Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.
We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!
About ten years ago, I thought I’d found the perfect name for a daughter. It sounded like lots of popular names, but wasn’t even in the Top 1000. It had a great meaning and was easy to say and spell. And it is an M name, just like mine and my mom’s name, too.
The name? Mirabelle.
Now I’m actually expecting my first child, and it’s a girl, and my partner is completely on board with Mirabelle.
Until we finally watched Encanto. I’d heard about Bruno, but somehow I’d missed the main character’s name.
On the one hand, there’s nothing about the character that puts me off the name. As fictional heroines go, I wouldn’t mind sharing my name with her at all.
But people will almost certainly think that we named our daughter after Mirabel Madrigal. And that’s another thing: in the movie, it’s Mirabel, but I always pictured it spelled -belle.
Will it be annoying to have people think of the movie every time they hear her name? Will Mirabelle be the next Isabelle, and all of my attempts to give my daughter a unique name fall apart?
We’re willing to consider other names, but my due date is August 22nd, so I feel like we’re running out of time.
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
If you’d asked me this question way back in 2008, when Appellation Mountain was just a tiny hill of a site, I might’ve answered differently.
But something has changed over the last dozen or so years. I’ve called it post-Khaleesi, but it started pre-Game of Thrones.
While we’ve always taken naming inspiration from fictional characters and song lyrics, we used to be subtle about it.
Luke soared after Star Wars debuted in 1977. But not Lando or Leia or Han – at least not in really big, sustainable numbers.
We preferred familiar-ish names that were used for heroes. Or at least characters with admirable qualities.
Now? Kylo and Anakin chart, along with Luke and Leia. So do lots of names borrowed from all sorts of fan-doms and fictions. Many of them are intentionally other-worldly, not the kinds of names you’d stumble out outside of science fiction and fantasy.
If we can name our daughters Mazikeen after Lucifer’s demon sidekick?
Suddenly Mirabelle seems almost as mainstream as Elizabeth.
Borrowing from popular culture in an open way is socially acceptable today. That opens the door for Mirabelle.
But that doesn’t mean that Mirabelle is the next big thing. On the contrary, Elsa spiked in use, then tumbled post-Frozen. So it’s not a lock that a pop culture hero (or villain) will send a name soaring.
But Mirabelle works for other reasons, too.
- The style blends in with popular names right now. In this case, being similar to Isabelle is a feature, not a bug. It’s what makes Mirabelle seem accessible, while remaining distinct.
- The nickname potential is excellent. You don’t have to shorten Mirabelle, but if you find yourself on the sidelines of a soccer game in another eight or ten years, you can call out Mimi, Bella, or Miri for short.
Now let’s talk about spelling.
In general, if the parents don’t have a clear preference, I think it’s best to use the dominant spelling, assuming one exists. When a name is as rare as this, though, it’s not quite so clear.
- In 2021, 33 girls were named Mirabel versus 69 Mirabelles.
- In 2020, there were 37 Mirabels versus 75 Mirabelles.
That’s not a strong vote in favor of Mirabelle, but we tend to prefer -elle over -el and -ette over -et, so I’m guessing that Mirabelle wouldn’t cause any problems. In fact, I suspect most people would assume it’s -elle.
All of this is a very long way of saying that I think Mirabelle is just perfect.
Yes, Encanto. And yes, it might become more popular in future years. But somehow I don’t think so – at least not in a frustrating way.
It’s your top choice, and satisfies all of your criteria. I wouldn’t change my mind.
You should definitely stick with the name that you’ve loved for such a long time. There will always be others with the name, no matter what name you choose. Sometimes those others are fictional characters. But, Mirabelle is a beautiful name: underused, as you said, yet definitely a name. You should use it.
Mandie L. says
If you’ve loved the name this long, and your husband is on board, it would be a shame to drop it now.
Will she sometimes get Encanto references? Probably. But I don’t think that has to be a deal breaker – pretty much every name has something like that. For me, with a name that was #3 the year I was born, it was the stupid Barry Manilow song (“No, I’m not kissing anyone. Go away.”) My daughter is Saranna, which is almost un-used in the US, and she gets people making tennis jokes (because, I guess, they associate it with Serena?) The point is, there’s always something that middleschoolers will find to tease. If a name is perfect in every other way, don’t make that the the hill to die on.
For adults, people who actually know you will understand that you didn’t pick it because of Encanto. (I mean, unless you are major fans, but if you were you wouldn’t be writing this letter.) Most people who don’t know you would be polite enough not to make that assumption, even if the idea crosses their mind. So that just leaves the category of “strangers who are rude” – and who cares what they think?
