Eleanor and Elizabeth are classics, while Emma and Emily have dominated the US Top 10 in recent years. So why haven’t we heard much of this lovely appellation?
Thanks to Vicki for suggesting Emmanuelle as our Baby Name of the Day.
First things first: Emmanuelle is a feminine form of Emmanuel, or maybe Immanuel. The spelling varies across time and tongue. It’s never been super popular in the English-speaking world, but you’ve almost certainly heard Manuel and maybe even Manuela. Manuel had a good run in the Byzantine Empire, and has appeared in the royal families of Spain and Portugal. Judy Garland played Manuela in 1948’s The Pirate.
It’s also a deeply spiritual name. Emmauelle’s roots are Hebrew, meaning “God is with us.” If you’ve ever heard the Christmas carol “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” you know the rest of the story. In the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, the future messiah’s name is given as Emmanuel. As the lyrics tell us, he’s to ransom captive Israel.
No surprise then, that the name has some appeal, especially in our age of borrowing from the Bible.
A handful of notable actresses have boosted the name:
- Emmy Rossum was born Emmanuelle Grey Rossum. Emmy isn’t actually French, but she was named after a great-grandfather Emmanuel.
- Then there’s César-award winning actress Emmanuelle Béart. She’s French, and most of her work has taken place in France, though a few of her films, like Manon des Sources, have achieved an international audience. That’s her portrait above.
- There’s also Emmanuelle Seigner and Emmanuelle Vaugier.
- Oscar-nominated actress Emmanuelle Riva is another notable.
- Emmanuelle Chriqui was born in Montreal. You might remember her as Entourage’s Sloan, or Lorelei on The Mentalist.
But it doesn’t take much looking to find a possible downside to Emmanuelle. Emmanuelle Arsan was the pen name of Bangkok-born Marayat Rollet-Andriane. The author penned erotic novels about a young woman named Emmanuelle. The 1959 book was banned in France – and became a sensation. It was adapted for the big screen in the 1970s, and became onthe moviee of the most successful French films of the decade.
Now here’s the thing: the movie is undeniably softcore porn. It inspired sequels, spin-offs, and rip-offs, some of which gave their main character the just-slightly-different name Emanuelle. There’s a strong association between the name and the entire category of erotic films.
It didn’t stop the French. Emmanuelle was at her most popular as a given name in 1980 – a moment when every parent must have recognized the association.
My sense is that the reference isn’t well-known in the US – at least not in 2013. She’s given to two or three dozen girls born in the US each year.
With French flair and the potential to shorten to Emme or Ellie, doesn’t it seem like Emmanuelle would wear well in 2013?