This name has been worn by a supermodel and a saint, but she’s our pick this Halloween week because of a chilling little girl vampire.
Today’s Name of the Day is Claudia.
If Bram Stoker created our popular idea of the vampire, Anne Rice re-invented that concept beginning with 1976’s novel Interview with the Vampire. Nearly two decades later, it came to the big screen, with Kirsten Dunst playing the child vampire Claudia.
While Claudia is an ancient name, Rice’s petite bloodsucker was born in late 18th century New Orleans. It was a plausible name for a child of the time, though it has never been a chart-topper in the US.
Claudia was first worn by noble Romans. She’s the feminine form of Claudius, which means lame. It seems an uninspiring meaning, but the Emperor Claudius was a capable leader, expanding the empire into Britain and bringing a certain calm, rational attitude to administration after the reign of Caligula. While the man himself did indeed suffer from some infirmities, the meaning is tempered by his success.
Claudia was worn with some frequency in the ancient world. At least one Claudia appears briefly in Roman mythology. She’s a vestal virigin. The second pope, Linus, was the son of a Claudia – she became a saint. Pontius Pilate’s wife goes unnamed in the Bible, but Christian legend often refers to her as Claudia.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Claudia in Medieval England, but thanks to the 7th century Saint Claude of France, the name lived on elsewhere in Europe. In the 1500s, the aristocratic Hamilton family brought the name Claude to England, and eventually Claudia creeped back into use. Another common French feminine form is Claudine.
- Former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson was born Claudia Alta Taylor. She was named after her uncle Claud, but known by a childhood nickname all her life.
- German-born Claudia Schiffer was among the most popular supermodels of the 1990s. Her popularity may account for the name’s resurgence in the 90s.
- On the small screen, fictional Claudia Jean “C.J.” Cregg appeared on NBC’s oval office drama The West Wing for seven years as Press Secretary and later Chief of Staff.
Other fictional Claudias have appeared on television, including Dynasty, General Hospital and Primeval.
While Claudia doesn’t offer an easy nickname, she could appeal to parents who love the feminine sound of chart-toppers like Olivia and Sophia. She’s currently a Top Ten pick in Spain, and ranks among the more popular names in many Spanish-speaking countries, including Chile.
But while we’d expect Claudia to do well, that’s not been the case. Back in 1880, she ranked #224 in the US. In 1952, she peaked at #111. (A popular novel-turned-play called Claudia: The Story of a Marriage was adapted for television that year.) In 1997, she again climbed, reaching as high as #167, possibly due to the visibility of Claudia Schiffer. But by 2007, the name had fallen to #404 – her least popular ever.
The result is a name that will satisfy many parents. She’s familiar but uncommon. And she’s the rare feminine, three-syllable appellation unlikely to lead to a nickname – a quality that appeals to some. With her history and strength, this one is a winning choice.