Swans are graceful, beautiful, and surprisingly fierce. 

Names that mean swan share all of those characteristics, and more.

Bird baby names are favorites, so why not names inspired by swans?


There’s Bella Swan of the Twilight series and swashbuckling Elizabeth Swann of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, known as Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time in Englishalso features a character named Charles Swann. Charles falls in love with Odette, another name on this list. 

There are multiple reasons it’s used as a surname: it might develop from given names sharing the sound. Sometimes surnames described a person’s characteristics. Brown hair? You’re John Brown. Long, beautiful neck? You’re William Swan. Or maybe your family lived near a place associated with the birds. 

People with the given nameSwan? They’re rare in the US. Though it makes a great, daring middle.

In France, however, Swan and Swann have become trending unisex favorites, inspired by the character in the Proust novel.

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ANGUS (unranked)

Legnds and myths are rich with tales of the swan maiden, a beautiful woman who also appears in the form of a swan – or vice versa, a swan who can appear in human form. Despite the enduring nature of the stories, relatively few swan maidens have wearable names.

In Irish mythology, Oengus – an older form of Angus – falls in love with Caer Ibormeith, a princess held captive. Angus is the hero who frees her. They both turn into swans and fly away together. While Caer Ibormeith’s name isn’t in use in English, Angus has potential.

APOLLO (#388)

Apollo brings to mind a great many things. Healing, the sun, an Olympic champion speedskater, Gwen Stefani’s youngest child.

Also swans.

Swans were sacred to the Greek god. One of the lesser-known tales about Apollo is that he rode on the back of a swan to winter in a slice of paradise known as Hyperborea.

Better yet, Apollo is a very wearable name, not so different from other o-ending choices for boys and mythological favorites, too.

COBHAM (unranked)

Cobham is a surname name, derived from the word cob – a male swan. (A cob is also a smallish horse or a super-sized pony.)

It’s unexpected and seldom heard – in fact, it’s never been given to even five children in a single year. And yet, it brings to mind similar C names, from Carson to Colton to Corbin. (That last one means raven. Bird names are everywhere!)

Maybe Cobham feels a little awkward to say. It sounds more like “cob ’em” than Cobham. That might be a regional accent. Or maybe it’s the reason that Cobham has never caught on.

COB or COBB (unranked)

Of course, Cob or Cobb might make an interesting option, especially in the middle spot.

It could even be an unexpected Jacob nickname choice.

CYGNET (unranked)

As in a young swan. It sounds like signet – a seal, or a type of ring that can make a wax seal. But it’s an animal-inspired name that might be surprising as a middle. Cygnet comes from the Latin cygnus, meaning swan, fromt he Greek kyknos. The Greek origin is obscure, but might come from Sanskrit.

CYGNUS (unranked)

Speaking of the Latin word for swan, a number of characters in myth are known as Cygnus. The constellation Cygnus was listed by the astronomer Ptolomey way back in the second century; all these years later, it’s still an easily recognized constellation in the night sky. 

It’s associated with lots of stories, from Leda and the swan to Orpheus, who was transformed into a swan after his death.

EALA (unranked)

From the Irish word for swan, eala. The name is typically spelled Éala in Ireland, to emphasize the preferred pronuncation: ay-la. While Ayla ranks in the US Top 1000, this spelling is unknown – at least for now. It’s pretty, reasonably accessible compared to Siobhan or Aoife, and conencts to all the legend myth and lore about swans in Celtic culture.

ELSA (#994)

Long before the world met Disney’s Frozen princess, Richard Wagner gave the world a different kind of musical based on a fairy tale: Lohengrin.

The opera is based on the medieval legend of the Swan Knight. Elsa is in trouble when a mysterious man appears on the river, in a boat drawn by a swan. They marry, but there’s one condition: Elsa can never ask his name. 

“Here Comes the Bride” is first heard in Lohengrin. Wagner wrote it for Elsa.

FENELLA (unranked)

An Anglicized form of Fionnuala or Finnguala, Fenella comes straight out of Irish mythology.

Fenella’s wicked stepmother who turned her and her brothers into swans. Trapped in their cygnine form for 900 years, the children of Lir eventually broke the curse through the intervention of a monk.

