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That's Not Your Daughter's Name!

My son and daughter-in-law named my granddaughter Aida. I pronounce it aeedah, my friend pronounces it aydah. We are constantly being corrected by my daughter-in-law who pronounces it Ida. Please help me with the correct pronounciation. - Grandma

If you want to know the correct pronunciation of your granddaughter's name, I'll be happy to tell you. It's whatever her parents say it is, of course. They named her, and they know perfectly well what name they chose.

Now, if your question is how to pronounce the name spelled A-I-D-A, that's a different matter. The Ethiopian princess Aida who is the heroine of Verdi's opera (and Elton John's Broadway musical) is pronounced as three syllables: eye-EE-da. Anyone with a passing knowledge of opera will usually read it that way.

That's not the only possible origin or pronunciation for those four simple letters, though. Across the generations, there have always been smatterings of women named Aida as an alternate spelling of Ida or Ada. The Ada pronunciation has been picking up steam lately, as parents seem to see Aida as a feminine version of Aidan.

Since the Ida pronunciation is the least common of the three, I'm afraid your granddaughter is facing a lifetime of correcting people. When you first heard the name, you might have gotten away with politely pointing that out: "Oh, it's so lovely but I'm worried the spelling will mislead people and they'll get her beautiful name wrong!" But I'm afraid it's too late for that. Now that you've treated your daughter-in-law like she doesn't know her own child's name ("constantly" being corrected??), there's nothing left but to make nice. A baby blanket embroidered AIDA would be a good start.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

March 28, 2011 11:13 AM
By Mom to and Ada (not verified)

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. I can't expect to name my son Bob and insist that it is George. People should become name literate when they name their children. They don't know perfectly well. They might think they know, but perfectly well- not.

My daughters name is Ada. People try to spell it Aida (eye-EE-dah). I can accept this as an alternate spelling as is Aydah and Adah. It takes just a moment to explain that it's Ava with a "d", and it usually never happens again. But expecting Aida to be Ida just makes no sense. I think Grandma's right. I would have preferred she include her son in the misnaming of this child, but while she may know her child's name- she doesn't know how to spell it.

March 28, 2011 11:19 AM
By Jennie

I was almost named Aida (the OB was at the opera when my mom went into labor!). I wound up as Jennifer, not sure why. Maybe because my grandmother's name was Ida?

March 28, 2011 11:34 AM
By mk (not verified)

I would have assumed they named her eye-EE-da; I was unaware of alternate uses. The spelling is unfortunate, but since her parents pronounce it as Ida, then her name is Ida. To continue to pronounce it otherwise is rude. They should only have to correct a person once.

March 28, 2011 11:55 AM
By Abby@AppMtn (not verified)

Never, in a month of Sundays, would I think to spell Ida with an extra A.

But these parents did, and I agree - it is rude (and unnecessary) to belabor the point.

It is very, very difficult to determine the "correct" spelling of a name - and pronunciations shift over time. Nina used to sound like the number nine ... Pamela had a different pronunciation until the 20th century.

It's very possible that the parents were influenced by something or someone that makes the Aida spelling meaningful and important.

March 28, 2011 11:59 AM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

I'm as picky about names as the next person, and I fully believe people should use some logic when naming their children. However, what the parent says goes. If she names her Bob but pronounces it "George," that is ridiculous but it is what it is. I knew someone in high school who said she wanted to name her child Nbf and pronounce it "Bob." Unfortunately people make up names all the time and this is the milder of the ones I have heard.

This is not an unheard of spelling for "Ida." If course when I learned to read I learned that "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" (i.e. "Ada"). But "ai" can be pronounced "eye" as in "aisle."

March 28, 2011 12:05 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

'Aida' to 'Ida' isn't remotely like 'Bob' to 'George'. The letters 'ai' can be pronounced either as 'aye' (as in the word 'paid') or 'I' (as in the word 'chai'). Same letters, different pronunciation, all up to the parents.

