fem. proper name, in old pastoral poems and plays a generic proper name for a comely rustic maiden (1630s), from Latin Phyllis, a girl's name in Virgil, Horace, etc., from Greek Phyllis, female name, literally "foliage of a tree," from phyllon "a leaf" (from PIE *bholyo- "leaf," suffixed form of root *bhel- (3) "to thrive, bloom"). In English, often spelled Phillis, probably from influence of phil- "loving." Her sweetheart usually was Philander. The generic use was so common that for a time the name was a verb meaning "to celebrate in amatory verses."