baby name IslaThe baby name Isla has quickly become a twenty-first century staple for our daughters.

Thanks to Kayt for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


If your first exposure to Isla was Spanish 101, or maybe Madonna’s 1987 single “La Isla Bonita,” you may have assumed the name was pronounced EES-lah.

That’s accurate en español, but the name that’s rising fast today is not the Spanish word.

In fact, Isla has a silent ‘s’ – EYE-la. It’s Scottish, from the island of Islay.

Isla is simply an older spelling of Islay. It’s part of the inner Hebrides and known for its traditional whisky distilleries. 79 separate islands make up the archipelago, half inhabited and half not. Islay is considered the Queen of the Hebrides, the southernmost island in the chain.

So what does Islay mean, exactly?

The name was recorded as Il, Yla, Ila, Ilea, and Ile – the Gaelic spelling – over the centuries.

One story tells of a Danish princess – or possibly a goddess – named Yula. She filled her apron with stones and set off to find her beloved. As she walked, the stones fell and formed the Scottish Hebrides.

She never found him, and it’s said Islay was her final resting place.

While it’s quite romantic to imagine that a wandering princess lent her name to the island, it’s probably not so.

But whisper Yula to Islay to the baby name Isla, and the name would eventually catch on. It just took a dozen centuries or so.


Isla Fisher was born in Australia to Scottish parents. She graduated from Australian television to American movies. 2005’s comedy Wedding Crashers marked her big break.

Fisher played Sophie Kinsella’s beloved Becky Bloomwood in the big screen version of Confessions of a Shopaholic. She was Henley in Now You See Me and Myrtle in The Great Gatsby. She’s been busy ever since. The Australian actress returned to the country where she grew up for 2022’s miniseries Wolf Like Me, now streaming on Peacock.

In the US, the name’s rise is closely tied to Ms. Fisher’s success.

But in the UK, especially in Scotland, the popularity of the baby name Isla predates the actress, and she’s not the first notable bearer of the name.

British actress Isla Blair’s career started in the 1960s.

Singer Isla St Clair – born Isabella – recorded her first album of traditional Scottish folk songs in 1971, and later became a successful television host.

The baby name Isla currently ranks #3 in the England and Wales. The same is true in Scotland.

Isla Elizabeth Phillips is the great-granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, daughter of Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne. While she’s a distant twentieth in line to the throne, the name’s acceptance in royal circles may signal how very mainstream it has become.


The baby name Isla wasn’t unknown in the US. It appeared in the Top 1000 a handful of times in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The first version of this post, written in 2008, described Isla as “poised to be the Next Big Thing.”

That’s certainly proved true.

It wasn’t just Isla, though.

First came Ayla. It entered the US Top 1000 in 1987. Jean M. Auel coined the name for her 1980 bestseller Clan of the Cave Bear. Darryl Hannah played Ayla in the 1986 movie adaptation, sparking the name’s rise. It could be a Turkish name referring to the moon, a Hebrew name meaning oak tree, or simply an invention. As of 2021, Ayla ranked #108.

Traditional Ella has a long history of use, and ranked in the Top 100 at the turn of the twentieth century. It’s been in the Top 25 since 2005, and reached #16 as of 2021.

Factor in #25 Layla and #110 Lyla – choose your spelling for both popular names – and many vowel-forward, ends-with-la names for girls can be found in the current rankings.

But it’s the girl name Isla where the numbers look most dramatic.

Isla returned to the US Top 1000 in 2008 at #623. A year later, it reached #345. By 2018, it cracked the Top 100, and as of 2021, Isla ranks #33.

It could soon rival current favorites like Mia, Mila, and even Ella.


The baby name Isla has changed dramatically over the years.

It was obscure enough that JK Rowling chose it for a member of the Black family in 2003’s The Order of the Phoenix. (She married a Muggle named Bob and was disowned by her snobbish Wizarding family.)

Since then, it’s become a chart-topper in the US.

Actress Isla Fisher deserves some of the credit. But so does our love of flowing, liquid names for our daughters, particularly short and nickname-proof possibilities.

As for worries about pronunciation? While Spanish speakers may stumble, it’s worth nothing that the ‘s’ is also silent in island.

That similiarity reinforces the name’s ties to the natural world.

Alternate spellings like Iyla are starting to catch on, too.

Not so long ago, this might’ve served as a substitute for favorites like Ava. While those days are past, the baby name Isla remains a short, sweet, complete, and stylish choice for a daughter. The legend tying it to Scotland might make it a perfect heritage option, too.

What do you think of the baby name Isla?

