The baby name Persephone signals the changing of seasons, complete with an elaborate, stylish sound.
Thanks to Danielle, Sara, and Saranel for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
QUEEN OF THE UNDERWORLD
The baby name Persephone glides. It’s tremendously pretty.
But the mythological figures reigns as Queen of the Underworld. At first glance it seems a little Goth.
Except the story is more complicated.
The daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Persephone is kidnapped by Hades – King of the Underworld. As his bride, she has dominion over the dead. The tale reads dark and gloomy. After all, she’s torn from her beloved mother.
But the goddess strikes a deal.
Every fall, Persephone dutifully returns to the land of the dead, ushering in autumn and winter. But six months later, she returns to the land of the living, bringing spring and summer. Demeter, her mother, is an agricultural goddess, so Persephone’s control of the seasons fits.
It’s also the original death and the maiden story. Renaissance paintings somtimes depict a young woman with a skeleton – the personification of death. Persephone’s story might be part of the inspiration.
The baby name Persephone becomes Proserpina in Roman mythology. The figure is sometimes called Kore – maiden, the forerunner of current favorite Cora. Her story has long been popular with artists and composers, writers and scientists. A number of creatures – moths, butterflies, even a sea snail – have been given the name.
While Persephone’s origins are debated, they can be rather dark, relating to death and destruction. But that’s not the meaning of the name as we understand it today.
BY THE NUMBERS
Regardless of the mythological figure, the baby name Persephone never quite caught on in the US.
It was given to fewer than five girls from 1880 into the early 1960s – that’s close to zero uses.
Things started to change in the 1960s.
Maybe it was the burgeoning environmental movement. There do seem to be more mentions of Persephone in popular culture – tiny ones, not nearly enough to explain a big increase in the name’s use.
But then again, there wasn’t a big increase in the use of the baby name Persephone. Six girls were born in 1962; seven in 1964; ten in 1971.
POP CULTURE PERSEPHONES
The name does surface in a handful of places.
There’s a debutante by the name in the 2010 reboot of British television series Upstairs, Downstairs. A Hollyoaks character is another.
Many parents might also think of The Matrix series. The Merovingian operates a nightclub called Club Hel. Appropriately enough, his wife is Persephone.
But none of that explains the steady climb in the number of newborn girls named Persephone.
Instead, that seems to be all about the equally Greek Penelope. She’s the faithful, clever wife of Odysseus. The name – always relatively familiar – has become a twenty-first century style-star.
It’s not just Penelope. There’s Zoe (and Zoey), Chloe, and Phoebe, to name just a few of the gorgeous girl names ending with e.
Parents have sought out more options, like Top 1000 newcomers Calliope and yes, Persephone.
The baby name Persephone debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2019 at #924. That represents 285 births – triple the number just ten years earlier.
STYLISH and SEASONAL
With ties to the natural world, like Willow and Daisy, and a sound that is popular with so many names right now, Persephone feels like a great choice for a stylish, seasonal name for a daughter.
Would you consider the baby name Persephone?
First published on October 8, 2013, this post was revised and re-published on March 18, 2021.
I adore Persephone; it’s one of my favourite names for a girl. And the nickname Sephy (like the Noughts & Crosses character) is so sweet.
Callie Wilde says
As a girl named Persephone my nickname is PerSy (with a s) I think that Peri, Perry is such a cute name and i wish that was my nickname.
Love hearing about all these girls named Persephone!
Wow! I named my oldest child Persephone after learning her story from a Greek Mythology class in the late 90s. No one can say her name right, but when they now the right pronunciation they love it. I never knew all of this though. Her name suits her well. She is one of a kind, smart, funny, and just about everyone like her that she comes across. She got so excited when I told her she was one out of a dozen plus in the that time frame to be given her name. Thanks for the info. We enjoyed it.
I’m late to the party, but my one year old daughter is named Persephone, too. It came to me in a vision and I would not let it go, despite my husband’s lack of enthusiasm. People often think I am saying “Perstephanie” but once they are corrected, they love the name. I find it to be ultra feminine and strong at the same time. We call her Persie for short and I love the nickname, too. That I get to educate people about greek mythology is a bonus. Go Persephone!
I love Persephone but a little nervous to ever use it. Too bad because I think Percy would be an adorable nn.
my daughter’s name is persephone, so i clearly love the name and think it’s beautiful (with the idea of the nickname “percy”, which we thought was cute for a girl). she was a fall baby, so we thought it fit nicely into the myth of the fall/harvest. she passed away shortly after birth. since now i feel like i am the mother grieving the loss of her daughter, it makes her name even more perfect to me. love to see it getting recognized!
Hi gk, I’m so very, very sorry for your loss. What a lovely story of her name – thank you for sharing it, and for telling us about your daughter. Best, Abby
gk, I am holding back tears for you as I write this. My heart grieves for you; I cannot imagine what you have suffered.
You made a beautiful choice for your daughter’s name. “Persephone” is first on my list if we are blessed with another baby girl.
I will hold you close in thought and prayer today.
I’ve always liked Persephone. I personally like it more than Penelope. I think of the mythical character as the goddess of Spring and just associate her with picking flowers, a kind, sweet, innocent girl. I like Proserpine/Proserpina also. Both seem like names that might be hard to wear. But maybe times are changing and they will seem perfectly fine in 15 years. After all, a name like Ella was very old-fashioned when I was growing up.
In the newest version of the British drama “Upstairs Downstairs”, Lady Persephone “Towyn, younger sister of one of the main characters Lady Agnes, is called “Persie”. Persephone seems the sort of name that the British might favor, but in England and Wales only 38 baby girls were given the name in 2011 and just 25 in 2012. Persephone reminds me in sound of Stephanie (which I’ve always liked), and I think Persie or Persy is cute as a nickname.
I agree with Katybug. I always found the story of Persephone and Hades somewhat romantic, but I think it depends on what version you read. When I was in HS the standard issue was “Heroes, Gods, and Monsters” and my copy is to dog-eared after years of thumbing through my favourites (Hades, Orpheus, Hephaestus and Atalanta to name a few). I really like this name, but I think a great deal of its power is in the imagery the myth brings to mind. The more I hear it being used, the more it loses that mystique for me unfortunately. Persephone starts to sound a bit like the new Stephanie.
I personally love the story of Persephone and Hades. I’ve never seen it as a negative at all. I can’t think of pomegranates without thinking of her 🙂
Lisa T. says
Yes, the name Persephone immediately makes me imagine red, juicy pomegranates! I didn’t even really know the myth that well, just that I used to have a perfume called Persephone that smelled like roses and grenadine. I’m sure it’s been 15 years since I wore it, but that memory is there permanently.
Persephone was one of my top 3 names for my baby. I chose another, but I loved the idea of Percy as a nickname. Plus my oldest child would have loved it as the namesake of her favorite train! Haha. The name itself is just so beautiful and flows so well. It doesn’t seem clunky to me at all! Thanks for writing it up!
Adore Persephone, too. I’ve been in awe of her as a myth-figure for so long– and I’m so glad the namesake is getting popular (at least, from my tip-toe-ing around name boards, it seems to be).
LOVE Persephone. She’s high on my list, though likely to be in the middle. And I love many of the potential nicknames too: Penny, Peppy, Poppy, Sephie, Effie, Persy, Posy…