Following on the heels of Benedick, here’s another Shakespearean choice that just might appeal to the daring and literary.
The original Lysander was a Spartan general who lived in the 5th century B.C. He defeated the Athenians and was responsible for bringing the Peloponnesian War to a close. Shakespeare borrowed the name for his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In it, Lysander is a handsome Athenian youth beloved by Hermia. Her father forbids them to marry (wishing Hermia instead to marry Demetrius) so they decide to elope. They run away in the middle of the night but are pursued by Demetrius, who in turn is pursued by Helena (his former fiancee and Hermia’s best friend). Some woodland fairies take pity on the couples and attempt to fix the love triangle (or should we call it a “love square”?) by application of a love potion. Much of the action of the play revolves around the fairies messing things up and attempting to right them again. By the end of the play, all is sorted — Lysander marries Hermia, Demetrius marries Helena, and they live happily ever after.
Lysander has never ranked in the U.S. top 1000, but it has seen occasional use as both a given name and a surname. Lysander Spooner was a 19th century anarchist and abolitionist, whose works were influential to the early libertarian movement. Rick Lysander played baseball for the Oakland A’s in the early 1980’s. Miltary buffs may be familar with the Westland Lysander, a British aircraft used in World War II; several British Royal Navy ships have also borne the name.
The name, not surprisingly, comes from Greek. It means “release of a man” (which Nameberry translates more heroically as “liberator”). It’s a strong, masculine meaning, which may help to counterbalance the the name’s admittedly soft sounds.
These soft sounds may be why Lysander has yet to catch on. A good number of parents today are going toward hard, militaristic names, with Hunter, Gunner, Garrison, and Maverick all ranking in the top 1000. Lysander’s meaning is plenty militaristic, but only to those familiar with Greek. Still, it bears similarities to several very popular names. Andrew (from the same Greek root meaning “man”) is ranked #10 in the U.S. Ranked at #11 is Alexander, which has spawned an astounding 17 variants currently in the top 1000. Lysander feels similar enough to blend in, but he’s not just another Drew or Alex.
As far as nicknames go, the creepy-crawly “Lys/Lice” certainly isn’t your only option. Sander would be a great current-sounding choice, especially on account of the trendiness of Xander. There’s also plain-old Andy, the surnamey Sanders, and the Scandinavian Anders. Men truly comfortable in their masculinity might even choose to go by Sandy (which I’ll admit charms me).
Parents seeking a novel way to honor an Andrew or Alexander may consider this option, as might couples composed of one aviation enthusiast and one Shakespeare nut.
What are your impressions of Lysander’s usability? Is it simply dreamy or best left to A Midsummer Night’s Dream?