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Cool Girl Names from Ancient Cultures

Cool Girl Names from Ancient Cultures
There are so many ancient names for girls — from Rome and Byzantium, from Olde England and Germany, all the way to Mongolia — that deserve to be unearthed in the interest of cool. Ancient, extravagant girl names such as Persephone and Octavia are currently staging a comeback, while plenty of rarer choices wait in the wings.

Along with Octavia and Persephone, other cool girl names from ancient cultures in the US Top 1000 include Arya, Aurelia, Calliope, Hadassah, Itzel, Lucia, Valentina, and Valeria. We have our eye on Minerva, Juno, Honoria, and Cyra to be among the next wave of ancient girl names to be revived.

Cool names for girls from neglected ancient name cultures include Maaza (Amharic), Belig (Mongolian), and Niloufar (Persian). Here's a selection of worthy ancient names, from a range of eras and places.

AureliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "the golden one"
  • Description:

    Aurelia is the female form of the Latin name Aurelius, an ancient Roman surname. Aurelius is derived from the Latin word aureus, meaning "golden," which was also the name of a gold coin used in Ancient Rome. Aurelius was a cognomen, a third name in Roman culture that often referenced a personal characteristic or trait, likely used for someone with golden hair.

PersephoneHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek mythology name
  • Description:

    Persephone is the esoteric name of the Greek mythological daughter of Zeus by Demeter, the queen of the harvest. After she was kidnapped by Hades to be Queen of the Underworld, it was decreed by Zeus that she would spend six months of the year with her mother, allowing crops to grow, and six in mourning, thus accounting for the seasons.

CalliopeHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek mythology name
  • Meaning:

    "beautiful voice"
  • Description:

    Calliope is the name of the muse of epic poetry -- and also the musical instrument on the merry-go-round. Bold and creative, it would not be the easiest name for a girl lacking such qualities. It debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2016. While Americans usually pronounce this name with a long I sound and the emphasis on the second syllables, Greeks pronounce it with the emphasis on the third syllable -- ka-lee-OH-pee.

MilaHeart

  • Origin:

    Slavic, Russian
  • Meaning:

    "gracious; dear"
  • Description:

    Mila is a given name with Russian and Slavic provenance. It began as the diminutive form for names such as Ludmila, Milena, and Milica. Mila can be a nickname for any name containing the element mil, meaning "gracious" or "dear."

JunoHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "queen of the heavens"
  • Description:

    Juno is an ancient name that feels as fresh as if it had been minted — well, not yesterday, but in 2007. Since the release of the popular indie film Juno, this lively but strong o-ending Roman goddess name has become more and more prominent as a potential baby name — Coldplay's Will Champion chose Juno for one of his twins (whose brother is the kingly Rex).

IsoldeHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "ice ruler"
  • Description:

    Now that Tristan has been rediscovered, maybe it's time for his fabled lover in the Arthurian romances and Wagnerian opera, a beautiful Irish princess, to be brought back into the light as well.

LuciaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian, feminine variation of Lucius, Latin
  • Meaning:

    "light"
  • Description:

    Lucia is derived from lux, the Latin word for light. It is considered to be the feminine form of Lucius as well as the Latinate spelling of Lucy. Due to its connection to light, Lucia was traditionally given to babies born as daylight was breaking.

CassiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Feminine form of Cassius or Greek
  • Meaning:

    "cinnamon"
  • Description:

    Cassia is related to the cassia tree, which has yellow flowers and produces a spice that can be a substitute for cinnamon. Keziah, the name of Job’s daughter in the Old Testament, derives from the name of the plant as well. Cassia also has ties to the Ancient Roman name Cassius, an Ancient Roman family name meaning "hollow."

OctaviaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "eighth"
  • Description:

    Octavia began as the Latin, then Victorian name for an eighth child. While there aren't many eighth children anymore, this ancient Roman name has real possibilities as a substitute for the overused Olivia; recommended for its combination of classical and musical overtones. It was chosen for his daughter by Kevin Sorbo.

LiviaHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Olivia or Latin
  • Meaning:

    "blue, envious"
  • Description:

    Though it sounds like a chopped-off variation of Olivia, which means olive, the distinctively attractive Livia has been an independent name since the days of the ancient Romans, when it belonged to Livia Drusilla—the powerful wife of the Emperor Augustus—and is still commonly heard in modern Italy.

ValentinaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "strength, health"
  • Description:

    Valentina is a more romantic and artistic ballerina-type successor to Valerie; a pretty, recommended choice. Mexican-born actress Salma Hayek and husband Francois-Henri Pinault named their daughter Valentina Paloma.

GaiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "earth mother"
  • Description:

    The name of the Greek mythological earth goddess and universal mother; actress Emma Thompson stated that she was attracted by its ecological element, so other "green" parents may want to follow her lead.

MinervaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "of the mind, intellect"
  • Description:

    Minerva is the long-neglected name of the Roman goddess of wisdom and invention, the arts and martial strength, one of the mythology names for girls that might appeal to adventurous feminist parents.

