29 May 2012

Nymphidia

‘Her chariot ready straight is made’:
frontispiece for a 1906 edn. of Nimphidia (via)
Gender: Feminine
Usage: Graeco-Roman, Literary
Meaning: "bride"
(Eng. nim-FID-ee-a)

Only slightly more wearable than Nymphadora, this fantastical name is a mouthful, but so much fun.

Nymphidia is attested as an ancient Greek name (Νυμφιδία); it literally meant "of a bride, bridal" in Classical Greek, and appears to have been a genitive form of the feminine name Νύμφη (Nymphē; Latin: Nympha) meaning "bride, young wife".

The masculine form was Νυμφίδιος (Nymphidios), Latinized as Nymphidius, which was borne by a Roman officer who acted in the final conspiracy against Nero. Nymphidius Sabinus was the son of a former slave named Nymphidia, who had been a mistress of Emperor Caligula. After Nero's suicide, Nymphidius tried to have himself declared Emperor, but was killed by his own soldiers.

The extended form Nymphidianus was also used as a name. It belonged to a sophist-Neoplatonist of the 4th century AD.

It's worth noting that the source of this name, Greek nymphe "bride", later developed the meaning of "beautiful young woman", then "semi-divine being in the form of a beautiful maiden" (the one we English-speakers are familiar with), which is why nymphidia translates differently in Modern Greek ― not as "relating to brides", but "nymphet".

iiIt was in this "little nymph" sense of the name that the poet Michael Drayton used it in his fantasy epic Nimphidia (1627). The eponymous fairy Nimphidia is an attendant on Queen Mab who tells the poet everything that happens at Mab's court. (Drayton, a friend of Shakespeare, is also credited with coining the term nymphet.)

Nymphidia is also found in the scientific names of several butterflies, including the Columbine (Stiboges nymphidia).

To slim down this extravagant appellation, there's nickname potential in Nydia, Nia, Fidda and Nym, even Nimfy or Pixie. (Nimue is too far of a stretch, right?)

2 comments: