Pia: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on February 13, 2013

English: Princess Maria Pia of Savoy in 1862 Princess Maria Pia of Savoy in 1862 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She sounds like another mini name, a sister for Gia and Mia.  But this tiny name is rich with meaning.

Thanks to Lora for suggesting Pia as our Baby Name of the Day.

A dozen popes have answered to the name Pius.  Nothing mysterious with the meaning of that name.  It’s a Late Latin appellation meaning devout, faithful.  It comes from the same roots as our word pious, and related words like piety.  It seems fitting for a religious leader.

Pius was almost certainly in use as a given name beginning in the second century.

Pio is the Italian form, familiar to many thanks to an influential nineteenth century Capuchin friar known as Padre Pio, now a saint.

The most notable bearers of the feminine form have been famous for slightly different reasons.

My first thought was Pia Zadora.  She started out as a child actor in the 1960s, appearing in such notable efforts as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians In the 1980s, Zadora captured the Golden Globe as Best Female Newcomer.  She later embarked on a singing career, a mix of pop and dance tunes with renditions of the classics.

Others that you might have heard in recent years include:

  • Pia Miller Getty is the older sister of Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece and Alexandra von Furstenberg.  They’re daughters of self-made millionaire Robert Warren Miller.
  • 1967’s Elvira Madigan starred Swedish actress Pia DegermarkShe won the Best Actress award at Cannes for the role.
  • Pia Toscano completed on American Idol in a recent season.

The name is heard in Scandinavia, Germany, and Italy.  Hollywood’s Ingrid Bergman gave the name to her firstborn daughter in 1938, though Pia Lindstrom was raised by her father in Sweden.  She later had a career as a television anchor in the 1970s, 80, and 90s.

Add in compound name Maria Pia, and she’s a royal choice:

  • Maria Pia of Savoy became queen of Portugal as the wife of King Luís in the late nineteenth century.
  • Maria Pia della Grazia of the Two Sicillies married Robert I, the Duke of Parma.  Italian unification cost them all their lands.
  • The same family included another Maria Pia, born about thirty years later.  She married into the imperial family of Brazil.
  • Princess Maria Pia Elena Elisabetta Margherita Milena Mafalda Ludovica Tecla Gennara married twice.  Her first husband was Prince of Yugoslavia.  Her second was Prince Michel of Bourbon-Parma.
  • In the 1950s and 60s, another Maria Pia claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of King Carlos I of Portugal.  She also maintained that her father had formally acknowledged her, making her a candidate for the throne.

There’s also 3 Idiots - a Bollywood box office smash.  It’s a comedy, the story of three engineering students and how their lives unfold from their university studies onward.  The female lead is called Pia.  While foreign films rarely influence American baby names, there are rumors of a Hollywood remake.  If it happens – and if they keep this character name – Pia could catch on.

Pia’s sound brings to mind piano, but her strong P sound might have some parents worried about teasing potential.

With Mia in the US Top Ten, and so many other rhyming names in use, no wonder that Pia is attracting some attention today.  69 girls received the name in 2011.  That’s the most since Pia Zadora was in the limelight.  Will she climb higher?  Hard to say, but for now, if you’re after a short name that isn’t often heard, Pia is a possibility.

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