Today’s choice sounds mysterious – and indeed she is!

Thanks to Annelise for suggesting Elvia as Name of the Day.

Plenty of names have two, even three possible sources. But Elvia takes the cake! Here’s the list:

  • Elvia could relate to elf. Plenty of elements in Old English and Norse names trace back to the word – think of Alfred and Oliver. There’s also Alf, a Scandinavian name. The feminine version is Alva, Elva – or maybe even Elvia;
  • Along the same lines, Elvia could relate to feminine versions of Alvin. Alvina regularly ranked in the US Top 1000 through the 1940s and Elvina charted steadily through the 1920s;
  • There’s a New Testament name Alphaios or Alphaeus. He’s the father of James and Levi. The Italian version is Alfeo. It’s tempting – if perhaps a stretch – to link back to Alvia or Elvia;
  • Then there’s Ailbhe, a Gaelic feminine name from legend that translates to white or fair. Elva is an Anglicized spelling, so it isn’t a stretch to imagine Elvia as a related name;
  • There’s a second century Saint Elvan, but very little is known of his life;
  • The philosopher Seneca was married to Helvia. Details of her life – including the origin and meaning of her name – are elusive, but it sometimes listed as Elvia;
  • Perhaps because it’s just one letter short of Elvira, Elvia is sometimes listed as a nickname for that tragic, campy appellation;
  • Speaking of pop culture, there’s Elvis. Elvia seems like the logical feminine form. Trouble is, Elvis’ roots are unclear, too;
  • This last one is a stretch, but the element via always reminds me of the Spanish word for avenue. The literal translation is road or way, and has been in use since Roman times.

Believe it or not, that’s just the beginning of the mystery. Back in the 1960s, Elvia Andreoli was an Argentine film actress. Her career lasted more than thirty years. This gives Elvia a decidedly Latina feel.

And we also have to consider Elvia Allman. Her acting career spanned five decades. You might catch her as a guest star on The Jack Benny Show, Petticoat Junction, The Munsters, The Beverly Hillbillies or I Love Lucy, or you might hear her as the original voice of Clarabelle Cow. Born in 1904 in North Carolina, this tracks with US statistics. Elvia dipped into the US Top 1000 for the first time in 1899, and appeared again at the fringes in 1902, 1948, 1951 and 1975.

Perhaps Elvia’s origins must simply remain a mystery. The good news is that she could be a heritage choice for virtually anyone or even just a convincing revival of a seldom-used name.

Elvia certainly has some appeal. She’s free of Elvira’s mistress-of-the-dark baggage. The possibly-related Alva is a Top Ten pick in Sweden. And should your Elvia wish to disguise her unusual given name, both Ellie and Evie are viable options. Plus she’s got that great v – a choice that could prove quite fashion-forward.

Elvia might appeal to parents seeking truly unusual feminine appellation with global appeal.

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. My name is Elvia, and I love it. When I was younger I always wanted to have a common name such as “Jennifer” or “Emily” but as I grew older I realized that people actually remembered my name because it’s very unique. There are some people who mispronounce it, but after I correct them they usually get it right.

  2. I actually really like this. My grandmother-in-law is named Elva, and I always thought it was really cute. Reminds me of little Elfs and fairies. Elvia has a really pretty sound, reminds me of Sylvia. I really like Elvira.

  3. I immediately thought “elfin” upon seeing the name. It’s pretty, but it’s similarity to Elvira makes it feel rather dark, at least in my mind.

  4. I love Elvia, along with many other mellifluous names I strongly associate with Latina women. I’m intrigued, though, at all the other possible etymologies. Maybe Elvia isn’t out for a super-white girl like me after all! On the other hand, I’m not a fan of Elvira (at least, the way I pronounce it, it has that “viral” sound in it), and I would be disappointed to have to constantly disambiguate the two, so maybe middle is still best. Hmm…something to think about…

  5. Elvia’s an intruiging one 🙂 I do like her sound – to me she’s light and airy, yet very elfin, as mentioned. However, my tongue doesn’t seem to like her very much at all! Every time I go to say the name, I ended saying Elvira – then I have to actually look at the letters as I say her to get her right (DH was looking at me really strangely!), so i feel like I can’t read and I’m my daughter’s age again!

    Aside from that effect – I think it’s just me though – I do quite like Elvia; not quite enough to put up front, but as a second middle, if I were feeling like something different from my usual likes and she sounded terrific! 🙂

  6. I’m astonished that I haven’t already covered Elvira, Lola! So I’ll add her to the calendar … as soon as I find my calendar …

    And Kayt, which blog was discussing Diamondnique? I need to add it to my Reader!

  7. I’m intrigued by Elvia. f course, with a great Aunt named Elvira, I’d be tempted to use it and then Elvia her. 🙂 It’s a little clunky, yes, but not too much soo, with all those vowels, wow, 3 to 2! My brain automatically goes to “elf road” as a meaning, which is beyond silly, isn’t it? So stretching, it may be but you’re not alone! I like the option of more mainstream nicknames while keeping the more outstanding original name in full. Very cool, that.

    As a request, would you consider Elvira as a NotD? She’s got a bit of sass and a dual pronunciation on English, el-VEER-ah & el-VYE-ra. I know my Great Aunt said the latter but I don’t mind the former, either. It’s a bit Gothy feeling and as such, may appeal to parents looking for something with a bit more substance than, say, Winter or Raven.

  8. Oops, I replied to the wrong blog here, Vee! 😉 Here’s what I have to say about Elvia:

    It’s an interesting choice. I keep typing it as Eliva, like some typo for Eliza. I find it a bit awkward and clunky, like Edna, but not in a completely offputting way. It’s definitely not my style, but kind of nifty.

  9. I knew a set of twins in high school named Melissa and Elizabeth that we collectively referred to as Melissabeth. I don’t particularly care for combined names, but some are kind of fun. I particularly dislike Diamondnique. I think it would work better as Diamondique, without the second N.