Tina Fey welcomed daughter Penelope Athena last week. To learn more about this celebrity baby name we asked the founders of baby name site Nameberry to weigh in. Here, Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond give us the run down on Fey’s Greek baby naming style and how Penelope Athena may affect baby name trends.
For the second time, Tina Fey has looked back to her Greek roots in naming her daughter, and this time has used two names, Penelope and Athena, which reflect her Hellenic heritage. Tina herself was born Elizabeth Stamatina Fey; her mother’s name, Zenobia (maiden name Xenakes), became the middle name of Tina and Jeff Richmond’s first daughter Alice.
Penelope is one of those formerly fusty, elderly-British-lady names that have recently been rediscovered by baby namers, probably revitalized by the far more dramatic image of Penélope Cruz. Definitely on the rise, Penelope jumped into the Top 200 this year, rising more than 700 places since it returned to the popularity lists in 2001, and is now more popular than it has ever been in this country. Penelope has been associated since ancient times with the faithful, long-suffering wife of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey.
It remains to be seen whether Penelope Athena Richmond will be known by her full name or by the traditional nickname Penny, which hasn’t been heard much since the 80s, but was a Top 100 nickname name in the mid-60’s, along with such perky pigtailed playmates as Patty, Peggy and Polly. Penny, too, has made something of a comeback, appearing as characters on Lost and The Big Bang Theory, but still is not in the Top 1,000 of the Social Security list.
Athena, on the other hand, stands at Number 360 on the list, part of the current trend of girls’ names beginning and ending with the letter ‘a‘, including Ava, Alyssa, Anna, Adriana, Amelia, Alexa, Arianna, et al. A classic ancient Greek name, Athena was the daughter of Zeus who was the goddess of wisdom and patron of the city of Athens, and it works beautifully with the equally classic Penelope.
Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran are the creators of the baby name site Nameberry and the authors of ten bestselling books about names, including Cool Names for Babies and The Baby Name Bible.