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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Names starting in Rh

Though names starting in Rh aren’t quite as unusual as those starting in Ps and Pt, that’s still not exactly the most common starting syllable. Most of these names are Greek and Welsh.

Female:

Rheia (Latinized Rhea) was the mother of Zeus, Hera, Hestia, Demeter, Hades, and Poseidon. It possibly is derived from the root era (ground) or rheo (to flow).

Rhian means “maiden” in Welsh, from rhiain. Alternate forms are Rhianu and Rhianydd; an elaborated form is Rhianedd (maidens).

Rhiannon is a well-known Welsh name probably derived from Old Celtic Rigantona (great queen). She may have been a Celtic goddess of the Moon and fertility.

Rhoda is an English name derived from the Greek word rhodon (rose). Though it’s found in the Bible, it only came into known English usage in the 17th century.

Rhona is a Scottish name, possibly derived from the Hebridean island Rona. It means “rough island” in Gaelic.

Rhonda either comes from the name of the Rhondda Valley of South Wales (and thus means “noisy”), or was intended to mean “good spear,” from Welsh roots rhon (spear) and da (good).

Rhonwen means “fair hair” or “fair spear” in Welsh, from elements rhon (spear) or rhawn (hair), and gwen (blessed, fair, white). I love this name, and used it on an unplanned secondary character loosely based after a friend from the second of my three high schools.

Rhosyn is a rare, modern Welsh name meaning “rose.”

Rhagnell was a mythical Welsh princess.

Rhanis was one of the sixty Oceanid Nymphs who formed the core of Artemis’s retinue. It means “raindrop” in Ancient Greek.

Rhema is a rare American name, taken from a Greek word meaning “that which is spoken” and referring to the Christian concept rhematos Christou, “the word of Christ.”

Rheta means “speaker” in Greek.

Rhiainfellt means “lightning maiden” in Welsh, from the word rhiain (maiden) and Celtic roots *rgan– (queen) and mellt (lightning). She was a 7th century queen of Northumbria.

Rhianwen means “fair maiden” or “blessed maiden” in Welsh, from roots rhiain and gwen.

Rhodanthe means “rose flower” in Greek, from roots rhodon and anthos.

Rhodd means “gift” in Welsh.

Rhodope means “rosy-faced, rosy” in Greek, from rhodopos. In Greek mythology, she was the wife of King Haemos of Thrace.

Rhoeo means “stream, flow” in Ancient Greece, from root rhoe. She was impregnated by Apollo, and in a story very similar to that of Danäe and Perseus, her father put her in a chest and sent her out to sea.

Rhadine was the star-crossed lover of Leontichos in Greek mythology. Their love was the subject of a now-lost poem, quoted and given a synopsis by historian Strabo.

Rhoswen means “beautiful rose” in Welsh, from roots rhos and gwen.

Male:

Rheinallt is the Welsh form of Reynold, which is derived from the Germanic Raginald and the roots ragin (advice) and wald (rule).

Rhisiart is the Welsh form of Richard, which means “brave power” and derives from Germanic roots ric (rule, power) and hard (brave, hardy).

Rhett comes from a surname Anglicized from the Dutch de Raedt. Its root is raet (advice, counsel). Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows the most famous bearer is Rhett Butler of Gone with the Wind!

Rhodri comes from the Welsh roots rhod (wheel) and rhi (king). A 9th century king had this name.

Rhydderch means “reddish-brown” in Welsh, and is also used as a Welsh form of Roderick (famous power). The latter derives from Germanic roots hrod (fame) and ric (power).

Rhys means “enthusiasm” in Welsh.

Rhadamanthos (Rhadamanthys) may be derived from rhadamnos (branch) and anthos (blossom), or from Rho-t-Amenti (King of Amenti, the realm of the dead), an epithet of the Egyptian god Osiris. In Greek mythology, he was a son of Zeus and Europa, brother of King Minos of Crete, and a judge of the underworld. His name is the origin of the English adjective “rhadamanthine,” inflexibly just or severe.

The Latinized form is Rhadamanthus, and the French form is Rhadamanthe.

Rhain means “stretched-out” or “stiff” in Welsh. This was the name of a son of legendary 5th century King Brychan Brycheiniog, and by a 9th century king of Dyfed.

Rhetorios means “public speaker, orator” in Greek. The Latinized form is Rhetorius. This is obviously the root of “rhetoric.”

Rhidian is possibly a Welsh form of the Irish name Ruadhán, a diminutive of Ruadh (red).

Rhion is both a masculine form of Rhian and a modern form of Ryan (little king).

Rhiwallon is the Welsh form of Old Celtic *Rigovellaunos, which possibly means “lord-ruler” or “most kingly.”

Rhoys is the Welsh form of Roy, which also derives from Ruadh.

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).

Names ending in X

X has long been one of my favouritest letters, since it’s so rare. Getting a chance to use an X word or name is like finding a needle in a haystack, so why not seize the opportunity as often as one can?

