Cymbeline

I recently met a darling little girl called Cymbeline. She was absolutely adorable, which may have colored my opinion of the name, but I can't get it out of my mind and am starting to love it. My question is, does the Shakespeare character of Cymbeline put it in the male category? I know it's not one of his more well known works, and many people probably haven't heard of it, but what do you all think?  The line to my ear makes it sound feminine, but I don't know its history, so I may be missing something. Any thoughts?

 

Replies

1
June 12, 2012 11:52 PM

The original name of the historical figure on whom Cymbeline is based was Cunobelinus (a Latinized version of a Celtic name).  I don't think anyone would consider naming a little girl Cunobelinus. The cuno- part means dog (actually it is cognate with hound-- there are a fair number of 'doggy' Celtic names).   So, there you have it--a little girl named dog.  Someone who is enamored of this play would do better to name a daughter Imogen.  Other less common female Shakespearean names, all of which would be better than Cymbeline IMO: Bianca, Charmian, Miranda, Nerissa, Perdita, Rosaline, Thaisa, Valeria, Adriana, Lavinia, Luciana, Tamara, and Violenta.

2
June 13, 2012 12:33 AM

Miriam, you truly believe that it would be preferable to name a daughter Violenta, a name with a clearly negative association with a common English word, over Cymbeline, a highly modified version of a Celtic male name that few people in the general public have heard of?

Personally, my biggest complaint about Cymbeline is that it makes me think of cymbals. (It's not really a complaint, since there's nothing wrong with cymbals - it's just what I think of.) Yes, the name was used for a male, but it's not like it was a name that was sweeping the nation. If Cymbeline is going to be revived,  I believe that it's going to be on girls. (And that's a big "if".)

EDIT: The other thing that bothers me is that I'm not sure how to pronounce it. My instinct was to say it in a French way, cym-beh-LEEN (I'm honestly not sure why I went there first,) but then I realized that you were probably saying CYM-bə-line.

3
By EVie
June 13, 2012 1:10 AM

I've actually generally heard it with the LEEN (including the one time I saw the play performed, if I recall... though that was probably twelve years ago now, so who knows if I'm remembering right), and the Wikipedia IPA spelling supports that pronunciation. 

How was the little girl pronouncing it?

4
June 13, 2012 1:23 AM

Hmm, I didn't think to check the IPA spelling. Thanks! And now that you mention it, would the British English way tend to be LEEN, too? In the same vein as Clementine ending in TEEN? Maybe that's why I went there first?

5
June 13, 2012 3:21 AM

It's Vee-oh-LEN-ta, not VYE-o-len-ta, and IMO it's light years better than calling a girl Cymbeline.

6
June 13, 2012 12:38 PM

Okay, but regardless of how it's pronounced, I'd say that the majority of English speakers will see "violent" when they see the name written! If people are avoiding Violet for its closeness to violent, then I don't think that Violenta stands a chance.

7
June 30, 2015 11:46 AM

Also remarkably similar to a Catalan word for "rape." Once of the reasons I've had to discard "Violanthe," sadly.

8
By hyz
June 13, 2012 11:30 AM

I am unfamiliar with the name, so it sounds French and feminine to me (in the vein of Delphine, Claudine, Pauline, Leontine, etc.).  I agree that my biggest problem with it is that I would tend to think it has some association with cymbals, which are loud and clanging and strident, which would not be the best association for a little girl IMO.  But then, I'd probably think it was just one of those French names that doesn't translate well into English, like Prune or Capucine--so, I'd be curious about it, but not have a negative reaction.  Obviously, my whole analysis is way off the actual facts, but that's what it made me think.  I don't think one Shakespeare character (which I'm obviously not familiar with), without more, would be enough to make the name irrevocably male.  And as I happen to like dogs, I think there are many names with far worse meanings that are much more popular, so I wouldn't let that turn me off.  

In any event, I think it is worlds better than Violenta.     

9
By Guest (not verified)
June 13, 2012 3:47 PM

Most people won't recognize that Cymbeline means dog.

