Girls’ names: Olivia or Olive, Sophia or Sophie?

Plain or fancy?

By Linda Rosenkrantz

Many girls’ names come in two forms: a straightforward version ending in e and a more romantic variation with a final a. And these tend to move in and out of fashion as a group, reflecting the tenor of the time.

Right now, we are in a relatively elaborate era, with few parents picking girls’ names like Julie over Julia or Diane over Diana.

But I have a hunch that we’re moving into a more evenly divided time, with the rising of names like Olive and Sophie and Sylvie.

Let’s take a look at some more examples.

Caroline vs Carolina: Caroline was a Kennedy Era staple, and is still looked on as an elegant classic with royal overtones, ranking in 2015 at Number 62. The pared-down Carol, on the other hand, once in the Top 10, has completely fallen out of use, and the phoneticized Carolyn isn’t doing much better. Carolina has a completely different image—-Southern, rich and romantic—and is now at Number 430

Clare/Claire vs Clara: This is an unusual case, in that Clara doesn’t seem any more feminine than Clare—they both seem stylish but relatively serious. Right now the Claire spelling is way ahead, at Number 49 (by far its highest ever), Clara is 98, and Clare is down at 729.

Diane vs Diana: Dating to the Cheers era and before, Diane today—though it was a Top 20 name in the fifties—has lost virtually all its charisma. But Diana remains elegant and princessey, and somewhat underused at Number 295.

Dorothy vs Dorothea: Though the Wizard of Oz/Golden Girl stayed stuck in its time frame for decades, it is now showing signs of life again, reentering the Top 1000 in 2011 and rising more than 200 spots since then. Other contemporary parents prefer the more flowing and romantic Dorothea, with its plethora of great nicknames, from Dot to Thea.

Joanne vs Joanna: Poor Joanne, which was a Top 50 name in the 1930s and 40s, dropped completely out of sight at the beginning of the millennium, while the more graceful Joanna, though it peaked in 1984 at Number 88, is still at a respectable 305.

Julie vs Julia: Julie was once a popular cheerleader/Class President name, in the Top 25 from 1961 to 1977 (there were more than 15,000 Miss Julies born in 1971 alone), and though she’s lost most of her luster, still ranks at #453– though way down at 1527 on NB! Then along came Julia Roberts with her dazzling smile (which she has insured for $30 million), bringing new life to her vintage name. Julia is still at Number 89, down from 30 in 1999, a few years after Pretty Woman.

Louise vs LouisaBoth these classic names are inspiring baby namer interest, thanks to their trendy Lou beginning and family resemblance to popular cousin Eloise. Louise is Number 119 on Nameberry, Louisa 136 (much higher than the national number)—look for both of them to keep rising. Meryl Streep named her youngest daughter Louisa.

Olive vs Olivia: Here’s a case where the popular Latinate-ending Olivia has been bringing the less ornate Olive along in its slipstream. Olivia has been a smashing success across the English-speaking world—now Number 2 in the US, in the Top 3 in England, Scotland, New Zealand and Australia, and the very top name on Nameberry.

Sophie vs Sophia: With Sophia the third most popular name in the country, it’s no wonder that many parents are turning to her more downhome-sounding French version (and also the Italianate Sofia). Sophie is now a Top 10 name in England, Scotland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia and 104 in the US, up over 800 places since the 80s.

Susan vs Susanna: Susan, now hanging on by a thread at #929, was one of the most popular midcentury girls—she was the second highest girls name from 1957 to 1960, when everyone knew a Sue, Susie or Suzie-Q. Now parents would prefer the softer, more lyrical, biblical Susanna(h)—though surprisingly it hasn’t yet reentered the Top 1000.

Sylvie vs SylviaSweet, sylvan, French-accented Sylvie had never made much of an impression in this country until it began to take off among hip urban baby namers in the last few years; it has jumped to Number 209 on Nameberry, though it’s never made it to the nationals. At the same time, the English version Sylvia has been making a comeback, now at Number 484 and 229 on Nameberry. Though she still has a way to go to reach her 1930s high point of #48.

