The Florodora Girls: Cora, Dora, Flora & Nora
If you’re wondering about the origins of the term, it dates back to Florodora, one of the first big Broadway musical hits of the twentieth century—it opened in 1900– and the term came to symbolize a kind of saucy, high-kicking, wasp-waisted show gal who might well have been named Flora or Dora—or Cora or Nora—all names then near the height of their popularity.
In 1900, Flora was Number 106 on the list, Dora, 79, Cora 55, and Nora 83, but their rankings would experience somewhat disparate trajectories. While all four peaked in the 1880s, it was only Nora, with her more classic feel, that would maintain respectable numbers throughout the succeeding decades–Flora was the first to vanish completely, in 1972.
But while these names appear to share such a strong family resemblance, they actually have quite different résumés.
CORA. Though Cora‘s roots go back to the ancient Greek — the word kore, meaning ‘girl, maiden’–and it was a title given to Persephone, goddess of springtime, the modern introduction of Cora to the English-speaking world is credited to James Fenimore Cooper and his creation of Cora Munro, the spirited heroine of his 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans. Today, Cora is most visibly tied to the American-born Right Hono(u)rable Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham on Downton Abbey. And the sweet, old-fashioned Cora is now at Number 276, the highest it’s been since 1949, with the expanded Coralie getting some love as well.
DORA started life as a shortening of Dorothy or Theodora, Eleanora, Eudora or Isadora, and wasn’t used as an independent name until the nineteenth century, at first mainly in the works of poets like Thomas Campbell and Alfred Lord Tennyson. The most memorable literary bearer of the name is Dora Spenlow, David Copperfield’s impractical child-wife, and for a while it suffered some negative fallout from an old comic strip called ‘Dumb Dora’. Nowadays, it’s more apt to be identified with TV’s spunky Latina Dora the Explorer. Dora dropped off the list in 1992, but we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this once Top 100 name pop back.
FLORA, the Roman goddess of Spring and flowers, became popular in Scotland and elsewhere via the heroic tale of Flora McDonald’s helping Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape British troops in the eighteenth century. Flora appears in Dickens’s Bleak House and is the young girl in Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, as well as one of the good fairies in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. With all names floral blooming—from Lily to Lilac to Lavender—the all-encompassing, fragrant Flora can’t help but make a comeback. And vintage Bobbsey Twins nicknames Florrie and Flossie sound pretty adorable in the twenty-first century.
NORA –Nora has an elegant Belle Epoch image that has kept it stylish over the decades. Long before it became identified as an Irish-accented name, Nora was used in its original form, Honoria, in the Middle Ages. The most famous literary Nora is the heroine of Ibsen’s The Doll’s House, whose slamming of the door when she left her husband became something of a feminist symbol, and later Nora was Nick Charles’s witty wife in Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man series; today’s most ublic bearer is the equally witty Nora Ephron. Norah is an alternate spelling. Trivia note: Famed Florodora Girl-era singer Nora Bayes changed her name from Dora to what seemed then like the more dignified Nora.
How do you like this genre of names? If you had to pick one, which would it be?
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on February 9th, 2012 at 12:58 am
My pick is Cora.
Nora is lovely but sounds very similar to something unpleasant in Indonesian, my native language. Flora is pretty but too flowery for me, and Dora reminds me of Dora the Explorer which makes it the one I like the least.
on February 9th, 2012 at 1:01 am
I like Nora from the ones listed above. It’s the only one that we’d consider for a future baby. I like Liora, which means my light in Hebrew. Sigh. How sweet is that?!? I also like Mora which means little blueberry in Spanish and teacher in Hebrew. I like zippy Ziporah too!!
