We all know names like Thor and Minerva have associations with ancient mythologies, specifically Norse and Roman, respectively, and there’s always those who search for unknown gems in the World of Mythology. This time, however, I’m taking the opposite approach, what are some recognisable names, which have links with mythology, that many are not aware of?
Alexander – Greek
The first historical figure you may think of is Alexander the Great, but there is another. The hero named Paris was also known as Alexander. He was the Trojan prince who kidnapped Helen, thus beginning the Trojan War. There is literature, notably Iliad, which portray him as a coward, however, he did slay the great hero Achilles. His life ended when he was slain in battle by Philoctetes.
The name Alexander is the Latin form of the Greek name Alexandros, which meant defending men, coming from two Greek elements:
- alexo, meaning to defend, help
- aner, meaning man
Aurora – Roman
Not just the name of the aurora borealis, aka the northern lights. Aurora was the name of the Roman goddess of the morning, who renewed herself every morning and flies across the sky, announcing the arrival of the sun. It comes as no surprise, then, that this name means dawn.
Aurora most often appears in Latin poetry alongside one of her mortal lovers. One of these stories, taken by Roman poets from Eos, her Greek counterpart, is that her lover was the prince of Troy, Tithonus. As he was mortal, he would age and die, however Aurora, as a goddess would not. Wanting to be with her lover for all eternity, Aurora asked Zeus to grant Tithonus with immortality, a wish he granted, although she failed to ask for eternal youth for him, and he ended up aging eternally. She eventually transformed Tithonus into a grasshopper.
Chloe – Greek
One of the most popular names on this list, Chloe also features in Greek mythology, albeit not as a major character, since Chloe was an epithet of the Greek goddess Demeter, that invoked her powers of ever-returning fertility, alongside Chthonia.
Chloe is of Greek origins, meaning green shoot.
Dylan – Welsh
Not just a surname, this name was born by a Welsh hero, who was associated with the sea, however, the 10, 455 boys and 507 girls born in 2010 to the name Dylan are unlikely to have parents aware of this association.
This name derives from two welsh elements:
- dy, meaning great
- llanw, meaning tide, flow
Flora – Roman
Flora has been used since the Renaissance, with the French kicking off the trend, but she comes from a time before that era, specifically, she was the Roman goddess of flowers and springs. Her name portrays just that, as it derives from the Latin word flos, meaning flower.
Whilst being a relatively minor figure in Roman mythology, thanks to her association with the spring gave her a particular importance at the coming of springtime. She has a festival, named the Floralia, held between the 28th April and 3rd May, which symbolised the renewal of the cycle of life, drinking and flowers. This festival was first celebrated in 240 BC.
Finn – Irish
Surprisingly, this name existed before Glee first aired, being borne by a legendary Irish hero, who became all-wise by eating an enchanted salmon. He fought against the giant Fomors with his son, Oisín and grandsom Oscar. We’ll come on to Oscar’s story later on down the list.
This name, in it’s irish form, is Fionn, meaning fair or white.
The legendary Fionn mac Cumhaill was a hunter-warrior, not only making appearances in Irish Mythology, but also ones of the Isle of Man and Scotland. The childhood name of Fionn was Deimne, meaning sureness, and he acquired the nickname of Fionn when his hair turned prematurely white.
Jason – Greek
One of the major success names of the 70s, this name has roots in Greek mythology. Derived from Greek, meaning to heal, Jason was the leader of the Argonauts.
After his uncle ovethrew his father as King of Iolcos, Jason went in search of the Golden Fleece in order to win back the throne. It was whilst on his journeys that Jason met and married the sorceress Medea, who then went on to aid his search of the fleece, and later kill his uncle. However, she later turned against him when he fell for another woman.
Lilith – Near Eastern
A friend of mine recently dismissed this name as a Lily elaboration, but she has more historical credentials than you may think. Coming from the Akkadian word lilitu, meaning of the night, Lilith is the name of a demon in ancient Assyrian myths. She also appears in Jewish tradition, as Adam’s first wife, who was sent out of Eden and replaced by Eve. The offspring of Adam and Lilith were the evil spirits of the world.
As you can see, Lilith has a history of association with evil, but don’t let that get you down about this name.
Melissa – Greek
With the quirky meaning bee, this name already had a lot going for it. But then we also have the nymph from Greek mythology, who cared for the young Zeus, and was the daughter of Cretan king, Melissos.
Melissa was the nymph who discovered and taught the use of honey, and because of her, the bees received their name. According to legend, rather than feeding milk to the baby Zeus, she instead fed him honey.
Nina – Near Eastern
Of an unknown meaning, but what we do know is that Nina was the name of a Babylonian and Assyrian fertility goddess, who was the goddess of a city named Nineveh.
Her name was usually written using a character representing a fish, surrounded by a character representing a house.
Oscar – Irish
As we’ve already mentioned, Oscar is the grandson of Fionn, and his name comes from two gaelic elements, meaning deer lover:
- os, meaning deer
- cara, meaning lover
Though a newer addition to Irish mythology, Oscar was a popular character, and appeared in several later Fenian tales, serving his aformentioned grandfather. His death appears in the story, Cath Gahhra, which pits the increasingly corrupt Fianna, of which Oscar was a part of, against the army of High King Cairbre Lifechair. Cairbre was aided by soldiers who had defected from Fianna, but was killed by Oscar, although in his final act, Cairbre mortally wounded Oscar with his steel chains. Oscar’s death causes Fionn to weep for the only time in his life.
Raiden – Far Eastern
Most American parents may be using this name to jump on the –aiden bandwagon, without realising it’s mythology credentials. He’s the God of thunder in the mythology of Japan, although usually referred to as Raijan, with Raiden as a variant.
It is therefore apt, what his name means, from two japanese elements:
- rai, meaning thunder
- jin, meaning god, spirit.
Rhiannon – Welsh
You may know that Rhiannon derives from the Old Celtic name, Rigantona, meaning great queen, what you may not know is that Rhiannon was the name of the goddess of fertility and the moon, in Welsh Mythology.
Rhiannon has a long association with the Greek horse goddess, Epona, due to Rhiannon’s association with horses as she appears on a white one in a the first story she appears in.