Sunday, April 21, 2013


Sophia is currently the most popular girl's name in America, and it's easy to see why.

Sophia (pronounced "soh-FEE-ah," although some say that prior to the 1800s it was pronounced "soh-FIY-ah") is a Greek name meaning "wisdom," but there is a lot more to the story than that. In Ancient Greece, Sophia was a central virtue in Hellenistic religion. You can see this in the word "philosophy." Philosophy is derived from the Greek word philosophia, meaning "love of wisdom."

Ironically, it was the Christians that turned Sophia into a goddess. Some Eastern Orthodox religious thinkers champion something called Sophiology. They believe that the Sophia is the wise, feminine aspect of God coexisting with the masculine Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the Roman Catholic Church, Sophia is the wisdom of God and is therefore eternal. Roman Catholic mysticism has a famous celebrant of Sophiology named Saint Hildegard of Bingen, who is so interesting she deserves her own post here. Within the Protestant tradition there was a mystic named Jane Leade who had visions of the "Virgin Sophia," who revealed the spiritual workings of the universe. Some Christians might be horrified that I referred to her as a goddess. I apologize, but I'm not sure what else you would call a "female aspect of God."

Even if you don't know any of that you've probably heard of the Hagia Sophia, a former church which was dedicated to this concept. It was turned into a mosque but is now a museum and a landmark of architectural achievement. There is also a Saint Sophia who was said to be martyred during the reign of Hadrian. Some Neo-Pagans have adopted Sophia as a goddess. Outside of religion, Sophia is a name tied to lots of people and things from popular culture from Sophia Loren to Sophie's Choice.

All of that makes Sophia a sound choice. But I would suggest that you didn't use it unless you really like the sound of your last initial. The name has always been on the American charts but use has risen dramatically in the past few years. It's now the #1 girl's name in America. So that's a lot of Sophias. Variations are also very popular: Sofia is #19, and Sophie is #51. Most people don't think of Sonia as another form of Sophia, but it is. It rests at #770. Variants Soficita and Sofka are almost unheard of.

I admit that Sophia would be amongst my contenders if it weren't for the popularity factor. If you don't mind that, this is a beautiful name. Sometimes names are used a lot for good reasons.


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1 comment:

  1. Very lovely, very meaningful, and very well used!

    The feminine aspect of God is called ... God! Originally in English, the word god was both male and female (or neither male nor female), so technically the word goddess isn't necessary. And God has no specific gender; some parts of the Bible refer God as a Father, while other parts use feminine language to describe God (Jesus once described God as a "mother hen").


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