The baby name Orla combines Irish roots with an accessible, on-trend sound.
Thanks to Katharine for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
The baby name Orla comes with a meaning that seems too good to be true: golden princess.
Except it really does carry that spectacular meaning! It comes from the Irish or – gold – combined with flaith – princess.
Break out the tiaras!
Orla is the Anglicized form of Órfhlaith. Brian Boru reigned as High King of Ireland around the year 1000. His sister answered to Órfhlaith. So did others in the ruling families of Ireland over the next several centuries.
It remains relatively common in Ireland, also spelled Órlaith, Orlagh, and, of course, Orla.
Regardless of spelling, the pronunciation is always OR lah.
Nearly every famous Orla is Irish. There’s a BBC correspondent and a member the Celtic Woman ensemble.
Then there’s designer of everything colorful from sweaters to coffee mugs Orla Kiely. Visit her flagship store the next time you’re in Covent Garden, or shop her collection at your local Target. She’s sometimes called “the Queen of Prints.”
Kiely’s design empire probably helps raise the name’s profile in the US, and also lends it a creative vibe.
Orla Quirke is briefly mentioned in the Harry Potter series, one of many fabulously-named Hogwarts students. (She’s sorted into Ravenclaw.)
British reality show alum Danielle Armstrong, of The Only Way is Essex fame, named her daughter Orla Mae in 2020.
If you’re looking in the data, you’ll note that Orla sometimes charted in the Top 1000 for boys during the late nineteenth century.
It’s almost certainly a separate name with Danish roots.
Nineteenth century Danish statesman Orla Lehmann might explain the use of Orla for boys. A reformer who helped establish the parliamentary system in Denmark, he may have inspired parents to choose the name for their sons.
Since then, it’s been exclusively feminine in the US and throughout the English-speaking world.
RARE BUT WEARABLE
Overall, Orla feels like a rare, but wearable, name for a daughter.
It’s more accessible that rising Irish favorites like Saoirse and Caoimhe. After all, even if you’ve never seen the name before, the baby name Orla is easily pronounced and spelled.
It’s a little sharper than flowing, liquid names like Mia and Ella. But that makes the name a distinctive, memorable choice.
As of 2018, just 29 girls were named Orla in the US. That makes it surprisingly uncommon, a perfect Irish heritage choice for families after something different, but still straightforward.
What do you think of the baby name Orla? Would you consider it for a daughter?
First published September 10, 2008, this post was revised and updated on July 12, 2020.
James Cox says
My grandfather was named Orla and I met one other man in my lifetime named Orla.
Both, probably not coincidentally, were born in roughly the same geographical area of southern Missouri – around Plato and Lynchburg.
My grandfather was born in 1903, the other gentleman I met would have been approximately 15 years younger, so born about 1918.
From talking with each, neither one had ever heard of anyone else with their name!
Oh no I missed Orla! Nevermind, thanks for making her name of the day Apellation Mountain, It’s interesting to see that the reaction to her is more mixed than towards Isla. You really have to roll the syllables of Orrrrr-la over your tongue don’t you? I think that makes her sound most alluring but the closeness to Oral does put me off (but then Violet sounds like Violent and Millicent like Millitant and neither association puts me off the name, which leads me to think that I can’t have been that bothered about Orla to begin with)…
Groan, RF! Okay, Peena will not be NotD. At least not until Spring 2009. One of the most enduring searches for first-time visitors to find the site is “stripper names.” If I start finding my site blocked by Net Nanny, serves me right! 🙂
Lola, I agree with you on meanings. Sarah is a huge family name for me, but her meaning puts me off using any of the variants. (I like the sound of Sarai quite a bit.)
Dana, what a cute book. I’m going to ask my local bookshop owner if she’s ever heard of it. But didn’t you torture your parents asking to upend the dining room table after that?
Not a fan. Between this and Magina, people are going to think we are a bunch of dirty birds! 😛
I like Orla for anyone else’s girl, just not mine. It may have a lovely meaning (and that’s always a bonus in my book!) but for me, Dana’s “oral” doen’t even come into it. Orla makes my mind go to Orly airport. (I spent a lot of my younger years travelling, yes, even with the boys when they were little). Told you I was weird! 😀
I do think she’s lovely, just not for me. I’ll call my girls “princess” occasionally but “princess” they really are not. A meaning like that is lovely for others but a bit too unsubstantial for me. (I’d rather “fortunate, happy, merciful or simply wealthy. Also, with the rapid rise of Isla, why not look to Orla as an alternative? They’d make awesome sisters or friends, don’t you think? I do.
I absolutely love Orla! Growing up I had a children’s book called “Orla’s Upside-down Day” in which the main character, Orla, does everything upside-down for a day (they even turn the dinner table over and eat on top of it!). I loved this book but hadn’t thought about it in years! The only thing that would make me think twice about putting it on my list is the fact that it can be rearranged to spell “oral”. Maybe most people wouldn’t even notice this, but for some reason that bothers me.