Nicole requested this frilly, feminine confection ages ago – and she’s very much in the news this week.
With congratulations to Ivanka and Jared, today’s Baby Name of the Day is Arabella.
Looking at the US Top 100, you could easily declare a -belle, -bella, -ella, -elle craze among parents today.
But there must have been a similar phenomenon in medieval Scotland. Amabel – lovable – was the first. She also appears as Amabilia, Mabella, and Mabel. Some parents smooshed Amabel and Anna to arrive at Annabel. Others took Amabel, factored in the Latin orabilis – invokable, able to be called upon, as a saint – and arrived at Orabella or Arabella.
Mirabel – from the Latin for wondrous – appears in the same era, as do variants of that name.
Her lofty meaning combines with a frothy, lacy sound, and an intriguing list of figures, like:
- The well-born Lady Arbella Stuart was considered a possible heir to the English throne, a successor to Queen Elizabeth I. Plenty of suitors vied for her hand, but Arbella married William Seymour – just two places behind her in the line of succession. Because they married without the sovereign’s permission, the duo was arrested. They escaped – and nearly got away. Instead, Arbella died in prison on a hunger strike. Some say the details of her attempted flight inspired Shakespeare’s character Imogen – like the fictional character, Arbella dressed as a man;
- The well-born Arabella Churchill – yup, the same family as future prime minister Winston – was mistress to King James II in the seventeenth century. Their youngest child shared a name with mom – but that’s likely where the similarity ended, as young Arabella became a nun;
- In 1712, poet Alexander Pope penned “The Rape of the Lock.” It was an overnight sensation. The second edition included a dedication to Arabella Fermor, the celebrated beauty who had, indeed, had an infatuated suitor, Robert Petre, cut off a lock of her hair – the inspiration for Pope’s work. The Petre and Fermor families are lampooned in the poem, but apparently Arabella liked being depicted as the beautiful Belinda.
Others surface in the same era: a ship called the Arabella brought the Puritans to New England in 1630; there’s social reformer Lady Arabella Denny and famed singer Arabella Hunt; the heroine of Charlotte Lennox’s 1752 novel The Adventures of Arabella, a female version of Don Quixote. The name never completely disappears, but by the nineteenth century, she was fading fast. Her last appearance in the US Top 1000 was 1893.
And then came the renaissance of -bella names, fueled by celebrity babies called Isabella.
By 2005, Isabella ranked #6 in the US, and Arabella re-entered the charts. By 2010, there’s:
- Isabella at #1;
- Bella at #48;
- Annabelle at #117;
- And Arabella at #386.
That’s leaving out quite a few variants, too.
Arabella sounds regal – quite the right kind of name for a Trump grandchild. But she can be dressed down, with nicknames ranging from the obvious Belle and Bella to Arie or even Abby. All My Children’s Arabella Carey Chandler is always known as Babe.
The name has been leaping up the charts in recent years, and this high profile use should give Arabella another boost. She’s a tremendously pretty name, but perhaps a bit tough to wear if your daughter prefers Tonka trucks to tiaras.