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:
- Former NPR Morning Edition producer Neva Grant;
- One of David Rockefeller, Sr.’s eight children is the distinguished academic Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, though she’s known professionally as just Neva R. Goodwin;
- Miss America 1953 was Neva Langley;
- Neva Patterson had a long career, from supporting roles in Hollywood classics like An Affair to Remember, to guest roles on many a television series, from The Waltons to Webster.
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 Ava, Eva, 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.
Neva Adams says
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.
NEVA WHITE says
I am Neva Jane and was named after Miss America 1953. BEAUTIFUL NAME.AND SHE WAS A BEAUTIFUL LADY. NAMESAKE!
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.
NEVA HENLEY says
MY NAME IS NEVA HENLEY. I WAS BORN IN 1924. I DON’T KNOW WHERE MY MOTHER FOUND THE NAME. I LIKE IT BECAUSE PEOPLE REMEMBER IT.
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 🙂
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.
Sarah A says
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!
In Russian, the Neva river is pronounced “n’yeva” – I wonder if that’s how the model is pronouncing it. It is a really beautiful, soft sound in Russian
Julia, thanks for that! It is a lovely sound.
Great to hear from you, Neva! And I’m glad the name has worn so well. “Hi I’m Neva, rhymes with diva” makes for a memorable introduction, too. 😉
I totally introduce myself to people that way. Or I’ll say, “Hi I’m Neva, like Geneva without the “juh”. It doesn’t sound terribly articulate but it helps people remember it.
Mine is actually derived from Geneva. My aunt is named Neva and her great grandmother was Geneva.
Oh also, sorry for not providing additional context. I was born in the early 1990s and I seldom hear of any other Nevas. I do pronounce it as rhyming with diva (nee-vuh). I don’t care for the way it sounds when it is pronounced like a slang “never” as in “neh-vuh” but to each their own. 🙂
I’m a Neva, born in the 1970’s. I’ve always loved my name, only meeting one other Neva who was in her 80’s. I am an American living in England and I get called Neve a lot here, very few people know the name Neva and tend to remember the more familiar. It is a good nicknameless name, and pronouce it Nee-vah (rhyming with diva) so it is never confused with the slang for “never”. I have a winter birthday and have always thought my name was quite appropriate:)
Violet Collins says
I know a Neva, but we always call her Nevie or Nev or just plain Neva. Her full name is actually Jeneva, but she goes by Neva.
I like Eva better, because it was my grandmother’s name, but I think she had a friend at our church named Neva.
I do like Neva a lot better than Nevaeh, surprised you didn’t mention it.
I didn’t even THINK of Nevaeh, but yes, Joy – you’re exactly right that there’s a similar vibe there.
Heather Elaine says
I like Neva, although I’d never use it personally. I like how the N makes the name feel a bit more substantial than Ava, Eva, or Eve. Geneva nicknamed Neva would be very sweet.
I like the idea of Geneva, nn Neva!
Thanks for doing this one! This is my grandmother’s name and one of my middle names. It is certainly in consideration for a middle name for a future daughter. In our family we pronounce it nee -vah. I have only met one other person with this name other than my grandmother, and she was my grandmother’s best friend for a while til she moved away, funny! She also pronounced her name nee-vah. My grandmother was born in October 1946, apparently when the name was still on the charts, but not during winter. Our family are southwesterners from California and Nevada, so I always connected her name with Nevada even though they are pronounced differently. I am excited to show Granny what you dug up and ask what she thinks!
What a very cool name to have on your family tree – and in the middle spot, too!
My first name actually is legit, Neva pronounced the way you said.
Ha! Estella beat me to it.
LOVE it! Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova named her daughter Neva after the river.
I think Neva is a really beautiful name, pronounced any which way you can think of. Supermodel Natalia Vodianova and husband Justin Portman named their daughter Neva after the river.
Oooh … I didn’t know that. How cool!
Very pretty! And I love the related Neve! But i just can’t get past that no matter how I pronounce it, it sounds like a slang version of “never”! “Would you use this name?””Neva!!” SORRY!!!
Yikes! That’s true. But not if you rhyme Neva with Eva …
My name actually happens to be Neva, and I pronounce it knee-vah.
So the name is still being used.
I agree with Neva above ^^.
It is my name and I pronounce it the same (with a long E). I was born in the ’90s so it is still used at least a little this generation. I don’t know any other Nevas outside of my family though.