English: Sheet music cover of "A Pretty G...

Before there was Cadence, this musical appellation was popular for girls.

Thanks to Crystal for suggesting Melody as our Baby Name of the Day.

Melody is a noun name, and she was among the first musical terms to catch on for girls in recent decades, before Cadence or Aria.

She comes from the Greek melos – song, and aeido – to sing.  Whisper it down the alley through Latin and French, and eventually you’ll arrive at melody in English.

Technically, a melody is line – several musical notes that we hear as a whole.  It sounds simple, but it is a pretty nuanced concept.  (I’m not sure I’ve got it right.)

So how did Melody go from music to mademoiselles?

That’s a tiny bit of a mystery.

She’s a twentieth century innovation.  Her debut in the US Top 1000 came in 1942, at the rather lofty #523.  Melody quickly rose to the Top 200 in 1954.  Melody hovered around the 200s for a while, declined sharply in the 1990s, and has recently reversed course.  As of 2012, she stands at #174.


  • She’s quite close to Melanie, a separate name with a longer history of use, that was on the rise in the same era.
  • Irving Berlin wrote “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” in 1919, and it became the theme song of the Ziegfield Follies.  Could the repetition of the name, associated with showgirls, have made it seem like a great name for a pretty girl was Melody?
  • Then came the Broadway Melody movies, including the 1940 installment, a Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell musical extravaganza featuring “Begin the Beguine” by Cole Porter.
  • A popular radio show spawned a big screen franchise.  One of the Dr. Christian movies was 1941’s Melody for Three.
  • Merrie Melodies were produced by Warner Brothers from the 1930s into the 1960s.  Where would the world be without Bugs & Daffy?  But the cartoons almost certainly didn’t influence parents.

An animated Melody was created around 1963 for the comic book series Josie and the Pussycats.  Melody was the not-so-bright blonde in the band.  She went along as the series transitioned from comics to a Saturday morning cartoon to a 2001 movie.  Tara Reid played the character on the big screen.

There’s also:

  • Dr. Who gives us another.  His companion River Song, played by Alex Kingston – remember her from E.R. – was also known as Melody.
  • In the sequel to The Little Mermaid, Ariel and Eric give this name to their daughter, making her a mermaid name.
  • Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis have a daughter called Lily-Rose Melody.

One of the more stylish names of our moment is the French Elodie, a name close in sound to Melody.  If Melody hadn’t been popular in the 1950s and 60s, I think she’d be a smash hit today, a musical noun name with three syllables and that great ends in -y sound.  Today, though, she feels the tiniest bit dated – more mom name than vintage gem.  Still, I think she’d fit right in with all of the other musical girls we’re hearing in 2013.

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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. I’m OK with the sound on this one, but I sing a harmony part in the musical groups I’m with, so it would feel funny to name a baby Melody! I’d probably go with Harmony first–musical and modern virtue all at once.

  2. Thanks for this post! I’ve always loved Melody and it doesn’t sound at all dated to me personally. However, I have never met anyone with the name at all. To me it fits in very well with the “el” sound and musical names trends.

  3. I get a slightly dated feel to her too and not in a ‘cool vintage’ way. I did have Elodie on my own list once, so I do like the sound.

    My brother in law likes the name and he is musical. Except he has cats instead of children, so one of his cats is named Melody. I imagine he would have used it on a daughter, if he’d had one.

    I do know an 8 year old Aria and there’s Lyric on the new Kindergarten class list – those do seem more modern. Melody is still nice though.