Silvana Mangano
Silvana Mangano; Image via Wikipedia

Silver is a metal, Sylvester is a cat. How would this similar-sounding name wear on a daughter?

Thanks to Christina for suggesting Silvana as our Baby Name of the Day.

90210’s Erin Silver – little sister of original series’ character David Silver, and West Beverly High’s resident gossip girl blogger – answers mostly to her surname. It has some daring parents considering Silver.

But Silvana comes not from the jeweler’s shop but from the forest. The Latin silva – woods – is the origin of Roman forest god Silvanus, as well as a host of given names:

  • Sylvia and Silvia are probably the best known;
  • There’s also the French Sylvie and Sylvaine
  • Sylviane and Sylvianne are somewhere between the French forms and a smoosh of Sylvie and Anne.

Silvana surfaces in Italian, as well as Spanish and a few other languages. Some of her portability may come from Carl Maria von Weber’s 1810 opera Silvana, but it isn’t especially well known.

Notable bearers of the name include:

  • The current Countess of St. Andrews is Sylvana Windsor, born Sylvana Tomaselli;
  • Actress Silvana Arias was born in Peru, and made her name in telenovelas. She also spent three years on NBC’s soap opera Passions as Paloma Lopez-Fitzgerald;
  • Italian actress Silvana Pampanini started out as 1946’s Miss Italy, became a big star in her native country, but never made the transition to international fame;
  • Silvana Mangano was also a pageant winner turned Italian cinema star. Her career spanned four decades. Even if you’ve never heard of Mangano, her granddaughter, celeb chef Giada De Laurentiis, is probably familiar.

Adding to her Italian style, Spring 2011 Fendi gave the name to a bag, inspired by the legacy of Silvana Mangano.

She’s never ranked in the Top 1000, but US Census records turn up plenty of Silvanas, including enough in Puerto Rico to make me think the name must’ve been very much in vogue at one point.

I’ve heard that she’s considered dated in Italy, but in the US, she’d fit right in with Olivia and Gabriella. Remember Elisabeth’s Le tante sorelle di Isabella?

Today her -ana ending would fit right in with:

  • Top 100 picks Ariana and Arianna, Gianna, Savannah, Brianna, and Hannah;
  • Hovering just outside, we find Adriana and Adrianna, Liliana, Briana, Juliana and Julianna.

That’s not counting the many flowing, long names with easy short forms that are so popular for girls. Silvie, Sylvie, or even Silver would all make great nicknames.

Perhaps she never caught on in the US because of Sylvania televisions. While the parent company still exists, my sense is that the televisions are relatively uncommon today.

If you’re looking for a rarity that would be distinctive but still easy to pronounce and spell, Silvana is one to recommend.

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’ve actually met a little baby boy named Silver, I find it quite cool.

    I wouldn’t mind personally if Silvanna surfaced and replaced Savannah…

  2. This was posted on my daughter Sylvia’s 2nd birthday 🙂 I suggested Sylvana and Sylviana to my husband, but he nixed them as a little too weird for his taste. They are lovely names, though, and I’d love to hear them on new little ones. We’ve been thrilled with our final choice and get nothing but compliments on Sylvia. We call her Sylvie (and Silly, once in a while). I tried other nicknames like Silver and Via, but they never quite felt right. The funny thing is, she can’t quite say her full name, so she calls herself ZsaZsa. It’s beginning to stick.