Fenella isn’t common in the US, but it’s not unknown. Actress Finola Hughes wears yet another form of the name. Sir Walter Scott used the name for a minor character in his 1823 novel Peveril of the Peak.

Short form Nuala is now bestowed as a given name, too, but the -ella ending makes Fenella a compelling rarity that fits in with baby girl names now.

HAMSINI (unranked)

A name from India associated with swans. The goddess Saraswati is associated with the bird. Saraswati is the goddess of wisdom, and swans exemplify many of her best attributes.

HONG (unranked)

A Chinese name, Hong can mean rainbow or wild swan – or possibly something else. As with many Asian names, the exact characters used to spell the name determine its meaning.

HUGH, HUGO, or LINCOLN (#811, #399, and #54)

Take swans, mix in some medieval Christianity, and you’ll arrive at three of the most wearable swan-inspired boy names.

The twelfth century Saint Hugh of Lincoln is the patron saint of swans, and is often depicted in the company of a white swan. It’s said that a swan was his loyal companion and even served as a sort of guard dog while the saint slept.

Lincoln is also a presidential surname, associated with copper pennies, stovepipe hats, and the Civil War. So swans might not be the first thing that come to mind when you hear Lincoln. But the tie is unmistakable.

LEDA (unranked)

Leda features in yet another story of the powerful god Zeus seducing a maiden, this time while in the guise of a swan.

In our Emma-Luna moment, Leda fits right in. It’s short and complete, wearable for a child, but without sacrificing any sophistication for an adult.

Leda also qualifies as an overlooked vintage gem. Back in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Leda regularly charted on the fringes of the US Top 1000.

Spellings Leta, Lita, and Lida all work, too, though they point to other possible meanings and origins.

One of Leda’s children by Zeus was Helen, she of the face-that-launched-a-thousand-ships. That might even put Helen on the list of swan-inspired baby names.

LOUIS, LOUISA, LOUISE (#246, #825, #638)

King Ludwig II of Bavaria is sometimes known as the Swan King, the Fairy Tale King, or even the Mad King. He built Neuschwanstein – “new swan stone” Castle, inspired by medieval legends like the Swan King. The castle is located in Schwangau, complete with a swan on its coat of arms. (One more reason for Neuschwanstein Castle’s fame? It inspired Cinderella Castle at Disney World.)  

Among other things, Ludwig II was Richard Wagner’s patron and supported his work. That connects, in a roundabout way, stories like Tristan and Isolde to names that mean swan.

As for Ludwig/Louis and Louisa/Louise? Ludwig comes from Germanic elements and means “famous in battle.” In Latin, it became Ludovicus; the French transformed it to Louis. That puts all of the related names – at least distantly – on the list of names that mean swan.

NINA (#309)

2010’s dark ballet-centric movie earned Natalie Portman the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Nina. She’s the ballerina pushed to the edge while dancing the lead role in Swan Lake. More on that in a minute …

ODETTE (unranked)

Swan Lake might be the best known ballet other than The Nutcracker, especially since Oscar-winning movie The Black Swan came out in 2010.

The basic premise of Tchaikovsky’s ballet is this: an evil sorcerer turns a beautiful princess into a swan. The cursed princess is named Odette.

Odette comes from Otto, a name that feels fresh, edgy, and unexpected, without actually being invented or new.

ODILE, ODILIA (unranked)

Here’s another Swan Lake possibility, one linked to Odette in more ways than one.

In the ballet’s third act, we meet another Otto-named girl: Odile, daughter of the evil sorcerer. 

She takes Odette’s place – the black swan. The tension between good-girl Odette and the darker Odile is at the center of 2010-movie The Black Swan.

French Odile comes from Odilia, a name associated with an eighth-century saint.

PEN, PENN (unranked)

The female equivalent of cob is pen. With Penelope riding hide, Pen and Penn don’t seem so outlandish. And, as it happens, one of the possible meaning for Penelope is duck.

RHODANTHE (unranked)

Love elaborate R names like Rhiannon and Rosalind? Here’s one with a botanical tie and a cygnine twist, too!

