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?