Yes, Virginia, Your Name Could Make a Comeback

It’s a lovely place name starting with the fashionable V and carrying a rich history, so why has Virginia faded from view while other classic names have held their own? Last year, for example, there were close to 13,000 new little Elizabeths and only 564 Virginias. So what’s the problem with Virginia? Is it the fear of playground taunts via virgin and also a certain female body part? The dated sounding nickname Ginny? The harsh reverberations of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Whatever the issues, I think they’re outweighed by other, more positive, factors. First, there’s the history. Virginia is a venerable name that dates back to ancient times, coming from Verginus, the name of a Roman clan, its derivation related to the Latin root for springlike, flourising. which is from the Latin word virgo, meaning maiden or virgin.

The first known bearer of the name was the beautiful daughter of a Roman centurion whose death led to a revolt that resulted in the protection of the rights of the common people–a righteous legacy. In this country, the first English child born in America parents was christened Virginia Dare, Sir Walter Raleigh had called his newly founded colony Virginia, in honor of Elizabeth the Virgin Queen, and little Miss Dare was given the name for the same reason–an early example of a name originating in America and spreading to other parts of the world.

Though the whole Roanoke colony, including Virginia, disappeared, her name has lived on in books, songs and films, as well as a number of commercial products. The name got a recommendation from none other than Benjamin Franklin who, when asked by the Marquis de Lafayette if he could presume to give his daughter the name of one of the United States, replied, “Miss Virginia, Miss Carolina and Miss Georgia will sound prettily enough for girls.”

Later, Virginia became part of a catch phrase when a little girl name Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the New York Sun questioning the existence of Santa, which inspired an editorial containing the deathless words, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Strangely enough, O’Hanlon’s birthname was Laura, but she chose to go by her middle name of Virginia.

Virginia enjoyed a sudden burst of popularity around 1870, which lasted through the 1950s; it was in the Top 10 for 25 years, from 1912 to 1937, hitting a high of #6 in 1921, when there were 19,000 baby VIrginias in their cradles. Virginia has such distinguished namesakes as British writer Virginia Woolf, has been the subjects of songs by groups ranging frm The Rolling Stones to The Foo Fighters, and has appeared as a character in any number of movies and TV shows.

And its nicknames aren’t limited to Ginny. Also possible are Genia, Gigi, Gina, Ginger, Vee, Virge, and Virgie.  International variations include the Spanish Ginia and Ginata, the French Virginie, and the Hawaiian Wilikinia.

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14 Responses to “Yes, Virginia, Your Name Could Make a Comeback”

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lyndsay jenness Says:

March 4th, 2009 at 9:15 am

I love Virginia! I hope she does make a comeback, it’s such a lovely name! That’s interesting about Virginia Dare, what a neat bit of trivia. Anyway, two thumbs way up for Virginia!

Alicia Says:

March 4th, 2009 at 11:11 am

I’ve always loved Virginia.

And I’ve always been interested in Roanoke. And I’ve always thought Virginia Dare would be a great fn/mn combo.

Lola Says:

March 4th, 2009 at 11:16 am

I like Virginia. Makes me think Billy Joel first :”Only the good die young/Come out, Virginia” 🙂 Did you know the Indians local to Roanoke have a good number of people with uncharacteristc blue eyes? I ‘ve got *my* theories as to what happened to the settlers of Roanoke and little Virginia Dare. I’m partial to Virginie too, so pretty! The Christmas link (Yes, Virginia…) is a lovely one any girl would like to have when little. I remeber wishing my name was Virginia when I was about 8, because of that story. (funnily enough, I’m a Laura!)

Also, I have an Auntie Roberta who goes by Ginger, I wonder if Virginia/Virginie might honor her ? That would be something to pass to the cousins, Mike & Kevin. Neat post, guys, thanks!

