By Emily Cardoza
The dichotomy between the sun and the moon has been on my mind lately – two of the most ancient extremes, appearing in every culture’s history, and still a source of interest today. Why do we say someone who’s happy has a “sunny” disposition? Why do we say an idle person is “mooning” about? Why are these two celestial orbs so polarized? Though I won’t be answering any of these questions, I will be talking about names relating to the sun and the moon!
We can all agree that these symbols have different connotations. The sun brings to mind warmth, power, and positivity; the moon brings to mind serenity, coolness, and mystery. There are plenty of names, in and out of use, that tend to relate to the sun and moon directly. Let’s check them out!
Pronounced “Ahn-ya”, this Irish name belongs to the Celtic goddess of midsummer. It literally translates to “brightness” or “radiance”, and has the sound to suit it! While spelling and pronouncing the name in the US might prove difficult, it really is a lovely heritage choice.
Sun god, Apollo was one of the major figures in ancient Greek mythology. Today, the name is attached to all sorts of things – Gwen Stefani‘s son, the Apollo program at NASA, athlete Apolo Ohno, the fictional Apollo Creed, and technology/boats/songs to boot. It’s at #751 now, and will probably rise sky-high over the next few years.
Want an edgy alternative to Elias, Eli, or Elijah? Elio is the Spanish and Italian translation of Helios, another Greek sun god. Its form fits in with modern trends – the El-beginning and O-ending – but its history and melodic sound stand out. Elio has gotten popular in France, and it’s only a matter of time before it crosses the pond.
The French word for “sun,” Soleil is straightforward but sophisticated. Actress Soleil Moon Frye (what a perfect name for this post!) brought it to US attention in the 1970’s, but its now no longer quite as attached to a single wearer. Over 100 girls were named Soleil last year, and the numbers are increasing! Nicknames Sol or Leila offer a little bit of personalization.
This name peaked in 1977 at #119, but Summer still hangs on in the Top 200. It’s light, fresh, and upbeat – a nature name not mired in dirt or caterpillars. Summer is also nickname-proof, if that’s your style, and has quite a few namesakes in fiction and reality. Christina Aguliera named her daughter Summer Rain.
A personal favorite – it was my confirmation name – Sunniva is the patron saint of western Norway. Her name means “sun gift.” Sunniva offers the short forms Sunny and Niva, and it doesn’t sound like too many names currently in use, despite its rhythm. Only ten little Sunnivas were born last year!
The Hindu sun god, Surya, represents courage, friendliness, and power – making it not a bad namesake for a little one! Fifty-one male Suryas and ten female Suryas were born in the US last year, and the name is accessible enough for any gender. Note – you may have to explain that Suri was not your inspiration.
There are actually two origins for Ayla – in Hebrew it means “oak tree”, and in Turkish it means “moonlight.” It’s fairly popular at #265, probably because it consists of two trendy syllables and begins and ends with ‘a’. But usage aside, it’s beautiful and feminine and a name that will mature with the wearer.
It’s everywhere lately – Luna has taken nations across the globe by storm. It works cross-culturally, for one thing, and it’s also easy to spell, pronounce, and explain. Luna may also be appreciated for its Harry Potter connection, as well as its prevalence in other types of children’s media – Stellaluna, Bear in the Big Blue House.
Meaning “gift of the moon,” this unusual Greek name gains gravity through its use as a saint’s name. It also provides a darker counterpart to Theodora or Isadora (my kindgom for a -dora sibset!) It might be difficult to explain, but it’s well worth the effort! Nicknames can also help make this mouthful a bit more accessible.
While this name might be confused with Naomi a bit, it really does have its own style. Neoma means “new moon” in Greek, and offers the cool Neo– opening (and short form option). It’s short, sweet, and unique – a veritable name trifecta for any little one born in the right part of the moon cycle.
Only one letter apart, but these names have very different personalities. Selene is subdued, grown-up, and très française. Selena is bright, energetic, and muy española. Either choice is a name to be over the moon about!