Let’s hear it for the Ola Names: Lola, Viola and Finola

By Linda Rosenkrantz

I’ve long loved Lola, and lately I’ve been crushing on Viola and Finola–which inspired me to take a look at what other ola names there are, and was pleased to find that there are lots of options, coming from several different ethnicities. As opposed to the diminutive ina-ending, ola‘s long o-sound gives her a certain strength combined with femininity that is really appealing. So here come the ola girls:

AmapolaThis rarely heard name is of Arabic origin and means ‘poppy’—in fact there was a hugely popular Big Band-era hit song called ‘Amapola, my pretty little poppy.”  The Greek name Anatola is related to the ancient Turkish place name Anatolia.

CarolaOne of the more unusual members of the Carol family, heard more often in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Scandinavia

FabiolaWe’ve always liked the Fab-names—Fabia, Fabiola and Fabienne–bringing to mind such words as fabulous and fable. Fabiola is a diminutive of Fabia, and was borne by a fourth century Roman saint who was a physician famous for organizing the first hospice for sick travelers, as well as the name of a modern Queen of Belgium.

FinolaWe’re beginning to hear a lot of buzz around Finola, joining fellow Fins Finn, Finley, Finnigan, Fionnuala/Finula, etc. It’s been associated most recently with actress and TV host Finola Hughes, and is an accessible import that still has traces of Irish myth.

Gladiola—Common though its namesake is in the garden, this is one flower name that has rarely been picked by parents.  Its meaning is ‘sword’ and has the pleasant association of gladness in its first syllable—the nickname Glad shared with Gladys.

IolaIola, which means ‘violet’- has a dated feel, evoking characters in early twentieth century novels and the Carol Burnett Mama’s Family show: in fact, it was on the popularity list from 1880 to 1945, getting as high as Number 265 in 1907. In Wales, it’s used as a feminine version of the haunting Iolo, and pronounced YO-la. It might be time to look at it with fresh eyes, as a possible Lola, Isla, Iolanthe alternative.

LolaLola is, of course, the ultimate ola name. Originally a Spanish pet form of Dolores, t’s been chosen by dozens of celebs, from Kelly Ripa to Annie Lennox and Lisa Bonet (and by Madonna as a nickname for Lourdes). Still retaining the femme fatale aura she’s had since the nineteenth century, Lola is currently ranked at Number 214 here—the highest since the 1890s– and in the Top 25 in England and Wales.

NicolaCommon and somewhat dated in other English-speaking countries—it reached as high as third place in England in the seventies– Nicola feels much fresher than Nicole does in the US.  Nicola is used equally for males in Italy.

NolaNola has a somewhat mysterious air, almost, but not quite, as sensuous as Lola, and has been favored by such moviemakers as Spike Lee and Woody Allen. Ranked now at Number 358 by Nameberries, it was as high as 254 nationally around the turn of the nineteenth century.

Paola—This lovely Italian name, pronounced POW-la, brings instant glamour and life to the dated English Paula, and is a classic in its native habitat, as well as being well used in Spain and Croatia.

PolaPola had her moment of fame via Polish-born silent screen star Pola Negri (born Apolonia).  Marilyn Monroe played a Pola in the film How to Marry a Millionaire.  Could make a possible namesake for a Grandma Paula.

RomolaThis attractive name will have strong literary appeal to George Eliot fans: she created the name for the heroine of her eponymous 1862 novel set in Renaissance Florence.

Sulola—The middle name of Heidi Klum and Seal’s daughter Lou might sound at first like a smoosh, but it is a Nigerian name reflecting Seal’s African roots.

TolaA Polish name meaning ‘prospering,’ Tola appears as a male name in both the Book of Genesis and the Book of Judges.

ViolaViola has so much going for her—the vivid V-sound, the musical association,  Shakespearian cfed, being a stronger and less popular alternative to Violet. It’s been off the list since 1972, but is definitely due for a revival, judging by it’s her high place on Nameberry—Number 189.

Zola—This French literary surname was chosen for his daughter by Eddie Murphy—which probably had more to do with its Z+ola sound.  Zola Budd is the name of an outstanding South African long distance runner, and the name was used for a baby on Grey’s Anatomy (shown).

