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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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. I’m planning on naming a future daughter (God willing) Astoria (: I, too, was slightly turned off by that first syllable, but I decided to slightly change the pronunciation to more of a “Uh-storia.” I love this name so very much.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

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

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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.