Welcome to the first post of many in our Offbeat Alphabet Series, and we’re starting with a name I’ve been dying to properly cover for a very long time. This is a case of a draft sitting in my pending pile for an embarrassing number of years (basically when this blog started way back on Blogger in May 2010, that’s over 4 years).
It seems apt then that I kick the procrastination bucket and actually post this. So, hello Artemis. Hope your wait wasn’t too much of a bore.
The name Artemis is a Greek name with a disputed meaning and a side-line gender crisis. So, naturally, I’m a huge fan.
When most hear the name Artemis, they likely think of the Greek goddess who presided over hunting, the moon, childbirth, wilderness, virginity and maidens. According to legend, she’s the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin brother by the name of Apollo. She is often depicted wearing a crescent moon on her head, and always carries her bow and arrow. Deer, bears, hunting dogs, and cypress trees are especially sacred to her.
In Roman Mythology, she was known as Diana. This lead some to speculate that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge might use Artemis as a middle name for a daughter to honour his mother. Personally, I feel it’s more likely that they’d simply use Diana.
It may seem odd that a Greek goddess’ name might be used as a male name, but there’s precedence for it, never mind the fact that two of the most prominent pop culture uses of the name are male.
For example, the Greek goddess Demeter is the source of the name Demetrius. Then we have the fact that Marie remains a note-worthy middle name for the male population of France (think: Jean-Marie, Philippe-Marie), as a nod to the Virgin Mother.
A few months back I introduced a close friend to the anime show Sailor Moon. The show is based on the manga which is considered one of the defining works of the genre for it’s depiction of kick ass girls with magical powers using said powers to fight evil. Despite this, my friend was unimpressed with the amount of crying the titular character does, and much preferred Cardcaptor Sakura. However, he was a huge fan of the feline characters, who in the English translation are all given names related to the moon: Luna, Artemis and Diana. The cats can talk and dish out guidance to the troupe throughout the series; Artemis is a male cat, not female.
Outside of Japanese manga, the most famed use of Artemis in the UK is in children’s literature. The Artemis Fowl series of books are written by Eoin Colfer and first came to a good bookstore near you back in 2001, and the last one is made it’s début in 2012. The series of books has been compared to Harry Potter – but Mr. Colfer prefers for the series to be referred to as Die Hard With Fairies.
Artemis Fowl revolves around the antics of a teenage mastermind by the name of Artemis – a male teenage mastermind. It may seem odd to those with preconceptions that Artemis is a female name – the character himself mentions the gender dispute a few times – but Artemis was good enough to be given to one of Alex James’ twin sons. During the books, Artemis takes on an alter-ego named Orion, who is almost his exact opposite – notably being carefree and optimistic. Artemis was the Greek goddess of hunting, whilst Orion is the name of a legendary Greek hunter.
Despite all this talk of Artemis’ dude-cred, the name in 2013 only ranked for girls born in England&Wales at #1639. The Russian/Ukrainian/Belarusian name Artem, which traces it’s origins back to Artemis, ranked at #1539 for the boys. However, with a film adaption of the Artemis Fowl books in the pipeline, all that could change.
As for the origins of the name, it is possible that the name stems from the Greek: artemêse, meaning safe; artamos, meaning butcher; artios, meaning complete; artemia meaning recovery; or even arktos, meaning bear. Suffice to say, it’s pure speculation when it comes to the meaning as, with many aged names, this one’s is long lost with the passage of time.
A similar name to Artemis is Artemas, sometimes touted as the male form of Artemis, he actually derives as a short form of Artemidorus; he means gift of Artemis.
What you have with Artemis is an ancient Goddess name which in this day and age could work for either gender and as long as you’re not bothered by not knowing what exactly the name means, you’re sure to appreciate him/her.