The various forms of Daphne and Laura (and other laurel names)

Pauline as Daphne Fleeing from Apollo, ca. 1810, Robert Lefèvre

Daphne is a naiad in Greek mythology, a female nymph presiding over bodies of water such as lakes, fountains, springs, and brooks. She’s variously cited as the daughter of river god Peneus (Peneios) and nymph Creusa, or Ladon and Gaia.

Versions of Daphne’s story vary, but they all have the crux of Apollo falling in unrequited love with her after a curse from Eros (Cupid). As Apollo chased her, Daphne begged her father to save her, and she was turned into a laurel tree in the nick of time. Laurels thus became sacred to Apollo.

Daphne is also used in English and Dutch. The variation Daphné is French. Other forms include:

1. Daphnée is French.

2. Dafni is modern Greek.

3. Dafina is Macedonian and Albanian.

4. Dafne is Italian.

5. Daffni is Welsh.

6. Dapine is Georgian.

7. Dafna is Hebrew. I chose this as the last part of my Hebrew name (Chana Esther Dafna) for numerous reasons, all of them relating to how it means “laurel.” Primary among those reasons is honouring Stan Laurel, my humble way of saying thank you for how watching Laurel and Hardy on AMC got me through one of the darkest, most depressing periods of my life.

8. Defne is Turkish.

Laura Bridgman (1829–1889), America’s first blind-deaf person to get a full education and become a celebrity, fifty years before Helen Keller

Laura, which comes from the Latin name Laurus, is English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Scandinavian, Romanian, Finnish, German, Dutch, Estonian, Hungarian, Slovenian, Polish, and Croatian.

It’s been an English name since the 13th century, and was extremely popular in the U.S. until it began a rapid decline in the late 19th century. Laura was #17 in 1880, and stayed in the Top 100 till 1934, sinking in popularity a little bit more almost every year. It was Top 100 again from 1945–2001, attaining its highest rank of #10 in 1969. In 2017, it was #340.

Laura has greater popularity in Europe. It’s #6 in Austria; #11 in Denmark; #12 in Switzerland; #13 in Portugal; #14 in Hungary; #16 in the Czech Republic and Poland; #22 in Galicia; #31 in Spain; #37 in Belgium; #40 in Slovenia; #47 in Catalonia; #58 in Italy; #63 in Ireland; #78 in Bosnia; #101 in The Netherlands; and #104 in France.

Laura de Noves (1310–1348), Petrarch’s great muse and unrequited love, similar to Dante’s love for Beatrice

Other forms of Laura include:

1. Lára is Icelandic (and not to be confused with the Russian Lara, a nickname for Larisa).

2. Laure is French.

3. Lavra is Slovenian.

4. Lowri is Welsh.

5. Laoura is modern Greek.

6. Lâvara is Greenlandic.

7. Lora is English and Italian.

8. Loretta is English and Italian.

9. Lauretta is Italian. This is the name of one of the members of the brigata, the ten storytellers, in The Decameron.

10. Laurette is French.

American actor Loretta Young (1913–2000) with Lon Chaney, Sr.

 Other laurel-related names:

1. Kelila, or Kelilah, means “crown of laurel” in Hebrew.

2. Lalela means “laurel” in Hawaiian.

3. Lovorka means “laurel tree” in Croatian.

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Leonine names

Pope Leo XIII (1810–1903), painted by Philip de László (né Fülöp Elek László)

Leo, which means “lion” in Latin, is English, German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Finnish, and Croatian, and currently enjoying great popularity. In 2017, it was #61 in the U.S. (and has been jumping up the charts since 2000), after having been a Top 100 staple from 1880–1937. Its highest rank was #37 in 1903.

It’s #1 in Australia, Canada, and Finland; #7 in England and Wales (and in France as Léo); #11 in Spain, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Sweden, and Catalonia; #19 in Switzerland (and #96 as Léo); #9 in Scotland; #8 in Galicia; #33 in Ireland; #22 in Austria; #58 in Norway; #91 in Belgium; and #71 in Slovenia.

