Procne was the famous sister of Philomela and mother of Itys by Tereus, both girls being the daughters of Pandion, king of Athens. She was turned into a swallow (for the story of this, see Philomela), so the first part of her name may be pro, 'before', 'before-hand' or proi 'early', 'early in the day' to refer to a swallow who announces the spring or the dawn.

The trouble is, of course, that the nightingale also announces the spring! And what does the second half of her name mean? It may perhaps be simply a random ending, although the -cne could be linked with cineo, 'to move', 'arouse' or even Latin cano, Ί sing'. This whole theory is pro­ pounded by Thomas Keightley. Robert Graves, seeking a simpler derivation, prefers progone, 'the elder' (pro, 'before' and gonos, 'child').