Iona (name)

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Iona is a given name that is taken from the Scottish island of Iona,[1][2] which has a particular significance in the history of Christianity. The derivation of this island name itself is uncertain. The earliest forms of the name enabled place-name scholar William J. Watson to state that it originally meant something like "yew-place".[3]

The modern English name of the island comes from the Gaelic Ioua,[4][5] which was either Adomnán's attempt to make the Gaelic name fit Latin grammar or a genuine derivative from Ivova ("yew place").[6] Ioua eventually became Iona, first attested from c.1274,[7] and results from a transcription mistake resulting from the similarity of "n" and "u" in Insular Minuscule.[8]

Other speculative suggestions have been made for the derivation such as an Old Norse origin from Hiōe meaning "island of the den of the brown bear"[5].

Iona is also the Russian form of the male name Jonah.


  1. ^ ""Iona"". Baby Name Wizard. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  2. ^ ""Iona"". Baby Names World. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Watson (1926) pp. 87–90
  4. ^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 67.
  5. ^ a b Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 80
  6. ^ Watson, Celtic Place-Names, p. 88
  7. ^ Broderick, George (2013). "Some island names in the former 'Kingdom of the Isles': a reappraisal" (PDF). Journal of Scottish Name Studies. 7: 1–28: 13, fn.30. 
  8. ^ Fraser (2009) p. 71.