Spotlight on: Sunniva

Don’t forget to enter the Feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim giveaway — it ends tonight at midnight! I’ll announce the winners tomorrow!

A fellow name enthusiast recently told me her Confirmation name is Sunniva and I was like Sunniva! I knew next to nothing about the name or the saint and I knew I had to do a spotlight on it!

St. Sunniva of Bergen, also known as St. Sunniva of Norway and of Selje, and sometimes known under the variants Sunnifa and Synnöve, has a pretty interesting story: she was the daughter of an Irish king who fled to Norway to escape an arranged marriage, and died there in a cave; years later her body was found incorrupt. The Irish-Norwegian connection makes her name a perfect one for a family with Irish and Norwegian ancestry (like mine!), especially because her name, though used in Scandinavian countries (especially Norway and Sweden as far as I can tell), is actually Old English in origin.

Regarding pronunciation, I’ve seen sun-EE-va on behindthename (by a mom living in the U.S. who named her daughter Sunniva) and SOON-ee-va on Nameberry, and the four examples on Forvo sound more like sun-ee-VA to me. So it seems there are choices, but unless you all know which is the predominant pronunciation for native English speakers, I’m going to recommend the first, because it rhymes with Geneva, which I think makes for a really easy way to help others learn and remember it. I also like that it highlights the -iva part, which can lend itself so naturally to the nicknames Eva and Evie, Neva, and even Vivi. I also love the possibility of Sunni, so sweet! And Synne appears to be a Norwegian short form of the name, pronounced SIN-na according to Forvo.

Sunniva is pretty rare here, having been given to 9 girls in 2016, 10 in 2015, less than five in 2014, and 5 in 2013 (I didn’t go back farther than that). So a true rarity that has history and faith significance and some sweet and on-trend nicknames!

What do you all think of Sunniva? Would you name your daughter Sunniva, or have you? Do you know anyone named Sunniva? What does she think of her name, and does she go by a nickname?


26 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Sunniva

  1. I LOVE this name, but consider it a guilty pleasure that I could never use. I pronounce it SOON-ee-va or maybe SUN-ih-va, so the Geneva-like pronunciation isn’t intuitive to me, but what do I know! I’ve only encountered it on the internet, ha! I would be so tickled if I were to meet a little girl Sunniva though, whatever the pronunciation!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was wondering if anyone else sees Sunni and immediately thinks of Sunni Islam? Not a great association when trying to go for a Catholic name! I LOVE the name, but would probably nickname Sunny or Sunshine! Or Iva, pronounced like Eva. Such a great saint story for a little girl to have as a patron.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I knew a girl growing up, a few years older than me, named Sunshine! She was a beautiful blonde with a charming, friendly disposition and I always wondered if her name influenced her personal development, or if it was just a wonderful cosmic coincidence.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve seen Synnove a handful of times here. Synnove is the Norwegian spelling of the name and more common than Sunniva there. I’d probably pronounce that spelling of the name SOO-nuh-vay and Sunniva as soo-NEE-vuh. I imagine neither are quite correct in Norwegian. I like both names but I’ve met and interviewed quite a few Norwegians (and Swedes, Danes and Finns) at the annual Scandinavian festival held in my town. The names don’t sound that odd to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I checked the native pronunciation at Synnove is pronounced by Norwegians something like SIN-NIV and Sunniva is soo-nee-VUH with the emphasis on the third syllable.

      The one British pronunciation i found is sun-Eve-uh. I think Americans would also tend to rhyme it with Geneva with the emphasis on the second syllable and the first syllable like “sun.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There is a minor but memorably wicked character with this name in Sigrid Undset’s Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy–that’s my only association with the name.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A friend of a friend from college was Sunniva and was from Norway. I think she pronounced it SOO-nu-vuh (even that doesn’t look exactly right but it’s the closest I could get!). That plus her very Norwegian last name just made me swoon. I love it! I remember her being called Sunny a little, but I don’t know if that was just close friends or a widely-used nickname.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The nuns sing a troparia to St. Sunniva at our monastery on Sunday mornings. In this context the accent is on the first syllable. She is the patron of one of their sister monasteries located in Norway…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s