This post was originally published on April 2, 2010. It was substantially revised and reposted on July 20, 2015.
Ready for another ancient appellation that could wear well in the twenty-first century?
Thanks to Christina for suggesting Flavia as our Baby Name of the Day.
Flavia: On-Trend Sound
Take two parts Ava, add the -ia ending of Sophia and Olivia, and the fashionable F of Finn, Flynn, and Fiona. What do you get? The ancient Flavia.
I’m saying the name flay VEE ah, but there are other possible pronunciations.
Flavia peeked into the US Top 1000 just twice, in 1881 and 1884. Fourteen girls were given the name in 2014. That’s pretty rare.
Flavia: Ancient Appellation
Flavia seems fiery, but the name comes from the Roman family name Flavius, derived from flavus – yellow. The first Flavia might have been a blonde.
The church helped keep this name alive. There’s a first century Roman noblewoman, known as Saint Flavia Domitilla, and a sixth century martyr called Saint Flavia.
Most bearers of the name are Italian, with a handful of Spanish and Portuguese uses, too.
Set in the fictional country of Ruritania, Zenda is about the aristocratic Rudolf. Rudolf is cousin to the Ruritanian king, who has gone missing. Because Rudolf is dead ringer for his cousin, he agrees to take his place temporarily.
Rudolf falls for the real king’s fiancé – Flavia.
But the king eventually returns, and Rudolf bids adieu to the future queen.
Zenda has inspired sequels, spin-offs, reboots, and adaptations for the movies, television, and theater.
It’s always possible that another reinvention of the tale could put Flavia in the spotlight.
Flavia: De Luce
- Or maybe it will be a fictional teenager who takes the name center stage.
Writer Alan Bradley created Flavia de Luce, a brilliant eleven year old from an aristocratic English family. The year is 1950. When the first book opens, Flavia is obsessed with potions and poisons, which she explores in a full-equipped laboratory furnished by an ancestor in her family’s crumbling home, Buckshaw. Put it all together, and she becomes an unlikely crime solver.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was published in 2010. Since then, Miss de Luce has investigated mysterious deaths in seven novels, from England to Canada. And she’s still not out of high school.
The impressive Miss de Luce may soon be coming to the small screen. Accomplished director Sam Mendes optioned the series. Rumors put the debut in 2015, but since it’s already July, here’s guessing that might be optimistic.
Still, a television series can do wonders for a name. Just look at the Downton Abbey names.
Flavia: Wearable Rarity
If you’re looking for a wearable rarity, it doesn’t get much better than Flavia.
There have been a few other uses in fiction, and the celebrated author Daphne du Maurier gave the name to her middle child. A 1963 episode of Doctor Who introduced Chancellor Flavia of Gallifrey.
If you’re after a name that feels strong and romantic, something not likely to be shortened, and a name that’s both rare and on-trend, Flavia should be on your shortlist.
What do you think of Flavia? Is it wearable in 2015?
Elena Florey says
The correct pronunciation is FLAH. It does not mean yellow, but blond.
Flavia deJesus says
A brazilian Flavia here… My father’s family has Italian roots. I think this name had fame during the 90s in my country because I met some Flávias my age, but nowadays it’s very difficult to find Flavia babies around here. About the name, I really like it, but the funny thing is that I’m brunette., that’s because I cannot visualize a blonde Flavia. I also think that this name evokes a totally “ginger / reddish” sensation. I think this would be a perfect name for a fictional character full of freckles with red hair and brown eyes.
I really like the way this name sounds, but I just can’t disconnect it from the coffee maker brand!
@Eva – Nicely spotted! Others mentioned the Flavia de Luce novels because of the names. And then I checked out a whole stack of the books from the library and read them all. So I’m sure I’ve been mentioning Flavia + company for a while now. I kept a list of names from the stories, too – I need to pull those into a post soon.
Well, I’m a Flavia, and I like my name. I didn’t like it so much as a young child, but only because it was often misspelled and mispronounced, but at the same time, I liked having an unusual name (unusual for the US.) I am often complimented on my name. My family is Italian.
I’ve always pronounced it FLAH-vyah, and my family and friends never gave me a nickname; I wish they had thought of “Vivi!”
Sonia Rodrguez says
Hi, My name is Fravia which I think is really spelled Flavia.My Aunt was the head of the family and nobody could not name me but her so when I was born which I was the first grandchild she name me Fravia when she came from a trip to Spain and she said that it was from a Bible in Spain that she got the name and it was a princess name and also my Aunt told me that when I was born born I had orange or blonde hair and the name also has the meaning of a blonde haired child but my dad gave me a middle name Sonia just in case in school they make fun of me because of the name.
Cool I am the opposite, I could only picture Flavia on someone fair as it means “yellow.”
Good point Sebastiane! Funny how the meaning of the name is so different to the image to evokes for me!
I wonder, how important is the original meaning of a name? I really liked the name Claudia, but then found out it meant lame, and was put off it. But I know plenty of Claudias, so clearly lots of parents don’t care about the meaning.
For some reason, it sounds to me like Flavia belongs on a Latin-American or Spanish woman, and as someone with none of that heritage, and with blonde-haired, blue-eyed children, I can’t imagine using it. I can imagine the Colombian mother on Modern Family called Flavia. Or someone like Eva Longoria or Salma Hayek. Personally I’d be more likely to use Flora or Florence if I wanted a name beginning with “Fl”, and Olivia, Sylvia, or even Octavia if I wanted a name ending with “via”. Flavia’s not for me, sorry. But I much prefer the FLAH rather than FLAY pronunciation. Nice to see an uncommon name featured today! 🙂
British American says
I very much agree.
I really like Flora and Sylvia, but Flavia sounds too ‘foreign’ for me to use.
Oooh, I’m listening to the audio book, “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie,” by Alan Bradley. Flavia de Luce is the precocious heroine and I could see her name really catching on, as she’s such a dynamic character. In the audio book they pronounce it FLAY-vee-yah, but I want to pronounce it FLAH-vee-ah.
Flavia has a very aristocratic air and it calls to mind names like Lavinia and Aurelia but perhaps Flavia is more approachable.
Christina Fonseca says
FLAH-vyah is the pronunciation I use; flavor and flay never even crossed my mind.
I hope to meet a little Flavia soon.
I had a feeling that Flavia would be a Name of the day soon! I don’t know why. It was just a hunch. Anyways, I like Flavia a whole lot. I love the ancient Roman vibe that she has. Plus, she shares an ending with Olivia & Sylvia, so she doesn’t seem that strange. In Latin, V’s are pronounced as W’s, so a Flavia in ancient Rome would pronounce her name FLAH-wee-uh. That pronunciation wouldn’t be pratical today though. My favorite pronunciation is FLAH-vee-uh. I would use Vivie as a nickname.
I have known both an Italian and a Latina Flavia, plus an Italian Flaviana. This name seems molto Italiano to me. I don’t care for the way Flavia rolls off the tongue. This is a name I probably would not use day-to-day; I’d use a nickname such as Effie.
I adore Flavia. I also equally love the more elaborate Flaviana and the French Flavie.