Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Edna

Edna is a name with two possible etymological sources. The first and most familiar is the Biblical Edna, from the Hebrew “ednah” (עֶדְנָה‎) meaning “pleasure, delight”. It shares the same Hebrew root that gave us the word Eden (as in paradise). Edna doesn’t exactly appear in the Bible, per se, but rather the Apocrypha (also known as the “hidden” books of the Bible). In the Apocrypha’s Book of Tobit, Edna appears as the wife of Raguel and the mother of Sara who married Tobias (the son of Tobit). Edna is portrayed as a dutiful wife and a loving mother; she essentially prepares her daughter for Sara’s wedding to Tobias and then rejoices with her husband Raguel when their new son-in-law survives the bridal-night. For the full story, see the Tobias page. Edna is a pleasurable character in the story, so the name seems to fit. Alternately, Edna is considered an anglicized form of Eithne, an Irish and Scottish-Gaelic girls name (pronounced “EIN-ya”). From this perspective, Eithne means “kernel” (as in the core part of a nut or the seed of grain). St. Eithne of Ireland was the legendary mother of St. Columba (Gaelic: Colm Cille). Before her son was born, an angel was said to appear before Eithne holding a beautiful cloak with the most brilliant of colors and covered with flowers. Mesmerized by the incandescent object, she reached out her hand, but the coat floated away from her, stretching out over the vast land and sea. The vision was interpreted to mean that her son would travel far away but be honored for his many great deeds. As it turned out, St. Columba is the saint credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland, first to the pagan Gaels of Dál Riata (western Scotland) and then to the Picts (a now extinct Celtic tribe dwelling in Scotland at the time). Edna is also a name with a fair amount of literary cachet. Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was a well-known Pulitzer Prize winning poet. Edna Ferber (1885-1968) was a well-known Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. And Edna O'Brien (1930-present) is a well-known and highly regarded Irish author of many works.

All About the Baby Name – Edna



Romance is the hallmark of the Six personality. They exude nurturing, loving, and caring energy. Sixes are in love with the idea of love in its idealized form - and with their magnetic personalities, they easily draw people toward them. Like the number Two personality, they seek balance and harmony in their life and the world at large. They are conscientious and service-oriented, and a champion for the underdog. These personalities naturally attract money and are usually surrounded by lovely material objects - but their human relationships are always primary. They thrive in giving back to others rather than being motivated by their own desires. This is when they achieve great things. Sixes are natural teachers, ministers and counselors.



Edna is an old-fashioned name; a turn-of-the-century favorite (and by that we don’t mean the 21st century). Edna basked in the sunlight of her glory days at the end of the 19th century up through the mid 20th century. The name achieved its greatest popularity right at the turn of the century when in 1899 Edna was the 11th most popular baby girl’s name nationwide. In fact, Edna maintained Top 100 status in America between 1880 and 1942 which is a pretty good run (over 60 years). After that she saw a steady decline on the charts as she slowly fell from fashion. By the 1980s, old Edna’s usage was falling faster and 1991 marks the last year she can claim Top 1000 status. This is a bit perplexing to us for a couple of reasons. One, why is Emma popular again but not Edna? A lot of people still find Edna a little too frumpy. Edna does have antique charm in our opinion; she’s just underappreciated. The other thing we like about this name? Both etymologies. The Hebrew connection to Eden (something pleasurable and delightful). And the Gaelic meaning (a kernel) which is something of central value and importance; like the little kernel you have growing inside your belly!

Quick Facts













Pleasure, delight (Hebrew); Kernel (Gaelic)










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Edna

Literary Characters


Edna Pontellier is the protagonist of Kate Chopin’s 1899 novel, The Awakening, an acknowledged milestone of feminist literature. Edna is an upper-class New Orleans housewife with two children who “has it all”, or at least all that society deems proper. Missing, however, is passion, independence, freedom and the core of her own being. While vacationing with her family, Edna falls in love with another man, and experiences an “awakening” of her inner self. Her introduction to Mademoiselle Reisz, a woman who goes her own way entirely, heeding only to the siren of her art, furthers Edna’s education in what it is to be truly alive. To have had such an awakening at the closing of the nineteenth century, while in the midst of marriage and motherhood, is sure to be problematic. It is for Edna. Her solution is drastic, but so is her situation. Is she a thwarted victim of a restrictive society or is she a preening, selfish and ultimately self-destructive woman? Or both? You be the judge.

Popular Songs


We cannot find any popular or well-known songs with the name of Edna

Famous People


Edna St. Vincent Millay (poet)
Edna Ferber (author/novelist)
Edna O'Brien (Irish writer)
Edna May Oliver (actress)
Edna Purviance (silent era actress)
Edna Best (British actress)
Edna Doré (British actress)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Edna

Historic Figures


Edna St. Vincent Millay was a Pulitzer Prize winning American poet and playwright, almost as well known today for her love life as for her writing. Edna was an unconventional and independent person from childhood, when she insisted on calling herself “Vincent”. Although one of three daughters of a working, single mother, Edna was provided an education at Vassar by a sympathetic mentor. She plunged headfirst into the life of New York Bohemia, joining the Provincetown Players, writing, exploring early feminist ideals and conducting multiple affairs with both sexes. By 1923 she had won the Pulitzer and was in demand as a poet, her success at which would last her lifetime. She enjoyed a long, open and mostly happy marriage to a non-writer who enabled her to concentrate on what was essential to her, guarding her health and her space assiduously. If she did nothing else at all, she would always be remembered as the woman whose “…candle burns at both ends” and, indeed, it did give “a lovely light”!