She’s the goddess of wisdom, but would it be smart to choose this name for a child?
Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting our Name of the Day: Minerva.
Minerva’s place is in the Roman pantheon, where she combines the qualities of the Greek Athena with the name of Etruscan goddess Menrva. There’s an etymological link to the Latin word for mind – mens – but that might be a happy accident.
Despite the goddess’ reputation for learned achievements, she’s been worn by few real women. You can find references to Minerva at universities worldwide. She features in the state seal of California and on the United States’ Medal of Honor. But a professor or a Congresswoman called Minerva? Not so much.
Still, she’s not a true rarity. Minerva was in use, charting in the US Top 1000 from 1880 through 1970, and appearing once more in 1973. Minervas include:
- Early 20th century painter Minerva J. Chapman;
- Comedienne Minerva Pious, known for her role on Fred Allen’s radio show in the 1930s and 40s;
- Late 19th century strongwoman Minerva, holder of several Guinness Book world records – though she was actually born Josephine Wohlford.
But the best known MInervas are fictional, including:
- In the Harry Potter series, Hogwarts professor Minerva McGonagall;
- Animated Animaniacs primadonna Minerva Mink;
- One of the Transformers, a French teenager who became part-medic, part-Porsche;
- From the Artemis Fowl series, the brainy Minerva Paradizo.
Minerva is also sometimes considered the formal given name of a very famous Mouse, better known as Minnie. And as it happens, the actress Minnie Driver is not a Minerva – she’s an Amelia.
Call your daughter Minerva, and she’ll share her name with ships – at least two cruise ships, as well as those of the French and British Royal navies. The name has been worn by a Belgian automobile company, a genus of owls, and a tiny Pacific island that briefly declared itself the sovereign Republic of Minerva. The last was located near New Zealand’s Minerva Reefs; you’ll also find the name on the map in at least three US states.
While similar choices like Miranda and Marisa have fared well in recent years, Minerva feels a bit harder to wear. Perhaps it’s the simple fact that her Greek equivalent, Athena, is doing well. She came in at #444 in 2007, about the most popular she’s ever ranked, and we can imagine Athena continuing to rise. Of course, Athena lacks a built-in nickname.
Overall, Minerva is undeniably quirky and brainy, too. On the right child, this name would be downright charming. But Minerva’s drawback is that the full name is awfully dramatic, while the obvious nickname is far too cute to be worn by most adults. There is the possibility of using Mina or Minna as a short form; it might be the most accommodating option. And, of course, we can’t help but love the fact that while she’s recognizable and well-known, odds are that your Minerva would never meet another.