English: Princess Maria Pia of Savoy in 1862
Princess Maria Pia of Savoy in 1862 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She sounds like another mini name, a sister for Gia and Mia.  But this tiny name is rich with meaning.

Thanks to Lora for suggesting Pia as our Baby Name of the Day.

A dozen popes have answered to the name Pius.  Nothing mysterious with the meaning of that name.  It’s a Late Latin appellation meaning devout, faithful.  It comes from the same roots as our word pious, and related words like piety.  It seems fitting for a religious leader.

Pius was almost certainly in use as a given name beginning in the second century.

Pio is the Italian form, familiar to many thanks to an influential nineteenth century Capuchin friar known as Padre Pio, now a saint.

The most notable bearers of the feminine form have been famous for slightly different reasons.

My first thought was Pia Zadora.  She started out as a child actor in the 1960s, appearing in such notable efforts as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians In the 1980s, Zadora captured the Golden Globe as Best Female Newcomer.  She later embarked on a singing career, a mix of pop and dance tunes with renditions of the classics.

Others that you might have heard in recent years include:

  • Pia Miller Getty is the older sister of Marie-Chantal, Crown Princess of Greece and Alexandra von Furstenberg.  They’re daughters of self-made millionaire Robert Warren Miller.
  • 1967’s Elvira Madigan starred Swedish actress Pia DegermarkShe won the Best Actress award at Cannes for the role.
  • Pia Toscano completed on American Idol in a recent season.

The name is heard in Scandinavia, Germany, and Italy.  Hollywood’s Ingrid Bergman gave the name to her firstborn daughter in 1938, though Pia Lindstrom was raised by her father in Sweden.  She later had a career as a television anchor in the 1970s, 80, and 90s.

Add in compound name Maria Pia, and she’s a royal choice:

  • Maria Pia of Savoy became queen of Portugal as the wife of King Luís in the late nineteenth century.
  • Maria Pia della Grazia of the Two Sicillies married Robert I, the Duke of Parma.  Italian unification cost them all their lands.
  • The same family included another Maria Pia, born about thirty years later.  She married into the imperial family of Brazil.
  • Princess Maria Pia Elena Elisabetta Margherita Milena Mafalda Ludovica Tecla Gennara married twice.  Her first husband was Prince of Yugoslavia.  Her second was Prince Michel of Bourbon-Parma.
  • In the 1950s and 60s, another Maria Pia claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of King Carlos I of Portugal.  She also maintained that her father had formally acknowledged her, making her a candidate for the throne.

There’s also 3 Idiots – a Bollywood box office smash.  It’s a comedy, the story of three engineering students and how their lives unfold from their university studies onward.  The female lead is called Pia.  While foreign films rarely influence American baby names, there are rumors of a Hollywood remake.  If it happens – and if they keep this character name – Pia could catch on.

Pia’s sound brings to mind piano, but her strong P sound might have some parents worried about teasing potential.

With Mia in the US Top Ten, and so many other rhyming names in use, no wonder that Pia is attracting some attention today.  69 girls received the name in 2011.  That’s the most since Pia Zadora was in the limelight.  Will she climb higher?  Hard to say, but for now, if you’re after a short name that isn’t often heard, Pia is a possibility.

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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. Actually I believe that the reason Pia is used in the movie “Three Idiots” is because Pia is also a Bengali (and Pakistani?) name- meaning “most beloved.” I would love to know more about that connection if you find anything!

  2. I like Pia.

    I also think it could work as a nickname for Ophelia, a name which lacks an obvious familiar form.

  3. Olympia is one of my absolute favorite names and if I ever use it I definitely plan on using Pia as her nn, though I do worry a little about teasing. I wouldn’t use it on its own but I like it and think it’s a lot fresher than Mia or Leah.

  4. I’ve always have a soft spot for Pia. Short and sweet, but also spunky, and feminine.

    But the obvious teasing potential is so hard to ignore. That would make me hesitant to use it as a first name.

  5. I adore Pia, too… I’ve been tempted to change my middle name, and the last time I thought seriously about it, I narrowed it to Pia and Inez.

  6. I want like this one given my appreciation for Bia, Nia and Fia but I have always hated it! I knew a Pia in elementary school who was a real bully and because she was mean, other kids had no qualms using some (albeit it incredibly immature) nicknames behind her back: Pee-uh, Peeing Pia etc. I feel like however historic it may be, this is a taunting opportunity that even today’s playground which is more tolerant of names would find hard to pass up if they had a reason. I dunno it just doesn’t sit right with me for that reason. Sort of like name a girl Cleta nowadays and expecting her to make it unscathed through high school, there’s just too much potential there :/

    1. I hope no one takes offense to this, I know a lot of people are probably attached to this name for good reasons, I just have a really bad personal experience of it!

  7. I love Pia! Growing up we called my mom Mia and my dad Pia (not even sure how we got there) but my sister and I always wanted to name a daughter Mia… then I just couldn’t use it after the popularity spike (and that I know 4 people with little Mias when I had my daughter). It so doesn’t seem fair either as it feels like a family name 🙂 On the other hand it has now definitely made me consider Pia for a future daughter – and will serve as an honor name as well since I lost my dad, “Pia” or “Peezers” 4 years ago this month. Thanks for profiling this name.