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. I’m usually strongly against the idea of naming kids after tv/movie characters (particularly if the name is created specifically for the show or movie), but Vada is pretty and it’s an old-fashioned name that was around long before the movie My Girl came out and it was never super common either and still isn’t, which makes it much more usable to me.

    I don’t like the Vaeda, Veda, or Vayda spellings though, plus I pronounce Veda as vee-da and Vada is Vay-da. Vaeda and Vayda just take away from the classic/vintage-ness and I feel that they’re unattractive and like you’re trying too hard to be “unique” or “edgy”.

  2. My Great Grandmother was born in the 1920s and her name is Vada. It was pronounced with a long a.

  3. I was named after my dad and grandfather listed here my grandad was name after a man in Memphis TN it comes from German decent and means famous leader and in Hebrew it means rose. oh and by the way my dad and granddad we are all males on my facebook page I have about 5 other Vada’s on my page what a cool name to have.

  4. Im 34 and my name is Vada pronounced Vah-duh. I love my name, I usually am called Vada as in the pronunciation from My Girl. My mom got my name from a 1970s film, the characters name was Vada.

  5. My daughters name is VADA just like it sounds and she loves it I hate when we get VEDA cause that’s not how it sounds..I call her darth vada haha she hates that. We call her vada bug…vada potata (potatoes) and I love to call her vaddie..she loves that no one has her name she loves that I named her from a movie…and now we learn about 3 years after she is born it’s a vintage name which fits her to the T…. she is almost 7 and such an old sole I love it..Also says means famous ruler well the ruler part shows for sure lol…love the name a d I think the spelling should be left alone…

  6. I have always loved the name, though I would spell it Vayda.
    Vayda Violet (the women that preceded my grandfather all had flower names, and who doesn’t love a little alliteration

  7. I just wanted to thank you for writing this article on Babynames.lk. I liked reading it. Best wishes, Hendrik 🙂