Classic Girl Names: Alexandra the Great

Classic Girl Names: Alexandra the Great

By Linda Rosenkrantz

The other day we took a look at all the boys’ names in the Alexandrian clan, now we move on to the girls. Here we find 11 direct descendants on the Social Security list. The big surprise is that Alexandra, the direct feminization of Alexander, does not come first, but is superseded by a unisex offshoot. And it’s not Alex!

AlexandraThe eternally elegant, timeless classic Alexandra, the wellspring of so many variations, has been in the American Top 100 for more than 30 years. The first female bearer known to history was the ancient Queen Alexandra of Judea. Her name was in use in England by the 13th century, and widely adapted in Russia as Aleksandra, but it wasn’t until after 1863, when Prince Albert—later Edward VII– married Princess Alexandra of Denmark that the name became fashionable there. Alexandra was the name of the wife of Nicholas II (shown), the last czar of Russia and is the first middle name of the present Queen Elizabeth. (Are you listening Kate and William?)

Currently Alexandra is in 82nd place on the Social Security list, but her popularity is widespread. She’s in the Top 50 in Canada, Chile, Hungary and Iceland. Her peak period here was in 1995-96, when she reached Number 26, at a time when other multi-syllabic feminine names like Samantha and Victoria were also trending.

AlexisThe unisex Alexis is the sole variation of Alexander that ranks in the Top 50 for girls. She is currently at Number 46, after reaching as high as Number 3 in 1999, when there were more than 19,000 babies given that name by parents who preferred its brisk, unisex feel over the traditional version.

This was more than a decade after the name burst onto TV screens in the person of the scheming, seductive Alexis Carrington character played by Joan Collins on the then-hot nighttime soap Dynasty. A current bearer is Alexis (born Kimberly) Blendel, Who was Rory on Gilmore Girls. Actor Kevin O’Connor named one of his triplets Alexis Elaine.

Alexa & AlexiaRight behind Alexis are Alexa and Alexia, coming in at Numbers 60 and 175. Alexa is the simplest of the Alexandrian girls, yet more feminine than conventional nickname Alex. It entered the popularity list in 1973 and reached Number 39 in 2006, publicized by Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel, who was born in 1985.

Alexia, a royal name in the Netherlands, Greece and Denmark, has ranked on the Social Security charts since 1981, and is now at 175. The name has a certain sense of drama and so has made numerous media appearances, as a Real Housewife of Miami, on The Vampire Diaries, and in the Disney film Wish Upon a Star.

AlexandriaAlso a place name –Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great, was a great ancient cultural center and is now Egypt’s busiest seaport. That extra vowel gives this version a bit of a 5-syllable bounce. Now at Number 207, Alexandria debuted on the U. S charts in 1969, finding its way into the Top 100 in the 90s. David Bowie and model Iman have a daughter named Alexandria Zahra Jones (Bowie’s real surname), born in 2000. The Alexandria Quartet is a tetralogy by Lawrence Durrell, the name of Whoopi Goldberg’s only daughter is spelled Alexandrea.

AlexandrinaThe birth name of the Queen who was the namesake of the Victorian Age was actually Alexandrina Victoria. This most elaborate appellation of the group has long been a favorite in Russia, spelled Aleksandrina, and is sometimes heard in Scotland as Alexandrine, or as Alexine.

Lexi & Lexie –These peppy and pixyish newcomers have just about replaced the formerly ubiquitous unisex Alex, which, though in the Top 550 in the mid-90s, has been completely off the list since 2004, while still thriving for boys. Lexi, on the other hand, is at Number 246, and twin Lexie at 492. They’ve been picked up by TV scripters of such shows as Grey’s Anatomy, Days of Our Lives, and The Vampire Diaries– where the character’s full name is Alexia. Surprisingly, Lexie has been on the pop chart since 1886, while Lexi only entered in 1980. Lexi is enjoying international popularity, at Number 25 in Wales, 30 in Scotland, and 48 in England.

Alessandra & AlejandraLike their male counterparts, these Italian and Spanish versions have a high quotient of exotic charm, and both can be found on the US charts—Alessandra at Number 299 (and rising), Alejandra at 420. Alessandra Ambrosio is a well-known Brazilian Victoria’s Secret Angel supermodel, actor Andy Garcia named his daughter Alessandra.Alessa and Alessia are also sometimes heard.

Alejandra is currently the 24th most popular name in Spain: Alejandra Guzmán is a Grammy-winning Mexican rock singer and actress.

SashaMore common as a male nickname name in Russia, the energetic Sasha has really caught on for girls in this country since its entrance in 1972, ranking highest in the late 80s; it’s now at Number 227. Figure skater Sasha Cohen was born Sasha, but others were not: Sasha Obama’s full name is Natasha, actress Sasha Alexander’s is Suzana. The J. Seinfelds used the alternate Sascha spelling for their daughter; Sasha Fierce is the name of Beyoncé’s alter ego.

Sandra & Sandy & SondraThough it feels a million miles away from the mother name, Sandra is an Italian short form of Alessandra. It was used by Virginia Woolf for a character in Jacob’s Room in 1922, but didn’t really catch fire in English-speaking countries until the 1930s, then spiked through the Sandra Dee years–it was a Top 10 name from 1940 to 1952. Though it feels passé, there were still a few hundred baby Sandras given that name last year.

Sandy has always been a unisex nickname, especially common for boys in Scotland. But 2012’s Hurricane Sandy blew away any life it had left as a standalone name here.

Sondra was a futile attempt to upgrade Sandra, yet popular enough to get to Number 201 in 1939.

ZandraThe wildly eccentric British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, aka ‘The Princess of Punk,’ has pretty much made this a single-owner name. But it does feel a lot zippier than Sandra, and actually registered on the US pop charts a couple of times.

ShuraThis Alex connection here is kind of convoluted: Shura is a Russian short form of Sashura, an elaborated version of Sasha, pet form of Alexander/Alexandra. Alexandra, the grown daughter of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jessica Lange, goes by Shura.

What would be your favorite version of Alexandra?

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.