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.
Carrie Dowell McCully says
I am so lucky to be the mom of identical twin girls, born in 1993. Caroline Zara and Philippa Grace aka Zara and Pippa.
What lovely names, Carrie!
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).
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.”
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!
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! 😀
Sarah A says
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!)
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!
I feel I must add in the other alternative spelling of this name here – what with it being mine and all: Phillippa
Two ‘l’s and two ‘p’s.
Unfortunately, no one spells it right for the first time and I have to live my life constantly correcting them.
Other then that, I have to say that I like my name.
I am from England (born and raised), but I have found that this name apparently confuses people as I have been asked whether I am Greek, Italian or French on occasion.
As to nicknames: Pip, Pips, Pippa, Pippy, Phil, Philly, etc etc
Sometimes branching out to:
Apple Pip (or just ‘apple’)
Other nicknames used for the name (ones which some friends who are also called Philippa/Phillipa have experienced other then mentioned):
No ‘Pa’ though.
Thanks, Phillippa – you’re right. With all the Phillips out there, Phillippa is perfectly valid.
“What’s your name?”
“Phil robot?…. (or weirder)”
“Oh…. isn’t that a boys name?…..”
Pip=a seed or worse, a fart as mentioned above
I’m not sure what I’d do if someone started calling me Polly or Poppy.
Pepper however is a cute dog’s name…
Don’t do it! Spare your child from grief! I can’t even pronounce my own name half the time!
(Also, I can’t stand horses)
Well, it’s been a good week or two for my kids’ names here!
Count me among those who discovered Philippa/Pippa and fell in love while living in the UK. I was pregnant with my Pippa during the 2004 Olympics and Philippa/Pippa Funnell was the UK’s star equestrian. Pippa’s name was already more or less settled by then, but hearing it on TV every so often made my heart go pitter-pat and sealed the deal.
Another little bit of Philippa trivia for you: I couldn’t give you a source on this, but I read somewhere when we were researching names that originally Philip was used for both sexes. To distinguish between boys and girls, the suffix a was added only in written birth records (written as “Philip(a)”), and gradually this became the accepted female form. Apparently.
As far as spelling/pronunciation goes. I only ever encountered Philippa in the UK (though I know both are used), but I seem to see Phillipa more from Australian sources. Could that be a pattern? We pronounce it with the emphasis on the PHIL, but here in the US where we now live, it is almost always mispronounced as phil-LIP-a or even phil-LEEP-a. Thankfully she’s Pippa to everyone but the doctor’s office, so the confusion is minimal.
Oh yeah, and I like it 🙂 We get compliments on her name all the time. I’m pleased with how well it translated to the US when we moved here, though I think we have a bit of a reputation now for being “out-there” baby-namers!
Philippa is adorable – as is Pippa. It’s not that uncommon in the UK… but I have to say, it’s one of those names that I grew to like while living over there, and not one that I loved prior to my stint in England.
Charlotte Vera says
I have always like Philippa but know that I could never use it since my brother’s name is Philip. I chuckled when I came onto this site today because I’m currently listening to a recording of an Agatha Christie mystery that features a Philippa (called Pip).
I like this quite a bit. She is spunky and so fun to say. She has plenty of adorable nn options to fall back on. Pippi, Fifi, Poppy, Polly or even Pepper. I also like the French, Philippine.
While Philippa itself is a great name, the nickname Pippa is awkward to pronounce. Also, am I the only person whose family used “pip” as a “polite” term for a fart? I would eschew nicknames and use the whole name.
I adore this name.
That’s really all I can say on the subject.
Oh, though I prefer Philippa. The double-L just doesn’t look as nice as the double-P to me.
There is also a Philippa in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of the Island- Phil Gordon.
I’d tell you how I came across this site, but I honestly don’t remember. Maybe from You Can’t Call It It? Anyway, I’ve been visiting for several months now. Hi.
Oh there is, isn’t there? Thanks for the reminder. I haven’t read Anne in years … I wonder if I still have them somewhere. Thanks for reading!
I’ve been proclaiming my love of Philippa for quite some time; however, I recently realized that the name is awkward and cumbersome to pronounce (at least for me).