Thanks to Rocking Fetal for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
TWO NAMES MEET
Strictly speaking, the baby name Amelia is distinct from the baby name Emilia.
Amelia comes from Amalia, via the German amal – work.
Emilia and company come from the Latin name Aemilius, meaning rival. Emily is part of this family.
Except it’s hard to draw a bright line.
Around the 700s, there were two saints Amelia. At least one of them is also known as Amalia or Amalburga.
Fast-forward to the 1700s, though, and something interesting happens.
Thanks to the 1701 Act of Settlement, the crown of Great Britain went to a German prince. Sophia of Hanover, born in 1630, was the the Protestant granddaughter of King James VI and I. (The former in Scotland; the latter in England, once the two crowns were united in 1603.) In order to avoid the throne passing to a Catholic heir, the line of succession would go through Sophia and her children.
When Sophia died shortly before Queen Anne, the throne passed to her son, King George I, the first Hanover king of Great Britain in 1714.
And so the German House of Hanover became the rulers of England.
The newly crowned King George I of Great Britain moved to his new country, eventually bringing with him his son, the future King George II.
And that George brought his family, including a daughter named Amelia.
She was born Amelia Sophia Eleonore, but her family called her Emily.
Which is a very long way of saying that the names have mixed and mingled for at least three centuries.
Other princesses and royals have worn the name – or forms of the name – since.
King George III succeed his father. He, too, named one of his daughters Amelia.
The current heir to the throne of the Netherlands is Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange.
The name ranked in the US Top 100 during the late nineteenth century.
Doubtless that’s why we hear it as gently antique.
But the name offers some world-changing energy, too.
Women’s rights activist Amelia Bloomer became the first woman to own, operate, and edit an newspaper. The Lily was first published in 1849. Bloomer used it to advocate for pants for women. The “reform dress” meant to allow freedom of movement, eventually became known as Bloomers, thanks to Amelia’s advocacy of the change.
Among the most famous Amelias is the daring aviator, 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.
Called the Queen of the Air and Lady Lindy, a reference to fellow aviator Charles Lindbergh, she was world-famous in her day.
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.
While Amelia Earhart’s legacy is a powerful one, it didn’t influence the popularity of the first name Amelia. When Earhart was born in 1897, the name was quite popular, hovering around the Top 100 mark. By the time she disappeared in 1937, Amelia was already fading in popularity.
AMELIA IN FICTION
Fictional Amelias abound, and one probably deserves credit for the name’s resurgence.
You might think of Amelia “Emmy” Sedley from Vanity Fair. (She’s the polar opposite of main character Becky Sharp.)
Or maybe Harry Potter’s Amelia Bones.
There’s bumbling, but good-hearted, housekeeper Amelia Bedelia in a long-running series of children’s books.
The X-Men comics give us Amelia Voght, who can turn her body into mist.
And in Interstellar, Anne Hathaway plays Amelia Brand.
Speaking of Anne Hathaway, it turns out that she gets quite a bit of credit for Amelia’s revival.
In 2001, Meg Cabot’s young adult bestseller The Princess Diaries became a hit. The movie focused on Mia, a misfit living in San Francisco who never knew that she was heir to the throne of tiny European country Genovia.
She never knows, that is, until her grandmother appears in California, intent on turning 15-year-old Mia – actually Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldi – into a suitable heir.
The popular book series became a successful film, complete with a sequel.
BY the NUMBERS
While the baby name Amelia has never left the US Top 500, it hovered in the high 400s during the 1960s and 70s.
That’s pretty out-of-favor.
It was climbing back into use by the 1990s, and stood at #207 in the year 2000.
And then came the movie.
By 2004, Amelia ranked #96.
And as of 2021? It stands at #4.
Nickname Mia, too, was boosted by the popular movie.
It wasn’t all Genovia, though. It helped that Emily was powerfully popular in the same era. And we were already falling in love with girls’ names ending in -IA and -LIA.
EMILIA and COMPANY
Speaking of Emily, the former #1 favorite now stands at #21.
Other related names include:
- Amalia (#545)
- Amelie (#831)
- Emelia (#470)
- Emilia (#40)
Nicknames abound, too. There’s Mia, of course, and Emmy, also mentioned above.
Amy, Ama, Lia, Millie, Mel, and Mimi work. Actor Minnie Driver is an Amelia, which adds her nickname to the list.
Despite an abundance of popular and common nicknames, Amelia requires no shortening, and many girls are simply Amelia in full.
It’s worth noting that elaborations, like Amelita, are heard in some languages, too.
There’s no question that Amelia is among the most popular names for girls in the US right now.
It blends antique charm with a high-energy reputation. The famous women by the name add some steel to a decidedly feminine name.
If you don’t mind sharing this name with heroes from ages past and plenty of future world-changers, then the baby name Amelia could be the perfect vintage-meets-modern choice for a daughter born now.
What do you think of the baby name Amelia?
Originally published on May 8, 2009, this post was revised and re-posted on January 4, 2016, and again on September 27, 2022.