Some other pairs to compare and contrast: Adrienne vs Adriana, Ann vs Anna, Eve vs Eva, Isabel vs Isabella, Marie vs Maria, Rose vs Rosa.

In general, which versions do you prefer—the simple and more serious or the slightly more ornate?

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17 Responses to “Girls’ names: Olivia or Olive, Sophia or Sophie?”

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dresdendoll Says:

August 29th, 2016 at 11:20 pm

Absolutely prefer final e’s (etc.) to final a’s. Cool and classic, the Diannes and Joannes have it. They’re stronger, smarter, and more to the point…nothing superfluous to stand in their way!

Bobcat108 Says:

August 29th, 2016 at 11:25 pm

It really depends on the name. Love Sophie, meh about Sophia. Prefer Olivia to Olive (but like Livia much better than either). Way prefer Julie to Julia, but would go w/Juliana nn Julie. Really like Sylvie, but spelled Silvie…Sylvia is still someone’s great aunt. Isabella is preferable to Isabelle; Caroline over Carolina. Anne yes, Anna no. Adriana over Adrienne, but Ariane over Arian(n)a.

GPU Says:

August 30th, 2016 at 12:59 am

Almost always prefer it without the ‘a’ ending./

dindlee Says:

August 30th, 2016 at 5:54 am

Some of us living in the English speaking world do still need names with that A ending. They aren’t necessarily more elaborate for Spanish-speakers…. They are the name.

Eve is Eva in Spanish. Even though I live in the US, my family is not US born. English is not their first language. Eve wouldn’t work for us. Eva would. Just a thought.

abliss Says:

August 30th, 2016 at 10:09 am

I prefer Olive to Olivia, Eve to Eva, Louisa to Louise, Susanna to Susanne, Rosa to Rose…hmm, it just depends on the name! 🙂

Fluffykitten101 Says:

August 30th, 2016 at 10:37 am

I prefer Olivia to Olive (I hate olives XD), Eva to Eve, Louisa to Louise, Sophie to Sophia, Susanna to Susanne, Sylvie to Sylvia, Diana to Diane, Ariana to Arianne, Anna to Ann, Rosa to Rose and Isabel to Isabella! 🙂

jenni_lynn91 Says:

August 30th, 2016 at 11:36 am

I much prefer the “a” ending names. To me they are prettier and more feminine. Since my husband is Mexican and his whole family speaks Spanish, I like the names to be able to be pronounced in both languages.

mcarolina Says:

August 30th, 2016 at 12:01 pm

My name is Carolina (Caro-lee-na) and I absolutely love it! But that is because I live in Portugal and I speak portuguese. I personally think anyone who speaks a latin derivated first language automatically prefers the -a ending in girls names.
I have paid attention to some details about the naming style in my country and one thing I’ve noticed is that most girls’ names end in -a and most boys’ names end in -o.

