There’s more to this name than you might guess.
Thanks to Kelia for suggesting Koa as our Baby Name of the Day.
I was dismissive of Koa the first time I heard it. Noah plus the letter K? What’s next, Kezra?
Koa is, beyond anything else, a tree. They’re all over Hawaii – the photo shows koa trees on Maui. The wood has been used for everything from furniture to canoes to guitars. It’s a member of the Fabaceae family – the pea family, meaning that koa trees are more closely related to soybeans and peanuts than oak trees. But you wouldn’t know it at a glance – they grow quite tall, and while they do produce fruit, but it doesn’t appear to be edible.
As a nature name, Koa is worth a second glance. After all, tree names are having their moment in the sun.
But there’s more.
Koa has some history of use as a boys’ name in Hawaii. I can’t gauge exactly how much. Koa can be short for a few longer masculine names: Kekoa, Kainoa and Nakoa come to mind. Let’s say that he’s not in the state’s Top 100, but he’s familiar enough to make his way into mainstream baby name books.
I’ve seen the meaning given as strong, brave and also warrior.
He’s been gaining steadily since the 1990s. That tracks with the rise of Noah. Parents could be hearing the name in a few places:
- Competitive surfer Koa Smith was born in Hawaii. Another use for koa wood? Surfboards.
- Maui-based professional baseball team Na Koa Ikaika Maui was formed in 2010. Their name translates to “The Maui Strong Warriors.”
- No Doubt’s Tom Dumont has three boys: Ace Joseph, Rio Atticus, and Koa Thomas.
The musician seems to have inspired others. In 2010, 75 boys received the name. In 2011, there were 88 Koas added to the US – including the youngest Dumont. In 2012, 117 newborns were given the name.
There’s a lot to like about Koa:
- Nature names are huge for kids these days.
- Ends-with-a names for boys are mainstream, from Old Testament appellations like Josiah and Ezra to imports like Luca.
- Noah has been a Top 100 name since 1995, and a Top Ten choice since 2009. At #4 in 2012, it is safe to say that plenty of parents like this sound for a son.
- K remains a stylish letter – in nouveau names like Kayden, re-spellings like Kaleb, and modern classics like Kyle. Koa falls somewhere in between all of those categories.
- We’re in an age when parents don’t mind borrowing from other cultures. A name’s status as Hawaiian may make it more appealing – look at the success of choices like Kai in recent years.
All of this makes Koa the kind of name that would fit right in on a 21st century playground. He’s modern, but he has roots. It’s hard to argue with his name’s meaning. If you’re after something just a little bit different, Koa could make for a distinctive choice.