English: Alquézar - Detail in colegiate church...Editor’s note: This post was originally published on January 20, 2009.  It was substantially revised and re-published on October 7, 2013.

Take one medieval saint, transport her to Paris and what do you get?

Thanks to Mariuccia and JNE for suggesting today’s Baby Name of the Day: Elodie.

In the age of Ella, plenty of parents are searching for creative ways to arrive at that nickname, or the equally appealing Ellie. Factor in the fashionable allure of French appellations for girls, and it comes as no surprise that Elodie is attracting quite a bit of attention.

She sounds like modern noun name Melody, but goes much farther back.

Sisters Alodia and Nunilo lived near Cordoba in the ninth century.  It had been more than a century since the Muslims had come to power in Spain, and the girls’ mother remarried a Muslim man.  The girls refused to convert.

It was a perilous time for Christians – the tolerance that had characterized the first century of Muslim rule was fading.  Four dozen Christians would be executed for apostasy in the 850s.

Nunilo and Alodia were both martyred for their beliefs, are both considered saints.  The carving pictured to the right is from a church in the small town where the sisters once lived.

Alodia is probably a Visigoth name – the Visigoths ruled the area for centuries.  That means that Elodie is a cousin to Otto – both are derived from od – wealth.

It is also a place name.  Part of Nubia was called Alodia while under Christian rule during the Middle Ages. It was established before the girl known as Alodia was born, and would last for several centuries after her death.  We’re not sure how the state got its name, but it may share the same roots as the saint’s name.

As the saint’s story traveled from Spain to France, Alodia eventually became Élodie.

Variants like Elodia and Alodie appear occasionally in various European languages, and all forms appear in the US Census records, too.  But they’re very rare.  In the late 19th century, British citizen Elodie Lawton married a Serbian diplomat, learned his language and translated many classic Serbian works.  Women religious sometimes took the name.

Alodia is nearly unknown today, but Elodie is at her most popular:

  • She peaked in the 1980s in France, peaking in the 1980s, and ranks in the Top 50 in French-speaking Canada.
  • French actress Elodie Bouchez appeared in the final season of television sensation Alias, playing a secret CIA assassin.
  • Gail Carson Levine gave the name to the heroine of her 2011 novel, A Tale of Two Castles.
  • My favorite?  Short-lived cast member of The Hills, Elodie Otto, because of the link between her first and last names.

Elodie charted in the US a few times in the late nineteenth century, then disappeared.  But she looks to be making a comeback.  149 girls received the name in 2012.  That’s double the number in 2010.  Judging by the positive attention Elodie generates, she’s likely to continue her rise.

She’s startlingly pretty, even delicate.  There are so many great three-syllable, ends in ‘ee’ choices.  Elodie is among the most ethereal of them all, a sister for Ariel or Lorelei.

Overall, she’d wear well on a modern girl. Elodie is tremendously historic, in step with current trends and still nicely uncommon.

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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. Why do you call your child with a french name if you haven’t french culture or origin ? It’s a little pretentious. I will never call my son ‘Brian’ or ‘Steven’ because I don’t have any english parent…

    1. Haha! What a narrow minded statement. And very snobby… Elodie translates perfectly without the accent. Lighten up Frenchie, it’s 2014.

      1. I think it is actually a different cultural perspective. My understanding is that the French language is closely guarded from foreign words. English – especially American English – is the exact opposite. We borrow and invent and imagine new words all of the time. So it probably does feel odd for French speakers to hear Americans borrowing names that we don’t pronounce quite right … and strange for Americans to think of names as being off-limits.

        1. Yes you’re most probably right there. Still, it’s rude and narrow minded (borderline racist, some might say…) of the poster to say anything or judge. FYI I’m in the UK, am quarter French, half Canadian but born here In the UK. I just think there’s no room for for anyone being told they can’t or shouldn’t use a certain name because they don’t have the ‘correct’ heritage. If the name fits and sounds nice, it really shouldn’t matter.

        2. Actually, French-speakers borrow foreign (usually English) words all the time, at least in informal speech. And in France, anglophone names like William, Kevin and Nolan are now quite popular.

  2. Interesting article. We named our daughter, who is almost one, Elodie Ann. Elodie wasn’t even in our top three names, which were Elisabetta, Violet and Alice. Somehow through a process of elimination we ended up with the name. We lived in France and thought the name unusual. The more we got used to the name the more striking it became.

    If you choose this name, you will get a strong reaction. People either love or hate it. There is little indifference. While my family hates the name, all our friends love it.

    Also, I am getting a bit tired of people saying “is it like Melody without the m?” or pronouncing the name with the emphasis on the middle syllable; eLODie.

  3. We named our now 2 year old daughter Elody. We spelt it with a Y rather than ie because we didn’t like to have the word die in her name.