English: Carlotta Brianza as Esmeralda

Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling didn’t release their daughter’s name for weeks, but it was worth the wait!

Celebrity Baby Name Week 2014 kicks off with Esmeralda as our Baby Name of the Day.

Esmeralda: On-Trend Appellation

Esmeralda hits all the right notes for a 2014 baby name:

  • We love elaborate appellations.  Isabella is the #1 girls’ name in the US, and Olivia is a long-time favorite.  Baby names are getting longer.
  • Gemstone names are quite stylish. From Ruby to Pearl, we’re in love with all that glitters. Esmeralda is the Spanish word for emerald, and fits right in the jewelry box.
  • English-Spanish crossover names are having their day.  Over 10% of all Americans speak Spanish at home – that’s more than 37 million people. Eva is of Cuban descent – no wonder the parents looked for something that would work in both languages.
  • Great nicknames options.  Rumor is that Ryan and Eva call their little girl Preciosa.  But if they want something shorter, there’s equally stylish Esme.

Despite all of these qualities, the name ranked just #392 in 2013 – making her about as common as Daphne, Catalina, or Sloane.

Esmeralda: The Hunchback’s Girl

Esmeralda could be a new name in 2014, along the lines of Cielo.

And yet we all recognize Esmeralda immediately – the gypsy girl in Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Even if you’d never read the book, thanks to countless adaptations – including a Disney version with singing gargoyles – you know something about the character.

Her story starts with tragedy.  Her pregnant, penniless mother is deserted by her lover.  But little Agnes was a lovely, joyful child.

Then gypsies turned up, kidnapped Agnes and left the deformed Quasimodo in her place.  The poor boy was sent to a foundling home in Paris.

Years later, La Esmeralda is a teenaged street performer, her name taken from the faux gemstones she wears.  Despite a hard life, she’s happy.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (soundtrack)

Only plenty of men are interested in Esmeralda for all the wrong reasons.  Quasimodo tries to save her, but there’s only heartache – a narrowly-missed reunion with her mother, accusations of witchcraft and murder, a death sentence.

Esmeralda: Enduring Story

Opera, ballet, and more than a dozen movies have re-told the tale.

Twentieth century usage tracks closely with pop culture mentions of the name:

  • After a few years in the US Top 1000, Esmeralda faded – only to re-appear after the 1956 version starring Gina Lollobrigida as the ill-fated heroine.  In 1957, the name ranked #925.
  • The name fell to #835 in 1969, but rose to #704 in 1970.  Credit seems to go to another fictional Esmeralda, a witch on supernatural sitcom Bewitched.

Esmeralda: The Disney Touch

In 1996, Esmeralda ranked #359.  In 1997, the name climbed to #214, and peaked at #133 in 1998.

Credit Disney.

Disney tells a kinder story from the start, though there’s still drama aplenty.  Plus singing gargoyles, and, naturally, a happy ending.  Quasimodo is hailed as a hero.

In 2002, a direct-to-video sequel was released, showing Esmeralda as the happily married mother of a son, and even Quasimodo finds true love.

Esmeralda: She Survives

We haven’t forgotten the original story.  In fact, a 1997 television version starred Salma Hayek as the gypsy girl.  It’s much truer to the original, complete with Quasimodo’s death.  But once again, the ending is rewritten to spare Esmeralda.

Despite her tragic roots, Esmeralda now feels like a name – a name boosted by some very high profile parents.

Call this one literary, elaborate, and yes – very wearable in 2015.

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. I love Esmeralda, always have.

    Emerald and Esme seem like they’d be easier but they don’t have quite as much kick, do they?

  2. This is one of the names I loved when I was a kid…it does have a certain glamorous mysterious feel to it.

  3. oh I’ve always looooved Esmeralda, and sadly, no guy I’ve talked baby names with has liked it, including my husband, though he likes Esme. Still, there’s something wonderfully powerful about Esmeralda that I just adore, Esme doesn’t quite have that kick.