Viola - Rape Connotation?

As many of you that visit this board know, I am considering the name [name]Viola[/name] for my daughter to be born in Oct (sidenote the other name I am seriously considering is [name]Scarlett[/name]). I recently read on some posts here that some people would not use [name]Viola[/name] b/c it means “to rape” in Spanish/French.

Of course, this terrified me. I am not a native Spanish speaker…however I majored in Spanish, studied abroad in Mexico, and spent the last 2 years conversing with my “to die” for Domincan nanny. So, did I just miss this connotation b/c I am not a native speaker? I know “violar” / “vee-oh-lar” in Spanish means to rape or violate. It is closely related to the verb “violate” in English. Obviously, I am familiar with the word “violate”, but never associated it with the name [name]Viola[/name]. Is that just me?

[name]Viola[/name] in Spanish is also the name of the instrument as it is in English. The word is actually Latin and means “small purple flower” or “stringed instrument”. So, what do native French, Spanish, & Italian speakers think of when they hear this name? The instrument? The color [name]Violet[/name]/Purple? The flower? or “To Rape”?

The situation reminds me of when my nanny came back from the Dominican Republic and was apalled that one of her family members named a new baby girl, “[name]Lacey[/name]”. She said, how could they name their baby “Lazy”. She obviously, didn’t realize that difference in spelling and it sounded the same to her. Obviously, no one in the English speaking part of the world would think twice at [name]Lacey[/name] b/c of the connotation with Lazy…well at least I don’t think so.

Anyway back to [name]Viola[/name]. Luckily I have a bunch of friends who speak native languages other than English (specifically French, Spanish, and Italian). I have sought their advice and thought I would post as I get it. That way I can help anyone else who loves this name and is worried about the International connotation… as I am. The name [name]Viola[/name] was very popular in the Victorian era…it hit #44 at one point. However, maybe Americans were not as International then as they are now? Also, [name]Shakespeare[/name] used it in his play… and I am guessing he was attuned to the Latin language…but who knows? Please, feel free to add to this if you are a native Spanish, French, or Italian speaker and have some more feedback.

French Response (French Canadian):

“NO, I don’t think it reminds me of the word for Rape, that’s like saying [name]Ray[/name] sounds too close to Rape, it’s [name]Vi[/name]-oh-la ([name]Viola[/name]) versus [name]Vi[/name]-oh-lay (Violer) The spelling is completely different and the emphasis isn’t even on the same sylable. It is not the same word at all.”

My husband is of French descent, and though he is not actually from there, he does speak a great deal of it. He wholeheartedly agrees that [name]Viola[/name] is no where close to rape, violate, or anything of the such :slight_smile:

I speak Spanish, and no, the “rape” connotation did not immediately occur to me either. I think the word “violaci”n” tends to be used more readily to describe “rape” in Spanish. [name]Viola[/name] would just be a form of the verb “to rape” - “violar”. And you’re right, it does also refer to the instrument in Spanish. If it wasn’t readily apparent to your Dominican nanny – the Spanish-speaker likely to spend the most time with your child, I wouldn’t worry about it if you love the name.

The word “viola” would mean he/she (someone, singular) rapes in Spanish. The Spanish pronounciation would be “vee-oh-la” where as I assume you’d you would be pronouncing it “vi-oh-la”. Because you’d be using the long I sound rather than the long E sound, I wouldn’t see anyone making the immeadiate association. I think most people would only make that association from seeing the name on paper rather than from hearing it verbally. But, I’m far from a native speaker. I still think you could make it work though!

Last week or so, someone asked about the name [name]Ava[/name] which in Latin is bird, who had found out that in Hebrew it is also meaning iniquity. It still means bird, dun’t it?

I think it’s weird that when I see the name I think of [name]Viola[/name], the instrument, vee-oh-la (apparently how it sounds in Spanish), while the Viol and Violin are pronounced like the name and other nouns and verbs in English, Vye-ohl-(in). The name [name]Violet[/name] just means flower, the name [name]Viola[/name] as a series of 5 letters is a part of our language in the botanical, the musical, and some negative things as well. It’s not just Spanish. However, I don’t think it’s not a name. I am getting used to it after your last thread and it’s a pretty name. If you look up several words in the dictionary, they have different etymological roots.
“c.1330, small plant with purplish-blue flowers, from O.Fr. violette, dim. of viole “violet,” from L. viola, cognate with Gk. ion (see iodine), probably from a pre-I.E. Mediterranean language. The color sense (1370) developed from the flower.”

“1432, from L. violationem (nom. violatio) “an injury, irreverence,” from violatus, pp. of violare “to violate, treat with violence, outrage, dishonor,” perhaps related to vis “violence, strength.””

Latin [name]Viola[/name] came first to give a name to a flower, Violare was later and doesn’t have anything to do with the flower.
includes this usage:
“[name]Viola[/name], a citrus-flavored alcoholic beverage, originating in Japan, that is sold in only one size (40 oz.), is 69% alcohol by volume, and comes with a novelty parasol in every bottle.”


I think the name means this flower and is not to be worried about some other language having the same letters in a row. There are names that seem more clearly, if coincidentally, referential to negative things and ideas (people are aware of the word Kill in [name]Killian[/name] and go ahead with it; Kill doesn’t always mean murder either - it means stream or riverbed in Americanized Dutch), but [name]Viola[/name] has a positive etymological root, and many other positive imageries and references. It’s a soft and pretty name.

As a French-speaker, I would say that this is not a problem. [name]Viola[/name] has a different sound to violer - I don’t think the connection would be made any more than people would think of ‘violate’ when they see [name]Viola[/name] (not often). However, the problem may be worse in Spanish. As I am not a fluent speaker I can’t say for sure, but from my knowledge their accent would make it sound a lot closer to the word for he/she rapes … but I’m not sure.
If you’re not planning on living in a Spanish-speaking country, I don’t see it would be a problem, though, as most people think of other things when they see the name - the instrument, violets, the Shakespearean character, etc. Also, the name is not excessively uncommon, which I think it would be if the rape connection had turned out to be a problem.
I think you should go for [name]Viola[/name] (very pretty), especially as [name]Scarlett[/name] seems to be getting quite popular.