This name has been worn by a nymph and an animated sidekick, and fits right in with current favorites from Chloe to Penelope, too.
Thanks to Natalie for suggesting Daphne as Name of the Day.
Daphne: In Myth & Art
You might know Daphne’s story. She’s a nymph pursued by the god Apollo. Desperate to escape, she prays to the gods. They change her into a laurel tree, effectively thwarting her unwanted suitor – but at a price.
In the 1590s, Jacopo Peri composed Dafne, a sort of proto-opera wildly popular at the time. It was just the first of several adaptations of the myth. Richard Strauss’s Daphne debuted in Dresden in 1938 and is performed regularly. Art depicting her transformation is plentiful.
As a given name, Daphne first appears as an English given name in the nineteenth century, though it may be less connected to the nymph.
There are plenty of plants by the name, including some flowering varieties.
Daphne: Pop Culture
There’s an English folk song called “Daphne,” dating to at least the mid-1600s. Django Reinhardt recorded a sprightly piece of music with the name, too.
In the 1920s, the Honorable Daphne Winifred Louise Vivian was one of the Bright Young Things in London society. Later, she became a writer.
Novelist Daphne du Maurier was English, despite her name’s French sound. She came from a family of a actors and artists, and had a long, successful writing career. You’ve probably heard of Rebecca, and her short story The Birds inspired Hitchcock’s movie.
During the 1960s, Surfside 6 ran on ABC. The series gave handsome Troy Donahue a houseboat and a gig as a private detective. Donahue’s houseboat was berthed next to a yacht owned by socialite Daphne Dutton.
In more recent years, Switched at Birth, No Ordinary Family, and Heroes have used the name for characters. Long-running series Frasier gave us the English Daphne Moon. Actress Daphne Zuniga and talk show host Daphne Oz are two more familiar faces.
Maybe the best known bearer of the name is Mystery’s Inc.’s redheaded crime solver, Daphne Blake, from the long-running Scooby Doo series.
Daphne: On the Rise
Daphne has been in the US Top 1000 for years, but it’s the kind of name that was pretty rare. Back in 1962, the name reached #266 – credit to Surfside 6.
And yet #266 is far from common. Most years, Daphne hovered between the 400s and 800s – familiar, but unusual.
Now Daphne is a name to watch for two reasons: first, all things botanical have appealed to parents in recent years, with names from Lily to Azalea in full bloom on birth certificates.
More importantly, Daphne’s roots in Greek myth make her a possibility for parents who find Penelope too popular.
When I wrote the first version of this post in 2009, the name ranked #583 and I called Daphne “one that might just rise dramatically in the next decade or so.” Just a few years later, Daphne has reached #397.
That’s still a far-cry from Top Ten Chloe, though. So if you’re after a name that’s feminine, timeless and on-trend, and slightly surprising, Daphne is one to consider.
Take out your crystal balls, readers: do you think Daphne is the next big thing?