This post was originally published on May 8, 2009. It was substantially revised and re-posted on January 4, 2016.
This gentle, old-fashioned name belongs to a daring, world-changing aviatrix.
Thanks to Rocking Fetal for suggesting Amelia as our Baby Name of the Day.
Amelia: Two Names, Tons of Bearers
This single name comes from more than one source.
Purists will tell you that both the -elia spelling and Amalia come from the German amal – work, while Emilia and company trace back to the Latin aemulus, rival. But it’s hard to draw a bright line.
Over the centuries, the name has been worn by:
- The seventh century Saint Amalberga is also known by this name.
- Plenty of royals, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when two British princesses were given the name. The present heir to the throne of the Netherlands is Princess Catharina-Amalia.
- Sigmund Freud’s mother wore the name.
- Nineteenth century suffragette Amelia Bloomer lent her surname to the baggy trousers she advocated women be allowed to wear instead of more conventional – and restrictive – clothing.
One of the most famous bearers of the name was the daring aviatrix Amelia Earhart.
She became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. Earhart immediately became a media darling, and a popular lecturer. She was called the Queen of the Air and Lady Lindy, a reference to fellow aviator Charles Lindbergh. Her new fame helped her promote women’s equality, as well as aviation in general.
Five years later, Earhart disappeared near Howland Island while attempting a Pacific crossing in 1937. Speculation on her fate has never ceased.
Amelia: In Fiction
Dozens of books have been written about Earhart, but that’s not the reason Amelia is literary.
Characters by the name appear in everything from Vanity Fair to Harry Potter. There’s also bumbling, but good-hearted, housekeeper Amelia Bedelia, and it’s the full name of Princess Mia Thermopolis, Crown Princess of Genovia in Meg Cabot’s popular Princess Diaries books.
Amelia: By the Numbers
Speaking of The Princess Diaries, the 2001 movie adaptation starring Anne Hathaway as Mia gets much of the credit for the name’s return.
During the late nineteenth century, Amelia was a Top 100 name. By the 1920s, it had fallen into the 200s. And by the 1960s and 70s? The 400s.
Parents were slowly rediscovering the name when The Princess Diaries came along. The name ranked #207 in 2000. By 2002, Amelia was up to #139, and re-entered the US Top 100 by 2004. By 2014, the name had risen to #15.
Nickname Mia, too, was boosted by the popular movie.
The name’s success could also be due to similar long-time #1 name Emily, and many slightly different forms of the name are in the current Top 1000:
- Amalia (#884)
- Amelie (#667)
- Emelia (#624)
- Emilia (#164)
Besides Mia, other possible short forms include Mila, Amy, Lia, Millie, Mimi, Emmy, and even Molly could work. It’s Minnie Driver’s real name, too. But Amelia requires no nickname, and in our Sophia-Olivia age, odds are that many girls are just plain Amelia.
Overall, Amelia is a lovely antique choice for a child. Famous women by the name add some steel to this otherwise delicate and feminine name. The only real drawback? With this name poised just outside the US Top Ten, it’s likely that we’ll meet a lot of little Amelias.
Which form of this name do you prefer? Do you know a lot of girls with the name?