Leah has become a modern staple for girls. Leo is white hot for boys. Mix them together and what do you get?
Thanks to Alicia for suggesting Leora as Name of the Day.
Between 1880 and 1950, Leora regularly appeared in the US Top 1000. She peaked at #301 in 1880 – suggesting that she might’ve been even more common before the stats were collected.
Despite her leonine image, Leora does not share roots with Leo and company. Nor is she related to the Laura or Leah families. Instead, her more authentic spelling is Liora, and she’s Hebrew in origin.
Apparently, the masculine version of the name – Lior – is far more fashionable in modern Israel. Both come from the phrase “my light.” (I’m stretching here, as my Hebrew is non-existent, but Lior also brings to mind Christina Aguilera’s Max Liron – “my song.”)
It’s also possible that Leora is simply a diminutive of Eleanor. Back in the 1910s and 20s, Eleanor was all the rage. Other names that ranked included:
- Leona (#89 in 1920)
- Leola (#226)
- Leota (#355)
- Leone (#488)
- Leatha (#665)
- Leonora (#666)
- Leonor (#882)
- Cleora (#941)
While some of those names sound dated, some have backstories of their own and others suffer from downright unpleasant associations (Leona Helmsley ring any bells?), Leora seems both retro and modern at once. Notable bearers of the name include:
- The late Tony-winning actress Leora Dana, best known for her turn in 1973’s The Last of Mrs. Lincoln. She also appeared in the original version of 3:10 to Yuma back in 1957;
- Another actress, Leora Spellman, a vaudeville star;
- Leora Hayward, a minor character on All My Children circa 2003, was named after an uncle Leo;
- The heroine of author Dara Horn’s 2002 novel In the Image was a modern-day New Jersey girl called Leora;
- An enduring literary Leora can be found in Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith. She was the wife of Dr. Martin Arrowsmith. While the good doctor is combating an outbreak of the plague, she contracts the illness and dies. The novel won the 1926 Pullitzer Prize, but Lewis declined the honor. A 1931 movie adaptation was well-received, but isn’t exactly in heavy rotation on AMC today. It would be logical to link Leora’s use to the novel, but the numbers suggest otherwise – neither the book nor the movie stopped Leora’s slide;
- Today public television entertains preschoolers with Sheira & Loli’s Dittydoodle Works. The show isn’t exactly Dora – or even DragonTales – but the rag doll dubbed Loli is actually based on a real-life girl – Leora “Loli” Brayer, sister to real-life girl Sheira Brayer.
Then there’s Liora Fadlon, an Israeli-born Eurovision Song Contest competitor back in 1995; Liora Rivlin, an Israeli actress from the 1960s and 70s and a handful of others.
Overall, Liora and Leora make for interesting choices. They’re a little bit retro and a little bit Hebrew heritage. They manage to fit in nicely with current favorites while still standing out. I’m not sure if Liora would face pronunciation challenges – they’re both lee OR ah, and seem reasonably straightforward – but with the rise of Leah and Leo, the “Le” version might seem more intuitive.
If Leandra doesn’t quite suit, Leora is another interesting Le- appellation for a daughter.