[Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy] (LOC)
[Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)
Giovanna, Francesca, Lucia.  There are so many great Italian names for girls.  How about this one?

Thanks to AnnaMaria for suggesting Alessandra as our Baby Name of the Day.

Alessandra is the Italian form of Alexandra, swapping the x-sound for a softer ss.

On the downside, dropping the x eliminates the potential for popular nicknames Alexa and Lexi.  But if you’re hoping to avoid tomboy nickname Alex – or Lexi or Alexa – then Alessandra solves that nicely.

She’s also considerably less popular than Alexandra.  The feminine form of Alexander peaked in the 1990s, reaching the mid 20s, and remains ranked at #76 today.  Layer in Alexis and Alexa – both Top 100 names in their own right – plus Alexandria, Alexia and Lexi and Lexie, and there’s no surprise that parents might be looking for a similar-but-different name.

Enter Alessandra.  She first appeared in the US Top 1000 in 1987, the same year soprano Alessandra Marc hit it big.  (Marc was born Judith.)  The name probably owes little to opera, and more to the rising popularity of Alexandra.  It also helps that A has been a very popular letter for girls’ names in recent years, and she’s steadily popular in Italy, too, making her a legitimate heritage choice that would wear equally well in Naples or Newark.

Like all of the related names, her meaning is fierce – defender of men, from the Greek alexein – helpand andros – men.

There’s also ballerina Alessandra Ferri, recently retired but known for her work with London’s Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theater.

More recently, Brazilian-born model Alessandra Ambrosio has put the name on the map.  Best known as a Victoria’s Secret Angel, Ambrosio has helped put her lovely, flowing appellation on the map.

But it is her sound that sells Alessandra.  Besides the letter A, she shares the ss sound with many a stylish choice, including:

  • From the current Top Ten: Sophia and Isabella.
  • From the current Top 100: Samantha, Alyssa, Savannah.
  • Other enduring favorites for girls: Vanessa, Melissa, Cecilia, Marissa, Selena, Sabrina, Cassandra.

She’s also boosted by our tendency to use names in full.  If we can call our daughters Olivia, why not Alessandra?  Four syllables don’t seem excessive today.

That’s a good thing, because Alessandra isn’t easy to nickname.  There’s Ali, of course, and Sandy or Sandra.  But perhaps her relatively few short forms has been part of the reasons more parents haven’t embraced Alessandra.

Of course, if you’re after a less common name for a daughter, this is good news.  Her best ranking was #384 in 2007, and she’s fallen to #397 in 2011.  Short of a wildly popular television character or a future Jolie-Pitt baby named Alessandra, she feels comfortably obscure.

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Historically Alessandra has always been shortened to Ale but Alessa and Lessa are also used.

  2. Alessandra is unique and adorable, I always think of Allie and Lessa.
    That is my daughters name and I am proud.

  3. As an Alessandra through-and-through, I love everything about my name and wouldn’t change it for the world.

    I never had a nickname, really, and when people tried to call me Sandy in middle school (Grease had just been re-released on VHS) or Ali (said like Ollie) I wouldn’t allow it. I am myself and I won’t let anyone take that away from me by trying to shoehorn me into a generic nickname. As a bonus, having a long and specific name makes a kid really good at spelling. 😉

    My name says everything about me. It’s solid and serious, but flows (when pronounced correctly) like a song and has a beauty all its own. It is unique but not completely outlandish. So please, name your daughter Alessandra and know that she will grow into her name and absolutely love it! We Alessandras are a special tribe. 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Alessandra – glad to know the name wears well.

  4. Alessa would be an obvious nickname choice, with its similarity to Alyssa. Even Aless, if you and your significant other can’t decide between Alessandra and Alice 🙂

    1. I had a friend of a friend who was Alessandra, nicknamed Sally! (I never met her, but it would have been fun to have another Sally around.) Alessandra really is a very ravishing name.