As far as I can tell this name crops up mid 1800s, and (informal analysis) looks like it peaks circa 1890-1915. In the present day I'd say it is extremely rare, but I can find living Zorado women and a woman with the first name Zorado who died in 2020. When you find a modern day first or middle name Zorado you generally find her directly with some other Zorado woman nearby, within a generation or two.

I have yet to see a man named Zorado, but do often find the Zorado-named women have the name misprinted(?) in articles etc as Zorada, Lorada, Zorinda, etc. Usually looks like an attempt to "correct" the unusual -o ending for a female-associated given name in English to an -a sound.

Some other demographic features on the Zorado named women: tend to be born around the US midwest to south, south east. Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina, North Carolina... or have relatives there within a generation or two. They tend to be what we could consider racially "white" far as I can tell (which isn't very far from printed names, but you can keep going forward and look at photos of their descendants, for whatever that's worth). Ethnically (looking off surname) it tends to be the original-colonial ethnicity mix (e.g., English mostly, Scots, Irish, or other early colonist backgrounds that changed their surnames to sound English). But that's also just most common surname-ethnicity background for the region you find the Zorado women from.

They seem to tend to be Catholic? Maybe? But I'm not sure on that one. There are a lot of Zorado Pendleton women. I got onto this because I am related to one of them, but there is no living memory of her or the name so that's a dead end.

For anyone who wants to peruse the graves of the Zorado women: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/search?firstname=Zorado&middlename=&lastname=&birthyear=&birthyearfilter=&deathyear=&deathyearfilter=&location=&locationId=&memorialid=&mcid=&linkedToName=&datefilter=&orderby=r&plot=

And searching "Zorado obituary" can get you even more examples, sometimes with descriptions of their backgrounds.

I can find this name and literary connection: https://www.behindthename.com/name/zoraida ... but Zorado women never appear as Zoraida and it would be weird for them all to be a different spelling off that name. But then you do see when searching Zorado on Behind the Name, Zorada comes up as a user submitted entry. https://www.behindthename.com/name/zorada/submitted

It reads: "English (American, Rare, Archaic) Meaning & History: Probably a variant of Zoraida. This was the middle name of American lighthouse keeper Ida Lewis (1842-1911), who was born Idawalley Zorada Lewis. Added 2/25/2017 by Buneary"

So, Idawalley. Great. If you try to look that one up too, it's another big mess. What did it mean? Her mother's name was apparently Idawalley Zoradia Willey so that explains her, but it can't be Idawalley Zoradia women all the way back so somebody had to choose that originally at some point. Zoradia, ok we know the book it's from. Idawalley? Is it a place name?

But I will stick to Zorado for now.

Between the "probably" and how often I see a woman with Zorado on her grave set up by family/her own purchase, but Zorada in some obituary probably edited in the newspaper office... I'm not even fully convinced Idawalley Zorada Lewis having it spelled Zorada isn't the legacy of a misprint. Maybe within her own lifetime or having a Zorado woman for a relative, then getting named after her but with the "correcting" of the -o to -a to make it more normal to people for a woman's name.

Here is her Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_Lewis

Yet another edit to correct something: it looks like Zorada was a misprint, and her full name was Idawalley Zoraida Lewis, so, in her case she was given the same exact name as her mom and her mom's middle name (Zoraida) was after the literary character.

She could plausibly have begun being famous mid 1800s... post 1854 with her first rescue of someone at the lighthouse. Maybe they're all named after her middle name's misprint in the papers? But if so... Why change Zorada to Zorado?

That is probably the closest lead I have.

It just seems unlikely that it connects back at all to Zoraida but to have such a large spelling change and in a direction that doesn't jibe with the usual patterns in the naming culture of the place/time/language. You would imagine it takes a significant push to get parents to name their daughters Zorado. Even if personally I think it sounds cool and also appreciate the non-standard-ness of it all, looking at the families of the Zorado women, they appear unlikely to have been taking a stand against gendered English language norms by not only naming their daughters after action hero Ida Lewis, but also changing that ending to an -o. To make it even less conventional. It would be a nice story but it doesn't seem to fit the profile of all the actual Zorado women and their parents.

