What does zella mean

The baby name Zella travels the world, however ends up feeling prefer Top 100 favorites in the US … with a twist.

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Thanks to Lys for arguing our Baby Name of the Day.


You might’ve heard the baby name Zella on a naming forum. It’s straightforward to imagine someone inventing it circa 2020.

Except feasible origins and definitions for this brief, simple name abound.

It might be brief for Marcella, Isabella, Gisela, or many kind of various other names through an ‘s’ or ‘z’ and -ella at the end. Even names like Ursula and also Cecilia don’t quite market the spelling, however carry out have actually the Zella sound.

It occurs as a place name in Libya; in Germany, there’s Zella-Mehlis, along with Altzella and also Neuzella.

There’s a Zella, Texas, also. But the Texas city was named for Zella Bland, daughter of among the founders. It was thriving in the 1910s, sufficient to boast a post office, school, and hotel. But it’s currently taken into consideration a ghold tvery own.

Nameberry lists Zella as a Bobangi name with an impressive meaning: one that knows the way. Maybe so. Except it’s an nearly extinct language, leading in the Congo area till the arrival of Europeans, but then fading from the nineteenth century onwards. Lingala is the version of the language spoken in the region this day. And while Lingala names lists are in short supply, none of them list the baby name Zella. Still, it’s a big continent and a complex web of langueras.

It’s tempting to connect the name to zealous, via the Latin zelus. The definition appeals, yet this might be folk etymology rather than an origin for the name.

Some connect the baby name Zella to Yiddish names, favor Zelig and also Zelda. This says an additional lovely meaning: happy.

And the there’s the Old Testament ZIllah. The name suggests “shadow” in Hebrew.

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That’s virtually certainly why Zoe Marriott determined it for her 2007 re-informing of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Wild Swans.” The Swan Kingdom introduces a heroine called Alexandra, and an evil enchantress dubbed Zella. When the two meet, Alexandra remarks that Zella is an old word for shadow.


That’s many potential meanings, many type of of them appealing.

And at least some of them must’ve appearesulted in parents. From 1880 through 1950, the baby name Zella ranked in the US Top 1000 eextremely single year. At the name’s top, in 1917, 298 girls were named Zella.

By the late 1980s, the name approached obscurity. But as every one of the -ella names revived, so did the baby name Zella. As of 2019, 162 girls received the name. That’s beyond the present Top 1000, however far from extinction.


Several of this simply comes down to sound. In the nineteenth century, ends-with-ella was a big category. Think Ella, Stella, Della, Estella (as in Great Expectations), Bella, Luella, Rosella, Nella, and also plenty of others. Zella fit.

A handful of renowned bearers of the name encompass pioneering nineteenth century librarian Zella Allen Dixchild, who established at an early stage university and also public libraries alike. There’s beforehand twentieth century vaudeville star, Zella Russell – born Rosella. Washington State College alumni might recognize that student Zella Melcher penned the school’s fight song ago in 1919. And on 1960s’ range display Hee Haw, Zella Lehr was well-known for riding a unicycle, before graduating to a career in country music.

Here’s a fun find: as soon as upon a time, the half-way note in between Los Angeles and also Chicearlier on Route 66 was noted by a cafe called Zella’s, operated by a woguy called Zella Prin. It’s still tbelow, currently recognized as the Midpoint Cafe. It’s the model for Flo’s V-8 Cafe in Disney-Pixar favorite Cars.


All of this provides Zella a rarity, however one through a vintage vibe.

Nordstrom has actually used it for a line of activewear, possibly playing on the similarity to the word “excel.”

Name your daughter Zella and you danger repeating, “No, not Stella. Zella-with-a-Z.” But this is the sort of name that’s just one high profile use away from capturing on.

If you’re wild about the -ella names, yet eager for somepoint simply slightly different, the baby name Zella is one to consider.

What perform you think of the baby name Zella?

Originally published on October 30, 2014, this article was revised and also re-published on October 28, 2020.