Who likes Una?

Hi everyone! I just found out that we're having our first girl after two boys, which means we finally get to use the girl's name my husband and I have both loved since college, Una! We came across it reading the Faerie Queen, but though I spend a lot of time on baby name blogs, I don't hear much about it. I'm curious how it sounds to other name enthusiasts. My parents hate it, unsurprisingly. 


July 7, 2012 9:21 PM

It's better than Duessa, Belphoebe, and Britomart :-).  Can't help it, not a big Spenser fan here.  I have run across Una in use--a few years ago there was a member of the New Orleans City Council named Una.

By mk
July 7, 2012 9:33 PM

I like it, though I prefer the spelling Oona.

By Guest (not verified)
July 7, 2012 10:00 PM

It means "one" in Spanish, but at least it's a feminine version of the word! Perhaps you live in a region that doesn't have many Spanish speakers so this won't be an issue? "Una Smith" means "One Smith" so ... Very weird. "Una Jones." "Una McDonald..." It's a phrase, denoting one person from the family as opposed to many... 



By nicg
October 20, 2019 10:51 AM

my grandmother has been una for 90 years. everyone loves her name and remembers her for it. i hope this woman went with her choice in 2012

By Guest (not verified)
July 7, 2012 10:01 PM

Oona sounds like the noise my husband makes when trying to have a bowel movement. 

By Guest (not verified)
July 7, 2012 10:54 PM

I hate that rude commenters have invaded our forum!


I actually have never heard of Una before. It immediately made me think of Uma though- do they have the same origin/culture?  I could see a cute, spunky girl with the name.  I don't think it'll ever be widespread, as it sounds foreign to American ears. Although, Luna has shot up in recent years, so Una can be described as Luna-without-the-L. 

July 7, 2012 11:04 PM

Oops, guest #5 was me, not logged in. 

By EVie
July 7, 2012 11:59 PM

I know, right? This used to be one of the only places on the internet without trolls. I wonder if it's just the same obnoxious person every time—they always comment anonymously.

Re: Una—I knew an Oona, way back when. I remember when I first heard the name I thought it was very odd, but now it just sounds like a name. It's not one that holds any particular attraction for me, but it's got a lot going for it in theory—it's short & simple, clearly feminine and rarely used in the U.S. (only 33 born in 2011, plus 46 Oonas and 5 Oonaghs), with a legitimate history and a serious literary association. In sum: if you love the name, I see no reason why you shouldn't use it.

Regarding Una vs. Uma—Una is an Irish name that probably means "lamb." Uma appears to be either Hindi/Sanskrit (meaning "mother") or Hebrew/Aramaic (meaning "nation"). I think Una is on of those names that is much more familiar in the U.K. than in the U.S.—I'd love to hear from one of our resident Brits on how the name is perceived over there. (Wasn't there a minor character in Bridget Jones's Diary called Una?)

By Guest (not verified)
July 8, 2012 12:12 AM

There's also Oona O'Neil Chaplin: Eugen O'Neil's daughter and Charlie Chaplin's wife.

July 8, 2012 4:16 AM

According to the original post, this is the Una from the Faerie Queene, not an Irish name or a Spanish.  Una appears in the First Canto  of Book I where she is traveling with the Redcrosse Knight.  In the complicated allegory of the Faerie Queene, the Redcrosse Knight represents the virtue of holiness and is revealed later to be St. George, the patron of England, hence representing England itself.  Una represents the virtue of truth and the True Church (the Protestant Anglican Church as constituted during the reign of Elizabeth I).  Una is opposed by Duessa who represents falsehood and the False Church (that is, the Roman Catholic church).  In the political allegory of the poem, Duessa represents Mary Queen of Scots.  Elizabeth in her two bodies is represented by Belphoebe (the Body Natural) and Gloriana (the Body Politic).

