Ilana

Origin: Hebrew אִילָנָה
Meaning: “tree”.
(ee-LAH-nah).

The name comes directly from the Hebrew word for tree. Another female form is Ilanit (ee-LAH-neet) אִילָנִית. She is borne by Israeli pop-singer, known simply as Ilanit (b.1947) her real name being Hanna Drezner-Tzakh.

As of 2010, Ilana was the 255th most popular female name in France. While in the Netherlands, she comes in as the 321st most popular female name, (2011).

The masculine form is Ilan.

Phoebe

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Greek
Meaning: bright; light
(FEE-bee).

To many Americans, Phoebe brings to mind the wacky yet lovable character of Phoebe Buffay on the popular SitCom, Friends. To the British, she is of an upper crust trendy sort, to Christians, she is an admirable woman in the New Testament, and to the Greeks, she is a classic, featured in both the Greek Orthodox calendar of saints as well as in Greek myth.

The name is derived from the Greek, Phoibus, which means “bright, light.”

In Greek Mythology, Phoebe was a pre-Olympic goddess, a Titan. She was the goddess of the moon and the consort of her own brother Coeus, from him, she mothered Asteria and Leto and was believed to be the grandmother of Artemis and Apollo.

The Greeks later associated her with the goddess Artemis. Phoebe was often used as an epithet for Artemis, while the masculine form, Phoebus, was used for Apollo.

Phoebe was also associated with the Oracle of Delphi.

There are a few other Phoebes mentioned in ancient Greek religion, one was a Heliade nymph, another was the daughter of Leucippus and Philodice.

Phoebe, daughter of Leucippus, and her sister Hilaeira, were priestesses to Artemis and Athena. They were both betrothed to Idras and Lynceus. Castor and Pollux, the divine twins, were so impressed by their beauty, that they fell in love with the two maidens and carried them off for themselves. Idras and Lynceus, outraged, sought the two immortals but were both slain. Nevertheless, Phoebe married Pollux. It was also the name of a sister to Leda.

In the New Testament, the name is borne by a woman of Cenchrae, many scholars argue that she was a deaconess, the Catholic Church especially seems to support this stance. She is also believed to have brought Paul’s Epistle of the Romans to Rome. She is a canonized saint in both the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, both rites hold her feast on September 3rd.

Fast forward to the 1500s and you will find the name Phebe, (an older English spelling), as the name of one of Shakespeare’s characters in his play, As You Like It. In the modern American Classic, she is the younger sister of Holden Caulfied in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Polish Science Fiction writer, Jacek Duraj, uses the name as an acronym for post-human beings in his novel Perfekcyjna niedoskonałość.

Phoebe is also the name of a genus of evergreen tree, a species of bird and a moon of the planet, Saturn.

As of 2010, Phoebe was the 29th most popular female name in England/Wales. Her rankings in other countries are as follows:

  • # 56 (Australia, NSW, 2010)
  • # 90 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
  • # 93 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 309 (United States, 2010)

Other forms of the name include:

  • Febe (Asturian/Danish/German/Italian/Norwegian/Polish/Portuguese/Spanish/Swedish)
  • Foibe (Danish)
  • Phoebe (Dutch/English/German)
  • Phœbé/Phébé (French)
  • Phoibe (German)
  • Phoebi/Phoibi (Greek)
  • Feba (Serbo-Croatian)
  • Foibe (Swedish)

Pinja

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Estonian/Finnish
Meaning: “pine.”

The name is derived from the Finnish word for a species of pine tree known as pinus pinea. This might be the perfect autumnal name. Its designate name-day is October 6.

As of 2011, Pinja was the 35th most popular female name in Finland.

Björk, Bjørk

Gender: feminine
Origin: Icelandic/Faroese
Meaning: “birch, birch tree.”
(BYERK) Pronunciation can be heard here: http://www.forvo.com/word/björk/

Indie rock star, Björk Guðmundsdóttir (b.1965), made this one a household name, though it is now a recognized name outside of Iceland, it will probably always be associated with the singer to non-Icelanders.

