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This name is one of the ultimate cross-cultural names, it has various meanings and legitimate origins from Europe, to Asia and to the Middle East.

The name has been recorded in use in Northern Europe since Medieval Times, possibly being a contracted form of Adalheidis, its offshoots of Talea and Talina have experienced minor recent resurgence in Germany. Tala also been used in most Scandinavian countries, though today, it is considered very archaic.

Tala appears in a 14th-century Swedish folk ballad Herr Holger (which is the subject of a 1996 song by the Swedish band, Gamarna). The ballad recounts the exploits of a greedy tax official who steals tax money for himself. He is caught by King Christian and beheaded. He is condemned to hell, but is able to return to warn his wife, Fru Tala (Lady Tala). He pleads with Tala to return all the wealth she inherited from him, (which in turn was the result of his stolen money), to its rightful owner or else she will experience a similar fate. Tala refuses, as she would rather condemn herself to hell than give up her wealth.

Its Finnish and Estonian form is Taala and Taali, and a Scandinavian  masculine version is Tale.

Tala is also the name of a Tagalog goddess of the morning and evening star. In one legend, she is the daughter of the sun god Arao and the moon goddess, Buan. Arao and Buan had a large number of star-children, the eldest being Tala. Arao was afraid his heat would burn up his star-children, so he and Buan decided to destroy them, but Buan reneged on her promise and hid her children behind clouds. Arao got wind of Buan’s secret and, according to legend, continues to try and destroy her, which explains the phenomenon of eclipses. Each morning, Buan runs to hide her children behind the clouds, her eldest Tala being the lookout before dawn, being the personification of the morning star.

In another Tagalog legend, Tala is the daughter of the god Bathala. She is the sister of Hanan (the goddess of the morning) and Mayari, another moon goddess.

In Tagalog, tala means “star; planet; celestial body.”

Tala was recently a hit song by Filipina singer, Sarah Geronimo (2016).

In Indian classical music, Tala is the term used to describe musical meter and rhythm. It literally means “clapping; tapping.”

Tala can also be Arabic تالة (Tala) meaning “Turmeric tree; turmeric spice” or a “small potted palm.”

In Amazigh, one of the languages of the Berber people, Tala means “source; spring or fountain.”

Tala is also Farsi and means “gold.”

In Italy and Romania, Tala is used as a diminutive form of Natalia, a la Romanian actress, Tala Birell (1907-1958).

Tala is the name of a type of decidous tree native to tropical and subtropical South America. Its scientific name is celtis tala.

Other meanings include:

  • It is the Azeri word for “glade.”
  • tālā is the Samoan currency and is believed to be a phonetic corruption of the English word dollar.
  • In Polish, it is a feminine form of the Greek, Thales, though it is seldom used, it does appear on the nameday calendar.
  • In Pashtun, Təla/Tala means “weighing scale” and is the name of the seventh month of the Afghan Calendar, its meaning referring to the Zodiac sign of Libra.
  • It is the name of a minor Chadic language in Nigeria.

What the name is not:

Many baby name sources have dubiously listed this name as meaning “wolf” in “Native American,” (which is not a language by the way), while other sources have listed this as being Cherokee or Iroquois for “wolf hunter,” but there are no legitimate Cherokee or Iroquois sources collaborating this information. In fact, Native Languages of the Americas has written a fabulous list pertaining to faux Native American baby names and Tala made the list.

As a closing to this post, I recommend this blog post written by a mother explaining the reason why she chose this name for her daughter. It is from 2006, but still a wonderful read D-Log: The Many Meanings of Tala.



01-399-bear-cubI thought this would be a straightforward post when I first decided to feature this name, but as I did more research, the name started to provide some interesting and complicated layers.

The name’s recent use is most likely in reference to the Lakota-Dakota-Sioux Native American word meaning, “friend.” It is sometimes transliterated as Kota.

It is also the name of a tree that grows in Asia, also known as the Ehretia acuminata it is commonly referred to as Koda in Australia, though I couldn’t find the etymology in this case.

Other links include:

  • It is a common Japanese surname (again, I couldn’t find its etymology)
  • It is the name of a minority language spoken in India and Bangladesh.

The name came into widespread use for boys after it was used on a character in the 2003 animated film, Brother Bear.

It gets complicated when I dug through the historical records. The earliest records I could find for Koda were to two females who were born in the 18th-century in the United States. I am not certain if in this case, the name was used in reference to its indigenous source. It definitely became more common in the 1800s, and it was far more common on females than for males. Some of these bearers were born in Yugoslavia and Poland. Being Polish myself, I have never heard of this name, so perhaps it is a mistranslation for some other name, but I do not know for what. I am rather familiar with Serbo-Croatian names as well and I cannot think of what its source could be. It does appear on males in 19th-century records, but there are far less of them, and many of them are German immigrants (perhaps related to Konrad). In any case, the majority of the records are of white American females.

