Spring has finally sprung! Today is the vernal equinox — the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of my favourite season for naming inspiration. From lively names meaning “light” or “new”, to sweet nature ideas inspired by the season, to peaceful options for an Easter baby, there’s a light, bright, fresh feel to spring baby names that I just love.
So today’s Name Profile might seem like a bit of an odd choice. But hear me out!
The word equinox comes from Latin aequinoctium, derived from aequus “equal” + nox “night” + the abstract noun-forming suffix –ium. In Medieval Latin, it became equinoxium, and in Old French equinoce. This is the form which entered the English language, replacing the Old English efenniht “even-night” — the equinox being the point in the year when day and night are of exactly equal length.
But Nox is not just the Latin word for “night”. In ancient mythology, Nox is the Roman equivalent of Greek Nyx: the primordial goddess of the night, fertility, and prophecy. She is a figure of great power and significance — mother of Aether (Light), Hemera (Day), Hypnos (Sleep), Thanatos (Death), and many more, she’s said to be the only goddess feared by Zeus himself.
The figure of Nyx and her Roman equivalent Nox have prompted various pop culture namesakes: from a Marvel Comics villainess, to a character in fantasy novelist Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, to fictionalised representations in video and board games like Nox and Imaginarium. There’s even a Harry Potter spell drawn from the Latin word: “Nox” is the opposite of the illuminating spell “Lumos”, which is in turn derived from Latin lumen “light”.
But it’s not all dark for Nyx/Nox! Rather aptly for such a fundamental symbol of feminine power, the goddess Nyx has lent her name to several celestial objects, including a mons (mountain) on the planet Venus. And in science, a nox is a unit of illuminance which is equivalent to 1 millilux, or 1000 lumens/m² — about the brightness of typical TV studio lighting. I’ve seen Lumen, Lux and even Lumos suggested as baby names before — so why not Nox?
In fact, Nox has a surprisingly long precedence as a given name. It’s a variant spelling of the fashionable Scottish surname name Knox, derived from Scottish Gaelic cnoc “hillock”. Both forms have seen sporadic use as first names since at least the 18th century, probably for the most part in honour of 16th century minister and theologian John Knox, the founder of Scottish Presbyterianism.
More recently, and now rather more famously, Knox has also become a high-profile celebrity baby name — chosen by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for one of their twins in 2008. Inevitably, this gave the name a huge boost: it almost tripled in use for boys born in the US the following year, and since 2013 it’s been charting, modestly but consistently, for girls as well. Nox, on the other hand, is given to only around 15 boys per year in the US, and less than five girls.
But I actually think the Nox spelling has great potential as a truly gender-neutral option, thanks to the fascinating female mythological figure and the growing popularity of similarly streamlined latinate name Lux, which is currently weighted 3:1 in favour of the girls. In many ways, it reminds me of another of my favourite strong, super-short seasonal names: Sol, which I profiled for the winter solstice back in December. Bold yet simple, ancient yet modern, and both international and unisex, Nox could make for a striking and surprising option for a baby born around the equinox.
Do you prefer Nox for a boy or a girl? What’s your favourite equinox-inspired baby name?