Lota: Baby Name of the Day

English: Family group at a Lota picnic ground,...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The ladylike Charlotte is wildly popular.  How about this short form?

Thanks to Katybug for suggesting Lota as our Baby Name of the Day.

With so many little girls answering to Charlotte, I’m always expecting to hear Lottie.  She’s an obvious nickname, a cousin to Hattie and other retro, swingy short forms.

But Lottie isn’t catching on.  Instead, Charlie is on the upswing, and most Charlottes I know go nickname free.

Lotta and Lota strike me as other variants of Charlotte, and while there are other possible meanings for the names, their use tracks with the popularity of Charlotte and company.  Lota briefly appeared in the US Top 1000 back in the late nineteenth century.  At the time, Charlotte and Lottie were Top 100 names, and Lotta and Carlota enjoyed some use, too.  While Lota trailed them all, she was definitely an option.

We tend to think of the twenty-first century as the age of creative baby naming and rampant respelling, but that’s not accurate.  Back in the day, parents embraced the -tie ending:  Bettie, Hettie, Lettie, Mittie, Kittie, Pattie, Ettie, Jettie, and Kattie all ranked.  Parents liked -tta, too, with names like Etta, Retta, and Metta, as well as Henrietta, Loretta, Rosetta, and Marietta in use.

This raises the possibility that Lota was seen as a distinct name, her connection to Charlotte as slim as Sadie and Sarah today.

Or maybe Lota emerged as a short form of Carlota, the Spanish form of Charlotte.

Maria Carlota de Macedo Soares was the architect responsible for Rio de Janiero’s Attero do Flamengo.  Flamengo Park is city’s largest recreational venue and will feature in the 2016 Summer Olympics.  Maria Carlota was known as Lota.  But the architect was active in the 1960s – decades after Lota’s brief run in the US Top 1000 – so she wasn’t the inspiration for any of those little Lotas.

Other possible meanings for Lota include:

  • In South Asia, a lota is a vessel, used for either practical or for ritual purification.  Think of it as a manual bidet.  Not the greatest association, so while it is obscure, it might give you pause.
  • There’s also a city in Chile by the name.  It’s suggested that it comes from a Mapuche word meaning insignificant place.  I’m not sure if that’s the same as small town, or if it is as dismissive as it sounds.
  • Lota is a suburb of Brisbane, in Australia.  The ‘hood is named for Lota House, a historic home built in the 1860s that still stands.  The residence was built for William and Jane WhiteLota House was the name of her family’s home in Ireland – but I can’t trace it any farther.  The photo above shows a family picnicking in Lota back in the day.
  • There’s a fish called the lota, and a moth, too.  The French la lotte means codfish.  I’m not positive about moth’s meaning.

In our era of Stella and Gemma, it seems like Lota would fit, though the Lotta spelling strikes me as more natural in 2013.  One drawback to Lotta?  The 1960s comic book character Little Lotta, know for her over-sized appetite and feats of superhuman strength.

It also has the potential to be a punchline – think of Austin Powers’ Alotta Fagina, a play on all of those racy Bond Girl names.

Overall, I’m torn – there’s no reason Lota wouldn’t wear well in the English-speaking world, but there are a few more pitfalls to this name than some.  Still, she’s a feminine possibility with a vintage sound, sure to appeal to some.

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6 Comments

My greatgrandmother’s name was Lota. She was born in 1904 .It was not used as a nickname and I didn’t even know it would be until I found your site.

Lota is pretty, and has a very relaxed sound to it. There’s something rather exotic about it – maybe that’s the Spanish.

(Lottie is fast gathering steam in the UK and Australia … don’t be surprised if it catches on later.)

Thanks for profiling my grandmother’s unusual name! I can confirm that it is pronounced with a long o sound. I had never thought of the similarity to Lotus, that’s lovely. Last year I met another Lota, who said that the inspiration for her name was a Spanish woman, so maybe the Carlota connection is a common route to the name.

I think, were I to go a route similar to Lota, I would just use Lottie. (Actually, I would be much more likely to use Charlotte with the nickname of Lottie.) My great-grandmother had a sister named Lottie Myrtle, born in the early 1900s. Between Lota and Lotta, I much prefer Lotta, comic book and all. My brain wants to read Lota with a long o sound, and looks incomplete. Lotta brings to mind Lola’s adorable best friend from the Charlie and Lola series by Lauren Child and the subsequent Disney series.