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.