Sunday, January 29, 2012


Cressida was the name Shakespeare chose to use in his play Troilus and Cressida, although she was also known by Criseyde, Cresseid, Criseida and Briseida, all derived from Chryseis and Briseis, whose names appear in the Iliad but have no real connection to Cressida or Briseida. In fact Cressida's real first form was Briseida, whose story was invented by French poet Benoit de Sainte-Maure for his Roman de Troie. As Briseida, the daughter of Calchas, her story is told numerous times in medieval and Renaissance literature as part of the Trojan War. She falls in love with Troilus, son of King Priam, but there is a love triangle with a Greek man named Diomedes. Some authors chose to use names similar to Briseida, and others, such as Boccacio, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, chose to use names beginning with a C. To this day there is still no definite spelling, although Cressida is the most recognizable.

Benoit Sainte-Maure - Briseida
Azalais d'Altier - Brizeida
Guido delle Colonne - Briseida
Giovanni Bocaccio - Criseida
Robert Henryson - Cresseid
Geoffrey Chaucer - Criseyde
William Shakespeare - Cressida

Cressida, English, from the original (as close as it can get) spelling, Chryseis/Khryseis, is Greek, meaning "gold/golden." Shakespeare anglicized it. She gets a bad rap because she started out with Troilus and ended up with Diomedes. Back then it was a big no-no, but today I think most people would roll their eyes. In fact, I think it had to do more with Diomedes being Greek and Troilus being the prince of Troy. And, you know, tragedies were always popular.

In 2010 and 2011 there were no baby girls named Cressida (or Cresseid, Criseyde, Chryseis, etc). However, there were 20 named Briceida, 8 Briceyda, 98 Briseida, 5 Briseidy, 71 Briseis, and 57 Briseyda. Weird, huh? It might be because of the Toyota Cressida, a car which hasn't been made since 1992. But, Cressida was used in 11 different years between 1969 and 1990, in each year no more than 8 times. It seems to have been forgotten, but jump to 2014 and Cressida comes back on the U.S. records, probably because of Cressida Bonas, who was publicly dating Prince Harry at the time. Ms. Bonas is of lesser nobility and is involved in acting, dancing and modeling. Cressida has been used as a baby name since the 17th century in Britain but has always been a true rarity, usually given to less than ten babies a year in the U.K.

Feel free to come up with your own nicknames for this beauty, since the majority chooses Cressy. Cressa is a more elegant option, Kid plays on the sound, and Goldie plays to meaning.

Cressida is also a moon of Uranus, a swallowtail butterfly genus, a species of rose, and other well known namesakes are Cressida Cowell, author of How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Bell, a British artist/designer, Canadian philosopher Cressida Heyes and Australian artist Cressida Campbell. A younger generation will recognize the name from The Hunger Games as a positive, minor character who appears late in the story. The great actress Dame Judi Dench chose the name Tara Cressida Frances for her daughter, who goes by "Finty" Williams.

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