Thanks to Shelby for suggesting Vaela as our Baby Name of the Day.
There’s a long list of possible origins and meanings for Vaela, especially if you’re willing to include Vela and Vala as related spellings:
- Vela is an Italian word meaning sail or sailing, from the Latin.
- Vela is the Portuguese word for candle.
- Vela may have some use as a Sanskrit name meaning coast, as in the shoreline.
- The Old Norse væla meant a lament or cry – it is the source of our word wail.
- In Finnish, vala is an oath.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. But my first thought had nothing to do with sailing or wailing … I wondered where J.K. Rowling came up with the idea of a veela. Remember? In The Goblet of Fire, future Weasley wife Fleur Delacour is part-Veela, a girl of captivating beauty. Rowling’s veela are taken straight out of Slavic folklore – beautiful, nymph-like creatures with the ability to transform into fierce warrior creatures when provoked. (The Harry Potter veela turn into birds.) Rowling wasn’t the first to take inspiration from the idea, either – there’s the ballet Giselle, as well as a Puccini opera and countless modern references.
A minor character in Stargate SG-1 answered to the name Vala Mal Doran. I was about to dismiss her as a rarity that no others would consider – except there were thirteen girls named Vala in 2011, compared to a dozen Velas.
But back to the nautical reference – if you look into the night sky, there’s a constellation called vela. Vela has nothing to do with the enchanting creatures of Slavic myth. Instead, Vela resembles a sail. When Ptolemy recorded the constellations in the second century, he grouped Vela with a larger constellation – the Argo Navis, the ship of Jason and his Argonauts. Since then, Argo Navis has become three constellations – the sails, Vela; the keel, Carina; and the stern, Puppis.