Baby name stories: Rielle & Riel

Rielle (b. 2008)
Baby Rielle

In October of 2008, a baby girl born in Ontario to parents Kimberly and Stephen MacDougall was named Rielle after female fighter pilot Riel Erickson, who’d been featured in the TV documentary Jetstream that year.

“It was just the way it rolled off her tongue, and having seen this woman and what she was doing and how she was competing against top pilots — the name came across in such a positive manner that it instilled a really good vibe.

“So when my wife threw it out there, we really didn’t even have to think about it.”

They thought the name was beautiful, feminine and distinctive, no easy feat, felt Kimberly, who is a teacher and wanted something unique.

The parents, both French-speakers, also appreciated the fact that reversing the syllables in Rielle produced elle rit, French for “she laughs.”

In an interview from around that time, Capt. Riel Erickson — whose call sign is “Guns” — was asked about the story behind her name:

I was named after Louis Riel. My mother learned of his story from the local native community when she was growing up. She believed strongly in his story so decided that she would name her child after him. I grew up knowing his story and love the fact that I’m named after him. I love having such meaning in my name. It’s so much a part of my identity, knowing that story. I guess that’s why I feel so overwhelmed by someone naming their child after me. My namesake has certainly influenced me.

Louis Riel was a Canadian politician of Métis descent.

What do you think of the baby name Riel/Rielle? Which spelling to you prefer?


Image: © 2009 Toronto Star

4 thoughts on “Baby name stories: Rielle & Riel

  1. One of my characters told me her name was Ríel meaning “God is my strength” her twin brother told me his name was Ríon, meaning “Little King” Both pronounced as REE-el and REE-on.
    So when I saw the name in the email title I was so excited! I toyed around with the spelling being Rielle, but as all the other girls (her sisters) names end in -iel I went with that. As well, in Sindarin (Tolkien-of course lolol) -iel means ‘daughter of’; as the first born I named Kíliel (daughter of Kíli) her twin brother is Kílian the -ian meaning son of Kíli.
    The other kids are Gaeliel and Gaelan – Alyanna and Aliel – Thrain, Viviyanna, Kaedana and Kaedan (quads). I love how after they gave me their names and I looked them up, the meanings were so in tune with the children!
    No idea how that works, the characters chatting me like that, but you will never hear me seriously complain lol
    If you’re ever curious I have their images and such (from the internet BUT they shouted out to me that THIS was them as I was writing their stories and I went with those pictures and have them on pinterest.
    They are just like my own kids to me. Naming them is so very important. If it doesn’t, as the mom and dad in your story said, have the right vibe, it will never work.

  2. What a fun coincidence!

    I think, especially for stories in genres like fantasy and sci-fi, it’s crucial to get the names right.

    Doesn’t surprise me at all that the characters would “talk” to you like that — I feel like authors in a flow-state probably get all sorts of cool downloads like that. :)

  3. I definitely think the Rielle spelling would likely be mispronounced less often, at least by English speakers. I also think it gives the name a more feminine look.

    I actually like the name, but unfortunately it makes me think of Rielle Hunter and that is not a positive association in my mind. Tabloid type scandals ruin to many good names!

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