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.