Take a storied European city, add a reality show twist, and this place name becomes a possibility.
Thanks to Lila for suggesting Vienna as our Baby Name of the Day.
Vienna has been a given name longer than you might expect. You could have met one back in the nineteenth century. But then, Geneva, Valencia, Alma and lots of other European cities ending-in-a saw some use. A handful of those were thanks to world events, like Alma, following the Crimean War.
As a given name, Vienna remains rare today – she’s never cracked the Top 1000. And yet the origins of the city name are pretty familiar.
It’s Wien in German, but Vienna in Italian and English. The prevailing theory is that it comes from the Celtic word vindo – white, fair. That’s the source of fionn in Irish – think Fiona, as well as gwyn in Welsh – think Gwendolyn and Gwyneth.
Years before the city was established, a Celtic settlement called Vindobona – recognize the vindo? – stood on the same site. It later became a Roman military camp – Ptolemy tells us that Marcus Aurelius died there in 180.
Since then, it’s come a long way. Vienna is the capital of Austria, home to around two million people, home to Sigmund Freud, and, of course, a long list of musicians, from Mozart to Beethoven to Schubert to Haydn. The former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it is also considered an incredibly lovely city, complete with the Rococo Schönbrunn Palace and monuments aplenty – that’s former Empress Maria Theresa above.
Plenty of other places are named after the original city, and it is no wonder that a handful of parents considered Vienna for a daughter’s name, too.
But she’s never been popular. There were a handful – a dozen, maybe twenty – throughout most of twentieth century.
With places names on the upswing, Vienna fared better in the 1990s.
Then came Season 14 of The Bachelor, with Jake Pavelka as the star. 23-year old Vienna Girardi, from Florida, won the final rose in a March 2010 finale.
Incidentally, the other finalist was Tenley. It was a good season for baby name inspiration.
But by June 2010, it was announced that the happy couple had called it quits.
In 2009, there 134 baby girls given the name. By 2010, that number was 225. Nearly double! There’s no question that some of those parents were influenced by Ms. Girardi’s unusual name.
Let’s now overlook Vienna’s sound, either – Sienna is quite stylish, and that V brings to mind rising choices like Vivienne and Violet, as well as Olive and Ava and lots of other v names for girls. Plus, while it isn’t obvious, she’s a cousin to Fiona – another name on the uptick.
So Vienna is a possibility, one boosted by our interest in place names and her appealing sound. As The Bachelor season fades from memory, she might make a good choice for families with an Austrian connection, or a love for the enduring city.