March 28, 2011 12:08 PM
By Tammy (not verified)

This should not even be a question. If the child's parents pronounce it "Ida" then that is how her name should be said. It doesn't matter what the "correct" spelling or pronunciation is. Maybe they should have rethought the spelling to avoid confusion, but ultimately they have the right to spell and pronounce however they want and it's a little late to change it. I know if I chose a name and meant for it to sound a certain way, I would want others to say it that way too, regardless of what they "thought" itshould sound like.

March 28, 2011 1:18 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Seriously, you needed to be corrected on this more than once??
Don't be "that" mother-in-law.

I will agree that you have the "right" pronunciation but this is NOT the hill you should die on.

March 28, 2011 2:07 PM
By Em (not verified)

I agree that it's down to the parents but people will still assume whatever they decide to assume when they see little Aidas name (on the school register, list at the dentist etc).

I suppose it's like the name 'Clara'. Would you pronounce that 'Klar-ra', 'Klare-ra', 'Klay-ra'?

See, I would say 'Klar-ra', but your opinions may differ.

Nevertheless, if I was 'Klar-ra' and you kept pronouncing my name as 'Klare-ra' I'd be getting annoyed and wishing my parents had stuck with something more phonetic!

March 28, 2011 3:30 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

While my first guess would be
Ah-EEE-dah, like the opera, My second would be close to Ida. I knew a kid named Aira, pronounced like Ira, (Eye-rah)whose name was a blend of Japanese and English.

In the Japanese (and a few other) language, syllables are not stressed, so Aida, would be pronounced with a short ah, short eee and then a dah, also short. (The vowels are like Romantic language vowels.) Only someone listening very closely would pick up a difference between Aida (spoken in Japanese) and Ida (average English). So the parents pronunciation makes sense to me.

Seriously, this is a name that is pretty and will travel well.

March 28, 2011 5:46 PM
By Elle (not verified)

My name is a tricky name to spell and pronounce from the spelling. It features "Lei" pronounced as "lay", very similar to the name Leila. It's an ethnic sounding name, although my father's family has been in America since colonial times and my mother's family are Polish immigrants (the name is not remotely Polish). I've grown up correcting people on the spelling and pronunciation. On baby name forums you would think that this is the most horrible fate to bestow upon your child, but this is blown out of proportion. My sister with a mainstream, normal top 100 name originating in ancient Rome ALSO has to correct the spelling and pronunciation of her name. This is the reality of the multicultural world we live in today. Usually it only takes correcting the spelling or pronunciation once.

Now my name is like a secret between the people who know and love me. I can still recognize my name mispronounced, but the correct pronunciation of my name is much more meaningful and special to me. Likely little Aida will learn to answer to "Ay-dah" and "eye-EE-dah". I have no idea what my grandparents though when I was born, with a name that was so unheard of to them (I have never met another with my name) but I can tell you how I would have felt if they mispronounced it-- like I was a little bit of a stranger to them, and they to me. Don't start your relationship with your granddaughter that way. Do her the favor of pronouncing her name the way it was intended to be, and not phonetically. After all, a phonetic pronunciation of George would be different as well. "EYE-dah" is what will be whispered in her ear and called to her by the people who love and cherish her, and that sound will always be sweet to her. Count yourself among those people and pronounce and spell her name according to her parents' wishes.

March 28, 2011 6:09 PM
By Lysis (not verified)

Persisting in pronouncing your granddaughter's name in a way other than what your son and DIL intended will only strain your relationship. It shows a lack of respect for their parental authority and for your granddaughter's developing identity. You better shape up soon or your DIL's "constant corrections" will become constant silence.

March 28, 2011 6:09 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I went to school (in the 1980s) with an Aida, pronounced eye-dah. This is the CORRECT pronunciation to her, her family, her friends, and anyone who choses to show her respect.

