Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Rihanna
Rihanna is an altered spelling of Rhianna which itself is a more modern version of the Welsh female name Rhiannon (pronounced hri-AN-ahn), derived from an Old Celtic name “Rigantona” meaning “great queen”. In Celtic mythology, Rhiannon/Rigantona was a prominent goddess and considered a “Great Queen”. She is also associated with fertility and the moon. In Welsh mythology, Rhiannon was an exceptionally beautiful goddess and skilled equestrian. A Welsh king by the name of Pwyll spotted the gorgeous woman wearing glittering gold on her white horse atop a magical mound. “Who knows that lady?” asked the king to his horsemen, but no one knew. Enamored by Rhiannon in all of her splendor, Pwyll sent his best horsemen after her. As they quickly rode toward her, they could never reach her. She was simply outside of their grasp. Finally Pwyll called out to her himself. Rhiannon reveals to Pwyll that she’s come seeking him, that she loves only him, but has been promised to marry another (Gwawl). Pwyll and Rhiannon agree that Pwyll will come claim her at her father’s house in one year’s time. When that day approached, Pwyll foolishly and unwittingly gave his bride-to-be back to her original fiancé Gwawl who cleverly tricked him. Rhiannon then devised a plan to outwit Gwawl when it came time to marry him in one year’s time. It involves a magical bag and Pwyll disguised as a beggar, but suffice it to say, Rhiannon and Pwyll finally marry each other. During their marriage, Rhiannon secures an heir to her husband’s kingdom by birthing a son. But when the baby boy is snatched in the middle of the night, the six ladies-in-waiting who were meant to watch over him (but slept on the job) devised a plan to accuse Rhiannon of infanticide by smearing dog’s blood on the sleeping queen (she is forced to do seven years penance for her so-called crime). In the meantime, the boy is discovered near a stable and raised by another couple until they realize his likeness to Pwyll (and thus his true identity), returning the boy to his rightful parents several years later. Although Rhiannon’s story is somewhat obscure Celtic legend, the name became immortalized by a 1976 Fleetwood Mac song “Rhiannon”. The song is loosely based on “an old Welsh witch” as Stevie Nicks often announced in live performances. In truth, though, Rhiannon was both a goddess and a great queen. As the lyrics read in part: “Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night / And wouldn't you love to love her? / Takes through the sky like a bird in flight / And who will be her lover?” The spelling of Rihanna, however, has been solely influenced by American pop-singing sensation Rihanna.