Baby Name of the Day: Estée

Estee Lauder in Ceaser's Hotel Las Vegas July 2009

As the search for appellations français continues, here’s a rarity that just might appeal.

Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Estée as our Baby Name of the Day.

Remember your high school French? Estée means étoile – star. She’s the homespun Esther dressed up in the latest Paris fashions. Esther is also used in France – in fact, she’s far more common than Estée, which is a diminutive form.

Esther had a good run in the US, ranking in the Top 100 from the 1880s to the 1930s. She’s an Old Testament heroine and the name of Ewan MacGregor’s younger daughter, so there’s plenty to love about the original. While she stood at #267 in 2010, she feels like the kind of name that could make a comeback any day now.

But what about Estee? Esther’s Biblical pedigree is fairly well known, but Estee takes the name in a completely different direction – more Chanel than Ruth. Estée is used in French, but she’s not terribly common.

Estée Lauder is a brand, a corporate cosmetics powerhouse. Clinique, Smashbox, M.A.C., Aveda, and Origins are all part of the empire. Odds are pretty good that if you’re using mainstream beauty products, something from Estée Lauder on your dressing table.

But she’s no invented icon. Like naming a daughter after Coco Chanel, there’s something inspiring about the real life Estée Lauder.

Born in humble circumstances, the youngest of nine children, Estée was formally named Josephine Esther, after a Hungarian-born aunt Esty. It is possible that the French spelling of her name was given to her, but it seems like the kind of innovation that Ms. Lauder would make famous – glamorous, but built from the items she had on hand.

Estée’s dad owned a hardware store, where she learned business fundamentals, but it was her uncle who had the gift of concocting skin potions and lotions. Lauder – her married name – would famously say that “the pursuit of beauty is honorable.” It was certainly lucrative. From those first few creams and powders to her best-selling bath oil Youth-Dew, her eponymous company grew and grew, eventually worth more than $10 billion.

Some small controversies surround the company, mostly related to the family’s personal support of Israeli causes, but while this name is connected to a singular person and her image, it isn’t quite like naming your kiddo Kimora.

With similar-sounding Esme in the Top 1000 and climbing, Estee – pronounced ehs STAY – might be more wearable than ever. There’s always the option of putting Esther on the birth certificate – Ettie and Essie are other nickname options, though Esty seems destined to be confused with Etsy, making the more elaborate -ee spelling preferable.

She does feel like the kind of name that might strike a balance between the familiar and the never-used, and while I’d sometimes say that a more conventional English spelling was appropriate, in this case, Estée – diacritical mark and all – could make an interesting choice.

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20 Comments

I am thinking about using Estee as a
nickname for Estella. I believe that Estée
would be pronounced “Est-ay” since an
accent aigu is used. I think that feels a
little too pretentious for me personally
since my husband and I aren’t French. I
do like Estee though. I think I prefer the
spelling Esty but you made a good point
about it being confused with Etsy. Thanks
for the post!

Thanks for this poster, our 3 month old daughter is Esther and we are still struggling for a good nickname for her. Our son is Joachim and goes by Joe (both Esther and Joachim are family names – we’re single-handedly bringing back 19th century Jewish names!). Esther is a tough one for nicknames. Essie is the obvious front-runner, but we don’t love it. Right now we are tossing around E.M. or “Em” because her middle name is Miriam (another family name). Estee is another one to consider.

My mom has used Estee Lauder Youth Dew since forever, so I have trouble seeing Estee without immediately thinking Lauder. That said, I do like Estee as a nickname for Esther.

Esther is one name that Mark brings up every time we discuss girls’ names. It’s pretty, but to me it’s far too familiar since I grew up with a lot of Esthers. I prefer Hester, but don’t think I could bring myself to use it because of the whole “Hester the Molester” thing (especially since I’ve read _A Prayer for Owen Meany_, which features a Hester who uses the stage name Hester the Molester). Estee as a nickname for Esther/Hester is an intriguing idea, but I think my family would always want to “Lauder” to the end since they tend to be fans of the brand.

*always want to *add* “Lauder” to the end since they tend to be fans of the brand.

I really need to proofread.

Well, I’m madly in love with Esther, because I adore her story in the Bible. She’s a great heroine! That being said, I like Estee, but I wouldn’t use it because I would rather use Esther. It is very pretty, though, and I can see how she could appeal in that sense.

When I first saw Estee, I thought you were going to uncover that it is a feminine version of Steven, because to me it sounds like Esteban. Could be a nice way to honor an Esteban…

I’m smitten with Esther and Hester… I just wished they sounded better with my surname. But I’m troubled with the idea of slapping a brand-name on a child and therefore wouldn’t use Est

Oh, you like Hester, too? I’m thrilled! I keep thinking I’ve finally lost it on that one … but I do think it is my affection for Hettie/Hetty/Hedy that makes me like her so much.

I like Estee better than Esther, which feels clunky coming out of my mouth. Estee has an easier sound for me (I should add, Esther always makes me think polyester). But then, I like lots and lots of French names, Estee being no exception!
It feels pretty, looks lovely and beats Lilou hands down for me. Yeah, Estee! 😀

Once when my sister was having trouble naming her doll, my brother looked at the tag and said, “Look, she’s already named – 100% Polly Esther.” The name stuck.

Love it! There was a chain of 70s inspired clubs for a while called Polly Esther’s – at least, I seem to think it was a chain. Maybe it was just The Obvious Name for a 70s-themed club.