Screenshot of Katharine Hepburn from the trail...

Katherine is a classic, worn by saints and queens.  In 2014, this breezy short form stands on her own.

Thanks to Alex for suggesting Kate as our Baby Name of the Day.

In Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, a wealthy merchant in Padua has two daughters of marriageable age.  Katherina is the difficult older sister, with no suitors on the horizon.  Her baby sister, Bianca, is her opposite – much admired amongst Padua’s bachelors.  Let’s ignore the problematic politics, and concentrate on the language … Petruchio finally wins Katherina’s hand: And kiss me, Kate, we will be married o’Sunday.

The line also inspired the name of the nearly as well known Cole Porter adaptation, Broadway musical Kiss Me, Kate.  Porter’s work won the first-ever Tony Award for Best Musical back in 1949.

Shakespeare didn’t invent this one.  Katherine has been around since at least the 300s, and probably earlier.  The spelling was probably altered to reflect the Greek katharos – pure.  Several international versions of the name don’t take on the ‘h’ – think of Caterina and Katrin.  Kate has been a traditional nickname since at least the Middle Ages.

She’s also been pretty popular.  While it is tough to guess measure how many women have answered to Kate, as an independent name, she’s ranked in the US Top 1000 every year since 1880.  In fact, she ranked in the Top 100 back in the 1880s.

From the 1930s through the 60s, Kate faded.  Kathy was the typical short form for Kath- names from the era.

But by the 1970s, Kate was making a comeback.  Since 2000, she’s ranked #225 or higher every year, and charted at #184 in 2013.

There’s no shortage of notable bearers of the name, including:

  • Nineteenth century author of The Awakening, Kate Chopin, born Katherine O’Flaherty.
  • New Zealand suffragette Katherine Sheppard.  She’s appeared on their currency.
  • Singers range from Kathryn Smith, the First Lady of Radio, who became known for singing “God Bless America,” especially for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, to “Running Up That Hill” singer Catherine Bush to The B-52s Catherine Pierson to KT Tunstall, of “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” fame – born Kate.
  • Now, to Hollywood.  There’s screen legend Katharine Hepburn. who scored a quartet of Academy Awards, and appeared in everything from Shakespearean drama to screwball comedies.  She’s among the most admired film stars in history.
  • Australia’s much-admired Cate Blanchett popularized the once-rare C spelling. Kate Bosworth was also born Catherine.
  • More actresses – born Lucy Kate Jackson, but better known as Sabrina Duncan on the original Charlie’s Angels; Capshaw, born Kathleen, best known for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and as Mrs. Steven Spielberg.  I love Kate Beckinsale’s full name, Kathrin Romary.
  • Kate Winslet and Kate Hudson are both just Kate.

At least two soap opera matriarchs have answered to the name, plus supermodel Kate Moss, and fictional characters from Kate and Allie to Lost.

And then there’s the Duchess of Cambridge.  Born Catherine Elizabeth, she and Prince William met at the University of St. Andrewsbecame engaged in 2010, and married in April of 2011.  Even though she’s now a married mom, we still tend to refer to her as Kate Middleton.

Lastly, Katherine Brosnahan Spade has graduated from handbags – her first line debuted in 1993, and her first store in 1996 – to a lifestyle brand.

Overall, Kate is preppy and polished, accomplished and smart.  If you’re looking for a crisp, frills-free classic for a girl, Kate is one to consider.

Related articles

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. My aunt is a Katherine called Pudd. I’m Katherine called Katie, and I’m trying to get my SO on board with naming a future daughter Katherine “Kit”. Ive always liked the name Kate as well, I tried it on but it never seemed to suit. One of the things I do love about my name is its rich history.

  2. I love the name Catherine, but my husband dislikes it. All he hears is catheter or the currently out of style Cathy. I love the nicknames Kate, and Cat.

    Like Josie, I prefer Kate to Cate, but Catherine to Katherine. Katherine feels more trendy to me because of the current “start all C names with Ks” trend like Karter, Kadence, etc. even though I know Katherine is an accepted variant.

  3. I like Kate/Katie/Katy (and Kay – I love Kay but nobody else does) and Kit/Kitty as nicknames but I don’t think I’d really use any of them alone, and my favourite long form is Katharine.

    In 30 years, though, will Kate be feeling like Kathy feels now? That’s why I like the flexibility of the formal name, it’s the short names that cycle in and out and the long form is pretty evergreen.

    I like Catherine (and Catriona, and I’m still fond of Caitlin) but not Cate. For whatever reason I find the C- spellings of Kate off-putting, though there is an individual Cate I’ve known who didn’t help that cause.