Cropped screenshot of Yvonne De Carlo from the...
Yvonne DeCarlo; Image via Wikipedia

Over 15,000 little girls were christened Ava, with another 6,600 plus called Avery, and nearly as many answering to Evelyn in 2010 alone. What ever happened to this vowels-plus-v choice?

Thanks to Ashley for suggesting Yvonne as our Baby Name of the Day.

The trouble with Yvonne is that she peaked in the 1930s. If the one hundred year rule applies, that’s still a decade or so shy of sounding prime for revival. No one is naming their girls Barbara or Shirley, either.

On the other hand, a number of 1930s staples have already started to catch the attention of parents looking for something fresh. Don’t Dorothy, Ruth, Helen, Joan, and June all sound like names you’d find short-listed on a Nameberry forum?

Like Natalie and Audrey, there’s a Hollywood tie to this name. Yvonne DeCarlo had a long career, attaining true leading lady status after her turn as Sephora in the Biblical epic The Ten Commandments. The only trouble? Today’s parents remember the lovely Ms. DeCarlo for another role – Mrs. Lily Munster in television sitcom The Munsters.

Or maybe the name conjures up the flirtatious Miss Yvonne on Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Either way, Yvonne takes on a sort of campy, cult status that lingers.

It shouldn’t be that way, though. She’s a medieval appellation brought to England by the Normans. Yvonne has long been the most common feminine form of the saintly, high-fashion français Yves, a name ultimately derived from the yew tree.

Yew is not one you’re likely to hear, even as tailored tree names like Linden and Rowan find favor. Yew wood was traditionally used for making bows, and has ties to Norse mythology and well as a reputation as a tree of sadness and mourning, customarily planted in churchyards, even in pre-Christian England. Yvonne is a few steps removed from that backstory, though.

Variants abound. There’s Ivo and and Yvon for men; Yvette and Ivetta for women. If you remember 1980s Australian tennis sensation Evonne Goolagong, that’s one that might come to mind.

Madame Charles DeGaulle also wore the name, as did a number of singers and dancers and athletes and actors. The most prominent Yvonne of our day is probably Polish-Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski, mostly recently seen on Chuck.

But back to the question of how Yvonne would fare today. It may be that the 1930s were prime time for the letter V. Alvin and Vivian, Vincent and Eva, Harvey and Vera were all popular. If the vibrant v is having another moment – and she’s definitely back for girls, from Olivia to Nevaeh – then why not Yvonne?

She’s elegant, restrained, and shortens to the kid-friendly Evie. Naming a daughter Yvonne in 2011 or 2012 could be one of those ahead-of-the-curve comebacks. It’s the kind of name you announce and everyone says, “Huh. You don’t hear that one much these days.” They’d be right, too – Yvonne last charted in the US Top 1000 in 2002.

If you’re looking for the new old lady names, Yvonne could be the next Evelyn – though maybe in a dozen more 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. I never heard Yvonne came from Yews. I have heard that it was a feminine variation of Ivan which is a form of John, meaning “God is gracious” or a “gift of God.”

  2. My sister was the only Yvonne I knew until recently. Her teachers would would try to pronounce it with a long “e” sound on the end, much to her dismay. 🙂 We were always told it originated from the French so it is interesting to see the historical reference. Thank you, Ashley, for bringing a lovely name to our blogger’s attention.

  3. Thank you! This was my aunt’s name, and either a first or middle (full name or variant) for any future daughter. I agree that it’s old-fashioned for most people, but its a family name, so it’s timeless to me. And I love the nickname possibilities!

  4. I adore Yvonne. It’s my SIL’s name and she’s such a sunny, bouncy person. It’s funny that Yvonne is getting called an old lady name, because In Germany it was in the top 10 name through the the 70’s and 80’s. We wouldn’t use Yvonne in our family (too confusing), but it could work as a really smashing middle name: Harriet Yvonne, Beatrice Yvonne, Lydia Yvonne…

    Also one of Germany’s favorite stories of 2011, Yvonne the runaway cow.

  5. I have seen this name creeping back into usage in Australia – but always as a variant, such as Evonne or Evanne, which can be shortened to popular Evie. I have also seen quite a few names starting with Yv, such as Yvie, and these may be partly inspired by Yvonne, although Yvaine isn’t impossible either (from a book and movie).

  6. Just popping in to suggest Ismeria as a NOTD. By the way, is there another way to suggest names? I can’t find a suggestion box anywhere.