Cool Name of the Week: Gaia

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, J.K. Rowling has a new (grown-up and decidedly un-magical) book out this week—Casual Vacancy. And as a big fan of both Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s elegant prose, I couldn’t help but take a look. Especially because I’d like to see how an author like J.K. Rowling names people in the non-magical realm, where a name like Nymphadora or Draco would be a little less likely to fly.

And lo and behold, there are some intriguing names thus far (eight chapters in), mixed in amongst the blander Barrys and Howards. And my favorite, so far, is Gaia—the teenage girl who’s become an obsession for one of the upper-crust teen boys, Andrew. As you see her through two different characters’ eyes—through Andrew’s adoring sideways glances, and the disdainful view of Gavin, the boyfriend of her mother—you get every glorious wave of her hair described, or you get the sense that she’s an angry banshee of a teen who is (literally) out for blood.

Gaia is a Greek name for the goddess of the earth—which explains why it’s become popular among the environmentally inclined. And surprisingly, only one actor has used it for her daughter—Emma Thompson. Gaia would make a great alternative if you love uberpopular names like Mia, Layla and Maya—and don’t want your daughter to be the third one in her class.

With a name like Gaia, I’d like to keep with the environmental tone with the middle name, and choose a name like Lark, Fleur or Spring. If you have a short surname, you could even go with a longer middle name, like Persephone or Daphne.

Would you pick Gaia for a girl? And if you’re reading Casual Vacancy, what do you think so far?

Photo: Pregnant woman via Ronald Summers/

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  1. by Rachel

    On October 2, 2012 at 4:26 am

    Our 13 year is called Gaia, middle name Madeleine. We like it and were annoyed (mildly) when Emma Thompson (Prof Trelawney in the HP films) called her daughter Gaia 8 months later, fortunately the British tabloids ridiculed the name and it has never become popular here. We know of one other in the Leeds area. Hoping it stays that way!

  2. [...] – Are you reading J.K. Rowling’s post-Potter debut? Lisa Milbrand reports that A Casual Vacancy is chock full of great names, including this one, borrowed from a [...]

  3. by Gaia

    On October 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    My name is Gaia and here in Italy the name has begun rather common in the last decade, when I was born, in 1991, there was only one Gaia in my 16000 people town, now you can’t count them. I’m reading “The Casual Vacancy” and I was left delighted when I read that Mrs. Rowling had chosen my name for one of her characters – and I didn’t know Emma Thompson named her daughter Gaia, being a Potterhead it’s even nicer to know one of the actors of the saga has a connection with my name as well. However, my middle name is nothing earth-related, it’s Jeanne, as my father’s belgian.

  4. by Cool Name of the Week: Cormoran | In Name Only

    On September 23, 2013 at 8:47 am

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