Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Lisa

Lisa developed as a short form for eLISAbeth primarily in Northern Europe (Scandinavia and Germany) as well as in Italy (think: da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”). Eventually over time Lisa became very common as an independently given name in those above mentioned countries as well as among English speakers (in the same way that Elise, Eliza or Liesel were created from Elisabeth/Elizabeth). Elizabeth is one of those names that has spawned scores of variations and pet forms across every conceivable language in the Western World thanks to the rising importance and ultimate prevalence of Christianity from Late Antiquity onward. Names were widely adopted and bestowed upon children in medieval times based on two primary things: Biblical significance and/or cults of various saints. Elizabeth could claim both honors (which is why she, like Mary, is one of the most enduring and widespread names of all time). Biblically speaking, Elizabeth was the mother of John the Baptist – the name originated from the Hebrew Elisheva meaning “God is my oath”. In the Bible God looked favorably upon Elizabeth and her husband Zachariah because “they were both righteous before God…but they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” (Luke 1:6). So God sent His angel Gabriel with a message saying that Elizabeth will have a son and “you shall call his name John.” Gabriel also says that John’s birth will be cause for much rejoicing and that the baby will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from Elizabeth’s womb. Around the same time, Mary was impregnated by the Holy Ghost with Jesus (Mary and Elizabeth are contemporaries; tradition holds they are cousins). John the Baptist’s role was important because he prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah, the knowledge of salvation and the forgiveness of sins “because of the tender mercy of our God” (Luke 1:78). And John the Baptist also has the honors of having baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. In other words, John was one important Biblical dude among Christians and Elizabeth was the Baby Mama. It’s no surprise that the Biblical Elizabeth became the inspiration behind the usage of her name, and why so many Christianized European countries embraced it since the early Middle Ages (her Feast Day is November 5). The much admired Saints Elizabeth of Hungary and Elizabeth of Portugal also encouraged the usage of Elizabeth in later medieval times; further cementing the name’s lasting popularity. Lisa was eventually coined from Elisabeth (from the French Lise) and spread like wildfire in the mid 20th century. Today Lisa remains quite popular in Northern Europe, specifically in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Norway and Sweden. Lisa’s heyday among English speakers has pretty much come and gone.

All About the Baby Name – Lisa



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Lisa has had one of the most remarkable rides on the U.S. popularity charts that we’ve so far seen. The name was introduced to America in 1937 and took less than 20 years to soar up to a Top 100 position in 1954. But she didn’t stop there. Lisa hit the Top 10 in 1959. One of only a handful of female names that can claim victory as the #1 name in the country, Lisa held those honors for eight consecutive years between 1962 and 1969 (usurping Mary). Practically 50,000 baby girls were named Lisa on an annual basis back in the 1960s – this girl was crazy-popular. Eventually the frenzy died down and Lisa came back down to the planet earth. The name dropped off the Top 100 list in the mid 1990s and has been declining in popularity ever since. The 21st century has been especially unkind to poor aging Lisa; now forgotten and retreating down to her lowest levels ever since her initial discovery. Lisa is officially in retirement. Yet somehow Lisa doesn’t feel as outdated as some of the other mid-century ladies (Patricia, Donna, Linda); we would argue that Lisa's understated simplicity and quiet beauty makes her a solid name choice even today (not to mention she's still cool in Europe).

Quick Facts













God is my oath










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Lisa

Literary Characters


Lisa Ilyich is the daughter of the title character in Leo Tolstoy’s 1886 novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. While Ivan lies dying and reviewing his life, turning over all his decisions and actions, his daughter, alas, is not of such a philosophical bent. In her defense, let it be said that Lisa has been raised to be a self-absorbed young woman, much like her mother, whose interests lie in her beautiful appearance, her social standing and her suitors. How is she different from any other twenty-year old girl? The illness her father sustains, which leads to his death, is rather annoying to Lisa, and she is less than sympathetic and helpful to the invalid. In fact, she seems to blame her father for selfishly disrupting all of their lives by this very inconvenient malady. And we have the hint, in the father’s ruminations, of the possible future that might affect the daughter as well. She is young and beautiful now – introspection on the nature of her father’s may come later, as life deals with her as it may.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Lisa

Popular Songs


The Mask of Mona Lisa
a song by Bad Examples

You Could Be My Mona Lisa
a song by Asteria

You and The Mona Lisa
a song by Shawn Colvin

Sweet Little Lisa
a song by Dave Edmunds

Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile
a song by David Allan Coe

Mona Lisa
a song by Nat King Cole

Lisa Likes Rock n' Roll
a song by Ian Hunter

Lisa (Does It Hurt You?)
a song by Phantom Planet

a song by Roger McGuinn

Lisa Listen
a song by Lisa Loeb

Life after Lisa
a song by Bowling for Soup

My Lisa
a song by the Bay City Rollers

Sad Lisa
a song by Cat Stevens

Lisa Says
a song by The Velvet Underground

Losing Lisa
a song by Ben Folds Five

Lisa Listen to Me
a song by Blood, Sweat & Tears

I'm Not Lisa
a song by Jessi Colter

Don't Let's Talk About Lisa
a song by Lonestar

Famous People


Lisa del Giocondo (subject of da Vinci’s painting “Mona Lisa”)
Lisa Loeb (singer/songwriter)
Lisa Kudrow (actress)
Lisa Bonet (actress)
Lisa Lopes (rapper/singer-songwriter)
Lisa Marie Presley (daughter of Elvis Presley, musician)
Lisa Rinna (actress)
Lisa Hartman Black (actress, wife of Clint Black)
Lisa Lampanelli (comic)
Lisa Ling (journalist)
Lisa Niemi (actress, widow of Patrick Swayze)

Children of Famous People


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

Historic Figures


Lisa del Giocondo was the subject of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, arguably the most famous painting in the world (and considered by some to be the very best). Little is known about Lisa del Giocondo’s life except that she was born into a respectable Florentine family; one with an old aristocratic name of importance but one whose wealth had diminished to middle-class levels by the time Lisa arrived. She married at the tender age of fifteen to a much older man, probably for love because the dowry offered by her family was less than her successful merchant husband may have otherwise gotten. Characteristic of Florentine families during the Italian Renaissance, the del Giocondos were art appreciators and it was Lisa’s husband who commissioned the painting by da Vinci circa 1503. The “Mona Lisa” portrayed Lisa in the typical fashion of the 15th and 16th century female ideal: that is, a model of virtue (poised upright and reserved with her hands crossed). Yet Lisa’s mysterious smile provides some level of intimacy between the woman and her viewer. The techniques used by da Vinci created an iconic enigma where we onlookers are voyeurs attempting to understand the emotion behind this woman named “Mona Lisa” (the term “Mona” is a title of respect, as in “my lady, Madonna”). Ironically the del Giocondos never received the painting; da Vinci kept it and traveled with it until his death. Da Vinci’s heir sold it to King François I of France where it remained with the monarchy possessions until the French Revolution, after which it belonged to the French people at its home at the Louvre (where it remains today under bullet-proof glass).