The baby name Charlotte feels traditional, polished, and ever so royal.
Thanks to Lem for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Way back in 1880, and well into the 1950s, the baby name Charlotte appeared in the US Top 100 or thereabouts nearly ever year. It fit with other evergreen classics, like Elizabeth and Margaret.
The name traces its roots to the Germanic Karl – man. In Latin, Karl became Carolus, the root of Carol, Carolina, and Caroline. In French, Carolus led to Charles.
Still can’t there from here? Charlot, with a silent ‘t’ – think Margot – served as a nickname form of Charles. And that, in turn, gave us the feminine Charlotte.
The Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources lists the name as early as 1493.
CRUSADER STATE to REIGNING NAME
The Normans brought Charles to England, but it took centuries for the feminine forms to become mainstream.
Charlotte appears among the ruling family of Cyprus, making it one of those quirky medieval crusader state names. (Her little sister was Cleopha.)
But it slowly made its way across Europe. First came Charlotte of Savoy, a fifteenth century Queen of France, named for her grandmother, a Queen of Cyprus.
Russian and German royal family trees include the name. Eventually, a German princess, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, married King George III and brought the name to England. If you’ve been watching Bridgerton, you’ve seen a fictional version of Queen Charlotte presiding over debutante presentations at court and scheming with Lady Danbury.
George III and Charlotte gave the name to their daughter. She married a German prince.
The future King George IV – son of Queen Charlotte – also gave the name to his firstborn daughter. That princess, Charlotte Augusta, would have ascended to the throne. Except she died in childbirth.
The crown passed to Queen Victoria instead, and the rest is history.
But the name has remained in use, including among British aristocrats and royals.
When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their daughter in 2015, it seemed like such a logical choice that the bookies called it in advance.
LITERARY and REVOLUTIONARY
This name isn’t all tiaras and state dinners.
It also brings to mind literary favorite Brontë, a handful of Jane Austen characters, early feminist writer Perkins Gilman, and the enduring children’s novel Charlotte’s Web.
Though, of course, in that last one, Charlotte is the spider, not the little girl. (The girl is named Fern.)
In 1793, French revolutionary Charlotte Corday assassinated fellow radical Jean-Paul Marat. Marat became one of the most outspoken members of the revolution, merciless towards his enemies. Corday was among those preferring a more moderate approach. She murdered Marat in an attempt to silence the more extreme viewpoints. Instead, her efforts backfired, and she went to her death by guillotine not long after.
Many considered Corday heroic at the time, and she’s been immortalized in stories. There’s even a 1989 opera version of Corday’s tale, composed for the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.
BY the NUMBERS
Back to the numbers for a minute.
By the 1960s, the baby name Charlotte was falling. Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte sounds like a lullaby, but it’s actually a 1964 Southern gothic thriller starring Bette Davis. Davis plays a young Southern belle in love with a married man. When he meets a gruesome death, everyone assumes she’s responsible. The movie re-opens many years later, with Davis living as a recluse, one with a tenuous grip on reality.
Or so it seems.
It’s a dark and twisted tale, but it’s also a long-standing favorite. It racked up seven Academy Award nominations, and is now considered a classic.
Maybe that helps explain why Charlotte plummeted in the 1970s and remained out of favor well into the 1990s.
Still, at #291 in 1980 and #287 in 1990, it’s impossible to ever call the baby name Charlotte truly out of use.
CHARLOTTE in the CITY
The baby name Charlotte remained in style limbo.
Then came 1998.
That’s when HBO original series, Sex and the City introduced us to Carrie Bradshaw and her three besties: Miranda Hobbes, Samantha Jones, and Charlotte York.
Charlotte serves as the most conservative member of the quartet. Park Avenue-dwelling and marriage-minded, she does everything exactly right. Until her picture-perfect marriage falls apart, and she’s forced to reinvent herself – and find true love along the way. Kristin Davis played the part, and instantly re-invented her character’s name.
In 1998, the baby name Charlotte ranked a chilly #304.
