Star Light, Star Bright
Star Light, Star Bright by suzyq212 via Flickr

She’s a spin on the stylish Stella, and an independent name in her own right, too.

Thanks to Amy for suggesting her daughter’s name, Stelli, as our Baby Name of the Day.

The simplest explanation for Stelli’s origin in that she’s a mix of Stella and Ellie, two white hot girls’ names circa 2012.  The -el sound is huge these days, appearing in many Top 100 picks.  (Isabella, Elizabeth, Ella,  Gabriella, Evelyn, Amelia, Bella, Madelyn, Madeline, Melanie, Gabrielle, Rachel – and, of course, Stella.)  As a given name, fewer than five girls were named Stelli in 2010, making her quite rare.  But she seems to be a fairly common diminutive for the rising Stella.

But is that all to her story?

Maybe not.

  • The masculine Stellan comes from a Swedish name, ultimately derived from the German stillen – still.
  • There’s a Saxon masculine name Stealla, origins unclear, but possibly the source of the surname Stelling.
  • Stelli is recorded as a surname, as are variants like Stell, van Stell, Stelle, and Stellman.  One possibility is that they’re occupational surnames for someone who worked with steel.
  • Along the same lines, given steel’s inflexibility, it could be a name bestowed on a stubborn person or perhaps a strong and reliable one.
  • There’s a mountain in the Swiss Alps called Stelli, and appears in other place names, too.
  • But here’s my favorite: the surname evolved to refer to families who lived at the sign of the star – at a house marked by a star symbol, or possibly one near a complicated crossroads, an intersection of more than four roads that would resemble a star at its center.

There are also oodles of variations and elaborations in Italian – Stellini, Stellano, Stelloni, Stellacci.

And yet the most logical explanation is that Stelli relates to Stella, Latin for star.  It’s been a celestial word since inception.  In the early nineteenth century it also picked up the sheen of stardom and star qualities, and then along came Hollywood and Stella shines in both the night sky and the cinema.

If I had to guess, I’d say that we won’t see many girls named Stelli.  The number is likely to increase slightly, just like any popular name inspires spin-offs.  But listen closely on a playground, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Stelli called, an affectionate form of Stella or Estella or any other similar names that finds favor in future years.

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. Its nms, but I find it darling on someone else. I like the Alpine reference.

  2. Hm. Stelli is a name I haven’t heard before. I’m apt to agree with Kristin on this one. The -i ending feels a bit juvenile and incomplete. However, I think it makes an interesting and stylish choice as a nickname for Estelle, Estella or Stella. Although for Estelle or Estella, the Este would be my first pick.

  3. I adore Estella and Stella, but I can’t get behind Stelli. There are very few ends-in-i names that I don’t find juvenile and/or unbalanced. (Lorelei, Naomi, and Levi.)

  4. I do quite like the sound of this, and I love star names anyway. As we are considering Estella for this little one (it’s second on the list behind Beatrix currently), I will file Stelli away as a nickname possibility.