Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 11th column, he tells the story of his mother, Leona Frances Evans.
Leona is the feminine form of Leo or Leon, Latin and Greek forms of an ancient name meaning “lion.” Leo became a famous name in 440 when Leo I was elected pope. Called Leo the Great, he was the first to assert the primacy of Rome within the Catholic Church.
During the early 1800s Leona turned up occasionally as a baby name in England and Germany, but it became popular only in the United States. Between 1896 and 1921, Leona was among the top 100 names for American girls, peaking at 69th place in 1905.