With Halloween just days away, here’s a haunting choice – and a very popular one, too.
Thanks to Liz for suggesting Annabel as our Baby Name of the Day.
My rule of thumb is to use most common variant of the name as the post’s title – so the Baby Name of the Day should be Annabelle. Ranked #100 in the US as of 2012, Annabelle is quite current, while Annabel remains relatively obscure, at #519.
But pumpkins are on my doorstep, so I’m opting to use the spare, tragic Annabel of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1849 poem Annabel Lee. Poe’s lament concerned a beautiful maiden who died too young.
The French impressionist Edouard Manet also used the name Annabel Lee for a woman in his sketches. Sometimes she’s lying on the beach; other times, she’s looking at the shore. It’s no coincidence – Manet’s drawings accompanied a French translation of Poe’s poetry. Manet and the translator were friends. The ocean setting is a nod to the opening lines of the poem: It was many and many a year ago, In a kingdom by the sea …
Annabel ranked #467 in 1880, but she was headed towards obscurity by the mid-twentieth century. It is difficult to say if she was more popular when Poe wrote, or if he plucked her from obscurity. Annabelle made it as high as #254 in 1924, but she, too, fell out of use by 1950.
If Annabel and company are revival names, they’re less about the nineteenth century and more about the Middle Ages.
A pair of saints, one male and one female, both shared the Latin name Amabilis, meaning loveable:
- In the fifth century, Amabilis or Amable served as a parish priest in Riom.
- Two centuries later, a princess wore a similar name. She became a nun, and later a saint, in Rouen. Records list her as Saint Amabilis, too.
Amabilis inspired the medieval name Amabel, the source of late nineteenth century favorite Mabel. Variants abound – Amabilia, Amiable, Amice, and Mabella were all seen, too.
Amabel morphed into Annabel sometime after the 700s, either because parents linked the saint’s name to Anna, or because of a misspelling. (Think of Innogen/Imogen.)
Others have argued that she’s just a lovely smoosh of Anna and Belle.
Regardless, she’s appealed to parents for centuries. It was rumored that the Duchess of York wanted to name her firstborn Annabel but was persuaded to choose the more regal Beatrice instead.
Famous Annabels have included:
- There’s a jazzy 1920s song called “Annabel Lee” – but the song’s upbeat tone is very different than Poe’s poem.
- Annabel’s was a glamorous London nightclub known for hosting Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross and more. (The club was named after the owner’s wife, an aristocratic Annabel.)
- Grateful Dead legend Jerry Garcia has a daughter called Annabelle, born in 1970.
- Annabel Karmel has authored several cookbooks for children and families.
- Actress Annabella Sciorra has had a long career on television and in movies.
The rise of Isabella boosted all of the -bella names. Annabelle is the currently highest ranked, with Arabella at #245, and Annabella at #307 in 2012.
With plenty of nickname options – Annie, Bella, and even Abby all work – Annabelle makes for a very wearable name today. Her steady rise suggests that we could be hearing a lot of Annabelle in the coming years.