baby name BelleThe baby name Belle recently seems like it ought to be a chart-topping favorite, but it lags far behind Isabella and Annabelle.

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


The girl’s name Belle comes from French.

In Latin, bella means beautiful. The word became belle in French, and traveled to English, too. It translates to beauty – and isn’t really used as a given name in France.

It’s a little old-fashioned, but we recognize phrases like Belle of the Ball, or maybe Southern belle. She’s the most poised, lovely, and well-dressed woman in the room.


At the end of the nineteenth century, when the US first collected name data, Belle appeared in the Top 100. It remained a Top 1000 choice into the 1930s.

None of the longer forms of the name ranked higher than just plain Belle during the 1880s, though Isabelle, Annabel, and company did appear on the charts in that era.

It feels even older, and there’s some reason to believe Belle would’ve been familiar well before then.

Years earlier, Arabella “Belle” Reynolds accompanied her husband to battle during the Civil War, serving heroically as a nurse. The governor of Illinois gave Belle Reynolds the rank of Major for her efforts on behalf of the Union.

Other women by the name were active on the Confederate side.

Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 Civil War novel, Gone With the Wind includes character Belle Watling. She’s a brothel owner in Atlanta, but is recognized for her selflessness at several points in the book and movie – sometimes in sharp contrast to Scarlett.

No question Belle had a good run in the 1800s, but it’s worth noting that it was often short for baby girl names like Isabella and the previously mentioned Arabella.


More women answered to the name across the years, including:

  • Activist and abolitionist E. Belle Mitchell, the daughter of former slaves, worked during the Civil War and long after to improve the lives of the African-American community in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • In the same era, Belle Starr – born Myra Maybelle – stole horses. A fictionalized account of her life called her the “female Jesse James” and briefly made her famous in the late 1880s, after her death.
  • Another Belle Mitchell, a stage actress turned early movie star, whose career spanned the 1910s into the 1970s.
  • Circus performer turned movie star, Belle Bennett – born Ara Belle Bennett.
  • The 1930s also gave us British actressBelle Chrystall.


Let’s talk about all those longer favorites that can lead to the baby name Belle.

Top Ten favorite Isabella is cousin to Elizabeth, both evolved from the Old Testament Elisheva. It means “God is my oath.”

As for Annabelle and friends, they evolved from the Amabel, which comes from the Latin amabilis, lovable. It was whispered down the alley into Annabel because of the powerful popularity of Ann. Arabella probably came from the same roots.

In recent years, forms of all of these names have ranked in the US Top 1000 and even Top 100. They’ve dominated pop culture, too. (Think Twilight’s Bella Swan.)

The name also brings to mind bells, as in Liberty and Christmas. This makes it at least slightly musical and potentially seasonal, too.


For every Ariel and Jasmine, plenty of Disney princess names fail to make an impression on parents.

The 1991 animated blockbuster adaptation of Beauty and the Beast caused only a slight uptick in the name’s use.

Disney first considered adapting the fairytale as far back as the 1930s. When it finally hit theaters, two years following The Little Mermaid, it succeeded both in ticket sales and critical response. Beauty became the first animated film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

The movie, complete with its book-loving, fearless, and nicely-named heroine, has continued to appeal to new generations.

Incidentally, in the original French version, La Belle et La Bête, the main character is nicknamed Beauty – Belle. Other tellings call her Rose, Bellindia, Belinda, Zelinda, Nettchen, Basia, even Ellen.

But the character is forever known as Belle in our imagination now. If the original Disney movie wasn’t enough, a live action version, starring Emma Watson as Belle, debuted in 2017.

Still, no amount of pixie dust could boost the baby name Belle. It was given to just eight girls in 1991; 19 in 1992; and 35 in 1993.

While numbers continued to grow modestly, it took another decade before more than 100 girls were given the name.


There’s no question that the baby name Belle is spare and lovely.

Like the more familiar Isabella and Annabelle, it’s instantly familiar. But it’s uncommon to meet someone who is just Belle.

Still, the sound is so familiar that this name fits right in. And that makes it an interesting choice. It’s tied to the fairytale and to Disney, but offers plenty of independent history, too. It’s more clearly feminine than Blair, but with a simple, straightforward sound.

If you love names like Claire and Jane, Belle might belong on your list, too.

What do you think of the baby name Belle?

First published on June 7, 2017, this post was revised on May 16, 2023.

baby name Belle baby name Belle

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. We named our daughter this in September of 2016. Its simple elegance suits her perfectly, and I appreciate how rare it is. Her full name is Belle Elizabeth. I do think it was a bit of a challenge pairing “Belle” with a middle name that flowed well, but I think the two go together nicely.

  2. I love the name Belle! I was born on November 21st, 1992 (so same month, but a day earlier and a year later than when Beauty and the Beast came out on November 22nd, 1991) and my mom recently told me that if she had know what I would be like as a person (I am a bookworm and bery much like the BatB heroine), she would have named me Belle! 🙂