Amadigi Rescuing Oriana ( )She’s a precious metal and a rare literary gem.

Thanks to Rachel for suggesting Oriana as Name of the Day.

Search the US Top 1000 today and Oriana is nowhere to be found. The same is true of Orianna, Oriane and Oriande. Swap the O for an A, and the story changes. Arianna ranked #66 in 2008 while the slightly sparer Ariana came in at #81. Add them together, and she’s a Top 25 pick. The only time an Ori- name ranked was back in the nineteenth century, when Orrie appeared a handful of times – for boys.

Like Aurelia, Oriana is often linked to the word for gold. Aurelia comes from the Latin aureus; Oriana is via the Spanish oro. Other meanings have been suggested, but her origins seem to support the precious metal vibe.

Before he sent Don Quixote tilting at windmills in the early 1600s, Miguel Cervantes read Amadis of Gaul. Everyone knew the sweeping romance Amadis of Gaul, along with prequels and sequels galore.

Amadis may have been inspired by real world events in the thirteenth century. The tales are referenced as early as the 1300s, but the first written version dates to the early 1500s. A Spanish writer named Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo is generally credited with assembling the text. Montalvo was more editor than author, but he did pen at least one sequel – in which he named a mythical island California.

Amadis was born the bastard child of a king and a princess, left for dead but rescued and raised to be a knight. He meets Princess Oriana, heiress to the throne of Great Britain, when they’re still children. He’s a nobody and she’s a blue blood, but they fall madly in love anyhow. Drama follows.

It’s a plot line that never grows old, but in several tellings, Amadis and Oriana do end happily ever after.

Four operas have been based on the story. Scholars debate the original author’s identity and speculate that Eleanor of Aquitaine or Constanza of Aragon might’ve been the inspiration for Oriana. Sue Burke is translating the original and commenting on the backstory at her blog. Amadis is fascinating, as is the conversation about what’s real and what’s pure fiction.

Other uses of the name include:

  • English composer Thomas Morley compiled a book of madrigals called The Triumphs of Oriana. The book was first published in 1601, and it is generally thought that Oriana was one of many poetic references to Queen Elizabeth I, akin to Gloriana;
  • At about the same time as Cervantes’ novel, the tale of another princess Oriana was recorded. This time, it was about a Moorish princess called Fatima, kidnapped by a Christian knight. He married her and she took the Christian name Oureana. It’s almost certainly a myth, but you can still visit a town – and castle – called Ourém in modern day Portugal;
  • Marcel Proust gave the name Oriane to a duchess in his Remembrance of Things Past;
  • One of the Orient Line’s luxury cruise ships wore the name, but that might’ve had just as much to do with the relatively limited selection of O-appellations.

Oriana is a feminissa pick, and a truly distinctive one. Her origins in medieval romance put her in the company of names like Juliet and Isolde. Her similarity to Arianna could cause some confusion, but if pretty and literary is your vibe, Oriana is one to consider.

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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. Will this be updated at any point? Would love to read about the history of Oriana. I’ve recently discovered her, and I find her pretty yet strong, and really, really beautiful.

  2. Thanks for mentioning my translation.

    “Oriana” would be pronounced oh-ree-AH-na in Spanish.

    Except for Oriana and Amadis, the names of the principal characters in the novel “Amadis of Gaul” come from Arthurian legend — or at least the way Spaniards imagined them and pronounced in Medieval times, which leaves me mystified.

    Muchas gracias.

  3. If I were to use this I’d go with Oriane, which is the version I originally suggested as a NotD. Oriana somehow takes things too far into the sugary girly realm for me. I agree with Sebastiane

  4. I adore Oriana, she is one of my favorites. I have noticed that I tend to like O names.

  5. I like Oriana alot. I actually knew an Oriana a couple years back when I was working at the daycare center. She was such a sweet little girl. I worked with her mother. Very pretty name!

    I like Ariana and Adriana too, but they are getting too popular.

    Julie, I like Octavia too. I am a sucker for unusual names. Ha ha

    1. I love Octavia! It was one of the few non-family names Arthur and I ever agreed on.

  6. I love “O” names, but Oriana is TOO sugary and delicate for my taste. I think it’s the vowel to consonant ratio, because I like Octavia and Daria. Oriana fits in with Alexandria and Evangelina, which are just too much of a good thing.

    Now Amadis I Like! Maybe not for a human, but it would be an excellent name for a cat.

    1. I can really see a cat called Amadis!

      And Oriana is rather delicate, isn’t she?

  7. I’ve always loved Oriana. It’s so pretty and melflous (sp). I know too many Arianas to use it, though.

  8. I’m really surprised that Oriana has Spanish origins, because orina is the Spanish word for urine. I teach Spanish in the U.S. and it’s the first thing I thought of. I wonder if Spaniards would see the same thing, or see the the literary reference.

  9. When I first saw it, my first thought was that it was the female version of Orion (which I LOVE).However, the name’s pronunciations is possible problematic.There’s a couple of ways it could be said
    I’ve come across a Zenobia, so I can see the name being viable here.
    Overall, I feel like I should love it – but I don’t.It’s ok.Someone elses’s cup of tea.
    I’d probably go for Ariana which is similar to both Aria & Arielle which I have on my list. Ariana also has the historical place vibe that names like Shiloh & Alexandra/Alexandria to me.Ariana just sounds nicer & Ari sounds better than Ori to me.So, Oriana is ok., just not my vibe. Oh, I do like Aurelia, though

    1. That’s a good point about pronunciations – and with “O” sounds, you’re at the mercy of regional accents. (I grew up drinking Flawrida awrange juice.)

      I love Orion, too! And while the names aren’t related, I think the first Orient cruise ship to get an O name was the Orion, and I believe Oriana was the last … so that’s a (weak) link.

      1. I know what you mean! I think this name would get said SO many ways where I live, because of the Afrikaans language. I wish I could somehow do the ‘o’ phonetic in English 🙁 Oddly, the Afrikaans way of saying it I don’t mind hmmmm

    2. I love Orion, too! Oriana reminds me a little bit of those few girls called Ondrea and Ondraya, because their parents wanted the emphasis on the middle syllable. It’s not the case, obviously, but I suppose Ariana’s popularity might suggest the idea.