Greek Names for Girls: 21 unexplored ancient treasures
Greek names, particularly for girls, are beginning to make more of a mark on the American baby namescape. The Greek Sophia is our Number 1 name, and Chloe and Zoe are at 10 and 31, respectively. Tina Fey looked back to her Greek roots for the names of her second daughter Penelope Athena and Kourtney Kardashian followed with her own little Penelope a year later. Little girls bearing Greek goddess names and boys named after gods are sliding down slides in Boston and Brooklyn playgrounds, where even extreme choices like Persephone and Andromeda are becoming accepted.
But there is a wealth of baby girl names still to be imported from this ancient culture, ranging from mythological deities’ and saints’ names to botanicals to place names. Easy to pronounce, with many bearing a strong family resemblance to familiar English names, here are of the best underused Greek baby names.
(Btw, though there is no officially published list of the most popular Greek baby names, various registers have been compiled. Leading the girls’ names are: the perennial Maria, Eleni, Aikaterini/Katerina, Vasiliki and Sofia.
Acacia—One of the prettiest, Acacia is an on-the-verge-of-discovery nature name, that of the acacia tree, which symbolizes resurrection and immortality. Pronounced ah-KAH-kee-ah on its native soil, it would inevitably be ah-KAY-see-uh orah-KAY-sha in English- speaking countries.
Alala—One of the lesser known and most rhythmically lilting goddess names, Alala was a sister of Aries and—unfortunately—a goddess of war. It’s traditionally given to girls born under the signs of Aries and Scorpio, which are ruled by Aries.
Charis—A name whose meaning embraces such desirable attributes as beauty, grace and charm, its authentic Greek pronunciation is KAH-rees, but the ch sound would probably prevail here. Charis is the name of one of the Three Graces in Greek myth. Charmian is another possibility.
Clytie—She may sound more like a Southern nickname, but this is actually a Greek mythological name meaning ‘the splendid one’ and belonging to a water nymph who was a daughter of Oceanus in love with Apollo.
Elektra—Also spelled Electra—as in the O’Neill play Mourning Becomes…, Elektra has both an appealingly electric aura and some ancient tragedy associations. Jennifer Garner played a superheroic Elekra in two films, based on a Marvel Comics character. Isabella Rossellini chose the softer Italian spelling Elettra for her now grown daughter.
Eulalia—The euphonious Eulalia—one of several usable Eu–starting names, including Eudora—is a character in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, and was chosen by actress Marcia Gay Hardin for her daughter back in 1998. Its apt meaning is ‘well-spoken.’
Gaia—In Greek mythology, she was the earth goddess, one of the most important of divinities. Pronounced GUY-a in English , JEE-a in Greek, it could be a successor to Maia and Kaia. Emma Thompson has a daughter named Gaia.
Ianthe—Like Violet, Lavender and Lilac, Ianthe is a purple flower name. Chosen by the poet Shelley for his daughter, Ianthe has a poetic, romantic, almost ethereal quality. In the ancient myth, she was the daughter of Oceanus, supreme ruler of the sea. Iantha is also used.
Io—One of the few two-letter names on the table, and more substantial than most because of its two syllables, Io was a mythological maiden beloved by Zeus. If you wanted to extend it, you could consider Iola, Iole, Iona or Iolanthe.
Jocasta—Like Elektra, a name with somewhat unsavory ancient associations, but Jocasta makes an interesting, modern sounding choice nonetheless, having an aristocratic air and a choice of possible nicknames. Halle Berry played a Jocasta in the current Cloud Atlas.
Kasiani — One of the newest names on Nameberry is this ancient choice in the Cassia family, also spelled Kassiani and Cassiane. Saint Kasiani was a hymnographer whose best-known hymn is chanted during Easter Week and is associated with “fallen women.” Kasiani is also famous as the beloved of an emperor who nevertheless rejected her when he discovered she was more intelligent than he was.
Pandora—Yes, her ancient namesake may have inadvertently unleashed the world’s woes when she gave in to her curiosity, but that’s no reason for her name still to be paying the price. Sometimes heard among the British gentry, it could ride the wave of other rediscovered names Dora and Theodora—unless it’s too identified with the internet radio site.
Phaedra—or Phaidra—pronounced FAY-dra, has gone from tragic Greek character to reality TV star—as in Phaedra C. Parks of Real Housewives of Atlanta. Neither association should prevent you from considering this hauntingly evocative name.
Xanthe—This exotic name, which, like all Greek names beginning with x are pronounced as if it were a z , is derived from the Greek word for the color yellow. Xenia is another alluring X name, this one meaning ‘hospitality.
Zenobia—A name related to the great god Zeus, it was worn by a third century queen, noted for her beauty and intelligence, who ruled the eastern Roman empire, and can be found in novels by Hawthorne and Wharton—as well as some comic.
What’s your favorite Greek girl’s name?
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on January 29th, 2013 at 12:41 am
Echo and Thalassa are my favorites 🙂
on January 29th, 2013 at 1:02 am
I know that ‘officially’, yes, the name Xanthe (my name) is pronounced ZAN-tha, but I don’t know anyone who uses that pronunciation.
