Our Baby Name of the Day comes from this list of nature names for girls.
Hazel: The 100 Year Rule
Way back in the 1880s, Hazel charted in the Top 100. The name remained there right through 1936. It spent more than ten years at 25 or better.
That puts this name in the company of modern favorites like Allison, steadily popular across nearly fifty years without ever quite attaining classic status.
By the 1950s, the name fell out of favor, leaving the Top 1000 entirely during the 1970s. One factor: popular comic strip Hazel chronicled the misadventures of a housekeeper by the name. It ran for fifty years, from the 1940s into the 1990s. In between, it became a successful television series.
During the 1950s, Looney Tunes gave us Witch Hazel, a character who faced off against Bugs Bunny in more than one adventure over the years. While fictional witches can boost a name, this one probably helped cement the image of an out-of-date choice.
In recent years, we’ve forgotten the fictional characters. Instead, we’ve embraced the positive aspects of the name.
One reason? Many vintage favorites feel fresh again after a century of rest – often called the “100 Year Rule.” But that’s far from the only thing driving the name’s return.
Hazel: Nature Name
In the natural world, it is better known as corylus, a genus of trees and shrubs. Different varieties abound, and many types produce hazelnuts, also called filberts. (Or, in French, avelines – for yet another lovely name.)
Rich symbolism attaches to the plant. Celts believed that eating the nuts made one wise; in Gaelic myth, Finn McCool absorbed the wisdom of a salmon who feasted on hazelnuts. It appears in Norse lore, too, associated with knowledge.
Nature names are wildly popular for girls today, so it’s no surprise to find such a well-known one gaining in use.
Hazel: Beyond the Trees
But this name offers more than just ties to the natural world. Consider:
- It’s a nickname-proof choice with a tailored, but still feminine, quality.
- We do like -l names, from Isabelle and Annabelle to Ariel and Kendall.
- Color names continue to appeal to many parents, and this one refers to a greenish-gold to light brown hue.
The word comes from the Old English haesel. It’s been used to refer to eye color since at least the late sixteenth century. How do we know? In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare had Mercutio tell Benvolio that he had “hassel eyes.” It’s a play on words, but also proof that the color has history.
Hazel: Julia and Emily
In 2004, Julia Roberts welcomed twins. The world raised an eyebrow at their names: Phinneas Walter and Hazel Patricia. Wasn’t her daugther’s name just too, too outdated?
Nope. Instead, Roberts picked up on a trend. The name had returned to the US Top 1000 in 1998, and gained almost 300 places by the time the celebrity baby was born. No question that the high profile birth announcement helps explain why Hazel cracked the Top 500 just two years later.
Then came John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. In 2014 – a decade after Roberts – the couple welcomed their daughter, Hazel. Emily described looking for an “old lady” name that she and John both liked.
Except by 2014, the name stood just outside the US Top 100 – old lady no more!
Since the Blunt-Krasinski birth announcement, Hazel has soared into the US Top 100. It now ranks #52.
Hazel: Back in a Big Way
There’s also a rabbit connection: the name belongs to a (male) rabbit in 1972 novel Watership Down, and the podcast Rabbits features the name, too.
A heroic teenaged Hazel Miner saved all of her siblings during a 1920 North Dakota snowstorm – even though she perished. Miner remains a local folk hero.
There’s also a Bob Dylan song by the name, and an indie band called Sister Hazel.
The Hunger Games gave us a Hazelle, but it’s The Fault in Our Stars’ Hazel Grace – book and movie – that comes to mind first.
With all of these references, and our love of nature names and all things vintage, no surprise that this name is back in a big way.
Would you consider Hazel for a daughter? Do you think this name will reach the Top Ten?
Note: This post was originally published on May 8, 2008, and substantially revised on April 26, 2011. It was revised again and re-posted on November 15, 2017.
I think I like it better on a boy, like the rabbit in Watership Down. He was the first Hazel I came across so the name feels unisex to me: I’ve also met one or two female Hazels. Q
Hazel is such a lovely name. I like its vintage feel and the connections to nature, as well as the association with Hazel Grace Lancaster from “The Fault In Our Stars”. It has such an energetic, sassy, down to Earth vibe. I also love the spelling Hazelle, maybe even slightly more.
Marsha Armstrong says
No way!! Too OLD!!!
Well … more than 5,000 girls were named Hazel in 2017, and well over 10,000 in the last three years alone, so there are an awful lot of little Hazels out there, making it quite young …
Love vintage names, but just can’t get on board with Hazel. Sounds nasally, literally & makes me think of witch hazel (so stinky) my mom put on our sunburns as a kid. But Aveline? Now you’re talking!
