Olive or Olivia, Sophie or Sophia?

Olive or Olivia, Sophie or Sophia?

Do you prefer your girl names plain or fancy? Streamlined or frilly? In other words, are you Team Olive or Team Olivia?

Popular tastes today run towards girl names ending in A. Seven of the Top 10 popular names for girls end in A, starting with Olivia at number one. In fact, the top spot has been an A-ending name every year since 2008.

But look further down the list, and some names also have an alternative form without the A — like Olive, which is in the Top 200 and rising fast.

Why do we have both? It reflects the different waves of languages that have made an impact on the pool of traditional "English" names. In medieval England, most common female names, like Ann and Cecily, did not have an A ending in everyday use. But many were later reinvented with Latin endings, or forms used in other countries, like Anna and Cecilia. Contact between cultures is constantly introducing new possibilities, like Amelie instead of Amelia, Maya instead of May.

The variety also comes from from parents’ quest for names that are cool and appealing, but not too popular. Changing the ending is one way to get that familiar-yet-different aesthetic. Top Ten favorite Evelyn morphs into below-the-Top-1000 Evelina. Solid Sylvia becomes fresh French Sylvie.

That A (or lack of it) makes all the difference. If you’re a Julie who gets called Julia, or a Susanna who is definitely not Susan, you’ll know that they feel like completely separate names. Our editor Sophie Kihm, whose legal name is Sophia, has first-hand experience:

“My parents always intended to call me Sophie, but my dad pushed for Sophia as my given name so I’d have something more formal to fall back on…but I was never called Sophia, so I never identified with it. Sophie is quirkier and more energetic than Sophia, but still feels sweet and sophisticated.”

Depending on the pair of names, the A version may feel more formal, frilly and feminine, or more in line with languages like Spanish and Italian — like Lucia as opposed to Lucy. For some names it sounds more modern: think Joanna versus Joan.

Without the A ending, a name may seem more informal, friendly and energetic, or more aligned to English and French traditions. But it can also sound more heavy and serious, like Helen versus the lighter-sounding Helena.

Whether you’re Team Olive or Team Olivia, knowing which way your style swings can help in your search for a name.

Here are our favorite pairs of girl names with and without an A ending, ranging from the top of the charts to virtually unknown.

Popular Pairings

In this list, both names in the pair are in the USA Top 500 names, so if you’re looking for a name that’s well-loved and stylish today, you can’t go wrong either way.

Name Ending In A Is More Popular

In these pairings, the name with an A at the end is more popular than the one without.

Sometimes the difference is small, like between Sylvia at number 467, and Sylvie which is fast catching up at number 586. But sometimes there's a significant difference, like between Bella in the Top 100, and Belle which is outside the Top 1000.

Name Not Ending In A Is More Popular

In these pairs, the streamlined version is more popular than the A ending.

In some cases only just, like Louise (number 643) which has only just overtaken Louisa (number 688). For other names there's a huge difference, such as Maeve at number 124, versus Maeva below the Top 2000 girl names... unless you're in Scotland, where both are in the Top 100.

Unique Alternative Endings

Here, the first name in each pair is fairly well-used. The second name, with a tweaked ending, was given to under 50 girls in 2021 — and in some cases, is not on the charts at all, so a great choice if you're looking for unique girl names.