March 28, 2011 9:59 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I don't think Aida pronounced as Ida is strange at all. It would be my second guess (my first is the opera). As someone else said, both the ai in aisle and chai are pronounced as a long i, so it is not unheard of in the English language. It's a lovely name.

Even if it were some "crazy" spelling/pronunciation, it is the child's correct name. By not pronouncing it correctly, you are insulting her and her parents. I would not think highly of anyone who chose to not pronounce my name the way I pronounced it, no matter how "right" they thought they were.

March 29, 2011 12:02 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I am a big fan of traditional spelling, and if I wanted to name my daughter Ida, I would have named her Ida. If I were to come across the name Aida, I would assume that it was pronounced "Eye-eee-dah."

That being said, I agree that people should make every effort to pronounce the name the way the parents intended. Yes, it's an odd spelling choice (in my opinion) but they must have had their reasons for spelling it that way. That poor kid will have to spend her whole life correcting people. (For the record, I have one of those uncommon names that confuses telemarketers, co-workers, my in-laws, etc. I find it harrowing to constantly correct people, so I've given up. I will now answer to just about anything with three syllables.)

March 29, 2011 12:16 PM
By TrixiesMom (not verified)

I hope there is a special place in heaven for you Elle. What beautiful words and truly a beautiful sentiment.

""EYE-dah" is what will be whispered in her ear and called to her by the people who love and cherish her, and that sound will always be sweet to her. Count yourself among those people and pronounce and spell her name according to her parents' wishes."

This promotes not just respect and common sense, two of my standbys, but what is important - a child cherished by their grandmother and the lifetime relationship they will have.

March 29, 2011 12:43 PM
By Deirdre (not verified)

I don't think that Aida pronounced with the same "i" as in "eye" is weird at all. I have never heard of the opera, so my first guess would actually be more like aidan, pronounced like the "a" in "paid", so "ehh-dah"
I think Ida works perfectly fine. Now if it were "eee-dah" then I would wonder as to why the parents had spelt it that way, but I wouldn't really care because we have such a mix of cultures in the states nowadays that unless its a name like Jennifer, Elizabeth or Lauren, you have to ask how to say it.

Also, I have always had to correct people on the pronunciation of my name, and I agree-that the correct pronunciation is something that distinguishes people I'm closer to. Also, your granddaughter may come up with a cute nickname and use that for people who can't get her name right to use.

March 29, 2011 12:43 PM
By Michelle (not verified)

I know a woman from east Africa with the name Aida and it's pronounced EYE-dah. She's got a lot of personality, so she only has to correct you once.

March 29, 2011 12:49 PM
By name wizardy (not verified)

I dated a boy named Gandalf in highschool. (I'm serious.) The only thing is that his name was spelled Grandoff.

I was told they spelled it their own way because they really couldn't remember how Gandalf was spelled in the novel, so they did their best and came up with Grandoff for the spelling, but he never had any trouble telling people the proper pronunciation of his name. The spelling was ridiculously wrong, but anyone who knew him knew how it was pronounced and it was all perfectly fine.

March 29, 2011 12:51 PM
By TriangleJazz (not verified)

I think the two pronunciations are a lot closer than it might seem. Say Aïda (eye-EE-da) quickly enough and it slurs into Ida.

I've encountered a similar difficulty with my middle name, Everett. I pronounce it with two syllables (EV-rett) while my wife pronounces it with three (EV-uh-rett). Say it quickly enough and that middle syllable vanishes.

March 29, 2011 1:12 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

My parents gave me a real name and pronounced it incorrectly. Anyone in my childhood who would have insisted on the correct pronunciation would have irritated the heck out of me, even though they might have been technically correct. Therefore I would warn you to stop because it won't endear you to your granddaughter.

