Fancy Cupcake Collage
Image by Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick) via Flickr

You might call your daughter Cupcake, but odds are there is something far more formal on her birth certificate.  But what if your first language isn’t English, and you just plain like the way Cupcake sounds for your daughter born in Borneo or Bahrain or Brussels?

Thanks to Emiley for suggesting an option that might prompt the same response from a French-speaking parent.  Our Baby Name of the Day is Miette.

Plenty of foreign names catch on in other countries thanks to literature and films.  Miette was introduced to the English-speaking world in a few different places:

  • Nineteenth century French literary giant Emile Zola penned a series of twenty novels about the extended Rougon-Macquart family.  Dozens of characters appear over the course of the series; Miette arrives in the very first one, La Fortune des RougonSilvère has fallen in love with fellow republican Miette on the eve of the coup d’etat that would establish the Second French Empire under Napoleon III.  The couple’s cause was doomed, and the lovers fare no better;
  • French poet Jean Aicard used the name for his 1880 poem Miette et Noré;
  • Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty includes a fairy called Miettes, but the name is rarely used in other adaptations;
  • I’ve found a few references to an 1888 operetta called Miette, but I can’t confirm if Miette was a character name;
  • 1938’s French flick La femme du boulangerThe Baker’s Wife – included a minor character called Miette;
  • A 1951 French film, Au pays du soleil, also used the name;
  • Then there’s 1995’s City of Lost Children, a sci-fi adventure from Jeanne-Pierre Jeunet, best known in the US for Amélie.  If Zola’s Miette was idealistic, this big screen version is an all-out heroine.  A villain is kidnapping children to steal their dreams.  The young Miette sets out on an adventure to rescue one of the kids.

While some -ette names, like Annette, still feel a little dated, others are at the forefront of fashion.  Consider:

  • Violet (#141 in 2009)
  • Scarlett (#169)
  • Juliet (#319)
  • Bridget (#424)

That’s not counting Juliette, Scarlet, or considering her first syllable, borrowed from the chart-topping mini-name Mia.  What’s not to love about Miette?

The trouble is that she’s not exactly a name.  It’s a term of endearment.  Miette is sometimes translated as “crumb,” but it is more like “sweet little bite.”  Some contend that was once used as a given name, but I can’t confirm it, though the -ette ending has been in use for centuries.  Miette appears in US Census records, though she’s never ranked in the US Top 1000.  Nancy tells us 19 were born in the US in 2009.

Parents might also be inspired by Canada’s Miette River, found in Alberta’s Jasper National Park.  But the river’s name probably comes from the Cree word myatuck – bighorn sheep, which make their home in the area.

If you’re naming a bakery, you can’t go wrong with Miette – check out this San Francisco patisserie.

But how about for a daughter?

Just like some parents wouldn’t use the informal Sadie or Elsie on a birth certificate, some will object to Miette’s origins.  But as parents embrace French names like Vivienne and Elodie, Miette will likely find favor with parents seeking something just a little bit different.

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’m a Miette! I love my name, it’s never felt insubstantial or different, especially among Mias and other -ettes. (My best friend is Charlotte, and when we were little, we loved to be the ettes!) I have french speaking friends who have never found issue with it. My parents discovered it in city of the lost children and loved it!