Ava was first used in the 9th century, where it was the name of a saint. It was probably based on germanic names beginning with Av- (Avis, Avila etc.) However, it was not in common usage again until the 20th century, when it was probably reintroduced to English-speaking populations by European immigrants, where it is the phonetic spelling of the name Eva. Its popularity probably owes a lot to the 1940's actress Ava Gardener, whose middle name was Lavinia-- a cool name for namenerds everywhere!

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