Eponine

Eponine is the anglicized form of Éponine, a French female name popularized by Victor Hugo‘s novel Les Misérables (1862). It’s the French form of Epponina, a Gaulish name which could be based on Epona, a Celtic goddess of horses who was popular not only in Celtic religions but also among the Romans as well. It means “horse” from Gaulish epos via Proto-Celtic *ekʷos (horse) derived from PIE *h₁éḱwos (stallion, horse). Epponina could also be the Latinized form of Empona possibly meaning “heroine”. Epponina is famous for being the wife of Julius Sabinus, a Gaul and Roman officer who claimed descent from Julius Caesar. He took advantage of all the turmoil going on in Rome at the time to try and create an independent Gaulish state. He failed and faked his own death to avoid being executed, which worked for years with the help of his wife Epponina until he was finally discovered. Epponina pleaded for mercy on her husband’s behalf to the Emperor Vespasian and when that didn’t work scolded him so passionately that he ordered her to be executed as well. She became a symbol of a faithful wife and the story was popular enough to have several plays based on it, so the name would certainly not have been unknown to Victor Hugo. In fact, in Les Misérables, it’s explained that Éponine and her sister Azelma both received their names from their mother’s love of romantic novels.

Origin: Proto-Indo-European, Gaulish

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Variants:

  • Éponine (French)
  • Eponina (English)
  • Epona (Gaulish)
  • Empona (Gaulish)
  • Epponina (Latin)

 

 

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