There’s Zoe and Zara, Zelda and Zahara, even Zenobia and Zuleika. Z names have an undeniable appeal. But if your tastes lean more towards the classic, you can still have your z.
Thanks to Inbal for suggesting Eliza as Name of the Day.
Purists might insist that Eliza is a nickname. And indeed that is her origin. She’s just one-syllable short of Elizabeth, the classic in use since the thirteenth century. All name aficionados know that Elizabeth comes to us from the Hebrew Elishebha or Elisheva. The meaning is usually given as “God is an oath.” The Biblical appellation has been worn by queens and saints, actresses and authors.
Eliza can’t claim quite as much history, but she’s been bestowed as an independent name since the 1500s. And while Elizabeth is among the most evergreen of girls’ names, Eliza’s use is more enduring that many of the current Top 100.
In the late nineteenth century, Elizabeth was a fixture in the Top Ten while Eliza ranked in the Top 100. There’s no way to determine how many Elizabeths might’ve answered to Eliza, but doubtless there were a few among the Bettys, Libbys and Beths.
Between the 1940s and 1970s, Eliza faded from use, falling out of the rankings entirely for a few years. While she may never rival the original, a few factors argue for a strong comeback:
- Elizabeth stands at #10, suggesting that Eliza may leapfrog up from #334 as parents seek alternatives;
- Hollywood names remain all the rage and Audrey Hepburn played the up-from-the-gutter Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, the musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion;
- She fits the current vogue for names in fashion at the close of the nineteenth century;
- Just try it out – Eliza sounds like the perfect sister for Abigail or Olivia.
Besides the class-leaping Eliza Doolittle, other famous bearers of the name include:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum, actress Eliza Dushku, currently playing Echo on television’s Dollhouse;
- Australian actress Eliza Szonert is best known for her role on Neighbours;
- In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Eliza is one of the slaves escaping to the North;
- Eliza Bryant was the daughter of a freed slave, active in assisting slaves freed following the American Civil War;
- 19th century English writers included Eliza Cook and Eliza Fenwick.
It’s a long list. Eliza is also the title of a patriotic eighteenth century opera, but there’s no character answering to that name – instead, the lead soprano is called Brittania.
The Eliza Effect is the tendency to attribute human-like emotions to computers. The name comes from another famous Eliza of sorts, this time a computer software program designed by MIT’s Joseph Weizenbaum. (Eliza fooled us by simply rephrasing our comments as questions.)
The name has also been worn by a few ill-fated ships from the early 1800s – one that disappeared off the coast of Australia and another that wrecked in Fiji.
Overall, Eliza stands well as an independent given name. The only possible shortcoming to using Eliza is sacrificing some of the lovely Elizabeth’s nicknames. While Ellie and Liz would remain options, Betty, Beth, Betsy and perhaps even Libby would be something of a stretch.
But as a given name, Eliza fits with current trends while remaining just a little bit different.
Liz for now says
My name is Elizabeth but I’ve gone by Liz since I was 9 (when on the first day at a new school my teacher asked me if I went by any nicknames, “like Liz for example” and I impulsilvely answered yes, I go by Liz 🙂 my parents didn’t find out until months later at parent teacher conferences as my teacher referred to me as Liz, and they said sorry they must be at the wrong appointment, because their daughters name was Elizabeth. I never made it easy on those two 😉 )
I will be a college freshman in just a few days and thought back to that time in forth grade when I was able to start a new school with a new name. I’ve always loved Eliza and think might just suit me. Is this a crazy idea, or it is worth taking a risk like this?
I think starting college would be the perfect time to choose a new nickname. I would love to be called Kit, but, at 30, picking a different nickname is much harder.
I have a two month old lovely Eliza, we
chose the name and then read your post
which confirmed the name for us – thanks,
we love the name and everyone else
does too! We are a mixed origins family
and Eliza has easy versions in all our
languages. Do you think we could have
a re-run of Eliza some time?
My name is a Eliza and my mom used it because my great aunt’s name was Eliza.
Kint Verbal says
Actually I hope it doesn’t make a comeback, popular names just suck – make one sound anonymous. And Elizabeth sounds more some queen of England, plus it DOESN’T get all the perky nicknames like Betty & others in many languages – don’t think English only!
I love Eliza, and I think its softer than Elizabeth, and much easier to say in full form. The Beth is the harsh part for me, and Eliza is a soft E, not EEELIZA but Ah or EhLiza. Plus, the Betsys and Libbys feel very old fashioned to me compared to Liza or Liz or Ellie. As we get away from using nicknames, I find that Elizabeth comes up short whereas Eliza is beautiful. Saying the whole name “Elizabeth” is such a mouthful, so overdone and a little pompous. Four syllables is a lot. I’d prefer a sprightly and spunky name that also sounds classic and grown up – I think Eliza will be making a comeback soon.
Agreeing with SophieGray on this one. I ought to like this, but I find the name falls flat. It almost grates on me – Elisabeth/Elizabeth are lovely, and I like a good deal of their nicknames, but EEE-LIE-ZUH just sounds so harsh to me.
My middle name is Elizabeth, and if I felt more comfortable naming a child a variant of my name, I’d consider it. I really like it!
Sorry to say, but Eliza is one name I really just don’t care for. I want to like her, I really do – she’s simple and sweet, but to me she feels rather bland, flat and unfeminine. She seems to fit better with the Mias, Sarahs and Kates of the world than the Beatrixs, Ivys and Violets?
It’s odd to my little Australian mind that she’s only in the 300s in the US – in my state over here, she sat at #43 in 2008.
I really can appreciate her appeal, though I think she’ll always be a name I’ve never liked and probably never will.
I completely agree with Emma, I absolutely love Eliza!
I’d say Eliza is probably one of the most perfect names; sassy yet sweet, a modern sound with a classic feel and fitting for most any type of girl, may she be a tearaway tomboy or goody two shoes. There’s a family just down my road with a little Eliza- brother Finn. I know Finn feels overdone on the boards but, really, he’s the first I’ve ever come across IRL!
I don’t mind Eliza but I would never use it myself. It’s far too informal feeling for a girl of mine. But it is pretty, has precedent as a full name. I wouldn’t mind meeting a few, it really does feel as Emma said “sassy yet sweet”. I’d rather name her Elizabeth and call her Eliza. I prefer all of Elizabeth’s options over Eliza’s few. But yeah, it’s pretty and peppy. Perfectly lovely for any
one else’s girl and to be honest, I’d rather meet a host of Elizas over another dozen Madisons! 😀