Orpheus was the famous musician who was the son (or pupil) of Apollo and the husband of Eurydice. Significantly, his mother was Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry. There has been much discussion regarding the origin of his name, often resulting in the verdict 'of obscure origin'.

The most common theory, however, is that his name derives from orphne, 'darkness', 'night', since Orpheus was connected with the darkness, both in his journey to the Underworld and later when conducting his initiations by night. The English word 'orphan' is related to Greek orphne, the common link being the deprivation: darkness is deprived of light; an orphan is deprived of his parents.