A lot of planning goes into having children, from choosing schools to factoring another person into your finances. Later down the line, you’ll need to find space for all their toys and belongings and figure out where you’re going to store the footballs, dress-up boxes and the doll’s pram!
However, when it comes to preparing for a baby, dolls’ pushchairs are probably the last thing on your mind, as nothing requires more thought and consideration than choosing a name. In most cases, your name stays with you for life and becomes an intrinsic part of your identity, so it’s important to get it right!
There are many sources of inspiration that people draw on when naming a child. Many people choose to name their children after family members or even close friends, while others might choose the names of famous historical figures or their favourite characters from books, TV and other media.
What’s in a name?
Many parents want to pick a name that will make their child stand out from the crowd, choosing one that is both interesting and memorable. Names can also be inspirational, especially if you’re named after someone famous who did great things in their life.
One source of inspiration that ticks all of these boxes is mythology. Mythological names allow you to celebrate your cultural heritage or simply choose your favourite Gods and heroes with the best stories. The best thing is that there are thousands of names to choose from, so you can find the perfect one for your child.
Choosing a mythical name
When choosing a name from myths and legends, it’s important to pick one that resonates with you and your values (as well as sounding fantastic!).
For example, if you’re really into sports you might choose the name of a hero with great physical prowess like Hercules. Or, if you have Scandinavian heritage, you might want to celebrate it and pick the name of a Norse god such as Freyja or Heimdall.
With this in mind, we wanted to get a better idea of which mythological names are the most popular. So, if you want to raise a little hero of your own, check out these mythical names for some fresh inspiration.
Mythical names in the UK
Here we can see which names from myths and legends are the most common in the United Kingdom. For each name, you can see the mythology that it comes from and the number of children given that name over the last ten years.
- Tristan Name count: 3,258
Tristan is the most popular mythical boy’s name in the UK, appearing 3,258 times in the last 10 years. While the tale was originally Celtic, Tristan was later recorded as one of the knights of the round table under King Arthur when various myths of Britain and Ireland were tied into Arthurian legend during the middle ages.
- Phoenix Name count: 2,156
Phoenix is the second most popular mythical boy’s name in the UK, being chosen 2,156 times in the last decade. Due to the creature’s mythical power, the phoenix was a popular choice in medieval heraldry, signifying resurrection and longevity.
- Hector Name count: 1,759
Hector is the third most popular mythical boy’s name in the UK, having been chosen 1,759 times in the last ten years. Hector was a legendary prince of Troy who played a key role in the Illiad.
During the Trojan Wars, which began when Hector’s brother Paris seduced Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta, Hector was the main champion and military leader of the Trojan forces. He slew countless Greek soldiers but was eventually slain by Achilles, who paraded his corpse outside the city walls.
- Maia Name count: 2,362
Maia is the most popular mythical girl’s name in the UK, chosen 2,362 times in the last ten years. In Greek mythology, Maia was a mountain nymph and the daughter of the titan Atlas, who was condemned to hold up the sky after the titans’ war with the Olympic gods.
Maia was also the mother of the god Hermes, the herald of the gods whose winged sandals let him travel quickly through the realms of gods and mortals.
- Athena Name count: 1,862
Athena is the second most popular mythical girl’s name in the UK, being chosen 1,862 times in the last decade. Athena was an incredibly important deity in the Greek pantheon, especially in the city of Athens, which is likely where her name originated.
The favourite daughter of Zeus, born fully armoured and directly from his forehead, Athena was regarded as one of the most powerful gods. This motherless birth supposedly angered Zeus’ wife Hera so much that she also gave birth on her own in retaliation, creating the god of blacksmiths and craftsmen, Hephaestus.
- Freyja Name count: 881
Freyja is the third most popular mythical girl’s name in the UK, having been chosen 881 times in the last ten years. Freyja is one of the major Norse gods and is associated with love, beauty, fertility, sex, war and magic.
Freyja rules over Fólkvangr, a heavenly field where she has her hall Sessrúmnir. When Norse warriors fell in battle, it was believed that half would go to Valhalla, while half would join Freyja in Fólkvangr.
The most popular mythologies for names in the UK
- Greek Name count: 64,216
Greek mythology is the most common mythos used as a source of inspiration for baby names in the UK, with 64,216 names being chosen in the last decade. Popular Greek names include Troy, Damon and Orion for boys, and Persphone, Gaia and Ariadne for girls.
Mythical names in the United States
Here we can see which names from myths and legends are the most common in the United States. For each name, you can see the mythology that it comes from and the number of children given that name over the last ten years.
