Penny is often used as nickname for Penelope, the name of the faithful wife of Odysseus in Greek mythology. Her name is of uncertain origin though it’s been linked to Ancient Greek penelops πηνέλοψ, referring to a type of duck. It’s also been linked to Ancient Greek pene πήνη (thread, weft) and ops ὄψ (eye, face), which is a more fitting meaning for the character in Greek mythology: Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who was apparently faithful to him for the twenty years he was gone despite the many persistant suitors who attempt to woo her with marriage. In an attempt to ward off their persistance, Penelope tells them that she will choose a suitor when she has finished weaving a burial shroud for Odysseus, though every night she undoes some of it to give her more time. This goes on for 3 years before her trick is discovered.

Penelope (or Penelopeia) is also the name of a dryad, the daughter of Dryops and portrayed as the mother of Pan, the god of shepherds and hunters.

Penny is the name of the one-cent coin in the U.S., derived from an Old English word, penning, pennig (penny) via Proto-Germanic *panningaz which derives from an unknown origin.

Penny is also an English surname originating as a nickname for someone who had some wealth (since coins weren’t very common when they were first introduced in England).

Origin: unknown, possibly from a pre-Greek origin; unknown

Meaning: a nickname for Penelope either referring to a type of bird or from Ancient Greek “thread, weft + face, eye”; penny is also the name of a one-cent coin

Usage: English


  • Pennie (English)
  • Penni (English)
  • Penelope (Greek)
  • Pinelopi (Modern Greek)
  • Pénélope (French)
  • Penélope (Spanish, Portuguese)