How popular is the baby name Belle in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Belle and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Belle.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Belle

Number of Babies Named Belle

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Belle

How Will the Remake of “Roots” Influence Baby Names?

"I am Kunta" ad, Roots, History Channel

The phenomenally popular mini-series Roots (1977) didn’t just set TV viewership records and win a slew of awards. It also had a big impact on U.S. baby names — the biggest impact of any pop culture event of the 20th century, in fact.

But I’ve already posted about the influence of Roots on baby names. So why am I bringing it up again?

Because it’s back! The History Channel will be airing a 4-part remake of Roots in a couple of weeks, starting on May 30.

Many of the ads I’ve seen so far happen to be name-focused, ironically. Several of the teaser clips on YouTube feature a voice saying, “Your name is your spirit. Your name is your shield. Your name is Kunta Kinte.”

I don’t expect the new version of Roots to have the same impact that the original did. But I’m sure it will raise the profile (and thereby increase the usage) of at least a few baby names — likely a mix of names we’re already familiar with (e.g., Kizzy, Kunta) and names that are new this time around, such as:

  • Malachi – the name of the actor who plays Kunta Kinte
  • Regé-Jean – the name of the actor who plays Chicken George
  • Emayatzy – the name of the actress who plays Belle
  • E’myri – the name of the actress who plays young Kizzy
  • Cyrus – the name of a (new?) character, played by hip-hop artist T.I.*

Which baby name do you think will get the biggest boost from the remake of Roots?

*The baby names Major, Messiah and King made big gains in 2012 thanks to T.I.’s reality show T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle.


Leneve – Baby Name Inspired by a Fugitive

Ethel Le Never
Ethel Le Neve on a Wanted Poster
© The National Archives (UK)
The curious name Leneve debuted on the SSA’s baby name list 105 years ago…then disappeared.

  • 1912: unlisted
  • 1911: unlisted
  • 1910: 7 baby girls named Leneve
  • 1909: unlisted
  • 1908: unlisted

A similar spike can be seen in the SSDI data:

  • 1912: none
  • 1911: 6 people named Leneve
  • 1910: 16 people named Leneve
  • 1909: none
  • 1908: none

Where did the name Leneve come from all of a sudden in 1910?

We’ll get to that in a second. First, let’s start with the murder.

On July 13, 1910, the remains of a body thought to belong to music hall singer Belle Elmore (legal name Cora Crippen) were found in the basement of her home in London. Belle had been missing since February.

The main suspect was her husband, Hawley Crippen, a homeopathic doctor who had fled to Belgium several days earlier with his young lover, Ethel Le Neve.

A warrant for the arrest of Crippen and Le Neve was issued on July 16.

The pair — disguised as father and son, and using the surname Robinson — boarded a Canada-bound steamship in Antwerp on July 20.

The captain of the ship was suspicious of the pair, so he telegraphed the boat’s owners, who in turn telegraphed Scotland Yard.

A London police officer boarded an even faster steamship headed for Canada on July 23.

Fascinatingly, Crippen and Le Neve were not only unaware that they were being trailed by the London police on another boat, but they also didn’t know that newspapers around the world had picked up their story and that millions of people were reading about the dramatic transatlantic race, day by day, as it occurred.

The faster ship reached Quebec first, and the officer was able to intercept and arrest the fugitives on July 31. (This makes Crippen and Le Neve the first criminals to be apprehended with the assistance of wireless communication.)

The next month, the pair sailed back to England. They were tried separately.

Crippen was found guilty. He was executed by hanging on November 23.

Ethel Le Neve was acquitted. She promptly left for New York.

To this day, no one knows exactly whose remains were in that basement in London, how they got there, and who was to blame for it all.

But we do know that Ethel Le Neve (often written “Leneve” in U.S. newspapers) was a fixture in the news in mid-1910. This is no doubt what boosted the rare name Leneve onto the baby name charts for the first and only time. Leneve was the top one-hit wonder name of 1910, in fact.

Ethel was back in London by 1915. She eventually got married and had two children. She died in 1967, never having revealed to her children that she “had once been the world’s most famous runaway.” (They found this out in the 1980s, after being contacted by a crime historian.)

What are your thoughts on the baby name Leneve?

