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Popular Baby Name Sounds: Oliver, Leonor and Aria

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By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Here’s something I overheard recently:

Olivia’s a nice name, but Aria?  Who names a kid after Game of Thrones?

There’s something to that statement, isn’t there?  Olivia feels like a vintage revival, a literary choice thanks to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and a wildly popular name for over a decade.  Aria is a newcomer, a noun name that leapt from obscurity to prominence thanks to more than one pop culture reference.  They’re very different names.

Yet on sound alone, Aria and Olivia are similar.  Reverse the histories – make Aria the Shakespearean choice and Olivia the twenty-first century television darling – and it is easy to imagine the statement reversed, too.  After all, five of the current US Top 20 girls’ names end with -ia.

Nouveau or traditional, popular or obscure, our favorite names tend to share sounds.

Think about the elegant French Madeleine and the quirky mermaid-inspired Madison.  As different as can be, but they both caught on around the same time, leading to a glut of girls answering to Maddie.

Sounds can point to future trends – if Landon and Logan are so stylish, could Langston catch on?  Does the rise of Phoebe and Penelope mean that Persephone has a chance?  If Theodore is back in fashion, will other Th- names catch on, too – Thea, Thora, Game of Thrones’  Theon, Penelope-cousin Thisbe?

It’s not the way we usually think about names.  Jayden and Asa share that bright long ‘a’ sound, but it is tough to imagine the same parents shortlisting both.

The good news is that if you’re locked on names, unable to compromise between your nature-inspired favorites and your partner’s family names, considering the sound might help identify possibilities you’ll both appreciate.

This week’s baby names in the news are all over the map in terms of style, but they share a surprising number of stylish sounds, from Victoria and Aria to Leonor and River.

Leonor – Before the month is over, Spain will have a new monarch.  King Juan Carlos is set to abdicate in favor of his son, Prince Felipe.  Felipe’s firstborn is Leonor.  She’s currently known as Infanta Leonor of Spain.  But the eight-year-old will soon become Princess of Asturias, the title reserved for the heir apparent to the throne.  Leonor has kept a low profile until now.  Assuming we see more of the young princess in the press, will it help boost the Spanish form of Eleanor?  The name last cracked the US Top 1000 in the 1930s.

Sofia – Younger sister and understudy to Leonor, Infanta Sofia of Spain (both shown) is just seven years old.  Her name is far more popular in the US.  Spelled Sophia, it’s been the #1 name for girls since 2011.  But I have my eye on the Sofia spelling.  First there was the Disney princess – now there’s the real thing.

Victoria – From the royal House of Bourbon to an impeccably regal name for Teresa Castillo’s daughter.  The General Hospital actress and husband Shane Aaron combined the classic first with a more daring Milani, a name that has skyrocketed in use in recent years.  Together, it’s a name combination that sounds timeless and on trend at once.

Aria SageSofia, Victoria, Aria.  Sure, the name actress-musician-writer Alisan Porter chose for her daughter isn’t the most classic choice.  But it shares sounds with some very popular and well-established names.  Alisan and her husband Brian Autenrieth are also parents to Mason Blaise.  Mason Blaise and Aria Sage – it’s almost the perfect twenty-first century sibset!

Harper – Comic strip names intrigue me.  If the comics run long enough, new characters will be introduced – and their names may or may not fit with the original cast.  The perfect example?  The newest character to debut in the Archie comics is a girl called Harper.  Archie has been a teenager since 1941, and his name has gone from ordinary to impossibly dated to retro revival candidate.  Now Betty, Veronica, and the gang will get to hang out with Harper.

River – Like Harper, River’s ‘r’ ending feels modern.  Until the debut of the late actor River Phoenix, the name was almost unknown.  Now it has become a modern staple, most recently chosen by Survivor: Panama champ Aras Baskauskas and model Christy Peterson.  Aras is of Lithuanian descent, and River’s middle name is Juozas – the Lithuanian form of Joseph.

Oliver – If many ‘r’ ending names are surnames or modern noun names, Oliver is none of the above.  He’s found in English during the Middle Ages, and has seen plenty of use in recent years.  As of 2013, Oliver ranked #52 in the US.  Once Upon a Time couple Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas have given the name to their firstborn.  Here’s guessing that Oliver will continue to climb.

Finlay – For a middle name, Ginnifer and Josh went with Finlay, an impeccably Irish middle and cousin to the fashionable Finn.  For parents who grew up with very common names – Ginnifer was born Jennifer – and who talked about the difficulty of dad’s place name surname, they did a good job of finding something distinctive but still familiar.

AnselYoung actor Ansel Elgort is the son of a photographer, and yes, he’s named after Ansel Adams.  Elgort appeared in Divergent earlier this year.  Now he’s the lead in The Fault in Our Stars, which seems poised to be the biggest romantic hit since The Notebook.  At first, Ansel seems like a very unusual name for a boy, but consider this: we love the letter A, and the -el ending is shared with Michael, Daniel, Gabriel, and Samuel – all Top 25 names for boys.

Do your favorite names share sounds?  What’s your favorite names that ends in -r?  In -ia?

 

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