Quick: which girls’ name has the most variant forms? Elizabeth? Good guess. Katherine? Very possibly. Margaret? Maybe.
The truth is that I don’t know for sure and certain, but I recently realized that there’s a dark horse contender for the title: Adelaide.
Plenty of parents are thinking about Adelaide these days. She’s a little sister for Charlotte, a successor to Alexandra. It is easy to imagine Adelaide wearing well from childhood right up through college, career, and beyond. Plus, nickname Addie is quite popular these days.
She’s originally Adalheidis, from the Germanic elements adal – noble – and heid – sort or type. The future Saint Adelaide was the wife of Holy Roman Emepror Otto I. A second Saint Adelaide lived around the same time. Those are the ingredients required for a name to inspire many a variation: worn by royals and saints, baked for more than a millennium.
And yet I’ll admit I was surprised when I realized just how very many forms there are of Adelaide. How many exactly? Read on …
Adelaide: Old School Variations
Adelais – I’ve found this listed as an older French form of Adelaide, along with Adalais. The -s ending is silent: ad eh LAY. It is quite pretty, but maybe a smidge confusing.
Adelheid – One of several old school variations. Could you still use Adelheid in 2013? How ’bout Adalheidis or Adelheidis? If nothing else, they make the origins of perky short form Heidi much more obvious.
Adeliza – Sister to none other than William the Conqueror, she’s sometimes known as Adelaide – but also sometimes as Adeliza. She was a countess in her own right, and the -liza ending makes for an intriguing sound.
Aleydis – An obscure variant, worn by a saint and, many years later, by a character in 1999’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. written by Tracy Chevalier and later adapted for the big screen. It probably developed as an attempt to Latinize a different form of Adelaide – think of Aleida with an -s ending.
Addie – Addie seems so much like a nickname that I can’t imagine her standing alone – except that names like Sadie and Hattie are bestowed independently.
Aleit – Along with Ahlet, one of several short forms that developed in German and were imported to Scandinavia, where they continued to evolve.
Delia – She could also be short for Cordelia, or related to Delilah, but Adelaide is yet another source for the sweet Delia.
Elke – From the northernmost parts of Germany, Elke must have come from a diminutive form like Adelke. There’s debate over how to pronounce Elke, but in English, she makes for an interesting and distinctive sound, whether you say ehl KAH, ehl KEE, or ehl KAY.
Heidi – Part pig-tailed little girl in the Swiss Alps, part supermodel turned business mogul, Heidi is a name that packs a surprising amount of punch. In 2013, she’s either slightly dated and fading, or vaguely hipsterish and prime for rediscovery. I can’t make up my mind … but trends suggest that after a good run in the 1970s and 80s, she’s slowly slipping out of favor.
Adelaide: Classics in their Own Right
Ada – Ada stands on her own, and she has origins other than Adelaide. But she fits here, too.
Alice – A classic in her own right, rich with royal and literary ties.
Adelaide: The Next Generation
Adelina – Take Adele or Adela, add the -ina suffix, and you have another possibility.
Adeline – See above. Adalyn, Adelynn, and company are her descendents, too, and if you really want to stretch a point, maybe Addison owes a little something to this name family, too. While Addison is, strictly speaking, a Scottish patronymic from Adam, it also comes from the nickname Addie.
Adelita – With the Spanish diminutive ending -ita, instead of Adeline or Adeliza, you’ll arrive at Adelita.
Ailis – The Irish form of Alice, pronounced AY leesh or sometimes AY lish.
Alicia – Take Alice, add a Latin -ia ending, and you’ll have Alicia. She’s enjoyed widespread popularity in Europe and spent well over 25 years in the US Top 100, but we continue to debate her pronunciation. Is she ah LEE shah or ah lis SEE ah? Only Alicia can say for sure …
Alina – Adelaide isn’t the only possible source for Alina, but she could certainly be a contracted form of Adelina. File Aline in the same category.
Alix – Strictly speaking, Alix is a medieval French form of Alice – making her two generations removed from Adelaide.
Alison – Like Alix, she’s related most closely to Alice.
Alyssa – Take Alicia, mix in a dose of the alyssum flower, and you have this name, still in the US Top 100.
Adelaide: The Obscurities
Adelie – When I first heard Adelie, I immediately thought penguin. In fact, I only thought penguin. They’re the smallish black and white birds that populate the Antarctic coast. It turns out that French naval officer and amateur explorer Jules d’Urville named them after his wife back in 1840. When I hear Adelie spoken, it blurs with Natalie-inspired names like Attalie, but I think she works despite the potential overlap. Adalie is another option, one that also feels like an Ada-Lee smoosh.
Alette – The name that inspired this post! While Alette could come from other sources, chances are that it is most common as a variation of Ahlet.
What do you think of Adelaide? Are there any variations that you would use? Which are your favorites?