Vintage baby name Violet ranks higher today than it ever did in the past.
Thanks to Heather for suggesting our Baby of the Name.
The baby name Violet fits right in with antique florals, ecovintage style stars like Lily and Rose.
But there’s more to Violet, The vibrant V, bright o, and -et ending give this botanical favorite a decidedly modern sound.
Back to the flower: violet is iole in Greek and viola in Latin. It became viole in French, and then violette. The plant isn’t always purple, but since the fourteenth century, violet has applied to the color as well as the flower.
It has a long history of use as a given name, tracing back to the Middle Ages.
20th CENTURY CELEBRITIES
The baby name Violet belonged to some colorful figures in the early part of the twentieth century.
Violet Jessop worked as a stewardess aboard ocean liners. She survived the sinking of the Olympic. And the Titanic. And the Britannic, too. Despite a trio of near-misses in just a decade, she continued to work on ships for years. And they called Molly Brown unsinkable …
Born Helen, but known by her middle name Violet, the Baroness Asquith was the daughter of a prime minister, a close confidante of Winston Churchill, and grandmother to actress Helena Bonham Carter.
Daisy and Violet Hilton were conjoined twins, and famous vaudeville performers in the 1930s.
Violet Wilkey was a child star in the silent film era, appearing in dozens of films between 1913 and 1917, retiring at the age of fifteen.
It’s no surprise that the name belonged to so many notable women.
BY the NUMBERS
Violet ranked in the US Top 100 choice through the 1920s, and remained in the Top 200 into the 1930s.
It tumbled in use, though, and the baby name Violet exited the US Top 1000 entirely for most of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
A slow return began in 1998.
Credit goes to many factors: the rise of other floral names, like Lily; our growing love of the letter V, like Victoria and middle-V picks like Olivia; and the simple passing of time that brings former favorites around again.
But pop culture has always kept the baby name Violet on our minds.
Children’s literature gives us one of the siblings in long-running series The Boxcar Children, originally published in the 1920s.
But you might first think of champion gum-chewer Violet Beauregard. She wins a golden ticket to tour Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory along with Charlie Buckett. The ill-fated Miss Beauregard breaks the rules and ends up as a giant blueberry. “You’re turning violet, Violet!”
There’s also Violet Baudelaire is older sister to Klaus and Sunny in A Series of Unfortunate Events. A movie adaptation followed by a Netflix reboot introduced the series to younger generations.
In early 90s television classic Saved By the Bell, a young Tori Spelling played Screech’s girlfriend Violet. And that leads us to one of the most interesting aspects of this name.
That 90s television Violet was shy – a shrinking Violet.
The phrase originally comes from the flower. While their color is vivid, in their original form, English violets often hide in the forest, tucked in with other plants.
In 2004, the world met Violet Parr, the eldest daughter of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl in The Incredibles. She’s literally a shrinking Violet – painfully shy and able to become invisible as her superpower.
Violet overcomes her limitations and makes good use of her gifts in the movie.
Parents took note, too. In 2004, the baby name Violet ranked #584. By 2005, it leapt to #369. And in 2006, it soared to #260.
That same year, Mila Jovovich played sci fi warrior Violet Song in 2006’s Ultraviolet.
THE DOWAGER COUNTESS
By 2010, the baby name Violet stood at #123.
The following year, America met the aristocratic Crawley family, as well as their staff when smash hit Downton Abbey debuted in the US.
The formidable Maggie Smith played the part of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Lady Violet Crawley. She was the opposite of shrinking, an outspoken and iron-willed matriarch of the family.
In 2012, the name re-entered the US Top 100 at #89.
Along the way, a handful of high-profile parents chose the name, including Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner.
The name reached #36 in 2019 and #37 in 2020.
Could it climb higher? Maybe.
With so much vintage style and grace and a powerful sound, the baby name Violet continues to appeal to plenty of parents.
What do you think of the baby name Violet?
First published on July 5, 2011, this post was revised and re-posted on February 2, 2015 and again on November 24, 2021.
Note: Violet is also the birth flower of February, and the liturgical color of Advent and Lent.
I like Violet but we already have an Ivy, our only child. I wonder if Ivy sounds far too similar to Violet and especially to the nicknames “V” or “Vi” that I would be tempted to give her.
Violet is also the name of a Vampire Slayer played by Felicia Day on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. She went by Vi.
