As many of you know, I’m a good half Greek, but as not too many of you know, the other half of me is Choctaw and Cherokee Native American. Today, I’ll focus on Cherokee names and naming rules and next time we’ll look at Choctaw.
Cherokee has its own alphabet and its own naming rules, much like any other language. For example: There are no Cherokee sounds for the letters B, F, P, R, V, X, Z, SH, or TH. Cherokee speakers replace them with the lettesr QU so they would pronounce Rebecca “quay-quay-gah”. SH becomes S, TH becomes T, R is sometimes L or QU (Mary would be may-lee), and KR/CR/CHR becomes QU so Chris becomes quiss.
In Cherokee, syllables end in vowels so if your name ends in a consonant, like Megan, you become Megana.
Seven is a very important number to the Cherokee spiritually. There were seven clans, seven levels to the Universe, and so on, which is why it was used in their naming. Cherokee society is matrilineal so the child takes its name from its mother. There would be a ceremony within seven days of the birth, including the tribe’s priest and several wise women. A prominent elderly woman would name the baby based on its appearance at birth or, resemblance to some object. The name given at birth was frequently a nickname that would be changed later according to deeds and life experience. A name was considered part of the personality and it was believed that injury would occur if the name was misused.
Here are some Cherokee names and their meanings.
Adsila — ahd-SEE-lah — “blossom”
Agasga — ah-GAHS-gah — “rain”
Ahyoka — ah-YOH-kah — “She brought happiness”
Atsila — aht-SEE-lah — “fire”
Awinita — ah-wee-NEE-tah — “Fawn”
Galilahi — GAH-lee-LAH-hee — “Attractive”
Gola — GOH-lah — “winter”
Inola — ee-NO-lah — “black fox”
Kamama — kah-MAH-mah — “butterfly”
Salali — sah-LAH-lee — “squirrel”
Tayanita — TAH-yah-NEE-tah — “young beaver”
Tsula — JOO-lah — “fox”
Unega — oo-NAY-gah — “white”
Woya — WOH-yah — “dove”
Yona — YOH-nah — “bear”
Ahuli — ah-HOO-lee — “drum”
Atohi — ah-TOH-hee — “woods”
Atsadi — aht-SAH-dee — “fish”
Diwali — dee-WAH-lee — “bowls”
Dustu — DOO-stoo — “spring frog”
Kanuna — kah-NOON-ah — “bullfrog”
Onacona — OH-nah-COH-nah — “white owl”
Sequoyah — say-KWOH-yah — “sparrow”
Tsiyi — JEE-yee — “canoe”
Unaduti — OO-nah-DOO-tee — “wooly head”
Waya — WAH-yah — “Wolf”
Wesa — WAY-sah — “cat”
Wohali — woh-HAH-lee — “eagle”
Here is a pronunciation key:
a = like the a in father
e = similar to the a in Kate
i = like the i in police, i.e ee
o = like the o in note
u = like the u in tune, like oo
v = like the u in fun but nasalized. So like when you say uh-huh.
ai = like the i in ice
tl = like the Ll in the beginning of Llewellyn–a breathy L
ts = like a J
y = as in yes
Whether you saw something usable or not here, I hope you found this interesting. Until the next article with Choctaw names…happy naming!
Angel Thomas, better known on Nameberry as Dantea, is a stay-at-home mom with a passion for onomastics who writes fantasy novels in her spare time. Her knowledge of Greek names stems from her ancestry and her religion.