Scarlet. Juliet. Bridget. Violet.

While Annette, Jeanette, Paulette and Lynette seem tied to the 1950s, a whole new generation of ends in -et names for girls are climbing the charts.

If -et is the next -el, we’d like to nominate a candidate that is truly different, but has plenty of history at the same time – today’s Name of the Day: Ayelet.

The author Ayelet Waldman tripped our radar a few years back, and while the name seemed vaguely familiar, it also felt surpassingly rare. Indeed, Ayelet has never been in the US Top 1000.

Like Tamar, there’s a strong Jewish heritage vibe to this choice. Ayelet is big in Israel. In fact, we’ll soon be hearing much of the name. Popular Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer is making the move to Hollywood for the May 2009 release of the Da Vinci Code prequel, Angels and Demons. Given Tom Hanks’ involvement, chances are that even if the flick isn’t a blockbuster, his co-star will garner lots of attention.

Of course, we’ll also have to wait and hear how she pronounces her given name. A three-syllable sound – ah yeh let – is favored by most name dictionaries. But in listening to Ayelet Waldman on NPR, and considering the sounds associated with the increasingly popular Violet, it seems more likely that EYE eh let, or EYE leht would be the easiest pronunciation – and the one you’re most likely to hear.

This brings to mind the fabric, as in “a simple white cotton eyelet skirt is perfect for spring.” On the one hand, it makes the name familiar without being common. On the other hand, plenty of parents would prefer a name that doesn’t also hang in their closets.

Rest assured that Ayelet’s derivation is completely separate from the material. The Hebrew phrase ayelet hashachar literally translates to gazelle of dawn. This could make Ayelet, like Tabitha, a pretty appellation that brings to mind graceful grassland dwellers.

Alternately, we can think of the night sky. The gazelle of dawn is a poetic phrase describing the morning star. Got twins? Call them Danica and Ayelet. Triplets? Danica, Ayelet and Esther.

Still, most baby name guides will tell you that Ayelet simply means gazelle, and if calling your dear daughter a deer is off-putting, then this is not the choice for you.

In addition to Waldman and Zurer, Ayelet Tours is a US-based travel company offering Jewish heritage tours worldwide. Ayelet HaShahar is a historic kibbutz in Israel, and a major producer of fruit and honey.

While it’s an oversimplification to link Ayelet to Psalm 22, there is a connection. We’re not certain we’ve got it quite puzzled out, but you’ll find the phrase associated with the passage. This is either the icing on the cake that makes the name appealingly spiritual, or the nail in the coffin, depending on your personal beliefs.

Overall, we find Ayelet intriguing. She’s complicated to spell and say, and would almost inevitably be confused with Violet. But it’s a strong Jewish heritage option that emerges as prettier than the harsh sounds of Tamar or the predictable choices like Hadassah. We think she’d wear well on a girl born in 2008, regardless of your personal faith.

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 love it with the eye-yell-it pronunciation. Eye-let kills it for me, throwing it into the fabric pile with Lacy/Lacey, which is a name I *really* can’t warm to.

    I like the gazelle names; Giselle, Yael, and Ayelet all appeal to me.

    Generally I dislike -ets, with the exception of Violet, and especially dislike -ettes. But Ayelet is pretty. Not as pretty as Tamar, though. Tamar (tuh-MAR) is a favourite of mine, though it’s been universally panned by all the non-Jews I’ve talked about names with.

  2. Our Ayelet (“I yell it”) is almost 3 months old. If you drop the A and the T, you’re left with YELE, and we like nicknames that end in -ey, so we gave her the nickname Yelley!

  3. Hi, We also have an Ayelet who is 10 months old and we live in Australia, and besides Israeli’s, no one here has heard the name. Amazingly enough our 2 girls names that we were tossing up between were also Ayelet and Tamar (soo weird). My only delimna now is the nickname- I am not a big fan of Leti and am thinking of going with lulu. If anyone else has any nckname ideas I would love to hear them.

    (PS Dan, my brother had a baby 5 monhs before Ayelet was born and they named her Ella and in hebrew Eliana!!!)

    1. Hi Naomi! So, more weird coincidences, my Ayelet’s birthday is 25 April (same day as your post) and my husband’s name is Dan 🙂

      We know a couple of baby Ayelets and get a fabulous reaction to the name whether they are Israeli or totally not and have never heard it….

      1. I love to follow this as there are so few sharing this pretty name….our Ayelet, now 2 1/2 is called “Aye” or little “Aye” as she is the youngest of our 6 children 🙂

  4. I came upon this website after looking up how to pronounce Ayelet. I stumbled on the pretty name because I decided to search for other names that mean, like my name, “gazelle”. I found Ceren (which I am still not sure how to pronounce..Caryn like my mom’s name? Or like Seren, which is another name I love?) and Ayelet, which I like depending on the pronunciation. I want to like “i-yell-it” but every time I say it aloud all I hear is the sentence “I yell it”. I have this same problem with another name I love, Ismene. Which is a beautiful name but you start saying it out loud and get “is mean”. So, what do you think of my favorite pronunciation for this name: Ay- let. Like “hay” without the “h”. Are there any Ayelets out there who pronounce it this way?

    1. I think Ayelet is rare enough in the US that you could say it AY let without difficulty – in fact, I think it would be the pronunciation most would favor without knowing the name. Trouble is, of course, that rare names don’t always stay that way. I once met a Chloe born in the 60s who said her name KLO, rhymes with Joe or glow, rather than the two syllable klo EE. It was no problem when she was the only only Chloe on the block, but as her name became more and more common? I suspect it was a headache.

      1. We have a beautiful 1 year old Ayelet! We pronounce it Ay-let, although I like all of the pronounced. Many, Many people have difficulty with it –at first and then they get over it. WE love her name we saw it while I was prenant with her and it just stuck. I hope it does not become terribly common.