Beautiful Native American Names for Babies
Some of the most popular baby names are passed down in Native American tradition. In celebration of Native American Heritage Month in November, we took a peek at them. They really are beautiful year-round though.
But as beautiful as Native American names are, proceed with caution if you don't have a personal connection with the culture. While some Anglicized names may be fair game, others tread into cultural appropriation territory.
Word of caution aside, we came across so many special names, and we hope you'll enjoy learning about their meanings and origins as much we did.
Meaning: Friend, ally
Dakota, one of the most popular Native American-inspired baby names, comes from the name of a Native American Sioux tribe. The Dakota people were best known for their mental resilience and feats of physical strength, along with their commitment to a strong moral code.
The name became popular as a boy's name in the mid-1980s, but a decade later, it shifted to become a percussive, confidence-exuding girl's name.
Meaning: High one
Denali is an Athabascan word meaning "the high one," referring to America's highest mountain peak. The name generates strong feelings nationwide because of its intrepid, persistent backstory.
The monumental 20,000-foot Alaskan peak was known as Denali for centuries, named by the Native American Koyukon people who were indigenous to the area. It was renamed Mount McKinley in 1896, however, and the federal government of the U.S. refused to change it back until 2015.
Thanks to a push, the name was finally changed back to Denali. Now that's a name backed by some serious persistence and grit.
Meaning: Unintelligible speakers
While the name Cheyenne's meaning isn't our favorite, its tribe of origin has a heritage worth sharing. The Cheyenne Nation comprises two Native American tribes that merged in the early 19th century. They lived predominantly in what is now Montana, and today, there are still several thousand people who self-identify as Cheyenne.
Cheyenne is also a city in Montana, evoking images of hopping onto a saddle and riding free on the rugged, open plains.
Meaning: Chief of the bird clan
The name Dasan is a boy's given name of Native American origin that means chief of the bird clan, or simply chief. It's a fantastic choice for a bilingual baby name because of how easy it is to pronounce.
Plus, calling your new addition a chief right out the gate is a great way to instill confidence.
Meaning: Firstborn daughter
The name Winona, coming from the Sioux tribe, was traditionally given to firstborn baby girls.
It took a big leap up on the name charts after actress Winona Ryder became famous for her roles in "Beetlejuice" and "Edward Scissorhands."
Meaning: People of a different speech
The name Cherokee comes from the name of the largest Native American tribe in the United States, including more than 390,000 tribal citizens in present day.
The rich Cherokee culture is still thriving today, and they remain known for their traditional artwork.
Meaning: Forever flowering
The sonorous Native American girl's name Aiyana means "forever flowering." It represents ongoing growth and rebirth, evoking images of lush, sweetly scented gardens.
Pawnee is a name with more roots than one. It came from the name of a Native American Plains tribe known for their superb horsemanship.
The name was borrowed by the popular NBC comedy series "Parks and Recreation," which used it as the name of a fictional city in Indiana.
Meaning: Leaping water
Tallulah, a girl's name meaning "leaping water," symbolizes life, birth and refreshment.
We were 10 years old when we realized the Windy City was named after a leek.
The name Chicago comes from an Algonquin word meaning "onion," describing the numerous species of wild onions and leeks that were common in the region.
Meaning: Great land
The state Alaska was named by the Aleut people, meaning "great land."
'It has evolved into a popular girl's name, particularly since the 2006 publication of John Green's award-winning book "Looking for Alaska."
Meaning: Land between two rivers
Nashua is a city in New Hampshire named after the Native American name.
It's a more unique alternative to Joshua and can be shortened to the edgy nickname Nash.
One wouldn't guess that the name Sequoia means sparrow because it's also the name of the most massive redwood trees in the world.
As it turns out, the trees were named after a Cherokee Indian who invented the system of written language for the Cherokee people.
That's about the coolest sparrow we've ever heard of.
Meaning: Deep valley
The Pomo Native Americans occupied the Ukiah valley in California during the time of Spanish colonization. The name was originally Yokaya, but it evolved to Ukiah because it was easier for English speakers to pronounce.
Either version is synonymous with deep valley. Valleys often house rivers and streams, symbolizing flourishing life and abundance.
Meaning: I'm on my way
A name from the Ojibwa tribe, Shania means "I'm on my way."
The poetic, meaningful name has served Canadian singer songwriter Shania Twain well. Her given name was Eilleen, but her choice to go by Shania helped her sell more than 100 million records.
Meaning: Big water
The Native American word "Tahoe" explains so much about how the stunning, clear blue lake in California got its name.
The 2-million-year-old lake is the largest alpine lake in North America, deep enough to swallow up the entire Empire State building.
Big water, indeed.
Names and words evolve by being passed around from language to language. The Native American girl name Angeni is inspired by the English word "angel."
Beautiful variations include Angenie or simply Genie.
Meaning: He who yells
Yaholo sounds exactly like its meaning. The Native American name means "boy who yells," which is a pretty fitting description of any newborn.
Meaning: Keeper of the Western door
The girl's name Seneca was originally the name of a Native American tribe. The Seneca people were known as the keepers of the Western door because they were the westernmost of the six nations.
They were also known for their advanced diplomacy skills and efforts to unite the nations, which is a pretty cool legacy to continue.
Meaning: Peaceful one
Waunakee is a city in Wisconsin, but the word itself is a Native American boys name that means "peaceful."
Remind your baby boy of that when he's crying at 3 a.m.
Meaning: Long awaited
Oneida is often recognized as the name of a massive tableware company, but before it became synonymous with stainless steel cutlery, it was a Native American name.
