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What’s in a name?

We picked the name Olivia partly because we liked how it sounded, partly because we didn’t know any other Olivias, and partly because it wasn’t an excessively popular name. It turns out we were wrong about that last reason – “Olivia” was #10 on the list of popular baby names for girls in 2002, and has climbed steadily in popularity since 1990. It’s even more popular now. When we read the SSA press release which announced that “Olivia” was the #5 most popular girl’s name for 2003, we cringed but consoled ourselves that at least we didn’t know any other Olivias.

Tonight we attended an orientation for the day care center where Olivia will stay when Tiffany goes back to work in September. All the other parents there had infants, and two of them had Olivias. That was the only repeat name among the incoming children. sigh

Oh, well. At least we still like the way it sounds.

UPDATE: Alex adds some thoughts, including some cool etymology (I had no idea what “Madison” and “MacKenzie” actually mean).

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23 Comments

  1. matt says:

    Olivia Rose is a lovely name.
    That’s what we named our first daughter five years ago.
    We didn’t do much better with our second, Emily Jane, but it’s fun to say.
    Originality is overrated. How the other kids mangle it on the playground is what’s really important.

  2. Tim says:

    I agree with Matt. Originality is overrated. Originality gets kids taunted, teased and beaten up.

    I cringe every time I hear another set of parents giving their kids a “boutique” name.

  3. Patrick says:

    Does she know her name? I mean when you say her name do her eyes move toward you and maybe she flashes a little smile? I bet so and if that is the case, what’s to worry about?

  4. William Hughes says:

    I don’t mind originality if the name isn’t awful (Apple, anyone?). My two nieces are named Alana Carol and Abagail Lynn, so at least they don’t “confirm to the norm.”

    Personally, I think Olivia Rose is a cool name. I’m sure she will too.

  5. Pete says:

    Now I’m starting to regret naming our daughter Leona Helmsley Vonder Haar.

  6. blurker gone bad says:

    Actually, it is more likely that she will hate her name, and hate the two of you for choosing it.

    But then the teen years will end, and all will be forgiven. 😉

    If it matters, *I* think it’s a great name.

  7. I’m the father of an almost-5-month-old daughter (named Lucy). When we were trying to decide on a name, we looked at all those SSA lists and matched our name candidates to see how they ranked. We were hoping to find a name that wasn’t really really common but wasn’t weird, either. Olivia, which was definitely on our list as well, got knocked out of contention by that process.

    But now that I think about it a little more, with the exception of “Jennifer,” which was far and away the most common name for kids in my age group (I’m 31 now), there was absolutely nothing wrong, and many things right, about growing up with a name shared with a classmate. I myself was one of three Daniels at my elementary school, which doesn’t sound so impressive until you realize that there were only about 20 kids in the only Jewish day school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Those other Daniels were instant friends and allies.

    Olivia is a great name. I know two other baby Olivias here in New York, but it’s still a great name.

  8. Thanks all for the feedback. It’s not that we wanted something truly unique, it was more that we didn’t want to pick a name that (as Daniel said) would be the “Jennifer” of the new decade. We’d toyed with “Hannah” as a name but dropped it because there’s already a half-dozen Hannahs in the first grade at our neighborhood elementary school.

    I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I think you’re right that there is some value in not being the only kid with your name in your class/school/whatever. So that’s a good thing.

    Olivia responds to our voices, but isn’t quite responding to her name yet. She will be soon, though.

  9. FHC says:

    The multiple names in one class thing can happen even with an uncommon name. My name, Frances, doesn’t even make the top 25 for my age group. Nevertheless, I was one of 4 Franceses regularly found in John Martin’s history classes at Trinity. It was a bit of a bonding experience, but confusing until we broke out into variants of the name: Fran, Frankie, Franny, and Frances.

  10. Kirk says:

    We got caught with that as well. My wife and I really liked the name Emma and picked it a few years ago. I had only known one Emma in my life and she had never met one, so we thought we were safe. Then *blam* Rachel names her baby that and it shoots to the #2 name in the country last year.

