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Olive or Olivia, Sophie or Sophia?

Olive or Olivia, Sophie or Sophia?

Is your name style streamlined and familiar, or elaborate and formal? In other words, are you Team Olive or Team Olivia?

Popular tastes today run towards girl names ending in A. Seven of the top ten girl names end in A, starting with Olivia at number one. In fact, the top spot has been an A-ending name for 12 years.

But look further down the list, and some names also have an alternative, often shorter, form without the A — like Olive, which is at number 213 and rising fast.

Why do we have both? It reflects the different waves of languages that have made an impact on the pool of “English” names. Names that were ending-less in the Middle Ages, like Ann and Cecily, were later reinvented in their Latin forms, Anna and Cecilia. Contact between cultures is constantly introducing new possibilities, like Amelie instead of Amelia, Maya instead of May.

The variety also springs 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 experienced this first-hand:

“__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. For some names this version feels more modern: think Joanna versus Joan.

With the A ending, a name may seem more informal, friendly and energetic, or more aligned to English and French traditions. It might also feel more heavy and serious, like Helen versus the lighter-sounding Helena.

Of course, these are subjective opinions and you’ll have your own preferences. Whether you’re Team Olive or Team Olivia, knowing which way your style swings can help in your search for a name.

Here, we list some of our favorite pairs of girl names, 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 fits into its time, you can’t go wrong either way. The number in brackets is the name’s rank according to the latest data.

Alana (232) and Alani (303)Alexa (139) and Alexis (236)Alice (73) and Alicia (419)Amara (140) and Amari (310)Angela (256) and Angel (395)Ariel (172) and Ariella (216)Brielle (101) and Briella (306)Camila (15), Camille (258) and Camilla (271)Caroline (61) and Carolina (417)Claire (55) and Clara (95)Daniela (217) and Danielle (431)Eliza (119) and Elise (207)Ella (13) and Elle (356)Emily (12) and Emilia (42)Eva (84) and Eve (485)Frances (438) and Francesca (491)Gabriella (76) and Gabrielle (343)Helen (429) and Helena (478)Isabella (5), Isabelle (117) and Isabel (135)Lillian (37) and Liliana (109)Lily (34) and Lila (227)Lucy (48) and Lucia (159)Maria (106) and Mary (126)Natalie (41) and Natalia (103)Sophia (4), Sofia (17) and Sophie (86)Olivia (1) and Olive (213)Valeria (141) and Valerie (149)Vivian (96) and Viviana (421)

The A team: popular A-ending names

In these pairings, the name ending in A is currently more popular than the one without.

Adriana > AdrienneAmelia > AmelieAngelica > AngeliqueAnna > Anne and AnnAria > AriBella > BelleCecilia > CecilyChristina > ChristineDiana > DianeElaina > ElaineEmma > EmmeEstella > EstelleGloria > GloryHera > HeroJulia > JulieLeona > LeonieLouisa > LouiseMagdalena > Magdalene and MagdalenMariana > MarianMaya > MayPaulina > PaulineReina > ReineRosalina > RosalindSelena > Selene (but Celine beats Celina)Sylvia > SylvieTessa > TessValentina > ValentineVictoria > Victory

Keep it simple: popular non-A ending is more popular

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

Adele > AdelaAnnabelle > AnnabellaAnnalise > AnnalisaAudrey > AudraCallie > CallaCatherine > CaterinaDorothy > DorotheaEleanor > EleanoraElsie > ElsaEvelyn > EvelinaGiselle > GiselaHalo > HalaIrene > IrinaJade > JadaJosephine > JosephinaJoy > GioiaJuliette > JulietaJune > JuniaLiv > LiviaMaeve > MaevaMaren > MarinaMelanie > MelaniaNoelle and Noel > Noelia and NoellaPearl > PerlaRose > RosaRowan > RowenaSimone > SimonaSusan > SusannaViolet > Violeta and Viola

Rare alternatives

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 2019 — and in some cases, is not on the charts at all.

Artemis > Artemisia (12 girls)Aurora > Aurore (6 girls)Athena > Athene (unranked)Avianna > Avianne (15 girls)August > Augusta (49 girls)Bridget > Brigitta (6 girls)Celia > Celie (unranked)Clarissa > Clarice (40 girls)Claudia > Claudie (unranked)Corinne > Corinna (30 girls)Elodie > Elodia (unranked)Emmeline > Emmelina (unranked)Honor > Honora (24 girls)Luna > Lune (unranked)Matilda > Mathilde (20 girls)Morgan > Morgana (14 girls)Paris > Parisa (25 girls)Raven > Ravenna (41 girls)Seraphina > Seraphine (22 girls)Teresa and Theresa > Therese (45 girls)

About the Author

Clare Green

Clare has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, covering everything from the next high-rising names to how to choose a multilingual name, and keeping up-to-date with international baby name rankings. She has a background in linguistics and librarianship, and lives in England with her husband and toddler. You can follow everything she reads about names on Twitter or Scoop.it, or reach her at clare@nameberry.com