Sunday, October 28, 2012


Emma Watson as talented witch Hermione Granger in the 'Harry Potter' movies
One of the great things about the 'Harry Potter' franchise is that it introduced the world to a lot of exotic sounding names that either hadn't been heard much, or had come to be considered as "fusty". J.K. Rowling gave many of these names a new vibrancy and made people think that maybe they could work on an actual person after all.

One of the witchy names that has caught people's imagination like no other is Hermione. Personally, 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' was the first time I had ever seen the name, and at first I thought it was made up. By the time the first movie was released in 2001 I had read the first four books, and having only seen the name in print I had been pronouncing it 'her-MEE-oh-nee'. Of course, when the movie came out I found that it is actually 'her-MY-oh-nee', which sounds more like 'her-MINE-ee' when said fast.

Pronunciation lesson aside, Hermione is a Greek name, a feminine form of the Greek messenger god Hermes. There seems to be a little confusion over what it means though, with definitions ranging from 'messenger, earthly' to 'travel' to 'stone'. There was also a Hermione in Greek mythology, the daughter of Helen of Troy and Menelaus. She lived with her aunt Clymenestra, and married Neoptolemus after the Trojan war, which is mentioned 'The Odyssey'. She later left her husband after a dispute with Andromache, one of her husband's concubines, who Hermione blamed for her inability to fall pregnant because she claimed that Andromache was casting spells on her.

Other famous Hermione's (besides 'Harry Potter's' Granger) include:
  • English actresses Hermione Baddeley, Gingold, Hannen, Hammond, Norris and Gulliford
  • British radio and TV personality Hermione Cockburn
  • Painter Hermione Harris
  • Christian martyr and prophetess Hermione of Ephesus
  • Veronica Lodge's mother in the 'Archie' comics
  • Queen Hermione from Shakespeare's 'The Winter's Tale'.

David Bowie's album 'Space Oddity' also includes a song titled 'Letter to Hermione', although the name is never mentioned in the lyrics. And if you like names with a bit of an astronomical flair, there is a great dark main belt asteroid named Hermione.

In the US, Hermione was only sporadically used until 2001 when the first 'Harry Potter' movie was released. It peaked in 2006 at position #2489 when it was given to 74 girls, so the name is hardly common. It has appeared in the top 1000 in Belgium, but is the most popular in the UK. There it peaked in 2003/2004 when it was ranked #265. In 2010 it was sitting at #398, given to 111 babies.

While some people think the name is ugly and would be constantly mispronounced and mis-spelled, the huge benefit of 'Harry Potter' is that this is much less likely to happen these days. The name is now recognisable rather than strange, so girls with this name should have fewer causes to fear being called Herman or Hermy-own. Hermione Granger is a great role model, as she is brave, intelligent and strong. Yes, a girl with this name would be compared to her these days, but with such great attributes that is hardly the worst thing a child could hear. If it does concern you though, variations such as Hermia, Hermina, Hermine, Herminie, Herminia, Hermalina, Harmione, or Harmonia could be more to your taste.

Hermione - a modern day witch with a not-so-modern name. Greek names have been getting a lot of attention lately with the rise of Penelope, so why not be a little different and give Hermione a chance.

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