Björk is the Icelandic word for birch tree, when spelled Bjørk, it has the same meaning in both Faroese and Norwegian. It is interesting to note that björk is the modern Swedish word for birch tree, though neither nouns are used as a given names in Swedish or Norwegian. However, it is a very common and ordinary female name in both Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

As of 2010, Bjørk was the 8th most popular female name in the Faroe Islands.

Fidan

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Turkish
Meaning: “sapling.”
(fee-DAHN)

The name comes directly from the Turkic meaning “sapling; young tree.”

The name is currently the 4th most popular female name in Azerbaijan.

The name is exclusively feminine in both Azerbaijan and Turkey and always seems to have been used as a female given name, but in Albania it is a common male name. It is from the ancient Illyrian meaning “young tree” and does share the same etymology and roots as the Turkish as Illyrian was distantly related to Turkish.

Ilan

Gender: Masculine
Origin: Hebrew  אִילָן
Meaning: “tree.”
(EE-lahn)

The name is derived from the modern Hebrew word for tree.

It is currently the 43rd most popular male name in French-speaking Switzerland, (2010) and the 71st most popular in France, (2009).

Its sudden popularity outside of Israel, and furthermore, outside the Jewish community is a mystery. Perhaps it was brought to attention via French cinematographer, Ilan Duran Cohen (b.1963).

The name may also be used in reference to the Welsh male name. In this case, the name is of uncertain origin but was borne by an obscure Welsh saint.

A feminine form is Ilana.

Malina

The name could be of several different sources and etymologies depending on the bearer of the name.

It could be from the name of a Greenlandic solar diety and according to legend, she is constantly fleeing from her brother Annigan (the moon god) due to an old disagreement. The reason behind their fight varies from legend to legend.

It could also be Scottish, a feminine form of Malcolm.

In Polish, it is from the word for raspberry and is occasionally used as a given name. It received a negative opinion from the Polish Language Council, but this has not banned the name from usage. It was the pseudonym of a few famous Polish women, one being Malina Michalska (b.1916 née Maria Michalska) a famous dancer and Polish-German actress, Malina Ebert (b.1976) née Monika. It is the word for raspberry in several other Slavic languages, such as Czech, Slovak and Bulgarian.

Mălina is Romanian name derived from the Romanian word mălin meaning bird cherry tree. The name was borne by Romanian singer, Mălina Olinescu (1974-2011).

In addition, the name could also be Scandinavian, an elaborated form of Malin.

Currently, Malina is the 272nd most popular female name in Germany, (2011).

Hadassah

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Hebrew הֲדַסָּה
Meaning: “myrtle”
Eng (huh-DAH-sah)

The name is found in the Book of Esther as the birth name of the heroine. It is sometimes argued by scholars that Esther is a reconstruction of an ancient Median name that was derived from the word astra (myrtle). Hence it is theorized that Esther may have been derived from a Median cognate of the Hebrew Hadassah.

The name has always been very popular among Jews, but has rarely ever been used in the Christian world.

The name was sometimes given to girls born around the Purim festivities.

Currently, Hadassa is the 95th most popular female name in Brazil, (2011) while Hadassah is the 841st most popular in the United States, (2010).

Other forms of the name include:

  • Hadassa (German/Italian/Portuguese/Spanish)
  • Dassah (Hebrew)
  • Ħadassa (Maltese)
  • Hadasa (Polish/Slovak)
  • Gadassa Гадасса (Russian)
  • Hode (Yiddish)
  • Hodel (Yiddish)
  • Iddessa (Zazaki)
A popular Russian diminutive is Dasha.
It is also the name of the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

Ornella

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Italian
Meaning: “ash tree.”
(ore-NEL-lah)

The name was created by Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunzio for his 1904 novel La Figlia di Jorio. It is believed to be derived from the Tuscan word for “ash tree.”

It is most famously borne by Italian actress, Ornella Muti (b.1955).

It is currently the 49th most popular female name in Argentina, (2009) and the 316th most popular in France.

A Romanian and Greek form is Ornela.