In Australia, the Swan River Everlasting is a light pink flower. Scientific name? Rhodanthe manglesii.

Rhodanthe fits with all of these Greek, ends-in-e names for girls. It’s pronounced like the “ro” in Rose, the “dan” in Daniel, and the “thee” – rhymes with bee – in “Theodore.”

Like Cobham, it’s not used as a given name, so it’s a truly bold choice.

SVANA (unranked)

The chief advantage of Svana? It sounds much more like swan than any of the other swan-inspired baby names so far! The chief disadvantage? While Svana is a real given name in Icelandic, it doesn’t sound much like a name in English.

And yet, it could work. The ‘sv’ sound occurs in other languages, like the Russian Svetlana. And Svana isn’t a million miles away from other ends-in-a names for girls.

It comes from the Old Norse word for swan – svanr. Swedish design firm Svan is known for its highchair designs, which increases the possibility that other parents will recognize the sound.

SWANHILDE (unranked)

Swanhilde appears in the history books from the early Middle Ages forward, the name of several princesses and women religious.

There’s a Svanhild in Henrik Ibsen’s play, Love’s Comedy, another in the ballet Coppelia, and a third in the opera Hulda. None of them are household names. And Swanhilde? Not exactly the easiest name to wear to kindergarten, even in our anything-goes age.

But it comes from the elements “swan battle,” making this Germanic name a logical fit for this list.

VIVEKA (unranked)

The Hindu view of swans is fascinating. The creatures are sacred, and a swan’s feather is seen as a symbol for how we should live in the world. We should be present, but not attached – just like a swan’s feather is in the water, but not wet.

The goddess Saraswati rides the raja hansa – the royal swan, a symbol of viveka. Viveka is the ability to discern the difference between the good and bad, the enduring and the fleeting.

Vivek is the masculine form.

The name is surprisingly international. Beyond India, there’s also a connection to Sweden. Viveka is a Swedish feminine name related to the Germanic Wiebe. Actress Vivica Fox uses a different spelling; Viveca is seen, too.

In our age of Olivia and Victoria and Ava, V names are seen as vibrant and appealing. Viveka – choose your spelling – could be a rare name, rich with meaning and cygnine appeal.

Would you consider any of these names that mean swan?

First published on July 24, 2015, this post was revised and updated on April 30, 2021; October 26, 2021; and March 16, 2024.

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. Rodanthe (Ροδάνθη) is my aunt’s name. I prefer the Rodanthe spelling, like the town in North Carolina. I’ve been trying to get my husband to agree to Rodanthe for a middle for years!

    1. Roanoke? Sounds different and that is not personally what I wannabe named for haha. Been obsessed with theme Odette since was like 4 though. Don’t see how people saw Cinderella and Snow White the same way as they did (lots totally missed out on seeing it). Actually growth and a woman being like screw you I’m more than just pretty and if that’s all you think there is to me then byeee. I honestly credit that movie and also ‘Quest for Camelot’ for showing me strong women. I think the name Odette is beautiful and there’s nicknames like O or Etta that are also adorable. I just remember the first time I saw a princess or fairytale character actually be like shut up hot guy, I’m more than just a pretty face… it was Odette and I got made fun of in our class’s ‘who’s your favorite princess’ cause nobody knew who shows but she is so much better in comparison to cinderella or sleeping beauty.. I mean would that I could sleep for days, months, or years at a time Aurora… she’s living the damn dream and I’m supposed to feel bad for her ha

  2. I like the name Svanhilde/Swanhilde. Swan or Hildy or Anna all make the formal name wearable in this age where everything goes. Swan by itself reminds me of Snow, they are in the same category, edgy, faity-tale-ethereal, fresh and evocative. Hildy is girly and cute, the flirty sister to Hildagarde, but still strong and regal, even quirky. If parets like Odette, they make like Ottavianna. A longer frilly feminine form of Otto. Great Post!

  3. This is one of those lists I didn’t know I needed until it was there 😀
    I love swans, and I was enchanted the first time I met an Odette as a kid (she was Swedish). Leda is an intriguing option.