Publicity photo of Danielle Darrieux for The R...Daniel is a Biblical classic for boys, enduring and heroic, but with a gentle vibe, too.  Today his sister takes center stage.

Thanks to Felecia for suggesting Danielle as our Baby Name of the Day.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Dana was sometimes bestowed upon girls.  Dannie and Danna were other options in sparing use.

But there really wasn’t a standard feminine form of Daniel, even though he’d been a staple for boys.

That changed in the early twentieth century.  Danette was one name that rose into the 1950s.  But it was the French Danielle that won the day.

French names for girls have long had their place in the US.  We tend to think of Danielle in the same group as Nicole and Michelle, names that hit it big in the 1960s and 70s.

Danielle debuted in the US Top 1000 back in 1938.  By 1961 she ranked #373.  A decade later, she ranked #99, and she’d remain in the US Top 100 through 2004, peaking at #14 in 1987.

What explains her arrival on our shores?

French actress Danielle Darrieux was making a name for herself in Paris in the 1930s.  In 1938, Hollywood came calling.  Miss Darrieux co-starred with Douglas Fairbanks in The Rage of Paris.  It was a comedy, starring Darrieux as an aspiring actress, scheming to land a rich husband.  Things don’t go according to plan, but all ends happily.

Darrieux has had quite the career, spanning eight decades.  There have been occasional returns to American cinema, but most of her work has been in Europe.  In 2002, she was part of the ensemble cast in the award-winning 8 Femmes, and she remains active.

If the actress gets credit for introducing the name, it is clear that Americans were eager to embrace her.  Many famous Danielles have followed:

  • Danielle Steel was born in 1947.  She’s the bestselling author alive today, and is among the bestselling authors of all time.  She published her first novels in the 1970s, and has been a fixture on the bestsellers list since the 1980s.  Ms. Steel may have contributed to the peak popularity of her given name.
  • Other actresses include Danielle Brisebois – you know her as Stephanie on All in the Family – and Disney alum turned scream queen Danielle Panabaker.  There’s also Danielle Harris, who graduated from soap operas to horror flicks.
  • Danielle Fishel played Topanga on Boy Meets World, went on to become a host on the Style Network, and will soon return to the small screen as Topanga again, in a sequel to the original series.
  • Fictional figures include Lost’s Danielle Rousseau, Drew Barrymore’s Cinderellaesque character in Ever After, and an undercover FBI agent on The Sopranos.  Add in a handful of soap opera characters and supporting players, and this name has had a good run on the small screen.
  • Dani California” is a hit song from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
  • Elvis has a granddaughter named Danielle, the eldest child of Lisa Marie Presley, born in 1989.  Danielle’s dad is a Daniel.  She’s now an actress, but Ms. Keough answers to her middle name, Riley.

Danielle is now solidly established as the feminine form of Daniel, but while the masculine version of the name remains a classic in heavy use, the feminine form is fading.  She ranked #232 in 2012, and has fallen rapidly in the last few years. Daniela, at #191, is slightly more popular, though she’s waning, too.

And yet, Danielle and Daniela remain elegant, sophisticated choices for a child.  They can make great middles to honor a Daniel, and are likely to stay in use as given names – familiar, if much less common than a few decades ago.

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. My middle name is Danielle (the name I go by) and I’m 22. My next door neighbor’s granddaughter is also named Danielle, she’s in the third grade. I’m a mom but I don’t think it’s fading, I love my name! There are two characters in Marvel comics named Danielle, Danielle “Dani” Moonstar and the daughter of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage (I always thought that was cool). The name cant be fading, X-Men and S.H.I.E.L.D will never fade. LOL. Yeah I’m a geek 🙂

  2. You did my name! Yay! I have always had warm feelings about my name, until a general unease crept in recently (when I started reading name blogs!)

    My mom first heard it in the 1970s, probably via Danielle Steel, and she knew right then that she would name her first daughter Danielle. I have a younger sister, and hearing my mom accidentally slip and talk about her “favorite name”–MY name– from time to time always made me feel special. Especially since my younger sister, Ashley, is generally the one who gets along with my mom best.

    My name was certainly not unpopular in my age group–I was born in 1984. I graduated with a class of 700, and 5 of us were named Danielle or Daniela. I was friends with one of the Danielas, and on very friendly terms with one of the Danielles. Still, I always felt like my name was unique–it peaked in 1987, but my mom would remind me that this trend bewildered her because she liked Danielle way back in the 70s and she wasn’t following trends! (This goes back to the whole idea of a generation influencing each other’s tastes without each member being aware of it themselves, I think.)

    When I started getting into name blogs earlier this year, I saw Nameberry label my name “fading”, more of the “Mom generation”. It was really jarring for me to read that–I’m only 28! Only a few people I know have kids! And then I realized that the current “Mom generation” IS people in their late twenties and thirties. And not people in MY mom’s generation, their 50’s and 60’s.

    Isn’t it strange that it took an flaming interest in names–baby name’s, really– for me to realize that I am part of a generation that can be mother’s, if we want to? It’s definitely a paradigm shift.

    1. Oh, Danielle, I know what you mean about it being jarring to realize that you’re mom aged. I have an 8 year old and a nearly-5 year old, and sometimes I’m still surprised when they call me mom. 🙂

      I think that happens with lots of names – we fall in love with them a decade or so before we use them, and by the time we use them, they’re very popular. I’ve never found an explanation for why that is …

  3. My old high school classmates really seem to really like this name. At my class reunion a few years ago, it seemed like every other family has a Danielle.

  4. Is Daniela the standard spelling? The only one I know is a southern pageant girl with parents who probably would like anything with Ella on the end as she spells it Daniella