Naughty Marietta (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’s an affectionate form of the evergreen Mary, a frilly, vintage choice that might just work in 2012.

Thanks to Katherine for suggesting Marietta as our Baby Name of the Day.

Americans typically shorten names to arrive at diminutives, while romance languages are more likely to elaborate.  Plenty of girls’ names take -ette and -etta – which can be the tiniest bit confusing as we borrow those names in the English-speaking world.  Strictly speaking, Julie is the formal name and Juliette the nickname, but an American girl would have the opposite experience.

In Italian, Mary becomes Maria and Marietta is one possible variant, along with Mariella and Marianna and Marilena.  Chances are that many a Marietta would’ve been Maria on her baptismal certificate.

But Marietta did have a good run in the US, charting in the Top 1000 from 1880 through 1964.  It’s tempting to attribute her popularity to the operetta, but Naughty Marietta comes along later.  Perhaps her nineteenth century popularity was just part of the Mary-Marie moment.  Looking at 1883, Mary ranked #1 – and would for decades, plus:

  • Marie was at #53
  • Marion #105 and Marian #264
  • Maria #139

Plus, Margaret and Martha and Marjorie were all stylish, a wave of traditional Mar- names.  Even Marianita snuck into the Top 1000.

Now back to the operetta and the film adaptation of Naughty MariettaRida Johnson Young and Victor Herbert told the story of an Italian countess who runs away on a ship of young French women, destined to marry the colonists in New Orleans in the year 1780.  Marietta ditches the ship, spends part of the tale disguised as a boy and part operating marionettes.  (I couldn’t confirm it, but I suspect a Mari– name appealed, given the marionette aspect.)  There are pirates, also in disguise, and love stories that ultimately carry the day.  All ends well, and the operetta was a smash hit when it opened in 1910.

Bumps in Marietta’s use correspond roughly to revivals of the musical as well as the 1935 film adaptation.  Jeanette MacDonald played Marietta, pointing to another clue about the name’s success: Loretta and Annette and Jeanette were popular picks of the day, and names like Claudette – another Hollywood appellation – as well as Henrietta and Rosetta were in vogue, too, to say nothing of Top Ten Betty.

She’s been out of favor for years, though, eclipsed by a new wave of -ette appellations.  Say Marietta today, and most of us probably think of Marietta, Georgia.  The capital of Cobb County has history aplenty.  It is assumed that the town’s name was borrowed from Mary Cobb, the wife of Thomas W. Cobb, an early nineteenth century Georgia senator and member of a prominent family from the area.

Circa 2012, the French Mariette might fare very well, a sister for Vivienne and Elodie.  But Marietta has some charm, too, a Southern city as wearable as Savannah with a deliciously frilly, throwback vibe.

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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. If my current pregnancy had been a girl, she would be Marietta. Alas, it’s another boy. Hopefully some other family will scoop up this great name!

  2. She’s one of my favourite variations of Mary. Like the commentors above, my first thought was the character from the world of Harry Potter.

  3. Marietta Edgecombe is definitely the first person I think of, too. Not really a flattering association, but it is a nice name.

  4. Marietta Edgecombe is a minor character in the Harry Potter novels. I think of her, Marietta, GA, Marietta, OH, and the college.

  5. Marietta might be a great nickname for our sometimes naughty Maria. Admittedly, I only know of the operetta because of the song “Sweet Mysteries of Life”. But, when I saw today’s NOTD in Google Reader, I instantly thought the word “naughty.”

  6. He main character of Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Bean Tree is named Marietta, although she changes it to Taylor, which she chooses in an interesting fashion! The novel is quite excellent, I recommend it. Marietta is fiesty and doesn’t take no for an answer!

  7. I had a great aunt with this name, so it still seems somewhat dated to me (her daughters are Rose and Mary, and she has a great-granddaughter named Marina). Otherwise, this is all airplanes and politics (Newt Gingrich’s district) to me.

  8. I actually know someone who just used this. I also have a life-long friend named Marriott, which was a family surname. Both in the South, which seems pretty obvious, I think!

  9. Marietta fits in to my honoring-Mar- names after my mom, Margaret; my grandma, Marlyn; and my great-grandma, Margaret. My grandad also used to work for the company Martin Marietta. Actually, a list or fetching names of Mar-s would be cool!