Charlotte feels traditional, tailored, and ever so royal.
Thanks to Lem for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Charlotte: Forever Favorite
Way back in 1880, and well into the 1950s, this name 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.
Charles led to the feminine form Charlot, with a silent ‘t’ – think of Margot. And that, in turn, gave us Charlotte.
Charlotte: Crusader State to Reigning Name
The Normans brought Charles to England, but it took centuries for the feminine forms to become mainstream.
The name 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. They gave the name to their daughter. So did the future King George IV. That princess would have ascended to the throne, except she died in childbirth.
The throne passed to Queen Victoria instead, and the rest is history.
But the name has remained in use among the titled.
When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their daughter in 2015, it seemed like such a logical choice that the bookies call it!
Charlotte: 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, that last one is the spider, not the little girl. (She’s 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 her 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.
Back to the numbers for a minute.
By the 1960s, the name was falling. Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte sounds like a lullaby, but it is actually a 1964 Southern gothic thriller starring Bette Davis. Davis plays a young Southern belle in love with a married men. 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.
Charlotte: In the City
The name remained out of favor right through 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.
Miss York serves as the series’ most conservation 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.
By the time the last episode of the series aired in 2004, Charlotte 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 name made the Top 50.
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 #7, and has yet to slow down.
Charlotte: Stylish Classic
All of this makes the name a stylish classic, the feminine equivalent of William or James.
It works without a nickname, but Charlie and Lottie are both easy options if you’re so inclined.
As the young princess promises to stay in the spotlight, I suspect we’ll continue to hear more parents consider this name for their daughters. After all, the only potential drawback is that it’s so very popular today.
What do you think of Charlotte? Does the name’s popularity give you pause, or is it so appealing that you’d use it regardless?
Originally published on November 2, 2011, this post was revised and re-published on August 29, 2018.