Monday, October 2, 2017

Various Origins & Meanings From Around The World For The Name "Ola"

Edited by Azizi Powell

[Latest Revision October 20, 2017]

This pancocojams post is Part I of a two part series about the name "Ola" or the element (prefix or suffix "ola".

Part I provides information and comments about various origins and meanings for the female name "Ola". This post also includes examples of female names which are formed by combining "Ola" with another name such as the American female name "Ola Mae", or with a prefix or a suffix such as the Latin (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese) female name "Fabiola", or the Yoruba name "Olatunji".

Click for Part II of this series. Part II presents a partial list of Yoruba names that include the element (prefix or suffix) "ola". That list is from a much longer compilation of Yoruba names that was published on a discussion thread. Selected comments from that discussion thread are also included in that pancocojams post.

The content of this post is presented for etymological and cultural purposes.

All content remains with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
My interest in the name "Ola" was sparked by researching Puerto Rican names and reading that the United States Census documents that in 2010 the name "Fabiola" was the 18th most popular name given to baby girls in Puerto Rico. Because the name "Fabiola" reminded me of the large number of Yoruba names that include the element "ola" (meaning "wealth" or "honor"), I was curious whether "Fabiola" was a Yoruba name. As some of the online excerpts given below document "Fabiola" is a Latin name. However, that name demonstrates how similarly spelled or pronounced names may have different origins and meanings depending on what language they are from.

These excerpts are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.
Excerpt #1
"Given Name OLA (1)

GENDER: Masculine

USAGE: Norwegian, Swedish

Meaning & History
Norwegian and Swedish short form of OLAF.

OLAF m Norwegian, Danish, German, Dutch, Polish
From the Old Norse name Áleifr meaning "ancestor's descendant", derived from the elements anu "ancestor" and leifr "descendant". This was the name of five kings of Norway, including Saint Olaf (Olaf II).

Related Names
VARIANTS: Ole (Norwegian), Olle (Swedish)
OTHER LANGUAGES/CULTURES: Áleifr (Ancient Scandinavian), Olaf, Olav, Oluf, Ole (Danish), Olaf (Dutch), Olavi, Olev (Estonian), Ólavur (Faroese), Olavi, Uolevi, Olli (Finnish), Olaf (German), Ólafur (Icelandic), Amhlaoibh (Irish), Olaf (Polish), Olavo (Portuguese), Amhlaidh, Aulay (Scottish)

In the United States, the name "Ola" is almost always considered to be a female name, and is most often found as the "double name" (combination name) "Ola Mae". Read Excerpt #5 below.

Excerpt #2
"Given Name OLA (2)
GENDER: Feminine
USAGE: Polish
Meaning & History
Polish short form of ALEKSANDRA.
See All Relations · Show Family Tree
Related Names
OTHER LANGUAGES/CULTURES: Alexandra (Ancient Greek), Aleksandra, Aleksandrina, Sashka (Bulgarian), Aleksandra, Sanda, Sandra, Saša (Croatian), Alexandra (Czech), Alexandra, Sandra (Danish), Alexandra, Alex, Sandra, Xandra (Dutch), Alexandra, Alex, Alexa, Alexandrea, Alexandria, Alexandrina, Alexina, Ali, Allie, Ally, Alyx, Drina, Lexa, Lexi, Lexie, Lexine, Lexy, Sandie, Sandra, Sandy, Sasha, Sondra, Zandra (English), Aleksandra (Estonian), Alexandra, Alexandrine, Alexandrie, Sacha, Sandra, Sandrine, Sasha (French), Alexandra, Alexa, Sandra, Sascha (German), Alexandra, Aleka (Greek), Alexandra (Greek Mythology), Alexandra, Alexa, Szandra (Hungarian), Alexandra, Sandra (Icelandic), Alastríona (Irish), Alessandra, Alessa, Alexandra, Sandra (Italian), Sandra (Latvian), Sandra (Lithuanian), Aleksandra, Sandra, Sashka (Macedonian), Alexandra, Sandra (Norwegian), Alexandra, Alexandrina, Sandra (Portuguese), Alexandra, Sanda, Sandra (Romanian), Aleksandra, Alexandra, Aleksandrina, Asya, Sanya, Sasha, Shura (Russian), Saundra (Scottish), Aleksandra, Sandra, Saša (Serbian), Alexandra (Slovak), Aleksandra, Sandra, Saša (Slovene), Alejandra, Ale, Alexandra, Sandra (Spanish), Alexandra, Sandra, Sassa (Swedish), Aleksandra, Alexandra, Oleksandra, Lesya, Sasha (Ukrainian)


Excerpt #3:
GENDER: Feminine
USAGE: Italian, Spanish, Ancient Roman
PRONOUNCED: fa-BYO-la (Italian, Spanish)
Meaning & History
Diminutive of FABIA. This was the name of a 4th-century saint from Rome.
MASCULINE FORMS: Fabio (Italian), Fabio (Spanish), Fabius (Ancient Roman)
The name "Fabian" is also a male form of this name.