Note: in my adult life I finally discovered the pronunciation was wrong and I now use the correct pronunciation. It saves me a lot of trouble and doesn't make me look like an idiot who can't pronounce my own name. So, you could also say that although I would urge people to call a child what he/she was named by his/her parents, I would also urge his/her parents to avoid this problem if possible.

March 29, 2011 1:41 PM
By Jen (not verified)

I know a little Aida pronounced Ida and, while it wasn't my first guess when I saw the name written, I think it's a perfectly reasonable and intuitive pronunciation of the name. As someone already pointed out, eye-EE-da and EYE-da sound very similar when said quickly. Also, I agree with everyone else that the parents (and later the individual) get to decide the pronunciation and it's rude to mispronounce a name because you think you know better.

March 29, 2011 2:12 PM
By Michelle (not verified)

A good friend of mine is named Aida while pronouncing it like Ida. I'm not sure what the rationale was...the only thing I can think of is that she grew up in Austria and that might have been the predominant pronunciation in German.

March 29, 2011 2:17 PM
By Pamela S (not verified)

As a teacher I have come across some ridiculous spellings: Charkia pronounced shaREEka, Donavanne' with an accent mark over the terminal e pronounced Donovan (on a boy, mind you), Jaci pronounced Jackie, Chas pronounced Chass...

The sad thing is that as you're teaching children to read, and are telling them things like "One s at the end of the word makes a Z sound, two is soft and smooth, like sssnakesssss," ...

With a name like Siobhan, which spelling makes no sense in English, but is perfectly correct in Irish, it's understandable. But this sort of error makes the parents seem ignorant and uneducated which sadly often causes a teacher to think, even subconsciously, that the child is therefore not very sharp... and the LAST thing you want any teacher thinking is that your kid isn't very sharp.

For Aida pronounced Ida, this spelling works okay... not perfectly, put okay with sloppy speakers of Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese or Italian. My Spanish sister-in-law is Eva, pronounced similarly to the name we tend to spell Ava, which to her mind would rhyme with java. Ida would be EEda.

In any case, the ship has sailed in this case. All grandma can do is make nice.

I wish more people would put more time in considering spellings, but... this group is the choir, and spelling counselors are not available in hospitals as far as I know. Perhaps they should be. But even then, all they could do is suggest to the parents of little "Chas" that if they want to insist on that being a soft 's' at the end they will need to either add another 's' or be prepared to "correct" people who are reading it ... correctly.

March 29, 2011 3:10 PM
By Tiana (not verified)

What I find funny is that the Grandma isn't even using the "eye EE da" pronunciation! She says she pronounces it "a EE da", so she's wrong on all counts.

FWIW, as a person with a "confusing to pronounce" name, I really loathe "confusing to pronounce" names.

March 29, 2011 3:21 PM
By Annee (not verified)

I've only ever known one person named Aida (I would guess her to be in her late 30's or early 40's) and she pronounced Ida -- so, that's how I thought it was pronounced. Is this perhaps a Spanish pronuncation?

March 29, 2011 3:31 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

however the parents say THEIR childs name is how you pronouce it...i cant believe she even had to ask!!

March 29, 2011 4:21 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Bah, even simple names get pronounced wrong. My first name is Lori, and I've heard anything from Gloria to Laura.

Seriously, your son and daughter-in-law named their daughter, you didn't. You have to go with what they say. You just know your daughter-in-law has had that conversation with her husband: "Your mother hates our daughter's name and refuses to even try to say it right". When it comes to things like this (along with choosing discipline and restricting sugar and deciding on daycare), they are right and you are not. The best you can do is express gentle concern, once, right at the beginning, and then let it go if they ignore you. After that, they've chosen and you have to go along with it unless you think they're endangering the child.

Sorry if I sound so annoyed by this, but I have a mother-in-law who is constantly trying to correct me on the most basic things when it comes to my son. She's so used to being the mommy and correcting everybody else that it just doesn't occur to her that sometimes we know what we're doing.

