Arabella: Baby Name of the DayArabella feels frilly and feminine, but there’s a certain steely strength to this name, too.

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


Looking at the current US Top 100, there’s no shortage of -elle, -ella, -belle, and -bella names. Isabella entered the Top Ten in 2004, and has remained in place for well over a dozen years, reaching as high as #1 in 2009 and 2010.

The Top 100 also gives us Ella and Stella, Bella, Gabriella, and Brielle. Isabelle and Annabelle aren’t far behind.

Neither is Arabella.


Maybe medieval parents in were into the same trend. Amabel – loving – appears as Amabilia and Mabella, along with other forms. Amabel morphed into Annabel, probably in Scotland.

But Amabel also led to Arabella, probably ultimately from the Latin word orabilis – invokable, able to be called upon. If that sounds cryptic, it probably refers to the practice of appealing to the saints. Orabella and Orabilia also appear in the historical record. It suggests that the bearer was given to prayer.

It’s possible, of course, that Arabella evolved first, and the name was later linked to the powerful Latin word.

After all, Mirabel – from the Latin for wondrous – appears in the same era, as do variants of that name.


Or could the name be older still?

Human settlement in modern day Irbid, Jordan dates to the Bronze Age. Sometime from the 300s BC, it became known as Arbella … or Arabella. It might be the same settlement referred to in the Bible as Beth Arbel. In any case, it was a major trading center in the years BC, known particularly for its wines.

What I can’t determine is what Arbel or Irbid or any form of the name meant way back when. But let’s assume that it’s just coincidence that the identical name evolved more than a millennia later.


The first famous figure history gives us is Arabella de Leuchars, a granddaughter of King William the Lion, king of Scotland. She was born sometime in the 1130s. There’s another aristocratic bearer of the name born later that century.

Then there’s Lady Arbella Stuart, considered a possible heir to the English throne during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. She married William Seymour, who also ranked in the line of succession. But, but, but … the couple wed without the permission of the queen. They went to prison. She espcaed, dressed as a man. But they were recaptured, imprisoned once more, and Arbella met her end, possibly on a hunger strike.

Some say the would-be royal inspired Shakespeare’s Imogen in Cymbeline – a secret marriage, a heroine disguised as a man – though the dates might not quite line up.

The name continues to appear among British aristocrats. There’s a seventeenth century Arabella Churchill, mistress to King James II, and an ancestor of future prime minister Winston.


In 1712, poet Alexander Pope penned The Rape of the Lock, based on a true story. Society belle Arabella Fermor was insulted when her suitor, Robert Petre, cut off a lock of her hair. Pope’s poem became an overnight sensation.

The second edition contains a dedication to Miss Fermor, perhaps an apology for sensationalizing her tale and lampooning her family.

In any case, the name was already in heavy use:

  • One of the ships that brought Puritans to New England in 1630 bore the name. The ship was named for the daughter of a wealthy benefactor.
  • A few decades later, a celebrated singer by the name captivated London and the royal court.
  • In 1752, writer Charlotte Lennox gave the name to her heroine in The Adventures of Arabella, a sort of female take on Don Quixote.
  • Social reformer and philanthropist Lady Arabella Denny worked in Dublin in the 1760s.


By the time US data is first recorded in 1880, the name is fading in use. It exited the rankings after 1893, and remained in style limbo for well over a century.

The name’s revival started sooner in Britain, but again, it’s back in favor today.

Arabella’s revival clearly follows all those other -bella and -ella names. It re-entered the US Top 1000 in 2005, and reached #174 in 2018.

While it’s an elaborate, even frothy given name, possible nicknames range from the obvious Bella and Bella or Arie or even Abby. A character on All My Children answers to Babe.

Along the way, other fictional characters, an Arctic Monkeys single, a few high profile births and more have kept the name in the public eye.

If you’re after a dramatic, elaborate name that’s both on-trend and not too common, Arabella might belong on your list.

Would you consider Arabella, or do you prefer another -ella/-bella name?

First published on July 22, 2011, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on November 9, 2019.

Arabella: Baby Name of the Day

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. Love it! I always pictured my daughter as a sweet little ballerina and this name fits that bill perfectly. Something else I love about the name is that it does have quite a bit of Victorian charm. It’s frilly but I still feel like it has substance. If I were to have another girl, I would definitely want to take that route with her name. I could choose another super feminine name if I want, but I could also go with a name that feels more old fashioned. I’m particularly thinking of names like Eleanor, Lillian, or Cecilia :).

  2. I really like Arabella, I was very excited when I saw that Ivanka Trump used it as it was a great moment in recent baby-naming history! I also like Annabel, Mirabel and Araminta. If it is frilly, Victorian-esque, or old-fashioned, chances are that I will love it!

  3. Arabella makes me think of arabesque and the name feels tangled and wispy. I like the more “spare” sounding Kestrel, Amabel, and Rosebel.

      1. I know a little Ros@belle. Their last name is Jefferson so said altogether it is often misheard as Roosevelt Jefferson. =)

  4. I think Air-a-bella would be more of a tomboy than Are-a-bella. I think Jessica and Tiffany go nicely with Air-a-bella, but Are-a-bella goes better with Samantha or Janet.

  5. I was very surprised to read that Jackie and Jack Kennedy’s first daughter was called Arabella. That name doesn’t seem to fit with the family names given to their subsequent children, Caroline, John and Patrick (who died within a few days of his premature birth). According to Wiki Answers: ” The baby was never formally given a name, but years after the baby died, Jackie and Jack revealed that they had planned to name the baby girl Arabella. Her gravemarker, though, does not have a name. It just simply says, “Our Daughter.”

  6. I love its olde Englishness, and it seems somehow a little different than the Isabella route. I like Anabel, but my husband thought it was too girly.

  7. Arabella is lovely, if a bit too ruffles and lace for my tastes. It reminds me of the book Jude the Obscure. It’s also one of a few -ella names that doesn’t grate my nerves.

    1. Oh my gosh! I think you are the first person I’ve seen who’s referenced Jude the Obscure for Arabella. I didn’t find this use until I further researched the name when we decided to use it for my daughter. I find that most people give me a blank stare if I tell them about Arabella being from this novel. Even literature buffs.

  8. @Chantillylace I have always pronounced it Air-ah-bella, I think it had a much prettier sound that way. I first came across this name a very long time ago and fell back in love with it in 2004 when I re-heard it on princess Arabella a small character in the Julia Styles move The Prince and Me. Then I was reading Harry Potter book 5 and it is revealed that the old lady Mrs. Fig down the street is named Arabella and she is in on the whole wizard thing. Also recently I went through a Jackie Kennedy love phase when the Reelz channel released the mini series and went to her Wiki page. Turns out the first Kennedy baby was named Arabella but sadly did not survive. She just keeps popping up for me!!! All together I love her frilly and noble roots and that she was well underused… probably not going to be the case now Ivanka has brought her to light. Thanks so much for doing the full background Abby, I still really love Arabella!