Once she was a seldom-heard form of Elizabeth. Then along came Frozen.
Thanks to Natalie for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Elsa
Elsa: An Elizabeth-name in the Shadows
First things first: Elsa isn’t a completely unknown form of Elizabeth. The name has appeared in the US Top 1000 every year since 1880, though most years the name has charted at #500 or above. In 2013, Elsa ranked a modest #528.
Still, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear more of this name. Ella soared up the US popularity charts, and the enduring Elizabeth is a steady favorite.
Elsa is a German and Scandinavian diminutive for Elizabeth and Elisabeth, one of many possible twists on this classic name. In our age of Mia and Ava, Elsa’s brief, complete style is on trend.
Elsa: A Glamorous and Wild Life
Credit Richard Wagner’s 1850 opera Lohengrin for increasing use of Elsa as a given name in the English-speaking world. It’s the name of Wagner’s unforgettable heroine. She was the first bride ever to marry to the famous Wedding Chorus, popularly known as Here Comes the Bride.
Elsa brings to mind a handful of other women – and one creature – all of which add to the name’s appeal:
- Ingrid Bergman played Ilsa in silver screen classic Casablanca. The sound is slightly different, but close enough to lend some Hollywood luster.
- Then there’s Elsa Lanchester, best known for her portrayal of the Bride of Frankenstein in the 1935 film.
- Fashion innovator Elsa Schiaparelli was a transforming force in 1920s and 30s fashion, a rival for Coco Chanel.
In the 1960s, Elsa was best known as the housebroken lion cub whose return to the wild is profiled in Born Free.
Names associated with popular animals sometimes feel less wearable, but this reference is fading – and will likely be completely unknown to children born in 2014. Plus, the lion was named after the game warden’s childhood friend.
Elsa: A Pan-European Appellation
The name is a Top Ten choice in Sweden, a Top 100 name in Spain and Iceland, too.
Elsa Benitez is a Mexican-born model, and Elsa Zylberstein is a French actress.
A daughter with this name could study abroad anywhere in Europe or the Spanish-speaking world, and do just fine in the US, too.
Looking for one more reason to love Elsa?
Orchid enthusiasts use it as an informal name for he orchid Elearethusa.
Elsa: Twenty-First Century Name
Blogger and writer Jane Roper is mom to twin daughters Clio and Elsa, and for a while she was my go-to reference to prove how well Elsa wore as a name.
Then along came Disney to sprinkle this name with a heap of pixie dust.
Elsa of Arendelle is the Snow Queen, loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale. She belts out “Let it Go” and crafts a palace of ice in her perpetual winter kingdom. It all ends happily – not only was Frozen a record-smashing box office bonanza, but Elsa’s icy heart is melted by the love of her sister, Anna.
Elsa: A Name to Watch?
While many are predicting a meteoric rise for the name, it’s worth noting that the Disney Princess effect isn’t so straightforward. Plenty of parents are already declaring Elsa “ruined” as a real girl’s name thanks to Frozen.
The character is set to step from the Disney version of the fairytale to Once Upon a Time on ABC this fall, so even if you haven’t seen the animated featured, the Snow Queen’s new name is unavoidable.
Then again, this was a great, on-trend name on a modest rise before December 2013. Just like Aria, it’s a safe bet that we’ll see a healthy increase in the number of girls given this name.
With all of her history and charm, that’s not a bad thing at all.
Do you think Elsa is likely to climb into the US Top 100, or are parents hesitant to use the Snow Queen’s name? Would you ever consider Elsa?