Baby Names Trend: Camilla, Willa, Priscilla–the new killer ‘illa’ names

Guest blogger Angela  Mastrodonato, of Upswing Baby Names spots an impending baby names trend: names ending in ‘illa’ replacing the ubiquitous ‘ella’s.

When it comes to names, a small change can make a big impact. Ella-ending names have been loved for a while for their elaborate elegance. To find fresh alternatives, simply swap a vowel in the suffix: Illa-ending names are just as graceful, but not nearly as ubiquitous, as their Ella-ending cousins.

The most popular illa-ending name, Camilla, has steadily climbed the U.S. Social Security list over the past decade, but is still relatively uncommon compared to its super popular ella-ending counterpart. There were over thirty Isabellas for every Camilla born in 2011, the latest year Social Security statistics are available.

Camilla’s numbers could increase in coming years as name styles evolve, just as the currently popular ella-names are successors to the elle-names (such as Michelle and Danielle) common in the mom generation.

The next group of popular names could well be the illa-names,  but for the moment, let’s celebrate illa-names’ relatively low profile. Only three names on the following list are also on the Social Security top 1000: Camilla, Priscilla, and Willa, and none of these names have reached the top 400 yet.

Aracilla – is derived from a fascinating Spanish name, Araceli, which means “altar of the sky”.

Camilla – In Roman mythology, Camilla is a warrior maiden and in contemporary times, the wife of Charles, Prince of Wales.

Drusilla – This stately name is derived from a Roman family name and appears in the New Testament book of Acts. This name hasn’t been in the top 1000 since 1914. Modernize this vintage discovery with the nickname Dru.

Illa – A short form of the Hebrew name Ilana. Short I-names, such as Iris, Isla, and Ivy, are in demand, giving this name potential.

Jamilla – An easy-to-wear name derived from at least three similar Arabic names all meaning “beautiful” or “lovely”: Jameelah, Jamillah, and Jamila.

Lilla – Perfect for those seeking names like Lily, but not recommended for those suffering from Lily-fatigue.

Lucilla – is a diminutive of the stylish Lucia and the name of a martyred saint. Surprisingly, Lucilla has never reached the top 1000.

Ludmilla – Conventional parents might prefer the smooth sound of Lucilla, yet this noble Slavic name has an impressive pedigree. Ludmilla was a saint who was also a Bohemian princess.

Marilla – appears in Anne of Green Gables as Marilla Cuthbert, the older women who adopted Anne. The name briefly visited the top 1000 in the late nineteenth century.

Milla – This short form of Camilla, Jamilla and Ludmilla is very similar to fast rising Mila.

Priscilla – was popular among the Puritans and was the name of Mayflower passenger, Priscilla Alden, who was featured in Longfellow’s poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish.  In modern times Priscilla is most associated with rock royalty.

Quilla – boasts the quirky Q and ancient roots. Mama Quilla was the Inca goddess of the moon. Also comes from the word quill as in quill pens. A good nickname forAquila or a spunky independent name.

Sevilla – comes from an ancient city inSpain, and has the popular L/V combo found in top names such as Evelyn, Olivia, and Violet.

Sybilla – comes from the same family as Sibyl/Sybil, which originated from the ancient Greek word for “prophetess”. Sybil may come into style thanks to the TV show, Downtown Abby. If this happens, Sybilla may catch on too.

Tehilla – An intriguing choice, most likely a variation of the Hebrew name Tehila, which means “praise.” There is a 17-year-old Swedish actress named Tahilla Blad.

Willa – A promising revival name that just re-entered the top 1000 in 2010 after nearly a fifty-year absence. Willa has a sweet charm similar to fashionableWillow.

Yarmilla – Slavic names such as Casimira, Ivana, andTanis, are bold and promising. Yarmilla is a bold Slavic name with an industrious meaning, “trader”.

Zilla – has the trendy Z, but the possible connection to Godzilla could hold it back.Granted, some of these names are risky, namely Zilla, and the suffix by itself, Illa, looks a bit sparse—perhaps incomplete as an independent name.  But, a few risky choices aside, these are wonderfully underrepresented names. Modern parents might gravitate towards these first: CamillaLucilla, Jamilla, Milla, Priscilla, and Willa, while these might appear on bolder parents’ lists: Aracilla, Drusilla, Quilla, Sevilla, Sybilla, and Tehilla.

Overall, these names feel like discoveries from a museum archive or your grandmother’s attic. They have been around a long time, and hidden away for at least a few decades, but once they come out of storage, others will remember what made them special.

