English: Map of the British Indian Empire from...
English: Map of the British Indian Empire from Imperial Gazetteer of India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on October 7, 2008 and substantialy revised and reposted on November 19, 2012.

Place names are one of hottest categories for novel baby names in recent years, but today’s choice has more history than you might guess.

Thanks to Nicole (aka Dirty Hippy) for suggestingIndiaas our Baby Name of the Day.

You’d be hard pressed to find a girl called China or Paris living in the nineteenth century.  But British families with ties to India adopted the appellation.  The East India Company was established in 1600.  Between 1858 and 1947, India was a colony, the jewel in the British crown.  Tales of life in India were captivating in the nineteenth century.  The plot of Vanity Fair involves the East India Company.  Sara Crewe’s dad went to India in A Little Princess.

Where does the nation’s name come from?  The Indus River, ultimately from the Sanskrit sindhu – river.  It’s quite an ancient name, and the Indus River Valley was settled during the Bronze Age, home to an early civilization stretching back more than 3000 years BC.

During the Victorian era, India caught on as a fashionable name.  In the US, India ranked in the Top 1000 from 1880 through 1911. Other place names, including Missouri, Florida, and Savannah were equally popular.

India Wilkes was sister to Ashley Wilkes – and one of Scarlett O’Hara’s biggest critics – in 1930s smash hit novel and film Gone With the Wind.  Despite the runaway popularity of the novel and the film, the characters’ names did not become sensations.

On the other side of the Atlantic, India remained in steady, quiet use among the English. The best known is India Amanda Caroline Hicks, daughter of famed 1960s interior designer David Nightingale Hicks and Lady Pamela Mountbatten. She’s followed in her father’s footsteps with a career in design, and also as a stylish baby namer – she’s mom to Felix, Amory, Conrad and Domino.

There’s also:

  • Musician India.Arie lends the name some cutting edge style
  • Actor Chris Hemsworth named his daughter India.
  • Other celeb parents who chose India include Sarah McLachlan, and Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman.

India ranked #760 in 1970, leapt up to #317 in 1985, stood at #297 in 2001, and fell out of the rankings after 2010.  That sounds like she’s on her way out, eclipsed by more current place names like London.  But that’s tough to call.

  • She seems to be more steadily used in the UK, and Americans do occasionally fall in love with an import.
  • Her -ia ending dominates the US Top Ten: Sophia, Olivia, and Mia.  There’s also Sofia, Victoria, Amelia, Julia, Maria, and Lydianot far behind in the Top 100.
  • Nickname Indie feels fresh and spunky.
  • We do love a place name.

Plus, India was given to 250 girls in 2011.  One more girl given the name, and India would’ve been inside the rankings.

India feels both exotic and accessible.  The fact that she’s rare might be an additional selling point for parents thinking about Sylvia, Gloria, and Cordelia.  If you’re seeking something stylish and seldom heard, India is one to consider.

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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 am so torn by this name at the moment!!

    I love India the country, have always been fascinated by it, it’s history, people and culture. I have travelled there, fallen in love with it more while there and long to return one day.

    I am now pregnant with a baby girl, and my husband and I agree (for once!!) on India as a name for her. But I find I am second guessing myself. Do people of Indian heritage find its use offensive? Would it sound pretentious on a middle class white girl? It’s driving me mad!

  2. I love this name! I have a great Aunt India. Her family called her Cin. Not sure how they got Cin from India but it fit her perfectly. I don’t think I would use the nm though since it’s pronounced like “sin”. I can imagine there would be lots of raised eyebrows and shocked, “Her name is what??” 😉

  3. Do you think its cheesy for someone who is part Indian (from India) to name their child India? My mother is from India but my dad is born & raised American, making me half. My fiancee is also born & raised American so our future daughter would be a 1/4 Indian. Could we name her India without it being too cliche?

      1. Hmmm … but did my answer make sense? I think naming your daughter India would seem like a subtle way of honoring your mother. Whether your mother would see it that way is another question …