She’s a literary gem with Gothic overtones. And while she’s rare, her elements are undeniably popular.

Thanks to Kate and Katharine for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Christabel.

If you don’t mind carrying your accommodations on your back, New Zealand’s Lake Christabel is a possible backpacking destination. The Maori lived in the area for generations; English explorer Thomas Brunner “discovered” it in the nineteenth century.

I’m intrigued by the use of Christabel for the lake’s name. After all, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was one of the most famous Lake Poets. And his poem, Christabel, was published just a few decades before Brunner headed off on his adventure. While the link seems likely, I can’t prove it – or even confirm if Brunner himself chose the lake’s name.

Christabel is not Coleridge’s best known work. It’s not even complete. Published in 1797 and 1800, the first two parts tell of Christabel, the well-born daughter of Sir Leoline. She meets Geraldine, apparently a victim of a botched kidnapping, in the woods by her home. Christabel takes her in; weirdness ensues.

The poem influenced Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu – his 1872 novel Carmilla appears to be an expansion of Coleridge’s poem – and, of course, Bram Stoker, who would pen Dracula nearly a century later, in 1897.

Modern readers probably first stumbled on the name in AS Byatt’s bestselling 1990 novel, Possession: A Romance. Roland Michell and Maud Bailey are struggling academics who find themselves investigating the secret romance of Victorian poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. The book hit the big screen in 2002, starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Maud.

Byatt’s choice of Christabel for the Victorian poet was appropriate. Ever since Coleridge’s poem was published, the name appears to have been used sparingly in educated and aristocratic English circles:

  • Born in 1880, Christabel Pankhurst was an early English suffragette and co-founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union.
  • Christabel Burton Bielenberg was born in England in the early 20th century. While studying abroad, she fell in love with a German lawyer. They tied the knot in 1934 – and ended up living through World War II in Germany. Active in the anti-Nazi movement, husband Peter narrowly escaped imprisonment. Their story became a 1988 BBC drama starring Elizabeth Hurley.
  • The Lady Alice Christabel Montagu-Douglas-Scott was born in 1901 and married Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, son of King George V.
  • Another member of the British royal family was born Princess Alexandra Helen Elizabeth Olga Christabel in 1936.

Christabel has the antique feel so popular today. She also shares two familiar elements:

  • The -bel of chart-topping Isabel and up-and-comers Annabel and Arabella;
  • That popular feminine name, Christina. It’s been worn by saints aplenty. Today most forms of the name are a bit dated – Christine peaked at #14 from 1967 through 1970; Christina reached #12 in 1975 and again in 1985; Christa, Kristina, Kristin, Kristen and Krista have all ranked in the US Top 1000.

Christabel, however, has never ranked in the US Top 1000. With her appealing literary backstory and vaguely Gothic vibe, she could appeal to many. And with parents searching for new -bel names, this certainly sounds fresh.

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. Sorry for any confusion Apellation Mountain but I am both Kate and Katharine! Kate is just a nickname I go by… Anyway thanks for making Christabel name of the day, I always end up posting really late on in the conversation thread probably because of the time difference and feel like I’ve missed out but I’ve just caught this one!

    I’m quite intrigued by Christabel with her antique Victorian feel and I’m not a ‘belle’ name fan! In fact, I’d go as far as to say that they bore me with their over popularity and flouncy femininity but Christabel does stand out from the pack. She’s unusual but recognisable which I love and has a gorgeous Suffragette inspired old fashioned Romantic feel. I was surprised reading down through the posts that so many people find her ‘princessy and frilly’ as I usually can’t abide those sort of names but I think that she has slipped through my ‘princess’ net because of her ‘Chris’ beginning which I find quite masculine.

    I wouldn’t use her as a first name because ultimately you’re right, she’s perhaps a little too OTT up front plus I can’t quite shake my fatigue of all the ‘belle’ names – a category to which she undeniably belongs. I would adore her tucked away in the middle though – Lady Alice Christabel’s parents had the right idea!

    1. @Kate – I thought so! I still keep those records by hand, and I couldn’t tell if I’d written a slash or a sloppy ampersand!

  2. Christabel is too frilly for me, but very charming. Reminds me of ribbons, in a good way. I’d love to meet some!

  3. I like all the Chris- names for girls (except nn Chris, Chrissie) and Christabel appeals to me too with the advantage of being rare.

  4. I like Christabel, but she’s not for me. I tend to lean towards “feminine yet strong” names over the “princessy and frilly” variety. I like Christa, and I like Belle, but together it all sounds a bit too girly-girl for me. I’d love to meet more Christabels–I actually knew one; she was in my ninth grade science class. She was the quiet, unassuming type, and she went by her full name, which I found refreshing.

  5. I read this, and then my browser closed, and I went back and it wasn’t there anymore! am I going nuts?

    I like Christabel. It’s much nicer than all the other Chris- variants for girls, so would be a great way to honor a Chris- (and my husband is a Christopher, so that makes me like it more)… I hate when girls are called Chris though, which seems to happen with all the variants, so I’d probably stear clear of this in the first position. It could be a lovely middle, though. Also, I love Belle (despite the popularity of all the -bel names, I still love it, can’t help it… but just Belle or Bella, not Anabel, Isabel, etc.), so this would be a nice way to get to that. So, I guess it gets a stamp of approval from me. Ultra feminine and frilly, yes, but not too much so, at least not for me.

    1. Nessa, Christopher is a family name on my husband’s side, too, so I’ve thought endlessly about how to reinvent him.

      Besides Christabel, I keep thinking I’ve stumbled across Christabeau. (But I can’t recall WHERE!) And there is an old nickname for Christopher – Kester – that I kind of love for a girl. But then I like Hester and Esther. I also knew a Kristina nicknamed Kes, though, so I keep thinking it would work.

      I wouldn’t put Kester in the first spot, but I might use her in the middle.

  6. I love Christabel! The name is romantic and unusual, but doesn’t really feel made up. I like the spelling Christobel also.
    It is unlikely that I’d use Christabel myself, though, because it seems a little too princess-like and a smidge over-the-top fanciful, but it would be great to see a little Christabel sometime, especially as an alternative to Isabel, Anabel, et all.

  7. Is Christobel also a name? There is a Family Guy episode in which Chris is given the new name Christobel in order to impress the art world in New York City (the episode is called “A Picture Is Worth a 1,000 Bucks” if you’re interested).

    I like Isabel and Annabel, though probably not enough to use them, but Christabel seems a little more over the top in comparison.

  8. I usally am drawn to the frilly names and I agree, Christabel seems the penultimate frilly name. I can’t think of anything quite so fragile feeling and feminine!

    She’s a bit too crystalline for my liking, but I wouldn’t object to meeting a few. It is pretty and sure beats a handful of names I see in the top 20 these days. Cristabel reminds me of “Silent Hill” where Alice Krige played Christabella. Scary lady. 😀 I know a handful of people this name might appeal to, I’m off to spread the word about Christabel!

    1. Dear me, Lola, you really do have an appetite for horror films! I accidentally watched a trailer for some Valentine slasher flick and woke up in a cold sweat! That said, if I’d seen Silent Hill, I think Christabella would be off the table for me.

  9. I’m not drawn to the frilly type of names, and Christabel seems the ultimate frilly name to me… Though I’ve probably said that about a few others, though.

    I do like her romantic and Victorian feel, and would be delighted to hear of a Christabel in the naming wasteland that is my area… She is beautiful, just too beautiful, if you know what I mean…