Personally I cannot abide the Faerie Queene and would rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick than read it, but I was forced to spend twenty-five years teaching at least a bit of it in the survey of British literature.  The bit I always taught was from Book I Canto 1 where Una and the Redcrosse Knight stray off the path in a forest and encounter the monster Errour (the false teachings of the Roman Catholic church), which monster the Red Crosse Knight slays with the help of Una, the True Church, in an over-the-top repulsive passage.

Personally I wouldn't choose Una for a daughter, not wishing either to invoke the religious wars of the Reformation in my daughter's name, nor to honor Spenser.  However, that's just me.  I had a colleague, clearly a big fan of allegory, who named his son Dante Spenser.  When I was a student, I had this conceit--who in the Norton Anthology of Brit Lit I would and would not like to have lunch with.  Would: Geoffrey Chaucer and John Donne.  Would not: Edmund Spenser and John Milton.

July 8, 2012 12:13 AM

Una is unusual by today's standards, but I like it.  Simple, feminine and it has a nice history.  I knew an older woman named Oona growing up.  Everyone addressed her as Aunt Oonie, regardless if they were related or not.  

July 8, 2012 12:34 AM

I don't mind Una. It's not a name I'd use but it is quite spunky and it has a relatively straight forward pronunciation and spelling.

I also prefer the Spelling Oona, but Una is lovely too.

I've never known one in real life but they are obviously out there.  

The was a minor character in the series Party Down called Uda. I'm not sure if it is at all related to Una but for ages I thought her name was Una!

July 8, 2012 1:38 AM

So my initial reaction to Una was kind of meh, but after reading this thread and being reminded of the queen of the fae I sort of love it.  I have never heard it as a name before, but it just feels like a delightful little gem of a name that won't sound that out of place in today's naming world.  The fact that it has a lovely mythological history behind it makes me like it all the more. She'll love Una stories about four or five years down the road.  

I'm fairly fluent in Spanish, but I didn't think of the Spanish article until the other commenter pointed it out.  It's certainly something to think about and be aware of, but not something that would keep me up at night if I were personally considering the name.  Like the other commenter said though, that kind of depends on your region.  

By Guest (not verified)
July 8, 2012 9:13 AM

Thanks for your responses, everyone! (except the troll. no thanks to you, troll)

@Miriam-- I understand your feelings toward Spencer. Lots of people I read him with felt the same way. I love him, though. (and Milton! seriously, you don't like Milton?) And I loved the Faerie Queene, so for me the association is positive. Yes, it's embroiled in religious conflict, but I read it as a Protestant at a very VERY Catholic school, so I kinda liked that in a tongue in cheek sort of way. Similarly, we're Anglicans, so I enjoy that Una represents Spencer's One True Church. Cheekiness aside though,  I do believe in the concept of the true Church opposed to all sorts of evil forces, although I certainly wouldn't include the Catholic Church as among them. We live in happier times, fortunately. 

@mk and Chimu-- I like the spelling Oona, as well, but that's sort of a different name. We lose the Faerie Queene reference that way. Also, my husband doesn't like it.

@Guest-- We live in Colorado, so yeah, she'll grow up with a fair few Spanish speakers. On the other hand, I speak Spanish, and Una the name has completely different space in my head than una the article. They'll get used to it. 

@Evie-- I've come across Unas a couple of times in British contemporary fiction. Usually they are older women, so I guess that's the association over there. 

@Erika fabulous-- Thanks! That's what I think, too!

July 8, 2012 11:24 AM

Guest, if you're a Faerie Queene fan, go for it!

And, seriously, I can't abide Milton.  Obviously I had to teach him in the survey, so I chose the Pandemonium section of Paradise Lost or the emblem poems and a sonnet or two.  I'm strictly a Beowulf and Gawain-(Pearl-)Poet girl.

July 8, 2012 11:47 AM

I wasn't a fan of Milton or Spenser either, though to be fair I didn't study them very thoroughly. As for Una, I say use it. I teach Spanish and agree that the article occupies a different space in the brain than the name. Also, speakers of other languages in the US are used to the fact that the names here sound weird in their own language.

