About Two Names: Aiden & Sophia

December 10, 2011 § 6 Comments

Sophia Loren is popular inspiration behind 2011’s number one baby name for girls in the US.

Attention almost ALL journos who covered the Top Baby Names for 2011 in the US: Isabella might be helped by Twilight, but the name was popular long before the books/films series took over, and it’s popularity is more likely a byproduct of the large Hispanic population throughout the US, paired with people of all ethnicities who take to it’s femininity, than that dang book/movie series. Babies named simply Bella, fine, we can talk, but Isabella is NOT Stephenie Meyer’s doing. Jacob, too, was popular before the books. We can thank Twilight for names like Cullen, possibly Esme or Jasper, but not Isabella or Jacob.

Okay, rant done.

The number one names for 2011 in the US are not Isabella or Jacob, and the boys name isn’t Mason, though these are all far more discussed than the top two choices. That’s probably because both names – Aiden for boys, and Sophia for girls – made the top of the list last year. Yes, name trends take years, even decades to develop, and tastes won’t change overnight. Aiden is the most popular of a huge group of two syllable, ends in -n names for boys on this year’s list – Jackson, Mason, Jayden, Logan, Caden, Ryan, and Brayden are all in the Top 20.

Actor Aidan Quinn popularized Aiden in North America.

Aidan entered the US Top 1000 for the first time in 1995 and shot to the Top 100 by the turn of the century, continuing to build towards the top spot for the last ten years. American-Irish Aidan Quinn, prolific support star of films like Legends of the Fall, Michael Collins, Benny & Joon, and recently in the HBO film Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, popularized the name in North America. His career took off in the ’90s, and so did this name. In a sense, Aidan Quinn let this name show up everywhere. People liked it, and the positives of the name far outweighed any negatives. Nicknames like Aid or Denny may not be preferable, but they’re not exactly controversial. And that’s a good thing for the popularity of Aiden.

British-born American soap actor Aiden Turner (not to be confused with popular Irish actor Aidan Turner) actually portrayed a character named Aidan Devane on All My Children until 2009. Turner and his American wife Megan welcomed a daughter named Ciella Larryn Turner in August 2009. Ciella got her middle name from Megan’s father Larry Marshall, who died of cancer two weeks before her birth.

Unsurprisingly, Aiden is a top choice as a character name in the sci-fi genre (today’s infant Aidens are the heroes of the future, and there will be a lot of them). And it isn’t just popular in the United States – it’s a Top 10 name in Canada and Malta (which isn’t so surprising when it’s noted that Aidan has found use in the Catalonia region of Spain), Top 20 in Scotland and Australia (Aiden as a girl’s name charted in the state of South Australia in 2002!) For boy’s it’s Top 70 in New Zealand, too, but Aidan prevails as the top choice in Ireland at 48.

While some sources believe Aiden grew from the name of the Garden of Eden in the bible and this could contribute to it’s popularity in the Latin world, it’s generally believed to derive from the Gaelic term for “little fire,” as the pet form of Aed (“fire”).

Though it’s only Aiden’s popularity that’s new, and not the name itself (it belonged to 6th Century Scottish king Aedan mac Gabrain, and 7th Century Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne – known as the Apostle of Northumbria and credited with restoring Christianity to the region) the top girl’s choice, Sophia, has a much longer and storied history.

Sophia is a Greek name meaning “wisdom,” and was also the name of an early Christian martyr. As the ancient personification of wisdom, the word philosophy is generally understood to derive from philosophia, or “the love of wisdom.” Saint Sophia the Martyr died in the year 137 AD. She was Roman, and had three daughters – Faith, Love, and Hope – who were named for virtues mentioned by the apostle Paul in Corinthians. It’s reported that the Romans under Emperor Hadrian kidnapped her daughters, just 12, 10, and 9 years old, then tortured and beat them to death because they were Christians. Sophia buried her daughters and remained at their grave for three days until she died herself.

The term aghia sophia means “holy wisdom,” and led to the creation of countless churches throughout the world, including the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, and the 6th Century Hagia Sofia Church in Sofia, Bulgaria, which gave the city it’s name. It’s not named for the martyr, but rather “the divine wisdom of God,” and is the second-oldest church in the Eastern European capital city.

Though the name has always been popular in Latin countries, and French equivalent Sophie always common amongst the French, it first grew in popularity in the United States in the 1700s, probably due to the God-fearing Puritans. Both Sophia and Sophie have been trending of late, with Sophie inside the US Top 50. A number of celebrities are known by both names, from Australian actress Sophie Monk and British celebrity chef and model Sophie Dahl to American film director Sofia Coppola and Colombian actress Sofia Vergara.

