English: Gamma Orionis, Algol B, the Sun, and ...She’s a Harry Potter villain with a flat-out gorgeous name.

Thanks to Manday’s comments for prompting me to consider Bellatrix as our Baby Name of the Day.

I’d never heard of Bellatrix as a given name until I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Helena Bonham-Carter plays her in the film adaptations, staring with 2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Bellatrix is a member of the Black family, making her aristocracy in the wizarding world.  They’re “pure blooded” – untainted by non-magical intermarriage.  She’s quite a snob about it, as is her little sister Narcissa – mom to Draco Malfoy, one of Harry’s early enemies.

When Lord Voldemort came to power,  Bellatrix joined his loyal followers and was imprisoned after his fall.  She’s an unrepentant psychopath – a true believer, faithful to Voldemort come what may.  She’s scary in the books, and downright chilling on the big screen.

If only J.K. Rowling had chosen another name!  Because Bellatrix has real possibility as a celestial choice for a girl.

Direct your gaze to the constellation Orion.  Bellatrix is the third brightest star, a massive object that ranks 27th brightest among all stars in the night sky.

Her name may have been a mistranslation.  In Arabic, the star is called the Conqueror.  It’s sometimes the Amazon Star, possibly because of a different visualization.  Instead of Orion’s belt, some stories put Bellatrix and Betelgeuse in a canoe together on the Amazon.  But Amazon Star became “female warrior” when John of Seville translated the name from Arabic to Castilian in the twelfth century.

So Bellatrix came by her name through a circuitous route, but JK Rowling may have had a more straightforward influence.   I found this description of Bellatrix on an astrology website: According to Diana Rosenberg’s Secrets of the Ancient Skies, there seems to be a well known connection of this fixed star with imprisonments, assassinations, fanaticism and intolerance.

That’s our villain, exactly.

If not for the fictional Bellatrix, this name would be one to consider:

  • She’s so close to Beatrix, a stylish name on the shortlist of many parents these days.
  • Bell names are equally huge, from Isabella to Bella and Annabelle and so on.
  • Elaborate, but frills-free names, are having a moment for girls.  Think of Evangline, Emmeline, Eleanor.  Bellatrix fits right in – clearly feminine, but with a little bit of edge.

I suspect that had Rowling used this name for whip-smart good witch Hermione, the story would have a very different ending.

Instead, Bellatrix has been worn by a few ships.  And now, a very few children.  In 2008, five girls received the name.  By 2012, it was an even dozen newborn babies named Bellatrix.

Overall, Bellatrix is such a gorgeous choice that it is easy to imagine parents adding her to their shortlists.  Trouble is, there’s really only one Bellatrix, and she’s bad to the bone.  It makes it difficult to imagine using the name for a real girl.

Then again, lots of great names start out this way.  Maybe we’re just one fictional character or celebrity baby away from seeing Bellatrix for all her strong and lovely qualities.

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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 can’t use it because I’m an obsessive HP fan and I *love* Helena Bonham Carter in pretty much anything. I intend on using it for a cat, since most cats are little sociopaths as well!

  2. I love this name! But the single, evil, association would make this a tough one to wear. Maybe Kelly Clarkson will choose this for a her baby-to-be. Then all bets are off!!