Sources: Local history: Transatlantic murder mystery plays out in 1910 Scranton, London, Marconi Catches a Murderer (Futility Closet podcast), The Execution of Dr Crippen, Inside story: last refuge for a killer’s mistress

Name Quotes for the Weekend #29

Here are some interesting snippets about names/naming to end the week…

From “Sandra Bernhard, rebellious as ever” (The Villager, 2006) by Jerry Tallmer:

Though Bernhard, rebellious as ever, says: “I can’t stand sitting in theater, it drives me insane,” and has time for movies “only on television…or in airplanes,” she did appropriate from Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” the name Cicely that graces Bernhard’s daughter born July 4, 1998, nine or so months after the flamethrowing actress/singer/faghag/friend of the famous said to herself one fine day: “Enough! Get real.”

From a “Names of boundless mirth” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2003) by Ambeth Ocampo (who is quoting a reader who e-mailed him this story):

“I was once a MedTech intern assigned in a rural Cebu town. Back then it was common to encounter names of kids such as ‘Tom Cruise Duhaylungsod,’ ‘Jacky Chan Labadan,’ ‘Fernando Poe Capunay,’ etc. Certainly a vast improvement over those Spanish-era saintly names of old (mine included). You would think parents of those kids were diehard movie fanatics who wanted to append their idol’s screen names to their kids’. But once, while taking a blood sample from a baby girls with [a] profusely runny nose and ‘Phoebe Cates’ as a given name, I kidded the mother that she must be a Phoebe Cates fan. To which she replied that living in a rural barrio she seldom watched movies actually, not to mention that she could hardly afford it; she didn’t know it was a movie star’s name until much later. It was the midwife who attended to her when she gave birth to her baby who pinned a paper with that name on the baby’s lampin. Needless to say, she and her husband found it unique. So the name stuck. Go figure how many more babies that midwife christened with her own idols’ fancy names. The baby’s parents nevertheless were proud of it, mind you.”

From the BBC article “‘Unique’ Roman tombstone found in Cirencester“:

The tombstone was found near skeletal remains thought to belong to the person named on its inscription, making the discovery unique.

Archaeologists behind the dig in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said they believed it marked the grave of a 27-year-old woman called Bodica.

[…]

Mr Holbrook has suggested the name Bodica was of Celtic origin.

“Perhaps Bodica is a local Gloucestershire girl who’s married an incoming Roman or Gaul from France and has adopted this very Roman way of death,” he said.

And that BBC article reminded me of this BBC article, “Queen Khentakawess III’s tomb found in Egypt“:

Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed the tomb of a previously unknown queen, Egyptian officials say.

The tomb was found in Abu-Sir, south-west of Cairo, and is thought to belong to the wife or mother of Pharaoh Neferefre who ruled 4,500 years ago.

Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said that her name, Khentakawess, had been found inscribed on a wall in the necropolis.

Mr Damaty added that this would make her Khentakawess III.

From “Why I Changed My Name and What It Taught Me About Who I Am” by Belle Beth Cooper:

My dad did feel a bit taken aback by it. Although he knew I was using my new name already, talking to him about the process of changing it legally was pretty tough. That conversation was a huge lesson for me in empathy and communication. My dad suggested I was changing my name out of anger towards my parents, almost in revenge or as a way to hurt them. That’s a pretty hard thing to hear from someone you love and respect, and it wasn’t easy to explain why I was changing my name and to convince him it was no reflection on my relationship with him or my mum at all.

From “Social change and the Fatima Index” by Justin Thomas in The National (and found via Clare’s Name News):

In spite of the great developments and massive social changes that have taken place across the UAE over the past few decades, the names Emirati families give to their babies has remained incredibly stable.

For more quote posts, check out the NBN name quotes category.

Unique Name Helps Adoptee Find Birth Family

Tiona KingIn 1886, a baby girl was born in Le Roy, Illinois. Her father was unknown and her mother Tiona died shortly after giving birth, “leaving the child the name of Tiona as her only inheritance.”

Orphaned Tiona ended up in the Girls’ Industrial home in Bloomington, IL. This is where Mr. and Mrs. Joseph King of Bloomington found her a few years later. They adopted her.

In 1903, when Tiona King was 16, the society column of a local paper mentioned that she had been hosting some friends from Chicago.

