Girl Baby Name


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Quick Facts on Penelope

  • Gender:
  • Girl
  • Origin:
  • Greek
  • Number of syllables:
  • 4
  • Ranking popularity:
  • 56
Simple meaning:
Unweave a woven cloth; faithful wife

Characteristics of Penelope

  • Mystical
  • Wise
  • Eccentric
  • Intuitive
  • Imaginative
  • Philosophical
  • Solitary

Etymology & Historical Origin - Penelope

The name Penelope is borne by a character in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey composed around the 8th century B.C. She is the wife of the protagonist, Odysseus, king of Ithaca, who must leave Penelope shortly after she gives birth to their son Telemachus to go fight in the Trojan War. After ten years of battle, the Greeks sack Troy, but Odysseus does not immediately return to Ithaca. Unbeknownst to everyone, Odysseus is trapped on an island for another 10 years, held hostage by a beautiful nymph Calypso who has fallen in love with the mighty hero. Back in Ithaca, Penelope spends all of her time fending off a bevy of unsavory suitors determined to take Odysseus’ place. As the years roll on, Penelope finds it increasingly difficult to deflect these odious men. She tells the suitors she must first weave a burial shroud for Odysseus’ elderly father, Laertes; once she is finished she promises to pick a suitor. Each day she weaves the cloth and each night she unravels a part of her day’s work in order to delay the unthinkable. Now Penelope has no way of knowing where Odysseus is, or if he’s even alive. But she stays firm in her faithfulness and fidelity. Her fortitude and her cunning in the face of such pressure is a match for her husband’s. Eventually, and after some assistance from various gods, Odysseus returns home disguised as a beggar, proves his identity to Penelope through his skill with the bow and arrow, and destroys all the suitors and, presumably, lives happily ever after with the lovely Penelope. So goes the story of Penelope. The etymology of her name is somewhat debated. Her name comes from the Greek. Pēnelopē is thought to combine “pēnē” which means ‘weft, a piece of woven cloth’ with the word “lepō” meaning ‘peel’ – which makes sense in describing Penelope’s ruse of weaving the shroud cloth only to undo it at night or “peel” part of it off. Alternately, the name is thought to come from “pēnelōps” which is the name of a particular type of duck. Obviously, the former meaning makes more sense. This is an ancient name, one of the fewer derived from mythology (rather than the majority which are derived from the Bible). The name first shows up in England in the 16th century.

Popularity of the Name Penelope

The name Penelope shows up intermittently on the U.S. popularity charts in the late 1880s and again in the late 1920s, but was only given to less than ten baby girls back then. For the most part, the name is barely in use until the late 1930s. Between 1935 and 1975, Penelope sticks to the charts but with very low to low-moderate usage. Penelope retreats to the shadows once again after 1975 and does not reappear on the charts until 2001. Clearly an exotic name, Penelope never achieves mainstream usage. However, 2001 marks the year that the Spanish actress Penélope Cruz made her way to Hollywood after establishing herself as an award-winning actress in Spain. In 2001, she appeared in a couple big movies (Blow, Vanilla Sky) and was the then-amour of the ever-popular Tom Cruise. Penelope hit America big time, and she brought her name along for the ride. Since 2001, the name Penelope has only shown upward movement on the charts and just recently edged onto the Top 200 list of most commonly used girl names. Like Aurora, Chloe, Cassandra, Eurydice, or Phoebe – Penelope is a great choice for parents who appreciate the ancient mythological legends that are imbedded in our literary and artistic culture. These names have interesting and colorful stories attached to them. Even though Penelope is often regarded as the beacon of the faithful wife, she was also a strong and crafty woman who held her own against adversity.
Popularity of the Girl Name Penelope
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Cultural References to the Baby Name - Penelope

  • Literary Characters of the baby name Penelope

    Literary Characters of the Baby Name Penelope

    Penelope We cannot find any significant literary characters with the first name Penelope (other than from The Odyssey as described above).

  • Popular Songs on Penelope

    Popular Songs on Penelope

    Le Voyage de Penelope - a song by Air

    Pénélope - an opera by Gabriel Fauré

    Penélope - a hit Spanish language song by Joan Manuel Serrat

    Penelope - a song by Of Montreal

    Penelope - a song by Pinback

    Penelope Please - a song by Terence Trent D'Arby

  • Children's Books on the Baby Name Penelope

    Children's Books on the Baby Name Penelope

    Penelope and Priscilla and the Enchanted House of Whispers (Jennifer Troulis) - When identical twin sisters Penelope and Priscilla Post move to the small town of Dunville with their mother, they are greeted with cold, angry stares from the townspeople. Over the next few weeks, mysterious events take place within their house, causing the girls to argue about their origins. When Priscilla suggests that their house is enchanted, Penelope becomes angry. She wants nothing to do with magic. Upset over the growing distance between her daughters, Mom enlists the help of Penelope and Priscilla's grandmother to devise a plan to help mend the girls’ relationship. Little do they know that their plan will do much more than intended. With the help of a 200-year old magical book, their house and its talking inhabitants, the girls come together to defeat their sinister neighbor and protect their family secret. Recommended for ages 9-12.

    Penelope and the Humongous Burp (Sheri Radford) - Too thirsty to heed her mother's warnings, Penelope soon learns the disastrous consequences of gulping a few glasses of grape soda too quickly! This zany misadventure will win kids over from the very first page and teach them a thing or two about manners by the last. Part of a series called The Penelope Series which also include the books Penelope and the Monsters and Penelope and the Preposterous Birthday Party. Recommended for ages 4-6.