I really like it, but don’t think I would use it for a baby. Too popular for me. However we did name a cat Violet and it fits her very well
i love, love, love the name Violet! It’s been on my list since I was a little girl and read The Boxcar Children. Sadly, my soon-to-be last name is also a color and I think two color names would be a bit much. 🙁
Our little girl is Violette Ellis, we went for the French spelling as we have a very short and boring last name. Everyday someone comments on how pretty or how ‘strong’ the name is. We call her V as a nickname, her grandparents call her Letty and she calls herself Viley (!!!).
I gave birth 2 months ago to a gorgeous little girl named Violet May. My husband was not keen on the name throughout the pregnancy but 1 minute after she was born he announced our first born was to be named Violet. Ive liked the name for the last few years( as well as Charlotte & Scarlett) I do like that Violet is a classic name and it is feminine, it represents a colour and a beautiful little flower. It isnt a modern, made up name nor has ridiculous spelling.
We have been calling her Lettie since she was 2days old.
That should’ve said “not”, not “nit”. Typing one-handed while the baby naps in my arms.
Love it, Nit allowed to use it. :/ I do know of a Violet Rose IRL. I would’ve hesitated to use two floral/color names.
my niece Violet is awesome! She’s 11.
Violet is on our short list if we have another little girl. I love it!
I really like Violet, and I’m sad it’s become trendy. Nice associations, too, and Lettie is an adorable nickname.
Lady Gwyn says
Purple is my favorite color, so all the purple hued names (Violet, Lilac, Lavender, etc.) are on my list. I especially like Violet. It has the old-lady chic vibe that I really love, plus that favorite color feel and its a sweet name. I never thought of Letty as a nickname, but I really like it. I shall have to keep it in mind!
I suppose this is a more evidence about how popular Violet was back in the day, but I too had a beloved Great-Aunt Violet. I always thought I’d have a daughter named Violet, but unfortunately, Violet Schw_____ sounds like violence, so the name doesn’t work for us. I adore meeting little Violets, because it’s such a exquisite name and the nickname Letty has such a spunky, tomboy quality.
I forgot about Letty. Our little Jane Violet was almost named Violet Jane and if so, her mother planned to call her “Letty”. (Mom REALLY WANTED Jane, her closest sister’s middle name, for the first name; Dad was routing for Violet , a name from his family tree.) I’d never before come across Letty as a nn for Violet, so I did some online research and found that It has been used as such for a very long time.
Evidence of Letty as a nickname for Violet since at least the 18th century:
Combs, Violet “Lettie” Birth : ABT 1750 Loudoun Co., Va.
” My name’s Violet,” said Lettie, with dignity. (From “Harry Muir: a story of Scottish life”
C in DC says
There’s something about Violet that’s just… yummy. I really like it. I don’t know any IRL, but I’ve known to Violas, both of whom went by Vi. (One was older than my grandmother, the other a classmate.)
Adore Violet — I think it’s a shame it’s become so trendy, because it means I probably can’t use it.
@Patricia — Jane Violet is lovely!
I like Violet best as a middle name. As a first name, Violet seems a bit too dated and there’s that association with the word violent that I hear sometimes and also the nickname “Vi” to avoid. But as a middle, for me at least, Violet is the flower — always pretty, always current. We have a toddler girl in our family named Jane Violet – I love the way Violet adds flair to the classic Jane.
I really like Violet, and I actually don’t know of a single one IRL.
My grandmother’s given name was Violet, but she hated it! She always went by her middle name instead.
My Aunt Violet was, hands down, my favorite Aunt. She wasn’t really Violet, that was what my Mom told us to call her. All my other cousins called her Auntie Val which baffled me as a kid, but I rolled with it. Come to find out, Violet’s name is actually Valeriana (or Valaria, depending on what you look at, document- wise). I still think of her as Violet, and I’ve got it in the middle to honor her in several combos on our list. I think it’s sweet & how better to honor the lady who treated me like the daughter she never had. Violet’s aces, no matter how popular she gets!
I think Violet really does have an edge. One letter short of the word “violent” and sounding similar to “violate” makes this a rather dark name.
It’s chaste and yet somehow also seductive, like a sweet old great-aunt who used to be a chorus girl. It’s dainty and alluring; it’s hip and punk; it’s gloomy and Gothic.
As you say, it matches well with all kinds of siblings, and the T ending means it’s easier to find middle names for it than many other girl’s names (while also being good middle name material itself).
I really like Violet. It sounds like it would last a lifetime, as nice for a baby girl as for the woman she’ll grow into.