Baby Name of the Day: Neda


Neda spelled out in candles at June 21 vigil i...

Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

She’s a deeply meaningful name with roots in three cultures.

Thanks to C in DC for suggesting Neda as Baby Name of the Day.

In her request, C in DC referenced the National Public Radio correspondent Neda Ulaby.  Ulaby was born in Jordan, but grew up in the American Midwest.  Shes’s covered lots of stories, with a particular emphasis on culture and the arts.

But the Neda who has dominated the media is something of a modern martyr, a young woman who died during the 2009 Iranian election protests.  By most accounts, Neda Agha-Soltan was more innocent bystander than political activist.  She was en route to a protest on June 20, 2009, but some distance from the action.  The identity of her murderer is disputed, but every other detail of her death was caught on video.  The snippets went viral, fueling international outrage about the political situation in Iran.

The ill-fated Neda could not have had a more perfect name.  In Persian, Neda means voice.  But it is slightly more subtle than mere speech; if I’m understanding the nuances correctly, seda is the straightforward term to describe the sound of spoken language, while neda means something closer to calling or message.  (I don’t know a word of Arabic, so I’m piecing some things together – if anyone can elaborate, please leave a comment!)

While her death is recent, the Neda Agha-Soltan scholarship at Oxford for students of Iranian citizenship or heritage has already been established.

I suspect Neda might be a relatively modern name among Arabic speakers, too.  A search for women named Neda tends to lead to Southeastern Europe.  In Croatian and Serbian, the word for Sunday is nedjelja. Nedeljko is sometimes given to sons born on a Sunday; Nedeljka to daughters.  Neda is a short form, worn by a singer and an actress.  Farther back, in the 1300s, a queen consort of Bulgaria was called Anna Neda.

Farther back still, we get to Greek myth.  There’s a river flowing through Greece called the Neda.  It takes its name from a nymph.  Legend has it that Neda was one of the three nymphs who nursed the infant god Zeus.

I’m not sure about other uses of the name, but the Arabic pronunciation is neh dah.  American English might suggest the spelling Nedda, but that almost looks like a feminine form of Edward.

Choose this name just because you like the sound, and you’re lost.  The meaning is so rich, and the conversation about Neda Agha-Soltan so present, that chances are your child will grow up aware of her tragic namesake.  But if you love the meaning, and don’t mind the possibility that your child’s name will be perceived as political, then Neda makes for a wearable exotic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

18 Comments

So thank you for your post.
But, I hate my name.
I’m comming from Serbia(born on wedensday) and this is my full name, not shortened. Thanks to my mother and her hate to my grandmother, I got this and not Nada=meaning Hope.
And living in west Europe, I hatw this name just a step more, no one is able to pronounce correctly, there will be always Ne-daaaa, or Ne=no Da=Yes

My name is Nada and it is pronounced “Neh-dah”. The name is also Arabian, and fairly common in Middle east. It means dew and generosity. 🙂

My name is Neda i’m Bulgarian so it should be Slavic and that name may not be very popular but in my country i know four persons with the same name. Thanks for this post (;

My name is Nedda. I am Canadian but both my parents and all my grandparents are from Russian decent. I feel I am extremely lucky to have been named Nedda as I have not yet met another. It makes me happy to know that my name is Persian/Iranian 🙂

I love my name and proud to say I was named after my Father, Ned. I found that people in Europe pronounced my name properly while in the states more seem to think it’s pronounced Needa. Loved reading these posts.

Yes, Neda Agha-Soltan was Iranian, but the name appears in other cultures and languages, too. It often happens with short names! Can you shed any light on how the name is perceived amongst Iranian parents today? Is it a hero name, like naming a daughter after Eleanor Roosevelt here?

i dont get it why everyone here is speaking of other languages than Persian (Parsi/Farsi) when she was an Iranian and persian-speaker. neda mean some almighty message, for example god’s message to prophets, or a heavenly voice, or the voice of a spiritual to a follower of spiritual light,
it has strong positive meaning.
i hope i helped 🙂

A fellow student in a German class I was taking last year had the name Neda, pronounced NED-da. I’m pretty sure she has Middle-Eastern roots as well.

I have a few friends and a cousin named Neda, but I’ve mostly seen it spelled Nada. I think however that the Neda spelling is less likely to be mispronounced. I hadn’t realized that the name was so thoroughly Persian as well as Arabic. I also don’t think that the martyr connection is a problem because most people aren’t that political. It’s a very beautiful name and I will definitely put this on my list! Thanks for covering some more exotic fare 🙂

This is really hard. I think the name and it’s meaning are gorgeous, but I feel it would be inappropriate to use the name since I’m not personally connected with Iran. Even though the name had a history before 2009, Neda Agha-Soltan’s death was so naked and exposed… It feels wrong to like Neda just because it’s pretty.

I had a friend in high school named Neida (pronounced nay-da), so I was saying it like that until I got to the middle of your post. She was hispanic, it’d be interesting to see if the names are related. Pretty!

I’ve never heard this before, but it’s really pretty. I’ll ask my sister and her boyfriend about this one and report back — he’s Iranian and they both speak Farsi — so he may be able to shed some light on the meaning, the commonness of use in Iran, or how politically charged it would seem today.