Name Predictions: Achilles


Achilles drags Hector after slaying him

May is quickly approaching, and so is my college graduation.  Despite that milestone, I’m even more excited for something else – within the next two or three weeks, the Social Security Administration will release the data for the most popular American baby names of 2015.  Most people will likely be looking to the top 10 names or even just the #1 names for boys and girls, but I especially look forward to seeing the entire top 1000 and extended lists!

I will post my predictions for the top 10 later, but as of now I am officially kicking off speculation season by writing about a name that’s not yet in the top 1000, but may soon enter.

In the past year alone, I’ve been surprised by how many times I’ve encountered the name Achilles in real life.  Another blog I follow, For Real Baby Names, publishes lists of names used on actual babies; if you type “Achilles” in the search function several instances will appear.  The variant “Achillies” also appears a couple of times.  I’ve been reading that blog for years and yet only recently have there been so many instances of this one name.  Indeed, the extended SSA data indicates some rise in the usage of Achilles over the past few years.  Mainly this is because of the massively popular 2004 movie Troy, which is Hollywood’s take on Homer’s Iliad or more broadly, the Trojan War.  Before that movie, Achilles was a very rare name.  It wasn’t unused, but oftentimes there would be fewer than 10 American boys named Achilles born in a given year.  The French form Achille was always about as rare, but unlike Achilles, Achille has not enjoyed extra usage after Troy.

The latest data we (currently) have is from 2014.  In that year, there were 169 baby boys in the U.S. given the name Achilles.  In 2013, there were 142.  In 2012 there were 147, but that was up from 123 in 2011.  Note that in 2003, there were only 6, as opposed to 32 when the movie came out in 2004.  So even if in one year there was a slight dip, usage is generally trending upwards.  While it is possible that Achilles may drop in the 2015 data, it’s rather unlikely.  I will explain why.

One of the current naming trends is the growing popularity of names from Greco-Roman mythology and history.  Deity names like Luna and Aurora are wildly popular right now, and at least one of them may enter the top 100 in the 2015 data.  Human characters aren’t left out either; Penelope entered the top 100 in 2013 and is skyrocketing.  Ariadne entered the top 1000 in 2014.  Among the other ancients, Apollo, Atlas, and Ares are all up there too. Alexander is perennially popular, and currently a top-10 name.  Maximus, first popularized in a modern context by the movie Gladiator, is in the top 200 and rising fast.  Titus is also getting up there, ranking at #285 in the last count.  Achilles would be right at home with all of these.

Why then, are these names becoming so popular?  In many cases, I can’t really say.  Penelope supposedly received a boost from a Kardashian (unfortunately), and Maximus is definitely a result of Gladiator, but the others?  Luna’s popularity might have partially to do with Luna Lovegood, but Harry Potter doesn’t usually have very strong effects on American naming, so I’m unsure about that one.  I’ve heard that some old Roman and Late Latin names are receiving boosts from Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S., which could explain the reclaimed popularity of names like Valeria and Valentina.

For names like Ares, Apollo, and Achilles, though, there’s separate and major factor.  In August of 2015, Nameberry published a piece on a large trend towards violent baby names.  Besides all the weaponry and bad-behavior appellations, there was a section about “historical warriors.”  Although Achilles wasn’t listed there, Hector was (though as myth characters, not sure how much they count as historical, unless you consider their greater context within ancient military history…Alexander the Great, I’m looking at you).  There was also a part about war- and destruction-bearing gods, mentioning Apollo.  The thing is: if all this talk about the popularity and trendiness of violent names is true, then Achilles is almost certain to end up a top 1000 name at some point.  I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Iliad, but it begins with an invocation to recall Achilles’ extreme, deadly rage.  As a baby name, he’ll fit in with the rest.

Will Achilles enter the top 1000 for 2015?  It’s certainly possible.  The boys’ name that ranked #1000 in 2014 only had 205 uses.  Assuming a steady rise, and assuming there are even fewer names represented in the SSA data as with the last few years, then yes!  Expect Achilles somewhere in the rankings.  He may even pull an Ariadne where usage suddenly jumps; on that note, watch out for Persephone!  If Achilles is not in the top 1000 for 2015, I anticipate he’ll be in the 2016 data. 

What do you think? 