July 8, 2012 1:02 PM

I'll admit that I did think of the number, but in the same was as I don't think of the French pronoun every time I see the name Elle, I'm sure that with familiarity I would come to view the name as separate from the number, too.

July 8, 2012 1:16 PM

i really love Oona, spelled that way.  Una to me is more associated with the number.  I was actually thinking of using it (Oona), in part because I plan to only have one child.  My anticipated boy's name was going to be Alif--similarly connoting primary, solo. (I realize the Irish name Oona/Una doesn't actually have any etymological connection to One-ness, but is instead related somehow to Agnes, another name I love). Then effing Natalie Portman went and ruined that one for me (mine was going to be the Arabic letter, not the Hebrew, but still). But enough about me.

By mk
July 12, 2012 11:02 PM

I never read the Faerie Queen so have no association to it, but I very much approve of literary names even if you were to choose a book I didn't like! I do prefer Oona, but it does remove the association for you.

July 8, 2012 4:38 PM

I first came across Una by reading it rather than hearing it, and for years thought it was pronounced "Yuna".  I have to guiltily admit to slightly preferring the wrong pronunciation!

July 8, 2012 8:26 PM

I've seen Una prounounced Yuna as a Japanese name.  I also prefer Yuna but I don't think Una unattractive, especially when the vowels are softened.

(I vote Milton over Spenser.)

July 9, 2012 3:25 AM

I much prefer Oona. It's not an entirely rational reason but just don't like the look of U as the first letter.  

By hwar
July 11, 2012 7:17 PM

Out of context, I like it. Gentle sound, short but feminine, etc.  In context it doesn't really work for me though. Our city is about 50% Spanish-speaking and I think it would confuse people a little bit. We're trying to be sensitive to that as we choose a baby name (i.e. not using the nickname Poppy for Penelope because of its similarity to the Spanish word "papi").  It also reminds me of the dolls made by the Japanese company Moof (called Una dolls), although that is an obscure reference that most people wouldn't have. I think Una is workable in general, though, even though it wouldn't work for us.

By Guest (not verified)
July 11, 2012 10:24 PM

Naming your child "Una" is like naming your child "One." It's important to remember that the Spanish-speaking population of the United States is absolutely skyrocketing. If you want your child to share a name with an Article, well, go for it. 



July 12, 2012 12:08 PM

I don't think this is a problem. I teach Spanish and my children's school is 40% Hispanic. Girls there are named Mia ('mine' in Spanish), Victoria ('victory'), Bella ('beautiful'), Alma ('soul'), Clara ('clear'), Luna ('moon') and Isla ('island'). Doesn't seem to be a problem. Immigrants know and expect that American names will sound different and at times even weird to them. If you were planning on naming your daughter Una and then moving to Argentina, well, that would be a different story.

And my kids don't seem to think it's weird that the foreign-born children in their school have names like Lemma (although upon hearing this, my mathematician brother-in-law said, "Well, her father must have made a proposition to her mother!"), Ngat (pronounced like gnat), and Nesli.

By Guest (not verified)
July 12, 2012 12:46 PM

Exactly. This is no different than any other name that can be translated into another language. Now, if the name being discussed was a vulgar word in another language, that would be different.


By Guest (not verified)
July 12, 2012 4:05 PM

As I said, if you want to name your daughter after an article, then go for it. Naming your daughter after the word "moon" or "beautiful" is usually associated to be a positive thing. Naming your child after a random piece of grammar, on the other hand, may be perceived to be obtuse. Again, the use of the Spanish language is skyrocketing in the US of A and will only continue to do so throughout this girl's lifetime. This is something of which the parents must be conscious, and if they choose to ignore it, that is their choice. 

