The baby name Scarlett is within spitting distance of the top 100, thanks in large part to actress Scarlett Johansson.
What put it on the map originally, though, was Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind (1936).
Did you know that Katie Scarlett O’Hara was nearly named Pansy? It’s true. Scarlett might never have become a baby name at all had Margaret Mitchell not decided, months after her book was accepted for publication, to change the character’s name from Pansy to Scarlett. She explained:
The name Scarlett was chosen six months after my book was sold….I submitted nearly a hundred names to my publishers and they chose Scarlett,–I may add it was my choice too.
Other names under consideration were Robin, Kells, Storm and Angel.
What made her settle on Scarlett?
As to why I chose the name of Scarlett — first, because I came across the name of Katie Scarlett so often in Irish literature and so I made it Gerald’s Mother’s maiden name. Second, while I of course knew of the Scarlett family on our Georgia Coast, I could find no record of any family named Scarlett in Clayton County between the years 1859 and 1873.
The surname originally denoted a maker or seller of a bright (often red-colored) woollen cloth called scarlet.
How many babies were named Scarlett following the book’s publication?
- 1936: unlisted
- 1937: 7 baby girls named Scarlett [debut]
- 1938: 6 baby girls named Scarlett
- 1939: 7 baby girls named Scarlett (6 Scarlet)
Of course, the film version of Gone with the Wind, released at the very end of 1939, is what really gave the name a boost:
- 1940: 59 named Scarlett (16 Scarlet, 8 Scarlette)
- 1941: 76 named Scarlett (21 Scarlet, 12 Scarlette)
- 1942: 76 named Scarlett (25 Scarlet, 12 Scarlette)
- 1943: 68 named Scarlett (29 Scarlet, 11 Scarlette)
- 1944: 45 named Scarlett (15 Scarlet, 5 Scarlette)
- 1945: 34 named Scarlett (16 Scarlet, 6 Scarlette)
The name slowly picked up steam over the following decades and, by the end of the century, several hundred baby girls were being named Scarlett every year.
When Scarlett Johansson came on the scene in the early 2000s, usage of the name and its variants (and the number of variants) increased at a much faster rate:
- 2000: 227 Scarlett, 100 Scarlet, 14 Scarlette, 8 Scarleth
- 2001: 236 Scarlett, 114 Scarlet, 31 Scarlette, 6 Scarleth
- 2002: 290 Scarlett, 165 Scarlet, 25 Scarlette, 12 Scarleth, 10 Escarlet
- 2003: 326 Scarlett, 169 Scarlet, 22 Scarlette, 15 Scarleth, 5 Escarlet
- 2004: 538 Scarlett, 158 Scarlet, 41 Scarlette, 10 Scarleth, 6 Escarlet
- 2005: 732 Scarlett, 213 Scarlet, 49 Scarlette, 13 Scarleth, 5 Escarleth
- 2006: 1,116 Scarlett, 318 Scarlet, 76 Scarlette, 21 Scarleth, 7 Escarlet
- 2007: 1,581 Scarlett, 403 Scarlet, 109 Scarlette, 18 Scarleth, 6 Escarlet
- 2008: 1,619 Scarlett, 474 Scarlet, 110 Scarlette, 20 Scarleth, 5 Escarlet
- 2009: 1,919 Scarlett, 494 Scarlet, 114 Scarlette, 31 Scarleth
- 2010: 2,700 Scarlett, 757 Scarlet, 203 Scarlette, 27 Scarleth, 10 Escarlet, 5 Escarleth, 5 Escarlett
Do you think any of the other names Mitchell considered — Pansy, Robin, Kells, Storm, Angel — would have made a better character name? Do you think any of them could have caught on as a baby name the way Scarlett did?
- Shrewd, Selfish Scarlett: A Complicated Heroine
- Walker, Marianne. Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh: The Love Story Behind Gone With the Wind. Atlanta, Georgia: Peachtree Publishers, 2011.