View from a Snowdrift
Image by dibytes via Flickr

Here’s a choice with a subtle link to wintry weather.

Thanks to Nicole for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Neva.

The seasonal story of Neva is that she’s related to the Latin word for snow – nivem.  But it’s just one of several possible origins:

  • She could be a short form of names that end in -neva.  The only -neva ending name that springs to mind is Geneva, but as it happens, this tracks.  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Geneva regularly appeared in the US Top 1000 a few dozen places ahead of Neva;
  • Nevada also appeared in the US Top 1000 in the same era.  While we don’t think of the American Southwest and snow, Nevada owes its name to the Spanish nevado – snowy, as in the Sierra Nevada mountain range;
  • Neva also brings to mind the Gaelic Niamh, or the sometimes-related Neve, with an extra -a tacked on to the end;
  • Then there are a few references to Niva, sometimes listed as a Hebrew name, but also a place name in Denmark and the Czech Republic;
  • While we’re looking at the map, there’s Russia’s Neva River, and wouldn’t you know it?  There’s a debate about the river’s name meaning, too.  Options range from a Finnish word meaning sea, to a Finnish word meaning swamp, to a Swedish word meaning new.  Or, well … possibly the Latin root for snow.

That takes us back to where we started, so let’s just say that Neva will make many people think of snow-covered fields and forests.

Others might think of one of a few famous Nevas, including:

Neva almost reads like one of those names that is slipping out of fashion.  After peaking at #212 in 1898, Neva held on in the US Top 1000 nearly every year through 1963.  She’s been rare ever since.  But given the rise of AvaEva, and company, she may be poised for a renaissance.

Which brings us to one of Neva’s enduring drawbacks: does she rhyme with diva, or Ava?  Forvo gives the  pronunciation as the latter.  You might even hear Neva’s -ev pronounced like the -ev in clever – or Nevada.  She’s so little used that you can take your pick.

She’s simple, distinctive, and manages to feel both pan-European and vintage Americana at once.  Especially for a winter-born daughter, Neva could be a perfect choice.

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. Another Neva here born in the 1950s. Love your article and the last sentence fits me perfectly, even to being born in January. I’ll definitely use Neva = diva next time I introduce myself.
    On Facebook recently a “Neva” quilt popped up and the last time I looked at it there seemed to be at least 100 Neva’s popping in to say Hello. It’s a beautiful name.

    1. I am Neva Jane and was named after Miss America 1953. BEAUTIFUL NAME.AND SHE WAS A BEAUTIFUL LADY. NAMESAKE!

  2. My name is Neva. Pronounced Nee-vuh. Rhyming with Diva. I hated my name growing up (I was born in 1954). Most people mispronounce it and I always have to spell it. But almost everywhere I go I am told that it is a pretty name and people seem to like it. I am still not fond of my name, but I no longer hate it. My middle name is Kay and always wished it was Marie. I like the two names together – Neva Marie.


  4. I just stumbled upon this. We named our daughter Neva – rhymed with Ava – derived from Latin or Spanish for snow. I love that it’s unusual and yet so classic feeling too. And although NO one pronounces it right, we don’t care 🙂

  5. I named my daughter (born in February snowstorm last year) Neva and I really love the name! We pronounce it Nee-vuh, ie rhymes with diva (as it happens she is turning out to be a bit of a diva!). I love that it is unusual yet somehow classic.

  6. I know a spunky blond 4 year old named Neva who lives in a tiny town in northern MI and it’s pronounced like Diva. I loved reading about the history of Neva because based on her sibling’s names I always thought her parents just made it up. I love the winter vibe!