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.