She’s an obscure botanical possibility, seldom heard in the US.
Thanks to JaydenAmaya for suggesting Madelief as our Baby Name of the Day.
There are two reasons Madelief tends to surface in the US:
- We love Maddie names. Madison has been among the most popular girls’ choices in US for years, followed by Madelyn – yup, this spelling – and Madeline, all three in the Top 100. There’s also Madelyn, Madeleine, Madilyn, and so on, plus brother names Maddox and Madden, thanks to the Jolie-Pitt family and the NFL.
- Botanicals are big, from the classic Lily and Rose to daring new possibilities like Edelweiss and Azalea.
Missing the flower power link? The Dutch word madeliefje means daisy. The name is pronounced mad uh LEEF, the last syllable rhyming with leaf.
Madelief is well known in the Netherlands – she’s ranked in their Top 100 in recent years – but my impression is that she’s a relative newcomer. According to this chart, the name was virtually unknown until the 1980s.
Celebrated children’s book author Guus Kuijer wrote a series with a character called Madelief in the 1970s. A television series followed in the 1990s. Kuijer has won international acclaim, but few of his books are translated into English – and it looks like none of the Madelief stories.
As a given name, she’s rare in English, too. Actress Joanna Page, best known for the BBC romantic comedy Gavin & Stacey, welcomed a daughter called Eva Madelief in 2013 with her actor-husband James Thornton.
Could it be that Page and Thornton named their daughter after their dog? The couple’s Jack Russell is named Daisy.
In the US, Madelief has never been given to five girls in any single year, making her a true rarity.
But travel to Amsterdam, and you might come across actresses Madelief Blanken or Madelief Verelst – the latter played Guus Kuijer’s character in the 1990s television series.
The name’s popularity owes something to sound-alike names in Dutch, too:
- Madelon is the Dutch equivalent of Madeline, and has been in their Top 100 in recent years.
- As for the ending, Lieve is bestowed as an independent name, originally short for Godelieve, a name unheard in English for centuries, but related to the German Gotelieb. Gotelieb is usually translated to “God’s love,” but I’ve also read that Lieve means sweet – as does Madelief’s lief.
It also struck me that Margriet – the Dutch equivalent of Margaret, a classic girl’s name associated with the daisy – is very sparingly used nowadays, suggesting that she’s considered old-fashioned.
But the real question is whether Madelief could be worn in the US. I’m a fan of other rare Mad- names, like Madigan and Madeleva. Madelief fits in with those choices, the kind of name you’d have to repeat and spell again and again. But if you’re patient, Madelief should wear well. And if you’re interested in honoring your Dutch heritage, she’s an attractive possibility.
What do you think of Madelief? Would you consider Madelief for a daughter, or is this one too unusual to wear well in the US?