The name Cleopatra conjures up images of an exotic Egyptian beauty, an ancient dynasty, a scheming queen, a seductress. In movies she’s been played by Elizabeth Taylor, Claudette Colbert, Vivien Leigh, Joan Collins, and Theda Bara; and to this day she remains a popular Halloween and performing persona for celebrities like Katy Perry, Heidi Klum, Cher, and Janet Jackson. Sometimes she is lily-white, at other times, black or brown. Yet history tells us she was Greek, the descendant of the Ptolemy dynasty of Egypt, who were founded by Alexander the Great’s general pal.
Being a snobbishly Greek family, the Ptolemies did not mix with the native Egyptians during their reign, and the name Cleopatra is not Egyptian either. It’s Greek, meaning “The Glory of the Father,” a combination of kleos (glory) and pater (father.) The Cleopatra we idolize wasn’t the only one either; she was actually number 4 of her lineage, and it’s easy to see why the name was popular. It’s a marvelous mix of syllables both hard and soft, and to English speakers, sounds catlike to the ear, with sharp claws and soft paws. No wonder it’s a popular name for household pets.
If you’re looking for a name like Cleopatra but without the associations, here’s a list.
Variations on Cleopatra