Where did the baby name Cataleya come from in 2011?

The character Cataleya from the movie "Colombiana" (2011)
Cataleya from “Colombiana”

The curious name Cataleya first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 2011:

  • 2014: 695 baby girls were named Cataleya [rank: 460th]
  • 2013: 687 baby girls were named Cataleya [rank: 448th]
  • 2012: 639 baby girls were named Cataleya [rank: 480th]
  • 2011: 29 baby girls were named Cataleya [debut]
  • 2010: unlisted
  • 2009: unlisted

The next year, it jumped straight into the girls’ top 500. The jump was so big that it qualified Cataleya as the fastest-rising baby name of 2012.

Here’s the graph:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Cataleya in the U.S. since 1880.
Usage of the baby name Cataleya

The sudden trendiness of Cataleya inspired parents to create dozens of variant spellings, such as…

2010201120122013
Cataleya.29*639
[rank: 480th]
687
[rank: 448th]
Kataleya.10*197240
Cattleya.8*123124
Catalaya..51*57
Cattaleya..46*46
Catalia..35*29
Katalaya..32*37
Katalia..26*25
Kattleya..26*29
Catalea..20*9
Kataleah..17*10
Kattaleya..17*23
Katalea..16*19
Katalayah..12*.
Kathaleya..12*6
Cataleyah..11*22
Cateleya..11*8
Kataleyah..10*18
Kathalia..9*.
Cataleah..8*15
Kataleia..8*10
Kataliyah..8*8
Kataliya..7*8
Katilaya..7*11
Cataleia..6*5
Cataliyah..5*5
Catilaya..5*.
Catileya..5*.
Cathaleya...8*
Catalya...6*
Catelaya...6*
Kataleiya...6*
Cattalaya...5*
Kateleya...5*
*Debut

(Catalaya and Cattaleya were the second- and third-highest girl-name debuts of 2012, incidentally.)

So where did the name Cataleya come from?

The action thriller movie Colombiana, which was released in the summer of 2011.

The main character, Cataleya Restrepo (played by Zoë Saldaña), had witnessed her parents being murdered when she was a child in Bogotá. Fifteen years later, after being raised by an uncle in Chicago, she was working as a contract killer and seeking vengeance on the men who killed her family.

The character Cataleya from the movie "Colombiana" (2011)
Cataleya wearing her Cattleya necklace

The character was named after the orchid genus Cattleya (pronounced KAT-lee-uh). She wears a Cattleya necklace that had belonged to her mother, and leaves a lipstick drawing of a Cattleya on each of her victims as a calling card.

The genus Cattleya, native to the tropical rainforests of South America, was named in honor of British horticulturalist William Cattley. His surname, a variant of Catley, can refer to any of several places in England called Catley.

What are your thoughts on the name Cataleya? (How would you spell it?)

P.S. Zoë Saldaña also plays Neytiri in the Avatar films.

Sources:

Images: © 2011 Sony Pictures

3 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Cataleya come from in 2011?

  1. I know it’s not the same thing, but every time I see the name Cataleya (always on baby name sites), I think of the bizarre-looking but beautiful Catahoula Leopard dogs. (Shout-out to the tv show Veronica Mars for introducing this dog to me.) I am not a fan of the name, but I think I understand the appeal. It’s sort of the new Caitlin, with its myriad misspellings, and the potential of Katie or Cat as a nickname.

  2. I don’t care for the name. Visually, many of the various spellings remind me of the word “cattle” and that rules it out for me.

    On the other hand, Catalina strikes differently (when the i is pronounced as a long e). I was surprised to see it ranked #149 in 2022.

  3. @ab Catalina just makes me think of salad dressing. I think it’s the brand name for Kraft’s French dressing. (Or at least it was in the 80s, the last time I had it — my dad liked it.) Of course, 40 years hence, I am also aware that it’s an island near Los Angeles, but I definitely didn’t know that until I was an adult. The “cattle” part of Cataleya bugs me, too, especially when people change the spelling so that “cattle” is right there. Like when [anglophone] people inexplicably spell Annelise so that the word “anal” is it it — how do they not notice that?!

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