LAVINIA (f): Female form of a Roman family name. In Roman legend, Lavinia was the daughter of King Latinus, king of Latium [the area around Rome: modern Lazio]. She married the Trojan newcomer Aeneas, hero of Vergil’s Aeneid. Her name springs from the same root as the ancient city of Lavinium, about seventeen miles south of Rome. In Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s bloodiest play, the eponymous hero has a daughter by this name (Clarence L. Barnhart, William D. Halsey et al., The New Century Cyclopedia of Names, 3 vols. [New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1954], 2:2399).
Familiar forms often seen in New England are VINEY or VINNY. Lavinia Dickinson (1833–1899) of Amherst, Mass., sister of the poet Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830–1886), arranged for publication of Emily’s poems after the poet’s death. In the 1850 census, 5,195 women named Lavinia were enumerated. The 1940 census listed 4,436 women with that name.