Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Livia
Among English-speakers Livia is most commonly considered a diminutive of Olivia; however, there is a dintinct and separate etymological source for this name not related to Olivia. Livia is essentially the feminine form of an Old Roman family name “Livius” dating back to the Roman Republic in the centuries before Christ. The Livius family name is probably of ancient Etruscan origin with unknown meaning (since the Etruscan language is now extinct). However, others speculate that Livius could be derived from either the Latin “liveo” meaning “to envy, begrudge” or from the Latin “lividus” meaning “bluish”. In any case, women who were born into the Livius families were given the name Livia. One such notable name bearer was Livia Drusilla (58 B.C.-29 A.D.) the wife of Emperor Augustus (Octavian). She was also the mother of Emperor Tiberius, the grandmother of Claudius, the great-grandmother of Caligula and the great-great-grandmother of Nero. Quite a line of Emperors were born from Livia’s line! But she was much more than an ancestral artifact; rather, Livia Drusilla was perhaps the most powerful and prominent woman in all of ancient Rome. According to legend, Emperor Augustus fell instantly in love upon meeting the married-not-to-mention-pregnant Livia. Not to worry, the Emperor was married to another woman himself, but since he made the rules he had the power to quickly arrange for any desired divorces which is exactly what Augustus did. Livia brought to this new marriage her own three children and Augustus had one daughter with his previous wife; the couple would stay married for the next 50 years and have no children of their own. By all accounts, Livia was a trusted advisor to her husband, a role model for women in Rome, a beacon of family-values, and a privately ambitious go-getter. It’s because of the latter ambitions that Livia is often portrayed in a Machiavellian light – cunning, shrewd and scheming. It’s been postulated that Livia had various heirs of Augustus’ killed to remove the competition and ensure the succession of her own son Tiberius (Augustus’ step-son). We like the feisty ancient gals, so more power to Livia! The Roman’s loved her and her grandson Claudius formally deified her after her death so she really couldn’t have been all that bad. After the Classical Era the name Livia fell off the map, especially since there was no important Christian saint associated with this name (which generally made for a popular name in the Middle Ages). It seems Livia’s revival is really recent, like 21st century recent. Even though some parents may be using Livia as a short form of the ever-popular Olivia, it really is a stand-apart name in its own right, and it’s also become quite cosmopolitan. You can find Livia on the charts in Brazil (Lívia), Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Hungary, Sweden and the Netherlands. It also sees so-so usage in France, Norway, Canada, Australia and the United States. In other words, you can find this “enviable” name on four different continents. That’s pretty cosmopolitan cool in our book!