Lowercase Letter v on Plywood (Takoma Park, MD)
Lowercase Letter v on Plywood by TakomaBibelot via Flickr

She’s a seldom-heard antique brought down by a movie character – and redeemed by one, too.

Thanks to Rocking Fetal for suggesting Vada as our Baby Name of the Day.

Let’s start with a confession: I have no clue how to pronounce Vada.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I know how they pronounced Vada in the movie My Girl.  Vada takes the long a sound so popular, heard in Kayla and Jada and Hailey.  But I don’t know how Vada would have been pronounced in the nineteenth century or early twentieth, the era when she ranked in the US Top 1000 every year from 1880 through 1946.  I suspect the long a still holds, but given that Nina was once pronounced like the number nine, I can’t be certain.

There’s also Veda, a Sanskrit word meaning knowledge.  It’s also the name of the oldest Hindu scriptures – their Old Testament, an ancient collection of holy revelation.  Despite this weighty association, Veda seems to have some use as a given name, again, charting in the US Top 1000 from the 1880s into the 1950s.

The timing of her use suggests that she’s no new-age adaptation, and there’s little hint at all about Vada’s origins as an appellation.

What was the explanation, then?  Notable figures appear after the rise of the name:

  • Part-Swedish actress Veda Borg transitioned from a Hollywood career in the 1930s and 40s to a television one in the 1950s.  The starlet’s 1915 birth, however, coincides with a period when the name was in use.
  • Vada Pinson was a Major League Baseball player in the 1960s and 70s.  His dad was Vada Pinson, Sr.  I couldn’t confirm the origins of the name, but it does appear as a surname occasionally.
  • Then along came 1991 coming-of-age flick My GirlAnna Chlumsky played Vada, BFF to the ill-fated Thomas, played by Macauley Culkin.   The movie was set in the 1970s, suggesting that Vada was supposed to be a quirky retro name.

Parents might hear Vada in the enduring movie, but I wonder – was it another fictional character that erased the name from use?

The 1941 novel and 1945 film adaptation of Mildred Pierce were quite successful.  Joan Crawford won an Oscar for her portrayal of the valiant, hard-working Mildred, a heroine with a thankless daughter called – you guessed it – Veda.  Veda was more than garden-variety rotten.  She was lying, manipulating, husband-stealing awful.  Ann Blyth was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, too, but failed to bring home the statue.  I can only assume that Veda and Vada were tarnished by the villainous figure.

None of this explains her origins, though, and I think I’m left with that ever-so-unsatisfying sound-of-the-times assumption:

  • In the Top 100 of 1900 we find Eva, Viola, Virgina, Vera, and Olive.
  • Violet, Iva, Sylvia, Victoria, Vivian, Geneva, Elva, and Virgie appear in the next hundred.
  • Beyond that there’s Veronica, Vesta, Vida, Vada, Vina, Veda, Vinnie, Vallie, Vernie, Vergie, Vena, Viva, Verdie, Velva, Vella, Verla, Verona, Versie, Valerie, Verlie, Vernice, Vassie, and Vernie.

If sound alone lifted Vada the first time, it could work today.  With a possible spiritual meaning attached, a sweet movie character, and that oh-so-leading sound, Vada could be just the name.

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. Vey-da maybe is closer, it’s subtle, but it’s definitely not VEE-da.

    I also love the name Vera here, for real use, and Versie — OMG. I love it too.

  2. My (step) niece is Veda, pronounced Vay-da. Her mom is Indian-American, Dad Norwegian. I think it’s a beautiful name.

  3. I want to pronounce Veda like VEE-dah and Vada like Vay-dah, so in my mind they are different names. Vada may be the more likable character, but to me Veda is the more appealing name.

    Question for those in the know, would naming a non-Hindu child Veda be sacrilegious? Quirkily acceptable like Genesis? Or would it just seem odd… like snowboarder Torah Bright?

    1. I’m not sure, but the Hindu Scriptures are called The Vedas or the Vedic texts, so it doesn’t seem blasphemous to me.

      They also use the word veda in non-religious contexts for any body of knowledge, such as medicine.

  4. Hmm, I never really connected Veda and Vada. They are pronounced differently. Vada is all My Girl to me and is somewhat appealing. I had forgotten that Mildred Pierce’s daughter was named Veda, but now I am hearing it in my head with Joan Crawford’s voice. I prefer the sound of Veda.

    1. I agree that they are pronounced differently. Vada (like in My Girl) is pronounced VAY-duh, but Veda (like in Mildreds place) is pronounced VEE-duh. I prefer Vada.

  5. Thank you! You are booked! I requested this in the middle of a snow storm. 😀

    I find it really appealing. I like it as an alternative to Ada. Like Ada, I wonder if it might often get confused with Ava.

  6. And did you see the Kate Winslet version of Mildred Pierce? It was incredible.

    While I’ve always remembered the name Sultenfuss from My Girl, I immediately forgot the name Veda Pierce. In this instance, the good seems to have outweighed the bad.

    It’s a cool, quirky name, but I find it a little pointy, sharp. Better for someone else’s child, possibly.

  7. I like. It has a vintage, almost art-deco feel for me. Of course, the kid would inevitably get some “Darth Vada” comments.

    1. That’s the movie character I kept expecting to pop up! Especially because in the new trilogy (boohiss) Palpatine is incapable of pronouncing his R’s.