    We kept the name for our daughter anyway, but hope it’s not like Jennifer was when I was in school.

  11. KPR says:

    I know exactly how you feel. We named our daughter Madison Rose in 1997, thinking we were being original but not outlandish. Use of the name seemed to implode around that time and we run into Madisons everywhere. There is even another Madison Rose her age down the street from us!

  12. R. Alex says:

    Having multiple people with the same name isn’t inherently problematic. I’d even caution people against trying to come up with their own truly unique name. My significant other, an FP medical resident, comes home weekly with a list of names of poor babies who are going to be saddled with names that it was pretty obvious from the get-go why they hadn’t been invented yet or had fallen out of common or even relatively obscure usage.

    It helps tremendously when the name can be shortened or altered, like Frances or to a lesser extent Alexander. My first name (which I go by in professional settings) has at least seven variations, so it was really obvious what to do whenever there was more one that went by that name.

  13. Greg Morrow says:

    I wonder (now that I’m watching USA reruns more often) if the rise in popularity of “Olivia” is related to that being the name of Mariska Hargitay’s character on L&O:SVU.

  14. Sara Hughes says:

    I think Olivia Rose is a beautiful name, it’s our daughter’s name!! We had tossed up a few before she was born last October, but when we saw her, she was definetly an “Olivia Rose”! As long as you always tell her how special, loved and unique she is, that’s all that counts! 🙂

    Sara (Sydney Australia)

  15. slc, ut says:

    My husband & I had to compromise when naming our daughter partly because we needed to leave the hospital. It is family name & we laugh at how beautiful it is & how long it took us to realize it: Olivia Margot.

  16. MRP says:

    I thought it was funny to see this conversation because we have an Olivia Rose who is 19 months old. There is another girl in her day care class with the same name. We named her Olivia because it was so rare, we thought. The Rose is actually after me. Oh well, they may have the same name, but personalities are always one of a kind.

  17. O. Loubenia Unna says:

    Well, I am here because I was looking for the meaning of Olivia’s name ,a page link brought me to this page, just to say that my youngest daughter name is Olivia, she is 13 years old and loves her name, I think is a lovely and very femenine name, what I have found is that it was created by Shakespeare for a character in his comedy “Twelfth Night”,last but not least,I think Olivia was not so popular back in 1991 because at her 7th and 8th grade campus (North Shore Middle School, GPISD Houston, TX.)there are just 4 Olivias between 1,200 students,sorry to post this but I just passed by and could not avoid writting this.

  18. Paige says:

    I also came upon this page while searching for the meaning of the name Olivia. My daughter’s name is Olivia Grace, not a common name around here in Iowa but it is just beautiful.

  19. Jess says:

    Because of the influence that Mariska Hargitay has had on me, I made the decision that if i were to have a girl i would name her Olivia Lynne! Before SVU I never really heard the name, but now in my home, it’s a household name!

  20. michelle rose says:

    We named our second daughter Olivia when she was born in 1997..our last name is Rose..I thought it was such a unique name knowing no other Olivias.2years ago at day camp Olivia was in a group with 21 other girls,6 were named Olivia they were referred all summer as Olivia 1, Olivia 2 etc….I’m still glad we chose the name..

    michelle

  21. Louise says:

    My daughter is Olivia-Rose. She is 3 Its a beautiful name, for a beautiful little girl. I only know of one other little girl called Olivia. She starts school in september so i suppose i will learn of a few more Olivias. Wouldn`t never change her name if i could, cant think of a prettier name.

    Louise

  22. Cori Ann P. says:

    We picked Olivia Rose for our daughter dure 12/25/2006…I just fell in love with tha name Olivia.

    Our sons name is Cooper Steven.

  23. olivia says:

    omgsh!
    thats weird.
    my names olivia
    and i was born in 1990
    my mom thinks the same thing!
    and also.
    my sisters name is Tiffany!
    ahh! thats super weird.