How popular is the baby name Marpessa in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Marpessa.

The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.


Popularity of the Baby Name Marpessa


Posts that Mention the Name Marpessa

Interesting One-Hit Wonder Baby Names

They came, they went, and they never came back!

These baby names are one-hit wonders in the U.S. baby name data. That is, they’ve only popped up once, ever, in the entire dataset of U.S. baby names (which accounts for all names given to at least 5 U.S. babies per year since 1880).

There are thousands of one-hit wonders in the dataset, but the names below have interesting stories behind their single appearance, so these are the one-hits I’m writing specific posts about. Just click on a name to read more. (Names that aren’t links yet have posts coming soon!)

1890s

1900s

  • (none yet)

1910s

1920s

1930s

1940s

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

2020s

  • (none yet)

As I discover (and write about) more one-hit wonders in the data, I’ll add names/links to this page. In the meanwhile, do you have any favorite one-hit wonder baby names?

P.S. If this content looks familiar, that’s because you’ve seen it before! I’ve just put it in a new spot. :)

Where did the baby name Marpessa come from?

marpessa dawn, actress
© 1959 Ebony

The baby name Marpessa was a mere one-hit wonder in the data, back in 1960:

  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 8 baby girls named Marpessa [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted

Where did it come from?

The inspiration was a half-black, half-Filipino actress named Marpessa Dawn. She was American, but spent most of her adult life in Europe.

It was her starring role in the 1959 Portuguese-language film Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) that brought her to the attention of American audiences. The film was based on the ancient Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, but set in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. The film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in mid-1959, the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1960, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign-Language Foreign Film in 1960.

But Marpessa wasn’t able to capitalize on this brief period of fame, so she (and her name) soon fell out of the spotlight.

Marpessa’s name, like her most memorable film, has ancient Greek roots. The mythical Marpessa in Homer’s Iliad was an Aetolian princess who had been seized from her mortal lover Idas by the sun god Apollo. The name, accordingly, is based on an ancient Greek verb meaning “to seize.”

Do you like the name Marpessa? Would you use it?

Sources:

  • “America’s Dawn Comes Up in France.” Life 14 Mar. 1960: 57-59.
  • Nelson, Eric. The Greek Tradition in Republican Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Image: Ebony, Nov. 1959 issue