Name of the Day: Estelle

She’s a star. But in recent years, this once-popular pick has been eclipsed by similar choices. Can she shine brightly again?

Thanks to Toni for suggesting Estelle as Name of the Day.

Even before 90210 alum-turned-reality TV maven Tori Spelling called her darling daughter Stella, the name was on the rise. As of 2008, Stella came in at #186, up from #244 the year before.

Stella was a smash in the nineteenth century, too. If you check out the US rankings from the era, you’ll find Stella, Estella and Estelle were all Top 200 choices or better, with a few variant spellings, like Estell, also charting.

They all come from the Latin stella – star. Various versions of the name have popped up in literature for centuries, including:

  • Elizabethan poet Sir Philip Sidney penned Astrophel and Stella in 1581;
  • Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations included Estella Havisham, Pip’s crush with a heart of ice;
  • Tennesse Williams’ 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire immortalized Stella as a long-suffering, down-on-her-luck Southern belle.

But while Stella and Estella seem fashion-forward, and the Latina Estrella is also winning over parents, Estelle seems left in the dark. She hasn’t appeared in the US Top 1000 since 1963.

Today, Estelle is most likely to bring to mind Emmy-winning actress Estelle Getty, the most senior of television’s Golden Girls. The quick-witted, tough-love mom to Bea Arthur’s Dorothy embraced all the little old lady stereotypes. So maybe it isn’t a surprise that Estelle brings to mind early bird specials and support hose. Except that Estelle Getty’s character was named Sophia – a Top Ten pick for newborns, and one that climbed in use even as the Golden Girls aired in the 1980s.

Two other small screen Estelles might’ve added to the name’s feel. Estelle Costanza – played by actress Estelle Harris – was George’s mother on Seinfeld. And on Friends, Joey’s barely competent agent was named Estelle Leonard.

While Estelle might seem trapped in fashion limbo, there is one bright spot for her revival: American parents’ embrace of French names. Denise and Danielle might fade; Nicole might find herself reserved for the middle spot. But in every decade, there are always a few French-inspired monikers high on the charts. Why not Estelle? The names gained as a group in the nineteenth century.

So if Claire can sound fashion-forward once more, and if celeb parents like the Jolie-Pitts choose Vivienne, perhaps Estelle is just a smidge ahead of the curve – a logical (dare I say stellar?) discovery for parents dismayed to see how popular Charlotte has become.

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16 Comments

I just named my daughter Estelle this past summer and I love the name. We call her Elle or Ellie for short. It is old fashioned, but those names seem to be coming back around and I love that Estelle isn’t super popular (as of right now). Ironically if you asked me about the name a few years ago I probably would have never warmed up to it, but I think it’s beautiful and classy and when I look at my daughter the name just fits!

I named my daughter Estelle (she’s just under a year now) and love the name. I’ve never heard of anyone else with her name at all. Old-fashioned names are coming back, and I already hear too many Charlottes and Avas. Estelle is very beautiful and unique.

Gosh, I like Estelle so so much more then Estella or Stella! A ending names are so ubiquitous now that I think this sounds much fresher!

Had a baby four months ago and named her Estelle. Funny enough, we loved both names, but Charlotte was our first pick, until we saw the popularity charts. Our older daughters are Corinne and Gwyneth – all three are old fashioned, but I don’t think of old ladies when I see my beautiful kids!

My middle name is Estelle and I love it. It’s a family name and I plan on keeping Estelle or Estella in the family. My mother and brothers have called me Sissy since I was little, it was their nickname for Estelle. I don’t see it as an old lady name, even though it was my great grandmothers name, she was a lovely woman. I feel Estelle should make a comeback, it’s a beautiful name and really could have various nicknames.

Wow – I can’t believe she doesn’t even chart on the top 1000 – that’s just baffling to me, for reasons pp have pointed out. It just seems like a name that would be catching on!

Now, Etelle is another one of those names – similar to Eliza, Sarah or Mia – that I just don’t like, and can’t put my finger on why. It’s really annoying me too! I adore Stella to pieces (she sits around #40 in my state), and I think of anything but old lady, but I just can’t seem to get my head around her. I can see and appreciate her appeal though, I guess 🙂

Funny that, I just met my first Estelle the other day! New kid at school – so nice to meet someone my age in my area who isn’t called Charlotte, Lucy or Georgina.
I don’t get why this name isn’t more popular – lovely meaning (and a much classier way of sounding celestial than calling your kid Starr or McHeavenLiegh), ages well, sounds very pretty and graceful but strong at the same time. I understand it’s kind of geriatric, but once upon a time Emily and Isabella were old lady names and look where they are now! Mm, that’s the other thing, it has the ever-popular “elle” ending (I don’t really mind it here), why have more people not latched onto this one!
This name is a real beauty and it gets two big thumbs up from me.

I can’t help but prefer Stella over both Estelle and Estella, no matter how much I want to like those other names. I feel like I should like Estelle, since I’ve warmed up to Esther (as mentioned by JNE), but it still sounds old and dusty to me.

I rather like Estelle, I think she’s pretty & lighthearted. She reminds me of Eloise for some reason.
Funny, I hadn’t thought of Estelle Getty, but rather Estelle Reiner, wife of Carl Reiner (of the Golden Girls names, Dorothy’s my love) instead. Just goes to show where my head is, apparently. 🙂
Estelle has a a great history (Sidney also created Pamela, I think) and a pretty sound. She creeps into the middle spot for me, occasionally. I like her just enough to put her there, but not up front. I briefly considered Stella for Josie, early on but decided I didn’t like Stella enough to bother. An Estelle could still be a Stella, nickname wise, anyway. So why not go the slightly more unexpected route with Estelle? Light, lyrical, sweet Estelle.

So funny that you should say that ! My name is Estelle, and my sister whom I’m very close to is named Éloïse ! We are 1 1/2 years apart and we have always shared everything.

This name is in my top 5 for girls. It’s not as frilly as Estella, and a little more graceful than Stella. For some reason I never think of it as an old lady’s name.

I want to like Estelle – and on some level I do – but somehow it’s very similar to Esther to me… which is another name I want to like, but I just don’t. Maybe it’s the “Es” up front, or the granny thing (although I go for some granny-type names). Maybe it’s that it’s not as feminine as Stella, but I’m not really one for the frou-frou names. I can’t put my finger on it exactly. But the star connection is definitely appealing and it’s easy to see how the “elle” part fits in with the elle/ella/ellie names/nicknames. I certainly wouldn’t think it “out there” for someone to choose the name. I guess I like it for someone else, but not for me.