Zoe and Chloe are popular. Penelope is the hot name of the moment. Are there other names from Greek myth that could follow the same trend?
But they don’t all wear equally well. You could name your daughter Terpsichore, but it might not be the easiest choice. Mnemosyne feels like a total non-starter.
Others fall somewhere in between. They’re less user-friendly than the short and sweet Zoe, but remain attractive, approachable – the kind of rarities that parents are looking for in 2013.
Of course, some of these are in use in modern Greece, though the spellings tend to be different: Antigoni and Kalliopi.
To make this list, the name had to be Greek in origin, and end with the letter e and the ee sound. Surely I’ve missed some – or overestimated how easy it would be to answer to Aphrodite.
Anemone – A floral name, and a gentle punch line in Finding Nemo.
Antigone – In myth, the idealistic, rebellious Antigone met with a sorry fate. But her name has an appealing weight to it, somewhere between Penelope and Alexandra.
Aphrodite – This one might be too much to live up to, but then there’s Venus Williams.
Arachne – Before there were spiders, there was a weaver, a woman of such extraordinary skill that she bested the goddess Athena in a contest. Her prize? Lending her name to the crafty spider forevermore.
Ariadne – Here’s a name ready to catch fire. Ellen Page played an Ariadne in Inception. In Greek myth, she’s the clever girl who helps Theseus defeat the Minotaur. Plus, Ariana and Arianna come from this name, and they’ve become Top 100 staples. So why not Ariadne? It’s hard to say … but it means that she’s a fresh alternative to Penelope, familiar but underused.
Calanthe – An orchid, sometimes elaborated as Calanthia. I suspect most people would misread this as kah LANTH, omitting the final ee sound. Still, she’d shorten nicely to Callie.
Callidice – Another non-intuitive pronunciation, and another name that shortens to Callie. kah LID eh see sounds clinical to my ear. I was thinking of the Italian pronunciation of Eurydice when I first encountered Callidice, which would give her a very different sound: kahl eh DEE chee, maybe?
Calliope – The first Callie name that could easily work in English. Calliope is one of the muses, charged with epic poetry. Her name was borrowed by the inventor of a steam-powered musical instrument, popular with circuses and river boats. That might have been a negative in years past – they’re terribly loud – but now it sounds nostalgic, and a little bit like a sister for Harmony.
Callisthene – The last of the Callie names, she shares her roots with our word calisthenics – beauty + strength. Masculine name Callisthenes was definitely in use by the ancients. There’s also a fourth century Saint Callisthene, a well-born woman who gave all of her wealth to the poor.
Circe – An enchantress who tangled with Odysseus on his travels, Circe might be too femme fatale for a modern girl. Or not, in our age of Lola and Delilah.
Cleophee – I’ve only heard this name used in French, where she’s Cléophée. But she slips into the list thanks to her Greek roots.
Cybele – She looks like another variant of Sybil, but she’s pronounced SIB eh lee. She’s an Anatolian fertility goddess imported to ancient Greece.
Danaë – The American Danaes that I’ve met – all two of them – have pronounced their name da NAY, almost an alternative to the once so popular Danielle. But strictly speaking, she’s dan AH ee, cast off to sea in a wooden chest with her infant son Perseus. Perseus’ pop was none other than Zeus, and mother and babe were set adrift in an attempt to thwart a prophecy.
Daphne – A nymph pursued by Apollo, the gods turned her into a laurel tree to avoid his advances. It’s a name with considerable history in recent centuries, and one of the most wearable on this list. Daphne ranked #450 in 2011.
Dianthe – Diana is a Roman goddess and a royal icon, too. Dianthe is far more obscure, pronounced di AN thee.
Elene – I’m use to seeing this one spelled Eleni, but the Greek version of Helen makes this list only when spelled Elene.
Elete – The bad news: it would look as if you’d gone all braggish and named your child Elite, which is either a sibling name for Treasure or a stage name for a future gentleman’s club headliner. The real story: Elete is one of the Hours, the goddesses of seasons and times. Elete was charged with one of the times of day – prayer, immediately following lunch and before the afternoon’s work begins.
Hecate – She’s associated with witchcraft in 2013, but Hecate was probably a foreign goddess imported to the Greek pantheon – and a gentler figure, not a sinister one. Today this choice might be seen as controversial – or maybe just plain obscure.
Hermione – The Harry Potter heroine has yet to inspire many namesakes, but she has a history of use, and could wear well in our Penelope era.
Ianthe – Like Dianthe without the D, Ianthe was worn by an ocean nymph. It comes from the Greek for violet flower – ion plus anthos.
Ione – 1980s actress Ione Skye is forever remembered as the love interest in Say Anything … but her name never caught on.
Ismene – She sounds a little bit like a slurring of the phrase “is many.” There’s more than one mythological Ismene, but the one that probably comes to mind for most is the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta, sister to Antigone.
Nike – The goddess of victory could be a great name for a girl, an alternative to Nicole – if not for the sneaker. Don’t do it!
Persephone – The obvious alternative to Penelope. The whole goddess of the underworld gig is the tiniest bit goth, but her sound is stunning.
Phoebe – Along with Daphne and Penelope, another choice modern parents have embraced. We all know the name thanks to Friends and Charmed and Phoebe Cates. She’s clearly among the heirs of Zoe and Chloe.
Xanthe – With our affection for zippy z names, Xanthe – or maybe Zanthe – feels like a natural. She’s among the names from Greek myth worn by more than one figure.