Cool Name of the Week: Athena

My daughter Katie has developed a real passion for Greek mythology—she’s devoured a beginner’s book we’d bought for her, and is plowing her way through the Percy Jackson series, too. (“Seaweed brain” has become a new insult around here, courtesy of Percy Jackson—it feels a little strange that the gods would talk like that, but if you know anything about Greek mythology, you know that the gods were often petty and childish, and “seaweed brain” seems like the perfect insult for a 21st-century god.)

Katie’s so in love with Greek mythology, in fact, that her Halloween costume requests this year and last were Greek mythology based (a blessedly cheap choice, given that I own a white sheet and I’m not afraid to wrap it toga-like around my daughter). Last year, I entwined snakes into her hair so she could be an altogether gorgeous Medusa—but this year, she’s asking for Athena as her costume of choice.

If you aren’t quite as up on your Greek mythology as Katie is, Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage, justice and the arts. And she’s the patron saint of Athens (though it’s unclear which was named first). She’s the one who was born out of Zeus’ head as a fully formed adult, in one of the weirder stories of Greek mythology, and she also turned Arachne into a spider. She was the virginal goddess (rare among those wild partying Olympians), and had a whole group of chaste women in Greece serving in her temple.

Athena hasn’t been out of the top 1000 baby names here in the U.S. since 1955, and it’s currently on a huge upswing, thanks to Tina Fey choosing it as a middle name for her daughter Penelope—it was at #247 last year. It’s also one of the most accessible baby names to rise out of Greek mythology—I don’t see many people naming their kid Poseidon or Hephaestus.

Try pairing Athena with middle names that are a little more offbeat—I like it with June, Sage or True. As Tina Fey has proven, it’s beautiful in the middle spot as well.

What do you think of the name Athena? Is it something you might pick for your daughter?

Don’t forget—if you’re having a hard time coming up with a baby name, feel free to send your baby naming dilemma to me at lamilbrand@gmail.com.

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