The year was 1982. Joan Jett, Survior and the Human League were on the radio. E.T. phoned home on the silver screen, and Rocky fought Mr. T. And in a fictional town called Salem, the character Kayla Brady first appeared on the soap opera Days of Our Lives.

Unlike some soap-sudsy names, Kayla wasn’t created for the show. On the contrary, this obscure variant of Katherine first appeared in the Top 1000 back in 1959.

But the character did lead to an explosion of baby girls named Kayla. In 1981, it was the 581st most popular name for baby girls born in the US. By 1982? It was 133. And in 1983, it broke the Top 100, coming in at 81.

By 1988, it was firmly established in the Top 20, and remained there until 2004, peaking at #11 in 1995.

Today, the Kayla variants are many, ranging from Kaylie/Kaylee/Kaileigh to Kaylynn, Kylinn and Kayci.

But there is a more appealing direction to take your Kayla variant – drop the first “a” and, if you want to really improve on this popular choice, swap out the first letter, too.

Kyla is generally considered a feminine variant of Kyle, a Top 100 choice for boys since 1974. The name has some appeal. It brings to mind Kai, a Hawaiian name meaning ocean, as well as Kaia, like Kayla, another variant of Katherine, this time used in Scandinavia. But ultimately, Kyla must be dismissed as too easily confused with Kayla and kompany, and too close to the flimsy Kylie. As a friend of mine once said about choosing baby names, “We’re going to assume that our daughter will never sing on the Disney Channel.” Well said. Kyla was the 204th most popular name in 2006.

Not too far from ApMtn’s HQ, we recently welcomed a baby girl called Myla. The name caught our ear. While it is just one letter removed from Kyla, there’s something about M. M for Mary, for Margaret, for Madeline – it kicks off a host of substantial, classic girls’ names. And so while Myla has the disadvantage of blending in with Maya and Mia, it still makes for an appealing name choice. Short, simple, easy to pronounce, but just a little different. As of 2006, Myla was the 918th most popular name given to baby girls in the US.

But for the truly adventurous, trade out that “M” for a “Tw” and arrive at the mysterious appellation Twyla. The name shimmers with the artistic genius of dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp. It has a certain nature name appeal, as it is believed to be based on the word twilight. And, believe it or not, it has the longest pedigree of any of the -yla names, having first appeared in the Top 1000 back in 1925.

Twyla is also nickname-proof, a quality many parents admire. And while it works well for a young girl, the interesting “Tw” at the top of this name allow it to transition gracefully into adulthood, too.

It should be noted that Miss Tharp’s parents apparently overheard the name while attending the Muncie Fair, near their home in Indiana. A Miss Twila Thornburg was crowned Pig Princess that year, and apparently, the name stuck with the expectant Tharps. A humble beginning for the name, to be sure, but a fabulous story.

Despite many years of appearing in the Top 1000, Twyla was last ranked in 1965. The name is nicely obscure, but instantly familiar nonetheless.

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. Kaia is my favorite out of all of these. I also like Caitlin but not spelled Kaitlyn, Kaitlynn, Katelynn, Kaytlyn, Catelinn etc… and I could’ve seen Kayla’s appeal maybe five years ago, when it wasn’t so big, but now it already seems like ‘eh… I’ve heard this name before, it’s old, it’s fine, it’s boring’ at least, it seems like that to me.

  2. I named my daughters Myla Love and Kylie Monet!! I get so many people saying what beautiful names.. Kylie means refreshing spirit and thats just what she is, and Myla Love sounds like “my lil love” when u say it.

  3. I’m a little surprised that Nyla didn’t make the list. I confess I didn’t hear the name myself until 4 years ago while I was briefly living in Texas. Once I heard it though I never forgot it. To me it sounded exotic, reminding me of the river Nile. And the woman who introduced me to it was a very pleasant 80 year old antique shop owner who spelled it Nila. My love for the name grew upon realizing it had both Gaelic and Sanskit origins. When spelled Nila, it has the Sanskrit meaning “blue”. And when spelled Nyla, it has the Gaelic meaning “champion”. Three years later when my husband and I learned we were having a girl we chose the name for our daughter and spelled it Nylah. I love the way it sounds and looks, especially when written in cursive! Maybe I’m biased because my name is Sarah and I like having the “h” on the end. I just think it ties the name together nicely. Now that we are expecting again we are looking for another somewhat obscure, but feminine name from the same era as Nila (1930’s) should we have another girl.

  4. I once knew a girl named Kylah, but whose name was pronounced Kayla. The absolute worst of both in my opinion!

  5. My name is Kayla and I think it’s just fine. I wouldn’t name my baby Kayla but I still like the choice my parents made. The only bad thing about the name is that it sounds a bit childish

    1. I suspect Kayla will sound like Linda in a few decades – dated, but part of the long list of names that we assume are, as you say, “just fine.”

      With an -a ending, Kayla will probably age better than Kaylee, which feels very young. Then again, some day there will be plenty of Kaylees of retirement age, so maybe I’m wrong. 🙂

  6. I actually hate just about all the names on that list. I’m sick of hearing all these cutesy and horrible names. I do like Maya though, but I prefer Myra. I actually love the name Cailin, not spelled in some ugly way like Kaylynn of course.

  7. I just don’t like any of these. I hate all the Kayla/Kyla/Kylie/Miley/Riley names. Myla and Twyla, while not bad, sound too similar, and therefore a little twitchy by relation. I do like Kaia the best out of all of these, though.

  8. Twyla is intriguing, but there is a contemporary Christian singer/songwriter named Twila Paris who was really popular in the ’80’s and ’90’s. While it’s not a negative association, it kind of ruins the name for me by making it seem kind of ’80’s. The “tw” at the front makes me think of a southern twang, so all-in-all, the name conjures up images of an ’80’s country music star!