And finally there is the simple Ola itself.


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18 Responses to “Let’s hear it for the Ola Names: Lola, Viola and Finola”

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ariadnejuna Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 5:20 am

These are all great names, kind of sad Isola isn’t on here but Zola is 🙂 btw Kate Moss’ daughter is called Lila x

senseandsensibility Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 5:24 am

Here’s a funny fact: in Poland Ola is a nn for Alexandra. May seem weird because the two names don’t even look alike, but it is so popular that some Alexandra’s go only by the nn Ola. Other nn include Jola for longer form Jolanta. (“J” pronounced like “Y”). One of my favourites ending in -ola are Viola and Nola. So sweet and girly sounding.

Myosotis Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 5:28 am

I’m more into -ora names, but I love Viola, and Lola, Nola, Amapola, and Anatola, are pretty as well. Iola looks so pretty, but out load, it just reminds me of YOLO (you only live once), which I am so sick of hearing as an excuse to do whatever you want.

trysaratops Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 5:43 am

Kate Moss has a daughter named Lila, not Lola. Although, Lola is lovely!

Sunflowerist Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 7:19 am

I know an older woman named Iola… she pronounces it Eye-oh-luh though.

miloowen Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 7:47 am

I love Amapola (maybe just because I love the Big Band era)….and Paola is one of my favourite names. The others — meh.

joel613 Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 9:41 am



Don’t care for:

namesage Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 9:46 am

I have just started to become a fan of these names in the last year or so! Particularly Finola and Nola. My favorite would probably be Winola, though i would probably use it to get to the nn Winnie. I definitely think Zola could grow on me. I also know a lovely older woman namef Iola who pronounces it as the pp said. I also see the appeal of that one. The one i just can’t get behind? Lola. Have no idea why, but just have never been a fan at all!

mill1020 Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 10:07 am

Oh my gosh, I’d forgotten all about Iola from “Mama’s Family” but I LOVE it.

gb Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 10:33 am

I love Nola, especially because of its old-fasioned popularity! I saw on the SSA website that it was very popular at the end of the 1800’s! I’m really crushing on Nola. I just wonder if people may confuse it for “Noah” and then she may be correcting people the rest of her life. My name is Kaylin and I’m always correcting people who hear “Kaitlin/Katelyn” instead.

Viola is such a pretty bloom and very old-fashioned as well! So feminine and romantic. This list was fun, thanks for posting!

xinglongneo Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Please note that in the UK, Australia, and South Africa (to name a few) Nicola is pronounced Nic-KAH-la. There’s no “ola” sound in Nicola, as the “o” is pronounced as an “a” and if you use the name here, your child will spend the rest of their lives correcting pronunciation and spelling it out.

lesliemarion Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Gladiola, Nicola, and Paola are wonderful.

Gladiola is downright stupendous!

The others I don’t care for at all.

Too much the hole/ole sound in them.

I think we can pronounce Nicola the Americanized way here; I much prefer it.

sorciereblanche Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Ahh. Viola, my favorite. Swear to Jeevas, that’s gonna be my future daughter’s name.

lazaretto Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 7:58 pm

My daughter is a Nola. I’ve had people ask if she was named for New Orleans. One person thought her name was Noah, but that’s probably because I don’t enunciate as much as I should when I speak. I have received a lot of compliments on the name, but now the pressure is on for naming girl #2. Sometimes I feel like baby 2’s name won’t “live up” to her older sister’s.

Ashleigh315 Says:

May 29th, 2014 at 9:07 pm

I know a Zola, Viola, and Nola! All are adults with great names!

svea Says:

June 2nd, 2014 at 6:11 am

I just like to say that the entry on Ola is wrong… it’s not a female Scandinavian version of Olof, it’s a regional male variation of it. Ole would be the (male!) Norwegian (and maybe Danish too) equivalent to Ola.

Finola and Viola are lovely. I also like Iola a lot.

changingtunes Says:

June 6th, 2014 at 4:30 pm

My grandmother’s name was Leola. I love the little extra over Lola

shellezbellez Says:

December 26th, 2014 at 3:24 am

I love, love, love Zola, and have since I heard it on Grey’s Anatomy! It’s so cute and spunky, but has a weight to it as well.

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