Excerpt #4
"A few facts about the girl's name Ola:
Records indicate that 28,015 girls in the United States have been named Ola since 1880.
The greatest number of people were given this name in 1921, when 752 people in the U.S. were given the name Ola....
Here are some selected comments from that page:-
"My beloved grandmother was named Ola. Always wondered about the derivation. She was born in 1911 and was Irish/Scottish. Good to know there are still people being called this cool name!" Nov. 19, 2015:

"My Grandmother , is of German & scandanavian decent ... Married and Irish immigran. She was born in the mid twenties ... Her name is Olamae Gray Breen . And she hails from a small village named Town , so this makes her OMG Breen.." Mar. 28, 2014

"Well persons normally ask thats ur name..ola is a spanish name..n i'm like no full name is afican with ola in i'm getting use to it..i normally feel away that i have an uncommon name.." Jul. 29, 2014

"Helllllooooo there , I'm polish and my name is Olga but short version is Ola and all my freinds call me like this." Apr. 1, 2012

"My name is Ola.I am probably the only male Arab with this name -))" Sep. 19, 2012:

"My name is Gabby and i am 1/4 polish. My dad and uncle are half and my grandad is. My uncle married a fully polish women and had two girls Marielle 16 and Ola 12. Marie and Ola are my polish cousins. Ola was not born as Aleksandra, she was born as Ola which is a bit weird as most Ola's in poland are orginally called Aleksandra. She doesnt really like her name but i think its beautifull, she probally doesnt like it because when she comes to my house in england most 12 year old girls are called Megan or sophie so she feels like she's the odd one out as she has a diffrent name" Jan. 18, 2012:

"my name is ola and i always get hola ola . iam an arab" Apr. 29, 2010:

"Ma name is OLA and im NIGERIAN. It was ma grandmum's name and it means gold (r smthn precious and rare)" Jun. 10, 2012

"My name is Ola. I liked my name when i used to live in Europe, but now i live in the US, a lot of latin americans live around her. Every time me and my husband go to the store, and he calls my name, at least one person turns his/her face thinking that someone is greeting them!" Sep. 28, 2010

"my name is Ola and I was born in 1971. I was named after my grandma Ola Mae. I was named Ola Jean. I was born in Florida where I now reside but was raised my entire life in Missouri. I have met one older lady named Ola in Missouri and one older man I knew named Ola in Missouri." May. 23, 2009:

"Could be a short form of Lola or Viola or an adoption of the Spanish word 'hola' (in this case minus the 'h'), meaning 'hello'. It is usually relegated to elderly grandmothers at the moment, but could possibly make a comeback as kind of an alternative to the super-popular Olivia." Jun. 17, 2008:

"My daughter is called Ola (born Boxing Day 2007, so she can't really write yet). My partner is from the Orkney Islands off the north of Scotland, where Ola is a quite popular girl's name. It's the feminine form of the old Viking name "Olaf"." Jun. 8, 2009

"My name is Ola. I live in the southeastern U.S. I was named after my maternal Grandmother and my paternal great-grandmother. The name has never been really common in the U.S. but reached its height of popularity around 1910, or so. Many people ask me the origin and I always say that I'm not quite sure, but my grandmother's name was Ola Mae and that just sounds Mississippi to me!" May. 17, 2009:

"im polish and my name is born in Canada and well my friends make fun of me and say hola ola and i really like my name but my real name is alexandra but everyone calls me ola" Oct. 1, 2008

"Hi! I'm Swedish. And my Name is Ola! The ýfunnyý thing is that I'm a guy. In Sweden Ola is a masculine name. We don't pronounce it like "hola" we pronounce it like "oola" With a long U-sound :) Like "Ooh lala" People always likes to make fun of my name, and i think it's quite embarrassing sometimes but I'm quite used to it. It's really interesting to see that other people, especially girls has the same name as me! o_O" Mar. 28, 2008

"My name is Ola. My parents gave it with the Afican meaning "precious". The most I get is "Hola, Ola!" from people but I love my name and I've never met anothe Ola :)" Mar. 19, 2008

"In Poland, Ola is a nickname for Aleksandra (Alexandra) it is a shortened version of it such as Bob is a shortened version of Robert or Jenn of Jennifer...Everyone in Poland knows that if they meet someone named Ola they automatically know that her formal name is Aleksandra..." Jun. 27, 2007

