Cropped screenshot of Ida Lupino from the trai...First came Ava.  Then Ada started climbing the charts.  Could this sweet vintage pick be next?

Thanks to Elizabeth for suggesting Ida as our Baby Name of the Day.

Ida comes from the Germanic element id – work, and she was in use in the Middle Ages.

The Normans brought her to England.  There was also a King Ida back in the sixth century, the ruler of Bernicia, and ancestor of the founders of the kingdom of Northumbria, so this may be a case of a Norman import meeting and mixing with an Anglo-Saxon appellation.

There’s also:

  • Saint Ita, sometimes Anglicized as Ida, an Irish nun from the sixth century.
  • Also in the sixth century, Saint Itta of Metz founded a Benedictine nunnery at Nivelles, in modern-day Belgium.
  • Then there’s Mount Ida in Crete, said to be the place the infant god Zeus was sent as a child for protection.

The first and third names have different origins; Itta is probably another spin on id and company.

Princess IdaIda faded from use, but was rediscovered in the nineteenth century.

A story included in Hans Christian Andersen’s 1835 collection of Fairy Tales Told for Children was called “Little Ida’s Flowers.” Unlike most of his work, this was an original story, written for Ida Thiele, the daughter of his benefactor.

But her big boost came from Tennyson’s 1847 poem “The Princess.”  It would serve as inspiration for Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1884 play Princess Ida.

The play is not among their most popular, but it has enjoyed a steady run of revivals over the years.  Their Ida is a headstrong princess who has established a university for women.  Her husband sneaks into the university, dressed as a female student, to reclaim his bride.  Hilarity ensues.

In the 1880s, Ida ranked in the US Top Ten, and she remained in the Top 100 through the 1930s.

Famous Idas abound, including:

  • President McKinley’s wife wore the name.
  • Born in 1857, Ida Tarbell would become one of the leading journalists of the progressive era, a muckracker who exposed the excesses of Standard Oil.
  • Ida B. Wells was also a journalist, and a suffragist, too.  She spoke out against lynching, and is considered an early leader of the civil rights movement.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder had a friend called Ida mentioned in several of her books.
  • Russian ballerina Ida Rubenstein danced with Ballets Russes during the Belle Epoque.
  • Polish-born actress Ida Kaminska was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in 1966.
  • A popular 1903 song rhymed Ida with apple cider.  Covers of the song have been done by everyone from Bill Haley to Frank Sinatra to Bing Crosby.
  • Ida Lupino, born in 1918, had a successful career as an actress, and a groundbreaking encore career as a director.  She is generally acknowledged as the first actress to write, produce, and direct her own films.
  • Gertrude Stein published a novel titled “Ida” in 1941.

Today Ida is huge in Scandinavia, where she’s pronounced ee dah.  But in the US, she remains in style limbo.  She last ranked in the Top 1000 in 1986, and just 99 girls were given the name in 2012.

A few Id- names could serve as longer forms of Ida: Idonia and Idella both come to mind, though both are far rarer than Ida.

If you love short, feminine names, but fear that Ada is too popular, Ida shares her style but is far less common.  Her mix of quirky vintage charm and strong female role models makes for a truly winning combination.

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 had a great aunt born in 1910’s named Idalia – who went by Ida. She was a stern old thing but I love the name.

  2. I think Ida fits in really well with popular names like Ava and Ivy, but also dignified older-style names like Ada and Ita.

    I have seen a couple of Idas in recent birth notices, which pleases me immensely.

  3. It was Ida B. Wright from the Little House books that made me love this name. She was such a warm, friendly character. My married last name makes it totally unusable though unfortunately…it’s an occupation-name that renders Ida quite comical 🙁 “Ida Cook” is a good example.

  4. I think Ida would make a great little sister for Mabel or Hazel or Flora or any of those other great-grandmother names coming back into fashion.