You might know her as the whip-smart witch from Harry Potter, but there’s more to her.

Thanks to Alicia for suggesting Hermione as Name of the Day.

Say Hermione and most people will think of JK Rowling’s novels. Actually, most people will probably think of Emma Watson, the actress best known as Hermione Granger on-screen. The character – brave, loyal and bright – is a worthy role-model. But this name could appeal even if JK Rowling had never picked up a pen.

Hermione has one foot in Greek myth and another in Christianity.

The name is related to the Greek messenger god Hermes – that’s Mercury to the Romans – and was worn by the daughter of Menelaus and Helen, she of the ship-launching face. (Among Hermione’s cousins was the ill-fated Iphigenia.) Her story isn’t an easy one, but hey – mythology doles out very few happily ever afters.

She’s occasionally confused with Harmonia – a minor goddess charged with – what else? – harmony, as in peace, rather than music. But unless I’ve missed something, Harmonia and Hermione are completely separate figures with distinct origins for their names.

Hermione of Ephesus is referenced in the New Testament – she’s an early Christian martyr from circa 117 AD. Myth and witch references aside, Hermione is, indeed, the name of a saint.

In 1623, Shakespeare gave the name to his virtuous Queen of Sicily in The Winter’s Tale. It’s not just the Bard of Avon, either. There’s also:

  • Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Cadmus et Hermione, an operatic appearance of the name;
  • DH Lawrence gave the name to a character in 1920’s Women in Love;
  • PG Wodehouse bestowed the name Hermione Bostock on a character;
  • In the Archie comics, Hermione Lodge is Veronica’s mom.

Most real Hermiones were born in the earlier part of the 20th century, almost exclusively in England:

  • Actress Hermione Baddeley nabbed an Oscar nomination in 1959 for her role as Elspeth in Room at the Top, and also guest starred in plenty of American television shows, into the 1980s;
  • Hermione Gingold acted on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1930s into the 80s – if you’ve seen the musical film Gigi, you’ve heard her sing. If you’ve ever caught the movie based on television series The Munsters, you know her as Lady Effigie Munster;
  • The aristocratic Hermione Cobbold once briefly held the title Vicerine of India;
  • More recently, Hermione Gulliford played Hermione Trumpington-Bonnet on BBC’s Monarch of the Glen.

There are a handful of other Hermione references – David Bowie titled a song “Letter to Hermione” back in 1969. (He was, indeed, dating a woman named Hermione Farthingale, in the late 60s.) General Lafayette arrived in the Colonies to fight the American Revolution aboard the French frigate Hermione back in 1780.

If by chance you named your firstborn Tallulah? Well, in Tallulah, Louisiana, you can visit the Hermione House Museum. Built in 1855, the home survived the Civil War as a hospital.

Despite her history, Hermione has never charted in the US Top 1000. This means she’s either the perfect choice – a rarity that everyone will recognize – or just a bit too out there for serious consideration. But with a new big screen adaptation of A Winter’s Tale due at Christmas, the scale could tip in favor of this smart, literary appellation.

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 think Hermione Granger is a wonderful role model for any little girl. I love all the deep meanings of the name and the fact that my daughter will not be called Hermione (last initial) because there are three girls with the same name in her class. How is it the Harry Potter connection is such a negative when Harper is so popular? Hermione is a beautiful name, rich in symbolism, rooted in history, any woman could be proud of.

  2. I quite like the name, and I’ve actually considered using it for a child. I just think that if I did, the child might be teased…. The reference is a little much. I might go with Harmonia, though.

  3. I agree with Charlottevera, the association with Harry Potter (at the present time) is just too much to overcome. Then again, it will die away over time. Hermione has a lovely sound to it. It reminds me of Anemone, another Greek-rooted name I really like, but wouldn’t actually use. One thing that makes Hermione a little more difficult to wear is the lack of obvious nicknames (you can get several, when stretching things, but unless I’m missing something, none pop out as obvious). Anemone on the other hand offers up several obvious ones, which along with not being a Potter character, makes it a bit more wearable IMHO. Still, I’d be completely thrilled to meet a little Hermione (just would hope it did not reflect some overdone fandom on her parents’ part).

    1. I named my daughter Hermione and I call her by her full name. She has nicknames too from her middle name and Pumpkin from when she was a bump, and lots my grandmother used to call me, but I love saying her whole name. I love that she is pretty much the only one with that name, that I’ll ever meet most likely, and the rich history and meanings. I’m having a hard time finding an equal for to understand two. Lol. Any suggestions?

  4. I didn’t think much of Emma Watson’s acting nor Hermione’s character (books/films). I wonder if I’m in the minority here.

    The name is nice. I prefer Hero but I do think Hermione, despite the heavy Potter reference to most, is more realistic.

    English actress Hermione Norris has a little Hero interestingly enough.

    129 Hermiones born in England last year! That made it more popular than Lilian/Lillian, Anastasia and Amanda.

  5. Oh, and in case there’s any confusion, as far as I can tell the name Hermione isn’t actually mentioned in the New Testament. What is mentioned is that Philip the Deacon/Philip the Evangelist has four daughters who prophecy. Tradition and history tell us that one of these daughters is named Hermione. Her feast day is September 4th in the Western church.

    1. That’s true – the reference is from a mention of her father, Philip the Evangelist, in Acts 21:9 “And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” Custom tells us that one of the four is St. Hermione, but she’s more like the Three Wise Men than, say, Keturah. I did a search for the other three daughters’ names and came up empty. Anyone?

  6. I really like Hermione. She is sweet and quirky. I also really like Hermia (air-MEE-ah). I love the Hermione Granger associations too.

  7. Both my husband and I love Hermione — it’s one of the few girls’ names we can both agree on. Sadly, we also agreed that the association of the name with the character from Rowling’s novels was too strong. We don’t have anything against Hermione Granger, we just don’t want it to seem as if we’re naming our daughter after her; too pop culture, if you know what I mean.

    As a fan of early 20th century literature (and thus familiar with the name prior to the 1997 publication of The Philosopher’s Stone), I’m a bit annoyed that the name has become, as I see it, unserviceable.

    (Hermione features somewhat importantly as the middle name of a character in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and as the real first name of “Egg” Lytton Gore in Three Act Tragedy.)