small N.Amer. flycatcher, pewit, 1700, phebe, so called in imitation of its cry; spelling alt. 1839 by influence of the woman's proper name (see Phoebe).
fem. proper name, late 14c., originally a name of Artemis as the goddess of the moon, from Gk. phoibos "bright, pure," of unknown origin. Masc. form Phoebus was an epithet of Apollo as sun-god (late 14c.).