By the time the last episode of the series aired in 2004, it had returned to the US Top 200.
And when the second of the feature full length films based on the series debuted in 2010? The baby name Charlotte ranked #46.
The name continued to chug its way up the popularity charts.
By the time we learned Will and Kate were expecting again, the name was wildly popular. The very same week the world met Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge, we also learned that the name had entered the US Top Ten.
Since then, it’s climbed all the way to #4 as of 2020. That means it has ranked in the US Top Ten every year since 2014.
All of this makes the baby name Charlotte a polished classic, the feminine equivalent of William or James.
It works without a nickname, but Charlie and Lottie are both easy options.
With the princess very much in the spotlight, and Charlotte York returning for a Sex and the City sequel soon, it’s very possible that we’ll keep hearing more and more of this lovely, traditional name.
What do you think of the baby name Charlotte?
Originally published on November 2, 2011, this post was revised and re-published on August 29, 2018. Additional updates followed on September 14, 2021.
Charlotte is my all time favourite name. It’s just so beautiful. I used it for my second daughter, who often uses the nickname Lottie. I was actually turned off it for my first daughter as I thought it was to popular only to realise how much I loved it when I was deciding on my second child’s name.
Never once has its rhyming potential been a problem for my daughter.
This is my name! I just found this. I’ve come to love my name now, but was I suppose indifferent to it growing up although I’ve never hated it. It seems to be very popular with the under 30 set and has been number 1 in my country (New Zealand) for the past few years running or at least always in the top 5, so it’s very trendy now. I’m 27 myself and have always known a handful of Charlotte’s, but feel like it’s not TOO common like perhaps Sarah, Sophie or Hannah is. I mostly get called Char from my close friends, I was Charley as a baby with a soft ‘Ch’ and one friend calls me Lottie which I love but get least often.
I’d love to read your write up on Charlotte! Could it get fixed soon, please?
Charlotte was on our shortlist for Baby #1 (we went with Beatrice) and I’m sure it will reappear if we are blessed with another girl. We always wanted to use the nickname Lotte.
Elizabeth W. says
Man, I can see Charlotte devolving to “Harlot” in the hands of malicious schoolkids — though I suppose I’d admire said kid’s breadth of vocabulary.
I wouldn’t name a kid Aurelia either, though I love the name, for fear of “Australia”. Kids are ingenious of course, but I try not to make it EASY for them, LOL.
Charlotte Vera says
I’m still somewhat surprised that no one ever thought of calling me “Charlotte the Scarlet Harlot”. The only rhyming teases anyone ever seemed to come up with were omelette and piglet. Neither that bad, really. I guess it helped that I was a rather skinny child, so “piglet” was never a reference to weight.
How many people even use the word “harlot” anymore? I don’t think this would ever be a concern of mine in naming a daughter Charlotte. Omelet is an interesting tease-name, Charlotte Vera! Some original kiddos you must have grown up with… 😉
Charlie/Charley seems to be blowing up for the girls these days.
Charlotte’s such a sweet, classic name, and I wish it wasn’t getting so popular! I love Caroline more, though.
My cousins’ grandmother was named Charlotte (Gramma Lottie) and my cousin has rightfully “claimed” the name. Granted she has two boys and I think she’s done having kids… but Charlotte is off limits (and it would sound 200% better with her surname.)
Our dental hygienist is named Charlotte (Char.) My family refers to her as “Hamburger Helper” because while she’s very nice — she’s also a bit rough and you leave feeling like you just went through a meat grinder.
I have a friend from the UK who is a Charlotte: she goes by Larlie, perhaps because Charlie is way too masculine over there.
I really love the name, and I discovered Carlota recently, another form of Charlotte.
British American says
I had Charlotte on my list in 2005 for our daughter. I thought it would be cute, as my father-in-law is named Charles. My husband wasn’t keen on the name though – I think he thought it was too long / had too many letters. I do think Lottie is adorable as a nickname and I love that the name has a long history.
