She’s literary, playful – and hopelessly out of fashion. Until, that is, indie actor Maggie Gyllenhaal bestowed the name on her baby girl.

Thanks to Julie for suggesting Ramona as Name of the Day.

Maybe Ramona’s rebound shouldn’t be a surprise. Jack Nicholson chose Raymond for his son back in 1992. And Ray is certainly among the up-and-comers.

Ramona sounds romantic, but her meaning is smart – the Germanic element ragin or regin means wisdom or advice. The second part – mund – means protector. As Raymond, the name has been worn by saints and kings. Variants abound; the original masculine moniker was probably Reginmund or Raginmund.

But no one is channeling the Visigoths when they name their daughter Ramona. Instead, Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1884 novel popularized the name, though it was in use previously.

Jackson told the tale of a part-Scottish, part-Native American orphan and her life in southern California. Ramona was a smash hit. It also boosted California as a tourist destination – just a few years after travelers could first ride the Southern Pacific railroad to Los Angeles. (Once upon a time, a stretch of road was even called the Ramona Freeway.)

Ramona the novel inspired four movie adaptations between 1910 and 1936 and a 2000 telenovela. The name gained steadily in use, peaking after the 1928 movie version starring the lovely Dolores del Rio. (Imagine Salma Hayek in silent films.)

The same year as the Del Rio movie, Ramona peaked at #117. Her popularity was probably helped along by the movie’s title track, also named Ramona and performed by Ramona herself – Dolores Del Rio. It hit #1 in the US.

Children of the 1950s grew up with another fictional Ramona – Ramona Quimby. Intially a bit player in Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins series, by 1955 she was headlining her own adventures on Klickitat Street in Portland. (The street and the neighborhood are real.) The books inspired a television series in the 1980s. She and big sister Beatrice were slated to hit the big screen in 2010, but plans are currently on hold.

The movie might’ve given her a boost. After all, other kids in the series – Henry, Daisy and Willa are among Cleary’s characters – would be right at home on any Park Slope playground.

Instead, Ramona remains obscure, but references are many:

  • Bob Dylan sang “To Ramona” back in the 1960s;
  • In the 1930s, Ramona Davies performed with Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra in the 1930s. She sang and played the piano;
  • Michigan was home to an amusement park called Ramona Park from the late nineteenth century through the 1950s;
  • In more modern references, Ramona is the middle name of both angsty Canadian-born pop singer Avril Lavigne and Southern-fried actress Delta Burke;
  • One of the Real Housewives of New York City is the rather unbelievably blonde Ramona Singer, mom to Avery.

The name sparked interest with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard chose it for their daughter in 2006, but hasn’t been back in the US Top 1000 since 1988.

That could change. Ramona sounds like a romantic choice from a bygone era – something like Loretta, also recently chosen by celeb parents. If you love the idea of calling your little girl by the boyish Ray, this is the perfect formal name to put on her birth certificate.

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. Ramona was such a great character! She was resiliant and spunky and not afraid of a challenge. I loved those books. But I really love the name Beatrice, nicknamed Beezus! Still one of my favorites! Jesus Beezus!

  2. Ramona brings to mind Ramona Singer of the Real housewives of NYC and her crazy eyes lol. I actually really love the name but as someone else mentioned, I can’t get over the possibility of being nicknamed Mona. Eugh!!

  3. This was my number one for our DD- her father chose her name and its a top 10 (Ava). Certainly suits her but Ramona is still on my list and now we are pregnant again I’m going to push for it if we have a girl.

  4. I love Ramona on paper–it’s feminine without being overly flowery, has three syllables but a one-syllable nickname in Ray and a two-syllable nickname in Mona (so it flows well with tons of surnames), and it’s both familiar and obscure. But in practice, I have a hard time with the “moan” sound like the previous posters. I associate it with whining or complaining, not the sensual kind, but either way, it’s not a pretty connotation.

  5. Ramona Marquez is a young female comedienne in the UK, known for playing Karen in Outnumbered, and recently appeared in the film, The King’s Speech as Princess Margaret. She’s really popular (and talented) and I suspect this may lead to a rise in British Baby Ramonas. Personally, I love the name.

  6. I really want to love this name. Really. I loved the books, and I love the name in theory. I just can’t get over the “moan” part of the name. Way too sexually charged…Same reason why I can’t use Mona, Simone, Desdemona. I’m trying to get over it, but not there yet.

  7. Awww, I loved the books as a child. I had huge stacks of my mother’s books from her childhood. I don’t love the sound of the name, but I might use it for a cat.