Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Fiona is a lovely name most associated with Ireland, but it's roots are a little more complicated than that.

Fiona (pronounced "fee-OH-nah") is a relatively new name with debatable origins. It was invented and first used by a Scottish poet named James Macpherson. It is generally believed that it is a Latinized version of the Gaelic word fionn, meaning "fair," "white," or "clear." However, it could also be a variation of the Irish language name Fiona or the Scottish Gaelic name Fionnghal.

The cycle of epic poems that James Macpherson used the name for is called Ossian. They were published in 1761. He claimed that it was a translation of Ancient Gaelic works, but he never produced the original sources. For that reason many believe that he wrote the poems himself after being inspired by Irish mythology. Nevertheless, the poems are well loved and were highly influential in their day. They achieved international success (Thomas Jefferson was a fan) and was hailed as the Celtic equivalent of The Odyssey.

Fiona has many fictional namesakes. Perhaps the most obvious is Princess Fiona from the Shrek movies, proving that a princess doesn't need to be from Disney in order to inspire parents. There are also a few Fiona's from children's literature, including a character from Lois Lowry's The Giver and Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Fiona McLaren is also the main female character in the Broadway musical Brigadoon. There are also many real life namesakes, mostly from Britain and Scotland. But American singer Fiona Apple comes to mind right away. The 19th century Scottish writer William Sharp chose Fiona Macleod as a pen name.

Most people attribute the growth of this name to Shrek, but the name was steadily growing before that. It first showed up in the American top 1,000 in the 1990s. Right now it ranks at #257, which is the highest it has ever been. It is also a favorite in other countries. In 2008 it ranked #49 in Germany, #99 in Canada, #207 in Scotland, and #295 in Norway. In New York City, it is especially popular amongst families of Asian or Pacific Island decent, which strikes me as incredibly odd and I don't know what the reason for that would be.

If the constant association with the princess is going to annoy you than I would stay away from this name. However, it is a beautiful name that has been given to daughters for almost a century now, so it is pretty well integrated. It's a great Wicca-lite name for those that love all things Celtic.


Image Credit:
Found via http://pinterest.com


  1. I ran across someone named Fiana the other day. Very different sound, but a little related. Fiona is a great name, agreed.

  2. My daughter is Fiona. I love the name but was admittedly a little disappointed when I saw it go up in popularity. But now I just embrace it.

    I think Shrek has little, if any, influence on the name's surge in popularity. If anything, I thank Shrek from keeping the name from going up even more. If not for Shrek, I wouldn't be surprised if the name had hit the top 100 or 150 by now.

    I've heard that Fiona has been very popular in other English speaking countries, and that in the U.K., Fiona is actually quite dated, peaking in the 80s, I think. Someone told me in the U.K. and Australia, Fiona is like Jennifer in the U.S.

    Lovely, just what I wanted to avoid - naming my kid the next Jennifer! But I think it will be a while, if ever, before the name reaches Jennifer's popularity.


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