Here’s an often-overlooked gem – feminine but not fussy, aristocratic yet easy for a child to wear.
Thanks to Lola, Kate and Jodi for suggesting Philippa as Name of the Day.
Just like her masculine counterpart Philip, Philippa has an undeniably equestrian air. Philos is Greek for friend; hippos for horse.
But unlike Philip, a favorite amongst royals and writers, Philippa is quite sparingly used in the US. Philippa and Phillipa unlike have never appeared in the US Top 1000. Phyllis fared well in the 1920s and 30s, but she has different roots. (Literally – she’s from the Greek for foliage!)
Not only does Philippa sound like a member of the horsey set, she also sounds British. Back in the 1300s, Queen Philippa was consort to King Edward III of England. Aristocratic Philippas abound. Queen Philippa herself was honored with two granddaughters wearing her name, one of whom became Queen of Portugal.
The spunky nickname Pippa saves Philippa from sounding prim. Her origins aren’t clear, but Robert Browning penned the poem Pippa Passes back in 1841. His Pippa was an innocent girl traversing the streets of Asolo, in the Italian countryside outside Venice. The poem is remembered for a few things, including the line “God’s in his heaven – All’s right with the world.”
Then there’s Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking. The feisty children’s book character claims her given name is Pippilotta. Maybe so, but if you happened to have a red-haired daughter called Philippa, nicknaming her Pippi would be tempting.
A handful of other Philippas are well known, including:
- Historical novelist Philippa Gregory, best known for writing The Other Boelyn Girl;
- The BBC’s Phillipa Foffrester;
- Philippa Foot, a 20th century philosopher and pioneer in the field of modern ethics;
- Philippa Schuyler became a famous pianist in the 1930s, while still a child. While her story isn’t widely remembered today, there are occasional rumors of a biopic – the most recent round even suggested Alicia Keys might star;
- There’s also a character on the Australian soap opera Home and Away called Phillipa Ross, better known as Pippa. Another character was also named Pippa in her honor;
- In the 1970s, English girls played with the Pippa Doll, a rival to Barbie;
- Libba Bray has created another fictional Pippa, known as Pip, one of the nineteenth century school girls at Spence Academy in A Great and Terrible Beauty.
Overall, Philippa is certainly an underused gem. She’s familiar but uncommon; classic but not cumbersome. If Pippa doesn’t suit, you could call her Polly, or possibly even Poppy.
As for the Philippa/Phillipa spelling issue, that’s difficult to resolve. Philip is closer to the original, but Phillip – originally a surname spelling – has become far more common in the US. Today, either is valid, but Philippa seems to have a bit of an edge. In fact, she could emerge as quite fashionable in the next few years.