Roman Names and their Nicknames (Boys)

Having already done posts on Roman girls’ names and Greek names for both boys and girls, I’ve decided it’s time to write something about masculine Roman names.  Admittedly, I’ve had greater difficulty deriving suitable nicknames from the male names than from the female names, and Roman names seem to have fewer possible short-forms than Greek names.  Another complication regarding masculine Roman names is that they tend not to translate exactly into English; Hadrian, Lucian, and Cyprian are all far more likely to be used than Hadrianus, Lucianus, and Cyprianus.  Others, like Cassius and Titus, are generally popular but don’t have much in the way of nickname potential.  Finally, certain Roman names probably aren’t suitable for children at all.  Vespasian, lovely as it sounds, is problematic because his cognates tend to mean “urinal” in several Romance languages (apparently Emperor Vespasian instituted some sort of urine collection tax).  I’d also avoid names like Nero and Caligula.

However, there are plenty of good, strong Roman names that are definitely usable!  Here are some of them and their possible nicknames.

Cyprian/Cyprianus: Kip, Ryan, Ian, Cyrus, Priam

Hadrian/Hadrianus: Harry, Adrian, Ryan, Add

Severus: Sev, Seb, Ever, Russ

Horatius: Horatio, Ratio, Horace.  If you’re into Egyptian mythology, how about Horus?

Gordian/Gordianus: Gordon, Gordy, Ian

Augustus: August, Augie, Gus

Maximus: Max, Axle, Maxim

Florianus: Florian, Ryan, Laurie

Cassian/Cassianus: Sean, Cass, Ian

Lucian/Lucianus: Luke, Lucky, Ian

Antonius/Antony/Anthony: Anton, Tony

Albanus: Alban, Al

Albus: Al, Albie

Caius/Gaius: Cai, Kai

Spartacus: Art, Artie

Lucius: Luke

Quirinus: Quinn

Julius: Jules

Crispin/Crispinus: Pippin

Hellenic Hermione

Hermione is one of my very favorite names.  Almost everyone in my generation was introduced to the name through Hermione Granger; and believe me, that’s not a bad thing for the name.  H.G. is an incredibly strong and intelligent character, and for that I think she’s a fantastic namesake.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen many comments over time that suggest the name shouldn’t be used or that parents who love the name won’t use it because it’s *too* reminiscent of the Harry Potter series.  Again, Hermione is an incredible namesake and you should be naming your daughters after her.  But, if you think the single association is still too strong, there’s good news.  There are plenty other Hermione’s throughout literature and history!

The name itself has its provenance in Greek mythology.  Hermione was the daughter of King Menelaus of Sparta and his wife Helen.  Yes, that Helen, who famously eloped with Paris and incited the Trojan War.  Hermione married Neoptolemus and later Orestes.

Thousands of years later, there are yet more Hermione’s.  Shakespeare’s Hermione in The Winter’s Tale is one of the most famous.  There’s also a French tragedy called Cadmus and Hermione, but in this case Hermione is actually an alternative rendering of Harmonia.  There have been others (I know I’m missing a few – there are a lot), but I think the next important appearance is in the 1960s David Bowie song “Letter to Hermione.”  Lastly, in the 1990s, J.K. Rowling gave us Hermione Granger. 🙂

Historically, Hermione has also been a ship’s name.  The British have had four ships called HMS Hermione since the 18th century (the last one was scrapped only in the 1990s).  The French have had 12, including one dating to 2014 that is a replica of the famous 1779 Hermione frigate.   The Spanish also had at least one of these in the 18th-century. 

This name is pretty rare in the U.S., but tends to be popular enough in the U.K. to at least make the top 500…actually, I think it was ranked exactly #500 in 2014 on the English and Welsh charts.  This isn’t to say that Americans don’t use the name; since the HP books were first published, Hermione has been hitting around 50 uses a year fairly consistently.  Even before the books came out, the name was sporadically used.  I will say this – Hermione is one of those names that is far more classically British than American. 

Nickname potential is high for this name.  In a previous post about Ancient Greek girls’ names, I wrote that diminutives like Mia, Maia, and Hera could make the name more usable for some parents.  


Ancient Greek Names and Nicknames (Boys)

Mosaic of Alexander the Great

Mosaic depiction of Alexander the Great

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on nicknames I derived from Ancient Greek girls’ names, and later I wrote one about potential nicknames for feminine Roman appellations.  Yet, I’ve not written about nicknames for the boys, and since most of the posts on my site have been oriented more towards feminine names I feel I’ve been leaving the boys out.

I had more difficulty shortening the masculine than feminine names.  Still, I think there’s a potential for creativity here!