Belle Craig, a Le Roy resident who happened to read the item, noted that the unique name Tiona was the same as that of a childhood friend. Curious about the coincidence, Belle decided to investigate.

She eventually discovered that Tiona King of Bloomington was indeed the daughter of her old friend, solving the mystery of Tiona’s parentage.

The icing on the cake was a 27-acre tract of land near Kinmundy (about 100 miles to the south) that had been left behind by Tiona’s deceased maternal grandparents. The property could now by claimed by Tiona.

Cool story, eh?

Back in 1903 when this story was circulating, newspaper writers tended to disparage unique names. Those writing about Tiona, though, mostly praised the name. One writer even described it as “euphonious.” No doubt the feel-good nature of the tale helped people see the name in a positive light.

What do you think of the name Tiona?

Sources:

  • “Fortune In Name.” Barrington Review 4 Sept. 1903: 3.
  • “Girl’s Odd Name “Tiona” Cleared Mystery of Birth.” St. Louis Republic 14 Aug. 1903: 4.
  • “Value of a Name.” Saint Paul Globe 29 Aug. 1903: 1.

Popular Baby Names in England and Wales, 2013

The top baby names in England and Wales were announced last week.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, the most popular baby names last year were Amelia and Oliver.

Here are England and Wales’ top 20 girl names and top 20 boy names of 2013:

Girl Names Boy Names
1. Amelia, 5570 baby girls
2. Olivia, 4598
3. Emily, 4049
4. Ava, 3575
5. Isla, 3526
6. Jessica, 3507
7. Poppy, 3422
8. Isabella, 3246
9. Sophie, 3013
10. Mia, 2993
11. Ruby, 2948
12. Lily, 2883
13. Grace, 2799
14. Evie, 2767
15. Sophia, 2764
16. Ella, 2722
17. Scarlett, 2643
18. Chloe, 2401
19. Isabelle, 2287
20. Freya, 2266
1. Oliver, 6,949 baby boys
2. Jack, 6,212
3. Harry, 5,888
4. Jacob, 5,126
5. Charlie 5,039
6. Thomas, 4,591
7. Oscar, 4,511
8. William, 4,268
9. James, 4,236
10. George, 4,202
11. Alfie, 4,138
12. Joshua, 3,973
13. Noah, 3,830
14. Ethan, 3,572
15. Muhammad, 3,499
16. Archie, 3,265
17. Leo, 3,264
18. Henry, 3,248
19. Joseph, 3,225
20. Samuel, 3,188

There were some big moves on the boys’s side: Oscar rose from 17th to 7th, while Riley plummeted from 8th to 21st. (Here are the biggest moves overall for boy names and girl names.)

New to the top 20 are Scarlett, Archie, Henry and Joseph. They replace Charlotte, Riley, Daniel and Max.

One thing I found interesting? Freya wasn’t on the England top 20. It also wasn’t on the Wales top 20. And yet still it managed to rank 20th on the combined top 20. Very sneaky, Freya.

Here are some of last year’s rare baby names, each given to between 3 and 10 babies (inclusive):

Rare Girl Names Rare Boy Names
Akvile, Alaska, Alphonsa, Andromeda, Arena, Arizona, Atlantis, Belinay, Bellatrix, Blousey, Boadicea, Boglarka, Bonnie-Blue, Boo, Boux, Charm, Cressida, Crystal-Rose, Daenerys, Delphie, Disney, Duru, Edwina, Ellery, Eloghosa, Enfys, Enlli*, Eos, Ernestine, Esila, Evan, Frayer, Freshta, Fausta, Garance, Gelila, Gemini, Gerda, Glorious, Halo, Honour, Io, Iole, Ionie, Iseult, Isla-Belle, Izna, Lava, Lleucu, Llinos, Llio, Loveday, Loxy, Mafalda, Man, Maple, Miami, Migle, Milda, Misk, Mirabella, Mirren, Myfi, Myrtle, Nandi, Nephele, Nma, Ottoline, Pebbles, Popi, Purity, Quorra, Quratulain, Rory, Ruby-Tuesday, Salsabeel, Sehrish, Sequoia, Sibel, Sobia, Solveig, Sundus, Tiggi, Tiggy, Tirion, Tulsi, Vespa, Vogue, Yiyi Alaric, Bramwell, Cavalli, Ceirion, Denley, Diesel, Diggory, Drin, Eesaa, Eyoel, Fiachra, Finlo, Fyfe, Ghyll, Greatness, Gruff, Hanzala, Haoyu, Heathcliff, Henley-John, Ho, Hocine, Innis, Iori, J, Jai-Jai, Jay-J, Jaygo, Johnboy, Jonjoe, Kebba, Kelly, Khizr, King-David, Klevis, Lebron, Liutaruas, Llyr, Lochie, Messi, Mortimer, Nebi, Nimrod, Noman, Olti, Omarion, Orpheus, Osgar, Oska, Perseus, Ptolemy, Qi, Rhythm, Rozh, Rhon, Sandor, Shady, Shaquille, Sheriff, Shko, Soul, Swayley, T, Tiger, Tirath, Tobenna, Toprak, Tuguldur, Tylah, Tyrion, Ugnius, Viggo, Wentworth, Winter, Wolf, Wolfgang, Wren, Yanky, Yug, Zeus, Zsombor

