Detail of painting The Muses Urania and Callio...

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(A different version of this article was originally published 12/23/10.)

Some parents invest a great amount of time in researching names for their baby while others pass on a family name or just pick what sounds right. Have you ever wondered about the meaning or origin of your name? I don’t mean how you particularly came about your name, but how the name itself came to be used. Have you ever been curious if your name’s history has any significance for you? Callisse was a name developed from Cale, Callie, and Calliope combined with Denise. So who are these people? Cale is a nickname for Caleb from a Hebrew word meaning “faithful”. Callie is short for Calista, a Greek name meaning “most beautiful”.

Calliope was the name of the eldest of the nine Muses. Always pictured with stylus and tablets or paper or book, she is known as the Muse of Eloquence or the Muse of Poetry. She is most famously known as inspiring Homer’s epic poetry of the Odyssey and the Iliad. Also known as the wisest and most assertive of the Muses, she’s also recognized for settling Persephone and Aphrodite’s argument over Adonis. Her name means “beautiful-voiced” and an instrument is named after her. One story tells that Apollo gave Orpheus, her son (possibly his as well) a golden lyre and taught him to play, while she taught Orpheus verses to sing. Later, it is said that Orpheus with his music could move rocks, make trees march and change a river’s course.

Denise is a name which means female follower of the Greek god, Dionysos (also possibly known earlier as Diwonisojo in Homer’s Iliad). Zeus fathered him while fooling around on his wife Hera but varied accounts would have us surmise that Persephone was first his mother, but some nastiness ended up causing him to be mothered by Semele also and eventually enwombed in Zeus’s thigh. One story of the god suggests that when sailors who promised him safe passage not only betrayed, but tried to rape him, he entangled the oars and called beasts upon the ship to scare them off. He then turned them to dolphins and set one as a constellation to warn other sailors to behave.

I find it interesting and inspiring that my name is associated with faith and writing, since both are very important to me. Care to share a bit about your name? What do you know about it? Want to learn more? Are you pregnant and considering baby names? Does the history of the name matter to you?

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