As abovementioned, Léo is French. Another alternate form, Leó, is Icelandic and Hungarian.

French artist Léon Augustin Lhermitte, 1844–1925

Leon, which means “lion” in Greek, is English, German, Dutch, Polish, Slovenian, and Croatian. It was Top 100 in the U.S. in 1883, 1885, from 1887–90, and from 1892–1942. Its highest rank was #73 in 1926. In 2006, it began jumping up the charts, and had risen to #244 by 2017.

It’s also #4 in Switzerland; #11 in Austria; #15 in Belgium (and #36 as Léon); #22 in Sweden and Poland; #23 in Slovenia; #77 in Scotland; #68 in Bosnia; #98 in England and Wales; #28 in Norway; #85 in New Zealand; #53 in Ireland; #96 in Australia; and #40 in France (as Léon).

The alternative form León is Spanish, and Léon is French. Other forms of this name include:

1. Levon (LEHV-ohn) is Armenian. I can’t stand the Anglo LEE-von mangling!

2. Leoš is Czech.

3. Léonce is French.

4. Leone is Italian.

5. Leoncio is Spanish.

6. Lionel is a French diminutive.

7. Leontiy is Russian, with the nickname Lyonya.

8. Lev is also Russian, with the nickname Lyova.

9. Levan is Georgian.

10. Leonzio is Italian.

Armenian physiologist Levon Orbeli, 1882–1958

11. Leonas is Lithuanian.

12. Lew (LEF) is Polish.

13. Leão is a rare Portuguese form.

14. Lejo is Sami and a rare Finnish form.

15. Ledjo is Sami.

16. Lîu is Greenlandic.

17. Lleó is Catalan.

18. Luan is Albanian.

19. Liuni is Sicilian.

20. Liūtas is Lithuanian.

21. Leons is Latvian.

Lithuanian nobleman and politician Leonas Sapiega, 1557–1633

Feminine forms:

1. Leona is English and German.

2. Leone is English. The alternate form Léone is French, and Leonė is Lithuanian.

3. Leontina is Italian.

4. Leola is English.

5. Léontine is French.

6. Leontyne is a rare English form.

7. Leonie is Dutch and German. The alternate form Léonie is French.

8. Leonia is Latin.

9. Léonine is French and Dutch.

Leona Vicario (1789–1842), one of the most important people in Mexico’s War of Independence

Other leonine names:

Unisex:

1. Arioch means “lion-like” and “venerable,” or “a fierce lion,” in Hebrew.

2. Aset is Kazakh and Chechen. In the former language, it’s male-only; in the latter, it’s unisex.

3. Sangay is Tibetan.

5. Singye is also Tibetan.

Female:

1. Ariella means “lion of God” in Hebrew.

2. Asida means “lioness” in Abkhaz.

3. Azida means “lioness” in Circassian.

4. Kefira means “lion cub” in Hebrew.

5. Leaneira means “lion man” in Greek.

6. Lý is Vietnamese.

7. Seyha means “lion” or “August” in Khmer.

Ariel Serena Hedges Bowen, African–American temperance activist, music professor, and writer (1863–1904)

Male:

