Our first reaction when Unknown suggested this one?
No way! It’s a car, a train, the Greek God of the wind.
But then we remembered that he’s also a saint, and all of a sudden today’s Name of the Day started to sound almost wearable: the zippy, zany Zephyr.
Zephyrus or Zephyros was the Greek god of the west wind. Together with his three counterparts – Boreas in the north, Notus in the south and Eurus in the east – they were known as the Anemoi. In art, they sometimes appear as puffs or gusts, but more often as winged figures.
Zephyrus was the gentle spring breeze, responsible for ushering in fair weather. He was the husband, brother or both of Iris, goddess of the rainbow. Another famous tale involving the deity pits him against Apollo for the affections of the handsome Hyacinth – making Zephyrus’ tale famous among scholars of same-sex romance in myth and fable.
On a different note, the second century Pope Zephyrinus enjoyed an extended reign – 18 years, probably the longest since Peter first held office. Despite his long tenure, little is known of his life. Chances are that Zephyrinus was his birth name, as it has the flavor of many Late Latin monikers. Tradition says that Zephryinus was martyred, and today he is known as Pope Saint Zephyrinus.
The better known Zephyrs, however, aren’t gods or men. Instead, they traveled the rails between California and the Midwest. You can still hop a ride on the Amtrak Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco today.
Or if you’d rather drive yourself, the Lincoln Zephyr is available now. It follows the Ford Zephyr (manufactured from 1950 to 1972) and the short-lived Mercury Zephyr (1978-83). In the 1990s, Kawasaki also made a motorcycle by the name.
It’s no surprise that Zephyr has never made the Top 1000 given names in the US, but it was a little eye-opening to search old census records and find plenty of bearers of the name – including quite a few women!
It’s possible that some were born Zéphyrine, a sometimes used French feminine form. The name also persists as the masculine Zeferino in Spanish and Portuguese. Some bearers may have been seeking an Americanized version of their birth name; some probably were born on the saint’s feast day; others might have simply been given a mythological moniker.
While Zephyr seems quite difficult for a modern child to wear, we do like the nickname Zef. And with Zachary at #42, Xavier at #68 and names with a “z” sound like Isaiah and Ezekiel all the rage, it doesn’t seem completely outlandish.
Still, we can’t help think that Zephyr is probably best reserved for the middle spot – where it would be an intriguing surprise, rather than a rather dazzlingly odd way to introduce oneself. If you love the name, however, consider using Zephyrin. The added syllable somehow softens the association with transportation, and might even put this one in the category of daring, but revivable oldies.