The Italian name Gia is a pet form of Gianna, which itself is a contracted form of Giovanna (akin to Joanna). But Gia as a standalone name was very rare in the U.S. until the late 1950s, when usage increased enough for the name to debut in the SSA’s (publicly available) data:
1960: 41 baby girls named Gia
1959: 51 baby girls named Gia
1958: 43 baby girls named Gia
1957: 18 baby girls named Gia [debut]
What gave it a boost? The first famous Gia in America, actress Gia Scala, whose career took off in the late 1950s.
Her “real” name is hard to pin down. She was born in England with the name Josephine Scoglio. But…she spent her childhood in Italy, and when she applied for U.S. citizenship in 1957, she said her legal name was Giovanna Scoglio.
In any case, she started going by Gia not long after she moved to the U.S. (in the early 1950s), and Universal Studios gave her the stage name “Gia Scala” at the start of her film career.
Since then, several other famous Gias have also influenced the charts…
Fashion model Gia Marie Carangi was at the peak of her fame in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It doesn’t look like her modeling career had any impact on the baby name Gia, but when the TV movie Gia starring Angelina Jolie came out in 1998, usage of the name more than tripled, and the compound name Giamarie debuted.
Usage more than doubled from 2009 to 2011 (when Gia peaked in the national rankings at 300th place) thanks to two people: reality TV contestant Gia Allamand, who appeared on both The Bachelor and Bachelor Pad in 2010, and celebrity baby Gia Francesca, born to Mario Lopez and his wife in September of 2010.
By now, I’ve heard all the jokes about Utah names, but what I haven’t heard is a unified theory of just why the Mormon people of Utah are so inclined to create them. I humbly offer two hypotheses.
The first is my historical-cultural theory—that the penchant for invented names among Mormons lies in its very foundation: It goes all the way back to its founder, Joseph Smith, who had to come up with the names of hundreds of figures to populate the faith’s foundational text that he wrote, the Book of Mormon.
My second theory is more sociological. […] [I]f you’re a Mormon kid in Utah, it can be hard to stand out from the pack. A differently spelled name or a new name altogether might be a reasonable way to firm up a sense of individuality from the first day. Why bring yet another Erin into the world when you can introduce an Aeryn, or better yet, an Aroarin?
When Renee Cupp became pregnant with her daughter, she toyed around with a few names. For a while, Lily was the front runner, until she and her husband had the idea to name their second child after their favorite chocolate and peanut butter candy. So, eight years ago, the couple printed the name Reese Eve Cupp on their daughter’s birth certificate.
Although the correct pronunciation of the candy is “Rees-IS,” Cupp tells PEOPLE that she has always pronounced it “Rees-EES,” which is a common inflection of the popular chocolate brand, thus the addition of her daughter’s middle initial.
[Dr. Pascaline Faure] said that a clear trend was for names ending in “a” associated with femininity, as in “Maria”, or an “o”, which is masculine, as in “Mario”. “This is turning a drug into a sort of mate. It can be a girlfriend, with women’s attributes, or a boyfriend, with male ones,” she said.
I want my son, who is almost 2, to feel the history of his ancestors as something joyful and not heavy. I want him to recognize all the improbable elements that had to align; all the miracles that kept his grandfathers alive through their difficult lives long enough to create the families that would lead to his birth. I hope that, by giving him the gift of an unburdened name, he will be able to create a life that is equally as incredible as his grandfathers’ — a life that is already miraculous just by existing.
In Melbourne, Australia, where she was born and raised in a culturally traditional Sudanese household with her mom, dad and six siblings, her peers at school couldn’t pronounce her real name, and it got to an unbearable point. […] Of course, neither name was something commonly found amongst Australian citizens. As she explains, both the words “Nyadak” and “Thot” are, in fact, Nuer, a South Sudanese language that’s native to the Nuer tribe. “Oh yeah,” she says wryly after noticing my surprised facial expression. “Many people don’t know I come from a tribe.”