*Enlli, which debuted last year, comes from the name of the Welsh island Ynys Enlli (called Bardsey Island in English). The island name is usually translated as “island of the current,” with ynys meaning “island,” and enlli meaning “current.” You can hear the proper pronunciation of Ynys Enlli at Forvo.

Finally, all of my previous posts on the popular (and unique) baby names in England and Wales: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.

Source: Baby Names, England and Wales, 2013 – ONS

Revolution-Era Names in France

BastilleIn yesterday’s post on Breton baby names in France, I mentioned a French name law from the early 19th century.

That 1803 law has an interesting history, complete with ties to the French Revolution.

In September of 1792, one day before the French National Convention abolished the monarchy, a decree was issued. The decree allowed the citizens of France to change their forenames quite easily–all they had to do was “make a simple formal declaration before the registrar of their local municipality.”

Many people took advantage of this decree and chose new names with a revolutionary flavor, such as:

Name Significance/Translation
Amour Sacré de la Patrie l’an Trois Sacred Love of the Native Land Year III
Armoise Mugwort (date: 7 Thermidor)
Belle de Nuit Four o’clock flower (date: 16 Vendémiaire)
Betterave Beet root (date: 4 Brumaire)
Bitume Bitumen (date: 3 Nivôse)
Crainte Fear
Dix-Août 10 August
Droit de l’Homme Tricolor Right of Man Tricolor
Fleur d’0range Républicaine Republican Orange-Flower
Floréal spring month
Fraise Strawberry (date: 11 Prairial)
Franchise Candor
Houlette Shepherd’s crook (date: 30 Floréal)
La Loi The Law
La Montagne The Mountain
Lucius Pleb-Egal Lucius Plebeian-Equality
Marat Jean-Paul Marat
Maratine Jean-Paul Marat
Mort aux Aristocrates Death to the Aristocrats
Pelletier Louis-Michel le Peletier (?)
Peuplier Poplar (date: 9 Pluviôse)
Pomme Apple (date: 1 Brumaire)
Racine de la Liberté Root of Freedom
Raifort Horseradish (date: 12 Frimaire)
Raison Reason
Régénérée Vigueur Regenerated Strength
Rhubarbe Rhubarb (date: 11 Floréal)
Robespierre Maximilien Robespierre
Rose Postale Fructidor Rose Postal Fructidor (summer month)
Seigle Rye (date: 1 Messidor)
Simon la Liberté ou la Mort Simon Freedom or Death
Sureau Elderberry (date: 17 Prairial)
Thermidor summer month
Va de Bon Coeur pour la République Strive with a Will for the Republic
Victoire Fédérative Federal Victory

These patriotic name-changes happened mostly in “urban areas, and particularly those, like Rouen, where Revolutionary fervour was intense.”

But, apparently, they got out of hand.

A decade later, a law was written that restricted French given names to “names used in various calendars” (that is, Catholic saint names) and “names of persons known from ancient history.” In essence, the law was meant to “put an end to citizens bearing absurd names that signified inanimate objects, forms of vegetation, membership of the animal kingdom and abstract concepts.”

….And this was the law that gave the Manrot-le Goarnic family so much difficulty when they tried to give their children Breton names a century and a half later.