I see where you’re coming from but I do want to explain the distinction. A) Movies have a lot more cultural staying power now than they did even 4/5 years ago as you can now stream them from home. So young families are watching Encanto often – not just once or twice in the theatre. B) The names you listed were often quite popular when used – Jasmine in 1991 was #24 and #28 in 1992 , Anna was actually on the downward slope and went down 10 spots from 2014 to 2015 , Ariel was already at #209 and saw a decent jump to #94 but not a crazy one. Mirabel is totally obscure and thus likely to be linked to the movie in a way Jasmine or Anna aren’t.
It is going to be a thing because of the time period. If you were picking the name for a 2024 baby I would think it would be totally fine. But Encanto’s hit songs have only just come off the billboard hot 100 after spending weeks at #1. And the movie’s popularity is still at it’s peak. It’s just not an escapable thing right now.
So my idea would be to find another name that you can use that doesn’t rule Mirabelle so if you have another girl she could be Mirabelle. I’m guessing based on your style we’re looking longerish , not within the top 1000 and distinctly feminine with no double l sounds so you can keep Mirabelle on the table. I have opened the search to all letters but I’ll include a couple M options –
Arwen & Mirabelle
Nicolette & Mirabelle
Darlene & Mirabelle
Isadora & Mirabelle
Audrina & Mirabelle
Zahara & Mirabelle
Geneva & Mirabelle
Yvette & Mirabelle
Lucinda & Mirabelle
Aviva & Mirabelle
Charlize & Mirabelle
Serene & Mirabelle
Adora & Mirabelle
Maritza & Mirabelle
Magdalene & Mirabelle
Minerva & Mirabelle
Marguerite & Mirabelle
Zipporah & Mirabelle
For me personally I vote Zahara. Something about Zahara & Mirabelle (Zazie & Mira if you’re a nickname family) just hits right.
You could consider Mirabeau, Marvel or Marvella if you’re truly leaning away, but I think you should stick with the name you’ve always loved.
We know an Elsa born in prime Frozen years. And yes, there were times when it was annoying to her parents with all the “let it go” references, but it seems to have passed. And actually, they have a ton of Disney Elsa gear simply because it is already personalized! The point is, this passes.
Oh, and we know a now 70+ year old Kermit born in Germany and emigrated to the US in the 1970s. Gotta say. The association with a green frog has been harder for him to deal with. I think it is because it was so far from mainstream back then. The fact that Mirabelle is on trend with similar names really helps!
If you like the character and the character is a positive one then I don’t think she will mind the link.
Mirabelle is lovely. I also prefer that spelling because it contains Belle, which includes my other favourite Disney character!
I don’t think it’s the next Isabelle but you might see a few pop up. But it’s not really a big issue.
Other belle names that start with M, Maybelle or Marybelle.
If you had already chosen it don’t overthink it.
I say go for it. It’s a lovely name, you’re spelling it differently, there’s a good story behind how you chose it, and I agree with the comment that there will be enough Disney films between now and the time she’d go to school that Encanto will be less “of the zeitgeist.” People may make the association, but they’d be less likely to sing about Bruno. My answer also draws on the fact that I really do think she’s a great character, and if people did assume an intentional connection between the movie and your daughter’s name, it’s be likely to be a positive one.
My first thought when I hear the name Mirabelle is actually Mirabell, The leading man from the play Way of the World, but that’s my English nerd side showing. I doubt that most people would make the same connection, unless we all took the same British literature class. I’ve only seen Encanto a couple of times, but I didn’t make the connection immediately. I think the important thing is your story of choosing this name for your daughter.
I think a few things have changed with Disney / Pixar / Universal movies over the past 10+ years. There are more of them, more often, with more characters. Meaning, it’s not a Belle or Jasmine equivalent, in my mind. And by the time your daughter is in kindergarten there will have been at least 4 more big animated films. Plus it’s an established name never overused but certainly used. So not an Elsa (although anecdotally I do know a 7yo Elsa and kids have totally gotten over that reference at a certain age.) My kids actually love Luisa best. And Bruno is really only a thing because it’s SO FUN to say “We don’t talk about Bruno!” And Mirabelle isn’t the title character (like Raya or Moana or Luca.)
All that to say it would be a shame to skip a name you’ve loved for years and your partner is on board with. I love Mirabelle spelled Mirabelle.
I don’t see any problem as there are lots of girls that are named Aurora/Jasmine/Ariel/Belle/Anna every year.