Vivian (personal name)

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Pronunciation /vɪviˈɛn/ viv-ee-EN
/ˈvɪviən/ VIV-ee-ən
Gender Unisex
Word/name Latin
Region of origin Western Christianity (Western Roman Empire)
Other names
Related names Vivien, Viviane, Vivienne, Vivianne

Vivian (and variants such as Vivien and Vivienne) is a given name, and less often a surname, derived from a Latin name of the Roman Empire period, masculine Vivianus and feminine Viviana, which survived into modern use because it is the name of two early Christian female martyrs as well as of a male saint and bishop.

History and variants[edit]

The Latin name Vivianus is recorded from the 1st century.[1] It is ultimately related to the adjective vivus "alive", but it is formed from the compound form vivi-[2] and the adjectival -ānus suffix used to form cognomina.

The latinate given name Vivianus was of limited popularity in the medieval period in reference to Saint Vivianus, a 5th-century bishop of Saintes; the feminine name was that of Saint Viviana (Bibiana), a 4th-century martyr whose veneration in Rome is ascertained for the 5th century.

In Arthurian legend, "Viviane" is one of the names of the Lady of the Lake.

The name was brought to England with the Norman invasion, and is occasionally recorded in England in the 12th and 13th centuries. The masculine given name appears with greater frequency in the early modern period. The spelling Vivian was historically used only as a masculine name, but in the 19th century was also given to girls and was a unisex name until the early part of the 20th century; since the mid 20th century, it has been almost exclusively given as a feminine name in the United States. Use of Vivian as a feminine name in the US peaked in popularity in 1920 at rank 64, but declined in the second half of the 20th century, falling below rank 500 in the 1980s. Its popularity has again picked up somewhat since the 1990s, as of 2012 having attained rank 140.[3]

Variants of the feminine name include Viviana, Viviane, Vivienne. The French feminine spelling Vivienne in the United States has peaked sharply in recent years from below rank 1,000 (no statistical record) to rank 322 in the period 2009–2012.[4] The Italian or Latin form Viviana has enjoyed some popularity since the 1990s, reaching rank 322 in 2000.[5] The spelling Vivien is the French masculine form, but in English speaking countries it has long been used as a feminine form, due to its appearance as the name of the Arthurian Lady of the Lake in Tennyson's Idylls of the King of 1859.[6] For the masculine name, the variant Vyvyan has sometimes been used, based on the Cornish surname itself derived from the given name. The intermediary form Vyvian is also occasionally found.

The Gaelic name Ninian has sometimes been identified as a corruption of Vivian, but it is now considered more likely derived from Welsh Nynniaw, which is itself of uncertain origin, but likely renders Nennius. Bébinn is an unrelated, genuinely Gaelic name which has on occasion been rendered as Vivian in English.

As a surname[edit]

The given name Vivian was introduced to Norman England in the 11th or 12th century and over time gave rise to a variety of British surnames, including Videan, Vidgen, Vidgeon, Fiddian, Fidgeon, Phythian.

The Vyvyan family has been a prominent family of Cornwall since the 16th century. The Vyvyan baronetcy was created in the Baronetage of England for Sir Richard Vyvyan in 1645. Baron Vivian was created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1841.

Vivian has been used as a surname in the United States and Canada since at least the 1830s, presumably derived from the Cornish surname.[7] Notable bearers of the surname include Weston E. Vivian (b. 1924); C. T. Vivian (b. 1924).

List of individuals with the name[edit]

Masculine given name[edit]

spelling Vivian
spelling Vivien
spelling Vyvyan
spelling Vyvian
As a pseudonym or nickname

Feminine given name[edit]

Late Antiquity (spelling may differ depending on tradition)
spelling Vivian
spelling Vivien
spelling Viviana or Viviane
spelling Vivianna
spelling Vivienne
spelling Vyvienne
spelling Vyvyan
spelling Vyvyane
  • Vyvyane Loh, Chinese Hui-Shien, Malaysian-American novelist, choreographer, and physician
hypocoristic Vivi (used as given name in Scandinavia)
As a pseudonym or adopted name
  • Vivian Chow, Chinese 周慧敏 Zhōu Huìmǐn (born 1967), Hong Kong singer and actress
  • Vivian Hsu, Chinese 徐若瑄 Xú Ruòx (born 1975), Taiwanese singer, actress and model
  • Vivian Schmitt (born 1978), German pornographic actress
  • Vivienne Poy, politician 利德蕙 (Ley6 Dak1-wai6) (b. 1941)
  • Vivienne Tam, Chinese 譚燕玉 (Tán Yànyù), Hong Kong fashion designer (b. 1957)
  • Vivean Gray, British TV and film actress (adopted name of Jean Vivra Gray)

Fictional characters[edit]


  1. ^ Bruce W. Frier, Thomas A. J. McGinn, Thomas A. McGinn, A Casebook on Roman Family Law, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 477.
  2. ^ compare vivi-parus "viviparous", vivi-fico "vivify"; also vividus "vivid".
  3. ^ "Vivian" at Behind the Name
  4. ^ "Vivienne" at Behind the Name
  5. ^ "Viviana" at Behind the Name
  6. ^ "Vivien" at Behind the Name
  7. ^[unreliable source?] "Richard Vivian was a planter of Careless Harbour, Newfoundland, in 1830".
  8. ^ William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology Volume 3, 1849, p. 1279
  9. ^ List of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air characters

See also[edit]

  • Haim, Hebrew name also derived from the word for "life"