Kaya the Kayaker: What’s in a Name?

My parents tell everyone to remember our daughter’s name, “Kaya” by thinking of our favorite hobby, kayaking. That’s because they are convinced we named her after said hobby. Did we?


Three days old and dreaming of the sea

One reader, seemingly forever ago, asked if my name was Kaya, judging by my blog title, before catching herself and realizing it meant “Kayak Kyrstin” with a shared “K”. I instantly had the thought What A Cool Name! Then forgot completely about it.


Our friends lent us their baby names book when they found out we were pregnant. While choosing their daughter’s name they crossed off a bunch of names in the book. We took the opposite approach, we marked names we liked. The list was very very very short. Kaya or Felicity.

It’s not that we were very picky, it’s that we had a lot to deal with. My husband is half Polish. The joke goes: what is long and hard and given to a bride on her wedding night? His last name.

When you only have one vowel among 8 letters, including two Zs, a Y, and a C, in your last name, you need to have a simple first name. When I changed my name after getting married the man at the DMV asked if I was sure.

“Kaya’ at least can only be mispronounced in one way (Kay-ya vs KI-ya) so it’s not scary and she’ll always know who they are referring to, versus me who will respond to “Kirstin, Kristin, Christian, Christine, hey you” (It’s KEER-stin, in case you were wondering). That being said, simple does not have to mean common, so we also nixed all common names, like “Sarah”. That doesn’t leave you a lot to work with.

Day 2 leaving the hospital

The name Kaya, which can also be spelled Kaia, has several meanings.

Japanese: ‘home, yew tree, rock’ or ‘forgiveness’
Zulu: ‘home’.
Hopi Indian: ‘wise child’ or ‘willow’.
Turkish: ‘stone’

The Hawaiian name, Kaia, means “The Sea” We love Maui and go frequently (such as recently and previously) since my parents live there part of the time. Plus…”the sea” is a great name, right?

I liked the spelling with the Y because of the Ys in my name (I have one in my first, middle, and last).

I also like the American Girl dolls. My grandma bought the Kirstin doll (a Swedish name with the same pronunciation as my made-up spelling) for me when I was 8 years old. Kaya’s grandma (my mom) bought the Kaya doll for her when she was 3 weeks old.

American girl dolls Kirstin and Kaya + our 3 weeks old
American girl doll (3 months)

I’d otherwise heard of the name but just a couple weeks ago I saw it on the news twice. One is the actress on the Pirate’s of the Caribbean movie “Dead men tell no tales”, Kaya Scodelario and one is Cindy Crawford’s daughter, Kaia Gerber.

We probably also chose that spelling because…it’s the beginning of the word of our favorite hobby.


“Get out and play” kayak shirt (3.5 months)



Almost fits in the American Girl Kayak I bought used (it’s “retired”)



This Kaya is a much better fit.


No matter which way you look at it, she ended up looking like a Kaya to me!

Tummy time (3 months)

First smile caught on camera (~6 weeks)


Mastered the charming on command look by 7 weeks





4 thoughts on “Kaya the Kayaker: What’s in a Name?

  1. But, when it’s all said and done. You really did name her after your favorite hobby . . . right? 🙂 Admittedly, that’s what I thought.

    Liked by 1 person

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