Octavia: Baby Name of the DayOctavia combines ancient style with an auspicious meaning, and gets a boost from a popular television character, too.

Our Baby Name of the Day is one of the newest girl names to enter the US Top 1000.

Octavia: Ancient World

Way back in the first century BC, the future Emperor Augustus was born Gaius Octavius Thurinus. His sisters both shared the feminine form of the family name: Octavia Major and Minor. The younger sister married Mark Antony and appears in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. History remembers her as widely respected.

Her great-granddaughter also bore the name, and makes it into our history books at the wife of the Emperor Nero. She’s a tragic figure, but Seneca turned her sufferings into a play, one later adapted for opera by Handel, Kaiser, and Monteverdi.

Octavia: Auspicious

The name simply means eight, from the Latin octavus.

But eight is considered a lucky number in many cultures. Turn it on its side, and 8 resembles the infinity symbol: ∞. In Mandarin, “eight” sounds like the word for “good fortune.”

Maybe it was once reserved for eighth-born children. At least that was true for a few: nineteenth century social reformer Octavia Hill was her father’s eighth child.

Octavia: By the Numbers

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this name appeared in the US Top 1000 consistently. The era was good to ancient names: Homer, Virgil, and Cassius also made the rankings; so did Minerva, Claudia, and Valeria. US President Zachary Taylor gave the name to a daughter born in 1816, but she died in childhood.

The name left the Top 1000 in 1938, returned in the 1970s, and departed again after 1999. Pop culture likely deserves credit for the name’s return in the latter part of the twentieth century.

Octavia: 1970s and 80s

The 70s and 80s were good to Octavia, in a quiet way. Uses include:

  • Prominent science fiction author Octavia E. Butler published her first novel in 1976, and has won Nebula and Hugo awards, along with a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, since.
  • Jilly Cooper gave the name to the title character in a bestselling 1977 novel. Cooper tended to choose a mix of on-trend and offbeat names for her novel titles. There’s also Emily, Bella, Harriet, Imogen, and Prudence.
  • One more literary note: Robert Graves published his tales of the Roman Empire, I, Claudius and Claudius the God back in the 1930s. But they became a BBC miniseries in 1976, and aired on PBS multiple times over the following years.
  • This one might be a little obscure: it’s the name of an evil octopus from 1980s cartoon She-Ra: Princess of Power, a He-Man spin-off.
  • In 1986, a singer by the name scored a dance hit; it looks like the name spiked accordingly.

In some ways, the name never really went away. It just faded in use enough to leave the Top 1000, and languished slightly outside of the rankings for years. Even between the 1970s and 90s, it only made the Top 500 for one brief year, following the pop singer’s biggest hit.

Octavia: Olivia Substitute

Name fans have been talking this one up for years, though. That’s because the similar-sounding Olivia debuted in the US Top 100 in 1990, and has been a Top Ten staple since 2001. We’re all looking for potential substitutes for this chart-topping favorite, and Octavia seems like an obvious possibility.

Potential nickname Tavy is every bit as appealing as Livy, and they both share Via as well as O.

The name also fits with musical choices, from Cadence to Harmony to Aria.

Octavia: Small Screen, Silver Screen

But in 2017, the name rocketed into the Top 1000, returning at #593 – a sky-high re-entry!

The BBC/HBO miniseries Rome failed to spark additional interest in the name, despite featuring a character by the name.

Celebrated, Oscar-winning actor Octavia Spencer gets some credit for the name’s rise. Spencer made her silver screen debut in 1996’s A Time to Kill, won an Oscar for 2011’s The Help, and has gone on to roles in 2016’s Hidden Figures and 2017’s The Shape of Water.

Octavia: Blake

But the factor that put this name over the top? It’s almost certainly The 100, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series that debuted on The CW in 2014. The series gave us Octavia Blake, younger sister to Bellamy, from the first episode. But she became more of a central character as the series went on, developing into a fierce warrior, and, by the current season, a capable – if ruthless – queen.

Between the fictional ruler and the real-life Hollywood A-lister, no surprise that this Olivia substitute is finding favor once more.

Do you prefer Octavia to Olivia? Do you think this name will continue to rise?

Editor’s note: This post originally ran on August 8, 2008 and was revised and re-posted on December 27, 2011 and again on June 6, 2018.

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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What do you think?


  1. I’m so excited to see this re-run! I love the name Octavia. It hits all of the things I like about a name. Slightly different, literary, and still sounds strong. I think I’d have problems naming a second child though. I wouldn’t know what to pair with the goregous Octavia.

  2. I also knew an Octavia growing up in the UK. I’m 31 now and she was a couple of years older than me. I do like the name. Having known someone with the name makes it less ‘out there’ for me too. 🙂

    I like O names and names with a ‘v’ in them and girls names that end in ‘a’ – so Octavia has 3 bonus points for me there. I guess 4 syllables would be a negative one though.

  3. Met a little “Tayvia” once – loved it. Mom told me it was not a nickname, but I think it would work great for a little Octavia.

  4. I love Octavia, although I automatically want to add Butler to it. I feel like I missed the boat, Maria is my parent’s eighth (or fifth if you don’t count step-kids.) Maria Octavia could of been very cute.

  5. I like Octavia very much. It’s underused but not over the top. I like Cordelia better (as far as ancient feminissa names go) but Octavia really is great 🙂 And I had never thought of the nickname Tavy, awesome!

  6. I love Octavia! I do like the super feminine, Victorian-esque names like these. I like Tavia as a nickname, but am not a fan of Tavy. It sounds too cat-like. I wish Ocatavia wouldn’t sound so out of place in my neck of the woods. I would use it in a heartbeat.

    1. my name is Octavia. my family nickname is tavi. I hate it. my friends call me tav . I hate that too. I like tavia

      1. Octavia is at the top of our list for baby girl names. That and Josephine and Mila. I just love Octavia!

  7. There was a girl in the same year with me all through school named Octavia (I’m 25). So I guess I never considered it an “out there” name. When I hear Octavia I think of her. I like the name in theory, similar names like Cordelia, Augustus & Vivienne are on my list, but probably because of my old classmate, Octavia doesn’t make the cut.

  8. I love the Oct- names.. October being one of my top lists.. but Octavia is so romantic and fun with the V in the middle. I love her solid foot in history, and her under use in modern day makes her very appealing. Great Replay!

  9. I adore Octavia. Such a fine example of a strong, regal, feminine name. If I were to use her I think I’d have to keep her in the middle spot though.