She sounds current, a mix of all those stylish A- names plus Luna and Lucy.
Thanks to Michelle for suggesting Aluma as our Baby Name of the Day.
If not for Michelle’s hint, I might have dismissed Aluma as invented. She was given to fewer than five girls in the US last year – which means possibly none – and doesn’t appear in some of the more reputable baby name guides.
But Michelle suggested Aluma was Hebrew, so off I went to check Kveller’s lists. Nope, not there either. How about the lovely and knowledgeable Hannah Katsman, the blogger behind A Mother in Israel?
There, in an old thread, is a reference to Aluma. As regards the meaning, the commenter said: “no, not bundle of wheat, but a ray of light.”
Names that mean light or bright or clear are huge for girls. There’s Alba, profiled just yesterday. Aluma reminds me of alumbrar – a Spanish verb, usually translated as “to light” or illuminate. The English verb illuminate was borrowed from Latin illuminatus; a similar word also came to English via French from the Latin. I can’t confirm that Aluma has anything to do with alumbrar, but girls’ names with similar meanings are found in nearly every language.
So Aluma could be a harvest name, or possibly another glowing girl. Or the third explanation is that Aluma simply means young girl or maiden. That puts her in the same camp as Talitha and Colleen. The only problem? The Hebrew word for maiden is usually given as almah, and while Alma has quite a bit of history as a given name, it is pretty clearly linked to 1854’s Battle of Alma, when the French and English forces defeated the Russians. I must be missing something in the Hebrew – the plural is alamot and the root is elem – so perhaps there is some logical way that Almah and Aluma are connected. (Anyone have a thought on this? It has me stumped!)
Lastly, Aluma is a place name in Israel and also Oklahoma.
Regardless of her origins, Aluma is rare but not unknown. She pops up in US Census records pretty steadily. The years right around 1900 were a great moment for Lu- and Lou- names. On the girls’ side alone, there’s:
- Familiar names that would be right at home in 2012, like Lucy, Lula, Lucille, Lucile, Luella, Lulu, Lucinda, Lue, Lucia, Luna, Lucie, Lucretia, Louise, Louisa, Lou, Louella and Louie.
- Lura, Ludie, Luvenia, Lutie,Luvinia, and Louvenia.
- Guadalupe and Lupe.
And then there are rarities like Ladusky, based on the Lou- names, but not recognizable to the modern eye. Names like Aluna and Iluma surface in the US Census records, too.
So what is Aluma? A creative invention from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, assembled from appealing sounds of the day? Or a legitimate Hebrew rarity? I suspect the answer is both. Back to A Mother in Israel for comments about current trends: “a lot of creative , innovative naming of kids,” notes one grandfather. “This has been the case for a good stretch of Jewish history where we have tended to be more flexible/creative with girls names …” writes another.
Aluma’s meaning might be a little uncertain, but her place as a given name is not. She’s a rarity that has found favor with some over the years, and her sound could be right at home in 2012 again.