Just like Hermione names and Katniss names have specific qualities, so do night owl names. They refer, in some fashion, to the night sky. But they have a pretty, feminine quality, too. They’re not delicate or frilly, but they can’t be clunky, either. I’ve dropped Nyx from the list, and dozens of others that fit in terms of meaning, but didn’t quite have the right sound. (Or was I wrong? As I read the final draft of this post, is Nyx more wearable that Callirrhoe?)
Night Owl names are the ones that stick when you hear them in the planetarium show. They’re fluid, lovely names to say. They’re a little bit poetic, maybe even haunting.
And despite this blend, they’re also perfectly wearable in real life. Sometimes offbeat and unusual, yes. But never burdensome or strange.
Night Owl Names: Referring to Night
Laila, Layla, Leila – Spell it as you wish, this name comes from the Hebrew word for night. It was used in the 600s by an Arab poet, and his romance forever tied Layla to the Arab world. At least until Eric Clapton’s enduring 1970 “Layla” made us all sit up and consider the name. Today she’s the go-to choice for families seeking to bridge east and west, a culture-spanning name that is just plain pretty. No wonder she’s heard more and more often these days.
Lila – She can be a separate Indian name, or spin on Laila with a shared meaning. Either way, she’s been popular in recent years.
Lilith – She’s a lovely way to get to Lily, from an Akkadian word meaning “of the night.” Except. Lilith is considered a demon in ancient myth, and she’s sometimes associated with all sorts of unpleasantness.
Twila, Twyla – She most likely comes from the word twilight, making her a natural night owl name.
Vesper – She’s a Bond girl, and a name for the evening star. Vespers is an evening prayer service. Her sound is a little bit like Whisper, but easier to wear. The service is sometimes called Evensong – a choice way too out there to make this list, but could it possibly be a daring middle name choice?
Night Owl Names: Referring to Stars
Danica – Strictly speaking, Danica is the morning star, but let’s keep her with the night owls anyhow. She’s a Slavic name, and while we say the “nic” like Nicole in English, in some Slavic tongues she’s dah NEETS ah.
Estella, Esther, Estrella – Star is too obvious to be a night owl name, but all three of these star-related names are lovely possibilities.
Sidra – I’ve found her listed on websites as a name meaning ‘of the stars.’ I’m not so sure ’bout that, though. The Latin sidereus does refer to stars – it is the source of our word sidereal. But Sidra probably comes from two separate Arabic and Hebrew origins. Still, her sound is right – unexpected, a little bit exotic, but very wearable.
Sitara – She means star in Hindi.
Stella – She’s literary through and through – borrowed from the Latin by a sixteenth century poet, boosted by the Tennessee Williams play.
Night Owl Names: Referring to the Moon
Arianrhod – A name borrowed from Welsh myth, sometimes associated with the moon. It translates to silver wheel – a fitting image for a moon goddess. I’m a little stumped by her sound, though. I was saying ahr ee AHN rood, but listening to it in Welsh, I think I’m missing part of the sound.
Artemis – The goddess of the hunt in Greek myth, but also associated with the moon.
Chandra – From the Sanskrit word for moon, also sometimes used as a masculine name.
Diana – This name has never really taken off, and she probably brings to mind the princess, rather than the Roman moon goddess.
Luna – Another night sky name on the rise, though this one thanks to Harry Potter as much as her evening associations.
Marama – A Maori moon goddess name.
Quilla – Is this a stretch? In Spanish, Mama Quilla is the name of the Inca moon goddess, one of their most powerful deities, depicted as a beautiful woman. Only trouble? In English, we usually call her Mama Killa – and somehow, swapping the Qu for a K makes this a non-starter of a name. Despite that imperfect connection to the night sky, Quilla is a stunning alternative to the more common Stella.
Selene – Sometimes another name for Artemis in Greek myth, and sometimes a separate goddess, the personification of the moon. Selena is another option, but the sleek Selene seems the more interesting, unusual choice.
Night Owl Names: Borrowed from Moons
Io – A tiny name, just two letters but still two syllables. She’s a moon of Jupiter and a figure from Greek myth, a nymph who fled the advances of Zeus.
Callirrhoe – Is she wearable? Her spelling and pronunciation are not intuitive. She sounds like kah lyr OO ee. I’m tempted to say Callie Roe, a sort of smooshed name. Still, this tiny moon of Jupiter is intriguing. She was initially mistaken for an asteroid, and when she was finally identified as a moon, named for a river nymph.
