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 was born in the central part of Louisiana and named after my grandmother, Mathilde. We pronounce it Mat Teal.

  2. First person that comes to mind:
    Princess Mathilde, Duchess of Brabant,born 20 January 1973 (née: Ec. Mathilde Marie Christiane Ghislaine d’Udekem d’Acoz), is the wife of the heir apparent to the Belgian throne, Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant. Of Belgian and noble Polish ancestry; she is expected to be the first Belgian-born Queen consort of Belgium.