"My wife is Ola; her mother is OLA and so was her mother,whose mother gave her the name of her midwife,OLA, who was of Scandinadion descent.Never met another OLA yet.Midwife lived in early 1900's." May. 13, 2007

"lol well my name is ola and i think i've experienced the same thing with my spanish friends they always say Hola ola so it sounds like ola ola hehe i like it ;).. and even my teacher always makes a song of my name ola yola yola, even at work my friend always say bella ola ola, and my other french friend always say olala so its kinda cool and funny u know! and i just read that my name's origin is Scandinavian!! i really don't know but yeah ola is a cool name short and easy to remember ;) VIVA OLA hehe" Oct. 28, 2006

"It's one of the coolest names that only nice girls have;-)" Mar. 24, 2006: Report as inappropriate
"it is my name but it has an arabic origin and it means highness. I love my name but when i travel i feel different because my name isn't so popular.what's good in it is that it's always correctly pronounced and spelled. In my country i've met lots of girls with the same name because it's really popular in arabic countries but unfortunately it's not so popular all around the world." Mar. 22, 2006:

"Hmmm...well for me Ola is my last name...It is a common west african name and may also be used as a first name. When pronouncing the name you must put emphasis on the -la in Ola and you draw out the sound of the O" Nov. 19, 2005
Excerpt #5
"Ola Mae" is a female double name that is formed by combining the name "Ola" with the name "Mae"*. I haven't found any information about the name "Ola Mae", but given the information about the name "Ola" and the name "Mae", and given other online "hits" for this name (from and from YouTube for example) I think it's safe to say that
1) "Ola Mae" appears to be a name that was coined in the United States
2) "Ola Mae" is now considered an old fashioned name and is rarely given to girls (probably since the mid 20th century if not earlier)
3) The name "Ola Mae" was most closely associated with the southern region of the United States
4) Both White females and Black females were named "Ola Mae"
The name "Ola" in "Ola Mae" may come from any of the language sources that are noted in this post.

Here's some information about the female name "Mae":
"Mae, a sweet and springlike old-fashioned name, hadn't been on the national charts in forty years, but finally made it back in 2010 -- and has since climbed quite a bit. Mae is one of the prettiest middle name options (Eric Clapton has an Ella Mae, Greg Kinnear an Audrey Mae, Ian Ziering a Penna Mae). The May spelling makes it more of a month name, while Mae makes it an antique nickname name. Both can stand on their own--as seen by Kathryn Hahn's choice of Mae as her daughter's first name.

Mae, a top 100 name through 1920, was big in early film history--there were leading actresses named Mae Clarke, Mae Marsh, Mae Busch and Mae Murray. Towering over them (figuratively) was Mae West, who changed the name from sweet to sexy. This image continued with Madonna's character in A League of Their Own, known as 'All the way Mae.'

Mae Jemisen was the first African-American woman to travel in space. Currently, Mae Whitman is a rising young actress seen on Parenthood and Arrested Development.

It may be worth noting that Mãe is the Portuguese word for mother, so if you've got Brazilian or Portuguese relatives, it's probably best to stick to May or Mei."

Excerpt #6
"Oula: A Quranic Name for Girls
Alternate spellings of Oula: Oolaa, Oulaa, Oola

All of the above spellings are acceptable for this name. You may also create your own spelling.

Quranic Root: W-HAMZ-L

All Quranic baby names derived from W-HAMZ-L:
Abdul, Awwal, Amatul, Awwal, Awla, Awwal, Awwalan, Awwalan, Oula, Wael, Waelah, Wayel

Meaning of Oula:
Oula is an Arabic name for girls that means “first”, “foremost”, it is the feminine of Awwal. It is used 20 times in the Quran.
I'm not sure how the Arabic name "Oula" is pronounced. However, I think that this is the Arabic name that some of the commenters in Excerpt #4 referred to.

Excerpt #6:
"Ola" is a Yoruba name element which now* appears to most often be given the meaning "wealth", but whose traditional meaning** is "wealth" or "honor". Yoruba word elements can be used as either a prefix or a suffix.

*based on the name meanings and comments given in the 2013-2015 discussion thread "Lists Of Yoruba Names And Their English Meaning"

**based on information that is found in Nigerian musician, composer, and scholar Fela Sowande's 1966 book The Mind Of A Nation- The Yoruba Child (Ibadan: Ibadan University).

Here's an excerpt from the chapter in that book entitled "Yoruba Names And Their Meanings"
"Page 41
Yoruba names are therefore much more than mere identification tags, much more than mere "luggage labels"; each has a reason (a) for being just what it is; and (b) for being given to a particular individual. Yoruba names embody circumstances of birth, history, family, religion, or some other equally pertinent facts relevant to that particular individual bearing the name. Yoruba names are, in fact, in most cases contractions of whole sentences...

