She’s saintly, literary, and on trend. Best of all, she’s been out of the US rankings for three decades.
Colette is a special Saturday Name of the Day for expectant mom Laura.
Cole has been in the US Top 100 for more than a decade, and -ette is the “it” ending for girls, seen on popular picks like Violet, Scarlet, Juliet, and Bridget. But Colette last appeared in the US Top 1000 in 1986. What gives?
The short answer is simple: Colette peaked in 1966. Recent generations of parents probably thought of the name as one from their era, not a choice for a child.
Except that Colette’s peak was a mere #373. In 1966, other names with a similar ranking included Sophia, Emma, Clara, Beatrice, Georgia, and Celeste. Those names have headed up and up and up while Colette plummeted.
Like Cole, Colette comes from the Nicholas and Nicole family. It gives them quite an appealing meaning – the first syllable means victory, from the Greek nike. The -las is dervied from laos – people.
Nicolette is a diminutive form in French, which has also seen some use in the US, thanks to actress Nicollette Sheridan, better known as Knots Landing’s Paige Matheson and Desperate Housewives’ Edie Britt.
From Nicole to Nicolette to Colette is a natural progression, but one that might not be obvious. Notable Colettes have worn the name independently for centuries.
First was Saint Colette, founder of a reformed order of the Poor Clares in the fifteenth century. Colette sought religious life, but not just any religious life. She lived as a hermit, eventually bringing her ascetic ideals to reform the Order of Saint Clare. She founded new monasteries, and Colettine orders are still active today.
There’s also Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, best known for her novel Gigi, and the musical adaptations that followed for stage and screen. In turn of the century France, her writing was scandalous; her real life, equally so.
Colette passed her surname on to her daughter as a given name. It became quite stylish in France, peaking in 1937. After the author’s death in 1954 – she was the first woman ever given a state funeral in France – the name enjoyed renewed popularity.
If you’ve been dutifully watching your way through the Pixar-Disney flicks, you’ll recognize Colette Tatou as Linguini’s love interest from 2007’s Ratatouille. Janeane Garofolo voiced the no-nonsense chef.
McDermott’s Colette has another distinction. Her birth is captured in Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. Ensler and McDermott are about the same age, but Ensler was married to McDermott’s dad. She was his stepmother, and the pair remain very close – she is considered Colette’s grandmother. You can see the dedication from the print edition here.
McDermott reminds me of something else: I was planning to suggest Colette as an alternative for parents disappointed that Charlotte has become so popular. But the actor and his ex-wife have two daughters. Guess what Colette’s little sister is named? Yup. Charlotte.
If you’re looking for a name that is perfectly familiar, but startlingly uncommon, Colette is a great choice, the kind of name that makes you wonder “Why don’t we hear Colette more?”