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The Name Onalee

Q: > Hello! As I read on your website, I see that you receive many requests for information regarding names. My first name is "Onalee" and I have been told my whole life that it is a native american name. I have been told that it means "laughing brook". I would be interested to know if any of this is true. Any information that you have for me would be greatly appreciated.

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A: Hello, thanks for writing. Well, none of us knows the exact origin of your name. It seems to have been popular among both Indian and white ladies born between about 1900 and 1940, all across the country. So it would sort of surprise me if it had a traditional native meaning--since there wasn't an intertribal movement till the 1960's, Indian people from different tribes in completely different regions didn't usually use each other's traditional names (only when they lived near each other, like in Oklahoma, was there that kind of mixing.) So it's probably more likely that it was a early 20th-century variant of Annalee, which was a longstandingly popular name among both Indian and white girls. All it would have taken would be one Indian woman whose given name was Onalee and whose Indian name meant "laughing brook" for the story to pass down the family tree that it was the meaning of the name. Perhaps you have a native Onalee like this in your family tree.

Of course, it's also possible that it is an Indian name that we just don't happen to be aware of. If your family is native, then we might be able to tell you more specifically whether that is the case if we knew what tribe they were from.

Hope that helps!
Native Languages of the Americas

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