Leia came to us from a galaxy far, far away. Is this sci name ready to go mainstream?
Our Baby Name of the Day was inspired by the late Carrie Fisher.
Leia: Space Age Leah
Names endure across millennia. We can believe that parents will name their children familiar–ish names dozens of generation into the future. This might make Leia a cousin to Leah, or Layla, or even Lee and Leigh.
Of course, Leia comes from fiction. The Star Wars universe started out in 1977, long before George Lucas became a household name. He imagined the first installment beginning in 1971 – and some accounts put it even earlier.
Despite these years of effort, Star Wars debuted in just a few dozen theaters, and the studio expected little from the film.
Surprise! It quickly turned into one of the first Hollywood blockbusters, and secured a place in pop culture forevermore.
Leia: General Princess
When we first meet Carrie Fisher’s character, she appears as a hologram. “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope,” her image repeats to a then-clueless Luke Skywalker.
Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan starts out as a senator and a rebel. Part-spy, part-diplomat, she’s smart, fearless, and rocks a serious cinnamon bun-inspired hairdo. Fisher became the princess the 1980s was waiting for, an iconic character easy to admire.
Throughout the series, we learn that she and Luke are siblings – twins! We see taken captive by crime boss Jabba the Hutt – though she ultimately does him in. And, at last, in 2015’s The Force Awakens, we find out that she’s still fighting the good fight, and now prefers the title General to Princess.
Is it possible Lucas had another inspiration for the name? In the 1970s, Leah made for a widely-known name on the rise – just like brother Luke. Twisting the spelling and pronunciation slightly seems reasonable.
Given her fierce and independent nature, though, could Lucas have borrowed a different name?
Nameberry’s database includes Leya. It could mean law in Spanish. A fantasy series from the Philippines gave the name to a fairy princess. Liya, made famous by Ethiopian-born model Liya Kebede, means “I am with God” in Hebrew.
Another intriguing meaning comes from the stars. Hindu astronomers call the constellation Leo by the name Leya instead. Could Lucas have imagined his royal rebel deserving of a leonine name?
Maybe. But the only comment I could find points to different inspiration. Maybe Lucas invented Leia based on Princess Dejah in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars stories,
Leia: By the Numbers
No matter where Lucas found the name, parents have been warming to Leia since 1977. Some girls were given the name even earlier. But in 1977, 98 girls received the name. In 1978, that number rose to 156.
Usage dropped during the later 1980s and 1990s, but it’s gained steadily in use in recent years. As of 2015, it entered the US Top 500 – by far, the name’s best showing.
Leia: A Galaxy Far, Far Away or Closer to Home?
What changed between the 1970s and now?
Parents have embraced other sci fi and fantasy-inspired names, like Khaleesi. Another Star Wars name, Anakin, is catching on, too.
But I think Leia succeeds mainly on sound. The current Top 100 is packed with similar-sounding names: Mia, Ella, Layla, Mila, Maya, Lily, Leah. It’s easy to imagine parents falling in love with Leia even if they’d never seen the movie! Leya and Liya have risen in use, too.
Leia offers a mix of pop culture role model and on-trend sound. It’s no surprise we’re hearing more of this compact, lovely name.
What do you think of Leia? Is it too Star Wars for you to consider?