But credit for this name’s popularity these days goes to Sophia Loren. The Italian-born actress won an Oscar in 1962 for Two Women, the first actress to win for a non-English role, and is routinely considered one of the world’s most beautiful women – even today, in her 70s! Her name is internationally known, synonymous with beauty, elegance, style, and sex appeal. She has inspired today’s hottest names much like Ava Gardner, Jean Harlow, Audrey Hepburn, or Grace Kelly. It’s a name so synonymous that even Loren has grown as a girl’s name, much like Monroe.

Both Sofia and Isabella are hugely popular names among the large Hispanic population in the United States, and no doubt contribute to their popularity there. Of the four million plus babies born each year in the United States, almost 30 per cent are born to Hispanic mothers (illegal immigrants included). Sofia and Isabella are the top two Latina baby names from this year’s list, followed by the more modern-celeb inspired Camila, Valentina, and Valeria, but plenty of African-American or Caucasian parents in the US are using them too. The same is true of the boys list with the exception of the top choice: rounding out the top five are Santiago, Sebastian, Matias, Mateo, and Nicolas.

Plenty celebs are still attracted to both names, regardless of their current popularity. Sylvester Stallone named his first daughter with model Jennifer Flavin, born in 1996, Sophia Rose, and as Anna points out in the comments, the use of this name exploded in the US after her birth. (All Sly’s children have S names – from eldest son Sage Moonblood and autistic son Seargeoh with Sasha Czack, to Sophia, Sistine Rose, and Scarlet Rose with Flavin.)

On September 12th, Dutch footballer Dirk Kuyt welcomed son Aiden Benjamin, while Rod Stewart and his wife Penny welcomed son Aiden on February 16th. Australian PGA golfer Luke Donald welcomed daughter Sophia Ann November 11th, while former Survivor Stephenie LaGrossa and husband Phillies’ star Kyle Kendrick welcomed daughter Sophia Marguerite in September. San Jose Sharks defenseman Ian White and his wife welcomed daughter Gracelyn Sophia in May, in the midst of his team’s NHL playoff run. British footballer Peter Crouch and model Abbey Clancy welcomed their first child, daughter Sophia Ruby March 14th.

My advice? You know how I feel about names so common you can’t tell your kid from three others in the same class without a distinguishing nickname. Make creative alternative names your goal with both these names, because creative spellings already exist. Maybe Sisi for Sophia, Adi for Aiden (eugh, Aiden’s a tough one for nicknames, to be sure.)

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§ 6 Responses to About Two Names: Aiden & Sophia

  • That’s interesting about the Hispanic population in the USA, although it doesn’t explain how Isabella reached the Top 100 in Australia before the USA, and we have a low Hispanic population!

    I think Sophia became popular after Sylvester Stallone called his daughter Sophia Rose – the year after she was born, it shot up the charts, and Rose must now be the most common middle name for Sophia. So I’m going with Italian rather than Hispanic for the source of that one! 🙂

    • In Australia, too, the Italian population (or those with Italian heritage) is pretty sizable, no?

      Certain regions of Canada boast high Italian populations (namely Toronto and Montreal), but I feel like it might be bigger in Australia…?

  • I sourced Sophia Loren, so also Italian, but I would also think that Sly’s daughter helped push this name up the charts, where Loren may just have inspired it!

    With the Hispanic population, I was just sort of pointing out that it seems to help put Isabella Top 5 in the US, whereas elsewhere it might not even Top 10 or 20. Sophia, though, is only behind Emma in Canada, so it’s not the be-all-end-all as own Hispanic population is low, as well.

    • Yes we do have a reasonable Italian population; I can’t confirm whether they use the name Isabella or not. Italians are very well assimilated though.

      Isabella was chosen by Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise for their daughter in the 1990s, which I think was THE big factor in it hitting the Top 50 in Australia for that decade. (Their son’s name Connor is still popular too).

      Isabella was also chosen by several Hollywood stars in the same decade, which I think helped increase its popularity in the US.

      I’m sure there was a “Twilight factor” though which took it to #1.

  • i hate the fact that the name sophia/sofia is trending!! i used to be the only sofia around growing up except the alterativ sophie but now it’s everywhere!!

    • The Name Station says:

      My name is like that, too – I’m always hearing people tell me to stop doing things in parks or public places, but they’re always just talking to their toddler. Growing up, my name was generally uncommon.

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