Angela created the blog Upswing Baby Names out of an obsession with baby name statistics, trends, and predictions. She put her predictions into a book, The Top 22 in 2022. She is also an avid runner, wannabe foodie, and devoted mom of two.  

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34 Responses to “Baby Names Trend: Camilla, Willa, Priscilla–the new killer ‘illa’ names”

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sarahmezz Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 2:19 am

I must admit, I don’t really like “illa” names! The only names on your list I really like are Milla and Sybilla.

LauraJ88 Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 3:05 am

Drusilla is the name of one of the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella. I don’t know about anyone else, but that would put me off using it!

I think Willa is lovely. I would potentially use it for a daughter to honour a William.

upswingbabynames Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 6:13 am

@LauraJ88: I had completely forgotten about Drusilla being one of the ugly stepsisters. Regardless, I agree Drusilla is one of the riskier choices.

alzora Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 6:35 am

I never liked the -illa names until I met a young, beautiful girl who went by just Cilla. Cilla skyrocketed to one of my top three names for a while, and would still be a contender though I’ve found other names I like slightly more. I love the above-mentioned Sybilla as a sweet way to get the nickname Billie, which I think is fun on a girl.

Guest Blogging News: ‘illa’ Names | Upswing Baby Names Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 6:44 am

[…] I have a post on Nameberry today about illa-ending names, Baby Name Trends: Camilla, Willa, Priscilla – the new killer ‘illa’ names. […]

Alexandra1 Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 6:52 am

I love most of these, @LauraJ88 I also like Willa is a great William tribute. The name I can’t get on board with is definitely Zilla…..just reminds me of godzilla, bridezilla, etc….not good connections!

petalpusher Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 7:16 am

I have been loving -illa names for quite a while now! I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to talk my husband into using one for our little girl. I love Camilla, Willa, and Lucilla. My favorite by far is Marilla with the nickname Rilla…but then again I’m a huge Anne of Green Gables fan! Maybe some day I can have a sweet little Rilla. Sigh.

UniqueNameLover Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 8:18 am

I really dislike -illa names for the most part.

HerMajesty Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 8:32 am

I love Illa names! I have been a fan of them forever with my long time favourites Drucilla, Prissilla, and Willa. I like Camilla and Lilla, Marilla and Lucilla too. They are all so pretty, and Aracilla and Zilla seem pretty cool too. They may be the -Ella successors, but since non of them (except three) are even in the top 1,000, it will more than likely be a long time coming.

Poppy528 Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 8:41 am

Having the Spanish name Sevilla on the list is confusing since LL is a Y sound in Spanish. I would seriously LOL at anyone insisting Sevilla be pronounced with an English tongue (I have a hard time not mocking the entire town of Amarillo, Tx for the same reason too). Tehilla is a stretch as the Hebrew name is pronounced t’hee-LA (not sure how the Swedes would say it).

UselessKitty Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 10:01 am

Not a fan of the “illa” names. I don’t find the sounds pleasing to the ear. The only name I like is Drusilla, and that is because I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Camilla isn’t bad, but it will always be linked to trashy day-time tv for me, thanks to the Camilla Scott talk show that was popular in Canada when I was in high school.

GoodHope Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 10:39 am

I love Camilla! It’s been in and out of my top 10 for years. I also really like Drusilla, Willa, and Sybilla. As much as I want to like Priscilla, I can’t get past its prissy beginning, and the cool Zilla is spoiled by Godzilla, Bridezilla, and the like.

I’d love to see more of these -illa names show up irl. Anything for break from the -ellas and -annas/-anas.

skizzo Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 10:40 am

I think you mean Camila not Camilla. Camila is the most popular spelling

MissusAytch Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 10:55 am

I love -illa names! Drusilla is lovely. I remember it from Buffy back in the day. I think it’s white wearable. A lot of these are really nice. Quilla is cute, but I think I prefer Aquila/Aquilla. Quill is a cute nn.

@Poppy528, as a Texan I’d advise against mocking an entire town in the TX panhandle – not to their face anyway. 🙂 People of the Western/SW’ern US have adapted a lot of Spanish & Mexican words and culture into our own, the same way European Spaniards adapted a lot of older native words and practices. Pronunciations get changed. It doesn’t make them wrong, just different. Go to Amarillo and start calling it ah-ma-REE-yo, and most Texans will look at you funny.

