Daniel is a Biblical classic for boys, enduring and heroic, but with a gentle vibe, too. Today his sister takes center stage.
Thanks to Felecia for suggesting Danielle as our Baby Name of the Day.
But there really wasn’t a standard feminine form of Daniel, even though he’d been a staple for boys.
That changed in the early twentieth century. Danette was one name that rose into the 1950s. But it was the French Danielle that won the day.
French names for girls have long had their place in the US. We tend to think of Danielle in the same group as Nicole and Michelle, names that hit it big in the 1960s and 70s.
Danielle debuted in the US Top 1000 back in 1938. By 1961 she ranked #373. A decade later, she ranked #99, and she’d remain in the US Top 100 through 2004, peaking at #14 in 1987.
What explains her arrival on our shores?
French actress Danielle Darrieux was making a name for herself in Paris in the 1930s. In 1938, Hollywood came calling. Miss Darrieux co-starred with Douglas Fairbanks in The Rage of Paris. It was a comedy, starring Darrieux as an aspiring actress, scheming to land a rich husband. Things don’t go according to plan, but all ends happily.
Darrieux has had quite the career, spanning eight decades. There have been occasional returns to American cinema, but most of her work has been in Europe. In 2002, she was part of the ensemble cast in the award-winning 8 Femmes, and she remains active.
If the actress gets credit for introducing the name, it is clear that Americans were eager to embrace her. Many famous Danielles have followed:
- Danielle Steel was born in 1947. She’s the bestselling author alive today, and is among the bestselling authors of all time. She published her first novels in the 1970s, and has been a fixture on the bestsellers list since the 1980s. Ms. Steel may have contributed to the peak popularity of her given name.
- Other actresses include Danielle Brisebois – you know her as Stephanie on All in the Family – and Disney alum turned scream queen Danielle Panabaker. There’s also Danielle Harris, who graduated from soap operas to horror flicks.
- Danielle Fishel played Topanga on Boy Meets World, went on to become a host on the Style Network, and will soon return to the small screen as Topanga again, in a sequel to the original series.
- Fictional figures include Lost’s Danielle Rousseau, Drew Barrymore’s Cinderella-esque character in Ever After, and an undercover FBI agent on The Sopranos. Add in a handful of soap opera characters and supporting players, and this name has had a good run on the small screen.
- “Dani California” is a hit song from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
- Elvis has a granddaughter named Danielle, the eldest child of Lisa Marie Presley, born in 1989. Danielle’s dad is a Daniel. She’s now an actress, but Ms. Keough answers to her middle name, Riley.
Danielle is now solidly established as the feminine form of Daniel, but while the masculine version of the name remains a classic in heavy use, the feminine form is fading. She ranked #232 in 2012, and has fallen rapidly in the last few years. Daniela, at #191, is slightly more popular, though she’s waning, too.
And yet, Danielle and Daniela remain elegant, sophisticated choices for a child. They can make great middles to honor a Daniel, and are likely to stay in use as given names – familiar, if much less common than a few decades ago.