881.

But the name remained obscure until a hit television series came along.

Actress Calista Flockhart starred as a fledgling attorney with a wild imagination in FOX’s Ally McBeal from 1997 to 2002.

And yes, it’s really Flockhart’s given name. In fact, her mother was born Kay Calista, and reversed it to call her daughter Calista Kay.

In any case, the quirky hit show pushed Calista into the US Top 1000 for the first time since 1881.

The name debuted at #697 in 1998 and reached #519 a year later. But by 2004, it had fallen to #866 – and then headed right back towards obscurity.

While Ms. Flockhart’s career has continued, as Kitty Walker on Brothers & Sisters and Cat Grant in Supergirl, it’s not been enough to put Calista back in the spotlight as a given name.


most beautiful

Lovely, flowing Calista is rare now, but could substitute for favorites like Camila and Penelope.


unranked in the US as of 2022


falling in use


from a character in ancient Greek myth


While the baby name Calista was never common, it occurs over the centuries.

Calista Vinton survived childhood illnesses to marry and work as a missionary in what we now call Myanamar; her daughter, Calista Luther, would continue her parents’ work before marrying and training as a medical doctor. After graduating in 1885, she served female patients while advocating for more women in the medical field.

Born in 1939, Callista Roy would become a pioneer in the field of nursing.


In 1971, Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, compensating native peoples for land taken by settlers, and creating regional corporations to administer the land going forward.

One of those is the Calista Corporation, representing mostly Alaskans of Yup’ik descent. The name comes from the Yup’ik words cali-, meaning “to work” and -ista, referring to a person or group that acts.

While it’s almost certainly not a factor in the use of Calista as a personal name, it’s an interesting addition to the story.


In our age of Willow, Margot, and Shiloh, maybe it’s Callisto that deserves a second look.

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.

There’s also a minor Star Wars figure known as Callista Ming, who appears in the novels. Given the constantly expanding universe, it’s possible we’ll see more of her in the future.


Speaking of stars, this is a serious night sky name.

The constellation Callisto is one famous reference.

But there’s also a moon of Jupiter by the name. It’s the second largest of Jupiter’s moons, behind only Ganymede. Like all of the planet’s moons, the name Callisto was chosen because of the mythological connection to the Greek god Zeus – a.k.a. Jupiter in Roman mythology

With Luna and Stella topping the popularity charts, the baby name Calista is a subtle choice, but one that also looks to the stars.

Ever since the initial burst of Ally McBeal-fueled interest in the name, Calista has fallen in use. As of 2022, just 114 girls received the name.

Add in other forms, and this remains a rare choice:

  • Just 47 girls were named Callista in 2022.
  • Another 9 girls and 8 boys were named Callisto.
  • 33 were named Kalista, with another 12 called Kallista.
  • Callixto, Calixto, Kallisto, and Kalisto have never appeared in US popularity data, meaning they’ve never been given to five children of a single gender in any given year, dating back to 1880.

While Calista is the most popular of the possibilities, and generally familiar thanks to the actress, it’s quite uncommon.

Potential nickname Callie, on the other hand, ranked #187 in the US popularity data for 2022, with Cali, Kali, Kallie, also charting in the US Top 1000. Names like Calliope, Caroline, and Kaliyah might all lead to the nickname, too.


Overall, the baby name Calista feels like a great alternative to names like Sophia, Camila, Aurora, Valentina, and Eliza. It’s feminine, with a certain vintage flair and plenty of history. But it’s nicely unexpected – a strong name with a positive meaning and a great stands-out/fits-in style.

What do you think of the baby name Calista?

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. I like this one a LOT. I knew a charming, dimpled, little Australian girl named Calista, and now the name is ever-darling.

    Nicknames of Cali and Calla are gold!

  2. Calista is on my top 4 list if we have a 4th daughter. I love this name and its been on my list since I was a teen. It’s also a family name Calesta. Cali for short

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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.