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Olivia – The Mellifluous Icon

Everyone loves Olivia: at least that's what our name statistics say. Over the past twenty years, it has become increasingly popular and is generally one of the most popular first names in the US. Read on to find out where the name comes from, why it is so special, and what alternatives there are.

What does the name Olivia stand for?

The first name Olivia is derived from the Latin word ‘olīva’, which can be translated as ‘olive tree’, ‘olive branch’ or ‘olive’, and is the feminine form of Oliver. And this meaning could be very deciding for choosing the name: An olive branch has a high symbolic meaning that goes back to the customs of ancient Greece. It stands for peace and victory and is therefore often used in supplications to the gods. But what is about the sound?

What does the name Olivia sound like?

Since the end oft he 90s the name became more popular – in the USA it was especially in the 2010s. Maybe it is the soft sound, that is responsible for its growing popularity. The consonants L und V are articulated with little tension, as they are voiced – which is in general perceived more gently.  Moreover, with four syllables the name stands out from the average – considering that mainly in the last twenty years even monosyllabic names have become more common. There is a persistent prejudice among the population that long names with three or more syllables seem ‘more intelligent’. This means that the classic name convinces parents with its sound, the rare initial letter O and its outstanding length. Or maybe it’s inspiring women called Olivia that make the name so palatable to so many people.

Who is called Olivia?

Undoubtfully, one oft he moste famous Olivias ever is Olivia Newton-John (1948 – 2022). She rose to fame in the 1970s and 1980s as an actress as well as a singer. Her hit singles ‘Physical’ (1981) and ‘Xanadu’ (1980) comittedt to the memory of several generations. Her portray of Sandy Olsson in the musical film ‘Grease’ (1979) alongside John Travolta became her signature role. In fact, Olivia Newton John may have played a significant role in the popularity of the name. Even though no other Olivia comes close to her celebrity status, we don’t want to neglect other tough women with the same name.

Olivia Colman (*1974) for example: She is a British actress who is best known for her comedic and dramatic roles in film and televison. Besides the Academy Award for Best Actress in ‘The Favourite’, she also won three Golden Globes. The American author Olivia Goldsmith (1949 – 2004) however, was one of the world’s most successful authors of witty, ironic women’s literature. Her bestseller ‘First Wives Club’ sold over five million copies and was made into a film of the same name in 1996 starring Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler. Another famous character with a very similiar name to Olivia is Olive Oyl, the wife of famous cartoon muscle man Popeye.

Which names are similar to Olivia?

If you love the sound of the name Olivia but are searching for a variant form of it you could choose Olive, which sounds a little bit more fancy. If you prefer shorter names in general maybe the short form Livia is a nice alternative. You want it even shorter? Livy is another shortform of Olivia which totally keeps pace with the times. You really like the length of the name Olivia but you would like to give yout child a more individual name? How is it about Lydia, Ophelia, Olivette or Alivia?