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.
William Shakespeare imported ‘Silvia’ to England. Silvia is the protagonist in the Shakespearean poem. How are we not just swooning over this gem!!!
Who is Silvia? what is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Song: “Who is Silvia? what is she”
BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
(from Two Gentlemen of Verona)
Who is Silvia? what is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair, and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admirèd be.
Is she kind as she is fair?
For beauty lives with kindness.
Love doth to her eyes repair,
To help him of his blindness;
And, being helped, inhabits there.
Then to Silvia let us sing,
That Silvia is excelling;
She excels each mortal thing
Upon the dull earth dwelling;
To her let us garlands bring
SILVIA is a beautiful option for someone looking for a classic name. There is no such thing as “too old fashioned’ in my opinion.
In today’s age, people are using weird names like west, north, Talia etc. — simply meaningless and pointless and even grotesque — with everyone trying to make them as ‘unique’ as they can.
I love the spelling of Silvia VS. Sylvia. This name seems very youthful when spelled this way, I’d highly recommend this very fine name for anyone.
We have a 9 month old Sylvie. It seems as though younger people love the name but the older crowd not so much. We absolutely love it though and it fits our little lady perfectly!
I do love Sylvie! I usually prefer the version of a name with an A on the end but I always liked Sylvie much more than Sylvia. My other exceptions are Ariane, Eve and Gabrielle.
There’s an important/meaningful place in one of my favorite author’s series called “Silvy Vale” and I have seriously considered using Sylvie as a literary honor name. (I don’t think I could handle using Silvy and having everyone thinking I had misspelled my kiddo’s name.)
Bernadette Hilario says
We named our daughter Sylvi in 2008. I had meant to use the French spelling but filling out BC forms while still on the effects of c-section cocktail our daughter ended up with the Scandinavian form (which means “of the sun” or” from the house of strength”). I discovered my error when I went down to NICU the morning after their birth and saw the hand drawn signs welcoming SYLVI to NICU. Eek! I don’t know why I didn’t immediately change it.
At any rate, the Scandinavian meanings fit our daughter to a T. She was born with a neurological disorder called Dyspraxia but for all the life-long challenges it will give her, she somehow manages to be a ray on sunshine and stronger than we could have hoped for.
We don’t know anyone IRL named Sylvi so it’s a truly unique name for our unique girl. Like Terra above, Sylvi fits ours perfectly!
My daughter was one of the 2012 babies named Sylvie. We loved the name Sylvia, but Sylvie just sounded more fresh and modern (and I love French names). For as rare as it is, we were shocked when we were at a local children’s museum and another parent called out to their Sylvie, who was about a year older than ours! We didn’t think we’d ever run into other girls with that name, but it is definitely uncommon enough that she’s not going to have to spend her life also going by her last initial (which was and still is my situation!).
My husband just told me recently he loves the name Sylvie and the French Sylviane! He would want to pair Sylvie with his mom’s name Ann. I think they’re both very nice!
Jennifer R. says
Sylvia brings up an interesting conundrum for me. My husband and I had planned for our first child’s middle name to be Sylvan (m) or Sylvia (f) after my wonderful grandma who pretty much raised me. When I revealed this to her she said not to because she hates her name. It’s a generational issue. She has always thought Sylvia was awful, but loves girls names like Terri, Carrie, Stacy, etc. that were trendy when she had kids… she said we should make the middle name “something nice like Ann or Linda”. We laughed over the thought of having a little Tammy Ann born in 2014. She would actually be mad at me if we used her name!
Anyways — I still adore Sylvia and Sylvie. Something so melodic and classic about them both. A favorite for me for many reasons, and maybe we will use it anyways.
Mandie L. says
Oh, the generational thing! My great grandmother Adeline made all her grandkids promise not to use her name on their kids because she always thought it was ugly. (She didn’t even go by it, because she hated it so much). Of course, Adeline is pretty hot now. 😀
I chose not to use another grandmother’s name because I knew she disliked it. Now she has passed away, but I’m also done having kids, and I do regret that I didn’t use it when I had the chance.
I have a 10 week old Sylvie, and we have gotten overall positive responses to her name. It fits her perfectly!