These days, the name seems to have become mostly a male name, which goes to show that sometimes, names that started off as female can also be stolen by the boys; as some namenerds have lamented about for years when it comes to trendy male-turned-female names such as Ashley, Avery and Sydney.

The name first appeared in the U.S. Top 1000 Male Names in 2004, coming in as the 935th most popular male name. It fell off the charts and reappeared in 2016, ranking in at 927.




Joel Sartore via National Geographic

Joel Sartore via National Geographic

Gender: Masculine
Origin: Mapuche
Meaning: “jaguar.”

The name comes directly from the Mapuche word for jaguar and is currently the 26th most popular male name in Argentina, (2009).

It was the name of a medium tank developed in Argentina during WWII, the equivalent of the American M4 Sherman.

The name appears in Stephanie Meyer’s last book of the Twilight Series, Breaking Dawn as the name of a half-vampire half-human character.


Gender: Masculine
Origin: Mapuche
Meaning: “speedy Southern Caracara.”

The name is a hispanifization of the Mapuche name Lef-Traru, a double name composed of the Mapudungan words, lef (speedy; fast) and traru (the word for the Southern Caracara, a type of bird indigenous to Chile).

The name was borne by a famous Mapuche military leader who led an uprising against the Spanish in Chile (1535-1557).

In Chile, Lautaro is seen as the first Chilean military hero and he is often viewed as a symbol of patriotism. However, the name is extremely popular in Argentina and not in Chile.

Lautaro is currently 4th most popular male name in Argentina, (2009). Its popularity in Argentina may be more due to the associations of the Logia Lautaro, an 19th century Revolutionary Latin American society that was formed by patriots against the Spanish royalists.

Either way, whether in Argentina or Chile the name represents strong patriotic sentiments whether the bearers be of European or Indigenous ancestry.

It is also the name of a volcano in Chile.

It is currently borne by Argentine footballer, Lautaro Acosta (b.1988)


Gender: Feminine
Origin: Tupi
Meaning: “lady of the water.”

The name is found in Tupi legend as the name of a type of mermaid creature. The Iara are believed to live in bodies of freshwater. When they know a man is near they sing in order to trap them. Once in her power, there is nothing that can stop a man from falling in love with the her. Usually they marry her and go live with the Iara in her underwater kingdom, until they die, and since the Iara is immortal, she goes back to the world to find another man to take as her husband.

According to one Tupi legend, Iara was a warrior woman and was considered the best warrior in her tribe. Her brothers became jealous of her and plotted to kill her in her sleep, but Iara learned of their plans before they could kill her so she ended up killing them. As punishment, her father sent her off to a lake where she was transformed into a mermaid, now known as a Iara, and became immortal.

Iara has become a fairly common female name in both Brazil and Argentina. She is currently the 36th most popular female name in Argentina, (2009).


Gender: Feminine
Origin: Mapuche
Meaning: “flower”

The name comes directly from the Mapuche word for flower and is currently the 46th most popular female name in Chile, (2010).

The name was popularized by Chilean opera singer Rayén Quitral (1916-1979). Born María Georgina Quitral, she was a native Mapuche who later took the name Rayén in honour of her indigenous roots.


The name has a few different etymologies, in Turkish it means “moon halo” and in Mapuche it means “clear.” In both cases they are pronounced (I-LEEN).

It also may very well be a Hispanified or a Germanified spelling of the Irish female name, Eileen.

Currently, Aylín is the 94th most popular female name in Chile, (2010). Her rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 478 (the Netherlands, 2010)
  • # 572 (the United States, 2010)


Gender: Feminine
Origin: Mapuche
Meaning: “Stone flower.”

The name is composed of the Mapuche words lica (stone) and rayen (flower).

It is borne in legend by a beautiful maiden who had to sacrifice herself in order to stop the wrath of the evil spirit of the Volcano Osorno from destroying her people. It is from the ashes and snow of her sacrifice that Lake Llanquihue in Chile was created.

Currently, Licarayen is the 1414th most popular female name in Chile, (2010).


  1. http://www.cooperativa.cl/revise-los-1-423-nombres-de-mujeres-inscritos-en-2010-en-el-registro-civil/prontus_nots/2010-12-29/142421.html
  2. http://asistenteeducacional.bligoo.com/content/view/244349/NOMBRES-MAPUCHES.html&page=2
  3. http://www.chile.com/secciones/ver_seccion.php?id=109688


Gender: Feminine
Origin: Quecha
Meaning: “dawn; bright.”

The name comes directly from the Quecha word for dawn or bright.

It appears at the very bottom of the Chilean top 1000 most popular female names, (2010).


  1. http://apellidosperuanos.wordpress.com/nombres-quechuas/
  2. http://www.cooperativa.cl/revise-los-1-423-nombres-de-mujeres-inscritos-en-2010-parte-ii/prontus_nots/2010-12-29/142837.html
  3. http://www.todopapas.com/nombres/nombres-de-nina/illari
  4. http://portal.redperuana.com/foros/nombres-quechuas