Natasha is an accessible, familiar name, both playful and glamorous.
But is this a dated choice, or a perfectly on-trend option for a daughter today?
Natasha: And Boris
If this name makes you think Boris, there are two reasons.
Let’s start with the literary explanation. In Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the well-born Natasha Rostova is in love with Boris at the start of the story. She ends happily – but with Pierre instead.
Then, of course, there are the evil cartoon henchmen from The Rocky and Bullwinkle show, who share the literary couple’s given names.
Of course, Natasha didn’t start out as a given name.
Instead, it’s traditionally a pet form of Natalya, long used by Russian parents. Natalia is an alternate spelling, and Natalie is heard in French and English. Natalia Zakharenko, the daughter of Russian immigrants, moved to Hollywood, changed her name to Natalie Wood, and introduced the cluster of names to American parents.
All forms of the name come from the Latin natalis, which refers to Christmas Day.
The holiday connection isn’t necessarily why Natalya was in steady use in Slavic countries. Instead, that may have to do with Saints Adrian and Natalia. They converted to Christianity in the 300s. He was martyred, while she cared for the dying. Saint Natalia is particularly popular in the Eastern Orthodox church.
Natasha: Russian Glam
The name was first given to more than five girls in 1934, and started to catch on in the 1950s. Perhaps it was part of our affection for all things Russian – 1965 blockbuster Doctor Zhivago, based on Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel. Yves St. Laurent based his 1976 collection on Russia, and the Russian Tea Room was a famous New York City restaurant in the same era.
But credit for the name’s rise has to go to the lovely Audrey Hepburn, who played Natasha Rostova in the 1956 movie version of War and Peace.
No surprise, then, that the name entered the US Top 100o for the first time in 1965.
Fictional characters – from the Rocky and Bullwinkle villain to Marvel Comic’s heroic Black Widow were given the name in the years that followed.
By 1970, Natasha ranked #351, and was a Top 100 choice through the 1980s.
Natasha: High Profile
The name was even more popular in the UK in the same era. Maybe that’s why so many famous Natashas are British, including the late actress Richardson and pop singer Bedingfield. It was the name of Mark Darcy’s girlfriend – and Bridget’s rival – in the first Bridget Jones movie.
But the name takes on a distinctly Americana vibe thanks to first daughter Natasha Obama, the younger daughter of Barack and Michelle Obama. It’s her given name, though the teenager is typically known by nickname Sasha.
Natasha: Dated or On Trend?
All of this leads to an important question: if Natasha caught on in the 1950s and 60s, peaking in the 1980s, is it just another dated Jennifer-Ashley name?
But there’s reason to believe that it would still wear well in 2016. While the name shimmers with glamor and sophistication, it’s also a good match for elaborate names like Isabella and Francesca that have been huge in recent years, as well as rising favorites like Arabella and Magdalena.
If you’re after a stands-out, fits-in name, this might be one to consider.
What do you think of Natasha? Is it stuck in the 1980s, or still wearable today?
This post was originally published on November 1, 2008. It was substantially revised and republished on March 31, 2016.
I read a profile of Natalie Wood’s daughter Natasha recently–I remember thinking the two names were quite similar, but now I see the relationship. Interesting!
Well,well it took 31 years for my name to be the it name. I am from the islands and i was always ask if it’s natasha or Latasha. so happy to know sasha obama making our name the it name for 2009. But one thing have alway like the fact that it was uncommon.
Natasha was my cousin’s name (born 1963). Sadly she died in 1996. Her mom is American and her dad Italian. I always liked the name. Since I learned about Russian nicknames, I guess I would use Natalya and Natasha might be her nickname. I also like Natalie. Another cousin used Natasha as her daughter’s middle name in honor of our cousin Natasha. Her first name is Olexa…. parents say they saw it a name book and it’s Czech (they are not of Czech background). I can’t find a reference for that. I find Oleksa is a name in the Ukraine but for men.. I think she will spend a lot of time explaining that her name is not Alexa. . they don’t say it like Alexa -they pronounce the O. oh-LEX-a.
One more thing: I think a “First daughter” sends a name down. Now, Julie & Trisha Nixon were fairly beutral, name wise. But then, I think both of them were in their 20’s when Dad was President. Amy & Chelsea (the two teens I can recall) saw their names plummet after their Dads took office. Jenna & Barbara’s names were already unfashionable when Bush II took office. Does anyone recall any other First teenage daughters? Could it be overexposure? Any other theories as to why the precipitous drop?
Oh, not all.. we’ve got a Jayden, a Gianna (pronounced gee-ann-ah *sigh*) and a Hayley (but at least that’s spelled better than most). Overall, we’re a great named bunch but we’ve got a few that make me want to play “one of these things just isn’t the same” game. 🙂
I knew sisters named Natasha and Natalie – too matchy for me.
Natasha is ok but i would never use it as my name is Natalie 🙂
Oh, a Natalie and a Natalya? That does feel like the parents only had one name in mind and used it twice!
Wow, 500 people in your family and everyone has a fabulous name, Lola!
And I do think Natasha was hot in the 60s/70s – not hot enough to be worn out or dated, but enough that you’re not wrong about your association, Lola – and that it’s not surprising that your student has a stepmom with the name, Emmy Jo!
I’ll be curious to see if Natasha (and Malia, I suppose) gain following a Barack victory. (Or Trig, Track, Bristol, etc. for McCain/Palin.) I don’t know of any cases where a First Family started a naming trend … but then, I’ve never given it much thought. If any name gains by association, I think Natasha is a contender.
Natalie is a little Christmasey for me, but Natasha is definitely my fave out of Natalie/Natalia/Natasha.
The Natalie I know goes by Nat, and her little sister is Natalya, called Talya. I think that’s a little too much, you know?
Oh, I love Natalya. Natasha’s ok, feels a bit 70’s for me for some reason. In my family though, Natalya’s saved for the ones born on Christmas day (or Christmas week, at least). And of course, I have one cousin with the name. (in a family 500 something people deep these days, names are usually duplicated, Natalya’s not. Christmas week is an uncommon birthday time in our family!)
I think Natasha’s pretty but thanks to my heritage, she does feel nicknamey to me. Natalie feels the same. And Sasha as a nickname really bothers me, Sasha comes from the -sandr root and there’s none of that in Natasha. Tasha she should be. But then, I look at Caleb and think ‘dog” so maybe I’m a bit too into etymology! I’d love to have a Natalya of my own but would rather have a New Year’s baby, to be honest. Her dad’s birthday’s New Year’s Eve!. I think Natasha’s pretty, sweet, very spunky and completely lovely. (Natalya’s lovely, gorgeous, reeking of elegance & dripping with lushness.) There’s an 8 year old Natalie across the street from me, so I think I’m out of luck with the name, overall but I’d love to run across a few!
Emmy Jo says
I’ve really started liking Natasha recently, though I’d never been fond of it before. It’s been on my mind because its the name of one of the moms who volunteers in my classroom — she’s a beautiful woman and a great brand-new stepmom to one of the most darling little girls I’ve ever taught. (They just got married this summer, and my student was so excited to bring in the wedding pictures to show the class.) You’re right that it’s just exotic enough but still completely wearable.