Meaning "long awaited," Oneida comes from the English pronunciation of Onyota'a:ka, one of the five founding nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Meaning: Breeze or wind
To English speakers, Tadi might sound more like a girls name thanks to the longer name Tatiana. In Native American culture, Tadi is a boy's name, however, meaning breeze.
It comes from the Omaha tribe, symbolizing swift flight and safe passage.
Meaning: Wild goose
"My little goose" is a term of endearment in many cultures, and the Native American name Neka lets you show your affection every time you call your child's name.
Meaning: Big bow
Zipkiyah is a name invented by the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma. They're known as the warriors of the plains, and their logo includes 10 eagle feathers that represent the 10 mythical Kiowa Medicine Bundles.
Zipkiyah means big bow, a strong name for a little warrior. It comes with so many fun nickname options, like Zip and Kiyah.
Meaning: Leaping water
Talley is a girl's name with multiple origins. As a Native American name, it means "leaping water, flourishing."
Just imagine a bubbling brook nourishing the land it flows through, flowers springing upon its banks.
Ashkii is the Navajo word for boy. The Navajo Nation is the largest American Indian reservation in the U.S., and the name Ashkii is one of the more common Native American boy names.
We also love that it can easily be shortened to the nickname Ash.
The dreamy, dulcet tone of the girl's name Aponi fits its nature-themed meaning perfectly. What's dreamier than a butterfly gracefully drifting on the breeze?
While butterflies are delicate, they're also largely responsible for helping to pollinate plants, giving us beautiful flowers and delicious food.
It just goes to show that you don't have to be big or tough to make a difference.
Meaning: Fire maker
Bodaway is a Native American name for boys that means "one who makes fire."
It's a great choice for boys with a fiery personality.
Zuni is the name of a Native American tribe based in New Mexico.
The name is usually associated with beauty thanks to the Zuni's mastery of weaving, basket making and pottery.
Meaning: Firstborn son
Chaska is a Sioux name traditionally given to firstborn sons.
The Sioux tribe originally lived on the northern Great Plains and was known for gathering wild rice and hunting buffalo and deer.
The name Chenoa is believed by some to mean "white dove," but some sources state this is a misconception.
It's more likely that the name was one of several Native American words for the Kentucky River.
Olowin effortlessly flows off the tongue and can transform into the shorter "Olo" or "Owin."
This Native American baby name means "west," evoking images of the beautiful West Coast lush with greenery and wildlife.
While some Native American names are gendered, Citlali works for both boys and girls.
Citlali comes from the Aztec word for "star."
The name Tala has multiple origins, but in Native American culture, it means "hunting wolf."
In the Phillippines, it means "bright star," however.
And in Arabic, it means "gold."
The name Elu is primarily a name for baby girls, but it can go both ways.
Coming from the Zuni Tribe in New Mexico, it means "full of grace and beauty."
When you hear the meaning of the name Ahanu, you won't be able to suppress a smile. Coming from the Algonquin tribe, this Native American boy's name means "he laughs."
Any baby named Ahanu is destined to laugh through life, even in the face of challenges.
Enola is both a Native American name and an invented name. The English created the name Enola by spelling the word "alone" backward, but it was a Native American name meaning "magnolia flower" before that.
Magnolias have big, silky blossoms each spring that fill the air with a sweet fragrance.
The Hopi people have a complex mythological tradition that dates back centuries. While every village tells the myths a little differently, they all involve spirits that govern the earth and sun.
According to Hopi tradition, the name Alo means "spiritual guide." With a new baby on the way, you can probably use all the guidance you can get.
The unique Native American girl name Esadowa means "heap wolves." It's very uncommon today, but it has been used for decades in Native American culture.
Shorten it to Esa for a fun nickname.
In Sioux tradition, the boy name Akikta means "one who works with determination."
Boys named Akikta are expected to excel at everything they try, not because of luck, but thanks to their unshakable perseverance.
Halona is most likely a Native American name for girls meaning "happy fortune." It's like telling your baby girl that you're lucky to have her whenever you call her name.
Calian has a smooth, flowing feel to it, but its meaning isn't soft in the slightest. This Native American boy name means "he who is a warrior of life."
It represents giving your child the strength and courage to face life head on, no matter what obstacles come their way.
The name Liseli is one of the more common Native American names, and we totally get why. It means "light," representing the life-giving rays of the sun.
The name Tarlo is gender neutral and comes from the Kiowa tribe, and it's meaning is just as fun as its sound. Tarlo means bear cub, full of life and eager to explore.
Interestingly, while the Kiowa tribe has over 12,000 living members today, less than 1,000 still speak their native language. Classes are currently offered to help preserve the Kiowa language for future generations.
The beautiful name Odina is seldom heard, and we can't understand why.
The rare name means "divine inspiration" in Scandinavian culture, and "mountain" in Native American culture.
Can't go wrong either way.
The strong, masculine Native American name Chanter represents the bright, life-giving sun.
It was invented by the Sac and Fox Nation, the largest of the three federally recognized tribes of the Sauk and Meskwaki peoples.
We can't think of a better Native American name for a baby girl born in winter than Istas. Invented by the Cheyenne tribe, Istas means "snow."
Oscosh, along with the similar Oshkosh, are both rare Native American names with a bold meaning: bravest of all.
Oshkosh was the name of a renowned Native American chief, so the name is often bestowed upon babies in hopes of blessing them with good leadership skills and courage.
In Japanese, Mika means "new moon," but in two different Native American languages, the name has a much more playful feel, meaning "intelligent raccoon."
It represents curiosity and ingenuity, and babies named Mika share their name with a famous Lebanese-British pop star as well.
Last but not least, we have the sweet, wholesome name Koda. In both the Japanese and Lakota Sioux language, Koda means "friend" or "ally."
It was also used as the name of one of the main characters in the movie "Brother Bear."