PENELOPE f Greek Mythology, English
Possibly derived from Greek πηνελοψ (penelops)
, a type of duck. Alternatively it could be from πηνη (pene)
"threads, weft" and ωψ (ops)
"face, eye". In Homer
's epic the 'Odyssey' this is the name of the wife of Odysseus
, forced to fend off suitors while her husband is away fighting at Troy. It has occasionally been used as an English given name since the 16th century.
PERPETUA f Spanish, Late Roman
Derived from Latin perpetuus
meaning "continuous". This was the name of a 3rd-century saint martyred with another woman named Felicity.
PERSIS f Biblical, Biblical Greek
Greek name meaning "Persian woman". This was the name of a woman mentioned in Paul
's epistle to the Romans in the New Testament.
PETRONILLA f Italian, Late Roman
From a Latin name, a diminutive of Petronia
, the feminine form of PETRONIUS
. This was the name of an obscure 1st-century Roman saint, later believed to be a daughter of Saint Peter
PHILOMENA f English, German, Late Greek
From Greek φιλος (philos)
"friend, lover" and μενος (menos)
"mind, purpose, strength, courage". This was the name of an obscure early saint and martyr. The name came to public attention in the 19th century after a tomb seemingly marked with the name Filumena
was found in Rome, supposedly belonging to another martyr named Philomena. This may have in fact been a representation of the Greek word φιλομηνη (philomene)
PHOEBE f English, Greek Mythology (Latinized), Biblical, Biblical Latin
Latinized form of the Greek name Φοιβη (Phoibe)
, which meant "bright, pure" from Greek φοιβος (phoibos)
. In Greek mythology Phoibe was a Titan associated with the moon. This was also an epithet of her granddaughter, the moon goddess Artemis
. The name appears in Paul
's epistle to the Romans in the New Testament, where it belongs to a female minister in the church at Cenchreae. In England, it began to be used as a given name after the Protestant Reformation. A moon of Saturn bears this name (in honour of the Titan).
PHYLLIS f Greek Mythology, English, German
Means "foliage" in Greek. In Greek mythology this was the name of a woman who killed herself out of love for Demophon and was subsequently transformed into an almond tree. It began to be used as a given name in England in the 16th century, though it was often confused with Felicia
PORTIA f English
Variant of Porcia
, the feminine form of the Roman family name PORCIUS
, used by William Shakespeare for the heroine of his play 'The Merchant of Venice' (1596). In the play Portia is a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to defend Antonio
in court. It is also the name of a moon of Uranus, after the Shakespearian character.
PRISCILLA f English, Italian, French, Ancient Roman, Biblical Latin, Biblical
Roman name, a diminutive of PRISCA
. In Acts in the New Testament Paul
lived with Priscilla (also known as Prisca) and her husband Aquila
in Corinth for a while. It has been used as an English given name since the Protestant Reformation, being popular with the Puritans. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used it in his poem 'The Courtship of Miles Standish' (1858).
PRUDENCE f & m English, French
Medieval English form of Prudentia
, the feminine form of PRUDENTIUS
. In France it is both the feminine form and a rare masculine form. In England it was used during the Middle Ages and was revived in the 17th century by the Puritans, in part from the English word prudence
, ultimately of the same source.
PUCK m & f Anglo-Saxon Mythology, Dutch
Meaning unknown, from Old English puca
. It could ultimately be of either Germanic or Celtic origin. In English legend this was the name of a mischievous spirit, also known as Robin Goodfellow. He appears in Shakespeare's play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (1600).
RAISA (1) f Russian
Possibly from the Greek name HERAIS
. This was the name of a saint and martyr killed in Alexandria during the early 4th-century persecutions of the Roman emperor Diocletian.
RAMONA f Spanish, Romanian, English
Feminine form of RAMÓN
. It was popularized in the English-speaking world by Helen Hunt Jackson's novel 'Ramona' (1884), as well as several subsequent movies based on the book.
