baby name CordeliaThe baby name Cordelia combines a literary pedigree with a vintage sound.

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


The baby name Cordelia sounds like it fits right in with the current US Top 100. Amelia, Valentina, Gabriella, Cordelia.

Except Cordelia departed the Top 1000 after 1950. It dipped back in – briefly – in 2014 and 2015. But since then, the name has been scarce.

In fact, the name peaked way back in the nineteenth century, when it regularly appeared in the Top 300.

While everybody recognizes this name, almost no one is using it for their daughters.


The name filtered into use thanks to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the eleventh century author of not-quite-history.

He wrote about Queen Cordeilla. She ruled valiantly, even while her treacherous nephews conspired against her reign.

The author placed Cordeilla’s rule sometime in the eighth or ninth centuries. Except there’s almost no historical evidence that she ever existed.


Edmund Spenser borrowed Geoffrey of Monmouth’s fictional queen and her father, King Leir, in his 1590 Faerie Queene.

But you’re probably thinking of William Shakespeare’s version.

King Lear had three daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. The aging king is ready to hand down his scepter. But, without a son, who should succeed him?

The king poses a question to his three daughters: tell me how much you love me, and I’ll divvy up the kingdom accordingly.

Goneril and Regan kowtow, but Cordelia doesn’t play along. Dad sends her off to marry the King of France as punishment, and her big sisters share the throne.

Things go downhill from there, but the important part is this: Cordelia is Lear’s loyal daughter, a worthy namesake.


So where did Geoffrey of Monmouth – and through him, Spenser and Shakespeare – find the name?

Accounts of the fourth century Saint Ursula also refer to Saint Cordula. It’s said that both women, and their many companions, were martyred near Cologne. Like other cor- names, it’s often connected to the Latin word for heart.

Welsh myth and Arthurian legend give us Creiddylad, the most beautiful girl in all the world. Two suitors vie for her affections. One kidnaps her; the other kidnaps her from the first suitor. King Arthur intervenes, and she’s sent home to her father, Llud Silver Hand. Her would-be husbands are forced to battle each other every May Day.

It’s considered something of a Persephone story, with a struggle between the seasons. And, of course, Persephone is called korë – maiden – which is tempting to tie back to the story. But it’s almost certainly a coincidence.

Regardless of the name’s origins, both the saint and the maiden tend to be associated with the baby name Cordelia over the centuries.


Anne Shirley, of Green Gables fame, famously asked to be called Cordelia.

That ought to be enough to cement the baby name Cordelia in the hearts of many!

There’s also a 1904 song titled “Cordelia Malone.” Vaudeville star Billy Murray recorded the hit, at a time when he was one of the best-known singers of his era. He rhymes Malone with telephone – at the time, the height of technological innovation.

Novelist PD James introduced a rookie detective by the name in the 1970s. Cordelia Gray has appeared in various adaptations over the years.

Television gave us a character on The Young and the Restless. But the small screen’s most famous use has to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Cordelia Chase. Joss Whedon, namer extraordinaire, chose it for the privileged cheerleader who finds out that vampires are real – and eventually fights on the side of right, both with Buffy, and later on spin-off Angel.

There’s another small screen reference: American Horror Story’s third season introduced a powerful witch by the name. The season ran from 2013 to 2014, likely explaining the baby name Cordelia’s brief return to the Top 1000.


If the baby name Cordelia feels a little big, nicknames abound. There’s Cori and Cordy, but also Delia. Coco works, too.

As of 2018, 246 girls received the name. That puts it just slightly outside of the official Top 1000, by about a dozen births.

But that’s the name’s appeal. Even if Cordelia returns to the Top 1000, it will remain far less common than many an elaborate, traditional choice. That makes it a substitute for Ophelia and Cora, too.

There’s a strength to Cordelia, a sound that’s both delicate and resolute – and perfect for a child today.

Would you consider the baby name Cordelia for a daughter?

First published on August 13, 2010, this post was revised substantially on July 24, 2020.

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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  1. I named my little one Cordelia. She has a sister named Elena, and I wanted something pretty, ending in an “A” and meaningful. I loved the Anne of Green Gables books as a child and always sympathized with Anne over not having a more fanciful name. Haha. I also love the King Lear association since I did Shakespeare plays in high school. My Cordelia has big brown eyes and long lashes and dimples. She smiles a lot and seems to like her name. She’s only 6 months old though. I call her Cora sometimes; my hubby calls her Cordy, and her nanny calls her Cordiz with a Spanish accent. My 3 year old insists on only calling her Cor-Dee-Lee-A with lots of enunciation! We went with Snow as a middle name since it’s a family name.

    1. A Cordelia and an Elena? Are you a fan of Lois McMaster Bujold’s the Vorkosigan Saga. My husband wasn’t a huge fan of the name Elena, though I love it, but our new daughter is going to be Phoebe Quinn. If you like the book series, I’m sure you’ll understand. If not, check them out as both our your daughters’ names are some of the strongest female characters in science fiction!! Well, I know this was posted long ago, but maybe you’ll see this comment sometime!

      1. Thanks for the tip! I haven’t heard of them, but I love finding new awesome books. Having my daughters’ names makes it even better! I love Phoebe Quinn. Adorable!

    2. Hi Cordelia here! I’m 8 years old now and I really like my name. My friends seem to like it too! And I really like the name Elena and my sister.

  2. My dd is Cordelia. She’s 2. I don’t like nicknames much, but had to have one for “approved” purposes for those people who INSIST on nicknames. Cora was out because my grandmother and her twin are Nora and Dora… and they hate Cora. Cory is my brother-in-law, Cordy seems awkward to me, and I don’t like the D ones because my son’s name starts with a D (I know, I’m picky).

    So her nickname, used very rarely, is Cia (said like Kia). She’s an adorably shy little spitfire, with blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes, and the cutest little dimples and scrunchy eyes ever.

  3. Cordelia was also Uncle Gard’s fiancee in the American Girls Collection Samantha series. She was modern, but tender, sassy, but girly.

  4. Love this name. There was a wonderful young adult book (The something Cup) about a Cordelia, nn Cori, that I read ages ago that I really liked. I would have used it or Delia, but DH like Lydia better.

    Surprised no one’s mentioned Buffy…

  5. Cordelia is my favorite girls name! I have loved itr forever, liking both the Shakespearean and Green Gables connections! I would use it in a neartbeat!

  6. There was also a character on the reality series The Bad Girls club called Cordlelia. She was rather an interesting bearer of the name!

  7. Cordelia has been one of my favorites for so long, but every time I mention her to someone, they make a face. 🙁 I still love it though.

  8. I want to put a 4th syllable in there. So it sounds like kor-DEE-lee-ah. Which makes it one more syllable than I’d be comfortable using. I do like the name though. I’ve met a couple of Coras but not a Cordelia.

    1. That’s pretty much how I say it. I put the (y)uh in ,as it it as ”ah” with a bit of a kick. Afterward, I wished that I just wrote core-dee-lee-uh. Cora is pretty