My name is pronounced ZAN-thee (and the three other Xanthes I know all use that pronunciation as well). I personally have a biased opinion but I think it makes the name a bit better 🙂 I definitely like it that way.
on January 29th, 2013 at 1:03 am
I love Echo -> I just wish her story weren’t quite so sad.
on January 29th, 2013 at 1:30 am
A lot of these names are great. I actually have a cousin named Echo. We’ve never met, but I so desperately want to know if she likes it or not!
on January 29th, 2013 at 1:53 am
The EU prefix, which means good or noble, is actually pronounced with two syllables. Since we’ve embraced the “YOU” sound for these names, I think it is more than acceptable to pronounce the above X-names with a Z. There are many different pronunciations for names adapted from Ancient Greek names, including my own real name. Go with what you prefer, and your child will love having a unique, ancient name.
on January 29th, 2013 at 6:58 am
i love Charis and anatola 🙂
on January 29th, 2013 at 7:23 am
I know a Greek girl named Eirini.
on January 29th, 2013 at 7:47 am
What about Danae (dah-NAY)! The Greek goddess of music and poetry. Amazing name!
on January 29th, 2013 at 8:00 am
Callisto/Kallisto is my favourite Greek girl’s name and one of my all time favourite girls’ names. It has been for years. I do also love Andromeda and Persephone and often spend time thinking about if I could ever get away with using them!
I know a girl from the Netherlands called Danae. She said her Mother is obsessed with Greek mythology.
I also love Io, but would probably use a longer name (like Iolanthe or Iona) and call her Io for short.
on January 29th, 2013 at 8:17 am
I have always liked Acacia (my mum used to joke about having twins called Acacia and Hebe) and Elektra. I liked Persephone as well until I found out it meant ‘bringer of death’. I’m having a hard time letting go of it. Alethea is also nice.
on January 29th, 2013 at 8:27 am
I’ve loved Alethea for years- I thought I made it up originally, but I love the meaning and nicknames Ally and Thea. Echo, Zenobia and Phaedra (nn Fay) are also among my favorites.
author in writing Said
on January 29th, 2013 at 8:46 am
Persephone and Jocasta are beautiful, but I can’t bring myself to use them. Demetra though, is in my top three!
on January 29th, 2013 at 9:02 am
I do love Greek names, especially since I was a Classics student.
I just have to be a touch miserable, and point out that while Alala is a Greek name, Mars is the ROMAN name for the Greek god Ares.
That being said, I would love to use almost any of these names!
on January 29th, 2013 at 9:36 am
I love Acacia, didn’t realize it was Greek.
I really love Eulalia but prefer the Spanish spelling, Olalla. I think the pronunciation is a bit more intuitive
on January 29th, 2013 at 9:52 am
A lot of these are so, so pretty. I love Ianthe and Alethea.
I would stay far away from Clytie though. Yikes.
on January 29th, 2013 at 10:15 am
The only one I would really consider using is Diantha.
on January 29th, 2013 at 11:09 am
I don’t see why a name referring to a goddess of war or meaning “bringer of death” should be an “unfortunate” thing or keep us from using it. War and death are necessary parts of life. The ancients recognized the necessity of acknowledging and embracing difficult things like conflict and death. In the modern world we decided we can stick our fingers in our ears or look at our iPhones and pretend like nothing bad is supposed to happen. The ancients knew better.
I think Persephone is a lovely name and her mythology is incredible. If you love it I would use it.
on January 29th, 2013 at 11:25 am
I love Alethea & Zenobia.
on January 29th, 2013 at 11:36 am
Echo, Electra, Io & Phaedra are all on my list! : ) I love ancient Greek-ery.
on January 29th, 2013 at 11:53 am
I prefer the historic Greek name Elara over Alala (and over my own Greek names actually)
on January 29th, 2013 at 12:43 pm
Alethea is so pretty! I always associate the name Theodosia with that Molly Ringwald movie “For Keeps”. It’s a major point of contention that her husband would “dare” fill out the birth certificate with a name like Theodosia 🙂 I remember even as a kid thinking how nice it was. Theodosia…Thea!
on January 29th, 2013 at 1:30 pm
I have long loved Greek Mythology and Penelope has long been on our list – but it’s climbing the charts, so it may soon be forced off our list. 🙁
From this list I like Electra (which sounds great with our last name), Io and Gaia – but none of these would work in our area.
That being said, my bf is of Greek decent through her 1st generation mom, and I’ve long thought of choosing a Greek name to honor them. Besides Penelope we have these two on our list:
Phoebe – she was one of the first Titans and grandmother to these deities: twins Apollo and Artemis, and Hecate.
Daphne – she was a Naiad (type of water nymph) who was so beautiful that she was relentless pursued by Apollo. She saught escape into the Earth where a Laurel tree sprung to give Apollo something to focus his attention on.
