Geofroy Tory's Zed (Baltimore, MD)
Geofroy Tory's Zed, from takomabibelot via Flickr

Today’s choice combines a zippy Z and a vibrant V, plus a great meaning.

Thanks to Tara for suggesting Ziva as our Baby Name of the Day.

Americans borrow baby names from the British, but I wonder if we’d be really jazzed to get our mitts on a book of baby names from Israel. There’s Ayelet, Lior, Noa, Tamar, Amir, Talia, Lev … the list goes on and on.

Chances are you first heard Ziva on NCIS. Played by Chilean-born actress Cote de Pablo, Ziva David was introduced in Season 3, initially an Israeli Mossad agent working as a liaison with NCIS. By season 7, she’d resigned from Mossad, become a US citizen, and joined NCIS as a permanent employee.

Ziva rhymes with diva, and is the feminine form of Ziv.

The Hebrew meaning is straightforward: bright or light. That’s fitting, as Ziv corresponded to April or May on the old Hebrew ecclesiastical calendar. (Today, it’s known as Iyar.)

But here’s a curious fact: Živa is popular in Slovenia.

The two Zivas are unrelated. While one is akin to the English Mae, the second has more in common with the goddess Venus.

And while Ziva begins with our familiar Z sound, Živa’s z is more like the s in treasure. Think of Dr. Zhivago.

Živa is described as a goddess of love and fertility, and the harvest, too, worshiped in Eastern and Southern Europe in the pre-Christian era. The best I can figure is that her name comes from a word for living, which brings to mind current starbaby favorite Vita.

It also fits with other popular picks in Slovenia, like:

  • Zala
  • Eva
  • Neža
  • Zoja

There’s not a ton of Slovenian references in English, but I did find one notable Živa that might explain the name’s current fashion – Živa Vadnov, Miss Slovenia 2004.

What I can’t puzzle out is why Ziva was used for men. While the name has never charted in the US Top 1000, there are women and men called Ziva in US Census records.

I’ll put that mystery aside and say this: Ziva succeeds on two fronts. On the off chance that you’re looking for a name that comes his Slovenian roots with your Israeli heritage, well, search finished.

But Ziva could also satisfy parents seeking something that feels fresh and modern. She splits the difference between Ava and Zoe, and she’s far less common. You’re more likely to meet a Zara.

There’s much to recommend Ziva.

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. Helo my name is Živa and it sounds quite strange to be called Ziva; as I am not living any more in Slovenia. The Slovenian variant is quite embarrassing cause it means something that is alive and it does not go with every family name. The name is short and practical. But is also very unique name for a special babies. Thise who are moving around all the time, lead and wants to go on. 🙂 by, ziva

  2. I love Ziva; love the character, the two great meanings and the zippy sound.
    Too bad our family name also begins with Z. I have an alliterative name myself but with Zs I think its just a bit much

  3. My daughter is called Ziva and i don’t know another apart from Ziva David from Ncis people always say what a pretty name