Thoughts on Celia "Say-lee-uh"

What are your thoughts on the name Celia with the spanish prounciation "Say-lee-uh" (like "CeliaCruz")? I realize that many people in the U.S. might try to read it "Seel-yuh" which I dislike but I think it could be a simple correction and people would get it. We live in the U.S.

We have a spanish surname so it works with our heritage. The other name we are considering is Natalie which is more common but still pretty. (We decided against the spanish form "Natalia" because it seems half of Americans pronounce it "Na-TAL-yuh" which I very much dislike as opposed to the spanish "Na-TAL-ee-uh" and it seems many Americans can't hear the difference. So we are trying to decide between Natalie and Celia. Which do you prefer and why? 

Natalie Orellano
Celia Orellano


September 20, 2018 6:25 PM

Seal ee A, shame about Natalia,  I pronounce it the same as you.  I think Natalie is nicer

September 20, 2018 7:43 PM

This depends on your level of tolerance.  Will most people learn?  Yes.  But I pronounce my name Meee-gan not Meg-Ann and I always have a few people in my life that can't or won't get it.  Ironically, my class laughed today at my prounouncing Celia.  I said Seel-lee-ah.  They laughed, but wouldn't tell me the proper way the student prefered.  I have to try again tomorrow!

September 20, 2018 7:50 PM

That's how I would pronounce it and Megan Mee gan

September 21, 2018 1:23 AM

Honestly I think your surname will do a lot of the heavy lifting of getting people to pronounce the name you describe.

If I saw Celia Smith, I would absolutely and without hesitation default to See-lee-yah or Seel-yah (I tend to slur the syllables together in practice even though I think I say the former). The same is not true for Celia Vasquez.

If I saw Celia Ore11ano, I would absolutely go to SAY-lee-ah o-ray-AH-no. I would not think to say Seel-ya oh-RELL-uh-no. I did Spanish in middle school through college, and it's no longer fluent but I probably have more background than the average gringa. I think that whether people in your area would get it right would depend on how they handle your surname. Do you often get Oh-RELL-uh-no? Then I think you won't have people who are as a group clued in to parsing Spanish pronunciations in the right context.

That said, I think I'd recommend a name like Celia in a multilingual country like the US only if you can be zen that they are both correct pronunciations, just in the different languages. I grew up German bilingual, and my brother switched seamlessly from being JAY-cub to YAH-cop depending on the surrounding sentence. I honestly would have to try really hard to say his name one way embedded in a sentence of the other language. I think it might be an uphill battle to correct people who encounter your daughter's name in isolation in an English context, without the clue of the surname.

September 21, 2018 3:21 AM

I much prefer Celia, but that's just a personal preference.  There is nothing wrong with Natalie.

I agree with lucubratix's points.  If your girl has a distinctly Spanish surname, that will help a lot, and also that very occasionally someone won't ever get it right and if that really bothers you go with Natalie.  Also, have you considered the spelling Célia?  That will help prompt the pronounciation you want, and distinguish it from the English one.  The accent is super easy to do if you go into your computer settings and switch keyboard from US-standard to US-international.  ;)  I just looked up the name online - okay according to one website which may or may not be reputable, no accent on Spanish Celia, but accent IS there in French, Catalan, and Portuguese.  I think the accent would be a very good prompt.  My own daughter's name has an accent and it's not a big deal actually.

All that said, if the anglo pronounciation will really annoy you, I would avoid simply because it will come up a lot.  But normally one or two corrections and people will get it.  Example: I know a little Indian-American girl named Ava, which is coincidentally also a Parsi name and pronounced to rhyme with lava.  Parents liked that it's a traditional name in both their own heritage and in USA.  They call her by the Indian pronounciation.  Everyone gets it wrong the first time or two, but then quickly gets the jist of it. 

September 21, 2018 1:14 PM

I agree super a lot about the preference for Celia versus Natalie, too. I love Celia, with either pronunciation.

But you're right that people will not be able to avoid mixing in the Anglo pronunciation in most English-speaking context. I once, briefly, had a coworker on sabbatical from Spain and she was Celia, and she definitely called SAY-lee-ah and SEEL-yah pretty interchangably by people. I don't actually remember her surname with certainty, but I know it was double barrelled and at least one part of it was obviously Spanish. 

In the US diacritical marks get stripped out everywhere, for what it's worth.

September 21, 2018 7:20 AM

I prefer Celia in that it's not as common as Natalie (I know a lot of Natalies - between toddler and 50).  However, I'm Aussie and the default pronunciation here is seel-yah.  You'd have a hard time getting the Spanish pronunciation without correction as there isn't a huge Spanish speaking population. With correction most people would probably get it, but if you don't like local pronuncation it's probably not the best choice. I think in the US you have a much better chance of getting your preferred pronunciation and as others have pointed out your surname is a big clue!

September 21, 2018 5:39 PM

Yes, I agree with this. I would have had no idea that Celia in Spanish is Say-lee-uh (although I know that Celie in French is Say-lee). I can imagine that a Celia going through school here would always be called See-lee-uh. But if Spanish is commonly spoken in your community, it might not be a problem.

September 21, 2018 3:21 PM

I have never loved the Ce- names (Celia, Cecelia, etc) but I realize now that it's the 'See' sound that's unappealing to me Celia your way is beautiful. It will require frequent explanation. My last name sounds nothing like it is spelled, but it hasn't ruined my life. I even decided to keep it when I got married. So it's really not the end of the world. I think Cellia is prettier and more romantic than Natalie, which has a hard sound to me. 

September 24, 2018 9:31 PM

Celia is beautiful and I think it sounds great with your last name! I personally have a Z3lia and love her name :) Natalie is a perfectly good name, but perhaps less fitting with your heritage. Your call!

September 24, 2018 10:46 PM

One of my favs but pronounced see lia. I also love camille, camilla, and kamilla.