Where did the baby name Varinia come from in 1961?

The character Varinia from the movie "Spartacus" (1960).
Varinia in “Spartacus

So far, the baby name Varinia has appeared in the U.S. baby name data just three times. The first two appearances were in the early 1960s:

  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: 7 baby girls named Varinia
  • 1961: 5 baby girls named Varinia [debut]
  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: unlisted

What put this rare name on the onomastic map?

The 1960 film Spartacus, which starred Kirk Douglas as rebellious Thracian slave Spartacus. Varinia, played by Jean Simmons, was a slave girl from Britannia who become Spartacus’ wife.

The movie was based on the 1951 novel of the same name by Howard Fast. The author invented the character Varinia (originally Germanic, not Britannic) for the book.

Though we know that the real-life Spartacus had a wife — she’s mentioned by Plutarch — we don’t know what her name was. The name chosen by Fast is a form of the Roman name Varinius, which might be based on the Latin word varius, meaning “various, variegated.”

Incidentally, this wasn’t the first time that Jean Simmons played a name-influencing character. In 1954, she was appearing in theaters as both Désirée Clary and Corby Lane.

Source: Spartacus (1960) – TCM, Varinius – Behind the Name

One thought on “Where did the baby name Varinia come from in 1961?

  1. My birth name is Varinia
    Born in 1971
    Monroe Louisiana
    I hated the name growing up but have come to embrace its uniqueness

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