English: Photograph of Pierina Legnani (1863-1...

Most classic masculine names have an obvious feminine form – or three.  But how ’bout Peter?

Thanks to Kiri for suggesting one possibility.  Our Baby Name of the Day is Piera.

Actually, there are lots of possible feminine forms of Peter, but none are well used – at least not in American English.

  • Petra is the one that comes to mind, the preferred form in most European languages.  It’s been decades since she cracked the US Top 1000, though she’s big in Croatia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
  • The French Pierre suggests Pierrette – though that seems rather fussy – as well as the slightly sleeker Perrine.
  • I’m always tempted to add in Petronella, though strictly speaking, this isn’t so.  Petronella comes from the Roman family name Petronius.  Which may come from Petronia, the name of a first century martyr saint, sometimes said to be the daughter of Saint Peter.  That could mean biological daughter, or maybe a younger person mentored by the saint.

Italian gives us Pietra, as well as Piera, from Pietro and Piero, the masculine forms of Peter.  Since Peter is a major saint, no surprise that they’ve been well used over the years.  Pietro seems to be steadily more popular, in the Middle Ages as well as today – but given the fractured nature of Italian history, I might be missing something.

It appears that Piera is rare, even in Italy.  There’s a place by the name in Catalonia, Spain, and also:

  • An Italian actress by the name, Piera Degli Esposti.
  • Voice over actress Piera Coppola isn’t related to the famous Hollywood family – but doesn’t it sound like she could be?
  • Italian film The Story of Piera was a hit at the Cannes Film Festival in 1983, featuring female characters named Eugenia – German actress Hannah Schygulla won the Best Actress award for the role – as well as, naturally, Piera.  And – get this – a very young Piera Degli Esposti was a writer on the film.

Pierina is the diminutive form of the name, and it has been worn by a handful of notables: legendary ballerina Pierina Legnani.  She danced at La Scala and the Russian Imperial Ballet.  Her additions to Swan Lake remain part of the standard choreography today.  That’s her in the picture above, while she was prima ballerina assoluta in St. Petersburg.

The name shares Peter’s meaning – rock, making this one part-nature name.  But there’s more.  When Jesus says, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” he uses rock to mean steadfast – making Piera something of a subtle virtue name, too.

Haetera piera is a butterfly, better known as the amber phantom – lending another nature reference to the name.

But is anyone using Piera?  Yes and no.  Five girls were given the name in 2013, and five in 2012.  That’s not zero, but that’s pretty rare.

English footballer Joey Barton and partner Georgia McNeil have a daughter called Pieta, which could be yet another spin on Peter – or might be a reference to the famous sculptures of Mary holding the body of Jesus.

Overall, Piera’s strong ‘p’ sound might be a dealbreaker.  But in our age of Penelope and Phoebe, there’s more interest than ever in P names.  If you’re after something truly unusual, with a hint of Italian heritage, Piera might belong on your shortlist.

What do you think of Piera?  And what is your favorite feminine form of Peter?

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 think this is very pretty and quite glamorous, although I don’t think it has the strength and power of Petra.

    Another Piera is Swiss singer Piera Martell – she had a song called “Hier, Pierre”.

    I’ve seen a baby Pierra, which I don’t like quite as much as the original spelling, as it looks to me a bit too much like Sierra with a P.

  2. How gorgeous is Piera!

    Petra has always been my personal favourite feminine form of Peter. I also know a couple of people around my age named Peta, which wasn’t mentioned as an option. They were born before PETA was formed though, so I can see why it hasn’t really taken off as a popular choice.

  3. I’ve never met a Piera, and I’ve only met one Petra. She was confident and capable. She taught basket-weaving, and I can still see her strong, thin fingers coaxing the piece into shape. She always looked directly at you when speaking to you. Obviously, she made quite an impressive impression! Somehow, Piera seems gentler. Maybe it’s the ‘air’ sound in the middle… but she reminds me of Sierra and Vera. She’s feminine without being frilly.
    Nice name, Abby!

  4. I like the sound of Piera. I’ve never met one but and had never heard of this variant, but I can absolutely imagine falling in love with it if I heard it a few more times.

  5. I really like Piera, as well as Petra. It’s strong without going overboard. An interesting Piera to mention is Piera del Giocondo, who most people wouldn’t even have heard of, but her mother was Mona Lisa. I think the name is a family one – I believe, although not completely certain, but one of Mona Lisa’s grandmothers was called Piera also.