Is she a respelling of the Spanish Isaura, or is there something more to this intriguing appellation?
Thanks to Maria for suggesting Izora as our Baby Name of the Day.
Izora instantly looked familiar to me, and if you’ve spent too much time reading the Social Security Administration statistics, she might pop to you, too. Izora ranked most years from 1880 to 1912. She was never wildly popular, but there was, quietly in use for three decades.
There are two possible origins for Izora. The first is that she’s simply a re-spelling of Isaura. Isaura keeps company with Lydia and Delphine and Adrian – a name inspired by an ancient place name. Isaurus first surfaces in the third century.
In 1875, Spanish novel A Escrava Isaura debuted. Bernardo Guimarães tells the tale of a Brazilian slave girl on a coffee plantation, from her myriad sufferings to her eventual happy ending. Telenovela Escrava Isaura debuted in 1976. Viewers tuned in to watch if the noble Isaura would be forced to become her owner’s concubine or if she’d somehow manage to marry her true love, Alvaro.
Not only was the show a hit in Brazil, but it spread throughout South America and Europe. In the 1980s, it became the first soap opera broadcast in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The original series ran through 1977. In 2004, the telenovela was rebooted, again for Brazilian television, once again seen throughout the world.
Here’s the hitch: I doubt that the novel would have been widely known in 1880 America. It wasn’t adapted for the stage, and I can’t confirm if it was ever translated into English.
What is clear is that -ora ending names was a popular category in the era.
From the 1880 Top 100, there’s:
With additional names ranked in the Top 1000: Ora, Lora, Lenora, Elnora, Leora, Zora, Leonora, and Eldora. A few others that chart during Izora’s run include Theodora, Thora, Aurora, Clora, and Isadora. This list is a mix. The more popular names remain familiar today, and some have roots that most of us will immediately recognize, like Aurora’s Roman goddess of the dawn. But some of these are almost certainly inventions.
Not only did the -ora names all appear clustered in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they fell as a group, too. Izora fell harder and faster, and today is obscure to the point of non-existence.
In 2010, the only -ora names to chart are Nora, Cora, and Kimora.
All of this makes me suspect that -ora was her generation’s -ayla or -aylee. Just as we can offer meanings for Kayla and Haylee and even fabrications like Haylynn, it is tempting to look for meanings and origins for invented names of the past. But in some cases they must be little more than parents matching up appealing sounds.
One famous Izora comes to mind: Izora Armstead, a member of The Weather Girls, the 80s pop group responsible for “It’s Raining Men.”
There’s also a flowering plant genus, ixora, more commonly called West Indian Jasmine. I’ve yet to find anyone named Ixora, but it isn’t unthinkable.
File Izora under nineteenth centuries rarities that feel slightly out of place today. She’s perfectly wearable, especially if you happen to a great-grandmother Izora. But unlike Nora and Cora, she’s unlikely to stage a comeback on her own.