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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  1. I totally see a Pandora as a dark haired child, but in my case my child will be the most blond tow-head around, and I still think it will just be enchanting on my child!

    And I love little Paradoxal, but haven’t had an update on the wee baby in so long!

  2. oh man, that Pandora radio is so cool! Thanks for that link, I never heard of it before and now I’ve been listening to it all day!
    Pandora is really cool. Maybe a little wild for a first name, but in the middle, it’s gorgeous! If I had it in my family tree, I would definitely seriously consider it.
    Lola, Cecily Pandora Jane is amazing! It’s perfect! Reminds me slightly of my Cecilia Tilley Rose, but more sultry. I love it!

  3. Oh, and Lola – I googled her coz I have nothing else to do (the kids and Dan are in bed – party poopers! 🙂 ) She’s so darn cute!! I thought blonde with blue eyes before I even saw the pic of her, but I could also see her on a dark haired girl. No goth vibe for me though, despite the vampires.

  4. Ooh – Pandora is lovely indeed. I’m a big fan of CPJ, Lola; she’s just enchanting! PCJ is great too, but I prefer the former more. I love Cecily and Pandora together, Ruby just doesn’t have the same effect, for me 🙂

    Her history makes for a great, rich name and I could see a girl who dons this name in nearly any walk of life! Like Kate said, people would definitely remember her!
    I’m just not sure if I’d be game enough to use her up front myself, and I wouldn’t; I definitely associate her with you now, Lola.

  5. Ahh Pandora, I adore her! My best friend is called Pandora and her name always makes people sit up and listen – and remember her. I have no bad things to say about the name, it’s utterly charming and while people like to make inappropriate ‘box’ jokes to her the first time they meet her, it quickly wears off! Oh and one more thing, Lola, Cecily Pandora Jane is, as I think I have said before – beautiful.

  6. hehe, I’m grooving to one of my Pandora stations right now. I love that site… And one reason I have a hard time taking the name seriously now – I just use this site too much, it’s seared into my brain, haha.

    As for the name… I think it could work in a NYC/LA/Chicago type setting, but here in the rural southeast/midwest, it would probably get some really shocked looks. I don’t find it frilly, quite the opposite actually. I find it strong, a bit in your face and a little bit Goth. A dark haired Pandora would make a lot more sense to me than a toe-headed Pandora running around. Does that make any sense???

    The sound is pretty, and I’m sure she would be fairly well received in some areas. But, were I to meet one, I’d be inclined to think he parents might be a little on the wacky/hippy side…

  7. I love Pandora, more and more it’s slipping higher on my favorites list. Panda is an adorable nickname. I actually really like the myth, makes this a really strong choice. And Lola, I adore your Cecily Pandora Jane, it is simply perfection.

  8. Oh, and the music thing is awesome! I am so happy with that. (The jewelry thing is a pretty neat pop culture assocation too. (Am groovin to “What is & what should never be” right now! )

  9. She’s my “MIL”. And why I requested her. Thank you so very much, Verity! If she gets a decent reception, I’m showing her this site. She’s hated her name all her life, thinks it too frilly but her brothers are my boys’ middle names, they were Sebastian, Ambrose & Pandora. (Baz, Am & Dora) What a great set, hmm? I did consider Pandora for Josephine, in passing and did a bit more thinking about it in the middle but once we settled on Josephine, Pandora just seemed a bit too much with her. So I tried the middle this time and found the most perfect spot for her: Cecily Pandora Jane. I think the surrounding names ground Pandora most effectively and still showcase her beauty.

    There’a little Pandora somewhere out there, google PARADOXAL and you’l find her. Gorgeous girl, somewhat odd parents. I would love to know her for real though, just to see how her name plays out as she ages.

    I really think the world could handle Pandora as a first name, now and have toyed with that myself (Pandora Ruby/Cecily Jane anyone?) but am quite happy with CPJ myself. I really like the name, think the myth is a bit mysogynistic 😉 and really dig the new theory *and* the minor Goddess thing. Beats Freya in my book, anyway!

    Pandora’s most awesome, indeed! I hope she’s not too hated.