REBECCA f English, Italian, Swedish, Biblical, Biblical Latin
From the Hebrew name רִבְקָה (Rivqah)
from an unattested root probably meaning "join, tie, snare". This is the name of the wife of Isaac
and the mother of Esau
in the Old Testament. It came into use as a Christian name after the Protestant Reformation, and it was popular with the Puritans in the 17th century.
REGINA f English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Lithuanian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Late Roman
Means "queen" in Latin (or Italian). It was in use as a Christian name from early times, and was borne by a 2nd-century saint. In England it was used during the Middle Ages in honour of the Virgin Mary
, and it was later revived in the 19th century. A city in Canada bears this name, in honour of Queen Victoria.
REIDUN f Norwegian
From the Old Norse name Hreiðunn
which was derived from the elements hreiðr
"nest, home" and unnr
"to wave, to billow".
RHEA f Greek Mythology (Latinized), Roman Mythology
Latinized form of Greek ‘Ρεια (Rheia)
, meaning unknown, perhaps related to ‘ρεω (rheo)
"to flow" or ερα (era)
"ground". In Greek mythology Rhea was a Titan, the wife of Cronus
, and the mother of Zeus
. Also, in Roman mythology a woman named Rhea Silvia
was the mother of Romulus
, the legendary founders of Rome.
RHIANNON f Welsh, English, Welsh Mythology
Probably derived from the old Celtic name Rigantona
meaning "great queen". It is speculated that this was the name of an otherwise unattested Celtic goddess of fertility and the moon. The name Rhiannon
appears later in Welsh legend in the Mabinogion, borne by the wife of Pwyll
and the mother of Pryderi
RHODA f Biblical, English
Derived from Greek ‘ροδον (rhodon)
meaning "rose". In the New Testament this name was borne by a maid in the house of Mary the mother of John Mark. As an English given name, Rhoda
came into use in the 17th century.
ROBIN m & f English, Dutch, Swedish
Medieval diminutive of ROBERT
. Robin Hood was a legendary hero and archer of medieval England who stole from the rich to give to the poor. In modern times it has also been used as a feminine name, and it may sometimes be given in reference to the red-breasted bird.
ROSALIE f French, German, Dutch, English
French, German and Dutch form of ROSALIA
. In the English-speaking this name received a boost after the release of the movie 'Rosalie' (1938), which was based on an earlier musical.
ROSALIND f English
Derived from the Germanic elements hros
"horse" and linde
"soft, tender". The Normans introduced this name to England, though it was not common. During the Middle Ages its spelling was influenced by the Latin phrase rosa linda
"beautiful rose". The name was popularized by Edmund Spencer, who used it in his poetry, and by William Shakespeare, who used it for the heroine in his comedy 'As You Like It' (1599).
ROSALINE f English
Medieval variant of ROSALIND
. This is the name of characters in Shakespeare's 'Love's Labour's Lost' (1594) and 'Romeo and Juliet' (1596).
ROSAMUND f English (Rare)
Derived from the Germanic elements hros
"horse" and mund
"protection". The Normans introduced this name to England. It was subsequently influenced by the Latin phrase rosa munda
"pure rose". This was the name of the mistress of Henry II, the king of England in the 12th century. She was possibly murdered by his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine.
ROSE f English, French
Originally a Norman form of a Germanic name, which was composed of the elements hrod
"fame" and heid
"kind, sort, type". The Normans introduced it to England in the forms Roese
. From an early date it was associated with the word for the fragrant flower rose
(derived from Latin rosa
). When the name was revived in the 19th century, it was probably with the flower in mind.
ROSWITHA f German
Derived from the Germanic elements hrod
"fame" and swinth
"strength". This was the name of a 10th-century nun from Saxony who wrote several notable poems.
