How many shades of Anastasia have you seen?
“Fifty Shades of Grey,” the film based on E.L. James’s best-seller, opened Friday. Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele, a naive college student involved with sexually adventurous billionaire Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan.
Anastasia is the feminine form of Anastasius. Both are from Greek “anastasis,” meaning “resurrection.” The name was created by early Christians to honor belief in Jesus’ resurrection.
Though four popes were named Anastasius, the name became widespread because of St. Anastasia of Sirmium.
Sirmium (today Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia) was capital of the Roman province of Lower Pannonia. All that’s known for sure about Anastasia is that she was martyred around 304 A.D. Around 500, her name was included in the Canon of the Mass, and she became revered by Roman Catholics everywhere.
In medieval England, Anastasia became Anstice, from which the last names Anstice and Anstiss are derived.
The full form Anastasia wasn’t used in English before 1700.
Protestant settlers in America avoided Anastasia, as they did names of most Catholic saints. In the 1850 United States census, most of the 261 Anastasias were either of Irish or Hispanic descent.
Anastasia increased as Eastern European immigrants arrived. In 1930, over 11 percent of the 7,435 Anastasias in the census were born in Poland. Many others were Greek or Russian. The name ranked in the bottom half of the top 1,000 between 1880 and 1934.
In Russia, Czar Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, named their fourth daughter Anastasia in June 1901. Bolshevik secret police murdered her along with the rest of her family in July 1918.
In 1922, a patient in a Berlin mental hospital, Anna Anderson, claimed she was really Grand Duchess Anastasia, a miraculous survivor of her family’s murder. Some Russian exiles believed her, and many journalists wrote about her case.
In December 1956, the film “Anastasia,” with Ingrid Bergman in the title role, was based on Anderson’s claims. Bergman won an Oscar, and in 1957, Anastasia was among the top 1,000 names for girls for the first time since 1934.
Between 1963 and 1986, Anastasia was again in the lower half of the top 1,000.
Some parents wanted to call daughters Stacey but preferred a fancier name on the birth certificate.
Then in December 1986, NBC showed a miniseries based on Anderson’s life with Amy Irving in the title role. Anastasia shot up by 135 percent to rank 269th in 1987.
In 1995, DNA tests proved Anderson was born Franziska Schanzkowska in Poland. The name Anastasia, though, has never ranked lower than 383rd since 1987.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” was published in 2011. It and its sequels have sold over 100 million copies worldwide.
In two years, Anastasia rose 43 percent to rank 257th in 2013, its highest point ever. Movies made from best-sellers often spark even bigger booms in names.
Will that work with Anastasia, or will seeing those bedroom scenes on screen put parents off the name? Fifty months of data will tell.