1. Ariel is the male form of Ariella.

2. Kefir is the male form of Kefira.

3. Aleeki means “brave lion” in Somali.

4. Ambesa is Ethiopian.

5. Anibesa is Amharic.

6. Aristoleon means “best lion” in Greek.

7. Arsalan is Persian, Punjabi, and Urdu.

8. Arslon is Uzbek.

9. Arstanbek means “lion master” in Kyrgyz.

10. Aryşlan is Bashkir.

Azeri politician Aslan bey Safikurdski, 1881–1937

11. Arystan is Kazakh.

12. Arystanbek means “lion master” in Kazakh.

13. Azam is Arabic.

14. Beslan means “master of lions” in Circassian, Chechen, Ingush, Abkhaz, and Abazin.

15. Demoleon means “lion of the people” in Greek.

16. Guryon means “lion cub” in Hebrew.

17. Lavoslav means “glorious lion” in Croatian. The Slovak form is Levoslav.

18. Leofred means “lion of peace/love” in Norwegian.

19. Ari is Hebrew.

20. Areli means “lion of God” in Hebrew.

Argentinean politician Leandro Alem (né Alen), 1841–96

21. Aryeh is Hebrew.

22. Asad is Arabic and Urdu.

23. Aslan is Chechen, Kazakh, Circassian, Ossetian, Azeri, and Turkish.

24. Aslanbek means “lion master” in Circassian, Ossetian, and Chechen.

25. Leandros means “lion man” in Greek. Other forms are Leandro (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese); Leander (English, Latin); and Léandre (French).

26. Haidar is Arabic.

27. Leonard means “brave lion” in German. Other forms include Leendart and Leendert (Dutch); Lennart (Scandinavian); Lenart (Slovenian); Leonardo (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese); Leonhard (German); and Léonard (French).

28. Pantaleon means “all lion” in Greek.

The many forms of Philip (and other horsey names)

Philip the Apostle, by Peter Paul Rubens

In spite of being considered somewhat outdated or geriatric these days, I’ve always quite liked the name Philip. It’s a solid classic that could use a comeback. Perhaps my positive opinion was influenced by having two friends named Philip in junior high, both of them great guys.

Philip means “friend/lover of horses,” from Greek philos (lover, friend) and hippos (horse). One of the Twelve Apostles, Philip was originally much more popular among Eastern Christians. In the Middle Ages, it became more common in the West.

Philip sank in popularity in the Anglophone world in the 17th century, thanks to King Felipe II of Spain launching the Armada against England. It became popular again in the 19th century.

Infante Felipe of Spain, Duke of Parma (1720–1765), by Louis-Michel van Loo

The one-L spelling was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1880–1971, and again from 1973–88. It then began a slow decline, though in recent years, it’s gradually begun moving up. Its highest rank to date was #52 in 1941.

In 2017, it was #424 in the U.S.; #414 in England and Wales; #81 in Norway; #74 in Sweden; #39 in Denmark; and #206 in The Netherlands.

The two-L variant has always been less popular than the one-L, though it was Top 200 in the U.S. from 1880–1936, and Top 100 from 1937–91. Its highest rank to date was #64 in 1950. In 2017, it was #424 (same as the one-L spelling).

King Philippe IV the Fair of France (1268–1314), by Jean du Tillet

Other forms include:

1. Felipe is Spanish and Portuguese.

2. Felip is Catalan.

3. Philippe is French.

4. Philipp is German.

5. Filip is Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian, Polish, Czech, Dutch, Scandinavian, Bulgarian, Slovak, Macedonian, Hungarian, Finnish, and Croatian.

6. Filipp is Russian.

7. Pylyp is Ukrainian.

8. Pilypas is Lithuanian.

9. Filips is Latvian.

10. Filippo is Italian.

King Felipe II (1527–1598), by Tinian

11. Vilppu is Finnish.

12. Pilib is Irish.

13. Filib is Scottish.

14. Fülöp is Hungarian.

15. Filippos is Greek.

16. Piripi is Maori.

17. Filpa is Sami.

18. Phélip is Gascon.

19. Phillippus is Afrikaans.

20. Pilibbos is Armenian.

21. Pilipe is Georgian.

22. Ph’lip is Jèrriais.

Queen Filipa of Portugal (1360–1415), by António de Holanda

Feminine forms:

1. Philippa is English and German.

2. Philipa is English.

3. Phillipa is English.

4. Filipa is Portuguese.

5. Filippa is Italian, Greek, and Swedish.

6. Philippine is French.

7. Felipa is Spanish.

8. Filipina is Polish.

9. Filippina is Italian.

French poet, historian, and soldier Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné, 1552–1630

Other horse-related names:

Unisex:

1. Agrippa is a Latin name which may mean “wild horse,” from Greek roots agrios (wild) and hippos. Other forms include Agrippina (a Latin diminutive) and Agrafena (Russian, feminine only).

