Oliver, Olivier

Gender: Masculine
Origin: debated
Meaning: debated
Eng (AHL-ih-VER); Fre (oh-LEE-vyay)

This name has a very interesting past. Its origins and meaning are debated, despite its obvious similarity with the word “olive”, many sources believe that is is either derived from one or two Old Norse names, Alfihar or OleifrAlfihar meaning “elf army” or Oleifr meaning “ancestral relic,” while other sources argue that it is indeed related to the Latin word oliverus meaning “olive tree.”

The name first appears in the French epic poem, Le Chanson de Roland. Olivier is the one of the better retainers of Roland. The name was introduced into England by the Normans and was consequently anglicized as Oliver.

The name has been in and out of usage in the English-speaking world since the Middle Ages. There was a time in England when the name went out of favor due to the bloody exploits of Oliver Cromwell. It was revived in the 19th-century due to Dicken’s lovable orphaned character of Oliver Twist.

In recent years, the name has seemed to go through a revival in both the United States and the United Kingdom. In 1979, Oliver ranked in at # 396 for the most popular male names in the United States, in 2010, however, he cracked into the top 100, making it all the way up to # 88. No doubt thanks to the popularity of its seemingly feminine form of Olivia.

As of 2010, he was the most popular male name in England/Wales. His rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 3 (Australia, NSW, 2010)
  • # 3 (New Zealand, 2010)
  • # 6 (Norway, 2010)
  • # 7 (Sweden, 2010)
  • # 8 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 9 (Denmark, 2010)
  • # 10 (Finland, 2011)
  • # 12 (Ólafur, Iceland, 2010)
  • # 16 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
  • # 23 (Canada, BC, 2010)
  • # 25 (Oliwier, Poland, 2009)
  • # 38 (Olivér, Hungary, 2010)
  • # 48 (Óliver, Iceland, 2010)
  • # 51 (Austria, 2010)
  • # 52 (Ireland, 2010)
  • # 55 (Olivier, Netherlands, 2010)
  • # 86 (Spain, 2010)
  • # 269 (Netherlands, 2010)
  • # 305 (Olivier, France, 2009)

The name is used throughout continental Europe. Its French form of Olivier is still fairly common in France and it is occassionally found in the Bayous of Louisiana among Cajun families, along with its lovely accented drawled out pronunciation of (oh-LIV-ee-AY).

In Poland it is rendered as Oliwer pronounced the same way as in English though the final R is rolled. In Iceland the popular male name of Olafur may be related. Pronounced (OH-lahf-ER), it has a feminine form of Olafia (OH-lah-FEE-ah).

Popular English nicknames are Ollie and the less common Noll.

Its designated name day is July 12.

Other forms include:

  • Olivier (Afrikaans/Dutch/French/Frisian)
  • Oliver Оливер (Croatian/Czech/Dutch/English/Estonian/Finnish/German/Hungarian/Macedonian/Portuguese/Russian/Serbian/Slovak/Spanish)
  • Fier (Dutch: originally a diminutive form, used as an independent given name)
  • Oluvier (Dutch)
  • Olivur (Faroese)
  • Ólivar (Faroese)
  • Olivér (Hungarian)
  • Ólafur (Icelandic)
  • Óliver (Icelandic)
  • Ólíver (Icelandic)
  • Oilibhéar (Irish)
  • Oliviero (Italian)
  • Olivarius/Oliverus (Latin)
  • Alfher (Old High German)
  • Áleifr (Old Norse)
  • Oliwer/Oliwier (Polish)
  • Oliwir/Olwer/Olwir (Polish: obscure)
  • Oliveiros (Portuguese)
  • Olaghair (Scottish)
  • Oilbhreis (Scottish)


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.