The name is derived from the Greek root for a band worn around the head. It was borne by a 3rd-century B.C.E. Greek hetaera who was credited as being the burner of Persopolis. She is sometimes believed to have been a lover of Alexander the Great, but there is no conclusive evidence that the two were ever together, what is known for sure is that she was the courtesan of Ptolomy Soter I, Alexander’s general. Her character later inspired other characters of the same name in both Classical Roman and post-Classical literature. She appears in Terence’s Eunuchas, her lines were later quoted by Cicero and a Thaïs is mentioned in Dante’s Inferno. In more recent history, she was the inspiration of Ivan Eframov’s novel, Thaïs of Athens (1975).
The name was also borne by a legendary Egyptian Christian saint who was believed to have originally been a prostitute. She was converted by St. Paphnutius who had disguised himself as a “customer.” Thaïs became a fervent Christian, abandoning her comfortable life as a high-end prostitute and spending three years in repentance eventually dying in peace as a hermit in the Egyptian desert. Her story is the inspiration behind the Anatole France novel Thaïs (1890) which was later adapted into an opera of the same name. Demetre Chiparus famous sculpture, Thaïs, was in turn inspired by the Opera.
Due to the cult of St. Thaïs of Egypt, the name remained in use throughout the former Byzantine Empire. She was used to a certain extent on the continent and in 18th-century England during the Romantic Period.
As of 2010, Thaïs was the 97th most popular female name in France. Her Slovene form of Tajda was the 74th most popular female name in Slovenia, (2010), while Taja came in as the 23rd most popular female name in Slovenia, (2010).
Other forms of the name include:
- Taisija/Taisiya (Bulgarian/Macedonian/Serbian/Russian/Ukrainian)
- Taís (Catalan/Spanish)
- Tayys تاييس (Coptic/Lebanese/Syrian)
- Thaïs (English/French/German/Greek)
- Thaisia (German)
- Thaisis (German)
- Taide (Italian)
- Taisia (Italian)
- Taida (Polish)
- Tais (Polish)
- Taisja (Polish)
- Tesja (Polish)
- Thaís (Portuguese)
- Taja (Slovene)
- Tajana (Slovene)
- Tajda (Slovene)
- Tajka (Slovene)
- Tajša (Slovene)