Sources:

Girl Names Based on “Hester Jo” Needed

A reader named Q* contacted me a several years ago about choosing a name for her first daughter, Posy. Q is now expecting her second daughter (due in one week!) and would like some help naming baby #2.

I never wrote a post about Posy’s name, but I think a collective brainstorm is in order for baby #2.

The frontrunners so far are Gemma, Evie (“EH-vie”), Persephone (nn Sephie) and Belle, but Q says that “nothing has really grabbed us.”

Also, there’s this to think about:

We got some very sad news this weekend which is that our close family friend passed away. We would like to incorporate her name somehow in our daughter’s name.

Her name was Hester Jo. I don’t particularly like the name Hester Jo but we would really like to somehow honor her. I prefer Hestia or Hes or Esti to Hester, but none of these names really grab me, and the fact that our last name also ends in an “-er” sound doesn’t seem to mesh well with Hester.

Can you think of any creative ways to incorporate her name? I know that Hester means “star” so I was wondering if there are any other names meaning star or something similar that might be good. Or even matching the initials HJ?

The baby’s last name will be a 2-syllable T-name a lot like Tyler.

First, let me say that I’m so sorry for your family’s loss.

I think it’s wonderful that you want to honor Hester Jo. I can understand why “Hester” might not sound so hot with a surname that ends with -er, though.

Hester comes from Esther, which we know of through the biblical Queen Esther. We don’t know for sure what her name means. Esther could be based on the Persian word for “star,” on the name of the goddess Ishtar, on a Median word for “myrtle,” or on something else entirely.

One H-name with a direct connection to the original Esther is Esther’s birth name, Hadassah, which is Hebrew for “myrtle.” It could shortened to a nickname like Hada or Dassah to make it sound a bit peppier, like Posy.

Speaking of nicknames, short forms of Hester and Esther are Hettie and Essie. These could also be bestowed as-is, just like Posy (which is a nickname for Josephine).

Essie reminds me of Vanessa, a name invented by Jonathan Swift. He based it on the name of a friend, Esther Vanhomrigh, and featured it in his poem “Cadenus and Vanessa.” (And Vanessa gives rise to nicknames like Vana and Nessa.)

In terms of star-names, I like Stella, Estella, and Estelle — really, anything in the Stella family (stella is Latin for “star”).

Another star-themed idea is the Scandinavian name Astrid, which doesn’t have an etymological connection to the prefix astro- (which is based on the Ancient Greek astron, “star”) but looks/sounds like it does.

The name Johanna reminds me of Hester Jo a little — Jo in the front, followed by an H.

Other H-names, let’s see…Hazel, Honora (Nora), Heidi, Harriet, Helen, maybe even Hephzibah (nn Hepsie — Persephone/Sephie is on the table, so I had to throw this in!).

Out of this group, I like Hazel the best. It has a z-sound like Posy, and also a vegetation connection like Hester/Esther (possibly “myrtle”), Hadassah (definitely “myrtle”) and Posy (in the bouquet sense).

Now on to the current favorites…

I like them all, actually. I could see any of them in a sibset with Posy.

I’d be a little concerned about trendiness with both Gemma and Belle. Gemma’s been climbing the charts rather quickly in the last few years; you never know how high it could go. And Belle, not popular on its own, could get lost in a sea of girls with -bella names (Isabella is currently ranked #1, Bella #48, Isabelle #105, Annabelle #117, Izabella #140, etc.).

Sephie reminds me a lot of Posy — both are very rare and have an old-fashioned feel. But I don’t know how fair it is to give one daughter a name that is a nickname (i.e. 1 name) and the other a name that has a nickname (i.e. 2 names). If Posy had been Josephine (nn Posy), I would have been a lot more excited about Persephone (nn Sephie).

Finally, Evie. I have a feeling that most people pronounce it EE-vee, not EHV-ee, so correcting people could become a chore. Spelling it Evvie might help, though both names can be pronounced both ways, so the extra v may not make much of a difference.

Want to help Q name her daughter? Please leave a comment with your…

  • Ideas about how to incorporate the name Hester Jo (or the initials H. J.),
  • Opinions on the current favorites, and/or
  • Other helpful suggestions.

*Name edited out at Q’s request.