Is the Origin of that Name Welsh? Gaelic? Latin? Try Shakespearean.
NCIS star Michael Weatherly and wife Bojana Jankovic recently welcomed baby Olivia, and offered an intriguing explanation for the name: “My wife Bojana is Serbian and her name means war or warrior...And when you give someone an olive branch, that’s an offering of peace so Olivia is peace. I think we have a Tolstoy novel going on now: Mother and daughter, war and peace!”
While the Weatherly-Jankovic family may be happy with their Tolstoy-ian name theme, it was not Tolstoy but another classic author that immediately came to mind when we heard the name Olivia.
Indeed, Olivia isn’t necessarily the derivative of Olive that Weatherly and others believe it to be -- as Baby Name Wizard Laura Wattenberg noted, the name is an invention of one William Shakespeare. Perhaps Olive is how Shakespeare himself thought of the name (although it is just as likely derived from Oliver, whose meaning most likely comes from the Germanic Olaf or "ancestor"), but the character in Twelfth Night was the first time the name’s use was recorded. After all, why wouldn’t the man who brought the English language the words laughable, dwindle, and scuffle be equally as inventive with his character names?
Here are some other well-known names originally invented by the Bard:
Jessica as it’s now written first appeared in The Merchant of Venice, where the name is given to Shylock’s daughter. The name may have been an English version of the Hebrew name Iskah, a woman mentioned briefly in the book of Genesis. Iskah was written “Jeska” in English Bibles in Shakespeare’s day. With Jessica ruling the name charts for majority of 1980s and 1990s, a whole lot of Jessicas can thank the Bard for inspiring their name.
Well before it was the name of a well-loved character on a certain HBO comedy, Miranda was the name of the heroine in The Tempest. It’s believed to be derived from the Latin word mirandus, meaning “wonderful” or “to be admired.” The Oxford English Dictionary still recognizes the adjective “mirandous” as a synonym of “miraculous.”
And if it weren’t for early 17th Century typos, we wouldn’t have Imogen. It’s believed that the Shakespeare intended the heroine of Cymbeline to be named Innogen, a Celtic name supposedly derived from the Gaelic word inghean, meaning “girl” or “maiden.” Well, two Ns can look an awful lot like one M, and therein Imogen was born. While not particularly popular in the U.S., Imogen is a hit in other parts of the English-speaking world. It’s currently at #30 in parts of Australia and #46 in England.
What do you think of these Shakespeare-invented names? Do any of them surprise you? Have you ever chosen a name from a beloved book? Share your thoughts in the comments.