Kismet: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on May 30, 2013

Kismet (musical)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Ready for a meaning-rich appellation that might fit right in with Serenity and Miracle?

Thanks to Kenebree for suggesting Kismet as our Baby Name of the Day.

Before you dismiss this one as “not a name,” you might be interested to know that a steady stream of girls have received the name since the 1950s. While fewer than five baby Kismets arrived in 2011, back in 2008 there were nine.  And 13 newborn Kismets were christened in 1973.  It’s a very unusual choice, but it isn’t completely unique – or even novel.

The word itself is a relative newcomer.  It translates to fate, destiny, or maybe luck.  In Arabic it is qismat; in Turkish, qismet.  It’s first used in English in the early part of the nineteenth century.

In 1877, Edward Backhouse Eastwick penned a novel called Dry Leaves from Young Egypt, where he used the word kismat.  Eastwick was an accomplished linguist, born to a family with ties to India.  He’d eventually become a professor of Hindustani, though he knew plenty of languages – Dakhani and German, Sindhi and Persian.  Eastwick is better known for his memoirs and translations, but Dry Leaves appears to be an original work of fiction.

The word caught our imagination, and over time, Kimset became the successful title of a long-running tale:

  • A wildly popular 1911 play, The characters answered to Hajj, Marsinah, and Lalume - no one was called Kismet.
  • A 1944 Ronald Coleman/Marlene Dietrich movie was titled Kismet, also based on the 1911 play.  It wasn’t the first big screen adaptation, but it was the most successful.
  • The story was then adapted for a Tony award winning 1953 musical.
  • The musical made it to the movies in 1955.

But it wasn’t just about an appealing word.  Egypt has long fascinated and influenced the West.  From the Washington Monument to the Luxor in Las Vegas, The Sheik to Cleopatra to The Mummy, we’ve embraced the idea of a sophisticated and mysterious culture.  Kismet fit with our affection for all things imported from the East.

Finding notables called Kismet has been a little trickier.  There is a Marvel Comics superhero, plus plenty of restaurants, boutiques, and the like.  There’s a candy bar sold in Finland by the name.  But Kismet has always been rare.

But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t wear well.  Consider:

  • Destiny has been a hit, ranking in the US Top 100 since 1994.  She rose quickly, beginning in the 1970s, making her one of the earlier word names to find favor.  Today variant spelling Destinee ranks in US Top 1000, as do modern meaningful choices like Serenity, Harmony, and Journey.
  • Kenebree pointed out the abundance of possible diminutives: Kizzy, but Isme, Esme, Kitty, Kim.
  • Word names in general are stylish, and it would be easy to argue that Kismet sounds like a current choice – somewhere between Kendall and Kaitlyn and Juliet and Scarlett.

Still, make no mistake, Kismet is a daring choice for a daughter, and perhaps slightly more so for a son.  If you’re in the market for a meaning-rich name that’s a little bit out there, Kismet is one to consider.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin August 31, 2014 at 12:28 PM

I was one of the “less than five” parents of a Kismet in 2011!!! Thank you so much for this article. My husband and I loved it!

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Elizabeth January 14, 2014 at 11:42 PM

I named my daughter Kismet

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Leah September 3, 2014 at 1:56 PM

I named my daughter Kismet last year. I’m in Canada though

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tanya June 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Kismet is also a Town on Fire Island, a Popular beach town off the coast of long island and a hour from NYC

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Bella May 30, 2013 at 4:34 PM

My first association was Admiral Lord Nelson, although he probably didn’t actually say ‘Kismet, Hardy’ as his final words.

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Janet May 30, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Love that you used Kismet. This was my favorite name when I was about twelve. I swore I’d name my daughter Kismet (I didn’t. Named them Juno, Daphne, and Luella. :). That or Morgan. I don’t even know how I discovered it when I was a kid. I think I might have heard the word and just thought it would make a fantastic name.

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appellationmountain May 31, 2013 at 8:05 PM

What great names you chose! And wow to liking Kismet way back …

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