Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Emilia

Emilia is the Italian and Spanish form of Emily, which is derived from the Latin name “Aemilia”, a female version of the Old Roman family name, “Aemilius” (probably from the Latin “aemulus” meaning ‘rival’). Although Emilia sounds similar to the Amelia (from the Germanic element “amal” meaning ‘work’), most etymologist believe the two are unrelated. Rather, Emilia is the Latinate (Italian and Spanish) form of the English Emily, which is derived from the Roman gens Aemilius. Emily and Emilia have been around since medieval times, as evidenced by a few literary references. Emilia is the wife of Iago in William Shakespeare’s “Othello” and her name also appears as a minor character in his “A Winter’s Tale”. The name Emilia also appears in a 14th century Italian allegory tale “The Decameron” written by Giovanni Boccaccio. See literary references below for more information. Emilia is also the spelling used in Scandinavian countries, as well as by the Finnish and some Slavs. Emilia is a name that does remarkably well on the European stage. It is a high ranking female name in Poland, Austria and Sweden. It also does quite well in England, Scotland, Ireland and Hungary. Among Spanish speakers, Emilia is highly ranked in Chile.

All About the Baby Name – Emilia



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Emilia has had an interesting usage career in the United States. We know the name dates back to at least 1880 (the first year the U.S. government began tracking naming trends). At the end of the 19th century through the first few decades of the 20th century, Emilia was a name ranked with low to low-moderate usage. In other words, not a very popular name, but definitely in use (probably mainly by Italian-Americans). In 1943, the name completely disappeared from the charts, retreating into the shadows and barely used at all. This trend remained for almost 50 years until Emilia reappeared in the early 1990s. Since that time, Emilia has shown increased popularity as the years have persisted into the 21st century. Right now, Emilia is at the height of her popularity (although still only used with mild moderation). No doubt this resurged interest has a lot to do with the popularity of her English counterpart Emily. It’s our understanding that the Italians pronounce Emilia with three syllables (e-MEEL-yah) but English speakers often use a four-syllable rendition of em-ә-LEE-ah. Emilia does jazz up Emily a bit. It’s a classic with cosmopolitan chic. A lot of people feel that Emilia and Amelia are interchangeable when in fact (as mentioned above), they come from different sources. We like the “rivalry” etymology of Emilia – gives her a nice competitive quality (a good trait to have in this modern world!). Nicknames such as Em, Emmy and Emma are timeless, simple and lovely. An all around gorgeous name.

Quick Facts











e-MEEL-yah; em-ә-LEE-ah












Cultural References to the Baby Name – Emilia

Literary Characters


Emilia Lanier (1569-1645) is thought by some scholars to be the “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Orphaned as a teenager, she became the mistress of the patron of Shakespeare’s theater company and was subsequently married to a court musician. She was a familiar face, and a dark and pretty one, in the court of Elizabeth I. It is thought that she and Shakespeare had an affair around 1597, when he was in a vulnerable state of grief over the death of his only son. The bard appears to have suffered some guilt over the issue, as well as having put himself in the embarrassing position of sharing Emilia with a younger man (William Herbert, whom he also immortalized in the sonnets). Whether or not she is ever proven to be the “Dark Lady”, Emilia claims fame on her own terms. She was one of the first women in England to publish a book of poetry (which has been referred to as very supportive of women and critical of their treatment at the hands of men). She also ran a school, supported her grandchildren and lived to be 76 years old – no mean feat in those days! So let’s hear it for Ms. Lanier, fair or dark, lady or not.

Emilia is the wife of the villain, Iago, in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, written around 1603. She is a virtuous and beautiful attendant to Desdemona. Although a relatively minor character in the play, she is in on all the larger than life activities, and everyone pays a high price for it. Although loyal to her friend Desdemona, Emilia also is afraid of her husband, and agrees to conspire in the theft of the handkerchief which will serve to implicate Desdemona in adultery. This single act results in the death of her friend. This is not an act she can reverse, but she can, and does, expose Iago and return honor to Desdemona’s name. Her own consequences are just as severe – Iago kills her in his rage, but she goes to her own death with pride and honor restored.

Emilia is one of the narrators in Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, composed between 1349 and 1353, the series of 100 stories told in sets of ten by ten Florentine narrators who are hoping to escape the Black Death by quarantining themselves in a church. The lovely and alluring Emilia, whose stories concern the dichotomy between sin and repression, is a narcissist of the first order. Her finest past time is looking into the mirror at her own beauty reflected back at her. As if that weren’t bad enough, Emilia also seems to condone violence against women, as evidenced in one of her stories. We’ll give her a little bit of a break, however, and assume that she might just have had a little fever.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Emilia

Popular Songs


We cannot find any popular or well-known songs with the name of Emilia

Famous People


Emilia Lanier (English poet)
Emilia Pardo Bazán (Spanish author)
Emilia Fox (English actress)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Emilia

Historic Figures


We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Emilia