Most names ending in X seem to be male, but there are a few female names too.

Unisex:

Alex

Phoenix

Onyx

Lux means “light” in Latin. This is also a rare, exclusively masculine, German nickname for Lukas.

Female:

Pax means “peace” in Latin, after the goddess of peace.

Iynx is pronounced “inks.” She was an Arcadian Oreiad nymph, the child of Echo and Pan, and was the one who caused all the trouble with Io. Iynx cast a spell on Zeus to make him fall for Io and cheat on Hera yet again. Enraged, Hera turned her into what is now known as the iynx bird, a Eurasian wryneck. This bird is a symbol of passionate, restless love.

In another version of Iynx’s story, she was the daughter of Pieros, King of Emathia, Macedonia. Iynx was turned into a bird after she and her sisters dared to enter a musical contest against the Muses. In bird form, Aphrodite then gave her to Jason, who used Iynx as a love charm to win the love of Medea (whom he later two-timed).

Jinx is the Latin and English form of Iynx. The original English spelling is Jynx.

Beatrix

Alix (birth name of the infamous Empress Aleksandra of Russia, who deserves more pity than hatred for the course her sad life took)

Nyx means “night” in Greek. She was one of the primordial deities, those who sprung from the void of Chaos. Nyx created many other primordial deities, such as Hypnos (Sleep), Aether (Ether), Thanatos (Death), Eris (Discord), and Hemera (Day).

Arax comes from the Armenian river Aras. Variants include Araxie and Araksi.

Margaux is a variation of Margot, a French nickname for Marguerite.

Male:

Max (I hate how trendy it’s gotten!)

Ajax (always adored this name!)

Felix (such a cute name, and yet also ages well)

Maddox

Lennox

Knox

Rex (another longtime favourite)

Jax (I strongly prefer to see this as a nickname for Jackson, not a full name in its own right)

Lex (also most strongly prefer as a nickname)

Fox

Pollux is the Latin form of the Greek Polydeukes, “very sweet,” from roots polys (much) and deukes (sweet). He famously appears in Greek mythology as the twin brother of Castor, from Zeus’s mating with Lida in swan form. The constellation Gemini, which represents these twins, contains a star named Pollux.

Dax

Hendrix

Lynx

Fairfax

Croix means “cross” in French.

The two names I’ve loved longest, Part II

As mentioned in my last post, the two names I’ve loved longest are Easter and Echo. I’ve no idea why I fell so deeply in love with them, but I’ve remained firmly captivated by them all these years. While I’d like to use Echo as a middle name for a future daughter (paired with Cecilia), Easter is off-limits for the obvious reason that I’m not Christian.

However, I’m of the camp that feels one need not be a member of a certain religion to find great beauty in some of its names, music, stories, etc. Liking a name, song, ikon, teaching, etc., doesn’t automatically mean you’re having a crisis of faith and converting!

The English name Easter comes from Eostre (alternately called Ostara), the Ancient Germanic dawn goddess. As such, her name is etymologically linked to Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn (whose name fittingly means “dawn”). Every morning, her rosy fingers open the gates of heaven for the Sun to rise.

The Ancient Germanic name, like the Greek name, derives from the Proto–Germanic *Austrǭ. In turn, that name ultimately derives from the Proto–Indo–European *h2ews- (to shine). The modern English word “east” also descends from this ancient root.

Many other dawn goddesses from Indo–European language-speaking cultures share this cognate, leading to the theory of a Proto–Indo–European dawn goddess from whence they all came.

Over time, Eostre became associated with fertility and the dawning of spring, hence why the Christian spring holiday took on an updated form of her name.

Though it’s no longer very common for girls born around Easter to be given this name, the Latin word for Easter, Pascha, forms the basis for a number of names which are a fair bit more common. These include:

Female:

Pascale is French. The nickname is Pascaline.

Pascuala is Spanish.

Pascualina is Italian.

Pascalina is Gascon and Sardinian.

Paškvalina is Croatian.

Male:

Pascal is French, Dutch, and German.

Pasquale is Italian.

Pascual is Spanish.

Paskal is Bulgarian and Macedonian.

Pascoe, or Pasco, is Cornish.

Paschalis is Greek.

Paškal is Croatian. The nickname is Paško.

Pascau is Gascon.

Paskalis is Lithuanian.

Paszkál is Hungarian.

Paxkal is Basque.

Päscu is Swiss–German.

Pasqual is Catalan.

Pascoal is Portuguese.

The reason I see Easter as a workable (if rather uncommon) name is because I’m used to seeing and hearing it as a human’s name. It’s become rather unusual, but it’s not completely unheard-of. Christmas was a fairly common given name in the Middle Ages, but it doesn’t sound like a name, and is even rarer to encounter on a real person.

As with many names, it’s all about perception and associations.