Nicole was one of the most popular girls’ names of the 1980s and Nicholas spent the 1990s in the boys’ Top Ten. Both are still common, pleasing picks. But after so much use, can any of the Nic- names sound fresh?

Thanks to Corinne for suggesting one that just might – our Name of the Day: Nicola.

There’s nothing wrong with Nicole. We’re big fans of Nicole Kidman. It’s a name that has worn well on countless women, from childhood into their adult years. But that’s just it – Nicole feels rather dated and unoriginal. Some parents have opted for Nichole – a defensible spelling based on Nicholas, but not one that makes the popular moniker any more distinctive.

But swap out the final “e” for an “a” and all of a sudden, a two-syllable, slightly spare, vaguely French-ish appellation is a three-syllable, quite feminine and slightly Italian-sounding name.

All three names trace back to the Greek Nikolaos, from nike – which means victory, not running shoe – and laos – people. The fourth century Saint Nicholas was quite popular in the ancient world, and so Christians have kept his name alive in both masculine and feminine forms.

In fact, Nicola started out as a masculine moniker. In the 1200s, Nicola Pisano was a renowned Italian sculptor. Even into modern times, Nicola Berti was an Italian footballer.

But most recent Nicolas have been women and most of them have been English: actress Nicola Wheeler played character Nicola De Souza on the ITV drama Emmerdale. Singer Nicola Roberts earned a spot in the pop group Girls Aloud on the 2002 ITV1 reality competition Popstars: The Rivals. In the 1970s, Nicola Pagett played Elizabeth Bellamy in Upstairs, Downstairs.

Head to Japan and we understand that you’ll find Nicola on the newsstand, where she’s a tween fashion ‘zine.

You’ll also find Nicola on the map in British Columbia, though again, the Nicola River and Lake are named after a male bearer of the name – in this case, a famous Okanagan chief from the 1800s. In his case, Nicola was an Anglicization of Nkwala.

While we find Nicola far more intriguing than Nicole, there are two serious drawbacks: first, she’s likely to end up Nicky/Nicki/Nikki, a diminutive at least as dated as Nicole. Second, because Nicole is so common and Nicola so rare – she’s barely charted in the US, appearing just a few times between 1968 and 1978 – odds are that when she isn’t being called Nicki, she’ll be called Nicole.

But if you prefer a nickname-proof moniker, Nicola is thoroughly charming – vaguely English, nicely rare without being truly unusual. She’ll blend in with Sophia and Julia, but remain distinct. And while Nicola is pretty, she has the strength and history of Nicholas behind her, including that appealing, victorious meaning.

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. I am a former Nicola. I bore it for 25 years before officially changing my name to Nina after many years of deliberation. It caused trouble in my transatlantic childhood; in Canada I was often called Nicole, or Nic-OH-la, or, worst, Ricola (sung in the yodel). Nicki never suited me (Nic did, but it’s obviously shortened). Back in the UK as a teen, there were THREE of us called Nicola in my class of 16!

    I’m going to finish this over on the Nina page, as that’s where I finish too!