She’s known to history as a woman scorned. Is it any wonder that few parents have embraced this one for their daughters?

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Medea as Name of the Day.

Medea has a lovely sound, either pronounced meh DEE ah or meh DAY ah. Her meaning is pleasing, too – either from the Greek medesthai, to consider, or the related medos, cunning.

Unfortunately, her story is tragic. In Greek mythology, Medea was a princess, and possibly a witch. Depending on the story, she wasn’t just nobly born – she could point to gods on her family tree. After helping Jason retrieve the Golden Fleece, the pair tied the knot and settled down to raise a family.

Wedded bliss eluded the pair. When Jason was offered a more advantageous marriage, he happily agreed to put aside his wife and children. In a fit of rage and vengeance, Medea killed her rival, her children or both.

The name has attracted more attention of late, thanks to Tyler Perry’s Madea. While the fictional matriach isn’t exactly the kind of character to inspire parents, she has made the name more familiar. As it happens, Madea is a nickname – she’s named Mabel Simmons. (And played by Tyler Perry himself!) Madea isn’t derived from Mabel; instead, it is a twist on Madear, a contracted form of “Mother Dear” – an affectionate address for a grandmother in the American South.

A handful of Medeas do appear in the US Census over the years. But she’s never made the Top 1000.

Can her attractive sound and long history be separated from her backstory? That’s tricky. Plenty of Biblical bad girls have been rehabilitated in recent years. And Jason’s popularity certainly wasn’t hurt by his exploits.

It may be that Madea is holding Medea back from being rediscovered – at least for now.

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 wouldn’t want to be named Medea nor would I name a daughter Medea, but I’d love to meet one, for what that’s worth. It is a name with strength. I do know I’d rather be named for Medea than Ophelia or Persephone, names that shout victim to me.

  2. Speaking as someone who has a life and career in the theatre, I’m not sure I could ever use this name without thinking of the unfortunate Greek namesake. I was even in the play in undergrad, and have used a monologue from the same for auditions ever since; and I doubt I can ever get those images out of my mind.

    Even were this not the case, the next memory that springs to mind upon hearing this name is when I tried to tell to teach the classic tragedy to a class of high school sophomores, who immediately starting yelling about how much they LOVED those “Madea movies!” I’m not sure we ever really drew the distinction between the two, since they just couldn’t hear Medea’s name without giggling.

  3. Medea is a beautiful name! I think it’s moderately usable, especially now that names like Jezebel and Delilah are up for consideration. I remember suggesting it to someone on Yahoo! Answers a while back who was asking about the name Sycorax for her daughter (as Shakespeare’s character Sycorax appears to be based off of Medea). Anyway, it’s definitely more usable than Sycorax!

  4. Oh I have never thought about this name before now.
    I actually quite like it, I enjoyed reading the play at school even although it was a sad tale.
    I like Medea a lot!

  5. I’ve always said meh-DEE-ah and anything else sounds funny to me now. I rather like it but since it was the name of one of his many cats *sigh* it’s a no no for us.
    I like Medea for the same reasons Photoquitly does and sad stories don’t bother me any (says she with Pandora & Jemima on her lists).

    Medea’s lovely and I would absolutely swoon upon meeting one (or more, please?) Medea’s fabulous! 😀

  6. My mother grew up with a Madea (ma-DAY-ah) and I guess she really liked it because she once told me that she had planned on calling her daughter Madea. But she didn’t! Maybe my father won that one…
    I think it’s great. It is a tragic story, but I tend to kind of ignore that stuff. I like the sound of the name. It’s exotic, it’s not common, and the accent is on the middle syllable, giving it that nice European lilt.