Gender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning “olive”

The name is often believed to have been an invention of William Shakspeare for his play Twelfth Night, however, the name was borne by a 9th century Sicilian saint. She is considered one of the patron saints of Palermo, and legend has it that she was kidnapped by Muslim invaders and taken into slavery to Tunisia. Her captors were so impressed with her sincerity, virtue and beauty that they permitted her to remain a Christian and to live as a hermitess in a cave.

She was known for performing miracles among the local Tunisians, and many had converted to Christianity as a result. She was imprisoned and tortured and then burnt at the stake. Legend pertains that when they lit the fires at the stake, the flames would not touch her and she was decapitated instead. For whatever reason, she is also considered the patron saint of music.

The name was then possibly introduced into the English speaking world through William Shakespeare in 1599 for one of his characters in the play Twelfth Night. Since then, the name has been in usage in the English speaking world. In the States, the name has been in the top 1,000 since 1880. The name has gradually climbed its way up to the top 10 the last 20 years. In 1989, Olivia came in at # 179 the following year of 1990 saw it jump all the way up to # 72, by 2001 it reached position # 1o and as of last year, 2008, it has made itself a niche at # 6. In Poland, it is at # 5 as the most popular female name, spellt Oliwia. The name is in the top in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The name is used in virtually every European country.

Other forms include:

  • Olivija (Croatian/Serbian/Slovene)
  • Olivie (Czech: ah-LEEV-yeh)
  • Oliva (English/Italian)
  • Olive (English)
  • Olivie/Olivia (French)
  • Olivette (French: obscure)
  • Olívia (Hungarian/Portuguese/Slovak)
  • Olivana/Oliviana (Italian: obscure)
  • Oliveira/Oliviera (Italian)
  • Olivetta (Italian: obscure)
  • Oliwia (Polish: o-LEEV-yah)

Nicknames include: Ollie, Liv, and Livy. A German nickname is Livchen.

A very rare Polish masculine form is Oliwjusz.

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