Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Olivia

Believe it or not, the name Olivia was first coined by William Shakespeare in his play Twelfth Night (c. 1599). It is thought that he chose the name as the feminine version of "Oliver" or simply the Latin word for olive, "oliva". The olive tree is an emblem of peace, such as when one "extends an olive branch". The root of this can be found in the Bible (Genesis 8:11) when a dove comes to Noah with a freshly plucked olive leaf after the great floods subsided. The olive leaf became a symbol of impending peace. Perhaps this is why Shakespeare chose the name Olivia for his lovely heroine, as a way of foreshadowing the “peaceful” conclusion to his comedic play about a countess in mourning, a shipwrecked castaway, disorderly suitors, disguises and mistaken identities. The play also takes place in the ancient region of Illyria on the western Balkan Peninsula against the Adriatic Sea (a former province of the Roman Empire). By coining the name Olivia, Shakespeare may have also been looking for a more exotic or unusual name for his foreign Illyrian countess. Olivia is currently the #1 ranked girl’s name in England (while Oliver is the #1 name for boys among Brits). Apparently England can’t get enough of their olives! Olivia is also ranked in first place in Canada. It’s currently the third most popular name in Australia and ranked fourth in the United States and Scotland. Olivia is also heavily used among nations of northern Europe.

All About the Baby Name – Olivia

Personality

OF THE GIRL NAME OLIVIA

The number Five personality loves the excitement of life and can easily adapt to all situations. As natural adventurers, these personalities thrive on the new and unexpected and prefer to be in constant motion. It makes them feel alive. They'll stir up some action if there's not enough around, and as inherent risk-takers they enjoy pushing the envelope. Naturally rebellious, the Five personality has no fear and never resists change.  Traveling and new experiences feed their souls. Fives are very social and attract friends with ease. People love to be around the Five fun-loving and exciting energy.  This is also a lucky number in numerology (like the Threes), so fortune seems to shine on them, helped along by their own optimism and good-nature. Fives have a quick wit, a cerebral mind, and are generally very persuasive. 

Popularity

OF THE GIRL NAME OLIVIA

The name Olivia has never left the Top 500 list of girl names in the United States in the past 100+ years so this is a name which has been in constant, uninterrupted use. For most of the 20th century, Olivia was used on the higher end of moderation. In other words, the name was familiar and fairly common, but by no means trendy or ϋber-popular. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Olivia started to see significant jumps up the female naming charts (about 300 positions in one decade). This was influenced by a widely watched and long-running television drama series called “The Waltons” which featured a matriarch named Olivia Walton. American parents of the 70s took note and started to use the girl’s name Olivia with greater frequency. The name stuck and caught on in popularity as the decades progressed. At the turn of the 21st century (2001), Olivia finally achieved a hard-won spot on the Top 10 list of most favorite girl names in America, and she’s showing no signs of budging. Olivia shares the same "antique" turn-of-the-century charm as many other popular girl names today, such as Sophia, Emma, and Abigail. While Olivia's current trendiness cannot be denied, the name has been popular for over a hundred years. Its historic endurance speaks to the name's universal appeal and staying power.

Quick Facts

ON OLIVIA

GENDER:

Girl

ORIGIN:

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

4

RANKING POPULARITY:

3

PRONUNCIATION:

ә-LIV-ee-ә

SIMPLE MEANING:

Olive tree, emblem of peace

Characteristics

OF OLIVIA

Freedom-loving

Adventurous

Adaptable

Intellectual

Easygoing

Progressive

Sensual

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Olivia

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME OLIVIA

Olivia is a character in one of William Shakespeare’s most popular romantic comedies, Twelfth Night, believed to have been written around 1600/01. Olivia is a beautiful young noblewoman, who is of great interest to the many suitors who pursue her, but she is grief stricken over the recent death of her brother, and prefers to remain in deep mourning for seven years. However, that vow goes by the wayside when Viola, disguised as a male servant, Cesario, appears on the scene, and Olivia falls hard for her/him. Viola believes that her own brother, Sebastian, has died in a shipwreck, so already these two have a lot in common, what with the dead brothers and all. Olivia puts all her considerable charms to work to entice Cesario to marry her. In this, she is being pretty cool – not only is she appreciating the androgynous nature of gender, she is also laying aside matters of social standing and class. Way to go, Olivia! Naturally, we cannot leave things at this pass in the 17th century, but Olivia takes a pretty good crack at it. In the end, she marries Viola’s look-alike brother, Sebastian, who is not only a nobleman himself, he is also not dead. All’s well that ends well.

Olivia is a character in Alice Walker's "The Color Purple". She is the biological daughter of Celie and her stepfather. Olivia is adopted by a minister and his wife, along with her brother, and is eventually brought to Africa. There, Olivia befriends a local village girl. Their relationship serves to illuminate the strength in bonds between women. There is a lovely moment in the book when Celie writes: "somebody ole would have eyes like that. So I call her ole Livia."

Popular Songs

ON OLIVIA

Olivia
a song by Edie Brickell

Famous People

NAMED OLIVIA

Olivia Newton-John (singer/actress)
Olivia De Havilland (actress)
Olivia Wilde (actress)

Children of Famous People

NAMED OLIVIA

Lance Armstrong;

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME OLIVIA

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