Category: ancient baby names
By Linda Rosenkrantz
In the mythologies of ancient Greece and Rome, most of the deities had shared lineages, dominions and attributes—but not appellations. I thought it might be fun to pit the names of the two cultures against each other and let you see if your taste ran more to the Greek or Roman. The one major exception to this rule is Apollo—recently chosen by Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale—whose name stayed the same.
Here they are, with Greeks on the left, the Romans to the right.
We’re all familiar with the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons of mythological deities, from Adonis and Athena to Zeus, but there a number of other ancient names from other cultures with their own pantheons of intriguing god and goddesses. We’ve delved into the some of the most intriguing mythologies—Egyptian, Phoenician, Norse, Celtic, Indian, African, et al– and discovered some striking ancient names for the intrepid baby namer.
ÁINE (AWN-ya)– Irish Celtic goddess of love, summer, wealth and fertility
AINO (EYE-no) – A Finnish mythological water sprite
There are so many unusual, beautiful, intriguing saints’ names that it’s hard to know where to start when considering them as a source for baby names. The collection that follows are the names of saints with winter feast days, which might be a source of inspiration for choosing the name of your own baby. There are lots more wonderful choices (and saints) where these came from, but among the most intriguing winter saints’ names are:
AMBROSE – Patron saint of candle makers.
ADELARD — A cousin of Charlemagne who became a monk, a devoted gardener, and eventually a powerful abbot.
ANSKAR – Missionary to Scandinavia in the 9th century who tried to ease the harsh conditions of the Viking slave trade.
APOLLONIA – She had all her teeth knocked out for refusing to renounce her faith, and is now the patron saint of dentists.
BASILISSA – Also known as Basilla, this Roman noblewoman was beheaded for her belief in Christianity. She is the patron saint of breast-feeding.
BAVO – Nobleman who gave away all his money and became a hermit. He is the patron saint of the Netherlands.
CAIAN – A Welsh saint who was said to be the son or grandson of a king.
It’s a curious thing that, even when people prefer quirky or unusual names, they often prefer the same quirky or unusual names. Why is Clementine such a darling, for instance, while brother name Clement languishes? Why are Nora, Cora, and even Florence hot, while the equally lovely Flora is ignored?
In the nameberry spirit of promoting great unusual, underrated, unappreciated names, we bring you the latest in a series of names nobody’s using…..but should be.
CAIO – Variation of an ancient Latin name that means “rejoice”, Caio – pronounced not kay-oh or chow but kye-oh – takes the trendy Kai one step further. Contemporary artist Caio Fonseca is a noted bearer.
COLETTE – The new movie Cheri with Michelle Pfeiffer may at least bring this name of the scandalous French writer back into contemporary consciousness. Out of the Top 1000 for more than two decades, Colette is derived from Nicholas.
Modern Western civilization owes much to the legacy of ancient Rome, not the least of its many influences being found in our names.
In the ancient Roman system of naming, each citizen belonged to an ancestral group called a “gens,” and took his name from his particular gens. The traditional form of the Roman name existed in three parts: Roman males would be given a first name at birth, called a “praenomen,” followed by his gens name, and then a last name called a “cognomen” that identified the branch of the gens to which he belonged.
In the time of Rome’s early to middle era, there wasn’t much variety in women’s names. In fact, they generally were given the gens name of their father (in the feminine form), and daughters within the same family were usually distinguished from their sisters by an additional name indicating their position in the birth order. So the first born would be Prima, the second Secunda, and the third Tertia, etcetera.
Despite the seeming lack of concern of the Romans of this period for bestowing unique names on their girls, we nevertheless have a number of lovely Roman feminine names to consider. Those listed below are all feminine forms of the gens names that were in use by notable Roman families in the time of Rome’s Republic (509 BCE to 31 BCE), many of which are still heard today. Those that are less familiar may make especially interesting choices for modern-day girls’ names.