Name of the Day: Fiona

June 16, 2009


I suppose that, strictly speaking, Fiona is not a “real” name.  It did not naturally evolve over thousands of years of linguistic history.  It was made up — in much the same way that Wendy was made up by J. M. Barrie, and Vanessa was made up by Jonathan Swift, and Pamela was made up by Sir Philip Sidney.  Apparently, Fiona started out as a pseudonym for William Sharp, a Scottish writer.

Fair warning, in case  you care about things like that.  I fall somewhere in the middle-but-leaning-toward-the-right, myself.  But that’s another topic for another day.

If you decide to use Fiona, there are a few rules that you should know about.  Every real or fictional person named Fiona needs to either…

1.  have red or blond hair


2.  have green eyes

(Just kidding.  I made up those rules just now, though it seems like nearly every Fiona tends to follow the rules.)

The popularity graph for Fiona is kind of funny looking.  It did not appear on the popularity charts at all for over 100 years, and then it shot up all of a sudden during the 90s-2000s.  But don’t let that deter you; “shot up” is a relative phrase.  The most popular it has ever been was #327, and it has been holding fairly steady for the past few years.  In other words, Hazel and Tatiana are more popular.

I like Fiona because it is similar to Iona, but less musty-sounding.  And it is also less likely to sound like a sentence when used together with a last name, i.e. “Iona Smith.”  “Well, so what, I own a Lexus.”

All in all, Fiona is a nice, pleasant-sounding, even elegant name.  The pop culture references won’t last forever, so don’t worry about your daughter being branded an ogress (isn’t that a funny word?  I’m going to say it again.  Ogress).

from AskOxford
Scottish: Latinate derivative of the Gaelic word fionn ‘white’, ‘fair’. It was first used by James Macpherson (1736–96), author of the Ossianic poems, which were supposedly translations from ancient Gaelic. It was subsequently used as a pen-name by William Sharp (1855–1905), who produced many romantic works under the name of Fiona Macleod. It has since become popular throughout the English-speaking world.

from Behind the Name
Fiona:  Feminine form of FIONN. This name was (first?) used by Scottish poet James Macpherson in his poem ‘Fingal’ (1762).
Fionn:  Means “fair” or “white” in Gaelic. Fionn mac Cumhail was a legendary Irish hero who became all-wise by eating an enchanted salmon. He fought against the giant Fomors with his son Oisín and grandson Oscar.

from NameBerry
Known in the U. S. since the 1954 musical Brigadoon, this late nineteenth-century Scottish invention was given a recent spike in popularity via singer Fiona Apple. Jennie Garth has a daughter named Fiona Eve.

from Baby Name Wizard
Style:  Celtic, English, Lacy and Lissome
Sisters and Brothers:  Dahlia, Maeve, Felicity, Gillian, Camilla, Graham, Rowan, Jude, Malcolm, Griffin
It’s baffling why this British standby didn’t hit the U.S. sooner.  But don’t question, just enjoy:  a romantic knockout with a playful spirit.


  1. I’m a Fiona-fan! To me, a literary coinage is a perfectly legitimate choice. Especially an 18th-century Scottish literary coinage. It’s not quite the same as if I were to just make up a name like Aaralynn or Delexa and use it on my daughter. Fiona at least has some meaning and history behind it.

    The only Fiona I’ve ever known didn’t follow your rules at all — she was a young Chinese pre-med student who I knew in college.

    • Rulebreaker!!! 😉

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