Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
IN THE BEGINNING
Leah, she of the tender eyes, spends much of the Book of Genesis in competition with her younger sister, Rachel. They both marry Jacob and bear him children.
Philosophers and writers loved to compare them. Philo associated Leah with reasoning and Rachel with feeling. Augustine made Rachel the symbol of monastic life; Leah, of the active one. In Dante’s Purgatory, Leah explained that Rachel’s “joy is in reflection, mine in act.”
Several meanings are suggested: weary, cow, ruler.
The baby name Leah rose in use during the Protestant Reformation, as Old Testament choices replaced saints’ names. It traveled to the New World early days.
AN ABUNDANCE OF LEAHS
The baby name Leah has never left the US Top 500, not since the data was first recorded in the year 1880.
Since 1979, it has appeared in the US Top 100 most years. That makes it a name for a mother or a daughter, tough to pin to any particular decade.
It peaked at #24 in 2010, but remains at #45 as of 2020.
Famous bearers of the name include:
- Late nineteenth century novelist Belle Kendrick Abbott’s Leah Mordecai is the story of the challenges faced by a young Jewish woman growing up in the South.
- Leah Baird starred in silent films during the 1910s and 20s.
- Celebrated Israeli author Leah Goldberg wrote everything from poetry to children’s stories.
- Actors include King of Queens‘ Leah Remini and Glee’s Lea Michelle.
- Roy Orbison recorded a single by the name in the 1960s. Donnie Iris scored a hit with “Ah! Leah!” in 1980.
- One of the Gosselin sextuplets of Kate Plus 8 fame wears the name. Princess Martha Louise of Sweden gave the name to her daughter. So did troubled reality star Amber Portwood of Teen Mom fame.
- It’s the name of a werewolf in the Twilight series. Leahs also appear in Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Pick a decade, and someone notable has answered to Leah.
LEA and LIA
Change the spelling ever so slightly, and the baby name Leah becomes a world traveler.
Drop the h, and Lea appears in French and German, as well as Scandinavian and Slavic languages.
Swap the ‘e’ for an ‘i’, and Lia is Italian.
Keep both vowels, and Leia is the possibly-related name of Star Wars hero Leia Organa.
But while American English speakers pronounce Leah with a long ‘e’ sound – lee-uh – Princess Leia is lay-uh.
Both Lea and Lia appear in the current US Top 1000, with Lea at #745 and Lia at #289.
LA LA LOVELY
It’s not just the baby name Leah, though.
Girl names beginning with L top the charts. Factor in El names, and it’s ubiquitous.
There might be just one Leah in any given class, but chances are that there will also be a Layla, Elena, Ella, Lily, Lyla, Luna, Lucy, or Eloise in the same group.
Lovely L names are everywhere.
And yet, even though L names dominate the popularity charts for girls, the baby name Leah remains a timeless favorite. It’s complete and enduring, a name equally appropriate for a child or an adult.
It’s not trendy or dated. In many ways, Leah hits the sweet spot.
What do you think of the baby name Leah?
This post was originally published on August 17, 2009. It was substantially revised and re-posted on August 24, 2015 and again on October 20, 2021.
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