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.

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.

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What do you think?


  1. I am Lebanese and me and my wife are due to have our first this December I was hoping for a girl as I have a beautiful son from a previous marriage I was gonna name this child Neda because I had seen the beautiful powerful and strong willled girl that was killed and was so affected even now I fall to tears over her plight and the fact she knew she cold die and believed in empowering women in her culture so much that she was willing to pay the most terrible price I have thought of this for years and it still affects me she was a beautiful person and the most high has held her in regard ever since even if only in my heart but I’m having a boy and that’s ok but I would like to use a name maybe like it is there a male version that would still show the respect that I have for neda ??

    1. Congratulations on your new son! Neda is a lovely name, but there’s not really a masculine form. At least not in Persian or Arabic. A few thoughts: re-arrange the name’s letters and you would have Aden. Aiden has been very, very popular for boys in recent years; it has Irish roots and means fiery or little fire. That feels like a fitting meaning. You can spell it Aden, of course, though Aiden and Aidan are more common. Neda’s meaning of “call” could lead to lots of masculine names – anything starting with Cal/Call, really, from Calvin to Callum to Callahan. All of those names have different meanings + origins, of course, but maybe it’s close enough? And if your intent is to honor Neda Agha-Soltan, any name that means bravery, voice, or anything similar could work well.

  2. Hej from Another Neda in full flesh. Neda is a Balkan name and it a super old traditional names. Neda comes Nedelja who means sunday and it also mens hope. In arabic it mean dew, like in the morning, having dew drops on flowers. In persian culture it means the sound of God.

    Neda Balkan = needa, like a long nee and a short a.
    Arabic: naedah
    Farsi: nedaaa so they drag the a’s longer

    Hope this was helpful 🙂

  3. 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

  4. 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. 🙂

  5. 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 (;

  6. 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 🙂

  7. My name is Neda and I from Montenegro, have you ever been there, I proud of my name and I amm so so happy for that

  8. 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.