Caroline vs Carolina – I would pick Carolina over and over again. Although, I’m pretty sure if I had been born in a english speaking country I would like the Caroline better, mainly because of the states’ association. But name places are trendy, right? (n. 5 in Portugal – 2015)
Clare/Claire vs Clara – Clara is so international and pretty! (n. 16 in Portugal – 2015)
Diane vs Diana – Diana, more international and prettier! (n. 17 in Portugal – 2015)
Dorothy vs Dorothea – I don’t like the Dorothea end, but I’m not a fan of Dorothy either. Doroteia (the portuguese version) is not in the top 100, and I also don’t like it.
Joanne vs Joanna – I don’t really like either, but Joana is more familiar to me. I have 2 cousins named Joana (9yrs old and 24 yrs old) (n. 14 in Portugal – 2015)
Julie vs Julia – Julie is cute for a little girl but I find Julia more of an all-ages name (n. 52 in Portugal – 2015)
Louise vs Louisa – Same as Julie/Julia. The portuguese version Luisa is often used as Maria Luisa, a popular combo here (n. 39 in Portugal -2015)
Olive vs Olivia – Olive is too literal for me. Olivia all the way! (Oddly enough, Olivia was n. 84 in Portugal – 2015)
Sophie vs Sophia – Sophia! Here we spell it Sofia which I prefer. (N. 10 in Portugal – 2015)
Susan vs Susanna – I don’t really like any of the two… (Not in the top 100 – 2015, I do know some Susanas, tho. In their 50s.)
Sylvie vs Sylvia – I prefer Sylvia (nn. Sylvie). I guess I just find the -e ending names too nicknamey. (Silvia was not in the top 100 – 2015. Also know some. In their 40s/50s)
Adrienne vs Adriana – I prefer Adrienne for english speaking countries and Adriana for latin-derivated languages countries. (n.78 in Portugal – 2015)
Ann vs Anna – Not a fan of either. Over here Ana is mostly used as part of a compound name like Ana Carolina, Ana Sofia (n. 7 in Portugal – 2015. Around 20 yrs ago it was n. 1)
Eve vs Eva – Because I’m bilingual my brain just translates word names and Eve always makes me think of NYE, Christma’s Eve and so on. Also Eva is so sweet and charming! Personally, I think it sounds better in english than portuguese or spanish (n. 29 in Portugal – 2015)
Isabel vs Isabella – Isabel all the way! So international and perfect for any age, anywhere! (Isabel was n. 55 in Portugal – 2015, Isabela was n. 78)
Marie vs Maria – I always thought of Marie as a middle name option in english speaking countries. Over here, Maria is EVERYWHERE! It’s n. 1 and has been for many, many years! I know people of all ages called Maria. However, 80% of them go by their second name or use both names. (Maria Beatriz, Maria Leonor, Maria Ines, Maria Carolina, Maria Luisa and Maria Helena are just some of the many compound names with Maria for girls. We have 2 ways of using it: Maria [girl name/boy name] (for a girl) or [girl name/boy name] Maria (for a girl or a boy)
(Ex. Maria Jose (girl), Jose Maria (boy))
Rose vs Rosa – I prefer Rose. (Rosa was not in the top 100)

To sum up, I think it all depends on the location… Although, I see -a ending names as being more international, romantic and feminine. Maybe it is a new trend that will catch on in the states as a way of americans bringing back, what are for you, some old fashioned names!

maggiemary Says:

August 30th, 2016 at 1:53 pm

I prefer:

Caroline – to avoid the association with the states.
Clara – I find Claire/Clare tired.
Dorothea – but only just, both names are fabulous.
Julia – I think it sounds more modern than Julie.
Louisa – the ‘ah’ sound at the end just adds something fresh to Louise.
Olive – Olivia is so popular, I’m bored of it.
Sophia – this only just edges out Sophie though.
Sylvie – sounds fresher.
Ann – twin sister’s middle name, plus I’ve had a bad experience with an Anna.
Eve – prefer its simplicity here.
Marie – especially love this combined with other names, I have a friend named Marie Claude (her dad is French), and I swoon over her name!
Rose – perfect.

As for these ones…

I can’t stand Diane or Diana (sorry to anyone with these names).
I don’t like Joanne or Joanna, but love Johanna.
Isabel, Isabelle, Isabella etc, well I just dislike all them. I do like the Scottish forms Isobel and Ishbel though.

maggiemary Says:

August 30th, 2016 at 1:54 pm

Oh and I don’t like Adrienne or Adriana either, but then I don’t like Adrian, so that’s to be expected.

NaomiAurora Says:

August 30th, 2016 at 5:43 pm

I like:

Caroline vs. Carolina: I prefer Caroline because it seems vintage.
Claire/Clare vs. Clara: I like Clara best because Clare seems really dated to me, and Claire seems overused (I know soooo many people with the name).
Diane vs. Diana: Not a huge fan of either name.
Dorothy vs. Dorothea: Dorothy reminds me of the Wizard of Oz, and Dorothea has never been my favourite.
Joanne vs. Joanna: I love almost all Jo- names (especially Joelle!) but I’ve never been a fan of Joanne.
Julie vs. Julia: I was almost named Julia, and I love the name so much. It sounds modern yet elegant 🙂
Louise vs. Louisa: I love Louisa. It might be the “a” on the end, but it seems so modern and cute.
Olive vs. Olivia: Olivia, even though it’s so popular.
Sophie vs. Sophia: Sophie seems like a dog name to me, but Sophia is super popular.
Susan vs. Susanna: Don’t really like either name.
Sylvie vs. Sylvia: I like Sylvie, it seems cute and edgy.
Adrienne vs. Adrianna: I like both 🙂
Ann vs. Anna: Anna seems unfinished, and I prefer Anne as a spelling over Ann.
Eve vs. Eva: I LOVE Eve, Eva not so much.
Isabelle vs. Isabella: All those names are way too overused in my opinion.
Marie vs. Maria: Marie seems like a middle name to me, and Maria sounds like a girl from the 90s.