Great post, I love the ways it’s structured and I love these cute names! I’d love to see a similar post on the -elda sisters.
on February 9th, 2012 at 1:55 am
Stay tuned–we’ll consider that as a future possibility.
on February 9th, 2012 at 2:48 am
I heard a little Dora yesterday..first for that…
I like Cora..
on February 9th, 2012 at 3:30 am
Love Nora! Top of my list, it holds family significance too, my great-great grandmother’s name was Honora.
on February 9th, 2012 at 6:34 am
I like them all fine, but my heart belongs to Thora.
on February 9th, 2012 at 6:54 am
I’ll be the first to claim Flora. That was the name we wanted to give to our firstborn, which met with much ridicule in 1982. “Sounds like someone who sells violets in an alley,” was the comment that finally discouraged us. Sigh. She became Rory, and when I told her recently that I wished we’d named her Flora, she looked at me like I was crazy. But I have to confess, I still like Flora better!
on February 9th, 2012 at 7:17 am
My name IS Nora, actually, and I’ve grown rather fond of it over recent years. But I’ve got a huge name-crush on Cora – not at all helped by Downton Abbey, which I adore – so that one’s my favourite.
And I second Abby as well, actually – what about Thora?
on February 9th, 2012 at 8:59 am
I used to like Cora but a foul mouthed 7 year old named Cora ruined the name for me. I’ll happily second Flora, though! I love the light, lilting feel of Flora and I can use Flora as a nickname for the familial Florence. Two gems in one! I wonder though, too similar to my own Laura in sound? Awww!
on February 9th, 2012 at 9:08 am
Very nice post. I think I like Dora the best–which may be why I am using it for a character in the novel I’m currently writing! But, I do like Flora, as well, mostly for its floral association. And those ARE cute nicknames!
on February 9th, 2012 at 10:05 am
I have a Dora Mae and a Cora Belle in my family tree. Cora is my favorite. I wish I had the courage to use Thora, it’s such a beautiful name!
on February 9th, 2012 at 10:06 am
Oh, dear. Cora is clearly going to be mega-popular, isn’t it? *sigh* Oh well…I still love it. 🙂 Nora is pretty, too. Dora the Explorer I find obnoxious, but I like longer versions of that name (especially Theodora and Pandora). Flora makes me think of a middle-aged fairy – probably because of the Disney Sleeping Beauty. It has a lovely sound, though!
on February 9th, 2012 at 10:56 am
I’ve been friends with a Nora since I was 7 so I’m quite acclimated to the name.
I knew a Cora in college. To me it’s nice and tainted only slightly by the fact I was studying Japanese at the time so I would often try to get away with calling her Coca-Cora.
I just can’t shake the Dora the explorer image for that name so personally I’d pass on it.
Flora is not my style for any kids I might want to name in the future but it’s a lovely name.
on February 9th, 2012 at 11:12 am
Flora first came on my radar a few years ago when I took a trip to Scotland and heard about Flora MacDonald on a tour (before then, it was just the name of a Disney fairy). I’ve loved it ever since. Cora is pretty, but I prefer it as a nickname for Corinne or Coralie. Nora is sweet. The only one I don’t really care for is Dora. It just sounds dowdy to me.
on February 9th, 2012 at 11:20 am
I love all of the -ora names. Nora is at the top of my list. Isadora is seriously growing on me and I’ve always loved Cora and Thora. Flora is growing on me, as well, as another reference to Sleeping Beauty (one of my favorite movies).
on February 9th, 2012 at 12:53 pm
I have a special place in my heart for Flora, it was my grandmothers name, I’ve always loved the sound and image of it and have suggested it often to people who are expecting. When I did that years ago I would get the “are you kidding” look but an interesting trend of late is now they say that’s pretty or interesting or something they were considering already so I can see it coming back into vogue. Cora and Nora are both charming and ripe for revival but Dora leaves me cold
on February 9th, 2012 at 12:59 pm
My pick is Flora. I do love all of them though, with Dora being my least favorite due to the cartoon reference. I feel like Cora is becoming too popular, I know 2 kids by that name. I’ve never ever met a Flora though and I just love how earthy and floral it sounds. Nora would be my second pick.
on February 9th, 2012 at 1:32 pm
Cora has recently moved to the top of my list, but just now noticing its popularity trajectory gives me pause. Love Norah and Thora.
on February 9th, 2012 at 2:01 pm
I love Izadora. It’s a different name that no one has, and has the -ora ending.
on February 9th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
Nora is my choice! I love her history in Ireland, and I also like spelled Norah.
on February 9th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
Dora. So sweet!
