She’s gone down in history as the original troublemaker, but if Eve is a popular pick for our daughters, why not this one?

Thanks to Lola for suggesting Pandora as Name of the Day.

The derivation of this name is pretty simple. It’s Greek. Dora comes from doron, or gifts, while pan means all. In mythology, Pandora was the first woman, endowed with all sorts of positive qualities by the gods – including curiosity – along with a box that she must never, ever open. Pandora can’t resist, and when she peeks inside, evil enters the world. She manages to close the box in time to preserve just one thing – hope.

Doubtless you would think of this tale every time your daughter opened birthday gifts.

But as with most things mythological, there are many readings of Pandora’s story. There’s the misogynist version, promoted by the poet Hesiod a few hundred years BC. Other evidence suggests that Pandora was more of an ancient Earth goddess, all-giving rather than simply gifted. This paints Pandora in a very different light, even perhaps as a daring, rebellious feminist icon. (If you need a good laugh, check out this article from the New York Times back in April of 1914.)

Parents have never warmed to Pandora. While you’ll find her in the US census records, she’s never ranked in the Top 1000 baby names.

There are a few popular references to Pandora, though:

  • Anne Rice used the name for one of her vampires – though her Pandora was born Lydia;
  • Discovered in the 1980s, one of Saturn’s moons wears the name;
  • The BBC’s Skins includes a character called Pandora Moon;
  • The Independent, a British newspaper, used the name Pandora for their gossip column.

She also shows up in music, manga and comics and a host of other pop culture references. Tiny Pandora Island is part of the Arctic Archipelago; the British Royal Navy has used the name for ships since the eighteenth century.

But my favorite Pandora reference is the online radio station. You supply some general guidance about your musical preferences, and next thing you know, Pandora is digging up songs you just might like. Selection is based on an algorithm developed through the Music Genome Project. The service is incredibly cool – and it completely recasts the name to focus on the figure’s bold and adventurous qualities.

If she wishes to blend in, Pandora can always use the nicknames Dora or Dory.

But is that enough to make Pandora a viable choice for a daughter? This one is tricky. She’s easy to say and spell, and her sound is undeniably attractive. If you’re an artist/musician/indie coffee shop owner calling your daughter Pandora will probably be seen as a cool, even iconoclastic choice. But if you’re, say, an accountant living in suburban New Jersey? This choice might be too bold.

She’s charming, but tread lightly.

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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