Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Virginia

Virginia comes from the Latin “Virginius” from an old Roman family name Verginius dating back more than five centuries before Christ. The gens Verginius was borne by members of both the patrician and plebeian classes of ancient Rome, but it is most notable for one particular fair maiden who lived in the 5th century B.C. Verginia was the daughter of a respected plebian; she was also the target of desire by a certain powerful Roman official, Appius Claudius. After rejecting his lustful advances (since she was betrothed to another), Appius decided to force the young Verginia into prostitution and claim her as his slave. In order to spare his daughter from such an unsavory future, Verginia’s father stabbed her to death (in essence, liberating her in the only way her knew how). This event exposed the corruption which existed in Rome’s political structure at the time, and ultimately led to the restoration of the Roman Republic. The legend of Verginia also served as an inspiration for many later artists, including Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Physician’s Tale” (in his 14th century Canterbury Tales) and John Webster’s 17th century play “Appius and Virginia”. Italian Renaissance painter Botticelli also memorialized her in an early 16th century painting aptly named “The Story of Virginia.” Verginia (Virginia) became a symbol of innocence and chastity and her name became synonymous with virginity. The etymology of ancient Roman family name Verginius/Virginius is debatable, but many believe it’s connected to Virgo – the “virgin, maiden” – which fits nicely with Verginia’s ancient legend. Although Verginius dates back over 2,500 years, the female given name Virginia was not used during the Middle Ages. What served to popularize the name in the late 16th century was Virginia Dare (b. 1587) who happened to be the first English baby born in the New World (Roanoke Colony). The baby girl was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth I, also referred to as “The Virgin Queen” (so named because the Queen remained unmarried throughout her life, although it’s doubtful she was really a virgin). From the 17th century onward, the girl’s name Virginia came into regular use among English speakers. It has also been adopted by Spanish speakers, although more in reference to the Virgin Mother. Nicknames include Ginny, Geena, Gigi, Ginger and Virgie.

All About the Baby Name – Virginia



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Virginia is a stark example of a once-popular name that has become outdated and passé. Although the U.S. government has only been tracking naming trends since 1880, we think it’s safe to say that Virginia has been in use since the colonial times (inspired by Virginia Dare). By the turn of the 20th century, in the year 1900, Virginia was already a Top 100 favorite in the country. The apex of Virginia’s usage came during the 1920s when she was on the Top 10, reaching as high as #6 on the charts (1921). The name finally fell off the Top 100 in 1960 and since that time has been in a slow and steady decline down the charts. In the past 20 years, Virginia’s drops have become more pronounced. She is now officially out of style as very few parents consider this “virginal” moniker for their baby daughters. Actually, that’s part of the problem. Many are concerned about “virgin” jokes and teenage teasing as the girl grows into adolescence. This apprehension seems like a silly concern to us, since those years are so short-lived. Virginia is too rigidly old-fashioned by today’s naming standards and is not making a comeback like other turn-of-the-century favorites (e.g., Olivia, Emma, Lillian, Ruby, etc.). Still, the name has American historical appeal thanks to Virginia Dare. It’s a polished, intelligent and lady-like name for any fair “maiden”. Perhaps a good choice for baby girls born under the sun sign Virgo.

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Cultural References to the Baby Name – Virginia

Literary Characters


Virginia is a main character in The Physician’s Tale, from Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales. She is the good and beautiful 14 year old daughter of the Roman nobleman, Virginius. It is her sad fate to be the object of affection of the town’s judge, Appius, who evilly plots to have her for his own. To that end, he has one of his minions, Claudius, testify in court that Virginia is his runaway slave. Appius judiciously rules in Claudius’ favor, and orders Virginius to give his daughter over to the court. Seeing this as a fate worse than death, Virginius, in an exceedingly moving scene, decapitates his daughter and brings her head to court in defiance of the ruling. Now the people rise up and throw Appius in prison, where he kills himself. They wish to kill Claudius as well, but Virginius intercedes on his behalf, calling for exile rather than murder (having one on his hands already). So the pure and lovely Virginia is sacrificed for the sake of virtue, and nobody wins. No wonder the host asks that the next tale-teller, the Pardoner, choose as his subject something of more levity!

