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Poetic Baby Names: Madrigal, Calliope and Ode

March has World Poetry Day and April is Poetry Month, so this seems like a perfect time to turn to the topic of poetic baby names.

Of course one obvious source would be the many wonderful surnames of noted poets, such as Auden, Frost, Lorca, Emerson, Tennyson and Poe.

Another possibility is lyrical words associated with poetry and song, some of which have long been used for babies. These include Melody (now #144), which has been around since the 1940s; Harmony (#191) hit the charts in 1997, and has been heard for characters on several TV shows, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Lyric (#281), used for girls and occasionally for boys by a couple of musical celebs; and the 21st century hit Cadence (#376 now, as high as 199 in 2007).

But what if you’d like something a little more subtly poetic. Here are a few unusual related word names you might consider.

Alexandrine

This is a verse form consisting of a line of twelve syllables, found mostly in French heroic poetry. Alexandrine is one of the more unusual of the female Alex names. It has been a royal name in Denmark and Prussia, and is close to the birth name of Queen VictoriaAlexandrina. If you’re looking for an uncommon but accessible four-syllable girl name, this would make a distinctive choice.

Ballata

An Italian poetic form used in the 13th to 15th centuries, Ballata feels balletic as well as poetic: very much en pointe.

Calliope

In Greek mythology, Calliope was the muse of epic poetry, who bestowed her gifts on kings and princes. This rhythmic name –also a musical instrument associated with the merry-go-round–entered the US Top 1000 just last year. There have been Calliopes in the soap opera Days of Our Lives and also in Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill. Calliope was the name of the narrator of Jeffrey Eugenides novel Middlesex; Patricia Arquette used it as a middle name for her daughter Harlow in 2003.

Madrigal

A madrigal is a short lyrical poem intended for multiple singers that originated in the Italian Renaissance. As a name—lively and with some readymade nicknames, Madrigal has made appearances in several children’s and YA books.

Ode

An ode is a lyrical poem, usually addressed to and praising a singular subject (could be an individual, an event or even a nightingale.) The Hunger Games actress and musician Jena Malone gave her son the strong name Ode Mountain in 2016.

Poesy

This archaic word for poetry stems from the French Poésie. Alice Taylor and Cory Doctorow have a daughter named Poesy Emmeline, there is a Canadian singer who goes by the mononym Poesy and in Harry Potter, French model and actress Clemence Poesy played Fleur Delacour. This could make a delicate and distinctive alternative to Posy—but could also be confused with it. Poesia, the rhythmic Italian word for poetry, could avoid that confusion.

Poet

A name for the parent who wants to skip the specific names of poets and cut right to the generic. Creatively named Soleil Moon Frye has a daughter Poet Sienna Rose, and it has also occasionally been used for a boy. A perfect choice, especially in the middle, for the child of writers or lovers of poetry. And Po makes an adorable unisex nickname.

Poetica

From the time that ancient Roman Horace (b. 65 B.C.) penned his famous Ars Poetica or “The Art of Poetry,” poets have used this form to examine the act of writing poetry itself. It could make for a lovely poetic girl’s name.

Rima

The word for rhyme in Spanish and Italian is also an Arabic name meaning white antelope. Rima was the name of the rain forest nature girl who spoke the language of animals and birds played by Audrey Hepburn in the film version of W.H. Hudson’s Green Mansions. It has a midcentury Greenwich Village vibe.

Sestina

A poetic form dating back to the medieval troubadours of Spain and France. Not surprisingly, it has 6 stanzas of 6 lines–plus a final triplet. Sestina would be perfect for a sixth daughter, nn Tina.

Sonnet

The word sonnet –a poem of 14 lines, derives from the Italian sonetto, meaning little song. And although Shakespeare is its most celebrated practitioner, there have been many other accomplished sonneteers, including Milton, Wordsworth and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Forest Whitaker, an early proponent of word names, called his now grown daughter Sonnet Noel in 1996.

 Here are some other poetic forms and terms that could conceivably take a rhythmic leap onto birth certificates.

Abecedarian

Anaphora

Aubade

Ballata

Blazon

Canto

Canzone

Dactyl

Elegy

Haiku

Octave

Quatrain

Rondeau, Rondel

Sijo

Stanza

Terza

Triolet

Verso

Villanelle

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7 Responses to “Poetic Baby Names: Madrigal, Calliope and Ode”

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EloiseT Says:

March 28th, 2018 at 4:03 am

Would love to think I’d use Sestine, Auden, or Frost. I’m kidding myself to think I’d use the wonderful Madrigal or Poetica!

beynotce Says:

March 28th, 2018 at 8:16 am

I love a lot of these. Calliope is a long-time favorite, and I also have a long-standing fondness for Cadence, Lyric, Sonnet, and Madrigal. Poet has really grown on me, and I’m more and more drawn to Auden, Frost, Tennyson, and Emerson (I’d also include Whitman [M] and Angelou [F]).

I’m a bit surprised this list doesn’t include Rumi, the poetic name of Beyonce and Jay-Z’s younger daughter.

Bobcat108 Says:

March 28th, 2018 at 11:00 am

“Po” may seem to be a cute nickname for American ears, but in the UK I believe it has a less attractive connotation. There’s an expression, “po-faced,” that I had run across in Rosamund Pilcher’s novels on more than one occasion, & while I wasn’t sure of the definition, it was clear from the context that it was not a positive meaning. Today I did a little research & found this link, which seems to me to have the best hypothesis/discussion of the meaning of “po-faced,” especially as Pilcher’s Scottish characters were the chief users of the expression:

https://britishisms.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/po-faced/

linda Says:

March 28th, 2018 at 11:09 am

@Bobcat108 Thanks, that’s really interesting.

IslandMoon Says:

March 28th, 2018 at 11:58 am

@bobcat108 it’s not actually all that common anymore though. I can’t remember the last time anyone said it in front of me, and you centainly wouldn’t use ‘po’ by itself to mean the same as po-faced. I think it would be absolutely fine as a nickname.

There are some beautiful names on here, most of which I had no idea had any attachment to poetry at all. Poet is one of these names though that seems very trendy on nameberry but I can’t see the appeal of.

tfzolghadr Says:

March 28th, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Love Alexandrine!

linda Says:

March 28th, 2018 at 3:33 pm

@beynotch The only reason I didn’t include Rumi is because I was excluding the actual names of poets and concentrating on poetic terms. Great poet and lovely name though.

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