Dante’s Vision of Leah and Rachel, Marie Spartall Stillman, 1887
Leah probably comes from a Hebrew word meaning “weary.” It may also be related to the Akkadian littu (cow). Though I’m not keen on the English LEE-a pronunciation, I love the Hebrew and French LEY-a (i.e., like Princess Leia’s name).
Leah has always been a common Jewish name, for obvious reasons, but wasn’t common among Christians until the Protestant Reformation. It was particularly popular among Puritans.
The name has gone up and down in popularity in the U.S. for a long time, and was in the Top 100 from 1979–93, again in 1996, and then from 2000 through the present. Its highest rank to date was #24 in 2010. In 2017, it was #40.
Hungarian-born actor Lya De Putti, 1897–1931
Leah is #24 in Norway; #29 in Ireland; #30 in Sweden; #47 in Northern Ireland; #58 in Scotland; #76 in New Zealand; and #99 in England and Wales.
The variation Lea is German, Scandinavian, Finnish, Dutch, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Polish, Estonian, and Yoruba. Léa is French. This spelling is #6 (as Lea) and #65 (as Léa) in Switzerland; #8 in France; #10 in Austria; #18 in Belgium; #46 in Slovenia; #48 in Denmark; #83 in Norway; #84 in Bosnia; and #90 in Sweden.
Other forms include:
1. Lya is modern French.
2. Lia is Italian, Portuguese, Georgian, and Greek. The alternate form Lía is Galician and Spanish; Lîa is Greenlandic; and Liä is Tatar.
3. Leja is Slovenian and Croatian. The alternate form Lejá is Sami, and Lėja is Lithuanian.
4. Leia is Biblical Greek, and of course well-known from Star Wars.
5. Leya is Yiddish.
6. Laya is Arabic.
7. Liya is Amharic and Russian.
8. Leea is an uncommon Finnish form.
9. Leija is a rare Finnish and Estonian form, and modern Swedish. This is also the Finnish word for “kite.”
10. Liia is Estonian and Finnish.
11. Lija is Latvian, Dutch, Slovenian, and Serbian.