on February 9th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
I’ve never been a huge fan of Nora, but Cora and Dora are pretty – I know the sweetest little girl named Dora! Flora is lovely, but just makes me think of ‘Flora’ Butter – maybe you don’t have that issue in the states? I do know a few Floras here in the UK, though.
on February 9th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
Just thought you’d like to know the musical is actually FlorOdora. FlorAdora was the name of a code during WW2.
on February 9th, 2012 at 4:47 pm
I’m partial to Cora (my 4-yr-old). Wonder what’s happened to Zora. ?
on February 9th, 2012 at 7:24 pm
You’re right! Don’t know how we made that mistake–thanks for setting us straight.
on February 9th, 2012 at 7:38 pm
Cora is my absolute favorite name for a girl, and has been for a while. I like that she’s short, spunky, and easy to say and pronounce. Most people are familiar with her and she would fit in just as well today as she would have 100 years ago. I also like Nora and Thora, but not nearly as much.
on February 9th, 2012 at 8:29 pm
I love Flora and Norah. I grew up with a Nora in school — from 4th grade to graduation. We played softball together — she was our catcher. So Nora (without the h) has very athletic connotations for me! And I love the name of Princess Alexandra’s grandchild, Flora Ogilvy — you can’t get more Highlands than that. While I love Dorothy and Dorothea, my favourite nn is Doro, not Dora, although Dorrie is cute. I do like Theodora and Leonora too.
on February 9th, 2012 at 9:27 pm
I love Isadora (one of my top favorites), Theodora and I especially love Honoria. All lovely, different, not well used names. Old names are the best!! 🙂
on February 9th, 2012 at 9:32 pm
There isn’t a character named Flora in Dickens’ Bleak House. (There is a character named Flora in Little Dorrit.)
on February 9th, 2012 at 9:48 pm
My great grandmother fits in this group perfectly. Her name was just plain Ora.
on February 10th, 2012 at 2:08 am
Katja: You are so right–Flora Finching is a character in Little Dorritt. Thanks for noticing!
on February 10th, 2012 at 12:24 pm
Well, to start with, Cora is my favorite of the group (preferable as a nickname for either Coralie or Coraline). Overall, I do like the “ora” name very much. However, I prefer most of these as nickname for the fuller forms of names (Coralie/Coraline, Dorothy/Theodora/Eudora/Isadora, Eleanora/Honoria, etc.).
on February 10th, 2012 at 10:03 pm
I’m not a fan of Dora or Flora. Dora still reminds me too much of “the Explorer” (I teach 1st grade and can’t imagine Dora losing popularity with that age group for quite some time) and I can’t seem to get passed the “floor” sound in Flora. It sounds so “blah”, in my opinion.
I just adore Cora and Nora, though. 🙂 (And WISH Thora was included!)
on February 10th, 2012 at 10:08 pm
I also LOVE the suggestion of Isadora!! How lovely! So much more mellifluous and unique than Isabella. And I just love the nicknames Izzy/Dora!
on February 12th, 2012 at 8:40 pm
I have always loved Flora, I like that it is flower-y but still has more to it than Daisy or Petunia. My second would be Cora. Both are very sweet
on February 15th, 2012 at 8:26 am
My month old neice is Flora, i love it but i don’t think it’s that unusual a name, but then i am in Scotland so maybe that’s why.
on February 15th, 2012 at 6:10 pm
Flora sounds well established. I think is a very pretty name, and an option for Fiorella, a name I secretly love but aren’t brave enough to use.
on August 21st, 2013 at 11:37 am
My name is Nora!
I really love the name Cora too!
on February 10th, 2014 at 1:22 am
Was there a character called Flora in Bleak House? I know of a Flora Finching in Little Dorrit…Hmm.. I’m on my way to re-reading Bleak House!
I love all these names, although Flora does remind me of Mrs. Finching and Mr. F’s Aunt. Still, they aren’t bad characters.
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on December 8th, 2015 at 2:12 am
[…] few decades. Another factor in her favor? The rise of -ora names, discussed in Nameberry’s Floradora Girls post. There’s Downton’s Cora and the wildly popular Nora. So maybe Thora has a […]
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on January 29th, 2017 at 11:48 pm
[…] – We covered the Floradora Girls way back in 2012, but the names have only risen in popularity since then. Traditional Nora ranks […]
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