Baby Name of the Day: Sequoia

Sequoiadendron giganteum, leaves

Image via Wikipedia

Let’s say you want a nature name for a daughter.  The list is long, ranging from the ladylike Lily to the modern Skye.  The boys’ list is, well, shorter.  Here’s one that ought to work.

Thanks to Emilie for suggesting Sequoia as our Baby Name of the Day.

Sequoia was a man before he was a tree.  Born in 1760, he would’ve spelled his name Ssiquoya.  In the English-speaking world, he answered to George.

A handful of Native American names have filtered into wider use, like Winona, but most are lost to obscurity, or so tied to a single figure that it is hard to imagine your daughter answering to Pocahontas.

We remember Sequoia for a staggering intellectual achievement.  He worked as a silversmith, a role that brought him into contact with many settlers.  Apparently he liked the settlers’ system of writing so much that he invented one for his native tongue.  The Cherokee alphabet was initially met with uncertainty, but by 1825 had officially been adopted.  It allowed the Cherokee people to transition to widespread literacy in just a few decades – that’s lightning speed.  The Cherokee Phoenix became the first newspaper published in Cherokee in 1828.  Most alphabets evolved over time, with the input of many.  The fact that Sequoia’s alphabet worked was no small feat.

It’s not certain how Sequoia got his name.  Some link it to the Cherokee word siqua – hog.  But it almost doesn’t matter.  Say Sequoia today, and most people will think of the tree.

A sequoia is a redwood, usually a sequoiadendron to bust out the genus, found only in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  Sequoia National Park was established in 1890, and yes, you really can drive through a felled giant sequoia.  A tree fell back in 1937, blocking a road; it was so massive, that rather than move it, park workers created Tunnel Log instead.

The tree had lots of names over the years.  It wasn’t until 1939 that botanist John Buchholz officially classified the tree properly.   But John Muir referred to the tree as King Sequoia around 1870.

Nancy tells us that 14 boys received the name in 2009.  Even more girls were called Sequoia – a total of 71.  Nameberry puts it on their list of Tree Names suitable for Girls.

Maybe I’m overly influenced by the original Sequoia, but I can’t help think that Sequoia is gender-neutral, maybe even a smidge more masculine.  The mammoth Toyota SUV available for the last decade probably makes me think this is suitable a boy name, too.  The -ia ending, of course, fits in with feminine favorites like Amelia and Olivia.

Overall, Sequoia stands tall as a nature name with deep and meaningful roots.

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15 Comments

My son and DIL just had their first baby. They named her Sequoia Louise. I was a bit taken back…it isn’t what I would ever choose, but she is their daughter, after all. I’m sure I will learn to love it as I love her. Although I feel it is somewhat masculine, I never would have guessed it was a boy’s name as well.

It’s so weird reading this… I’m a young girl named Sequoia Meadow (and I wont say my last name for privacy reasons) my mom named me this after one of her favorite places. The Sequoia Meadow’s (I’m unsure if that’s what its actually called) I came here becuase I was arguing with a friend about the gender of the name. (I think it’s more masculine, while also being gender neutral) he thought it was feminine, probably only becuase he only know me.

My son was born in 2002 and is named Sequoia. i’m surprised by how many female Sequoias we have come across, and have only met one other male, although he used the Sequoyah spelling.

My granddaughter was named Sequioa in 2000 and we have yet to meet anyone with her name. It took me a bit to get used to the name but now I love it and more importantly she loves her name.

I’m from Oklahoma, and I’ve only known one person named Sequoyah. I went to elementary school with him. This isn’t a popular choice for Cherokees, but I think it could work for someone who doesn’t live in Oklahoma. I’d definitely spell it like the tree though.

I think acacias have pretty leaves! But, yes, a female name can certainly be strong and handsome – beautiful – of course.

For some reason, Sequoia is making me think of this guy I once knew, Seneca. He had a sister names Sierra…

I originally thought “girl” when I saw this, too, but I completely see the masculine appeal of Sequoia! The tree is such a strong, handsome image – perfect for a boy. Perhaps a female name with a similar sound and vibe could be Acacia?

I’m a male Skye, remember that haha.

And yeah, for some reason I see this tall tree as really masculine. I have only read of Sequoia/Sequoya as a names on newspapers, have yet to meet a little fellow with that name. The fact that the name was actually masculine before it was a tree just confirms my feelings on it.

Oh and of course Nameberry puts it for girls, quelle surprise… one of the reasons I don’t like that website.

I originally thought “girl” when I saw the post title, but after being reminded of this name’s history, I agree with you that it’s MUCH better for a boy. Wow — I really like this one! Great suggestion, Emilie.

My husband is Cherokee, and for us the name is spelled Sequoyah and is completely masculine — it’s just so tied to the man, I could never imagine it on a girl. We would love to use it as a middle name on a son some day.

I really don’t know much about Native American cultures, so the only association I have with Sequoia is the tree. I can see how it’s gender neutral, but if I saw the name on paper I would think female. It has the ia ending plus the 3 syllable Sa sound at the beginning, like Savannah and Serena. I’m not a fan of gender neutral names, but I prefer them on boys rather than girls, so Sequoia for a boy would be interesting. However, I could see it being painful to wear if he’s short!

I grew up in Oklahoma and Sequoyah (this spelling evokes the person for me rather than the tree or SUV) is widely revered, so for me it would be like naming your child Martin Luther ______.