Female:

1. Alkippe comes from Greek alke (strength) and hippos.

2. Eowyn means “horse joy” in Old English, from eoh (horse) and wyn (friend). As most people know, this was invented for LOTR.

3. Epona means “horse” in Gaulish, from epos. She was the Celtic goddess of horses.

4. Jorunn means “horse love” in Norwegian, from Ancient Scandinavian jór (horse) and unna (love).

5. Rosalind means “tender/soft/flexible horse” in English, from Germanic hros (horse) and lind.

Rosamund Clifford, mistress of King Henry II of England (before 1150–ca. 1176), by John William Waterhouse

6. Rosamund means “horse protection” in English, from Germanic hros and mund.

7. Hippolyte means “freer of horses” in Greek, from hippos and luo (to loosen). Other forms include Hippolyta (Latin) and Ippolita (Russian).

8. Farnaspa means “horse glory” in Ancient Persian.

9. Lysippe means “she who lets loose the horses” in Greek.

10. Zeuxippe means “bridled horse” in Greek.

Hippocrates, ca. 460–370 BCE

Male: 

1. Archippos means “master of horses” in Greek, from archos and hippos.

2. Ashwin means “possessed of horses” in Hindi and several other Indian languages.

3. Eachann means “brown horse” in Gaelic, from each (horse) and donn (brown).

4. Hippocrates means “horse power” in Greek, from hippos and kratos (power).

5. Hippolytos is the male form of Hippolyta. Other forms include Ippolit (Russian), Ippolito (Italian), Hippolyte (French), Hipólito (Spanish and Portuguese), and Hipolit (Polish).

6. Tasunka means “his horse” in Sioux.

7. Xanthippos means “yellow horse” in Greek, from xanthos (yellow) and hippos.

8. Ajwad means “horses” in Arabic.

9. Alabandos means “horse victory” in Greek.

10. Aristippos means “the best horse” in Greek.

Hipólito José da Costa Pereira Furtado de Mendonça (1774–1823), Father of the Brazilian Press

11. Chrysippos means “horse of gold” in Greek.

12. Dexippos means “horse reception” or “to receive horses” in Greek.

13. Lysippos is the male form of Lysippe.

Names starting with Pt and Ps

In addition to names starting with uncommon letters like X and Q, and uncommon letters substituting for more common ones (e.g., Ysabelle instead of Isabelle, Jozef instead of Joseph), I also love unusual letter combinations. Not very many names start with Pt or Ps, so they really stand out when encountered.

As many people probably know, most of these names are of Greek origin.

Unisex:

Psalm was one of those now-beyond-rare Virtue names the Puritans so loved.

Psophis was the name of four characters in Greek mythology, three female and one male. All are considered possible namesakes for the ancient Arcadian city of Psophis, near the modern-day village Psofida

Male:

Ptah possibly means “opener” in Ancient Egyptian. He was a demiurge, an artisan-like figure who creates, fashions, and maintains the material world. In Egyptian mythology, he thought the world into existence with his heart. Among other things, he was a god of architects, craftspeople, and the arts.

Ptolemaios means “warlike, aggressive” in Ancient Greek, from polemaios. This was the name of several Greco–Egyptian rulers of Egypt, and the famous Greco–Roman astronomer Ptolemy.

The Latinized form is Ptolemaeus; the German form is Ptolemäus; the French form is Ptolémée; the Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian form is Ptolemey; the Lithuanian form is Ptolemėjas; the Polish form is Ptolemeusz; the Romanian, Portuguese, and Catalan form is Ptolemeu; the Spanish and Galician form is Ptolomeo; and the Serbian and Croatian form is Ptolemej.

Psote was a Coptic saint from the 3rd century. His feast day is 21 December.

Psmith is a character in six P.G. Wodehouse books.

Ptahil was a Mandaean demiurge. The name possibly means “to mould God,” from Mandaic roots pth (to mould) and il (God). It may also be etymologically related to Ptah.

Pterelaos was the name of two figures in Greek mythology. The Latinized form is Pterelaus.

