Baby Name of the Day: Astoria

by appellationmountain on April 29, 2013

Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Thirty-Fourth Street an... Waldorf Astoria Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on August 24, 2011.  It was revised and re-posted on April 29, 2013.

Babies are named Brooklyn. Why not this pretty place name also borrowed from the Big Apple?

Thanks to Virginia for suggesting Astoria as our Baby Name of the Day.

John Jacob Astor came to the United States from Germany by way of England in 1784. He became a fur trader, and with the assistance of his shrewd wife Sarah, the Astors quickly amassed a fortune. They expanded their business, and eventually invested in Manhattan real estate.

You’d expect to find his name dotting the New York landscape. But his investment in Hallett’s Cove – a vacation retreat for the well-to-do on Queens – was modest, barely enough to justify a name change. And yet the residents did rename their settlement Astoria. Apparently, he never even visited.

Today Astoria is a fascinating, vibrant, and diverse place, but it is not exactly upscale. Steinway made some of their first pianos there. It is home to the Museum of the Moving Image, a tribute to Astoria’s roots as a center of the American film industry, pre-Hollywood. Valentino and the Marx Brothers made movies on 36th Street.

The luxury link isn’t completely gone from this name, of course. The Waldorf=Astoria persists, a grand hotel dating to the 1890s, initially developed by two Astor descendants, with plenty of tangles and family intrigue behind the construction.

A few other Astorias dot the map, including a town in Oregon considered the oldest US settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Originally established as Fort Astoria by members of the Pacific Fur Company, the place name was inspired by company owner John Jacob Astor.

So where did the surname come from? Apparently, in Occitan – a medieval Romance language that developed near the borders of France, Spain, and Italy – astor means hawk, specifically a goshawk. Confirming this has been tricky – Occitan doesn’t have one standard form. But Astor’s family was from Savoy, part of the area where Occitan and associated dialects flourished. His family ended up in Germany thanks to their religious convictions – they were part of a movement called the Waldensians after twelfth century founder Peter Waldo. Persecution made them mobile – and made America a very welcoming home for the ambitious John Jacob Astor.

A few figures have worn the name in recent years:

  • Muppet judge Waldorf has a sometimes-seen wife called Astoria;
  • Terry Pratchett gave the name to his Ephebian goddess of love in his Discworld universe;
  • At the end of the Harry Potter series, we see that a grown-up Draco Malfoy has married Astoria Greengrass.

Astoria sounds like popular girls’ ends-with-ia choices Amelia and Olivia. Plus she is sometimes suggested as a formal name for Story, sort of like the Rory/Aurora connection. There’s no etymological link whatsoever, but the sounds make it an option. Tori is another possibility. Another bonus: Astoria sounds like she could be a vintage antique, but she’s actually a relatively modern invention.

It’s an unconventional choice, but with Astoria’s pretty, current sound, she’s an option for parents who love feminine choices, but want something truly unusual, too.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

T May 12, 2013 at 5:52 PM

My BIL and his boyfriend recently moved to Astoria, OR from Los Angeles and they couldn’t be happier. It’s a cute little town for sure. My friend has a Story, I wish I knew about Astoria before she was born so I could suggest it as a formal name.

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Holly April 30, 2013 at 1:45 AM

Our 6 years old is Astoria. I was excited to see it as the name of the day. She goes by Storie but loves her formal name too and is always very proud to introduce herself to people as Astoria. She gets a lot of compliments on her name. She is spunky and girly at the same time and both names suit her perfectly.

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appellationmountain April 30, 2013 at 6:07 AM

Great to hear from you! Thanks for sharing your Storie’s story. :)

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Mia April 29, 2013 at 10:49 AM

My daughter is on a crusade to move us to Astoria, OR. Maybe she’d settle for a sister with the name. (LOL) I associate it with the hotel, but I am from the East Coast, so Oregon is so far away as to be mythical in my mind.

Actually, it kind of makes me wonder if Astor would work, and if it would work better for a boy or a girl.

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Ette April 29, 2013 at 5:05 PM

Part of me loves the idea of Astor for a girl (or a boy, but slightly less so), but part of me thinks that it’s Esther with a dash of surname-y pretentiousness and added potential for teasing because of the “ass” sound.

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liz August 24, 2011 at 11:24 PM

I pronounce it the same way, Abby. At least it’s not Brooklyn, which I can’t fathom.

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Bella August 24, 2011 at 4:56 PM

“So Long, Astoria” is also an album and song by The Ataris.

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Bella April 29, 2013 at 8:08 AM

I was just about to post that…and we even have the same name!

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countrylizb August 24, 2011 at 2:10 PM

When I see Astoria, I think of Oregon way before I ever think of the hotel, if I ever do think of the hotel.

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Sarah A August 24, 2011 at 11:48 AM

I had brunch once in Astoria, before dropping family off at LaGuardia Airport. Astoria seems like an okay place, and one with a strong hipster presence. I don’t really like place names, unless they’re special to the parents and even then I prefer them in the middle spot.

Lola, Astoria makes me think of the Astor character on Dexter as well and doesn’t really endear me to the name more. But I think Astoria could work for parents who like names like Victoria but want something more unusual. And Astoria to get to Story is really cute.

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Charlotte Vera August 24, 2011 at 10:52 AM

Very, very pretty, but I’m turned off by the hotel association and that too-easily mocked first syllable.