Poppy528 Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 11:08 am

@MissusAytch… girl, don’t worry. I’m from Oklahoma and we only mock Texans behind their back. 😉

LexieM Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I love Willa but the others don’t feel as fresh to me as they seem to do for others.

upswingbabynames Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 12:08 pm

@skizzo, you are right that Camila is a lot more popular than Camilla right now.

I used to not like Camilla, mostly because I was never a fan of Camilla Parker Bowles.

But lately I have started to separate Camilla from Parker Bowles and I see great potential. I really think it’s sweet and even briefly considered it had my son been a girl. I crossed it off the list because I was afraid it would get too popular! LOL!

I wouldn’t mind seeing more girls named Camilla.

punkprincessphd Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Actually, the “Ugly Stepsister” is called Drizella in the Disney version. And the connection hasn’t hurt the popularity of Anastasia, as far as I know.

punkprincessphd Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I think “illa” names will take off as “ella” fatigue hits, but will probably be limited to the more familiar: Willa, Priscilla, Camilla.

Also made me think of the name Smilla the novel (and film) Smilla’s Sense of Snow.

EmilyVA Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 1:05 pm

@petalpusher I agree with everything you said about Marilla.
My other favorite is Priscilla. Willa sounds very 90’s or 2000’s to me.
My favorite -ella name is Della, which never caught on (at least on its own). Neither did Marcella, Fenella, etc. Anyway my point is that not all ella names caught. A few did but but a lot of them didn’t. Then again I am surprised Camilla is rising. Maybe its to get to the nickname Cam and imitate Camden, Cameron, and be more girly.

nat108 Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I think Sevilla is lovely but does not belong on this list
Say-VEE-ya= gorgeous
Sa-VILL-a= ouch!

tori101 Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Personally the ‘ella’ and ‘elle’ names are prettier than the ‘illa’ names. I think the ‘illa’ names lack the attractiveness that names like Isabella and Gabrielle have.

However from the list I like:
Jamilla (prefer Jamila)
Lilla (prefer Lilia)
Willa (great way to honour William)

mamablossom Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I love Willa, it’s in our top 3 for our 4th girl, due any week now. Camilla and Milla are lovely too.

chicamerlin Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Downtown Abby? Seriously? If DOWNTON ABBEY is so well known and such an influencer of names you would think more people would be able to spell it correctly 😉

I like Aracilla, Milla, Priscilla, Quilla, and Willa.

Cilla is a name too, as well as Pernilla. They are both names used in Sweden, as are a lot of other “Illa” names, like Tehilla. There is also a Swedish actress named Pernilla August who was in Star Wars.

MissusAytch Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

@Poppy528 – well same here, so I guess we’re good! 😉

leonielee Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 5:55 pm

@Poppy528- Try living in Indiana near a town called Versailles, pronounced by the locals as Ver-SALES. Drives me insane!

peacelovepurple Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 6:01 pm

I like Milla and Willa. But, personally, Quilla sounds too much like “KILL-uh” to me…

littlemissmariss Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 8:26 pm

I can’t say I’m a fan of -illa names, honestly! I do like Willa, its lovely. And some of the others would be lovely on someone elses kids, but not ones I’d use myself <3

cilla Says:

February 7th, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I am a Priscilla and I hated it as a kid. So i am Cilla and only go by Priscilla professionally. I am liking it a bit more now and am surprised it is back in fashion.

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

February 8th, 2013 at 2:15 am

Nice trend-spotting! 🙂

I like Jamilla, Marilla, Priscilla and Zillah the best.

Milla and Sybilla are a mite too trendy for me, and Illa just makes me think of the word “ill”.

We recently had an article on how the OO sound is in; if ILL is in too, Drusilla gets a double-dose of hipness.

opalmoon Says:

February 11th, 2013 at 10:22 am

Jamila/Jamilla has been a long time favourite of mine. I think it has a lovely soft sound and I love the meaning of this name. I don’t care much for most of these others though.

maddiejadore Says:

February 17th, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I think the -Ora names are becoming popular too. Flora, Cora, Nora, and Aurora are getting popular.

standingongrace Says:

March 3rd, 2013 at 9:14 pm

What about Rilla? We named our daughter Priscilla but took the prissiness out of it by calling her Rilla for short. She’s now four years old and we still love her name! It’s a nod to the Anne of Green Gables series (“Rilla of Ingleside” is the last of the series, as well as a marvelous book all by itself) and in German it means “little brook.”

JossieChris Says:

June 3rd, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I love Sevilla. Pronunciation problems is my only problem with it.

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