Super dork, I know. But I love the “e” ending of Penelope, Phoebe, and Daphne. And we would consider using any of these 3 for a future daughter.
on January 29th, 2013 at 1:47 pm
#1 – Cytheria (or, Cytherea, if you prefer a more direct transliteration) is a lesser-known epithets of the goddess Aphrodite, for her birthplace, Cythera. If I have a daughter, this will 100% be her first name
#2 – Anakalypteria (AH-nah-kah-lip-TEHR
-ee-yah)means “unveiling” in ancient greek. It is a long name at 7 syllables, but has lots of great nickname potential and she certainly won’t have to share her unique name with any other girl on the playground.
#3 – Soukia (Soo-KEE-ah)A great alternative to the popular Sophie, it means “calmness”
#4 – Eleutheria (Eh-loo-THEH -ree-ah)means “liberty, freedom” and was also an epithet for Artemis, the goddess of the hunt.
#5 – Elysia (eh-LEE-zee-ah)a feminization of Elysium, or, the Elysian fields, where the “blessed” went in the afterlife). A nice alternative to Alyssa or similar names.
(I was a Classics major…I have so many dorky ancient greek and latin names up my sleeve it really isn’t funny)
on January 29th, 2013 at 4:04 pm
My eight week old’s middle name is Efthalia (Ef-tha-LEE-ya) which is my MIL’s name. We chose it as an honour name but it’s really grown on me.
on January 29th, 2013 at 6:03 pm
I love Anatola!
on January 29th, 2013 at 7:32 pm
I LOVE Acacia, Xanthe and Echo…..Her story is so sad though. I’m kind of a greek mythology nerd.
on January 29th, 2013 at 7:54 pm
I love almost all of these names ^_^
That being said, I’m seconding that you’re mixing Roman and Greek mythology in the Alala entry. Mars is Roman, you mean to say Ares.
Xanthe is pronounced ZAN-thee in Greek (as are any other names ending in -e).
on January 29th, 2013 at 8:01 pm
Echo is on my list as a middle name. Persephone is my top pick for a future daughter. Love Greek names.
on January 29th, 2013 at 8:01 pm
OK, Dantea, thanks–it’s now fixed.
on January 29th, 2013 at 8:24 pm
I really love Alethea, but I have two friends with the name and they’ve always hated their name. So…..I won’t use it even though I love it. There must be something that I can’t see about it.
on January 30th, 2013 at 1:04 pm
I like Ariadne. Also Phaedra and Elara.
on January 30th, 2013 at 4:29 pm
Charis – I love it
on February 3rd, 2013 at 2:12 pm
Oooh, I love Ariadne too! I grew up with an Arete, which I think is related to Aretha, another lovely Greek name. She pronounced Arete “ah-reh-tah” which probably isn’t the proper Greek, but I always like the sound.
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on February 4th, 2013 at 3:35 pm
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on February 6th, 2013 at 2:28 pm
Many lovely names – Phaedra, Echo, Charis, Thalassa, Zenobia, Pandora and I love Io to death (Iola is good, but Io, is well, Io)
on February 14th, 2013 at 8:28 pm
I love Greek names! All of the names were beautiful.
on March 25th, 2013 at 7:06 am
Echo ( I really love this one) : D
Celeste (Isn’t this Latin? Coincidently, this is my name)
Most Greek names are incredibly beautiful and deserve to be used.
on April 8th, 2013 at 1:14 am
greek names are really interesting ^^ … another greeek girl name I like is charybdis/kharybdis
on May 11th, 2013 at 9:37 pm
I grew up with a Danae all throughout school and always loved it! Substitute teachers always butchered it as “Dana”, though. I personally love Philomela, whose story is also classically tragic, and Atalanta, who could outrun all the boys in a foot race! Either way you slice it, the Greeks have great stories and great names…
on May 27th, 2013 at 1:21 pm
the Marvel Comics character’s superhero name is Elektra not Elekra, and, also, Echo was used in Ben 10. I also like the name Chloe, as it was used in 24.
on August 9th, 2013 at 1:35 pm
I love Io but my favourites are: Alkmene(al-kmee-nee mother of Herakles means power of the moon or radiant like the moon) , Daphne, Chloe, Leda and Lidia, and Danae
on September 27th, 2013 at 8:14 pm
My favorite Ancient Greek names are Aurea and Sappho. I also like Tryphaina, Phoibe, Isidora, Artemisia, and Charis. I REALLY like Io, too.
on July 3rd, 2015 at 7:32 am
I love Echo, Io, Pandora, and Thalassa! I’ve recently found an Greek Island named Ioannina – might have some significants with the name Io.
My current favorite Greek names include:
Alpha – first letter of the Greek alphabet and is the brightest star in every constellation.
Idalion – Ancient Greek city meaning, “I seek the sun”. Idalia for short.
Phoebe – goddess of the moon
Polyxena – Greek mythology name
Olympia – of Mount Olympus
Rhodes – Greek Island
Vasiliki – Greek city meaning, “royalty”. Vass for short.
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on October 23rd, 2016 at 11:53 pm
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on May 21st, 2020 at 2:17 am
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