A while back, I asked if Sylvia was ready for a comeback. My favorite response was from Liann: “I like Sylvia, but I LOVE Sylvie.”
Thanks to Elise for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Sylvie: Myth, History, Music & Literature
Sylvie is simply the French form of Sylvia and Silvia.
The ends-in-ia form of the name has quite the backstory: first, in Roman myth, Rhea Silvia is the mother of Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers and co-founders of Rome. She was a princess caught in a power struggle, and claimed her boys were fathered by the god Mars. The story ends in tragedy: the brothers quarrel, and Remus dies, but also triumph: the founding of a little village you might have heard of, the eternal city – Rome.
Another Silvia was the mother of the future Saint Gregory the Great in the sixth century. Both the feminine and masculine forms and variants – Silvio, Sylvester – enjoyed a long history of use.
Credit Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona with introducing Silvia to an English-speaking audience.
In France, Sylvie’s heyday was the 1960s. That’s the age of chanteuse Sylvie Vartan, a Bulgarian-born singer who recorded her first single in 1961. She was the twisting schoolgirl early days, graduating into a more sophisticated style as her career continued into the 1970s and 80s. I’m kind of obsessed with her retro sound.
Sylvie: A Rarity on the Rise
Back to the US. Sylvie has never ranked in the US Top 1000 on our shores, but that could change. 169 girls received the name in 2012 – a new high. After steady, but sparing, use for most of the twentieth century, she’s definitely on the upswing.
And why not?
- She’s part-Sophie, part-Ava, a combination of several super-popular names of the moment.
- Our affection for French names continues – think of Genevieve and Vivienne and Elodie.
- Could Sylvie get a boost from the Sadie-Hattie trend? While the -ie ending isn’t a diminutive in French – Julie and similar names are complete – the rise of several appealing retro choices with the -ie ending can’t hurt.
Lastly, there’s her on-trend meaning. Sylvie comes from sylvan, as in the forest, the woods. It’s a more subtle nod to the natural world than Rowan or Elm.
With all of these reasons to love Sylvie, no wonder there are signs that she’s catching on. And yet I think Sylvie is still the perfect choice for parents seeking something rare. Even if her usage doubled between 2012 and 2014, that would still put her just inside the Top 1000 – definitely uncommon.
She’s traditional, yet unexpected, and surprising, but not outlandish. It’s exactly the note that many parents want to hit. Add in all the factors encouraging her use, and Sylvie is definitely one to watch.