Callisto – Another name borrowed from myth for the night skies, this one is more familiar to modern parents. Blame it on the villainous Callisto on Xena: Warrior Princess. But there’s also a positive association thanks to actress Calista Flockhart.
Elara – She’s one of the smaller moons of Jupiter, and a lesser known figure from myth, too. And yet, I think her name could be very wearable in 2014.
Galatea – She orbits Neptune. She’s also associated with the statue carved by Pygmalion, the one that came to life. Galatea means milk white – an appropriate name for a sculpture, or for a celestial object in the night sky.
Helene – A moon of Saturn, her name was inspired by Helen of Troy. Maybe it is her similarity to Selene, but sleek Helene feels more like a Night Owl name than Helen or Helena.
Leda – One of my favorites on this list, and yet another moon of Jupiter. Leda and the Swan is a widely known tale of Zeus’ ability to shapeshift in the name of courting lovely mortals. Their child together was the impossibly beautiful Helen of Troy. Leda hasn’t been in the US Top 1000 since 1920, making her a little bit vintage revival, a little bit modern discovery. Blogger Heather Armstrong – better known as Dooce – has a daughter named Leta Elise.
Thalassa – Girls’ names starting with Th- are an intriguing bunch. She’s one of the more obscure names on this list, but her meaning is rich. Thalassa is the Greek word for the sea, and in their mythology, she was a primordial goddess of the sea. She’s sometimes considered the mother of Aphrodite, too. It’s only fitting that Thalassa is a moon of Neptune.
Titania – Queen of the Fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and also the largest moon of Uranus.
Night Owl Names: Borrowed from Stars
Alcyone – She’s the brightest star in the Pleiades constellation. Would she be forever mistaken for a creative respelling of Allison? Maybe. But just as I left Callirrhoe on the list, there’s something about Alcyone that intrigues me. She’s pronounced al SEE eh nee.
Andromeda – She was rescued by Perseus in myth, and later gave her name to a constellation, a galaxy, and the name of a popular television series set in space.
Aquila – A strong name, a possibility for a daughter or a son. Aquila means eagle in Latin, and refers to a constellation identified by Ptolemy. Aquila is masculine in the New Testament, but is slightly more common for girls today.
Carina – One of my favorite surprise names. She sounds like a variant of Cara or Karen – and sometimes she is. But look to the night sky, and Carina is the keel of Jason’s ship, the one he sailed in pursuit of the Golden Fleece.
Cassiopeia – Andromeda’s mom, the one whose arrogant bragging incurred the wrath of Poseidon. (It’s why Andromeda needed rescuing in the first place – she was to be sacrificed to appease the god.) Despite the association, she’s a well-known constellation and a lovely, unusual name – a sister for Penelope, an alternative to Cassandra.
Lyra – A lyre-shaped constellation, Lyra also lent her name to Lyra Belacqua, the heroine of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.
Maia – Among the most wearable of star names, borrowed from another star in the Pleiades. There’s also Merope, familiar to Harry Potter fans, Asterope, Celaeno, Pleione, Taygeta, Electra, and then one I quite like for boys – Atlas.
Meissa – She’s a bright star in the constellation Orion, and her meaning matches: shining one, from the Arabic phrase Al-Maisan. Most astrological sites give the pronunciation as MAY suh, which makes her a successor to Macy and an elaboration of Mae.
Talitha – There are two Talithas in the night sky, a Southern and a Northern, born in the constellation Ursa Major. She’s a nature name through and through – besides referring to two bright stars in night sky, Talitha comes from a phrase referring to a gazelle. There’s a New Testament link for Talitha, too, from an Aramaic phrase meaning “little girl.”
Vaela – Carina is the keel of Jason’s ship, and Vaela is the sail.
Vega – Too Pulp Fiction? Maybe. But there’s also singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega, and many others to wear the surname, which refers to a meadow or a plain. The star comes from a separate Arabic phrase referring to a falling eagle.
Night Owl Names: Others
Araceli – She comes from a Latin phrase meaning “altar of the sky” and is used primarily in Spanish, originally as a title for the Virgin Mary.
Celeste – Celeste isn’t specifically related to the evening, but she does refer to the celestial, so she earns a spot here. One of Galileo’s daughters, born Virginia, took the name Maria Celeste when she became a nun.
Galilea – It is tough to overstate the contributions of Galileo to astronomy, and his name has been used for countless objects associated with the night sky. As a given name, it refers to Galilee, the ancient region once home to Jesus. While Galilea isn’t found in the heavens, there’s something about the name that fits on this list, isn’t there?
What are your favorite Night Owl names? Are there other names that belong on this list?