Friday, September 5, 2014
Viola: a baby name, a flower, a color, a butterfly, and a musical instrument. While the viola instrument, which is slightly bigger than a traditional violin, is pretty much called the same thing worldwide, viola the plant is called a violet in English speaking countries. And just in case you needed an extra motive to use this name, check out Lago Viola, a beautiful lake located in Italy.
As a name, Viola is a bit vintage - much more so than Violet, which currently ranks at #69. Viola literally means "violet" in Latin, and is a word name in European countries. The simple difference between Viola in America and Viola elsewhere is that Americans tend to pronounce it VY-ol-uh, whereas other countries stay true to the Latin vee-OH-lah. Violette/Violeta/Violetta is the only other used variant.
There have been countless namesakes over the years, including British children's writer Viola Bayley, Queen of Bohemia and Poland Viola Elizabeth of Cielszyn, poet Viola Garvin, aviator Viola Gentry, model Viola Haqi, and two silent film actresses. The only major literary Viola is from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Later the name was used in the movie "Shakespeare in Love." One of the earliest uses of Viola as a surname can be seen on the Baroque period Italian painter Giovanni Battista Viola (1576-1622) and even earlier on Alfonso dalla Viola, and Italian Renaissance composer. Both attest to the age of the name. Viola can definitely be considered a "classic."
Viola peaked in 1908 at #42. It has not ranked since running off the chart in 1972 at #958. Today it remains rare, but is not so far outside the top 1000 that it couldn't make an easy comeback. It was given to 174 girls in 2013, and that number more than doubled in the past decade. It seems the 90's just weren't kind to Viola.