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.

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 am so lucky to be the mom of identical twin girls, born in 1993. Caroline Zara and Philippa Grace aka Zara and Pippa.

  2. We decided to name our three-month-old daughter Pippa (not Phillipa) and everyone really loves it. It’s spunky and sweet and it feels much more feminine to me than Phillipa. Although we were concerned about the connection to Pippa Middleton and the possible growing popularity, most people don’t actually jump to that conclusion and in the US it still wasn’t in the Top 1000 for 2011 (though there was a jump).

  3. I wonder how much Pippa Middleton will affect the name’s popularity in North America in the next few years. I have to admit, until recently I didn’t know Pippa was a nickname for Philippa. As a consummate child of the ’80s, the only other Pippa I’ve ever heard of is the annoying Australian character they brought in during the last season or two of “The Facts of Life.”

    1. I don’t remember Pippa in TFoL, and I thought I’d seen nearly every episode! I remember Molly Ringwald on roller skates an George Clooney … funny what we forget. But that’s a great note – thanks!

  4. I requested Philippa and didn’t comment? Sheesh!

    My other half adores Philippa, but I waffle. She’s very much Jodi’s girl to me and even though I don’t *know* Jodi in RL, I feel a bit funny putting it on our list, even as a wildcard. But there Philippa sits. She’s pretty and uncommon,’which is a serious plus. She’s also easily figured out and while her pronunciations a touch waffly,it’s not a horrible thing to deal with. No worse than the 3 ways to mangle what should be Lawr-ah! (If one more person calls me Lar-ah, I’m going to bite their head off).

    Why would I want to do that to my daughter? Easy, it’s for Papa. He really, really loves Philippa (Her combo’s Philippa Guinevere Alice). I like Philippa/Pippa/Pippi/Pip/Poppy but… I don’t know if I can bring myself to use it! 😀

    1. Lola, I keep commenting on your posts as you’re figuring out what to name your little one, so don’t mind me 🙂

      My thoughts on Philippa are that she is absolutely wonderful: regal yet down to earth, spunky but serious, etc. I’m not drawn to names with nn myself, but Pippa for Philippa is so great. This is one of those few names that I equally like the full name and the main nickname.

      The ONLY drawback to Philippa imho, and this might not be too much of a problem here in the U.S. but it’s one I would consider, is that Pippa is the name of Prince William’s soon to be sister-in-law. There is just so much press about the family right now that it would make me pause a bit, especially for a child born in the next year or so. It’s not the same as a celebrity baby, but Pippa Middleton gets the name out there to the masses who might otherwise have never heard it. That said, I’m always of the opinion that if you love a name it doesn’t matter who else has it (even if it’s your niece, coworker, and best friend!)

  5. Love the nickname Pippa! We are naming our baby girl due on April 15 Philippa Jeanne and plan on calling her Pippa. We can’t wait for our Philippa to arrive!