Thanks to Sophie for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
NOBLE, BIBLICAL, FIRST
The baby name Ada claims at least three separate and distinct origins.
Spelled Adah in the Old Testament, it comes from a Hebrew word meaning adornment.
Along with Adelaide and a host of related names, it might come from the Germanic adal – noble.
In the West African language Igbo, Ada means “first daughter.” It’s most often used in longer names, like Adanna and Aadeze.
And one more: in Tagalog, Ada means fairy.
Like many mini names, the baby name Ada travels well, crossing language and cultural barriers with ease.
QUEEN of CARIA
The name comes with considerable history, too.
Back in the fourth century BC, Ada of Caria ruled her kingdom as a satrap after the death of her brother-husband, and allied herself with Alexander the Great.
History also gives us:
- The seventh century Saint Ada of France.
- Charlemagne’s sister, for whom an illuminated manuscript is called the Ada Gospels. It may not have been her given name. Charlemagne’s daughters were Adalhaid and Adaltrude. Ada may have been Adelais, and names ending in -ada, like Bertrade and Theodrada, also appear on his family tree.
- Ada de Warenne was the twelfth century wife of a Scottish prince and mother of two future kings.
- Dutch and Scottish countesses answered to Ada in the thirteenth century, along with other noblewomen.
But the most famous Ada is probably the daughter of the poet Lord Byron.
Christened Augusta Ada, in honor of an aunt, she was always known as Ada. She married William King-Noel, the Earl of Lovelace – making her a Countess. But we usually call her just plain Ada Lovelace.
Lovelace was a mathematician, and her work with Charles Babbage is considered the earliest model for a computer and software.
The US Defense Department named a computer language Ada in her honor.
In 1990, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling wrote The Difference Engine, a what-if the computer age and industrial age collided in Victorian England. It’s book pioneered steampunk, and gave a fictional version of Ada Lovelace a starring role.
All of this lends the baby name Ada some edge, making her less of a gentle vintage choice and more of an intellectual, creative one.
BY the NUMBERS
The baby name Ada appeared in the US Top 100 through the year 1912.
By the 1980s, the name left the US Top 1000 entirely, sitting just outside the rankings for years.
But in 2004, the baby name Ada re-entered the US Top 1000. It’s gained steadily since then, reaching #184 in 2020.
Some of that reflects our love of vowel-forward mini names. Mia and Leah and, of course, Ava, all paved the way for Ada’s return.
We love Addie names, too – pick your spelling of Adeline, and surname Addison is only recently fading.
But there’s more to the story.
The baby name Ada was already rising on its own merits when Peaky Blinders debuted.
The British crime drama focuses on the Shelby family – fictional, but based on real life people and events – from the 1890s into the 1920s. It debuted in 2013 and will conclude following season six in 2021.
Ada Shelby Thorne is the only sister in the family, and her story features across the seasons.
No question that the show helped push the baby name Ada even higher. In 2013, the name stood at #435. It might not have made it all the way to #184 as of 2020 without the show.
And, of course, the name could still climb higher.
From an ancient queen to a proto-computer programmer to a fictional character, Ada belongs to women of character and strength. It’s a simple, but solid, choice for a daughter’s name.
What do you think of the baby name Ada?
This post was originally published on July 3, 2009. It was substantially revised and re-posted on September 15, 2014 and again on September 28, 2021.