Once Upon A Time Burning Question: What Does the Name Emma Swan Mean?
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Once Upon a Time

Once Upon A Time Burning Question: What Does the Name Emma Swan Mean?

Names are important on Once Upon A Time. Most of the time, their meanings are somewhat obvious: Ruby (Meghan Ory) is Little Red Riding Hood. Regina (Lana Parrilla), Latin for “queen,” is the Evil Queen herself. But, sometimes, they’re a bit trickier to figure out. We’ve been trying to figure out the importance of the name Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) since the beginning. Here’s what we’ve come up with:


The name Emma is German for “complete” or “all-containing,” which makes sense as Emma is one of the few characters in OUAT who does not have an Enchanted Forest counterpart. She exists in all worlds as the same version of herself.

Though Emma seemingly fulfilled her prophecy as “the savior” by breaking the spell at the end of last season, we think there may be more to her tale. When Cora tried to rip Emma’s heart from her chest in Season 2, Episode 9: “Queen of Hearts,” she was unable to, and Emma inadvertently used magic to repel her. Emma may be more powerful than anyone knows (including herself) and, if that is the case, her magic doesn’t come from any fairy dust. It’s a part of her.


As for the surname Swan, we’ve made a few fairy tale connections. The most well-known is the story of “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen. In the classic tale, an ugly duckling, taunted and neglected by his peers, grows up to be a beautiful swan. We can’t imagine Emma was ever homely, but she did grow up unloved, bouncing from family to family in the foster care system. It wasn’t until Henry arrived at her doorstep and she moved to Storybrooke that she found a family. We have already seen her transform from a lonely bail bond agent to a mother who will do anything for her son, but perhaps the “Ugly Duckling” connection hints at a greater transformation to come?

Swans appear in another lesser-known Hans Christian Anderson story called “The Wild Swans.” The story is about a princess who rescues her brothers from a spell cast by an evil queen. Sound familiar? In the tale, Elisa the princess is too strong to be trapped the queen’s spell, and is banished to a foreign land. The story also involves the princess knitting a lot of sweaters and fainting from exhaustion at one point, so we’re kind of hoping the connection is not too literal, but it is an interesting parallel nonetheless!

Do you have any theories about what significance Emma Swan’s name could have? Post them in the comments section below!

Catch the next episode of Once Upon a Time on Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.