This post was originally published on August 19, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on August 31, 2015, and again on June 11, 2022.

baby name Isla

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. I hesitate to call Isla nickname-proof. Since our Isla was 2 days old, my husband’s called her “Isla-bug, because she was so petite as a baby. My 2yr old added an “a” to the bug part – she’s “Isla-bugga” or just “bugga”. Unfortunately, when the kids get older in a few years, “bugga” could turn into “booger”.. Oops. Still, Isla is a beautiful name and it fits her so well.

    1. Oh, that’s a sweet story, Megan! And true – no child is ever safe from adorable and improbable nicknames. 🙂

  2. The traditional way of pronouncing Ayla, as it is still pronounced in Turkey and in nearby areas is actually “eye-lah”.

  3. Isla is such a pretty name, I’m so glad it’s here. I’m Spanish however and everyone here would pronounce it EES-LA. I definitely prefer that pronounciation. EYE-LA makes me think of a great big Isla in Spanish means ‘island’. Puerto Rico’s nickname isn’t ‘Isla’. It’s ‘La Isla Encantadora’ (The Enchanted Island).

  4. I too love Isla, but perhaps that’s just because it’s my name, and has been for 28 years. I’m the only Isla I know, although I have had a few little girls named after my name. Not too happy with its popularity rising, although that may mean that it will be mis-pronounced less often.

  5. Love the name Isla (pronounced Eye-lah). It was actually my grandmother’s name only she spelled it Ilah. I have never been able to find it spelled that way in any baby name books – so now I wonder if her parents heard the name “Isla” and thought it was spelled Ilah? Interesting.

    1. My Great-Aunt’s name is Ila, I think they spelled it that way so it was easier to pronounce. I named my 6 month old daughter Isla Clementine and I still love it – I think it’s such a pretty, girly name. I hope she thinks so too when she’s older and doesn’t hate me because she’ll probably always have to spell it!

      1. Ellen, I just adore your daughter’s name! So sweet! Isla and Clementine are two of my top 4 choices, though I have never thought of pairing them together. My other 2 choices are Avery and Rae.

  6. I love the name Isla. My wife and I have a daughter named Anya and we are expecting her little sister. I think Anya and Isla sound really sweet together. Anyone think that sounds hokey? My wife is losing interest in the name, and I’m trying to convince her otherwise.

    We live in the US and many those that we have consulted about the name use the spanish pronounciation, EES-Lah. I am hopelessly hooked on this name, but I wonder if the constant need to correct people will be harmful, or rather a memorable conversation piece. Or perhaps both?

    We have about 5 months to make a decision. How far doth a man dare push the limits to convince his pregnant wife that Anya needs an Isla? I suppose a good benchmark would be the point when the pregnant wife threatens to relieve the zealous husband of his facilities needed to create a third child, yes?

    What to do, what to do…

    1. I think it’s cute! Some might find a bit too matchy. I think if you stress the different syllables, it should be ok. In terms of of the pronunciation, it’s a 50/50 split. You’re always going to have to deal with it. I don’t think it can harm the child or person , it’s only going to be an annoying occurrence. Worst case scenario, she decides to use that pronunciation.But, it’s a 50/50 split, so it should still be ok to use. I love that name & half the people I’ve been around have said it as either EYE-luh or EES-lah. So, it should be ok . Overall, I don’t think it will be harmful to the kid at all. Just be prepared to correct people.

    2. Anya and Isla are lovely together, Sammy!

      I’m in Metro DC, in a community with a high percentage of Spanish speakers. I’m sure Isla would EES lah some of the time – but then, it isn’t as if it would be difficult to explain the correct pronunciation. It isn’t as if you’re naming her Ahyarekloujja, pronounced Bill.

      The problem with Isla and Anya is that, should you have a third daughter, you’d have narrowed your pool of possible names. Anya, Isla and Una, maybe. Or Anya, Isla and Clea. But you’d need another vowel-heavy short name. And if a third doesn’t come readily to mind, it might make sense to steer clear of Isla, much as it is lovely.

      Or not. But it’s a thought. Best wishes! 🙂

  7. I love the name…. I have a daughter named Iyla…. I was going to spell it the traditional way but my 6 year old kept writing it with a ‘y’ as she uses pollyphonics at school! Thought I was being really different choosing her name but have met several iylas since (my daughter is 17 months now) it is certainly on the rise!!!

  8. I LOVE this name. I have Isla Evangeline on my list. I’d love a Dylan, Eden & Isla one day. I LOVE this name. I detest the pronunciation EEs-lah . I’ve never come across Isla in SA & I don’t think it will ever be a popular name here, which is awesome

    Overall, the name sounds absolutely gorgeous to me & I think it will wear well. I don’t think it will be the next Ava at all. Ironically, I can’t stand Ava & haven’t liked since I heard about it a couple of years ago