Rayna Knyaginya
Image via Wikipedia

Today’s name falls somewhere between trendy nouveau coinages and undiscovered gems.

Thanks to Racheli for suggesting Rayna as our Baby Name of the Day.

There are names that have a clear, single origin – the poetic Pamela, the Scandinavian Astrid. Rayna just isn’t one of them.

She has multiple possible spellings, and a bunch of meanings, too:

  • She’s the Bulgarian form of Regina, a name related to the Latin rex – king. Regina means queen, but thanks to a second century saint and Regina’s connection to Mary, she takes on a certain Catholic vibe, too, making her as saintly as she is regal;
  • While we’re still in Bulgaria, there’s a cluster of names all related to rad – care. A man named Radomir or Radomil might answer to Radko as a diminutive; Radka is the feminine form. In Bulgarian, Rayno and Rayna are also used;
  • Rai is a Bulgarian word for paradise. Perhaps that helps explains the popularity of Raina;
  • In Yiddish, Reina is related to their word rein – pure. Because of a shared meaning and similar ending, Reina is sometimes listed as a Yiddish form of Katherine;
  • Reina literally means queen in Spanish. This takes us back to where we started with Regina, and, in English, it is slightly more subtle than naming your daughter Princess.

Rayna has been on the fringes for a while, slowly gaining use. She charted in 1976 at #913, again in 1996 at #994, and has ranked every year since 1999. Her most popular year so far was 2008 when she made it all the way to #757.

She might just catch on. Consider:

  • From Olivia to Willow, names with a link to nature are quite popular. While our word rain isn’t linked to any of the meanings above, Rayna’s sound gives her a meteorological vibe. Storm charted for boys in the 1990s. Misty peaked at #40 in 1970. It’s not a total stretch to put Rayna in their company.
  • Then there’s the name blob: Kayla, Leyla, Kylie, Miley, Rylee, Raylee. Rayna sounds like part of that trend. While some parents have grown weary of the these sound-alikes, Jayden, Hailey, and many other members of the tribe rose in 2010.

There is a literary Raina, the heroine of George Bernard Shaw’s 1885 play “Arms and the Man.” While the play has faded into obscurity, there’s always the possibility of a revival. But Shaw’s Reina pronounces her name rah EE nah.

A handful of other uses includes:

  • A contestant on VH-1‘s Flavor of Love, and another on America’s Next Top Model;
  • One of the the Flutterfield fairies in the direct-to-video film Barbie Mariposa;
  • A minor character in the extended Dune universe.

The references feel a little lightweight, but there are some inspiring 20th century namesakes: a pioneering Bulgarian aviatrix, Rayna Kasabova, and soprano, Raina Kabaivanska.

And the list would be incomplete without Rayna Knyaginya, the Bulgarian Betsy Ross, a nineteenth century revolutionary who did jail time for sewing the fledgling nation’s flag. She’s the fierce woman in the black and white portrait in this post, and I can’t imagine her answering to Cailei.

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. Rayna,
    That’s me 1970 (1/100) day of birth.
    Without a solid character, doom!
    Surrounded by the envious and the boys threatened by the air that accompanies the sound, Truth, loved by God.

    Rayna Hay.