Do not become that woman. The last thing your granddaughter needs is tension between her parents and you, the very people she needs most to pull together to raise her.

So no matter how strange it sounds to you, it is her name. Do your best to respect that. Letting go of control is a major part of your job as a grandparent. I wish they could all figure that out...

March 29, 2011 7:20 PM
By Bridgette (not verified)

I would've pronounced it "Ida." I like the "chai" reference made earlier. I feel sorry for Aida and her parents. I can't imagine what else Grandma isn't supporting them on.

March 29, 2011 8:02 PM
By Faith (not verified)

Although I believe that it's not helpful to spell a child's name one way & expect others to pronounce it an uncommon way for that spelling, it's even more riduculous (and rude) for a grandmother to continue to mispronounce her grandchild's name just because it's not spelled how she thinks it should be even though she clearly knows the pronunciation isn't what they chose.

I had a friend who's daughter's name was pronounced like "Billie" but spelled "Belly." (yeah, I couldn't believe it either.) However, I questioned it once, just making sure I had heard right, and never again because that would have been rude.

March 29, 2011 11:00 PM
By Katya (not verified)

"Aida" pronounced "Ida" actually does make sense if you have a background in language, particularly Latin. While the 'eye' sound in Latin is usually made from "ae" at the end of the word, it can also come from "ai" in the middle of a word. This is because of the pronunciation of verbs in Latin (and most romantic languages that aren't English). "a" is "ah", "e" is "ay", and "i" is "ee". If you smash these two sounds together, both "ah-ay" (ae) and "ah-ee" (ai) will produce an "eye" sound.

So, not my style, but it is a perfectly reasonable claim to make that "Aida" can be pronounced as "Ida".

And honestly, it's much more passable than the Mikynzee's of the world.

March 30, 2011 3:37 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I know someone named/spelled Daina, but it's pronounced "Dinah." So, you never know! That sound, spelled that way, is definitely out there.

March 30, 2011 7:01 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Don't know it its because of where I'm from, but when I read the question, I sai Aida " Ida" first time through. For me, I've never heard of a different way to say it. There are lots of example of "ai" being "I" out there.

March 30, 2011 7:59 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that the pronunciation is whatever the parents decide. But what about names that are perhaps uniusual in the culture of the parents but very well known in other cultures. I knew a couple who named their son Juan and insisted on pronouncing it 'JEWarn rather than WARN. sure the parents idea goes, but we tried 'nicknaming' him warn so he'd get used to that pronunciation of his name out in the world.

March 30, 2011 8:00 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that the pronunciation is whatever the parents decide. But what about names that are perhaps uniusual in the culture of the parents but very well known in other cultures. I knew a couple who named their son Juan and insisted on pronouncing it 'JEWarn rather than WARN. sure the parents idea goes, but we tried 'nicknaming' him warn so he'd get used to that pronunciation of his name out in the world.

March 31, 2011 7:17 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The "Kingdom Hearts" character Kairi is pronounced Kyrie.

April 1, 2011 10:36 AM
By M9 Review (not verified)

Nice post, I like the way you present it, Thanks!

April 2, 2011 1:39 AM
By Lisa (not verified)

Umm, what about aida cloth you use for cross stitch? I never heard it said so used to read it as 'ay-da' but have since decided I was wrong. So a quick google gives me this from Wikipedia "The consensus from various discussions on rec.crafts.textiles.needlework is that there are two ways to pronounce the word "Aida": either /ɑːˈiːdə/, as in the opera by Verdi, or /ˈeɪdə/."