Virginia Says:

March 4th, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I was a little taken aback by the big letters that said Yes, Virginia, Your name could make a comeback. I was like how did they know my name is Virginia?! ha ha! and, though I grew up not liking my name, I have grown to really like it. And yes, I was called many names such as Virgin and female parts. But I mostly grew up being called Gina which was great too and to this day my older friends and family call me Gina, but my newer friends, colleagues and business associates call me Virginia. It’s very unique and most people remember it because it’s so different. It’s so nice to learn more about my name. 🙂

Deb Says:

March 4th, 2009 at 10:02 pm

No way! Sorry, Virginia is not for me, for the reasons listed in the first paragraph (although the NN Ginny doesn’t bother me).

I have wondered whether Ginny in Harry Potter would spark a comeback.

Jill Says:

March 5th, 2009 at 12:02 am

It’s a lovely name, but I’d be too afraid to use it as a first name due to the whole virgin/female organ issue. I grew up with a Virginia (“Ginny”) who despised her name (and was teased for the aforementioned reasons), and I simply can’t detatch the name from the teasing it generates.

In addition, Kristin Wiig, on Saturday Night Live, plays a character named Virginia, but it’s pronounced “vir-GINE-ee-uh,” totally making fun of the name. Kids can be cruel, and kids definitely watch SNL!

That said, Virginia (pronounced correctly) IS beautiful, but I would hesitate to use it as anything but a middle name.

Virginia Says:

March 5th, 2009 at 10:09 am

As a child I went by the nickname of Ginny, and was so very irritated by the misspellings (Ginnie, Jinny, Jenny, Ginnifer) and even mispronunciations (Guinea!!!).

When I entered the workforce, I had the double whammy of a baby face and a very juvenile name, so I switched to Virginia. I think I actually get job interviews because people assume I’m much older than I actually am.

Yes, I had a boy call me Virgina and giggle about it. Yes, the boys always made Virgin quips. At the same time, my name is regal! I wear it proudly.

Tirzah Says:

March 6th, 2009 at 5:28 pm

My Grandmother is named Virginia. She often goes by Virgie (pronounced VER-gee). She’s in her early eighties, so I’d say we need to wait 10 more years for this name to be popular.

grimmricksen Says:

January 13th, 2010 at 11:23 pm

My Grandmother (now 76) was born and raised in Alexandria Virginia — and her name is Virgie. She also had an older sister with the middle name Virginia, which I always thought was odd.

chakrateeze Says:

December 26th, 2010 at 7:26 pm

I personally love the name Virginia. BUT, I grew up with a girl named that who… went out of her way to prove she was no longer a virgin. So, imo, it’s just too much pressure to put on a little girl, no matter how beautiful it is.

Ginny345 Says:

January 26th, 2012 at 9:23 pm

My name is Virginia and I love it. I’ve gone by Ginny my entire life and it has never bothered me before and I do not find out dated. It’s a unique name and I love being the only Ginny in my generation. I love having a name that no one else has for my real name and my nickname!!

Ynnig Says:

February 24th, 2012 at 9:37 am

I hated Virginia growing up in the UK (I’m 34 now) but only because I was shy and wanted to fit in with the rest of my class (of several Hannahs Rebeccas, Alices, and Emilys). I always went by Ginny because it sounded more mainstream but that was even more problematic as people mishear it as Jenny or even Jenine. Laterly everyone assumed I was American, which I’m not. Now though, as a 34-yr-old about to have a baby of course I now LOVE vintage historic unusual names and I think it’s high time Virginia made a comeback (it has a similar ring to the ubiquitous Amelia); we probably won’t see it in the top 10 again but maybe the top 200, and maybe by not ’til 2018.

-Ginny

MissusAytch Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I really like this and know a great gal called Ginny, short for Virginia. However one nn I didn’t see mentioned is Via. I think it’s great for names beginning in Vi and ending in a like Virginia and Victoria.

taliesin Says:

June 9th, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Why not. Virginia is in the same category as Barbara, boomer names. They just haven’t made the cycle yet.
The nn was Ginny. I like Ginny way better than Virgie which just sounds like one of those names that the sports announcers always come up with. Ricky Gutierrez was ‘Guty’. Jorge Ramos was ‘Rammy’ and so on.

Ginny from Harry Potter was Ginevra

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