Ava is white hot. Eve is gaining fast. Plenty of parents are seeking similar-but-not-the-same variants of both.
Here’s an elaboration that just might fit the bill. Thanks to Laney McDonald for suggesting Evelina as Name of the Day.
Evelina might bring to mind an eighteenth century novel. Frances Burney’s 1778 Evelina: Or, the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World is the tale of an aristocrat’s illegitimate daughter, raised in the country. Burney’s heroine is beautiful, wise and good. The story ends happily, with Evelina marrying an earl who is handsome, wise and good.
While Evelina isn’t a household name, the novel remains in print. And the work is said to have inspired other enduring favorites, like Jane Austen’s Emma.
The name was still in use in nineteenth century America, but she hasn’t ranked in the US Top 1000 since 1908. Today she’s likely to be viewed as an elaboration of Eve. That’s a valid perspective, but there’s more to her.
- The Biblical Eve comes from the Hebrew chavva – to breathe – or chaya – to live;
- Eva is a Latinate form of Eve;
- Ava is sometimes listed as variant of Eve/Eva, or may come from the Germanic element avi – lively;
- The Germanic rarity Avila – also probably derived from avi – became slightly more common in honor of the sixteenth century Spanish Saint Teresa of Ávila;
- Aveline and Avelina probably started out as diminutives of Avila. Aveline was in use in England following the Norman invasion – I found a handful in the historical record, from circa 1090 and 1165;
- Alternately, Aveline could be related to Avice or Aveza often connected to avi, but with the added connection to Avis – the Latin for bird;
- Others link Aveline to Gaelic names or the French word for hazelnut;
- Evelina emerged as a Latinized version of Aveline.
Evelyn is also a member of this sorority – only this one started out as a surname version of Aveline and company, and was mainly bestowed on boys from the 1600s right up into the late 19th century. (Think novelist Evelyn Waugh.) In 1910, she peaked at #10 for girls born in the US – and appears to be headed in that direction again.
Medieval variants include Avilina and Avelyn. It’s easy to imagine both of those, as well as Evalyn and Evalina, in use today.
While the meaning is elusive, the possibilities are uniformly positive.
Similar names currently in the US Top 1000 include:
- Ava (#5)
- Avery (#38)
- Evelyn (#54)
- Eva (#114)
- Evangline (#450)
- Eve (#655)
- Averie (#768)
- Evelin (#811)
- Evie (#853)
- Averi (#966)
- Avah (#972)
And don’t forget rarities like Evadne, or boys’ choices like Evan.
All this makes for Evelina’s only real flaw. She’s graceful and literary – a gentle antique right at home with Isabella and Sophia. But her sound can’t be considered distinctive. You’ll be forever correcting the spelling.
On the other hand, that could be the very reason for her appeal. If you love Ava but want something just a smidge different, Evelina is a more sophisticated choice than, say, spelling it Ayvah.
With an appealing literary heroine, a bunch of related names with appealing meanings and the oh-so-current vowel-plus-v sound, Evelina is certainly one to consider.