ashthedreamer Says:

August 30th, 2016 at 6:08 pm

I think it just depends on the name for me. 🙂

Caroline vs. Carolina: Carolina–I adore both Cara and Lena, and I can’t seem to get past the horrid Caroline Bingley with Caroline, pretty as she is otherwise. I may yet fall for Caroline, but my heart is with dainty Carolina right now.
Claire/Clare vs. Clara: I dislike the American prn. of Clara, and I just love the simplicity of Claire.
Diane vs. Diana: not a huge fan of either, but Diana feels more timeless.
Dorothy vs. Dorothea: again, not a huge fan of either, but I guess I’d say Dorothea. It seems more froufrou, which livens Dorothy up a bit. Plus, I’m starting to come around to Thea, and I like that it makes more sense with Dorothea. I think Dot is cute as a button, though, regardless of the full name.
Joanne vs. Joanna: LOVE Joanna. Also Johanna, but of these two I prefer Joanna.
Julie vs. Julia: Julia for sure. I love the timelessness and utter flexibility of Julia. She could be anyone, from a snarky, sarcastic young woman down on her luck to a privileged daughter of a Roman general to anything in between! She’s got spunk, sass, and sweetness.
Louise vs. Louisa: occasionally I can see Louise’s merit, but I love Louisa.
Olive vs. Olivia: depends on my mood! My great-grandpa’s mn was Oliver, so I like these to honor him. I love the Shakespearean ties to Olivia, but the vintage, simple appeal of Olive.
Sophie vs. Sophia: Of these two, Sophie. But between Sofia and Sophie? I’d be more torn, but probably Sofia.
Susan vs. Susanna: Susanna! Although a friend of mine just named her daughter Audr.ey Sus@n, and it has made me appreciate Susan anew. I still like Susanna more, though. 😉
Sylvie vs. Sylvia: I love French names, but I love the classic appeal of Sylvia.
Adrienne vs. Adriana: I am not a fan of any Adrian names, haha, with the exception of the Dutch Adrianus, so can I say neither? Of these two, I suppose I’d say Adrienne.
Ann vs. Anna: Anna. I’m on an Anna kick right now.
Eve vs. Eva: love both, but I *adore* Eva.
Isabelle vs. Isabella: no contest! Isabelle is my favorite girls’ name. 😉 I do like Isabella a lot, too!
Marie vs. Maria: Maria! My own mn is Marie, and I hate it. I love Maria.

esita Says:

August 31st, 2016 at 5:12 pm

Much prefer the non ‘a’ version. Olive, Sophie, Adrienne, Rose, Sylvie. Only exception is Julia, which I think is way better than Julie (though not really a fan of either).

lesliemarion Says:

September 1st, 2016 at 12:04 am

It varies.

For example, Sophie to me is much more youthful than Sophia, but Diana is more lush than Diane.

I picture an Audrey Hepburn gamine named Sylvie and a full-blooded mature woman named Sylvia.

I don’t have a lot of rules about names; I just like what I like.

Baby Name Addict Says:

September 2nd, 2016 at 11:58 am

Linda ir Lindsey. Darcy/Darcey or Dacia.

Baby Name Addict Says:

September 2nd, 2016 at 11:59 am

Katie or Kate

charlesokuku Says:

December 11th, 2016 at 6:58 am

I’m for Sophie. A wonderufl name with a fantastic meaning. Take a look at the name Kijakazi

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