Once upon a time, she was nearly as common as Julia.

Thanks to Rachel for suggesting the Ancient Roman Annia as Name of the Day.

The evergreen Anna has been in use for centuries.  But this name is linked not to the Hebrew Channah, but to the Latin Antonius and the equally classic Anthony.

Head back to Rome around the time of the Second Punic War.  You’ll find members of the Annia family rising to important roles as early as the 300s BC.  By 153 BC, Titus Annius Luscus was a consul.  For the next few centuries, the Annii were among the movers and shakers of the ancient world.

Well-born women who wore the name included:

  • Annia Aurelia Faustina, wife of Roman Emperor Elagabalus in 221;
  • Her mother, Annia Faustina, wife of Roman Consul Tiberius Claudius Severus Proculus;
  • Her mother, Annia Aurelia Galeria Faustina, wife of Roman Senator Gnaeus Claudius Severus;
  • Go back another generation, and she’s related to none other than Emperor Marcus Aurelius, via his sister Annia Cornifica Faustina.  Two of his daughters were called Annia, too.

Marcus Aurelius was considered the last of the Five Good Emperors.  Among other things, the quintet chose their successors for their capabilities rather than blood relation.  (Then Marcus Aurelius went old school and named his son, Commodus, successor.  But that’s a topic for another site.)

Back to Annia.  Expectant mothers didn’t loll about their villas with debating whether Cornelia was becoming too popular or if Lucretia would hate her name.  Names were dictated by family tradition.  Just like George Foreman called all his kids George, in Ancient Rome, siblings shared names.  In fact, in a guest post by Nephele at Nameberry, she explains that daughters were sometimes referred to by the equivalent of One, Two and Three.

While plenty of Ancient Roman names have made it into the 21st century, Annia has faded into obscurity.  She’s never appeared in the US Top 1000, and notable bearers are quite difficult to find.

One famous Annia is Annia Hatch, a member of the 2004 US women’s gymnastics team.  Hatch won silver in Athens, after several years of struggle.  As if it isn’t tough enough to make it to the top of your game, Hatch was born in Cuba, started her competitive career there and found herself tangled up in international diplomacy when she left her home country.

Here’s the hang-up with Annia.  Her pronunciation should be either the three syllable ahn EE ah or AN ee ah. But it is tempting to see Annia as a respelling of the Slavic diminutive Anya/Anja, pronounced AN yah.  (After listening to multiple snippets on YouTube of Annia Hatch’s 2004 Olympic performance, I’m convinced that the name flummoxed broadcasters, too, as I hear it pronounced both ways.)

If you’re looking for a more elaborate version of Anne, Annia might not go far enough.  Annika, Annabel, Anneliese and Annamaria are all options that add a few more sounds into the mix.  And yet ancient Annia does sound surprisingly fresh and current in the twenty-first century.

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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  1. The write up on this name seems to be missing! Was hoping to ready about it! Sounds so pretty but can’t find much on it online.

    1. Cristina, it’s fixed! There are probably a dozen more pages like this – maybe more – on the site from our server move ages ago. Easy to fix, but tough to identify from all thousands of entries. Thanks for finding this one. 🙂

  2. My guess is that most people would miss the “I” and pronounce this as Anna. However, if anyone is careful enough to see that important I, they still would have only a small chance of pronouncing it correctly. Finally, “ah NYE uh” (rhymes with Mariah) sounds like the first part of annihilate to me.

  3. I’m one of those who was confused and though Ah nee ah or Ah nyah? I’ll also admit that I’m not as charmed as many others by Ann- names. I do like some, but for the most part Anne, Anna, Anya, and (now) Annia do little for me. I can appreciate their simplicity, but then I’d be inclined to stick with Anne or Anna. If I wanted something more elaborate, I don’t think Annia would be quite enough.

  4. If I can throw another possible pronunciation in there – ah -NYE-ah.
    I’m pick with -ann/-anna names. I used to like Anna -not enough to use- but enough to appreciate it. The popularity of it put me off the name. Also, a family member recently seriously considered using it, so I would never consider it because of that as well. Overall., I can see the appeal, though Annia does not appeal to me at all. It’s not bad name at all – just not for me
    P.S. It’s still Juliet here, I just changed my name so that it’s the same at all the sites I frequent

    1. ah NYE ah … interesting. You might be right, actually … I need to do some digging. Anyone know enough about early Latin to hazard a guess?

      Though, as with the multiple pronunciations of Annia Hatch’s name, being right only goes so far …

      1. This is my first year of taking Latin at school. I’m pretty sure that it’s not ah NYE ah. I think the correct pronunciation is AH-nee-uh. Don’t hold me to it though 🙂

        1. Eva, I think you’re right – but that’s more of a hunch than any research.

          And Joy, nice point about annihilate – not a positive association.