Wednesday, March 30, 2011


It seems like Penelope, the name of Odysseus' wife, is getting more and more popular. Here is an more underused name from Homer's the Odyssey.

Nausicaa is a Latinized form of the Greek name Nausikaa. It has a rather odd meaning, "burner of ships." It's pronunciation is a subject of debate. Possibilities range from "now-SI-kee-ah," "now-si-KAY-ah," and "nahf-si-KAH." However, in America it is most often pronounced as "NAH-si-kah."

In the story Nausicaa is a princess, the daughter of King Alcinous. She is described as very pretty, and is compared to Artemis. She meets Odysseus when he becomes shipwrecked on the coast of Phaeacia. Nausicaa is at the shore, washing clothing with her father's servants, when Odysseus walks out of the forest, naked and desperate. He begs Nausicaa for help. She gives him some of her laundry to wear and takes him to the edge of town. Nausicaa doesn't want any rumors to start, so she instructs Odysseus to seek her mother, Queen Arete, while she goes through town with the servants. She knows that her mother is wiser than her father, and would allow Odysseus to stay as a guest.

The story suggests that Nausicaa and Odysseus are in love. Nausicaa says that she would like a husband like him, and King Alcinous offers her to him. But nothing every happens between them. When King Alcinous gives Odysseus a ship to return to Ithaca, Nausicaa says, "Never forget me, for I gave you life." According to Aristotle, Nausicaa later married Telemachus, Odysseus' son.

This name will be familiar to anime and manga fans because of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The director Hayao Miyazaki became inspired while reading a Japanese translation of an anthology of Greek mythology, which painted Nausicaa as a lover of nature. He used this description as a base for his own character. In the Miyazaki movie, Nausicaa (which is pronounced "NAH-si-kah" throughout the film) is a princess (again) living in a post apocalyptic world. Most of the earth is covered in toxic plants and giant bug-like creatures called Ohm. Different kingdoms are competing with each other and many believe that the Ohm should be destroyed. Nausicaa tries to convince everyone that they can live in peace.

Aside from the contested pronunciation, this name's biggest challenge is the double "a" at the end. People are going to stumble on that and misspell it. I suppose you could try to take an "a" off if you like. When I did that it looked bizarre to me.

If those details aren't deal breakers for you, Nausicaa is a lovely name for the bold. If you want a unique name with a lot of history that has a heroine attached to it and feels exotic, Nausicaa is for you.


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  1. I don't know...I love the myth, but I think the biggest problem is the word association with vomit more than an extra letter on the end. It just makes me hear/read "nausea."

  2. I totally agree with "A." that the beautiful princess has a horrible name! Even "Nautica" would have been better ; )


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