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 – help– and 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.