July 12, 2012 8:28 PM

Guest, you must not have read the oriiginal post very carefully.  The intent is to name the child after an allegorical figure in Spenser's Faerie Queene--nothing to do with Spanish grammar.  The fact that the Spanish article is the same as the name of the character is essentially coincidental--although both the name and the article derive from a Latin root.  If someone insists that the child is named after a Spanish article, Mom can just smile and say, "No, she is named after an allegorical figure representing the True Church (among other things)."

Further, I am by no means sure that the use of the Spanish language in the US will continue to skyrocket during this child's lifetime.  At the moment immigration from Spanish-speaking countries is down.  Spanish-speaking immigrants follow the pattern of other immigrant groups--the second, third, and fourth generations tend to give up the original family language in favor of English.  I certainly saw this when I was teaching in West Texas: students from families that were established in Texas for two or more generations did not generally use Spanish as their first language, although some retained some ability to speak Spanish, often to communicate with their grandparents.  Since I taught English, we had a lot of discussions about the roles of Spanish and English in their lives.  Often their English was flavored with Spanish, but they were not fluent in Spanish, something that many regretted.  Spanish will continue to be spoken in the US, but unless the pace of immigration picks up again, I frankly doubt that its use will continue to skyrocket over the next 80 or so years.  That being said, I suggested to my son today that it might be a good idea if our toddler who already speaks excellent English and can express himself in American Sign Language is exposed to Spanish, being that he lives in Nevada.  I have undertaken to buy him a kiddie-oriented Let's Learn Spanish course.

By EVie
July 12, 2012 10:19 PM

I agree with Miriam, and I also think it's worth pointing out that number names have a well-established place in Western naming history. The Romans used them a lot, with the most commen being Quintus, Sextus, Septimus, Octavius, Nonus and Decimus for boys (five through ten—it's not clear why one through four weren't used as much, though there was a Christian saint named Tertius in the 1st century). The feminine praenomina, which seem to have died out by the late Republic in favor of simply using the family nomina, were Prima, Secunda, Tertia, Quarta, Quinta, Sexta, Septima, Octavia, Nona, Decima. From the late Republic on, you would also sometimes see these numbers appended to the family name when there was more than one daughter (e.g. Julia Prima, Julia Secunda and Julia Tertia). 

It's not clear what the number names originally referred to, but it's thought that it was either birth order or the month of birth. After awhile, though, the names seem to have been passed down in families without regard to meaning.

My overall point being—so Una also means "one" in Spanish—so what?

By Guest (not verified)
July 12, 2012 10:44 PM

I highly doubt there is going to be confusion over somone choosing a name that means "one". Especially a name that means "one" in several different languages.

By mk
July 12, 2012 11:00 PM

The poster who likes Una already said she lives in a Spanish-speaking area, speaks Spanish herself, and doesn't see it as a problem. I speak French but don't get confused when I hear the name Elle (she) so I believe her.

And a simple "we named her after a character from a favorite book" if questioned will also work.


By Guest (not verified)
July 13, 2012 12:08 AM

Miriam, the meaning of the word Una in Spanish has nothing to do with the literature reference that was made originally. If my favorite book had a character named "CrapHead," and I decided to name my child after said character, that doesn't detract from the fact that CrapHead has a very unflattering meaning in the English language. Thankfully, the word Una is not unflattering in Spanish (or any other language that I know of). However, it is a random bit of grammar, which is something the namer will have to deal with. If he/she doesn't see that as a problem, then, great! 

July 13, 2012 2:33 AM

I don't see why the namer would have to deal with 'a random bit of Spanish grammar" at all.  I don't think anyone would assume that the child is named "a" in Spanish.  I doubt whether even a Hispanophone would think that.  As I mentioned up thread there was a member of the New Orleans City Council named Una, and in all the mud slung in various campaigns, no one dismissed her as a Spanish article--and plenty of people in New Orleans know Spanish at least to the point of learning the articles.  Yes, I and everyone else who responded see this as a non-problem. And, yes, a word can have a certain meaning in one language and the same word can have a different meaning in another language.  So what!

