She’s a little bit retro, a tiny bit modern, and a whole lot stylish.
Thanks to Krystyna for suggesting Alba as our Baby Name of the Day.
With Anniston gaining traction as a girl’s name, you’re forgiven if you dismiss Alba thanks to Honor and Haven’s mom, Jessica. But Jessica’s surname just happens to be an appellation with a real history of use.
There are plenty of possible origins for Alba, and they tend to share a certain vibe.
First there’s the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland. It’s the same in Irish, with similar words in use in other Celtic tongues. Things get a bit muddled, because similar-sounding names, likely sharing the same roots, were also used to refer to other parts of Great Britain. Albion typically refers to England – apparently New Albion was a possible name for Canada back in the day. The Gaelic word is thought to derive from an early Indo-European root meaning white, as in the white cliffs of Dover. Alba and Albion also inspired Albania in Latin and Albany in Middle English.
But there’s more:
- Alba is the feminine form of Albus, a Late Latin name meaning bright or white. You know him as Professor Dumbledore, but before JK Rowling wrote a word there was at least one ancient poet and another philosopher who answered to the name.
- We used to think that the Alps also took their name from Albus. Now most suggest that the Alps, as well as other place names, related to an even older word that means hill.
- In Italian and Spanish, Alba is a straightforward nature name – dawn.
- There’s a literary twist, too. In Occitan – a Romance language spoken in southern France and the surrounding region – an alba is a medieval poem about lovers who must part at sunrise.
She’s quite popular in Spain in recent years, but that doesn’t explain why she’s generating more attention amongst American parents. There are a handful of literary explanations:
- Isabel Allende’s sweeping 1982 novel House of the Spirits followed the Trueba family of Chile. Allende gave three generations of women names meaning light, bright, or white – Clara, Blanca, and the youngest, Alba.
- Lord Byron had a daughter with Claire Clairmont. Clairmont named their daughter Alba, but Byron re-christened her Clara Allegra. Alba/Clara died in childhood.
- Then there’s Audrey Niffenegger’s 2003 bestseller turned 2009 movie, The Time Traveler’s Wife. The couple in the romance names their daughter Alba.
It’s also worth noting that Alba was in sparing use from the late nineteenth century into the 1920s. It was an age of many similar names: Elva, Alta, Thelma, Alma, Hilda, Velma – names with a certain amount of crunch and resistance, different from the mellifluous, vowel-heavy names of 2012 – Ella, Leah, Layla, Mia.
Still, 114 girls received the name in 2010. Alba is anything but gone.
If you’re eager to find a name that will work in many European settings, one with a positive meaning, and a simple but strong sound, Alba is a great option.