A trio of starbaby sightings combined with that fashionable V calls the question: is this name the new Ava?

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Vita as Name of the Day.

New Zealand’s Bret McKenzie, one half of the Flight of the Conchords comedy duo, named his daughter Vita back in summer 2009. In an interview with the New Zealand Herald, the proud papa indicated that it was Italian for life.

A few weeks later, television star David Boreanaz welcomed a daughter called Bardot Vita. Reaction to the first name was mixed, but the middle name generated quite a bit of positive buzz.

Then Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves announced the birth of daughter Vida. Interviews indicated that Vida was Portuguese for life, a nod to Camila’s Brazilian heritage.

Ten years ago, both choices sounded impossibly fusty. Vida peaked in the 1890s, back when Ida was a fixture in the US Top 20. She never made it much higher than the 300s.

Vita was rarer still, charting only from the 1910s to the 1930s. Even in her best year – 1929 – a mere 79 girls were given the name. You were more likely to meet a Reva, Verla, Socorro or Treva.

Both spellings have been gone from the US rankings since the World War II era. But nineteenth century names are quite fashionable circa 2010. Alice, Clara, Pearl, Ruby, Evelyn and Charlotte were all stylish the last time parents considered Vida.

The name’s saintly origins have kept her in sparing use. Saint Vitus was just a boy when he was martyred for his faith during the Diocletian persecutions of the 300s. Over the years he became associated with epilepsy – and dancing. He’s the patron saint of Bohemia, as well as cities in Croatia, Italy and the Netherlands.

Vitus is derived from the Latin vita – life – but the name’s adoption was helped along by similar names related to the Germanic element Wido – wood.

The best known Vita was born Victoria Sackville-West, a prize winning poet in 1920s and 30s England.

Two fictional bearers of the name are:

  • Anime Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha series includes the mallet-wielding Vita, named after the Opel Vita, a bite-sized car sold in Japan;
  • Writer Marge Piercy used the name for her 60s radical title character in 1980’s Vida.

Vita might also be considered part of the foreign-words-as-names trend. There’s little original about naming your daughter Skye these days, but the French Ciel is a fresh option. There’s a vaguely spiritual vibe about Vita, too – the meaning is meaningful, but far short of Nevaeh or even Destiny.

As for which spelling is the better candidate, that’s tricky. If you hope to use it as a nickname, Vita is more closely linked to Victoria, as well as the elaboration Vitalia or the Italian Vittoria. And while Vida might be rhymed with Ida, Vita is almost certainly meant to be pronounced VEE tah.

But both are attractive, and the Alves-McConaughey daughter is probably the higher profile starbaby.

While masculine options related to Vitus seem stalled – Vito is a gangster and Vidal is shampoo – Vita and Vida feel quite wearable for daughter in 2010.

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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  1. I’m Italian and Vita is fairly common here (especially paired with Maria – Maria Vita). It actually means life in Italian, and we pronounce it “vee – ta”.