Reminds me of an anecdote:  after WWII, the Red Cross supplied  Care packages to the devastated Germans.  Supposedly the packages were labeled a gift of the American people.  In German Gift means poison, and the story goes that the starving Germans were afraid to eat the rations contained therein.  I am quite sure that this story is apocryphal.  However traumatized by war, I am certain that the desperate were able to grasp that the same word can have different meanings in different languages, one having nothing to do with the other, and ate the life-giving food.  Another thing that comes to mind:  on the west bank of the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish, there is a little town called Luling.  This town has a Mardi Gras organization called the Krewe of Lul.  Now every time I would read about the Krewe of Lul i would have to giggle, because I know Dutch, and in Dutch lul is a rude word.  The members of the krewe and the citizens of Luling probably don't know that,   and if they did they probably wouldn't care, because they are operating in English, not Dutch.  Those who do know (there are Dutch speakers who live in the River Parishes) have a bit of a giggle and likely consider the double meaning as, well, suitably carnivalesque.  The point of this:  even if people who hear the name Una think of the Spanish article, it doesn't matter.  No one would confuse the one with the other, no one would care, there would be nothing to "deal with."

By Guest (not verified)
July 13, 2012 3:16 AM

This is for the namer to decide. I for one would like to remove as much potential for double entendre or "giggles" as possible when naming my child. If the name I'm choosing for my child has a double meaning in my language or in any language that is used commonly in my region of residence, I would avoid it-- unless the word is something I expressly would like my child to be associated with. If others have different opinions, well, that's great for them. 


By Guest (not verified)
July 22, 2012 4:16 PM

I asked my Spanish speaking friend and she said she'd assume the child was the first child or daughter in the family. Other than that, she thinks it's a lot of worry over nothing.

July 13, 2012 5:48 PM

Re: The meaning/article debate. 

At first I didn't really have any concerns about Una meaning one in Spanish, but I'm having second thoughts now. The meaning in itself is not problematic; it's that una is an article like a or the, which just seems like it's going to cause endless confusion.

Here are some equivalent scenarios in English with The as a name:

Hi, I'm The -> ...the what!?

I'm going over to The -> ...the what!?

The and Emmy are friends -> ...the what!?

People may spot the capitalisation of Una in the middle of a sentence, but aurally there's no difference between Una and una. It would be a different case if Una was a top 5 name so that people had una-is-also-a-name in the back of their minds, but that's probably not going to happen. All of this is a non-issue, of course, if Una is never ever going to have anything to do with anything Spanish. But if she is, then I'd at least choose the Oona spelling so that it's not identical to una in writing.  

(That's similar to how I wished friends of friends of friends had taken global Anglicisation into account when they named their daughter Tit after a famous Scandinavian writer. Yes, Tit.) 


By Guest (not verified)
July 19, 2012 7:31 PM

Tit? Wow. 

By Guest (not verified)
July 22, 2012 1:57 PM

My name is Anne.  It is pronounced identically to the English article an.  It's not a problem.  It's never been a problem.  No one thinks that my name is "an," or that I am "An LastName."  It's just not an issue, period.  Names sometimes share sounds and even spellings (Elle) with pronouns, articles, and other words (Ben/bin; Kat/cat; Carrie/carry; etc).  That's part of naming, and always has been.  People are more than capable of separating the word from the name.

I like the idea of the name Una.  Sweet, feminine, fits with the naming trends without being trendy.  Go for it!

By Guest (not verified)
July 22, 2012 3:20 PM

Names like "Kat" already have the connotation of being names. If I called my kid "Bucket," or "Una," he/she unfortunately wouldn't have that luxury. 


By Guest (not verified)
July 22, 2012 4:09 PM

Una may not be popular like Anne or Mia, but it does have the connotation of being a name.

And the namer already said it was a non-issue to her upthread.