Martha is the protagonist of Edward Albee’s 1962 Broadway play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, most famously portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor opposite her then-husband, Richard Burton, in Mike Nichols’ 1966 film of the same name. Martha, the daughter of a university president, and her associate-professor husband, George, host a new young professor and his wife (Nick and Honey) for one long, drunken, abusive brawl of an evening, in which friendships are tested, secrets are told, vows are broken and life spills messily out all over the place. Martha contemptuously taunts and emasculates George in front of the young couple, pointing out his shortcomings and comparing him unfavorably to her father. Underlying the action at all times is the reference to George and Martha’s son, whom they both discuss at one time or another. After it is clear that Martha has attempted to seduce Nick, George gets his own revenge. He picks flowers from the yard and brings them to Martha, telling her they are for their dead son. He has broken the rules. He has killed off the son who never was. He has let the big bad wolf into their lives and Martha’s illusions are destroyed. So, it would seem, is her life, for it is not at all certain that she can live without those illusions.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Virginia

Popular Songs


Yes Virginia
a song by Waylon Jennings

West Virginia Woman
a song by Bobby Bare

Virginia Woolf
a song by the Indigo Girls

Virginia Plain
a song by Roxy Music

Virginia Moon
a song by The Foo Fighters

Virginia Avenue
a song by Tom Waits

a song by Tori Amos

Sweet Virginia
a song by The Rolling Stones

Old Virginia
a song by America

Oh Virginia
a song by Marty Robbins

Meet Virginia
a song by Train

Leave Virginia Alone
a song by Rod Stewart

East Virginia
a song by Joan Baez

Famous People


Virginia Woolf (novelist)
Virginia Dare (first English baby born on American soil)
Virginia Madsen (actress)
Virginia “Geena” Davis (actress)
Virginia Mayo (actress)
Virginia “V.C.” Andrews (author)
Virginia Rappe (infamous victim of an early Hollywood scandal)
Virginia Katherine McMath (aka Ginger Rogers, actress)
Virginia McKenna (British actress)
Virginia Wade (tennis player)

Children of Famous People


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

Historic Figures


Virginia Dare was the first English baby born on American soil, on August 18, 1587, in the Roanoke Colony (present day North Carolina). The Roanoke Colony was an early attempt to establish an English settlement in what later became the Virginia Colony, and was financed by Sir Walter Raleigh. Little Virginia’s grandfather, John White, was governor of the small colony; he returned to England for fresh supplies in that year, but was unable to get back to the New World for three more years. When he did, what he found was – nothing and no one – the village had been systematically dismantled and all the inhabitants were gone. The only clue was the word “Croatan” carved on a tree, indicating a local Indian tribe. In spite of extensive and repeated searches, no answers were ever found (although fraudulent artifacts were presented). From this humble beginning sprang the legend of the “Lost Colony” and the adulation of Virginia Dare as an angel, a saint, a proto-feminist and a demon – anything the imagination might seize upon. The generally accepted theory is that the ill-supplied colonists assimilated into the Croatan tribe (and perhaps others) and moved accordingly. Whatever her fate, Virginia Dare’s legacy as our first little American has been rich in story and myth, and has never lost its appeal.

Virginia Woolf was one of the most important modern English writers, and a member of the famed artistic circle, the Bloomsbury Group. Among her best known works are Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando, and To the Lighthouse. Born to quintessentially British aristocracy, Virginia was the daughter of the renowned author and critic, Sir Leslie Stephen, and his wife, Julia Jackson Stephen, who served as a model for Edward Burne-Jones and who was herself the niece of photographer Julia Pattle Cameron. Virginia and her sister were tutored at home, as was the custom, but were also exposed to the results of the formal educations provided for their brothers. In addition, her parents’ prominence made for a lively household filled with visitors such as Henry James and James Russell Lowell. This idyllic childhood seems to have ended with the death of her mother in 1895, followed by that of a half-sister two years later. These deaths, along with that of her father in 1904, precipitated increasingly severe bouts of mental breakdowns that were to continue throughout her life. In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf and embarked upon a happy marriage, marred only by her periodic nervous breakdowns and her suicide by drowning in 1941. Together they established the Hogarth Press, which published many of Virginia’s works, as well as those by such luminaries as T. S. Eliot, Laurens van der Post, and Virginia’s sister, Vanessa Bell. Virginia Woolf fell out of favor after the Second World War, but interest in her was revived by the post modern feminist of the 1970s, and today her reputation is at its brightest.

Better known as Virginia Woolfe, Adeline Stephen was an English writer of essays, short stories and novels. She is considered one of the most important literary figures of the 20th century most known for her novels “To the Lighthouse”, “Mrs. Dalloway” and “Orlando”. Heavily influenced by Marcel Proust and James Joyce, To the Lighthouse employs stream-of-consciousness narrations and meandering paragraphs to depict the make-up of a family (the Ramsays). It’s more about thoughts and perceptions within the internal landscapes of her characters rather than black-and-white reality. This novel is considered one of the greastet modernist works of fiction in the English language. Nicole Kidman portrayed her in a critical acclaimed 2002 movie, “The Hours”.