Sylvie sits at the edge of the current US Top 1000, a promising newcomer name.
Thanks to Elise for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
In English, the most familiar form of the name is Sylvia. It comes from the Latin word silva – forest or woods.
But it’s Silvia that brings to mind the first bearer: Rhea Silvia, a princess caught in a power struggle in the ancient world. She’s mom to twin sons, Romulus and Remus. Tragedy follows her, but the brothers triumph, founding the eternal city of Rome.
Hundreds of years later, another Silvia gave birth to the future Saint Gregory the Great. She’s considered a saint.
Probably thanks to her, the name spread across Europe. Related names like Sylvester and Silvio have seen use in the US. Sylvie is simply the French form of Sylvia.
Two Gentlemen and a Pop Star
Credit Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona with introducing Silvia to an English-speaking audience.
Lewis Carroll gave the name to a character in a series of books called Sylvie and Bruno. She’s the princess of Fairyland.
In France, singer Sylvie Vartan’s success prompted a wave of Sylvies that peaked in the 1960s. Born in Bulgaria, Vartan scored her first hit in 1961, and kept recording hits into the 1980s. I’m kind of loving her retro sound.
By the Numbers
In the US, it’s Sylvia that carried the day. The name peaked in the 1910s and 20s, and remained a Top 100 pick in the 1930s and 40s. The name has never left the US Top 1000. Silvia has fared well, too, but does not consistently appear in the rankings. As of 2018, 160 girls were named Silvia-with-an-i, as opposed to 631 for the ‘y’ spelling.
Sylvie falls somewhere in between, with 298 births in 2018. That’s enough to put the name in the US Top 1000.
The name appeals to parents for many reasons. It has that same middle ‘v’ of Ava and Ivy. And we’re in the age of nickname-names, like Josie and Sadie. Even though Sylvie isn’t a diminutive, it feels like one in English – and that might be a positive. The nature name meaning helps, too, making it a sister for Hazel, Daphne, and other ecovintage picks.
This name has been heating up on name forums for years. It’s a big favorite on Appellation Mountain, earning two coveted awards:
- In 2016, it earned the title in March Madness Baby Names. Past Winners include choices like Cora, Isla, Louisa, and Genevieve, so it’s easy to imagine Sylvie rising in use, just like those names.
- A year later, Sylvie won the 2017 New Names Showdown. It beat out the fast-rising Maren in the final round, and had bested Poppy, Belle, and Antonella to take the title.
If name enthusiasts are gung-ho about Sylvie, it’s likely we’ll hear more of this pretty, compact name in the coming years.
What do you think about Sylvie? Do you prefer Sylvia/Silvia instead?
First published on April 24, 2014, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on August 14, 2019.