Wednesday, July 25, 2012


'Queen Zenobia's Last Look Upon Palmyra', painting by Herbert Gustave Schmalz
I've seen this name mentioned lately and find myself strangely drawn to it. One of the main attractions of the name Zenobia is that it is exotic sounding, without being too weird. It evokes images of perfume scented nights in the African desert. It is queenly, and quietly calm and regal because it starts with the word Zen.

Zenobia (pronounced ze-NOH-bee-ah) is most famous for being the name of a Queen of Palmyra in the 3rd century. She was said to be descended from Cleopatra, led a revolt against the Roman Empire and ruled Egypt until she was defeated and taken as a hostage to Rome by Emperor Aurelian. Pretty cool, right?

As a name, Zenobia has Greek origins and means 'the life of Zeus'. It has been used for characters in books, operas, movies and a ballet. It has also flirted with celebrity baby name fame, as Tina Fey chose it as the middle name for her first daughter Alice Zenobia, honouring her mother who is also named Zenobia. It's also one of the few examples of a longer girls name that isn't frilly sounding (such as names ending with etta, ella, bella or issa), which can be good for parents after a longer name to make a full name flow better but not necessarily after an "old fashioned girly-girl" name.

Likely to be more often used as an adventurous middle name for a plainer first name, Zenobia shouldn't be overlooked as a potentially fantastic first name with some great nickname potential. Bee, Bia, Zee, Zia or Zen could all be cute but spunky shorter versions for those willing to give it a try. It would certainly be a distinctive name for any little girl, would age well and wouldn't be instantly thought of as belonging to girls from a certain decade in fifty years time.


  1. Fantastically elaborate name, but I love her.

  2. Zenobia is wonderful - I would love to see a little Zenobia (nn Zen or Bee) running around a playground.

  3. This is my #1 guilty pleasure name, and only so because it doesn't work with my silent-Z last name. Boo.

  4. Zenobia is a name that means strength, mystery and femininity. I love this name.