Oil painting on cardboard
Photo credit: Wikipedia

There’s more than one possible meaning for this lovely rarity.

Thanks to Kayla for suggesting Ayala as our Baby Name of the Day.

There are two possible origins for this name, and a third that strikes me as worthy of consideration.  The pronunciation is typically given as eye AH lah or eye YAH lahbut with such different possible origins, there could be more than one right answer.

First comes Hebrew.  It means doe or gazelle – a graceful meaning that fits the name’s lovely sound.  It’s also close to Ayelet, a name with a similar meaning.  Word is that Isla Fisher took Ayala as her Hebrew name when she converted to Judaism.

It’s also a Spanish surname, with Basque roots.  The first element means slope, and ala is a pasture – so Ayala was a name for someone who lived by a slope near a pasture.

Lastly, doesn’t this feel like the kind of name that parents are likely to think up in 2013?  Ayana, Alayna, Amaya, Ayla, Anaya – it all makes me think that if Ayala didn’t exist, she would have been invented.

But exist she does, and around two dozen girls have received the name annually in recent years.

I can’t tell when the name was first used, but she’s heard by the nineteenth century.

Anthony Trollope, that incredibly successful Victorian era writer of novels, penned Ayala’s Angel in 1881.  His Ayala was an admirable figure – pretty, talented, kind, if a little bit idealistic and maybe even unrealistic.  She’s one of Trollope’s lesser known heroines – in fact, the entire novel is overlooked – but the association lends Ayala some serious literary credibility.

Real life notables who have worn Ayala as a surname include:

  • Two presidents of Paraguay.
  • A boxer, a handful of footballers, and a tennis player.
  • Guaman Poma de Ayala was a well-born Peruvian native who served as translator to the Spanish conquerors.  His writings also preserved the ill-treatment of natives at the hands of the Spaniards.  Guaman and Poma were Quechua names.  He also used Felipe and Ayala, Spanish names.  The latter came from Luis Avalos de Ayala, a Spanish captain.  Guaman’s dad served with him, and was rewarded with a land grant and the surname.
  • Ayala was the family name of the Counts of Fuensalida in Toledo.  I’m not sure if Guaman’s captain was tied to them.  Don Pedro de Ayala was a Spanish diplomat sent by Ferdinand II of Aragon to the court of James IV of Scotland and Henry VII of England.
  • Ayala Ingedashet is an Ethiopian-born Israeli pop singer.
  • Ayala Avenue is considered the Wall Street of the Philippines.  It takes its name from a wealthy family.  The Ayala Corporation has been involved in everything from bridge-building to retail to banking to mass transit.
  • This one intrigues me: Ayala & Co. has been a champagne producer from the Ay region of Champagne since 1860.

All of this makes the name surprisingly international.  If you like her sound or one of her meanings, Ayala is a charming rarity that would wear well in 2013.

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. You’re right – I can see this name working really well, it’s so similar to popular names such as Ayla and Aaliyah.