The Baby Name Sonjia (from Sonja)

Sonja Henie, Photoplay

In 1938, the name Sonjia was the top debut name, being given suddenly to 19 baby girls. Where did it come from?

It’s a misspelling of the name Sonja, which nearly doubled in popularity the same year:

  • 1941: 567 baby girls named Sonja [rank: 268th]
  • 1940: 713 baby girls named Sonja [rank: 238th]
  • 1939: 861 baby girls named Sonja [rank: 203rd]
  • 1938: 1,116 baby girls named Sonja [rank: 180th]
  • 1937: 560 baby girls named Sonja [rank: 263rd]
  • 1936: 180 baby girls named Sonja [rank: 479th]
  • 1935: 92 baby girls named Sonja [rank: 704th]

Why the Sonja spike?

It was inspired by Norwegian Olympic figure skater Sonja Henie (SOHN-yah HEN-ee), whose first name is a diminutive of Sophia, meaning “wisdom” in Greek.

In the late 1930s, after dominating the world of figure skating for many years, Sonja decided to give Hollywood a shot. She boldly told a New York Times reporter: “I want to do with skates what Fred Astaire is doing with dancing.”

And you know what? That’s exactly what she did.

She starred in a string of box-office hits, including One in a Million (1936), Thin Ice (1937) with Tyrone Power (father of Romina and Taryn), and My Lucky Star (1938).

Her films and touring ice shows made her very wealthy and very famous — “the first international athlete-actress-superstar of modern times.” Today she’s credited with inspiring an entire generation of figure skaters.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Sonja?


5 thoughts on “The Baby Name Sonjia (from Sonja)

  1. And what’s interesting is that if you see a video of her skating on YouTube and compare it to Olympic skating today, she would never have been able to compete! Our standards are wildly different now.

  2. I like watching old clips of sports games, competitions, etc., for that very reason. Fascinating how much standards can change over a couple of generations, isn’t it?

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