Native American Names Round 1 — Cherokee
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 girl and boy 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.
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on October 15th, 2013 at 11:06 pm
I like the sound and meaning of Wohali. It would certainly make a cool middle, at the very least.
This post has inspired me to do some of my own Native American tribal naming background research of sorts!
on October 16th, 2013 at 12:28 am
Inola is beautiful.
Very interesting post. Can’t wait for the next.
on October 16th, 2013 at 12:57 am
Dantea, you are my favorite flavor of Berry Juice. Great job, as always, writing an article that is both substanative and fun.
Seconding love for Inola.
on October 16th, 2013 at 6:27 am
I like Wesa and Onacona, just by their sounds. I also love the idea of “little white owl”) Gola isn’t bad either, especially with its meaning. I like the idea of naming a child based on their looks – you know the name fits the child, at least for the moment, and s/he can change it later.
on October 16th, 2013 at 8:47 am
I already have my girls but if I were still naming,
Ahyoka — ah-YOH-kah — “She brought happiness” would be near impossible to resist!
on October 16th, 2013 at 5:07 pm
Interesting post–thanks! Now I wish I had some Cherokee connection so I could consider some of these. My favorites are Ahyoka (adorable!), Adsila and Atsila. Galilahi is loads of fun to say and makes me think of both Galilee and Leilani.
on October 17th, 2013 at 10:57 am
Diwali is a prominent Indian festival, so I find the idea of using at as a name intriguing. Great post! I really love Atsila, Adsila, and Inola.
on October 17th, 2013 at 6:28 pm
So Lucy would be pron. Lou-see-ah? Many ppl say Lucia is pron, in this way, but am I correct in saying, having grown up around Italians, that Lucia is pron. Loo-chee-ah? This is what i was called for years in Italian households.
I like Loo-see-ah //Lucya 😉 Love, love, love this article!!
on October 17th, 2013 at 6:33 pm
I’m glad so many of you liked it. ^_^
Lucy would be like loo-Kyah. Y doesn’t make an ee sound, it just says yuh like in yes then with the added A. 🙂
native american girl names that start with j | Beauty girl images Said
on October 23rd, 2016 at 11:24 pm
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on January 25th, 2018 at 7:25 am
The name adsila isn’t a name for blossom in cherokee & since that is my name the correct spelling is atsilásgá so someone seriously needs to correct it asap since I am a cherokee teenage girl with the name atsilásgá which means blossom in cherokee & the adsila means nothing in cherokee at all & @auroradawn since atsilásgá is my name this has it misspelled because it is my name after all so I think I’d be the one with the correct spelling of my own name in cherokee too!
on July 13th, 2018 at 7:49 am
I’m going to have to second what Atsilásgá said. Adsila doesn’t appear in this online dictionary: http://www.cherokeedictionary.net/ Great list though, makes a fantastic jumping-off point since it can be hard to find information on Native American names.
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