The baby name Thea brings to mind a goddess and an astronomical theory. It’s a jazz-age name enjoying a perfectly-timed revival in the 2020s.
Thanks to Rocking Fetal for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
DOROTHEA and THEODORA
Theodore ranks in the US Top 100 for boys. It comes from the Greek, meaning “gift of God.”
Dorothea and Theodora are feminine forms. They’ve never quite rivaled Theodore in terms of popularity. Though Dorothy, yet another variation on the name, was a long-time Top Ten pick in the early 1900s.
The runaway popularity of Theodore has helped both Dorothy and Theodora gain in use.
But it’s Thea – the feminine equivalent of Theo – that is really soaring.
THEO and MIA and LEAH
After all, Thea fits with our love of brief and complete names like Mia and Leah.
Plus, plenty of parents are naming their boys just Theo, instead of the full Theodore.
If you’re after a name that’s impossible to shorten, but still rich in sound, the baby name Thea fits right in with current favorites.
BY the NUMBERS
As it happens, the baby name Thea enjoys more popularity in the twenty-first century than in the past.
From 1880 through the 1960s, the name sometimes appeared in the US Top 1000, always in the 600s, and usually much higher. For long stretches, the baby name Thea simply failed to chart.
That doesn’t mean there were no Theas. But never before had it been broadly familiar. It’s possible, of course, that other names – not just Theodora and Dorothy, but Cynthia, Althea, and more – had been shortened to Thea.
In the year 2016, the baby name Thea returned to the US Top 1000 at #769. As of 2017, it peaked at #268. And it has since slid back to #303.
That’s still far more familiar than the name was in years gone by.
Spell it Theia, and it becomes a goddess name.
She’s a Titan, daughter of Gaia – the primordial earth goddess, and wife to Hyperion. Theia was mother to sun, the moon, and the dawn, too.
Here’s were it gets even more interesting.
There’s a theory about the formation of our moon that relates to Theia.
Scientists posit that about four billion years ago, our young Earth collided with another planet. The planet’s name? Theia.
The Moon formed from the collision’s debris.
That would make Theia the mother of the moon in both myth and our solar system today.
While the baby name Thea has never been common, it surfaces across the centuries:
- One of many Egyptian monarchs named Cleopatra was known as Cleopatra Thea.
- The fictional Tugboat Annie was based on a real life tugboat owner named Thea Foss. Foss really did found the largest tugboat company in the American West. The fictional account became the basis of a 1933 movie and a 1957 television series.
- Australian novelist Thea Astley is among several writers.
- Actor Thea Gill played Lindsay on Queer as Folk.
- Religious scholar Thea Bowman is among the best known of American black Catholic leaders.
- Thea Rasche was Germany’s first female pilot.
A few fictional uses include:
- Willa Cather gave the name to a character in The Song of the Lark.
- There’s a Thea in Hedda Gabler, an old friend and rival for Hedda.
- Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake novels featured the last living mermaid, Leucothea. She was called Thea for short. (Leucothea appears in Greek myth as an ocean goddess who rescues Odysseus.)
SPARKY and STORIED
In English, the baby name Thea is most often pronounced THEE uh. It’s worth noting that Spanish language speakers may say TAY uh instead.
Sparky and storied, the baby name Thea could be the perfect choice for parents seeking something traditional but vibrant, familiar but distinctive, and stylish but straightforward, too.
What do you think of the baby name Thea?
First published August 22, 2012, this post was substantially revised and re-posted on October 5, 2021.
I wouldn’t call it “sparky.” It’s too dignified and classic for that, which I’d count as a mark in the name’s favor.
Just stopping by to say this article helped me name my newest daughter: Theia, who is now 5 months old.
But I wanted to add that there is a third pronounciation: THAY-uh, rhymes with Leia. Since we wanted that prounounciation we went with the Theia spelling.
For those wondering: we have gotten a few “thats a /unique/ name” comments (which in the south translates to I would never saddle a child of mine with a name like that…) but most people light up in surprise when they hear her name. Spelling hasn’t been an issue, as most have never heard of the name before and ask to spell it anyways.
One drawback: the “TH” sound is really hard for kids to say. So kids pronounce it Fea (and if you know Spanish…) but I figure, kids grow up and kiddy pronounciation goes away. hopefully there will be no Fea Theia teasing. And any name can be teased, lets me honest.
Would love to see this name get more popular. It is so pretty.
Thea doesn’t sound like a flapper name to me, or like a sister to Sadie or Stella (although I can see the Stella connection more). Thea seems more earth mothery to me, a sister for Gaia or Petra. My 2 cents 😉
Thank you! This name has really grown on me. I was thinking about how pretty Cynthia sounded and realized that it was the -thia part that I liked. Maybe it was/is a passing crush, but reading your write up made me like it even more. Jazzy flapper is my favorite kind of name. 😛
Thea is one of my favourites and would very likely have been my daughter’s name were it not already used by one of my close relatives. I’d be happy to see this name become more popular.
My favorite cousin, Cynthia has gone by Thea/Thia as a 20 something (we’re both in our 40’s now). I’ve always liked Thea, to honor my Uncle Theodore/Teo.
Too bad my OH thinks it’s too simple.
Because of that, Thea’s on our list as a nn for Dorothea. I adore Dorothea and while my preferred nn is Dot (How adorable!!), Thea would work just as easily. Lovely little Thea! 😀
Thea is great! Simple and sweet. Recognizable, but not overused. Deep historical roots with a current sound. I love it as a nickname for Theodora, too.
Laura Rose says
I’m a middle class white American, but for some reason I pronounce Thea as TAY-ah, and Theodora and Dorothea with the same sound. It’s terribly pretty, but I think I prefer the male Theodore better, with the short form Teddy.
This is a pretty one. I can see Thea working at any age and never seeming particularly trendy. Plus, what a great meaning.
That’s a nice point – Thea is sweet for a little girl, but perfectly mature for a grown woman, too. Funny how some names shift like that, while others seem tied to an age range.
Thea is quite pretty, but I think I might prefer the spelling Theia.