ROXANA f English, Spanish, Romanian, Ancient Greek (Latinized)
Latin form of Ρωξανη (Roxane)
, the Greek form of the Persian or Bactrian name روشنک (Roshanak)
which meant "bright" or "dawn". This was the name of Alexander the Great's first wife, a daughter of the Bactrian nobleman Oxyartes. In the modern era it came into use during the 17th century. In the English-speaking world it was popularized by Daniel Defoe, who used it in his novel 'Roxana' (1724).
RŪTA f Lithuanian
Means "rue" in Lithuanian, the rue plant being a bitter medicinal herb which is a national symbol of Lithuania. This is also the Lithuanian form of RUTH (1)
SABINA f Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Polish, Czech, Slovene, Russian, Croatian, Swedish, Ancient Roman
Feminine form of Sabinus
, a Roman cognomen meaning "Sabine" in Latin. The Sabines were an ancient people who lived in central Italy, their lands eventually taken over by the Romans after several wars. According to legend, the Romans abducted several Sabine women during a raid, and when the men came to rescue them, the women were able to make peace between the two groups. This name was borne by several early saints.
SABRINA f English, Italian, German
Latinized form of Habren
, the original Welsh name of the River Severn. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Sabrina was the name of a princess who was drowned in the Severn. Supposedly the river was named for her, but it is more likely that her name was actually derived from that of the river, which is of unknown meaning. She appears as a water nymph in John Milton's masque 'Comus' (1634). It was popularized as a given name by Samuel A. Taylor's play 'Sabrina Fair' (1953) and the movie adaptation that followed it the next year.
SAGA f Norse Mythology, Swedish, Icelandic
Possibly means "seeing one" in Old Norse. This was the name of the Norse goddess of poetry and history, sometimes identified with the goddess Frigg
. This is also a modern Swedish word meaning "story, fairy tale".
SALOME f English, German, Georgian, Biblical, Biblical Latin, Biblical Greek
From an Aramaic name which was related to the Hebrew word שָׁלוֹם (shalom)
meaning "peace". According to the historian Josephus this was the name of the daughter of Herodias
(the consort of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee). In the New Testament, though a specific name is not given, it was a daughter of Herodias who danced for Herod and was rewarded with the head of John
the Baptist, and thus Salome and the dancer have traditionally been equated.... [more]
SAMANTHA f English, Italian, Dutch
Perhaps intended to be a feminine form of SAMUEL
, using the name suffix antha
(possibly inspired by Greek ανθος (anthos)
"flower"). It originated in America in the 18th century but was fairly uncommon until 1964, when it was popularized by the main character on the television show 'Bewitched'.
SANDRA f Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, Macedonian, Romanian
Short form of ALESSANDRA
. It was introduced to the English-speaking world by author George Meredith, who used it for the heroine in his novel 'Emilia in England' (1864) and the reissued version 'Sandra Belloni' (1887). A famous bearer is American actress Sandra Bullock (1964-).
SAPPHIRA f Biblical
From the Greek name Σαπφειρη (Sappheire)
, which was from Greek σαπφειρος (sappheiros)
meaning "sapphire" or "lapis lazuli" (ultimately derived from the Hebrew word סַפִּיר (sappir)
). Sapphira is a character in Acts in the New Testament who is killed by God for lying.
SARA f Greek, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Finnish, German, French, Dutch, Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, Macedonian, Polish, English, Arabic, Persian, Bosnian
Form of SARAH
SARAH f English, French, German, Hebrew, Arabic, Biblical, Biblical Hebrew
Means "lady, princess, noblewoman" in Hebrew. In the Old Testament this is the name of Abraham
's wife, considered the matriarch of the Jewish people. She was barren until she unexpectedly became the pregnant with Isaac
at the age of 90. Her name was originally Sarai
, but God changed it at the same time Abraham's name was changed (see Genesis 17:15).... [more]
SARIAH f Mormon
Possibly from an alternate reading of Hebrew שׂריה
). In the Book of Mormon this is the name of Lehi's wife.
