Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Nola
Nola is a diminutive name most commonly associated with Finola, Enola or Magnolia. It is generally accepted as the anglicized form of Nuala, the Irish diminutive of Fionnuala (the Gaelic form of Finola), derived from the Irish-Gaelic elements “fionn” meaning “white, fair” and “guala” meaning “shoulder” (translation: exceptionally pretty). Fionnuala factors into one of the most memorable of Irish legends known as the “Children of Lír”. King Lír (an Irish sea god) and his wife Aoibh had four children, a daughter Fionnuala and three sons Aodh (fire), Fiachra (raven) and Conn (chief). When Aoibh died, Lír and his children were so grief-stricken that Aoibh’s father, Bodb Derg (elected King of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a mythological early race of Irish people), sent another one of his daughters (Aoife) as a replacement wife/mother. When Aoife came onto the scene as wifey #2, she was insanely jealous of her husband’s deep love and affection for his children (her step-children), so she sent for a sorcerer and ordered their death. Only hiccup? The sorcerer refused to carry out her diabolical plan; he just couldn’t harm the four innocent and beautiful children. Instead, Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn were transformed into four lovely white swans fated to swim various waters for 900 years (300 years in the North Channel, 300 years in the Irish Sea and 300 years in the Atlantic). After the children’s long sentence at sea, they were given sanctuary on a pond at a monastery, although they had to be tied to one another with a silver chain. Spying the lovely swans, the Queen of Leinster demanded that her husband storm the monastery and retrieve them for her possession. However, once the silver chain was broken, the swans immediately transformed into old people and withered away to their deaths (before being sent to heaven). So goes the legend of the “fair-shouldered” Fionnuala. The name Fionnuala was quite common in medieval Ireland, although the more modern form of Finola has become rare. Nola is a common nickname (Nuala, pronounced “NEW-la” is the Gaelic diminutive equivalent). NOLA is also an acronym for New Orleans, Louisiana; and it’s also the name of a city in Italy near Mt. Vesuvius.