This post was originally published on July 3, 2009. It was substantially revised and re-posted on September 15, 2014.
Top Ten favorite Ava shimmers with Hollywood glamour. Change just one letter, and you have today’s featured name – just as short and sweet, but with a very different vibe.
Thanks to Sophie for suggesting Ada as our Baby Name of the Day.
If Ava is Hollywood glam, Ada is homespun, a successor to Hannah, a sister for Frances.
There’s more than one possible origin for the name:
- Just like Adelaide and company, she may trace her roots to the Germanic element adal – noble, and could have originated as a nickname.
- Two women in the Bible wore the name, also spelled Adah.
- The West African Igbo language gives us another meaning for Ada – “first daughter.” It’s an element in compound names like Adanna and Adaeze. The African Ada I met pronounced her name ah dah, but I can’t confirm if that’s standard.
Back in the fourth century BC, Ada of Caria ruled her kingdom as a satrap after the death of her brother-husband, and allied herself with Alexander the Great.
History also gives us:
- The seventh century Saint Ada of France.
- Charlemagne’s sister, for whom an illuminated manuscript is called the Ada Gospels. It may not have been her given name. Charlemagne’s daughters were Adalhaid and Adaltrude. Ada may have been Adelais, and names ending in -ada, like Bertrade and Theodrada, also appear on his family tree.
- Ada de Warenne was the twelfth century wife of a Scottish prince and mother of two future Kings of Scots.
- Dutch and Scottish countesses were both called Ada in the thirteenth century, along with other noblewomen.
But the most famous Ada is probably the daughter of the poet Byron.
Christened Augusta Ada, in honor of an aunt, she was always known as Ada. She married William King-Noel, the Earl of Lovelace – making her a Countess. But we usually call her just plain Ada Lovelace.
Lovelace was a mathematician, and her work with Charles Babbage is considered the earliest model for a computer and software.
The US Defense Department named a computer language Ada in her honor.
In 1990, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling wrote The Difference Engine, a what-if the computer age and industrial age collided in Victorian England. It’s considered a foundational work in steampunk, and Ada Lovelace was a major character.
All of this lends Ada some edge, making her less of a gentle vintage choice and more of an intellectual, creative one.
In pure numbers, Ada is overdue for her comeback. In 1880, Ada ranked #33. The name remained in the US Top 100 through 1912.
By the 1980s, she was rare.
Ada re-entered the US Top 1000 in 2004, and has gained steadily since then, reaching #436 in 2013.
Other vowel-intensive mini-names are very much in vogue, from Top Ten favorites like Ava and Mia to the quick-climbing Ivy and Aria.
And, of course, Addie names are a huge category, with Addison and Adalynn – one ‘n’ or two – in favor in recent years.
Despite all of these factors in her favor, Ada isn’t terribly popular – yet – and so this could make the perfect choice for parents after something less elaborate than Isabella, but just as vintage and smart as Sophia.
Do you think Ada will catch on?