AryaHeart

  • Origin:

    Sanskrit; Modern variation of Aria
  • Meaning:

    "noble; air/song"
  • Description:

    Arya was derived from an Indo-Iranian word meaning "Aryan" or "noble." It is a masculine given name in Iran, Indonesia, Bali, and Sanskrit-speaking regions of India. In Hindu- and English-speaking parts of the world, Arya is more often a feminine name, the latter influenced by the similar Italian name Aria, meaning "air" or "song."

AshaHeart

  • Origin:

    Sanskrit; Swahili
  • Meaning:

    "hope; life"
  • Description:

    Asha is an Indian name that comes from the Sanskrit word for hope or desire, but it is also a Swahili name derived from Aisha, meaning life. Since the ascendance of Ashley through the 1980s and 90s, all baby names Ash-related have been used in the U.S. for both girls and boys, from Ashlyn to Ashby, Ashton to Asher. Despite its separate roots, Asha is part of this group. Asha is finding new life through its Game of Thrones connections.

CyraHeart

  • Origin:

    Persian or Greek
  • Meaning:

    "sun or throne, or lord"
  • Description:

    Cyra is an unusual name that can be pronounced either SEER-a or CY-ra. This name may be a feminine variation of Cyrus but is also a Persian name that stands on its own. One noted bearer is writer Cyra McFadden.

VivianaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "life"
  • Description:

    Lively and rhythmic version of Vivian heard in Italy and Spain. A vivid choice.

SabinaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "Sabine"
  • Description:

    Sabina is a sleek but neglected name (possibly due to The Rape of the Sabine Women) from an ancient Roman tribal name that's well worth consideration. The equally alluring Sabine is heard in France. Related names include the more popular Sabrina or Serena. All are equally lovely. There have been characters named Sabina in Thornton Wilder's play The Skin of Our Teeth and the Milan Kudera novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

ValeriaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "strength, health"
  • Description:

    Valeria -- the original form of the name, used by early Christians -- is now more popular than the Franco-American Valerie.

ItzelHeart

  • Origin:

    Mayan
  • Meaning:

    "rainbow lady"
  • Description:

    This name, stemming from the Mayan mythological figure of the Rainbow Lady, is a surprising pop hit, primarily among Hispanic parents.

HadassahHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "myrtle tree"
  • Description:

    This Hebrew name of Queen Esther is well used in Israel (especially for girls born around the holiday of Purim), and in the US is the name of a Zionist women's philanthropic organization. Formerly shunned as hyper-religious, this name entered the Top 1000 in 2007. The nickname Haddie could make it more usable.

DrusillaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "fruitful"
  • Description:

    Drusilla is an ancient Roman name, (probably) borne by descendants of Antony and Cleopatra, and is one of the 'illa' names that are ready for a comeback, especially with its cute short form Dru.

AphraHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew, variation of Aphrah
  • Meaning:

    "dust"
  • Description:

    Aphra would make an interesting choice-- especially since it's the name of the first professional female writer in English, the seventeenth century's Aphra Behn. Born in 1640, she was a prolific dramatist of the English Restoration.

FeliciaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "lucky"
  • Description:

    A lacy, lucky name very popular in the Hispanic community a decade ago, less so now.

JuniaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin, Feminine variation of Junius
  • Meaning:

    "born in June"
  • Description:

    Juno is hot, June is showing signs of a comeback along with other month and day names, whereas Junia, the name of the the first century Christian referred to by the apostle Paul as an apostle (and who may have been male), is yet to be discovered.

SilviaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "from the woods"
  • Description:

    This original form of the name -- the more familiar Sylvia spelling came later -- seems more modern now.

AnahitaHeart

  • Origin:

    Persian
  • Meaning:

    "a river and water goddess"
  • Description:

    Anahita is the name of the water goddess who rules, among other things, fertility and wisdom. Associated with Venue, Anahita is a stylish Iranian name for girls.

DamarisHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "dominant woman"
  • Description:

    In the New Testament, Damaris was an Athenian woman converted to Christianity by St. Paul. Known for her charitable work, her name was a favorite among the Puritans. Having slid off the bottom of the Top 1000 in 2012, Damaris might be deserving of more attention by parents in search of a New Testament name that is unusual but accessible, especially since girls' names ending in 's' are coming back into fashion.

LucretiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin, female form of Lucretius, meaning unknown
  • Description:

    A pretty and plausible Latin name that's gotten a bad rap through the years via a link to Lucrezia Borgia, who, though long considered a demon poisoner, was actually a patron of learning and the arts.

AelianaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "sun"
  • Description:

    This female form of the ancient Latin Aelian has an appealing sound, though kids might have a hard time handling that initial "ae" spelling. Just remember that the "ae" is pronounced "ee" (think Aesop's fables).The Annals of Aeliana is a children's fantasy series by Ryan Watters. The meaning is uncertain but is thought to derive from the Greek helios, which means sun.

TulsiHeart

  • Origin:

    Hindi
  • Meaning:

    "basil"
  • Description:

    Tulsi is more than a simple nature name: The holy basil plant is sacred in the Hindu religion, used to honor the god Vishnu and representative of his consort, the goddess Tulsi. The Tulsi plant is often planted in Hindu houses and is used for medicinal as well as ritualistic purposes.

FaustinaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "fortunate one"
  • Description:

    A name with several distinguished namesakes: the wife of ancient Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, a famous Italian opera singer, and two Catholic saints--making it both substantial and unusual.

AthaliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "the Lord is exalted"
  • Description:

    Athalia was an Old Testament daughter of Jezebel and a king's powerful wife with a gory history. You don't wanna know -- and you probably don't wanna name your kid after her either. Pretty name, though, and one that's in step with the current fashions for A beginnings and endings as well as for distinctive names with deep roots. Atalia is a simplified spelling..

FlaviaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "golden, blond"
  • Description:

    An ancient Roman clan name, Flavia is one choice that's unusual but historic. Now a Top 60 name in Italy, Flavia has been a rarity in the US, but with the upswing in F names for girls, this could change. Seen more in literature than real life, Flavia was used as far back as an1580 romance, then in a William Dean Howells novel and as a Princess in The Prisoner of Zenda. Although the original pronunciation is FLAH-via, Flavie (as in flavor) could make a cute nickname.

MahalaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew and Arabic
  • Meaning:

    "tender"
  • Description:

    An interesting and rhythmic name often heard in the Native American community; in fact,in the Gold Rush era in California and Nevada, it was so common that it became a generic English term for a Native American woman.

PersisHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "Persian woman"
  • Description:

    Parents seeking a distinctive New Testament name might consider this one. Adopted by some Puritans in the seventeenth century, Persis was used in the William Dean Howells novel The Rise of Silas Lapham for the wife of the protagonist.

MarillaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "shining sea"
  • Description:

    Marilla is a names that's familiar via its resemblance to Mary and variations, but also distinctive: It hasn't been on the Top 1000 since the 1800s and was given to only nine baby girls last year. Delicate and sweet, which began life as a short form of the flower name Amaryllis. Marilla Cuthbert was a character in L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables.

LaeliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin family name and botanical name
  • Description:

    Upside: it has an interesting ancient look and feel, related to the Roman family name Laelius of uncertain meaning. There is also a type of orchid called the Laelia. Downside: possible confusion with all those Laylas, Lailas, etc. out there.

ParisaHeart

  • Origin:

    Iranian/Persian
  • Meaning:

    "like a fairy"
  • Description:

    Funny how one letter can turn a name from ordinary to special. Parisa is so much more distinctive than either Marisa or Paris.

AbeliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "sigh, breath"
  • Description:

    This feminine form of Abel is also a flower name and makes a distinctive alternative to the widely used Abigail. There is a similar name, Adelia, that is beginning to be rediscovered thanks to the trend for all names Adel- related.

DominicaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian, feminine variation of Dominic
  • Meaning:

    "belonging to the Lord"
  • Description:

    Fashionably Continental and much fresher than Dominique, though it's been used since the Middle Ages. Dominica can be spelled any number of ways, from Dominika to Domenica, but we prefer this version.

FlorentinaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "blooming"
  • Description:

    The Latin names for girls Florentina may be the most feminissima and flowery of the 'Flor" names. Another option would be Fiorentina, though you can also downshift to Flora or Florence.

LaurentiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin, feminine form of Laurence
  • Description:

    This pretty female form of LAURENCE originated in ancient Rome and is still sometimes heard in the Latino community. It is one of the many intriguing Latin names for girls worth consideration by modern parents, as a more distinctive spin on Laura or Lauren.

PerpetuaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "perpetual"
  • Description:

    Perpetually unwieldy.

AtarahHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "crown"
  • Description:

    This name of a minor character in the Old Testament, also spelled Atara, has a softly pleasing sound. In the Old Testament, Atarah was a descendant of Judah.

TulliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Feminine form of Roman family name Tullius, meaning unknown
  • Description:

    The unusual and intriguing Tullia has been used since Roman times as a feminine of the illustrious family name Tullius, as in philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero. Modern parents who like Tallulah or Lillia but want something even more unusual would do well to consider the nearly-unknown Tullia, which may also be varied to Tulia, rhyming with Julia.

ElizabellaHeart

  • Origin:

    Combination of Eliza and Bella
  • Description:

    Elizabella is a much more obscure smoosh than sisters Isabella and Annabelle, but the megapopularity of Isabella may give this unusual combo name a boost.

KamalaHeart

  • Origin:

    Hindi or Hawaiian
  • Meaning:

    "lotus or pale red; or, a garden"
  • Description:

    A multicultural name that manages to sound soft and strong at the same time, Kamala is also another name for the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.

HilariaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "cheerful"
  • Description:

    Hilaria, the ancient Roman form of Hilary also given to joyous festivals, is still used in Spain and Poland, while the intriguing Italian version is Ilaria. A notable current bearer is fitness expert and wife of Alec, Hilaria Baldwin, who was born on the Spanish island of Majorca.

MaximaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin, feminine variation of Maximus
  • Description:

    Maxima -- or indeed any of the feminine Max variations such as Maxine -- just don't have the earthy-yet-stylish elan of Max. Name your daughter Maxima if you must, but just don't make her middle name Nissan.
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