With the holiday season upon us, today’s choice carries an appropriate meaning.

Thanks to Lola for suggesting our Name of the Day: Dorothea.

Shortly after Lola asked about Dorothea, Nessa requested that we cover Dorothy. While one is an elegant four-syllable substitute for Alexandra, and the other is a spunky, three-syllable moniker that brings to mind hits like Kimberly, they share the same roots.

In Greek, doron means gift and theos means god. So Dorothea, Dorothy – and the name formed by flipping the pieces, Theodora – all translate to “gift of God.” Not a bad sentiment in the final days before Christmas.

While the masculine Latin Dorotheus lost out to the far more popular Theodoros, the opposite is true for the feminine. In French Dorothea became Dorothée, which brings us to Dorothy.

L. Frank Baum chose the name for the heroine of his 1900 novel, The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy had been in use since at least the 1500s in England. She ranked #27 in the US the year the book was published. But by 1904, she’d entered the Top Ten and would stay there until 1939, spending eight of those years at #2.

While Judy Garland’s big screen Dorothy doubtless inspired some parents, the year of the movie’s release – 1939 – marked her last year in the Top Ten. By 1961, she’d fallen out of the Top 100 and 2006 marked her last year in the rankings.

Dorothea is far less common, but her roots are deeper. Three saints bear the name:

  • Dorothea of Caesarea lived in the 300s. After refusing to abandon her faith, she sent flowers to a man who mocked her; he converted and was martyred, too. While there’s no historical evidence for her life, Dorothea remains the patron saint of florists;
  • Dorothea of Alexandria is a contemporary of the first saint, another virgin martyr with limited historical documentation;
  • Dorothea of Montau is the real deal, though she didn’t come along until the 1300s. A famously devout woman, she’s said to have converted her husband. After his death, she became a hermit known for her visions.

All three saints are sometimes called Dorothy, as well. Dorothy was also the given name of one of Doctor Who’s companions (though she was usually called by her nickname, Ace). She’s Elmo’s goldfish on Sesame Street;The Wiggles features Dorothy the Dinosaur. At the other end of the age range, Bea Arthur’s Golden Girl was Dorothy Zbornak.

There’s also witty Algonquin Round Table writer Dorothy Parker and glamorous, ground breaking actress Dorothy Dandridge.

Both names share a host of nicknames, including:

  • Dot and Dottie;
  • Dolly;
  • Doreen;
  • Dory and Dora;
  • Do, Dee and Dodie;
  • Dosia, Dasia;
  • Tea, Thea.

Some feel dated, while others have an appealing retro-vibe. We’re fond of the Slavic Dasia. You might even use Daisy.

We suspect Dorothea stands a better chance for a comeback circa 2008. Dorothea never reached her sister’s heights, and has been unranked since 1973. She fits with Samantha and Alexandra and will appeal to many as a charming antique.

But don’t count Dorothy out. That three syllable, ends-in-y construct remains popular. Think of past hits like Kimberly, Stephanie and Tiffany, and current hot choices Avery, Delaney, Natalie and Trinity.

Either name could suit your little gift of a girl perfectly.

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. At a BBQ this weekend, I met a little, 5-yo “Dottie.” The name wore extremely well. Prior to this encounter, I would have written it off as an old-lady name with no further thought. I would have been so wrong. It was charming.

  2. I really like Dorothy – the meaning, the fact that it’s recognizable as an established name, yet it’s not even in the top 1000 anymore. Plus I really like the nickname Dot, especially as my husband & I met online – “dot com”. I think the Wizard of Oz link would be cute too – to get a Dorothy costume to dress up in.

    Plus then we’d have two Golden Girls (Rose & Dorothy) and two Wiggles characters (Henry & Dorothy). Not that I watch either show, but it would be a fun random link.

    Hubby isn’t on board though and he gets ‘more naming rights’ this time around. In which case, maybe I’ll push for Dorothy as a middle name. Then technically I could still call the baby (if it’s even a girl) Firstname-Dot. 🙂

    1. There’s a little Dorothy in our neighborhood. It wears really well. I don’t know if they’ve gone for the Wizard of Oz costume at Halloween, but I totally would! And Dot is a darling nickname, though the local Dorothy doesn’t seem to use a short form. I like Dolly, too.

      In some ways, it is so much easier to name the first child, isn’t it? I didn’t notice the Wiggles link, but the Golden Girls came to mind.

  3. Yep, Shannon, Over here in New England she’s dor-oh-thee. Heck, I grew up in NJ and say it the same way. Maybe it’s an East coast thing? Or just Northern? I am definitely Northern. I’ve never seen Dasia in Cyrillic (bet I wouldn’t even recognise it if I did!) but I grew up hearing Dah-zhah It falls in line ith what little I know about Russian considering my maternal line originates there. But I’ve recently seen it spelled Dosia, and pronounced the same way. Anyone know if that pronunciation’s right?