- Tristan Name count: 32,921
Tristan is the most popular mythical boy’s name in the United States, with 32,921 name registrations over the last ten years. The name originates in the tale of Tristan and Iseult, also known as Isolde, in which Tristan is tasked with bringing Iseult back from Ireland as a bride for his king. However, the pair fall in love on the return journey by way of a magic potion, which causes plenty of issues and eventually leads to a tragic end for both characters.
- Griffin Name count: 16,000
The second most popular mythical boy’s name in the United States is Griffin, being registered 16,000 times in the last decade. The griffin is a mythical creature that originated in Greek and Egyptian mythology and has the body, tail and back legs of a lion combined with the head and wings of an eagle.
Lions and eagles have traditionally been thought of as the “kings” of animals and birds, so a creature that combined the two, griffins were thought of as extremely powerful beasts. Griffins were often thought to guard riches and treasure, much like a dragon guarding its hoard.
- Phoenix Name count: 12,044
Phoenix is the third most popular mythical boy’s name in the United States, being registered 12,044 times in the last ten years. The phoenix is a legendary bird associated with the sun which can regenerate itself after death. The bird is often said to burst into flames upon death, with the new phoenix rising from the ashes of its predecessor. Symbolically, the phoenix has been used to represent many things including renewal, resurrection and virginity.
- Athena Name count: 21,552
Athena is the most popular mythical girl’s name in the United States, being registered 21,552 times in the last ten years. Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom and military victory, often taking an interest in and guiding the deeds of heroic mortals such as Jason, Perseus, Heracles and Odysseus.
- Kali Name count: 11,040
Kali is the second most popular mythical girl’s name in the United States, with 11,040 babies receiving the name in the last ten years. Kali is an extremely important deity in Hinduism, being the goddess of ultimate power, time, destruction and change, and is responsible for the destruction of evil to protect the innocent.
- Phoenix Name count: 8,115
Phoenix is the third most popular mythical girl’s name in the United States, being chosen 8,115 times in the last decade. As the name refers to a mythical beast, it can be used for babies of either gender, though it is slightly more common among boys.
Roman author, naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder claimed that the phoenix appeared at the end of each Great Year, which according to his claims coincided with the instatement of important Roman consuls.
The most popular mythologies for names in the US
- Greek Name count: 365,790
In the United States, Greek mythology is by far the most influential when it comes to baby names, with over 150,000 more Greek names than from any other mythos. Names like Atlas, Orion, Hector and Titan are all popular boy names, while Maia, Thalia, Calliope and Selene are examples of popular girl names.
Celtic names are the second most popular in the United States with 195,457 instances in the last ten years, while Roman names are the third most popular having appeared 186,899 times.
“Normal” names with mythical roots
The use of mythology to choose baby names has been happening for as long as myths and legends have existed. Over time, this has caused some mythical names to become so so commonplace that we barely even realise that they refer to ancient gods and heroes. Here are some of the most common examples:
- Dylan UK & USA name count: 114,572
Dylan is the most popular name with a mythical backstory, being chosen 114,572 times in the last ten years. The name Dylan appears in the Welsh tale “Math fab Mathonwy” where it is the name of a child that is born as a result of a test of his mother’s virginity. Upon being baptised in the sea, Dylan transforms into a sea creature thereby gaining the name Dylan ail Don, “Dylan the Second Wave”.
- Victoria UK & USA name count: 73,148
Victoria is the second most popular common name with mythical roots, having been chosen 73,148 times in the last decade. Victoria was the Roman goddess of victory and had an important place in Roman society, with many temples dedicated to her and triumphant Roman generals paying her homage.
- Penelope UK & USA name count: 65,140
Penelope is the third most popular common name with a mythological background, being chosen 65,140 times in the last decade. In Greek mythology, Penelope was the wife of Odysseus, king of Ithaca and the title character of the eponymous Odyssey.
While Odysseus is away for 20 years, fighting the Trojan wars and trying to find his way home, Penelope is beset by 108 different suitors. Penelope remains faithful to her husband and comes up with various delaying tactics and tricks to keep her suitors at bay.
We wanted to find out which mythological characters have inspired the most baby names in the United States and the UK over the past decade. To do this, we collected a list of over 2000 mythical characters from different mythologies and compared it with official baby name data from the UK and USA.
We were also able to note down which mythology each name originated from to reveal the mythologies that inspired the most baby names.
Additionally, we removed 30 names from the main ranking as they were considered too commonplace to have been chosen because of their links to mythology. These were presented at the end of the study as “normal” names with mythical roots.