Heliodorus/Heliodoros: Eli, Elio, Leo, Helios, Sunny, Odo

Alexander: Alex, Andy, Xander, Lex, Sasha…but you already know these. 🙂

Theodosius/Theodosios: Theo, Ted, Teddy, Odo

Achilles: Ace, Lee, Hill

Aristodemos: Ari, Todd, Ares

Patroclus/Patroklos: Pat, Rock, Rocco

Evander: Evan, Andy, Van

Apollo: Paul, Ollie

Damocles: Dan, Lee

Ajax: AJ, Jax

Athanasius/Athanasios: Hans, Han

Draco: Drake, Ace

Leonidas: Leo, Leon

Nicanor: Nick

Perseus: Percy (actually, I think this is the case for Percy Jackson)

Persistent Penelope


Penelope and Odysseus

Penelope is a name that intrigues me.  It first entered the naming lexicon a few thousand years ago as the long-faithful wife of Odysseus in Homer’s epic The Odyssey.  And unlike many other ancient and classical names, she has become a sort of modern staple.  Whether for the Ithacan Queen’s unusually virtuous nature (as far as Greek Mythology goes) or for the name’s sweet-sounding syllables, this appellation endures.

Stateside, Penelope‘s popularity has been volatileShe first appears in the 1880s, then virtually disappears until the 1920s, becomes trendy in the 1940s and 1950s, and only hits stardom in the 21st century.  Indeed, for a time, the nickname Penny was much more popularOne of the reasons I call Penelope a “persistent” name, though, is because she always reappears at some point or another.  Naturally, her ancient namesake is the other reason.

There are a few possibilities as to why Penelope has grown exponentially more popular in the last few years.  For one thing, I suspect Penelope Cruz has something to do with it.  Secondly, classical names are trendy now.  Finally, and the most concrete possibility for popularity, is that one of the Kardashians named her daughter Penelope.  Look – I strongly dislike the Kardashians.  And as much as I shudder at the idea of a Kardashian namesake, I can appreciate that one gave her child a really good name.  Anyway, this likely explains why the name has jumped over 100 places in the rankings in less than 5 years.  This decade is the first that Penelope has ever been in the American top 100!  She ranked #34 in 2015.

What do you think of Penelope?  Will she continue to rise? 

Originally published March 2016, edited Oct. 11 2016.

Cute Nicknames for Roman Names (Girls)

Just as there are some gorgeous Greek names out there, there are also some great Roman names too.  Several of the following are already very popular – especially Aurora and Julia – while others are very rare, like Hadriana and Saturnina.  I’ve brainstormed to find some nicknames that could make some of these names more usable for parents, but also because this is simply a fun exercise!

Aurelia: Aura, Goldie, Lia, Ellie, Relia, Elia

Camilla: Millie, Cam, Amy, Mila, Cami

Cornelia: Nellie, Ellie, Cora, Lia, Cori

Lucretia: Lucy, Lucky, Rettie, Tia, Lux

Severina: Vera, Erin, Erina, Ever, Verina

Valentina: Vale, Tina, Ina, Valley

Hadriana: Hattie, Ana, Ria, Addie

Petronia: Ronnie, Pet, Petra, Nia

Antonia: Toni, Annie, Nia

Aurora: Aura, Rory

Virginia: Ginny, Nia

Lucia: Lucy, Lux

Julia: Jools, Lea

Livia: Liv, Via

Saturnina: Nina, Ina

Juno: June, Junie

Salacia: Sally, Lacy (okay, maybe this one sounds too much like “salacious.”  Great nickname potential though!)

Mildly edited May 5, 2017

Cute Nicknames for Ancient Greek Names (Girls)

In past years most mythological names have probably been too daunting for consideration by parents.  However, seemingly since Gladiator came out and popularized the name Maximus, Ancient Greek and Roman names have become incredibly trendy.  While not all have hit the American top 1000, many are at least rising in usage or even coming into modern usage for the first time.  A few are skyrocketing in popularity – Penelope, Luna, and Aurora come most easily to mind.  Then I think of Ariadne, which entered the top 1000 in 2014 for the first time ever.  For more information about name popularity, you can look here:

Being a lover of mythological names myself, and bearing in mind that these names are becoming as popular as they are, I decided to brainstorm some nicknames for a few of the potentially more “daunting” or unusual ones.

Hermione: Mia, Maia, Ione, Hera, Erin, Mione

Ariadne: Aria, Addie, Ria, Rhea, Ari

Calliope: Callie, Calla, Cal, Allie, Cai, Cappie

Andromeda: Andie, Meda, Andrea, Edie, Romie, Annie

Iphigenia: Effie, Genie, Eppie, Iphie

Melaina: Lainey, Mel, Elaine

Persephone: Perri, Sephie

Aglaia: Aggie

Charis: Carrie

Briseis: Brie