Español:Ibis escarlata en el Oceanográfico
Español:Ibis escarlata en el Oceanográfico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She feels like a modern mash-up of Scarlett and Elizabeth.

Thanks to Shelby for suggesting Escarleth as our Baby Name of the Day.

I’m fascinated by Escarleth.  According to most reputable baby name websites, she simply doesn’t exist.  But she and Escarlet are both there, at the bottom of the US statistics.  She’s in use, no doubt, especially in the Spanish-speaking world.

Could she be a foreign spin on Scarlett, from an obscure language?  There seemed to be a cluster of young Escarleths in Honduras, so I went looking for evidence that the name was tied to Nahuatl.

Turns out I was way over thinking it.

As Sebastiane and L pointed out, words that start with the letter S in English often taken an E in Spanish.  Think of Stephen and Esteban, or Stephanie and EstefaníaScarlet, the color, becomes escarlata in Spanish.

Scarlett, the name, has a different history.  Her big boost came from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.  The bestseller became a celebrated movie, and Scarlett O’Hara inspired parents to consider the name.  Hollywood gave Scarlett her most recent boost, thanks to actress Scarlett Johansson.  Originally an occupational surname for a cloth dealer, scarlet wasn’t necessarily a shade of red at first.  (In the novel, we learn that Miss O’Hara grandmother was Katie Scarlett – first and last names.)

Red was the most common shade of scarlet, and eventually the fabric and the color became interchangeable.  But Spanish speakers aren’t naming their daughters Escarlata.  Instead of a literal translation, they’re adapting the popular English name to suit their native tongue.  It’s an interesting phenomenon.  It is a time-tested process, the kind of assimilation that gives us Elizabeth and Isabella.

The E is simple.  The -th is trickier to explain.  I’d expect Escarlet and Escarleth to be pronounced differently.  But then I though of the more widely-used Yamilet, Yamilete and Yamileth – Spanish forms of the Arabic Jamila.  I’ve heard them pronounced yah MEEL eht, but also yah me ley with a faint hint of a t sound at the end.  L noted that the addition of the -h didn’t indicate that the sound was a “th” – it was to emphasize that the end “is supposed to sound like a t.”

The best example I could find of the latter is this YouTube video – apparently, Yasuri Yamileth is a persona of a Panamanian radio host called Katherine Severino.  This piqued my curiosity – was Yamileth the equivalent of, say, Jordynn?  Did that make Escarleth the rough equivalent of JezelleLizeth seemed to be free of any negative associations, but was she closer to Eliza or Betsy?

After watching oodles of YouTube videos, I’ve concluded that Escarleth is almost certainly what L and Sebastiane suggested: a Spanish version of the popular color name, with a spelling meant to emphasize the desired pronunciation, not unlike some parents adoption of Alivia instead of Olivia in a bid to get the correct vowel sound.

If you’re living in an English-speaking country, Escarleth would likely fare better as Escarlet, or even Escarlette.  But I’ll admit that I still love the look of Escarleth, even if I can’t see it without pronouncing the final th.

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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. The name is not for everyone, but I love the compliments I get when they ask me to pronounce it!!! I remember at one point never hearing of anyone else with the name now a huge list of women come up when I google it. Hahaha Love it! I had a patient of mine name her daughter after me. It’s still unique. I enjoyed reading this 🙂

  2. Thanks for the proper pronunication. My adopted daughter’s middle name is Escarleth. This was her birth middle name, she is from Guatemala. I decided to keep her original middle name, but always have pronounced it with a ‘th’! Not sure I can break myself of it. I feel it ties to my name ‘Elizabeth’. Thanks again!

  3. @L – I owe you! This one was tough to unpack. I think the hardest names for me to figure out are always the ones that are evolving at this moment, but in a language other than English. (For me, at least. I can pick my way through a couple of other languages with the help of Google translate and Wiktionary … but even if I can find a name forum in the right language, I usually can’t decipher the more casual language and idiom.)

  4. I love seeing baby names used in Latin America! Thanks for doing this one, Abby!

    I lived in Mexico for a while and enjoyed all the new (for me) names.

  5. Fascinating read! Escarleth is definitely not for me, but beats the pants off the name I came across on the Gerber Baby photo contest. A little girl named Harlett.

  6. There’s a fruteria near my home that advertizes yogurth, and it took me forever to make the th = hard t pronunciation connection. So much for my 4 years of Spanish! I agree that the spelling looks atrocious, but Escarleth pronounced with a Latino accent is beautiful.

  7. I first read the name as Escargot, so it’s a no-go for me.

    I’m not a fan of Scarlett. I always thing of the Hawthorne novel first and then a novel I read in College, “Scarlet Plume”, which in this case the Scarlet character is male.

    1. HA! Laughing out loud at Escargot!

      Interesting about Scarlet as a male name. I could see it, except for the whole Southern Belle connection.

  8. Not being a Spanish speaker (in fact, I’m a big proponent for having English be the USA’s offcial language!), so while Escarleth looks fun, I’d stick with simple Scarlett Elisabeth. 😀

    Beats some of those hard to figure out Spanish names (Xochilia for example). Took me weeks to say that one right! (Zo-chil-ya she says)