Naming the Fishes

A Blog For Name Lovers Everywhere


SCN070212MissFisher4_fct1024x630x57_t460Phryne may not have the prettiest sound, or history or even meaning…But it sure is interesting.

In Ancient Greece Phryne was a nickname meaning “toad.” A nickname bestowed upon a  famous hetaera courtesan whose byname was Mnesarete. The reasoning behind the nickname was because Phryne had a very sallow complexion. Phryne lived in Athens where she earned so much wealth by her beauty and wit that she offered to rebuild the walls of Thebes, on condition that the words “destroyed by Alexander, restored by Phryne the courtesan” were inscribed upon them. At a festival of Poseidon and also at the festival at Eleusis she walked into the sea naked with her hair loose, suggesting to the painter Apelles his great picture of “Aphrodite Anadyomene” (“Aphrodite Rising From the Sea”), for which Phryne sat as model.

When accused of profaning the Eleusinian mysteries (blasphemy=capital charge), she was defended by the orator Hyperides. When it seemed that the verdict would be unfavorable, he rent her robe and displayed her lovely bosum, which so moved her judges that they acquitted her… Ah, men.

Later, a statue of Phryne, the work of Praxiteles, was placed in a temple at Thespiae by the side of a statue of Aphrodite by the same artist.

In many artworks done later throughout history she is depicted as a femme fatale.

Another famous bearer of the name, albeit fictional is the main character in Australian author Kerry Greenwood’s series of Phryne Fisher detective novels.

Phryne is this magnificent, witty, vibrant, crazy, reckless kind of super hero who is a great champion for women’s rights and people in less fortunate situations. She really looks after women, but she loves men…she’s a lover and a fighter.

-Essie Davis, the actress who plays Phryne Fisher in the adapted television show.

Overall Phryne is an interesting name with interesting roots and bearers, it is also quite an obscure name that has never ranked.

It is pronounced Fri-nee (with more emphasis on the second syllable).



4 comments on “Phryne

  1. Pingback: Phryne | Names |

  2. Wow that is one very interesting name story! I can’t say it’s a beautiful name, but the history is absolutely fascinating.

    The story of her acquittal is the same one told of Helen of Troy – that her husband Menelaus was about to murder her in revenge for her adultery, and then she just took all her clothes off and he meekly took her back without argument.

  3. Asta
    May 9, 2014

    I named my greyhound girl Phryne after her. A perfect breed to accompany Phryne Fisher in the 20s. My Phryne is equally as elegant as the human Phryne, I may add.

  4. Elisabeth Winkler
    February 20, 2015

    Amazing. This is just the answer I needed. Looking up pronunciation of Phryne re John Donne’s epigram, and now this blog has added food for thought. Thank you!

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