Louisa is a gentle antique with a literary vibe and spunky nicknames galore. No wonder it’s slowly attracting more attention.
Thanks to Alicia and Kim for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Louisa: Literary Gem
This ladylike name has been used for characters galore, including characters from both Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
But it’s the author of Little Women that makes this name so instantly and inescapably literary.
Louisa May Alcott was an abolitionist and a suffragette, the daughter of writer, reformer, and Transcendentalist Amos Bronson Alcott. The family was poor – just like the fictional March family – and included four sisters. Again, just like her most famous characters. Alcott is said to have based rebellious Jo March on herself. The novel was first published in 1868, and has remained a favorite ever since.
Louisa: Nineteenth Century Mainstay
Miss Alcott is far from the only distinguished Louisa in the nineteenth century.
There’s also Mrs. John Quincy Adams, who was First Lady from 1825 through 1829.
All of this tracks with the name’s peak popularity. In 1880, Louisa ranked #130. It fell steadily throughout the next several decades, suggesting that the name’s peak use was well in the past. By 1970, the name had exited the US Top 1000 entirely.
Louisa: In the Family
Of course, it wasn’t just Louisa. The name is part of a bigger family, all related to the Germanic Chlodovech, from the elements famous and battle.
It’s a fierce meaning for a dainty name.
Dozens of Louis names have been heard over the generations: Ludwig and Aloysius, Ludovic and Luigi. And those are just the reasonably familiar masculine forms.
The Latinate Louisa has traditionally come in second place to the French Louise, a Top 20 favorite in the early part of the twentieth century. Luisa is the title of a Verdi opera and Louise is the founder of a religious order.
It’s heard throughout Europe and Latin America, too, in various forms. One of the Von Trapp children answered to the name – though in real life, she was named Maria Franziska.
Louisa: Nickname Rich
All of the Lou- names are associated with accomplished women, but they’re not too much to wear. That’s especially true thanks to all of the possible nicknames, including Lucy – which is really an independent name; Lou, the choice of Heidi Klum for her youngest; Lulu, as in the 1960s singer and a nickname for Louise Brooks; Lula, calling on a mix of Pitbull and Breakfast at Tiffany’s references; and perhaps even Lola.
Louisa: Comeback Kid
This name should wear well in 2016. It fits right in with traditional, feminine names for girls like Sophia and Isabella.
It’s almost hard to believe that the name hasn’t been more common, but it’s true. Around a decade ago, barely 100 girls received this name every year. As of 2014, that number had increased to 271 girls – but that’s still far fewer than the nearly 19,000 newborn Sophias.
What do you think of Louisa? Do you prefer another Lou- or Lu- name?
This post was originally published on March 12, 2010. It was substantially revised and re-posted on April 4, 2016.