How popular is the baby name Ilya in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Ilya.
The ancient name Phaedra was the highest-debuting baby name of 1963:
- 1967: 21 baby girls named Phaedra
- 1966: 22 baby girls named Phaedra
- 1965: 32 baby girls named Phaedra
- 1964: 29 baby girls named Phaedra
- 1963: 70 baby girls named Phaedra
- 1962: unlisted
- 1961: unlisted
Because of the film Phaedra, released in late 1962. It was a flop at the U.S. box office, but had a big impact on U.S. baby names nonetheless.
The title character Phaedra (played by Greek actress Melina Mercouri, who’d played Ilya in the hit Never on Sunday) was the second wife of a wealthy man named Thanos. She initiated a forbidden romance with her husband’s adult son, Alexis, and then both of them had to suffer the consequences.
The movie is one of the many modern versions of the ancient Greek tragedy Hippolytus by Euripides.
In the film, the name Phaedra (based on an ancient Greek word meaning “bright”) is pronounced FEH-dra, with a short E. (Say “Ephedra” without the initial vowel.) Looking at online discussions about the name, though, it’s clear that people use various pronunciations, including FAY-dra and FEE-dra.
What are your thoughts on the name Phaedra? Which pronunciation do you prefer?
Source: Phaedra (1962) – TCM
The name Illya double-debuted in the U.S. baby name data in the mid-1960s:
| Year||Boys Named Illya||Girls Named Illya|
|1967||55 [rank 980th]||10|
|1966||78 [rank 828th]||11|
|1965||35 [debut]||5 [debut]|
Illya was the #1 debut name for boys in 1965. In fact, it ended up becoming one of the top boy-name debuts overall, and it reached the top 1000 twice.
So where did it come from?
The influence wasn’t the movie that gave yesterday’s name Ilya a boost, but the Cold War-era spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which premiered on TV in 1964 and ran until 1968. (U.N.C.L.E. was an acronym for “United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.”)
The main characters were CIA agent Napoleon Solo (played by Robert Vaughn) and KGB agent Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin (played by David McCallum). Illya, a Slavic form of Elijah, was spelled out in the opening credits.
The name Napoleon may have also gotten a slight boost from the show, though it’s hard to tell.
Do you like the name Illya?
(Other dual-gender debuts I’ve posted about include Chaffee, Dasani, Dondi, Rikishi, and Sundown.)
When Ilya first popped up in the SSA’s baby name data, it appeared as a girl name in 1961:
- 1963: unlisted
- 1962: unlisted
- 1961: 5 baby girls named Ilya [debut]
- 1960: unlisted
- 1959: unlisted
Because the Greek romantic comedy Never on Sunday was released in October of 1960. It starred Greek actress Melina Mercouri as a free-spirited prostitute named Ilya.
The movie was a big hit, and Melina Mercouri was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (she lost to Elizabeth Taylor). The film earned four other nominations as well, but only won the Best Song category.
Interestingly, the trailer for the film starts with a string of names: “On Monday, it’s Tonio. On Tuesday, Boris. Wednesday is Spiro the fisherman’s day. And on Thursday, Jorgo’s the lucky fellow. Friday is devoted to Homer…”
Most sources classify the name Ilya and similar names (Iliya, Illya, Ilia, etc.) as male names — specifically, as forms of Elijah/Elias. So my best guess on the character name is that it was a nickname for Iliana, the feminine form of the Greek name Ilias (yet another form of Elijah/Elias).
Do you like the name Ilya? Do you prefer it as a girl name or as a boy name?
Source: Iliana – Behind the Name
Ukraine’s Minister of Justice recently announced the most popular baby names in Ukraine for the first half of 2010 were Anastasia and Maksym.
I can’t give you proper rankings (because they weren’t included in the press release, oddly) but here are the other baby names that were mentioned:
Sources: The most popular names in Ukraine were Anastasia and Maxim, Most popular baby names in Ukraine