Araceli: Baby Name of the DayAraceli sounds fresh, modern, and ethereal. Two of those three things are true.

Thanks to Kathleen for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.

Araceli: Mary

This name feels like a modern invention, doesn’t it? But nothing could be further from the truth! Instead, it’s a Marian name, associated with a title traditionally given to the mother of Jesus.

In Latin, the phrase Ara Caeli means “the altar in heaven.” I’ve also heard it translated as “the altar in the sky.” Either way, we have to head to Spain to learn more.

Araceli: Lucena

Lucena, Spain sits in Andalusia. It’s said the settlement was founded by Jews; it certainly became a center of Jewish life in the Middle Ages. The original name might have been Eliossana, from the Hebrew phrase “God save us.” The community focused on trade and industry and grew wealthy.

Others attempted to take over the city; first, the Moors. Then King Ferdinand of Castile, who conquered Lucena in the thirteenth century. That means that Catholicism came late to Lucena.

It wasn’t until the 1400s that a parish church was constructed. In the 1500s, an image of Our Lady of Araceli was brought from Rome, and she became the patron of Lucena in 1948 – in church terms, that’s pretty much yesterday.

Araceli: Italy

Visit Rome, and you’ll still find the Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven – Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli al Campidoglio in Italian. It’s a shrine, located atop the Capitoline Hill. It’s a shrine, packed with relics, especially those from Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine.

I’m a little fuzzy on the first use of the Marian title. The church took its present name sometime in the 1400s; a piece of artwork in the church by the name dates to 1636. But the site is far older, and has a history that predates Christianity by centuries. It’s Rome, after all!

A second church in Vicenza, Italy, also bears the name. It dates to the late 1600s.

Araceli: 1940s

Despite all that history, we don’t find Araceli in the US popularity data until 1939, when five girls were given the name. In 1949, that number rose to ten; by 1955, it was 20. And in 1960, 58 Aracelis were born.

They weren’t the first. There’s an artist by the name, born in Ecuador in 1913. The beginning of her career coincides with the name’s rise, but that feels a little obscure.

It seems to be used in the Philippines, too, where there’s also a city and parish by the name.

Perhaps the name simply rose because parents have always embraced Marian names, from Assumpta to Soledad to Lourdes. They seem especially beloved Spanish, used as compound names with Maria. Think Maria del Pilar or Maria de las Mercedes.

Araceli: Pronunciation & Spelling

Depending on your background, you might want to pronounce this name in Latin: ah rah KEL ee, or Italian: ah rah CHEL ee.

But because the overwhelming majority of Aracelis are Latina, you’ll hear that third syllable pronounced like sell, rhymes with bell.

Araceli: Liquid and Lovely

That pronunciation makes Araceli a lovely, liquid name. It flows, just like Ariana and Alaina and Liliana. It’s easy to imagine it fitting right in with so many names in favor today, a sister for Isabella, an alternative to Cecilia or Lorelei.

And yet, I’d guess that the majority of parents aware of this name fall into one of two categories. Either they’re Spanish speakers, or they’re Catholic. Or maybe both.

But does that mean it’s off limits for other families. Names like Elena and Camila aren’t exclusive to Latina families.

All of this adds up to a name that could be going places. Except that the numbers? They suggest that Araceli’s best days are in the past. The name appeared in the US Top 1000 from the late 1960s onward, briefly reaching the the Top 500. But it’s fallen out of the rankings since then.

Of course, that might cement Araceli’s status as an underused gem, meaning-rich and stylish, a modern-sounding name that isn’t novel at all.

Do you think this name works for non-Spanish-speaking families, or is it open to all? Would you consider Araceli for a daughter?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Hi Everyone,
    I first want to thank you for the lovely background information on my name. Yes, my name is Aracelis. And I wanted to share with everyone reading this post about my experience with my name. I’ve always loved my name. I also have always felt so special because I have a unique and different name and now its meaning and back story will mean even more to me. If you’re thinking of giving your baby this name, go for it!!! Your child will always feel special having this name. I don’t suggest a middle name because the name itself has so many letters. I always thanked my mom for not giving me a middle name like my sister…lol!

  2. I’m a high school teacher in Texas, and I’ve had three different students with this name in the past few years, all of Latinx descent. Spellings vary from Aracely to Araceli to Eracelli, but all pronounced the same. It was so cool to find out the meaning and origin!

  3. I worked with a student named Araceli. She and her family were from Mexico. She was deaf and visually impaired and although she had gone to school in Mexico, there were no special ed services. We began to teach her language and behaviour skills. She was a hoot and I loved her. Unfortunately, the family went back to Mexico after only a few months. Thanks so much for the origins and meaning of this name.

  4. I live in New York City. Not that uncommon here. I have heard it pronounced exclusively


    Pretty name.