Sophia is a lovely name, isn’t it? The problem is that everyone else seems to agree! It is currently a top 10 choice in the U.S. and still seems to be on the rise. I’m a literature nut, and I fell in love with the name after reading it in two great 18th-century British novels. However, I’m also a first grade teacher, and after seeing a large crop of Sophia’s sprouting up every year, the name is beginning to lose its appeal.
Luckily, there are quite a few other names with similar qualities, so if you’re in love with Sophia but want something a bit more distinctive for your child, you just might consider one of these appealing substitutes.
If it’s the “fee” sound you’re after or the “ph” spelling, you might try:
- Josephine — a classic English name with similar long O, S, and “fee” sounds. Josephine, of course, was also the main character in Little Women, so it has plenty of literary cachet.
- Seraphina — a frilly princess name with recent starbaby appeal and an angelic meaning
- Sapphira — a pretty gemstone name, provided you can get over the slightly naughty namesake. (If you’re not familiar with the biblical story of Ananias and Sapphira, click here.)
- Sephora — a name with biblical roots. Sephora is the Greek form of Zipporah, Moses’ wife. Of course, most Americans today will recognize this as a large cosmetic store chain.
- Fiona — a Scottish name meaning “fair.” Like Sophia, Fiona also has ties to 18th-century literature, having been coined by Scottish poet James Macpherson for his 1761 epic poem Fingal.
- Delphina — an ancient Greek and Roman name which possibly means “dolphin”
If you love the S beginning, the A ending, and the musical rhythm, you might consider a few of these sound-alikes:
- Serena — a Latin name meaning “tranquil, serene.” This is also a good choice if Sophia’s literary roots appeal to you, as Serena appeared in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.
- Selena — the Latinized form of the Greek moon goddess
- Soraya — an Arabic name denoting the constellation “Pleiades”
- Safiya — an Arabic name meaning “pure.” Safiya was one of Muhammad’s wives.
- Samiya — an Arabic name meaning “elevated, sublime”
- Susanna — a biblical name meaning “lily.” It has the added benefit of being familiar to just about everyone but not currently in the top 1000. Considering that Lily and Hannah are also very popular, this one seems like a prime candidate for revival.
- Cecilia – the patron saint of music. Yes, her name does literally mean “blind,” but don’t let that stop you from using it. Like Sophia, Cecilia was popular in 18th century England, so it has a similar feel.
Sophia comes from the Greek word for wisdom. If you’re looking for something with similar roots, you might consider:
- Athena — the Greek goddess of wisdom
- Alethea (pronounced uh-LEE-thee-uh) — from the Greek word for truth
- Sonia (or Sonya or Sonja) — a sweet Russian diminutive of Sophia that is familiar but far less common in the U.S.
If it’s the nickname “Sophie” that really appeals to you, you might like:
- Sophronia — an Italian name meaning “sensible” (which is certainly similar to “wise”). Sophronia was coined by Italian poet Torquato Tasso in the 16th century. Though it’s elaborate, it shortens easily to Sophie.
- Sylvia — a Roman name meaning “forest or woodland.” The sprightly Sylvie is about as close as you’ll get to Sophie without actually being Sophie.
- Josephine — I must mention her here again as Josie has very similar sounds to Sophie
- Daphne — a Greek name meaning “laurel.” If you like the sound of Sophie on her own and don’t feel you need something longer, Daphne has a similar “ph” sound and long E ending.
- Sadie — a nickname for Sarah that could stand on its own as a given name. It’s much less formal than Sophia/Sophie, though, so be sure to balance it out with a substantial middle.
Which of these names do you think make the best Sophia substitutes? Are there any you would add that I’ve missed?