Normally, however, Yoruba names are contracted sentences. Abimbola is short for "A bi mi ba ola" or "I was born in the midst of honor" (or prestige, or renown). This is a very useful method for deriving the meaning of Yoruba names, and words, for most Yoruba words respond to the same treatment. This is possible, partly on account of the monosyllabic base on which Yoruba language rests. Compound words are, in the vast majority of cases, but single words joined together to make longer ones.

There is, of course, what we may call "the intermediate" type of Yoruba name, in which the name is neither a contraction of a whole phrase or sentence, like "Atolye", nor is it a whole sentinece [sic] in itself, like "Bo lu o te," but is 'in-between'-usually a complete but inconclusive phrase like "Abayomi" i. e. "My vilifiers would have rejoiced at my misfortune," or "I would have been held up for ridicule," each requiring an "if" phrase which has been left unexpressed....

Page 42
Therefore, it is proper and valid to derive the meanings of Yoruba words-certainly of Yoruba proper names-by amplifying them into their original components, thus getting at the meaning of the word, or name, by summation of the meanings of its individual components. This process we might term "derivation through amplification." It is a valid process, but within certain limits only, and with the added proviso that, in amplifying words into their original components, we do not play about with tonal inflections, without clear and justifiable reasons.

But for the moment we are primarily concerned with the distinctive character of Yoruba names. By comparison, European names like Jack, Mary, Joan, Edward, etcetera, seem tame. A boy named Edward is not thereby and therefore identified with Edward the Black Prince of history; neither does a Joan automatically consider herself in some way related to the famous Joan of Arc, or to any other historically famous Joan. In Yorubaland, on the contrary, the name itself tell us so many things about that thing or person bearing that name....

Page 43
It is therefore one of the basic characteristics of Yoruba names that they are meaningful in a precise and specific way, and that they contain, virtually, the essence of the nature or being of the thing named, be it a town, or a person, a leaf, an animal, a tree, or even man-made objects like drums, baskets, water-pots, etcetera.


Page 44
16. "Oyerola"
= Oye to ola = High rank is equivalent to (i. e., is such that it has brought) honor (or authority, dignity).


Page 45
20. "Olayinka"
= Ola yi mi ka = Honor (authority, dignity) surrounds me.

21. Olatunde
= Ola tun de. i. e., tun (pada) de = Honor has returned again.

22. Olabopo
= Ola bo si ipo (re) = Honor has returned to its rightful place.

Click for a 2014 pancocojams post which presents the complete chapter on Yoruba names from that book by Fela Sowande.

Part II of this pancocojams series on the name "Ola" presents a long but still partial list of Yoruba names that include the element "ola". Those names were extracted from a larger list of Yoruba names that included other elements (prefixes/suffixes).
Yoruba names can be used as given names (first or middle name). Yoruba names can also be surnames (family names; last names), or titles.

"Ola" is a Yoruba name element which now* appears to most often be given the meaning "wealth", but whose traditional meaning** is "honor (esteem)" or "wealth".

*based on the name meanings and comments given in the 2013-2016 discussion thread that is excerpted in this post.

**based on the information presented in the chapter about names in Fela Sowande's book The Mind Of A Nation- The Yoruba Child

Yoruba word elements such as "ola" can be used as either a prefix or a suffix.

From what I've read, a number of Yoruba names are unisex, meaning they can be given to males or to females.

A Yoruba woman who I met decades ago in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania suggested that I use the vowel sounds for Spanish for Yoruba pronunciation (for instance "a"= "ah", "e"= "a", "i"="e", "o"=oh, "u"=oo". This is probably not the way that Yoruba vowels are always pronounced.

Most of the Yoruba names that are found online are given without the accent mark or accent marks that they have in Yoruba writing. I assume that those marks determine how those names are pronounced.

I'm not sure if there is a standard rule for which syllable in Yoruba words/names is usually emphasized. Although it probably isn't correct, I've gotten into the habit of applying the same rule for pronouncing Yoruba (and other non-English languages) that Americans (people in the United States) use for most "English" words, including names: Put the emphasis on the second to the last syllable. Using that rule, the name "Olatunji" is pronounced "oh-lah-TOON-jee.", but that may not be the way that Yoruba name is supposed to be pronounced.

I'd love to know how these words are really pronounced by Yorubas.


The 1959 vinyl record Drums Of Passion by Yoruba drummer, educator, social activist, and recording artist Babatunde* Olatunji (April 7, 1927 – April 6, 2003) introduced many Americans to Nigerian music.

*"Babatunde" = "baba" (father) + "tunde" = "come again" or "returned"

ADDED October 20, 2017

"Lola M/F Lingala [language] [meaning] Heaven"

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