Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on April 20, 2011.  It was substantially revised and reposted on February 3, 2014.

She’s a Slavic goddess driven to success.

Thanks to Fran for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day, Danica – and to Leith for suggesting the update!

Danica first appeared in the US Top 1000 in 1977, and remained on the edges of the rankings through 1995.  Her sound fit right in with the times:

  • Jessica had pit-stopped at #4, on her way to #1.
  • Erica stood at #38.
  • Monica ranked #39.
  • Danielle was #31.
  • Borrowed-from-the-boys Dana came in at #62.

Speaking of boys, Daniel ranked #11 in 1977, and has been in or just outside the US Top Ten ever since.

Parents could have cobbled together Danica from Dan- and -ica, but that’s not the case.  Instead, they discovered her.

She comes from Slavic folklore.  It means morning star, and some accounts claim that she’s a goddess, roughly equivalent to Venus.  Except that written records of Slavic mythology are nearly non-existent, and it isn’t clear if she was a goddess, or more of a poetic way to refer to the day.  Given the geographic area covered and the centuries spanned, there might be more than one answer.  Still, it makes for a lovely meaning, a night owl name at home with Stella and Twyla.

There’s also more than one pronunciation for Danica.  Head to Eastern Europe and she’s DAH nee tzah.

In the US, she’s definitely DAN eh kah, thanks in part to two famous Danicas:

  • First there’s Danica McKellar.  You know her as Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years, and more recently as mom to baby Draco.  She’s also the author of a bestselling series aimed to encourage girls to embrace math.
  • Then came Danica Patrick.  She’s not the first woman to take the lead in American auto racing, but she’s been especially successful.  In 2005, she was Rookie of the Year.  A few years later, Patrick took home a win in the Indy Japan 300, making her the first woman to win an Indy car race.  She holds a bunch of other first-for-a-woman records, too.

Patrick and McKellar lend Danica a certain tomboy toughness.

There’s also actress Danica Stewart, who you might have spotted on a soap opera.

A fun fact: she’s the Latin name for Denmark.  There’s a china pattern called Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica.  If you’re looking for a very subtle nod to your Danish heritage, she’s a clever option.

While this name doesn’t require a nickname, there are plenty of possibilities: DannaDani, Nicky, Nica.

All of this makes for a name that is familiar, thanks to the famous Danicas, but remains relatively rare.  She made it as high as #307 in 2007, but slipped to #511 in 2012.  Blame it on Jessica and Danielle – the same sounds that made her seem attractive in the 1970s now push parents away from this lovely name.

That’s good news if you’re after a familiar-but-uncommon name.  Danica makes for an unexpected way to honor anyone with a Dan- name, male or female.  It could be nod to Slavic heritage, or maybe even Danish roots.  Or she’s just a plain old great name – the kind of underused gem that so many parents seek.

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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 love the name Danica (I actually named my daughter Danica after “The Wonder Years” Danica McKellar. I loved her “girl next door” innocence and beauty and thought the name was unique and different. While some may think that both Patrick and McKellar have tarnished the name by some of the choices they have made, the name itself is beautiful and everyone compliments my daughter and myself when they hear the name. My Danica is a ballet dancer and so far I haven’t heard of any Danicas in the dance world.

  2. I instantly think of The Wonder Year’s Winnie, NOT Danica Patrick. Beautiful meaning, beautiful name.

  3. I used to love Danica, especially as a way to honor a Daniel without using the more-popular Danielle, but I’m afraid Ms. Patrick has tarnished it for me 🙁 I’m a big racing fan and when she first burst onto the scene, I was SO inspired by a female driver. Now, however, her notoriously trashy GoDaddy.com ads and skimpy Maxim photoshoots have ruined her role model image for me, and subsequently, her beautiful name.

    1. Same here!! Thanks for stating that so well. She has frustrated me and unfortunately ruined the name for me, too!

      1. I remember loving the name in a novel about a young Yugoslav girl, but Ms. Patrick’s and Ms. Mckellar’s modeling for FHM and Stuff have tarnished the name.

        As an aside, as much as I appreciate Ms. McKellar’s work on encouraging girls to appreciate math… I hate the “boy crazy” teen magazine format of her books.

    2. Thanks for articulating why Danica would be troublesome. Though it has a long history, I still instantly associate it with Ms. Patrick. She is like many other women (and hardly any men) who may have started out as legitimate athletes but gained greater fame as pinup girls. That combined with the popular notion of NASCAR being a white trash pastime (NOT necessarily justified, but still out there) would be enough to prevent me from using this name.

  4. Danica is definitely more popular here in Canada than in the US. Babycenter.ca’s list of their top 100 girls’ names for 2009 actually places her at number ten, and Behindthename.com’s list of popular names in BC, Canada states that she’s currently sitting at number 76 here in this province. I always have a hard time judging whether the lists I’m coming across are accurate or not, so I don’t know where she officially sits on a Canada-wide list, but it certainly seems like I’m coming across little Danica/Danikas quite frequently these days.

    It’s a pretty name with a fascinating history, although not particularly my style.

  5. @Claire, I thought the same thing: Flora Danica is pretty!

    My Aunt Carol wanted to name what ended up as my cousin Dana, Danica back in 1975 or so. It got shot down by Uncle Bill. Too frilly. The girls are: Alicia, Dana & Erica. So at least the -ica sound got approved somewhere. (Did you notice the cheesy theme they have?) ;D

    Danica’s pretty and has more history than I thought! I’m going to suggest her to folks looking for something pretty but not frilly and not made up. She’s a perfect fit for that group. Huzzah, pretty Danica!

  6. Maybe seven years ago there was a bunch of little girls around me named Anica/Annica/Anika/Annika (pr. Both ways awn-nik-ka and Anne-nik-ka) and the tag along Danica. I just assumed that this was a creative version of the Swedish name. Nice to know it had some history!

  7. Danica has a whole lot going for her. Honestly I had never noticed her similarity to Jessica, Erica or Monica (!). I usually think of Annika (which I pronounce AH-nee-kuh) and Danica together even though I use the American pronunciation.

    It’s always a joy to visit this mountain 🙂

  8. I’ve told this story before…
    I thought I made up the name Dannika, pronounced DAH-nik-uh, after hearing the name Danka in Schindler’s List and combining it with Annika. As an adult I learned of the Slavic name Danika/Danica. Initially I was excited because of the lovely meaning, but then learned that almost everyone in the U.S. pronounces it as DAN-ik-uh. I really dislike that, and wouldn’t be able to handle my daughter being called that constantly.