baby name RachelThe baby name Rachel rocketed into the US Top Ten thanks to a sitcom, but this Biblical choice feels more like a classic than a pop culture sensation.

Thanks to Kelly for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.


In a few more decades, silver-haired Golden Girls will answer to Brittany and Courtney, Taylor and Jen.

And yes, Rachel.

But unlike some of those names, odds are good that there will still be little girls called Rachel, too.

Consider the statistics: while the baby name Rachel isn’t quite as evergreen as Katherine or Elizabeth, the name has never left the US Top 250. That’s going all the way back to 1880.


After all, the baby name Rachel belongs with the Old Testament choices, just as surely as enduring names like Benjamin and Jacob.

Speaking of Jacob, he’s part of the story. Jacob meets Rachel and tells her dad, Laban, that he’ll toil for seven years to earn his daughter’s hand in marriage. Laban agrees, but pulls a double-cross. On their wedding day, Jacob discovers that his heavily-veiled bride is actually Leah, Rachel’s sister.

But Jacob isn’t deterred. Instead, he works another seven years and marries Rachel the second time around.

It comes from a Hebrew name meaning ewe, as in a female sheep.


If you met a Rachel in many centuries, odds are decent that she’d be Jewish. Fictional Rachels – think Friends and Glee – conform to this stereotype. But ever since the Protestant Reformation, it’s become more broadly common.

President Andrew Jackson’s wife answered to the name, though she died in December of 1822, just as her husband took office.

Other famous women by the name include:

  • French actress Mademoiselle Rachel became a sensation in 1830s and 40s Europe, for her romances as well as her theatrical performances.
  • Biologist-turned-nature writer Rachel Carson lends the name a serious, world-changing vibe.
  • There’s a character in Anne of Green Gables with the name, a friend to Marilla.
  • Daphne du Maurier’s 1951 novel My Cousin Rachel makes the title character either the hero or the villain. Olivia de Havilland played the role in the 1952 film adaptation of the mystery-romance.
  • A 1968 movie starring Joanne Woodward in the title role was called Rachel, Rachel.

All of these uses helped keep the name in the US Top 200.


But it’s the small screen that boosts the baby name Rachel time and time again.

In 1967, soap opera Another World introduced us to Rachel Davis. Scheming and ambitious, her entanglements made the new daytime drama a smash hit by 1970. A few years later, she did marry for love, but it’s a soap opera – drama followed the character way up until Another World ended its run in 1999.

During the first year the character joined the cast, Rachel jumped from #154 to #105, and then to #92. By 1969, it ranked #69. And by 178? It stood at #25.

Maybe the name would’ve cooled, but then along came an ever bigger sensation: Friends.

Jennifer Aniston made famous her character’s choppy layers. And also? Rachel leapt to #9, entering the US Top Ten for the first time ever in 1996.

Two more famous characters followed: Glee gave us an ambitious singer, played by Lea Michele from 2009 to 2015. And then came legal drama Suits, debuted in 2011, with a Rachel played by Meghan Markle, the future Duchess of Sussex.


As for the -ael spelling, it seems to be based on Michael. It’s never been as common as Rachel, but it isn’t new. Charles Dickens used Rachael for minor characters in Bleak House and Hard Times. In 1982’s Bladerunner, Rachael was a replicant – who thought she was a real girl.

Today the most famous bearer of the -ael spelling might be celebrity chef and television host Rachael Ray, but she’s far from the only one.


The baby name Rachel counts as a near-classic; that’s because we really do hear it everywhere, across decades.

It’s broadly tied to the 90s, thanks to Jennifer Aniston’s star turn on generation-defining Friends, as well as her character’s signature haircut.

But others answer to the name, like actors Griffiths, Bloom, Weisz, Bilson, and McAdams. There’s journalist Maddow and singer Platten; plus many more fictional characters I’ve omitted.

The name’s boom in the 80s and 90s tends to obscure this name’s traditional status. Despite some decades in the spotlight, Rachel qualifies as a traditional choice with centuries of history, and some fun quirks. (A variation of the Reuben sandwich is called the Rachel; it’s also associated with the Queen of Diamonds in playing cards. (Judith is the Queen of Hearts; Pallas of Spades; and Argine of Clubs. And don’t forget the whaling ship in Moby-Dick.)

It’s the kind of name that sounds sweet on a child but perfectly appropriate for a district attorney.

It’s tough to go wrong with Rachel.

What do you think of the baby name Rachel? Is it a classic, or stuck in time with Ashley and Jennifer?

First published on February 11, 2011, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on November 19, 2019, and again on January 14, 2021.

girl name Rachel

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. My name is Rachel and I go by Rach. I used to hate the nickname. Now I love it. I also really hate the variation Rachael. Everyone is always spelling my name wrong.

  2. My name is Rachyl, pronounced Rachel. I like my spelling a lot. It is very uncommon, to the point where I haven’t met anyone with the same spelling as me. When I looked my name up on the internet, one of the few sites that had it listed said that it was pronounced RA-EL, which I like a lot. When I go to college I may go by that..

  3. My name is Rachel and I love it! I am actually distantly related to Andrew Jackson and I never knew he was maried to a Rachel, that’s very cool.

  4. I’m a couple days late to this party, but I’d like to contribute another variation. I have a Mexican friend named Raquel, which I’m assuming is the Spanish version of Rachael. Her nickname is Quel and she always signs her emails with Q. She’s very spunky and cute, so her name has a positive association for me.

    1. I have a friend named Raquel, too. In high school most people called her Rachel, but I think she goes mostly by Raquel now, and uses the nickname “Raquie” or something like that, pronounced pretty much just like Rocky.

  5. what about Rachelle?
    i think it sounds pretty and i actually considered Rachel/Rachelle for my younger daughter =)
    it’s a good old fashioned name, that makes an equally beautiful first or middle name
    for those who believe in God, it is a great name from the Bible too!

    1. I met a baby Rochelle or Rachelle last summer – I had a weird moment of hearing a name that I thought fit a woman my age or older on a newborn. I think Michelle was so widely used in the 1970s that -chelle names feel a little worn. But Rachelle was never so common, and Rochelle retains a touch of Hollywood/francais glam. Either would make for a decidedly off-style choice, but not in a bad way.

      They’re very different from the ever-so-classic Rachel, though. Rachel might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but she feels like a can’t-miss name – solid.

  6. I would like to give a shout-out to one Mrs. Rachel Lynde, “one of those capable creatures who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks into the bargain.”

    The words “Mrs. Rachel Lynde” are actually the words that begin Anne of Green Gables.

    1. I can’t believe I’d forgotten about Rachel Lynde! Perhaps it’s because Lynde seems such an inextricable part of her name.

  7. When I was pregnant with Julius (but before we knew he was a he), the two girls’ names my mom suggested to me were Vivian and Rachel. I’ve actually always had an affinity for Rachel, and while it’s a little plainer than I want, if I were married to the sort of man who insisted upon normal top 100 names, it’s one I’d be happy to use.