Our four year old daughter is Hazel Elizabeth. Family members did not like the name when we first announced the name, but they all like it now. She is the only Hazel we know despite the rising popularity of the name. My husband and I instantly agreed on this name as soon as we saw it.
I will always adore the name Hazel. How cute would it pair with my little guy Hugo? Hugo & Hazel? My husband isn’t a fan but I’m working on it 🙂
I know the sweetest pair of sisters- Alice Beatrice and Hazel Frances
Love the sound of Hugo and Hazel! Or Hugo and Hattie, or Hugo and Haven, or … okay, I just really love the letter H.
Hazel Motes, the main character in Flannery O’Connor’s debut novel, Wiseblood.
Some sources say Evelyn means “hazelnut” so Hazel might be a good namesake or sibset!
This was my grandmother’s name (she had blue eyes, btw). She was born in 1907 so right on-trend for her day. When I was a kid in the ’70s it seemed hopelessly dated, but now I really like it.
Hazel is already back in NZ along with Ivy and Violet. Olive too.
After dismissing it for years as a dual crusty old lady/hippy name, I considered it for Ottilie along with other -el names. It’s got more moxie than Mabel and I love that it’s back in vogue again.
I’m already in naming Hades for using excessively long names, so using Hazel with two naturey names in the one combo was beyond the freaking pale.
Ivy & Violet — my older daughter and niece! Love Hazel, my gram was one of the 20s Danielle Hazels.
And my younger daughter has a friend named Olive. So there ya go.
Hah! I used Ivy, I wanted Violet AND Olive too. Great names.
I know of sisters named Ivy and Hazel. They’re very matched, but not unpleasantly so.
British American says
I like Hazel. The only one I’ve met is an elderly lady who is the oldest member of our church – so it does have an ‘old lady vibe’ to me, which I do like.
Already having a Henry and not wanting to duplicate initials, it didn’t make our list – but I do like the sound and the vibe. Strangely enough I’ve never associated it with hazelnuts – but that makes me think of tasty Nutella, so that’s good too!
Hazel’s pretty but she’s not my sort. Not clunky enough (like Zelda & Maud) and not flowy enough (Clementine & Penelope) to grab me.
I fully expect to find a Hazel in one of Josie’s classes sometime before H.S. Hazel’s got sass & spirit and that’s enough to classify her as unconventionally pretty. :thumbsup: Hazel!
Wow, what a Shakespeare ref.! … This also always reminds me of the song by Kelly Clarkson “Behind these Hazel Eyes”. The only Hazels I have ever know have actually had hazel eyes, so it would be interesting to see a person with different colored eyes named Hazel
We are going with Hazel Rose for our daughter due in January… I think! Her big sister’s name is Stella June. I do like Agatha though…
Stella and Hazel – what a great pair! Agatha is great, though …
Zel – interesting! It does have a throwback feel.
Me, I’m a huge fan of Zelda and would use it in a heartbeat, but my husband just thinks video game whenever I suggest it.
There are a ton of rhyming names out there – “el” seems to be ascendant in feminine names right now. Betcha we’ll be meeting some Nells, too, especially post-Helena Bonham Carter’s choice.
Still, any name with a Z at the top stands out!
We’d looked at Mabel, Hazel and Zelda before deciding to pare our soon-to-be-born daughter’s name to “Zel”. It’s reminiscent of the older names which contain that syllable, but can stand on it’s own and sounds contemporary.
I wish, however, that we’d known how many Zellas, Bellas, Gisellas, Ellas and even Vellas we were going to meet in the months following her birth.
I think Hazel, Nora, Agatha, and Edna are going to come back. I think the elementary school kids of today will name their kids Agatha and Edna and Hazel. They’re really cute.
C in DC says
I’m going to be the one looking at one of my daughter’s after they’ve named a child saying, “Edna. Really, out of all the family names, you chose Edna?” I loved my grandmother dearly, but her name will always feel “old” to me. We did contemplate using an anagram of Edna for one of our daughters (Neda, Dena, Aden).
I was an elementary school kid in 2008, and now Nora is one of my favorite names!:) Not sure about Edna…it doesn’t seem like a name with much modern appeal, unlike Hazel and Nora.
I’ve thought Hazel was kitschy and ripe for a comeback way before Pretty Woman’s daughter. Goes right along with names like Clara, Nora, and Violet. Not so long ago, Sophie was seen as hopelessly dated and “old-lady.”