Halona sounds like lots of established girl names. But where does this one come from, exactly?
Thanks to Beth for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
THE TROUBLE WITH NATIVE AMERICAN NAMES
It’s most often suggested that Halona comes from Native American sources. The meaning “happy fortune” comes up frequently.
And yet, that’s problematic, for multiple reasons.
First, which language?
Iroquois came up in a search, but that’s really a language family, encompassing six or more distinct languages, plus plenty of dialects. Written resources tend to be limited, too. So while I can easily translate “happy” into Igbo or Dutch, it’s far more challenging to translate a word into any Native American language.
Second, names don’t work the same way across every culture. Broadly speaking, many Native American naming practices aren’t anything like Western tradition. Names can – and do – change over an individual’s lifetime.
So let’s say that Halona might very well have Native American roots. But they’re difficult to verify unless you have personal ties to someone familiar with the language – and, in that case, you might want to approach naming your child differently to reflect that heritage.
Hawaiian proved a more promising source for this name’s origin.
It’s said that Halona means a lookout, or a place from which to peer.
You can visit the Halona Blowhole on Oahu. The rock formation looks out over the Pacific, so the name makes sense. The blowhole was formed from volcanoes active on the site thousands of years earlier. Depending on weather and ocean conditions, it can shoot sea spray up to 30 feet in the air.
A small beach sits nearby. Odds are you’ve seen it on screen, either in classic films like From Here to Eternity or maybe in a Nicki Minaj video.
BUT IS IT A NAME?
All of those disclaimers about Native American names? They apply to Hawaiian names, too.
Hawaiian names seem to have evolved differently. They’re now used as legal given names, both among Hawaiians and beyond.
The current Hawaiian Top 100 includes Kai – now a mainstream favorite across the US – as well as the more state-specific Kaimana and Nakoa for boys, plus Leilani, Kailani, and Mahina for girls. Some names, like Kalea, look like variations of current favorites, but probably count as Hawaiian heritage choices, too.
Halona doesn’t appear on any of those lists, and I can’t find anyone listed by the name in Hawaii today.
It’s worth noting that, for many generations, Hawaiians tended to make up novel names for their children, adding syllables and creating new possibilities. While anything is possible; this appears to be a Hawaiian place name, not a person’s name.
CITY OF GOLD
Speaking of places, here’s one more possible inspiration: the mythical Seven Cities of Gold, or Cíbola. It’s not necessarily original to the Spanish settlers of Mexico, as similar tales occur in other places and times.
But here’s how their version goes: in the sixteenth century, four shipwrecked survivors of a failed expedition made their way back to New Spain – Mexico – reporting that natives told them of golden cities, brimming with jewels and all manner of wealth.
The stories were eventually proved false, but rumors of such hidden wonders persisted.
It appears that real villages were identified as candidates for the golden cities, including one called Halona. But that would make the name Zuni, not Iroquois – and doesn’t make it any more of a personal name than the Hawaiian reference.
HALA, HALINA + MORE
However, it’s very possible to arrive at Halona by simple invention.
Helen and Helena are quite similar. Halina comes from a Greek name meaning common, but is mostly used in Slavic cultures. Hala means halo in Arabic.
It also occurs in several fantasy settings. I found a goddess of the ice elves in one fandom; in another, a character called Halona Stormwhisperer.
And back in the real world, a singer called Halona King released a few singles in 2018.
BY THE NUMBERS
Speaking of the real world, seven girls received the name in 1970. It’s stayed in steady, if sparing use, ever since:
- In 1978, there were 14 births
- A total of 17 girls received the name in 2006
- And, in 2018, 10 new girls were named Halona
All of this makes for a name with an attractive, distinctive sound. The fractured backstory is packed with mystery and intrigue – a lost city of unimaginable riches; a Hawaiian natural wonder; or maybe something completely overlooked.
It could wear well today, shortening to Hallie to fit right in with so many girls’ names, or used in full as something just a little bit different.
What do you think of Halona? Any idea about the name’s origins?
Halona Hurst says
My name is Halona. My grandfather was half Chippewa. The Chippewa language technically belongs to the Iroquois languages. A friend of mine in school was half Chippewa and her cousin was full-blooded Chippewa and lived on a reservations. This was in Minnesota. The cousin’s name was Halona. I was so happy when I was told. I didn’t know of any single other person with my name, and I didn’t like it. People asked all my life if it’s Hawaiian, even those unaware of the place names.They said it sounded Hawaiian. Unrelated languages or cultures can end up with words or names that sound exactly alike. They may have completely different meanings/origins/spellings. There are only so many possible human vowels and consonant sounds. Such sound-alikes are bound to occur. When I myself became aware of the Halona Blowhole et al – after that when people asked me if my name was Hawaiian, I just said yes. It was easier. But my family has no connection to Hawaii. We have a Chippewa tribal heritage, and I was named to honor that heritage. My father told me from the time I was little that my name means “One of Happy Fortune”, from the Chippewa.
Halona Hurst says
I feel VERY stupid. I am sorry, I am a former stroke victim and also have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome that causes brain fog, and I often now confuse similar words. So much for honoring my heritage! My grandfather was half CHEROKEE. I wrote the word “Chippewa” instead of Cherokee in the second sentence, and from then on, kept looking at it and writing it throughout the post. This is a brain problem I have. Chippewa is not an Iroquoian language, and the Chippewa were actually fierce enemies of the Iroquois in the Great Lakes region. Cherokee (Ojibwa) is an Iroquoian language, and my name comes from there. My apologies again!
Thank you for looking into this for me!! I would have never found any of that on my own.
The Mrs. says
You never fail to amaze, Abby.
I’ve never heard this lovely name, and your write-up is intriguing.