Ptous was a minor character in Greek mythology, as well as an epithet of Apollo and namesake of Boeotia’s Mount Ptous.

Female:

Ptolemais is the feminine form of Ptolemaios. I’ve also seen the rare form Ptolemea, which is used in English and at least a few other languages. I unfortunately couldn’t track down its etymology and linguistic usage, since it’s so rare.

Psyche means “the soul” in Ancient Greek, from psycho (to breathe). In Greek mythology, she’s a mortal whom Eros (Cupid) marries and always visits under cover of night. Eros forbids her to look upon him, but on a visit home, Psyche’s two older sisters set a lot of trouble in motion by urging her to discover her mystery husband’s identity. There’s ultimately a happy ending.

Psamathe means “sand goddess” in Ancient Greek, from roots psammos (sand) and theia (goddess). She was a Nereid, wife of the god Proteus, mother of Phokus, goddess of sandy beaches. This was also the name of the mortal mother of renowned musician Linus, who was fathered by Apollo.

Some translations of Ovid render her name as Psamanthe. The French form is Psamathée.

Psappha is the Aeolian Greek form of Sappho, which possibly means “lapis lazuli” or “sapphire,” from sappheiros. The most famous bearer was the 7th century BCE poet, who lent her name to a now largely archaic word for lesbianism.

Psekas means “rain shower” in Ancient Greek. She was one of sixty Oceanid Nymphs who formed Artemis’s core retinue.

Ptolemocratia was a Latin name meaning “aggressive/warlike power,” from Ancient Greek roots polemeios (warlike, aggressive) and kratos (power).

The many forms of Ferdinand

Explorer Ferdinand Magellan, ca. 1480–1521

I’ve long been fond of the name Ferdinand, in all its many forms. It’s such a timeless classic, one of those names that used to be somewhat more popular but was never Top 100. Its highest rank in the U.S. to date was #242 in 1882. The name’s popularity moved up and down over the years, and dropped from the Top 400 in 1919. In 1931, it dropped from the Top 500.

Over time, the name continued to drop further and further, with a few short periods out of the Top 1000 entirely. To date, its last hurrah on the U.S. Top 1000 was 1971, at #984.

In France, Ferdinand enjoyed more past popularity, and stood at #59 in 1900. It left the Top 100 in 1929, crept back in the next year, and then fell out again. Its last year with a ranking was 1964, at #407.

In Switzerland, Ferdinand was #90 in 1925, and in the former Czechoslovakia, it was Top 100 from at least 1935–49. Its highest rank was #60 in 1941. In 1952, it left the Top 100.

Ferdinand is used in English, German, Dutch, French, Czech, and Slovenian. The alternate form Ferdinánd is Hungarian, and Ferdínand is Icelandic. It comes from an Ancient Germanic name derived from the roots farð (journey), frið (peace), or frith (protection), and nanth (daring, brave) or nand (prepared, ready). The original form may have been Frithunanths or Ferdinanths.

Fernando Pessoa, prolific Portuguese writer, 1888–1935

Other forms of the name include:

1. Fernand is French and modern Russian.

2. Ferdinando is Italian.

3. Fernando is Spanish and Portuguese. The Spanish nickname is Nando.

4. Fernão is Portuguese.

5. Ferdynand is Polish.

6. Ferran is Catalan. The alternate form Ferrán is Aragonese.

7. Hernando is Spanish. The nickname is Hernán.

8. Nándor is Hungarian.

9. Ferdinandas is Lithuanian.

10. Ferdinands is Latvian.

French composer Fernand Halphen, 1872–1917

11. Ferdinant is Breton.

12. Ferrand is Occitan and Provençal.

13. Fredenando is Basque.

14. Herran is Gascon.

15. Vêrtinât is Greenlandic.

Archduchess Auguste Ferdinande of Austria, 1825–1864

Feminine forms:

1. Fernanda is Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

2. Ferdinanda is Italian and German.

3. Fernande is French.

4. Ferdinande is German and French.