10
By mk
June 13, 2012 12:00 PM

I don't think Cymbeline is known well enough that people will automatically assume male (I thought the character was female when I first saw the play title).

I also don't see a problem with the meaning of "dog". It's no worse than "lost" (Perdita) or "violent" (Violenta).

I can see a little girl liking that her name is associated with cute dogs/puppies.

11
June 13, 2012 2:43 PM

The word for female dog is not so cute.  Just sayin'.  Male dog names like Conor and Conan don't have that problem.

12
June 14, 2012 2:30 AM

I like the name and it sounds female to me.  Pretty song about a female Cymbaline is playing in my head too... not a bad association, and not too widespread i'd imagine.  Shakespeare character by that name is news to me.

13
June 14, 2012 5:21 AM

If you like the sound/look of the name but don't like the idea of criticism from people who see it as a male name, it might be worth thinking about names that have a similar feel but (arguably) less baggage, for example:

Celandine, Celestine, Celine, Claudine, Sabine, Sibylline, Coraline, Clementine, Columbine, Kimberley.

14
By Guest (not verified)
June 17, 2012 7:13 AM

Oh yeah, way less baggage with Columbine! Or Violenta.  This thread is fabulous.  

15
July 5, 2015 8:57 AM

I have to agree with Guest. Columbine has way more baggage then Cymbeline and Violenta

Btw I find Violenta has much more baggage than Cymbeline. A lot of names have bad meanings no one really knows about, but the "violent" connection is immediate and unavoidable. Cymbeline makes me think of cymbals (yes, I read Miriam's comments about the unfortunate meaning. I still think of cymbals anyway). Honestly, if a little girl wants to know the meaning of her name, the parents can tell her it means dog/puppy and she'd probably enjoy that meaning a lot, until she got older.

16
July 5, 2015 4:44 PM

LOL, I love it! Yes, darling, your name means "sparkly rainbow unicorn". What are you doing? No, no, put down Mommy's name books!

17
June 14, 2012 8:02 AM

While the character is male, I doubt you'd have a better time naming a boy Cymbeline.  It's also the name of a French wedding dress company.  Some names have been historically male or unisex but are now squarely feminine based on modern usage-- like Leslie, Evelyn, and Ashley.  Plus I doubt anyone who uses it is thinking too hard about it's meaning. 

18
June 20, 2012 7:01 PM

Although I agree it sounds a bit feminine I would cringe to see this name on a girl.  It's completely masculine to me and quite handsome as well.  Probably not the best choice these day because again it does sound feminine to most people.

19
By MRT
June 29, 2015 12:30 AM

I love this name. I would go with the 'leen'. I would just relate its meaning to the wedding store- a happy occasion. I also think of cymbals-- a grande entrance i love the ene ending. This name flows really well and I think it sounds ultra feminine! 

20
June 30, 2015 11:51 AM

I think Cymbeline is lovely. Before I saw the play I assumed it was the name of the heroine. Even now, having read performed in the play, when I first read your thread I had in fact forgotten that it was a man's name in the play. It just reads feminine. And yes, there's the wedding dress company.

Imogen is nice but becoming too common in the UK (and just sounds really posh to me these days). I prefer Cymbeline.

21
January 17, 2016 12:51 AM

That was my daughter Cymbeline  that you met in Seattle.   Where did you meet us? What did you name your daughter?

22
January 30, 2019 8:31 PM

Dear Sarahgarza00 I just wanted to say that I called my daughter Cymbaline and I love it. She is very proud of her name but we have never met anyone one with a similar name. 

23
January 30, 2019 8:29 PM

I named my Daughter Cymbaline and she loves the name. I personally think it is a beautiful name that is actually over a thousand years old. It means music and Mother Earth as well as being linked to the word dog. A faithful animal. It also appears in a wonderful song by Pink Floyd. I love to say her name and she is incredibly proud of it. 

I just thought I’d add this to the comments.