Take the fashionably French Vivienne, mix it with the Aussie hipster Matilda, and what do you get?

Thanks to Frances for suggesting the appealing Mathilde as Baby Name of the Day.

Mathilda is a valid variant, but Mathilde goes even farther. Isn’t not just Isobel versus Isabelle, or Teresa versus Theresa. Nope – this is more like Therese – spell it Mathilde, and you’re signaling that you’re going for the French pronunciation, mah TEELD. (Though the Dutch do give Mathilde a three-syllable pronunciation.)

A tenth century saint answered to Mathilda, or possibly Matilda. Mathilde was in use by the European aristocracy soon after:

  • A twelfth-century Duchess of Brabant wore the name Matilde. She’d been named after an English aunt Matilda;
  • The Duchess of Brabant named her daughter Mathilde. That Mathilde went on to marry and wear impressive titles, too, including Countess of Holland. Her great-great-granddaughter Philippa would marry King Edward III of England.

In more recent years, the most famous royal Mathilde was a Bonaparte, and it appears she made her name quite fashionable in the US.

Napoleon’s niece Mathilde Laetitita Wilhelmine, styled Princesse Française, was born in 1820, daughter of youngest Bonaparte brother Jerome. Mathilde married a Russian with buckets of money but no title, at least not until the eve of the wedding when he was made a prince for formality’s sake.

She was well known in society pages, even before her marriage proved the stuff of tabloid headlines. There were affairs, desertions, and accusations. It makes the media frenzy around Sandra Bullock’s divorce seem tame. Mathilde passed away in 1904. That tracks with the name’s moment in vogue, during the late nineteenth century.

That makes Mathilde something of a Victorian Kimora – a name that parents would probably not have imagined if not for the famous figure. Except that, unlike Kimora, Mathilde was far from invented for the princess.

Other nineteenth century Mathildes included:

  • Russian prima ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska;
  • German opera singer Mathilde Marchesi, better known for her teaching than her performances;
  • Mathilde Anneke, a nineteenth century German feminist and publisher.

Mathilde last charted in the US Top 1000 in 1911, but Matilda has been making a comeback in recent years. She re-entered the US Top 1000 at #825 in 2008, and climbed to #762 last year. That’s not exactly Madison, and nickname options Tilly/Tillie and Tilda feel quite fresh, but she could be the Next Big Thing.

Elsewhere, Mathilde is a Top Ten pick in Denmark, nearly as popular in Norway and quite common in French Canada. She’s falling in France, but she hovered in their Top 100 in recent decades, too. Matilda inhabits Finland’s Top Ten, and the Top 100 in Germany, Sweden, the UK, and Australia.

If you’re seeking a truly unusual related name there’s always Maud or Mechtilde. And in the US, Matilda remains far from common. But with her French flair and turn-of-the-century fashion, Mathilde has a distinctive style all her own.

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. I really like all versions of Matilda. She is a strong classic, but at the same time she is quite feminine. I love the powerful quality to her sound.

  2. I’m not positive about the Danes, but Norwegians and Germans pronounce Mathilde with three syllables (mah-TIHL-dah.) It’s not one of my favorite names, but I do prefer Mathilde over Matilda.

  3. I agree with Havoye about the non-traditional pronunciation leaving people confused, but I do like this variation. Very classic and yet very modern.

  4. I like Mathilde and Matilda also, and the sond of the combination of Mathilde Laetitia Wilhelmine is nice.

  5. I love it! Thanks for featuring it! I learned a lot about the name I didn’t know and now I love it even more.

    1. I’m sure you’re right, Havoye – I love the title of A Very Long Engagement, but somehow I’ve yet to see it. And you’re right – just like Therese is problematic, Mathilde could be frustrating.

      Too bad, ’cause I really do love the sound.

  6. There is a very small role in the play “Thoroughly Modern Millie” named Mathilde. She is the maid for the singer, Muzzy. Nobody in my cast knew how to pronounce it, so we called her Ma-tile-dee until the week before we opened. Mathilde (pronounced our way) has also become the ghost of our theatre, playing pranks on us during production. Just thought I would share!

    1. I love Clothilde, too – good to know I’m not the only one. 🙂 The French do a nice job polishing up Germanic elements.

      1. I like Clothilde a lot! I think it might appeal to parents today because Chloe / Cloe can be a nickname.