Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Priscilla

Priscilla is the English feminine form of a post-classical Roman family name “Priscus” which means ‘ancient’ in Latin. The name Priscilla appears briefly in the New Testament (Acts 18:2) as the wife of Aquila, a Jewish couple who recently fled from Italy to Greece under the command of Emperor Claudius in the 1st century A.D. who demanded that all Jews leave Rome. Paul stayed with them in Corinth as he was out and about evangelizing the word of Christ. There also lived a notable child martyr named Prisca in the first century who at the age of thirteen was tortured and ultimately killed for her Christian beliefs. As with many early saints, Saint Prisca too has a miraculous claim to fame. When she was thrown into an arena with a lion, it was said the beast quietly lay down at her feet and wouldn’t touch her. In the Middle Ages, these types of legends were widespread and names of saints were readily adopted as a protective measure in uncertain times. Within the English speaking world, Priscilla was in regular use by the 16th century (as evidenced by a minor character named Priscilla who appears in Edmund Spenser’s 1596 “The Faerie Queene”, Book VI, a damsel in distress who is saved by the Knight of Courtesy). The Puritans took up the name in England during the Reformation as they did many lesser-known Biblical figures in a nod to modesty; it was they who brought the name to America during colonization. The American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a famous poem called “The Courtship of Miles Standish” in 1858 about a 17th century love-triangle involving a woman named Priscilla and based on true events (see literary references below).

All About the Baby Name – Priscilla



The number Nine personality represents the completion or ending of the cycle, and a need for perfection. This is the personality that moves from "self" to a greater understanding and compassion for the human condition and the world order. They want to make the world a better place. Nines are capable of great spiritual and humanitarian achievements. They are courageous and fearless, able to fight great battles on behalf of worthy causes. These personalities will not tolerate injustice. They are compassionate people with a strong sensitivity to others. They are able to both educate and inspire. Friendships and relationships are the lifeblood to the Nine, and they place a high value on love and affection. Nines are often exceptionally gifted artistically, and they have a keen imagination and enterprising mind.



Priscilla has enjoyed modest popularity in the United States for well over a century. The height of the name’s success came during the 1940s, which happens to be the decade when Priscilla Ann Wagner was born. This woman would later become the wife of Elvis Presley and bear his only child, Lisa Marie. Surprisingly, even given her instant fame in the 1960s, Priscilla Presley did little to influence the popularity of her name on the charts. The name Priscilla showed some modest gains again in the late 1980s and early 90s, but it has lost ground and retreated to levels of pretty low moderation. There’s something polarizing about this name where people either love it or hate it. It’s either extolled as frilly, feminine, soft and beautiful; or it’s disparaged for being overly prissy, pretentious and bratty. Regardless of your own personal opinion, Priscilla is an underused classic; an “ancient” name that dates back at least 2,000 years and yet retains a modern sensibility. Prisca is an even older version of this name if you want to consider an alternative. Given the “ancient” meaning of this name, it might be a good choice for “old soul” babies out there. Priscilla is a Number Nine in numerology which supports the idea of an older more ancient soul destined for humanitarian achievements. Coincidence? Who knows.

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Cultural References to the Baby Name – Priscilla

Literary Characters


Priscilla is a character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1852 novel, The Blithedale Romance. Priscilla is a mysterious young woman who visits the experimental commune at Blithedale in New England, and poses a romantic ideal to both of the men involved there – Hollingsworth and Coverdale. Poor Priscilla – in this story she serves to represent “True Womanhood”, the 19th century standard for feminine behavior and demeanor. She is a girlish, virginal little seamstress who seems to embody the axiom that woman’s place is in the home, as helpmeet to man, submissive to his wishes as surely as if they had been expressed by God. By the novel’s end, she is asserted to be a more powerful woman, but even then, it is her salvation at the hands of a man, and her devotion to him, that accounts for this more positive description. Her more powerful, feminist sister, Zenobia, has committed suicide, so we know what happens to women who step beyond their calling! Still, we love the sound of the name, Priscilla. (And who would want to be named “Zenobia”?!)

The Courtship of Miles Standish is a narrative poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1858. The poem is set in the early days of Plymouth Colony settled by pilgrims fresh off the Mayflower ship, and during a time of Native-American unrest (1621). It is the story of a love-triangle between Miles Standish, Priscilla Mullins, and John Alden, and is said to be true and passed to Longfellow (an Alden descendent) through oral tradition. Captain Miles Standish is the middle-aged, brave, swaggering military hero if a bit rough around the edges, and who just lost his wife and seeks to marry Pricilla. John Alden is Standish’s young and handsome roommate whom he asks to deliver his (Miles’) marriage proposal to the beautiful Pricilla on his behalf (fearing he lacks the right way with words). John Alden goes to Pricilla to deliver the proposal but is clearly enamored with the young beauty himself; thus, he innocently bumbles the message, clumsily attempts to recover, and muddles that effort until finally Pricilla makes her famous retort: “Prithee, John, why do you not speak for yourself?" In the end, John gets the girl and Miles “standishs” aside having given his blessing to the young lovers. It’s an optimistic ending; a fresh start for these new settlers in this new land.

Popular Songs


Priscilla the Traveling Proton
a song by A Day At The Fair

a song by Suzanne Vega

Famous People


Priscilla Presley (former wife of Elvis Presley, actress and businesswoman)
Priscilla Lane (actress)
Priscilla "CeCe" Winans (gospel singer)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Priscilla

Historic Figures


We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Priscilla