Spotlight On: Phaedra

Phaedra-HippolyteSometime this past year I was eating dinner out, and I remember some college-age guys sitting in the booth next to us flirting with an attractive waitress. She introduced herself as Phaedra. I made a mental note and Phaedra went on the Spotlight Name list, and had hung out there. Waiting. Other names would come up and Phaedra waited her turn.

And then Phaedra’s time came. The name appeared in Nameberry 9 on nameberry a couple of weeks ago. Nameberry is a large baby name blog with a weekly series on newsworthy names written by Abby Sandel of Appellation Mountain, called Nameberry 9. Phaedra made the list last month because Peaches Geldof, a British journalist, model, and daughter of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, is apparently considering the name for baby number two.

When you answer to Peaches and your siblings are Pixie, Fifi Trixibelle, and Tiger Lily (half-sister) and the time comes to name your own offspring, society expects you to follow one of two paths:

  1. You give your kids completely conventional names as a form of rebellion or
  2. You try to show-up your parents by giving your kids even more bizarre names.

For baby number one, a boy named Astala, Peaches chose the second path. She plans to continue on that path for baby two—reportedly she’s expecting another boy. A boy to be named Phaedra.

While I wholeheartedly endorse Phaedra on a girl, I can’t endorse Phaedra on a boy. That ventures too far on the “too different” path for Upswing Baby Names. Surprising is not always good.

Phaedra, being similar to Phoebe (#310) and Daphne (#450), is right on trend. Phaedra, Phoebe and Daphne are all Greek mythology names with the ph consonant digraph. These names seem to be on the verge of breaking out. Expect to see more of them in the top 1000 within the next few years.

One such name that could soon hit the top 1000 is Persephone. Persephone has never been in the top 1000. There were only 134 newborn girls named Persephone last year, but it gets a lot of attention on nameberry where a search of the database yields 2,426 results (at the time of writing) from user submitted forums and name lists. I consider any name with nameberry search results in the four-digits promising.

Phaedra belongs to the “Greek Mythology ph names” group, yet doesn’t get the same attention as Phoebe, Daphne and Persephone. At the time of writing, Phaedra gets only 522 nameberry search results, and was given to 23 newborn girls last year (and fewer than 5, if any, boys).

Phaedra is from the Greek phaidra, which is derived from phaidros, meaning “bright”. In Greek Mythology Phaedra was married to Theseus and fell in love with his son, Hippolytus. There are a few versions of the story. In one of the versions, Phaedra kills herself after Hippolytus rejects her.

There are a couple of 60s pop culture references to Phaedra. There is a 1962 film by the same name based on the Greek myth. And there is a 1967 psychedelic pop song, “Some Velvet Morning” recorded by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra with lyrics referring to a mysterious woman named Phaedra. These events were not enough to land Phaedra in the top 1000 that decade.

Like Phoebe, Phaedra is difficult for me to spell. This may be just me, but I tend to switch two of the vowels. I always want to put the E first. But other than that, I can’t think of many practical drawbacks.

Phaedra may not get a lot of attention simply because the name is unfamiliar to a lot of people. If Greek Mythology ph names get more popular, as I believe they will, we will probably hear more of Phaedra.

Readers: What do you think of Phaedra?

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  1. Phaedra is also the name of one of the cast members of Real Housewives of Atlanta. I’m not sure I’ll be able to separate the ridiculousness of that show from this name, however lovely it is.

    • I have never seen a single season of Real Housewives and wasn’t aware of a cast member named Phaedra. In a few years I suspect most people will forget the Real Housewives casts–or at least I hope.

  2. I have to agree – Phaedra on a girl is lovely; Phaedra on a boy is too much – like calling him Charlotte instead of Charles. The male form of the name is Phaedrus.

    Classical Greek names for girls are going gangbusters – birth notices are full of Athenas, Electras, Daphnes Persephones and Cleos. I think most people are too timid to give them to boys though.

    • That’s a good comparison, like calling a boy Charlotte. That sort of reminds me of Jessica Simpson calling her daughter Maxwell, not Maxine. I think calling a girl Max is sort of cool, like calling a girl Alex or Sam, but I would either use Maxine for a girl’s given name or just name her Max. Sort of like I would never name a girl Samuel; I would name her Samantha or just Sam.

      • I’m kind of in two minds about Maxwell – it doesn’t really have a feminine form, unlike Maximilian, and it’s a surname/place name, which seems more unisex.

        Having said that, I think I would have gone with plain Max/Maxi, or used Maxwell as the middle name.

        On Nameberry, at least two people said they ONLY knew Maxwell as a girl’s name and had only seen it on girls, so the US obviously has a very different namescape.

    • I love Classical Greek names! We are hoping to name our son Atlas. I hope Atlas won’t go gang busters! I’m hoping you’re right that not as many people are bold enough to use the mythological names on boys. We also like Calliope, Daphne & Phoebe for girls. Juno is also on our list, switching gears to Ancient Rome 🙂

  3. Phaedra makes me think of hydra; either the mythological hydra or the little tentacled asexual creature you see in old science books. And then that mental image, coupled with the “Ph” sound made me think of syphilis. @_@ So a definite ‘dislike’ in my books.

  4. Phaedra is a pretty name, although I’d like to simplify the spelling to Phaydra. What do you think?


  1. […] and Persephone fall into what I call the “Greek Mythology-ph names” category. I expect more of these names to appear in the top 1000 within the next few […]

  2. […] is a good example. This is one of those names that seemed off-the-wall until recently now that Greek names are becoming more fashionable. And the name sounds very similar to 80s hit-name, Stephanie, giving it some mainstream […]

  3. […] Euphemia has much in common with another Spotlight name, Phaedra. […]

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