She’s a super-short name with a meaning and origin to please anyone.

Thanks to Michelle for suggesting Aya as our Baby Name of the Day.

Mini names tend to be shape shifters, heard in many languages, with ties to multiple given names.

From the common to the obscure, you might find Aya listed as:

  • A Japanese given name related to color, design, or a type of silk.  The exact meaning depends on the kanji – characters – used to write the name, so other possibilities exist.
  • She’s also a short form of many Japanese feminine names, like Ayako, Ayame, and Ayano.
  • Among the many variations of Maria, there’s Marja.  In Scandinavia, a pet form of Marja is Marija, and Aija, Aja, or Aya is a sometimes-heard nickname form.
  • In Turkish, aya is the word for palm, as in the palm of your hand.  But I’ve yet to find her listed as a Turkish given name.
  • Many sources say that Aya is an Arabic name meaning miracle or sign.
  • Others say Aya is Hebrew for bird, or maybe vulture or hawk.  It’s a masculine name in the Old Testament, also spelled Ajah and Aiah.
  • Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia was built as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the fourth century, served as a house of worship for various faiths over the centuries, and is now a museum.  Hagia Sophia means holy wisdom, and in Turkish, she’s called the Ayasofia.  I assume this means Aya means holy, but I can’t confirm that.
  • There’s an ancient Akkadian mother goddess called Aya, associated with the dawn.
  • Some accounts list a Saint Aya in the early 700s, a noblewoman who took religious vows and donated much of her land to her order.  She’s more commonly listed in Catholic sources as Agia.  A sixth century queen of Burgundy is recorded as Austregildis, another name sometimes given to Aya, so perhaps there’s a story there.

She’s a Top 100 pick in France today.  Meilleurs Prenoms attributes her rise to the French Muslim community.

She’s also popular in Belgium and Spain, and she’s been catching on slowly in the US.  A handful of girls received the name in the 1970s, so few that they might all be Japanese-American families looking for a cross-cultural possibility.

But today Aya is on trend for another reason.  We’re more interested in short names than ever before.

Ava and Mia are both in the US Top Ten.  Zoe and Eva aren’t far behind.  You might also meet girls named Amy, Ana, Ivy, Gia, Lea, Lia, Nia, Tia, Ada, and Ali as well as single-syllable choices like Mae, Liv, Sky, and Joy.  For some parents, the ideal twenty-first century name is spare, simple, and nickname-proof.

She shares sounds with Ayla, Isla, and Anya, names that have attracted attention in recent years.

Aya fits the mini-names trend, and has the added appeal of being nicely cross-cultural.  For families eager to find a name that isn’t too closely tied to one background, Aya solves the riddle in a compact, current package.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. If you Pronounce it as Aayaa’h in Arabic which is (Aayat) in Urdu, it means Versers (of the Quran) and is a trending name in Middle East and South Asia these days

    1. Thanks! This is one of those amazingly portable names, isn’t it? Heard in so many languages + cultures.

  2. You are slightly wrong here. In Greek it Ayia Sofia where Aiya stands for Wisdom and Sofia stands for Holy. So In Greek literal translation of Aiya is wisdom. And Sofiya/ Sophia is Holy. Thank you

  3. My name is Aya! And its my full name. Im from Azerbaijan, but in Azerbaijan this name isnt typical, I think Im the only one in Azerbaijan who has this name, lol. But there are probably a few people with that name in Azerbaijan. Now I live in Czech Republic and insterestingly is that, Czechs have a similar name (Andrea shortly is -> Ája).
    I love my name, my name is beautiful in different languages, cultures and i love on my name that the name isnt so typical (except in Japan).

  4. My name is Aya.
    I am male, and it is a shortened version of Ayallik, an Eskimo name meaning ” He who goes and gets”
    I am named after the Eskimo folk hero who goes out into the sea and catches a whale himself, saving the village from starvation.
    As a restaurant guy, I served a couple times in Thai restaurants years ago.
    We employed servers from Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese cultures, and the girls always huddled up and tittered at me, because the word Aya had so many meanings in other cultures. From clown or jester, to fool, and many more, I was a sure source of entertainment!
    I love the name. No one else has it, and I wear it happily.

  5. My daughter is named Aya-Sophia after the church/mosque. Her father is a Arab and I am Canadian so we wanted something that had meaning, with both are religions coming as one.

  6. Aya is a Muslim girls name that means ‘verse’, as in a verse of the Qur’an. That’s why it’s very popular in the Arab / Muslim world.

  7. Aya Sofya is a Turkish transliteration of the Greek word “Ἁγία,” (“hagia”) which does indeed mean “holy”, but the word doesn’t literally translate to “holy” in turkish, it’s just a transliteration of the Greek. In Turkish “aya” means “palm” (of the hand).

  8. Thanks, Abby, for making this the name of the day! I’ve been obsessing over this name for months. The Hebrew meaning can be bird, but I’ve read it can also mean “fly swiftly” and I enjoy the other meanings as well. To me, it is both delicate and strong at the same time. Foreign sounding but also phonetic!

  9. My nickname is Aya (I couldn’t pronounce Angela as a child). Except when I was a kid, I was a creative speller, so I spelled it Aiea (the “ai” being the diphthong I recognized from “Thailand”; I pronunce it like EYE-yuh.) I wish I had just always spelled it Aya. I would have used it as my stage name, except no one can ever spell or pronounce it now.