SASKIA f Dutch, German
From the Germanic element Sahs
"Saxon". The Saxons were a Germanic tribe, their name ultimately deriving from the Germanic word sahs
SAVITRI f Hinduism, Indian, Hindi, Marathi
Means "relating to the sun" in Sanskrit. This is the name of a hymn dedicated to Savitr, a Hindu sun god, and it is also the name of his daughter. It is borne by several other characters in Hindu epics, including a wife of Brahma
, a wife of Shiva
, and a daughter of Daksha. In the Hindu epic the 'Mahabharata' it is borne by King Satyavan's wife, who successfully pleas with Yama, the god of death, to restore her husband to life.
SEETHA f Tamil
Tamil form of SITA
. The name of the mythological figures is சீதை
, while சீதா
is the spelling used for people.
SERAPHINA f English (Rare), German (Rare), Late Roman
Feminine form of the Late Latin name Seraphinus
, derived from the biblical word seraphim
which was Hebrew in origin and meant "fiery ones". The seraphim were an order of angels, described by Isaiah in the Bible as having six wings each. This was the name of a 13th-century Italian saint who made clothes for the poor. As an English name, it has never been common.
SERENA f English, Italian, Late Roman
From a Late Latin name which was derived from Latin serenus
meaning "clear, tranquil, serene". This name was borne by an obscure early saint. Edmund Spenser also used it in his poem 'The Faerie Queene' (1590).
SHAHRAZAD f Persian (Rare), Arabic
Means "free city" from the Persian elements شهر (shahr)
"city" and آزاد (azad)
"free". This is the name of the fictional storyteller in 'The 1001 Nights'. She tells a story to her husband the king every night for 1001 nights in order to delay her execution.
SHAKTI f & m Hinduism, Indian, Hindi
Means "power" in Sanskrit. In Hinduism a shakti is the female counterpart of a god. The name Shakti is used in particular to refer to the female counterpart of Shiva
, also known as Parvati
among many other names.
SHAKUNTALA f Hinduism, Indian, Hindi, Marathi
Derived from Sanskrit शकुन्त (shakunta)
meaning "bird". This is the name of a character in Hindu legend, her story adapted by Kalidasa for the 5th-century play 'Abhijnanashakuntalam'. It tells how Shakuntala, who was raised in the forest by birds, meets and marries the king Dushyanta
. After a curse is laid upon them Dushyanta loses his memory and they are separated, but eventually the curse is broken after the king sees the signet ring he gave her.
SHEENA f Scottish, English
Anglicized form of SÌNE
. This name was popularized outside of Scotland in the 1980s by the singer Sheena Easton (1959-).
SHIPHRAH f Biblical
Means "beautiful" in Hebrew. In the Old Testament this is the name of one of the midwives who disobeys the Pharaoh's order to kill any Hebrew boys they deliver.
SIBYL f English
From Greek Σιβυλλα (Sibylla)
, meaning "prophetess, sibyl". In Greek and Roman legend the sibyls were ten female prophets who practiced at different holy sites in the ancient world. In later Christian theology, the sibyls were thought to have divine knowledge and were revered in much the same way as the Old Testament prophets. Because of this, the name came into general use in the Christian world during the Middle Ages. The Normans brought it to England, where it was spelled both Sibyl
. It became rare after the Protestant Reformation, but it was revived in the 19th century, perhaps helped by Benjamin Disraeli's novel 'Sybil' (1845).
SIDONY f English (Archaic)
Feminine form of SIDONIUS
. This name was in use in the Middle Ages, when it became associated with the word sindon
(of Greek origin) meaning "linen", a reference to the Shroud of Turin.
SILVIA f Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, English, German, Late Roman, Roman Mythology
Feminine form of SILVIUS
Silvia was the mother of Romulus
, the founders of Rome. This was also the name of a 6th-century saint, the mother of the pope Gregory the Great. It has been a common name in Italy since the Middle Ages. It was introduced to England by Shakespeare, who used it for a character in his play 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' (1594). It is now more commonly spelled Sylvia
in the English-speaking world.