April 4, 2011 12:59 PM
By Amy (not verified)

How silly, rude, irrational, & bitter you are being. Not to mention egotistical by thinking the way you read something means more than the way it's creator says it. This is why my MIL will not get to babysit for quite a while. If when she leaves I burst into tears out of frustration because of her rudeness, passive aggressiveness, and disrespect despite my desperate efforts for approval why the heck should I leave my son with her? Get off your high horse before you are shut out of your sons & granddaughters lifes....that's the road you starting on. He's her husband now & her father not just your son: get over it. (thought I'd adress the real* issue here). Stop trying to be 'the right one' when there's no need for a battle in the first place. Also, my sons name is aiden & I still read Aida as eye-da as in aisle or chai. My MIL also called us the night of my induction to correct the spelling of our sons name to Aden...even though his middle name is named after her chosen by me (again looking for approval). Don't be like ticks the women off & in return her husband. You will most certainly lose that (pointless) battle.
I'm sorry for my bluntness especially if this is not the case for you, but any disrespect in my post is nothing compared to what your doing to your DIL, & honestly I don't respect a person who pushes their beliefs & their ways on others. Especially people the*should be supporting*.

April 5, 2011 3:26 PM
By Sarah (not verified)

You are exactly on point!!!! The name is whatever the parents say it is and this kid may be in for a lifetime of "no my name is......" but if anyone should except the name it is the grandmother. If my mother-in-law had something to say about my childs name, I would be telling her where to go and how to get there. So rude!!!!!! It is hard to feel validated at first as a new mom forget about people questioning the babies name! Again, especially the babies own grandmother. Just plain annoying and rude!

April 5, 2011 10:10 PM
By shadelit (not verified)

I'm astonished that somebody would be presumptuous enough to correct a parent on the pronunciation of their child's name. I'm sorry to have to say it, but if my own mother-in-law were as tactless and overbearing, she'd end up seeing a lot less of her grandchild--something the grandmother in this scenario should keep in mind.

For what it's worth, "Ida" is a perfectly correct variant pronunciation of the name Aida. While I once would have expected to hear the "Ay-ee-da" version, due to my own background in classical music/opera, I have never met an "Ay-ee-da" Aida in real life, but I have actually met FOUR "Ida" Aidas. Anecdotal evidence, yes, but I highly doubt it's some kind of isolated statistical anomoly and all of those women's families were foolishly misrepresenting their cultures and mispronouncing their names.

April 7, 2011 12:50 PM
By Stef with an F (not verified)

The only Aida I have met pronounced her name the same as the English name "Ida". She was Latin American, and her pronunciation was perfectly correct according to the Spanish pronunciation of vowels.

In Spanish, the letter A is pronounced softly, like "ah", and the letter I is pronounced like "ee". In Spanish, if the name were to be pronounced with three syllables ("ah-EE-dah"), as it is in the opera "Aïda", it would probably be spelled as "Aída", the accent mark in both cases indicating that the first two vowel sounds were not to be blended but pronounced distinctly as two syllables. The lack of an accent mark in "Aida" would indicate that the first two letters were to be blended into the diphthong "eye", resulting in a name of just two syllables.

I don't know what your daughter-in-law's ethnic background is, but I think that as the world becomes more multi-cultural, we won't be able to assume that others' ways are wrong just because they are different from our own way. Even if it seems wrong to you, keep in mind that under different systems and contexts, it could be considered correct.

April 8, 2011 9:41 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

i worked with a gal from panama named aida, pronounced aye-da. she said the name ida is pronounced ee-da in her culture.

April 13, 2011 3:33 PM
By hyacinth (not verified)

If the mother of the child pronounces it Ida, then pronounce it Ida. This is out of your control.

May 1, 2011 6:52 PM
By anonymous (not verified)

I have been that person that has constantly had to correct people on the correct pronunciation of my name my whole life. My parents spelled my name, Daina, with an "i" instead of the more common, Dana or Dayna. Funny thing is more people call me Diana than anything else! My parents weren't the ones being name illiterate, instead it is the people who assume a certain spelling/pronunciation. The parents are the ones who are in charge of the name and pronunciation and others, even family members, should respect their wishes!

July 19, 2011 12:49 PM
By Flowers Shrewsbury (not verified)

Great, Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative post.

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