Thanks to a certain Hollywood superstar, Drew is worn by more little girls circa 2010 than ever before. But what about the original feminine form of modern classic Andrew?
Thanks to JNE for suggesting Andrea as Baby Name of the Day.
You’d be surprised to meet a little American boy answering to Andrea. But just like Alexis and Angel, he’s one of those names that is typically masculine in certain languages. Princess Caroline of Monaco gave the name to her firstborn son, Grace Kelly’s eldest grandchild, Andrea Albert Pierre. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli scored an unlikely hit with “Con te partirò,” a song heard in movies, television, at sporting events, funerals and as part of the Bellagio Hotel’s Fountains of Bellagio water show.
But in the US, Andrea is a girl’s name, one that has ranked in the Top 1000 most years since 1880. Andrea entered the US Top 200 in 1943 and has been in the Top 100 since 1962. She’s surprisingly steady, staying in use while Janice, Annette and Cheryl, Tiffany, Denise and Misty all fade out of use.
While many names have multiple spellings, meaning that they’re more popular than we might think at first glance, Andrea is notable for her many alternate pronunciations. There’s ANN dree ah, AHN dree ah, ahn DRAY ah and awn DRAY ah to start. Just like parents sometimes spell Olivia with an A in an attempt to ensure their child’s name is always said correctly, I’ve even met a woman called Ondrea. Variant spelling Andria charted from the 1960s into the early 90s, too.
Andrea comes from the Greek element andros – man. A quick trip back through the word’s origins suggests that it means not mankind, but male. Still, you’ll sometimes see Andrea defined as meaning “womanly” in a baby name book.
But parents probably aren’t finding Andrea in a bay name book. She’s been very current in pop culture for decades:
- Andrea McArdle played Annie on Broadway in the 1970s, becoming the youngest performer ever nominated for a Tony Award as Best Lead Actress in a Musical;
- Molly Ringwald’s turn as Andie in 1986’s Pretty in Pink was unforgettable;
- Andrea Zuckerman was a student at West Beverly in the original Beverly Hills, 90210;
- Sopranos alum turned Desperate Housewife Drea DiMatteo suggested another appealing short form;
- Andrea Sachs was long-suffering assistant to Miranda Priestly in the 2003 novel and 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. Another generation of parents will remember Anne Hathaway as the big screen version of Andy.
She’s also popular throughout Europe. Andrea appears in the Top 25 of Spain, Norway and Iceland, and charts in the Top 100 of the Czech Republic, Denmark and Hungary.
For parents seeking a normal name, one instantly recognized but rarely shared, Andrea could be a great choice. Andi makes for a darling nickname, and Andrea sounds perfectly appropriate on a grown woman. Like Jennifer or Mary, she’s instantly recognizable but still stands out in an elementary school packed with girls called Maddie and Emma. But you do need to be either zen about the pronunciation headaches, or ready to insist upon one version again and again. And again.
My name is Andrea ( ahn – dree – uh ) and EVERYONE says it wrong . I am so tired of correcting people , so I am now starting to go by Drea .
My sister’s name is Andrea (ann-dree-ah). She has never used a nickname. It fits her perfectly – black hair, red lips and bossy 😉
my name is andrea and i really hate when the stupid teachers pronounce it ann-dree-uh cause it’s ohn-dray-uh 🙁
Andrea was extremely popular in my hometown when I was growing up. There were 4 Andrea’s in my grade alone, I have a cousin named Andrea and another cousin is married to an Andria. Despite the 70’s vibe, I still kind of like the name and Andie and Drea are sweet nicknames.
I know two Andreas – both female.
I actually really love this name on a boy, not so much on a girl.
British American says
I say the name Ann-dree-ah. I’ve never known anyone with this name, but it somehow has an un-cool 80s vibe to me. 😛
I did know a male Andreas (Ann-DRAY-ass) in the 80s-90s, so maybe that’s the association.
I love all the nicknames more than I love the name Andrea itself. As for Andie, I’ve read that Andie MacDowell’s nn is short for Anderson.
Joy, you’re right! She was born Rosalie Anderson MacDowell – interesting!
Whitney Gigandet says
Surprisingly, I have only closely known one Andrea in my life; she actually went by Amelia because she despised her name and the nickname Andy. I have to say, I’m a bit neutral about the name. I don’t love it or even really like it that much, but I have no negative feelings towards it whatsoever. I think it’s a very sophisticated-sounding name.
Does Andrea actually mean man as in masculine or is it more along the lines of mankind, a la anthropology?
When I was putting together my top 100 alternates list, I was really surprised to see Andrea ranking at 73. My substitute for her was Simone.
Looking at other words with the same andro- root (androgynous, android) the male meaning seems to come through, but the related anthro- root (anthropology) suggests mankind…. hmmmm.
That’s a good question – one that really bugged me, too!
I’d been assuming the root meant mankind, but the Greek root aner- means “man” in the same way our word “boy” could never be feminine. BUT aner- is also the root for anthropo-, as in anthropology, as in the study of mankind. (Check out the Online Etymology Dictionary on anthropo- as opposed to the listings at Dictionary.com )
There’s also a raging debate about the origins of anthropo- See this forum and this one, too! I’m not sure about the reliability of either of these sites, but I think I’d say this: Andrea and Andrew might both mean “human,” but saying that Andrea means “womanly” as in “feminine” or “lady-like” is a stretch.
I love Simone!
I’d found a names list from during my 1st pregnancy (it was one of my long, unedited ones, and was kind of surprised at some of the names that I’d included; Andrea was one. With both kids, when name negotiations seemed stymied, I would try to push out of my ‘comfort zone’ and see names in a new light… look for the virtues in names I don;t usually embrace, etc. And apparently, Andrea made that list at some point…
Funny thing is, I rarely put names on my list that were worn by people I knew/know personally. And yet I knew more than one Andrea in elementary school. I did like the nn possibilities (several are noted behind the name on that list: Andy, Anne, Annie, Drea, Dree, Ada, Addie, Rea), and I’m a sucker for a name with tons of nns, especially if they show a good deal of variety, like these do.
Probably the weirdest thing is, I don’t have a single pronunciation I prefer of the name… on any given day I might say ANN dree ah or ahn DRAY ah or ann DRAY ah… how do you name a kid something you do not even know how to say yourself?! Andrea is right next to Audrey on that list. Audrey made it a lot farther before she got knocked off… and Audrey came back for consideration during my second pregnancy before we knew we’d were having a boy. But Andrea has many more nicknames… I wonder if that was what attracted me? I do like Andrea and I’m pretty sure I say ann DRAY ah most of the time… I do know that I rarely run across one (even though there were 2 in my grade back in elementary school). In all, I think I really like the name… and maybe, since I can’t decide how to say it, I could be one of the ‘zen about pronunciation’ people… and as someone who is fairly lacking in zen, generally, it’s probably one of the only things I would ever be ‘zen’ about!
Thanks for covering Andrea, Abby! I have been planning on suggesting names for my brother and his wife – they struggled with naming their first daughter, Julia, and now have a second due in a couple months… Andrea is now officially on that list.
Julia & Andrea makes a nice sibset. Can’t wait to hear what they choose – congrats on the new niece!
I love Dree as a nn, JNE! I know what you mean about the pronunciation issue. I worked with a woman who was AWN dray uh, and she was forever repeating herself. It really stuck with me. But I like the name pretty much any way you say it …
I never liked Andrea until I met a Drea in college – well before The Sopranos. She struck me as very sophisticated, and of course, I loved that she’d found an unconventional nickname!
It does bother me that it means manly and is a masculine name in some cultures. I know an Andrea that goes by Annie.