As if Chicago’s bad girl Roxie Hart didn’t taint her, the Police’s chart-topping single nearly did her in. Can she regain her rightful place as a culture-spanning classic?

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

Roxana’s roots are as classic as Eleanor. The Persian Roshanak became Rhoxane in Greek and Roxana in Latin. She was the well-born first wife of Alexander the Great.

It’s often said that her name derives from words meaning dawn or light or bright, or even shining beauty. But ever since she was discovered by English speakers, we seem determined to cast Roxana as a whore.

Maybe whore is harsh. But there’s long been a sense that Roxana is outside the bounds of respectability.

Sixteenth century Ottoman Emperor Süleiman the Magnificent caused a scandal when he married one of his concubines, known in Europe as Roxelana.

Then in 1724, Daniel Defoe penned Roxana: The Unfortunate Mistress. Defoe’s heroine travels from wealth to prostitution and back again, trading identities as she learns to get by on her moxie.

I couldn’t pin down the plot of a nineteenth century ballet about yet another Roxana, but Defoe’s story has also been adapted to the medium. That second ballet, in turn, recently became the subject of an indie flick.

Then came Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmund Rostand’s enduring 1897 play about an aristocratic soldier with an extra helping o’ schnoz. His Roxane is beyond reproach, as is the Roxanne played by Daryl Hannah in the 1987 film retelling. But they all get tied back together by the 1977 Police single “Roxanne.” Music lore has it that Sting was inspired by the prostitutes milling around their Paris hotel. (This was well before they’d hit it big.) But the name was chosen after he spotted a fading poster for Cyrano de Bergerac in the hotel lobby.

On another musical note, you might remember 1984’s “Roxanne, Roxanne” a hip hop single from UTFO, all about a girl who was not interested in their advances.

Inspired by the hit, Lolita Gooden traded her daring birth name to become Roxanne Shanté and record “Roxanne’s Revenge,” the first in an unprecedented series of answer records.

If all of that is history, Roxie Hart has been quite visible as Chicago returned to Broadway and the big screen. The scheming showgirl was introduced in the original 1920s version of the musical, and Renée Zellwegger’s 2002 movie turn caught everyone’s attention.

Roxy has something of an indie edge, as in:

  • Surfwear giant Quiksilver’s women’s line is called Roxy;
  • Samuel Rothafel built movie palaces during the 1920s, giving them his nickname – Roxy;
  • New York City’s 18th Street roller disco turned into a nightclub, just one of many by the name.

But the venue that puts the capital T in The is Sunset Strip’s The Roxy. The stage of the West Hollywood hot spot has been graced by everyone – Bob Marley to Nirvana to Guns N’ Roses to Jay-Z.

None of the Rox- names are terribly current these days, but that might just be her appeal. Roxie fits in with Sadie’s Sisters. And while Roxanne might be best left to lovesick poets and rappers, Roxana sounds surprisingly at home with modern retro picks like Susannah and Rosalie.

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. Yes, Roxana is my real name. I love it. My grandmothers’ names were Ana and Rosario, so my father just combined them and gave it a twist. I always thought my name was a little romantic, a little adventurous and a little misterious. I also liked Roxy for my nickname.
    I named my firstborn Roxana, but she carried the name for only 5 months. My third girl is Roxelys (a combination of Roxana and Elizabeth, with another twist). It was the closest to Roxana I could think. Roxelys nickname is Roxy, another cute thing we share.

  2. In SA, there’s a famous model & surfer named Roxy Louw. Her father was a Springbok & is a commentator on Supersort & so she is well -known. I have also known a Roxanne. My uncle really likes don’t quite know if he loves it as he does Zoe & Rebecca) but he has always mentioned this name to me
    Roxana/Roxanne is a rather normal name to me, though I can understand the appeal.It’s quite sultry sounding. Surfing is also huge here in SA, so it is a ‘brand’ name as well. But then again, Chanel is a brand & in SA is hugely popular & is just a name as opposed to ” They named their kid after the brand!”
    Overall, I can appreciate it , but I wouldn’t list it as one as a consideration. I do think Roxie/Rx is cute, though. These have to be the only -ro names that I don’t mind & lean to like. Otherwise, I have a thing against -ro names

      1. Yes. I find it fascinating how a name’s reception can differ according to culture & country. To me, a name like Chanel is the same as Jane. Oddly, the one Chanel I know goes by Nilla amidst her family and friends. Another one I find interesting is Portia which is said the same as Porsche depending on how you pronounce Porsche.

  3. I absolutely love Roxana, although I prefer the Roksana spelling. This leads to the Sana nickname. I like Roxie, too. Roksana is definately in my top twenty.

  4. Eh, Roxana is ok, but I would never name my child that. I prefer Rosanna. I love Rosalie too. It is beautiful. I just can’t get past the nickname Roxy/Roxie.

  5. I find Roxana absolutely gorgeous. She has such an exotic and sensual sound without sounding too weird or out there.

  6. Oh I’m so glad you posted this. Roxana has been on my mind lately! I knew a beautiful girl named Roxy in college, and though at first the name seemed a tad 80’s for my taste, it grew on me. I definitely prefer the full name Roxana to Roxanne…seems elegant but with a cool edge and could fit different personalities (feminine and girly or indie and edgy). Plus its got the great nn potential of Roxy or Ana. I think I’m adding it to my short list.

  7. Grew up with a Roxanne, nn Rocky. Oddly, the Stallone flick came out the same year she was born… no idea whether her folks were fans.

    Huge fan of The Police, but that is one song that doesn’t really inspire use of the name for your own child.

    With regard to cinemas, I have tons of great memories watching movies at the fairly cool looking art deco Roxy one town over from where I grew up. That’s a very positive association for me, however…

    In all, not a huge fan of Roxanne or Roxana, but I can see the appeal of the name and the Roxie nn.