And then here is at least one Zorado woman who was born in 1852 - two years before Ida Lewis would have possibly become widely known: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/85753485/zorado-burton

Couple of caveats would be, maybe this Zorado woman's birth year was recorded incorrectly. One of my great grandmothers had her birth year put down a few years off for social security purposes by her parents.

Ok nevermind there are quite a number of Zorado women born not just a few years before 1854...

  • Zorado T. Mann - born 1852
  • Zorado Ella Miller Kettering - born 22 Nov 1852

But also at least 10-20 years prior or more...

  • Zorado Loretta “Raida” Adcock Sparkman - born 28 Feb 1843
  • Zorado L. Moore Miller - born 29 Jan 1840
  • Zorado Smith - born 6 Jul 1838
  • Zorado A. Richardson - born 1 Apr 1838
  • Zorado Martin Pigee - born 21 Jan 1936
  • Zorado Marie Pendleton - born 17 Apr 1936

I am not ruling out Ida Zoraida/Zorada Lewis becoming famous as promoting the name even if it was extant pre-Ida Lewis fame but would need more evidence. I would love to see a newspaper article commenting on the name trend (unlikely but it would be good evidence).

Unlikely as well is it being from phonetically-similar Spanish words, like azorado - abashed, or zorro - fox Source on what azorado means: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/spanish-english/azorado

I did consider if perhaps zorado meant unabashed then, but that seems to be not the case. Just like how we don't say bashed to mean unabashed. (Separate question... but did we ever?).

Even if Zorado was Spanish in origin that would leave us with, why? Why did it take off as a given or middle name for female children in this specific time, place and cultural context?

I'm just really at a loss. Unlike some other "creative names" I find looking at this place and time, it also just doesn't seem like a pure confabulation. Not a fantasy name I mean. Those tend to follow the conventional gendering of the prevailing language/culture involved, at least. Or be from some obvious word (like virtue names, naming your kid Temperance, or Bible verse names, where you name them a whole line from the Bible and shorten it to 1 word out of that even if it's some random word). There is also the practice of naming a kid with some family surname as a first or middle name, or else naming them with the surname of some other person who the parents (presumably) want to honor.

Zorado doesn't seem to fit any of that.

I don't really find much evidence of a connection to any Zorado surname. Though I tagged this surname anyway just in case.

So what's the deal? Any Zorado named individuals in your life? Any Zorado people who don't fit the demographic boundaries I've outlined as typical? Can anyone pull the origin of this name from some reference, shortening, other language... and explain why it got to be flash-in-the-small-pan popular?

If so I would be thankful.

  • Dorado means "golden" in Spanish (and the famous El Dorado "the golden"), and Dorado has been used as a name also. Perhaps, Zorado is an alteration of Dorado; but I couldn't find a reference for it. One of the sources* (not authoritative) mentions Zorada (not Zorado) as a variant of Hebrew Zorah (צרעה) which is the name of a town and originally means "hornet".
    – ermanen
    Oct 5 at 6:21
  • Fwiw, Zorra means vixen in Spanish. The character Zorro is from 1919.
    – Peter
    Oct 5 at 7:40
  • There doesn't seem to be anything conclusive online. But people invent names all the time by combining elements or repurposing words; some become common (Wendy, Lorna, Jayden, Darren, as well as various flowers, abstract nouns expressing personal qualities, surnames, etc), while others disappear.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 5 at 10:06
  • Note that while asking for a name etymology or origin is OK here, conducting a survey or gathering evidence or personal testimonies isn't really what SE is for.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 5 at 10:07
  • Are you familiar with the American Name Society, 1951-present? I can't get their website to come up, but there is a Wikipedia page about them. I stumbled across the bound copies of their journal Names in my library yesterday.
    – shoover
    Oct 5 at 13:29


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