    Penelope Says Good Night (Anne Gutman) - Children can pull the tabs on every spread and help Penelope get ready for bed. On one spread, Penelope is making a chocolate pancake. Kids can pull the tab and help her flip the pancake. Uh-oh, now it's on her head! On another spread, kids can pull the tab and help Penelope wash herself in the bathtub. All clean, Penelope! This book is part of a series. Other books include: Penelope in the Winter, Penelope at School and Penelope at the Farm. Recommended for ages 2-6.

    Penelope the Adventures of a Penny (Kathryn Lynn Seifert) - Penelope takes readers on her many adventures beginning at the Denver Mint and ending in a boy's soft pocket. Along her journey she meets other coins who share some of their experiences also. They realize that each of them has their own unique value. Readers of all ages will enjoy seeing and experiencing all that Penelope does, and will wonder where she could be right now! Recommended for ages 4-8.

    Penelope the Princess (MaryAnne Thornton) - When you are a princess, you have to behave like a princess should. So when Penelope a carefree young princess with a mind of her own arrives at the royal luncheon dressed in only her underwear, all are given quite a shock! But Penelope is undaunted by their reaction and quickly turns her clothing fiasco into a positive experience, teaching the entire kingdom that it's all right to be different. Recommended for ages 4-8.

    Princess Penelope (Todd Mack) - Penelope was a princess. She was absolutely certain. And why would Penelope think otherwise? After all, she dressed like a princess, traveled like a princess, and ruled her kingdom just like a princess. Does she sound like any little girls you know? Spare rhythmic text w/ fun refrains makes this perfect for reading aloud. Magical art in swirling candy colors features playful pink bubbles that distinguish Penelope's royal world from the everyday. Here's a loving tribute to one child's rich and fanciful imagination. Part of a series which also includes the book Princess Penelope Takes Charge. Recommended for ages 4-8.

    Princess Penelope's Parrot (Helen Lester) - An ultra-spoiled royal receives a pet parrot for her birthday; the parrot is so appalled by the girl's greediness that it refuses to speak to her. "There may be no one more adroit at wryly depicting childish petulance than Munsinger, while Lester's storytelling calls to mind the dry wit of a Thurber," said Publishers Weekly. Recommended for ages 4-8.

    The Adventures of Penelope Desiree Montclair, Age 10 (Lisa Day) - Penelope is a delightful, spunky and fun-loving girl who knows how to enjoy the simple things in life. This funny, heartwarming and refreshing story is a treasure, as Penelope's passion for life and curious spirit contribute to her many adventures. You will enjoy the experience of getting to know Penelope and will come to love her and know her as a best friend. The Adventure's of Penelope Desiree Montclair, Age 10 is an entertaining breath of fresh air. Recommended for ages 9-12.

    The Adventures of Penelope Star: The Mystery of the Three Dragons (Paula M. Ezop) - Penelope Star is a young adventuresome pre-teen who has a best friend, Dolly. The two live in the picturesque town of Dragon Point where tourists come to enjoy the rugged Maine coastline, the excellent cuisine, and to explore the tiny shops that line Main Street. There are a number of fancy boutiques and an unusual number of antique shops. There are also many town legends and mysteries that these two decide to explore and the girls elicit the help of three boys, Eddie, Ben, and Billy to discover the truth about Dragon Point's past. They call themselves "The Fearless Five". Their summer adventure begins when they find an old diary hidden under a floorboard in Penny's room. This diary would have more questions than answers, and an exciting mystery of treasure, jade dragons, and a long ago young Chinese Empress. Recommended for ages 12+

    The Chipster's Sister: Penelope Fritter, Super-Sitter (Jessica Wollman) - This is the story of Penelope Fritter. Penelope Fritter is invisible. Not in the cool, super-power way. She's invisible in the worst possible way -- the symbolic way. This means people can see her. They just don't notice her. That is until she stumbles upon a very mysterious yet tasty smoothie, and everything changes in the best possible way. This book is part of a series which also includes Meet the Phonees and Bunches of Fun. Recommended for ages 9-12.

    The True Story of Penelope: The Goose Who First Became a Person and Then Became a Duck (Gillian Bice - On a cold spring day in Michigan, an abandoned egg hatches. Penelope the gosling emerges on the banks of a small inland lake. Alone and helpless, the fate of this tiny Canada goose hangs in the balance until she's rescued by a couple out for an evening stroll. Based on a true story, this heartwarming and educational tale captures one very eventful day in a young gosling's life. Recommended for ages 4-8.

  • Famous People Named Penelope

    Famous People Named Penelope

    Famous People Named Penelope - Penelope Cruz (actress); Penelope Delta (writer); Penelope Fitzgerald (writer); Penelope Ann Miller (actress); Penelope Spheeris (director)

  • Children of Famous People Named Penelope

    Children of Famous People Named Penelope

    Famous People who Named their Daughter Penelope - Taylor Hanson (musician); Jessalyn Gilsig (actress); Telly Savalas (actor); Kourtney Kardashian (reality TV star)

  • Historic Figures

    Penelope - Girl Baby Name - Historic Figures

    Penelope - We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Penelope.

Personality of the Girl Name Penelope

The number Seven personality is deeply mystical and highly in tune with their spirituality. They operate on a different wavelength than the average joe. Spending time alone comes easily to Sevens, as it gives them time to contemplate philosophical, religious and spiritual ideas in an effort to find "real truth".  Sevens are wise, but often exude mystery as if they are tapped into something the rest of us don't understand. They love the outdoors and are fed by nature. Sevens are constantly seeking to understand human nature, our place in the universe, and the mystery of life in general. This makes them quite artistic and poetic, but they are also keen observers with high intellect - so they are equally scientific-minded. Sevens are charitable and care deeply about the human condition.

Variations of the Baby Name - Penelope

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