It’s a bit too popular to have on my list anymore. Though I guess it could go on there as a middle name.
Lady Gwyn says
I really like Charlotte, but as many have pointed out, it is getting so popular. Still, I’d rather meet a little Charlotte than another Addalyn/Addisyn or any of the other trendy type names. I adore both Charlotte and Caroline, and find my taste in girls names seems to skew heavily Victorian (Charlotte, Caroline, Louisa, Susannah, Evelyn, Eleanor, Victoria,etc.), so this doesn’t suprise me.
Sarah A says
I’ve loved Charlotte ever since I came across Lottie in A Little Princess. I like how Lemon put it: Charlotte can be shortened, but she doesn’t need to be. Regal, classic, and yet modern, no wonder so many parents have flocked to this gem. I know one Charlotte, she’s about 7 and was named for her grandmother; her little sister is Sara. I also have friends of friends with 2-year old twin daughters Charlotte and Evelyn. Talk about a winning, if rising, set of names 🙂
I loved Charlotte maybe 4 years ago before it starred showing up everywhere. I also loved Susannah, Louisa and Beatrice at that point. None of which made my short list for this baby.
I really like the name Charlotte and adore the nickname Charlie. From watching the Disney channel with my neices…I’ve come to love the show Good Luck Charlie, where big sister Teddy gives advice to her baby sister Charlie.
Sadly I doubt I’ll ever use it since my sister is married to a Charles nn Charlie and I’ve known a few men named Charles that have soured me on the name.
Oh, I forgot I even suggested this one! She’s a gem. I love the simple but striking sound of the name, the subtle femininity, and the fact that it CAN be shortened but doesn’t NEED to be shortened. I think Caroline is gorgeous, too, but the straightforward sound of Charlotte appeals to me even more. Thanks for doing this write-up, Abby!
I have a niece named Charlotte (nn Charlie) and a friend with a little Charlotte (nn Char). It is popular, but it sounds too old-fashioned to my 63-year-old mom’s ears. (Just thought the generation gap there was interesting.)
Charlotte Vera says
I was named when Charlotte was at an ebb. It was pretty unusual for me to find personalised pens, mugs, hairbrushes, etc., and it was REALLY exciting to find out about another Charlotte under the age of, oh, sixty. Now of course there are Charlottes aplenty and most of them are my daughter’s age. The current popularity of the name for the small fry of our community means that people frequently confuse our names, calling me Roseanna and my two-year-old Charlotte.
My parents chose the name because they wanted something that worked in both German and English, that was classic but not commonly used, and that featured in their family trees. My dad also tends to be against girls names that end-in-a, which immediately rules out a lot of name possibilities.
I really like Charlotte. But living in North Carolina it would feel weird, like naming my child Raleigh or even Winston. To me, at least.
I agree Lauren.. I fell for this name while she was on Sex and the City.. but I have lived in Charleston for 3.5 years now and the association with the Carolina city is too strong for me now, so she is no longer on the “long” list. However I have run into many Charlottes, Raleighs and even Carolinas after living here. There is sure a lot of state pride here in the Carolinas.. I am a California girl and dont ever remember anyone named California or San Bernardino… nor did we have our state flag posted all over our cars and business signs. How funny it is that our name preferences change over time and with travel.
I’m in the same boat, Lauren. Being in NC, actually using Charlotte would feel odd. That said, it’s a nice enough name, but kinda popular. And while I do dig boyish nns to go with feminine full names, I would far prefer to meet a Lottie – Charlotte than a Charlie – Charlotte at this juncture. Or maybe an Arlo – Charlotte? A stretch, but I would admire that!
I do love this name! It also has musical associations, via the band Good Charlotte.
Julie G says
Well, I must really love the name (both boy/girl) so much that my daughter’s middle name is Charlotte and her younger brother is Charles nn Charlie. And we didn’t even think about them being variations of the same name! I just love the name Charlotte and youngest was named Charles after my father, which I love too.