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Virginia August 24, 2011 at 10:23 AM

Thanks for featuring this, Abby. My grandfather was from Astoria and while I’ve never been there, I feel a connection to the neighborhood and get excited when I recognize it in movies or TV shows. I would love to hear the name Astoria on a little girl, and the nickname Story is cute.

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Julie August 24, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Once upon a time I was a nanny to a rather sullen tween named Victoria/Tori. Ever since, to my mind Tori = spoiled, back-talking brat*. Astoria is too similar to Victoria to get my vote, but I do like Aster and Astrid.

*The issue was really her inattentive parents, but I was the lucky recipient of her bad attitude.

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appellationmountain August 24, 2011 at 4:37 PM

Oh, I can only imagine how that could spoil a name!

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KatieB August 24, 2011 at 9:49 AM

Growing up “The Goonies” was one of my favorite movies. :) …it was filmed in Astoria, Oregon and they kept the name of the town in the movie…so I have a soft spot for the name…however I doubt I’d ever use it. Story would be a cute nn though.

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appellationmountain August 24, 2011 at 12:10 PM

I don’t remember that! But it is a fun trivia point, and – at least for me – a bonus!

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Lola August 24, 2011 at 8:46 AM

I don’t like it. But then, I dislike any name that has the “ass” sound in it. We’ve been watching Dexter on DVD and hearing Astor hasn’t particularly
endeared me to her name (pretty girl but still). so Astoria’s not my cup either.

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Nicole August 24, 2011 at 10:17 AM

I agree all I here is “Ass-tori-ah”… maybe if you can guarantee that she be called “Ah- Stori- ah” it might be better.. but I think here in america we tend to have strong accents on the “Ass” as seen by Ass-tor in Dexter.. which also do not think is flattering

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appellationmountain August 24, 2011 at 12:09 PM

I say ah STOR ee ah. I have two relatives who have rented in Astoria, so I’m fairly confident that’s a widespread pronunciation, if not the only one in use.

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Saffa August 27, 2011 at 4:14 AM

I say it as ah STORE ee uh as well.

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Lou @ Mer de noms August 24, 2011 at 8:23 AM

I really want to like this name, but can’t bring myself to. It’s pretty and frilly, but I find myself coming to the conclusion that frilly names just aren’t for me. Never do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you, and if I dropped my less-than-frilly-but-still-girly name because I just didn’t like being stereotyped as a girly-girl, then I have no right to give a daughter a frilly name. But meh, she could always go by Rory ;)

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NameLover August 24, 2011 at 8:21 AM

I was feeling homesick for Oregon the other day and mentioned Astoria to my dh as a possible name. Astoria is actually an incredibly beautiful seaside town and I’ve always loved its name. He dismissed it because it has the word “ass” in it. :(

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C August 24, 2011 at 7:09 AM

Personally, I can’t get past seeing this as a place name; The Astoria was one of London’s most famous music venues until a couple of years ago when it was pulled down.
But I can definitely imagine more well to do parents adopting this to go with names like Arabella etc but the sounds and frilliness just aren’t for me.

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Eva August 24, 2011 at 6:09 AM

I have become OBSESSED with Astoria within the past few days. I remembered she was Draco malfoys wife, which is how I rediscovered it. I wonder why JK Rowling chose the name for her. Most of the names she chooses are really significant to each character. I would pay anything to have a conversation with Rowling over her character’s names!!!

I looked Astoria up yesterday but was unable to find the meaning. When i hear Astoria, I picture lush green vines for some reason. It sounds like a flower name to me. Astoria sounds like she has a rich history and long usage, but she doesn’t, which could be a good thing or bad depending how you look at it. overall, I love Astoria. I think she sounds exotic. I just wish she had a better meaning.

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Eva August 24, 2011 at 8:43 AM

On the Harry Potter wiki (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Astoria_Greengrass), I found that it might mean “star-maiden” in Greek. The hawk meaning seems much more legitimate, but I thought this paragrapah was interesting.

“The name may also be related to Astraea, a daughter of Zeus in Greek mythology who personified justice. Astraea is derived from Greek meaning “star-maiden”; this may related to her husband’s maternal family often naming its members after stars and constellations. The name may also be spelled Asteria, as shown on the Weasley Family Tree. Like Hyperion

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Julie August 26, 2011 at 10:29 PM

Aristea is also a flower.

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Cara August 25, 2011 at 6:57 PM

I love the name Astoria. And Harry Potter. I think in this case, Eva, it might be reminding you of the plant Wisteria.

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Joy August 26, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Or asters, a popular flower…

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Nook of Names August 24, 2011 at 5:06 AM

Personally I find the Waldorf-Astoria connection a bit too heavy. I’d be tempted to simplify to Astor (or, to my taste, better still – Aster), or tweak it to Asteria.

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Claire August 24, 2011 at 11:09 AM

I, too, love the simplified Astor. It sounds refined and chic, Astoria seems unnecessarily frilly.

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waltzingmorethanmatilda August 24, 2011 at 3:26 AM

I’ve seen this name suggested and hypothesised on so many name boards that it seems like a name that everyone is thinking about using … I wonder at what point name forum hype registers as growing name popularity in real numbers?

When I first heard it, I thought they were thinking about naming their baby after a hotel chain, haha.

It’s a pretty and ornamental name, but somehow reminds me of the word “hysteria”.

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Saffa August 24, 2011 at 3:20 AM

I actually like it a lot. It’s different while still being approachable. I like the associated names as well. Overall, I don’t know if I’m in love with it, but I definitely like it. I have no problem with it being a place.

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