The name comes directly from the Greek word for life. It has always been a common name among Greeks and among Greek Jews, it was often used as vernacular form of Eve.
In the Greek Orthodox Church, (and in the Catholic) it is borne by two early Christian martyrs. It was also borne by an 11th-century Byzantine Empress.
In Western Europe, the name did not come into usage till the 18th-century, when there was a widespread revival of the classics.
In modern Catholic Church history, it was borne by a 19th-century French nun, mystic and saint Catherine Labouré (née Zoé Labouré), who introduced the usage of the Miraculous Medal.
Currently, the name is the 58th most popular female name in the United States, (2008), her rankings in other countries are as follows:
- # 17 (Australia, 2008)
- # 25 (Belgium, 2006)
- # 50 (Canada, B.C., 2008)
- # 83 (England/Wales, 2008)
- # 44 (Hungary, 2008)
- # 25 (the Netherlands, 2009)
- # 36 (Scotland, 2009)
Other forms of the name include:
- Zoya Зоя (Aragonese/Macedonian/Russian/Serbian/Ukrainian)
- Zoë (Dutch/English/German/Scandinavian)
- Zoe (Catalan/Croatian/Czech/English/Italian/Polish/Spanish)
- Zoi Ζωη (Greek: Modern)
- Zoé (French/Hungarian/Portuguese)
- Zója (Hungarian)
- Zoja (Polish/Slovak/Slovene)
The designated name-days are: Feburary 26 (Russia), April 13 (Greece), May 2 (France) and October 27 (Czech Republic).
The name is borne by Zoe Saldana (b. 1978) and Zooey Deschanel (b.1980)/