A Escrava Isaura (novel)
A Escrava Isaura (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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. My grandmother was Ethyl Izora! She was from Tennessee. I can’t remember what year she was born. Her maiden name was Gosnell and married name was Shy.

  2. I was named Izora after my mom who was named after a lady my grandmother used to work for. I have always been told to that Izora means “close to the sun”.

  3. I’m currently 21 in 2022 and my name is also Izora. It wasn’t until I started doing some searching that I found more people with the name. The only other person I know with this name is my mom.

  4. My name is Izora and I’m 21! I was named after my great-grandmother.

    The history behind the name is fascinating and I found the article to be very educational as I never really understood my name in depth and the origins of it.

  5. My great grandmother was born in 1897and she was Bonnie Izora. I always wanted a daughter so I could name her Izora, probably as middle name and call her Izzy, but Zorie sounds cute. Unfortunately for me, children weren’t in my cards and no one else in the family liked the name so it’ll be lost now. I’m glad others have it, even if its not in my family!!!

    1. Krista, what an amazing find on your family tree. Proof that great taste in names is hereditary, maybe? 🙂

  6. Holy Cow I FINALLY found other people with the name Izora!! I’ve been trying and trying to figure out where the name comes from. My Grandmother Izora Nellie Walden was born in 1924 in Alabama, USA on a farm and had 14 brothers and sisters. I was always thinkin’… ok we got all these Southern sibling names: Coy, Lillian, Odeal, Radford, Hazel just to name a fee bit then my Great Grandmother (Edith) names my Grandma…a lavish exotic sounding name..Izora. So it just boggled me lol. I ended up naming my daughter born in 2012 Izora Rose. Everyone loves the name. Its kinda sucks its not a name with a real orgin or meaning but still cool nonetheless!

  7. My daughter is 16 and is names Izora after the first person in our mother’s branch of the family born emancipated from slavery.

    Apparently there is a place and river in Russia with the name Izhora/Izora. When we have the occasion to meet Russian folks, they say it’s a common name or nickname.

    Fun Fact: Zachary Arkus-Duntov, “Father of the Corvette”, went by the name Zora.

    1. I am happily awaiting a baby Izora, after my husband’s grandmother. It’s such a beautiful name and happy to see it’s still around. Does your daughter like it?