A saintly name worn by a famous dancer, it ought to be leaping up the charts.
Thanks to JNE for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Isadora.
This name sounds like a cousin to perpetual Top Ten pick Isabella, a form of the Hebrew Elisheva, also the source of Elizabeth.
Or maybe the “ador” in the middle of the name makes you think of names that mean love.
Instead, it comes from Isidoros, a Greek name honoring Egyptian goddess Isis.
Alt spelling Isidora might be more logical, but it’s the ‘a’ version that has long been more common.
Now that current events have rendered Isis unwearable, it could open a door for more parents to consider this elaborated form.
The story of the fourth century Saint Isidora echoes the familiar Cinderella tale. A local religious leader visited her convent, led by a vision to find a holy woman there.
Mad, simple, or driven by faith, Isidora preferred wearing rags to habits, and eating scraps to meals. Others dismissed her as unworthy, but the visitor immediately recognized her as the holy woman from his vision. Isidora lived out her days, not in a royal castle, but as a hermit.
There were several male saints Isidore, too.
Thanks in part to the saint, this name can found throughout the world. It’s a Top Ten favorite in Chile in recent years, and it’s also had a good run in several Slavic languages.
No question, though, that dancer Isadora Duncan remains the most famous bearer of the name, even decades following her death.
Born in 1877, Duncan started out in New York before heading to Paris, where she became a star. Widely considered one of the founders of modern dance, rejecting ballet in favor of a more natural, improvisational style, she remains influential today.
Her contributions to the world of dance would make her memorable, but it’s her personal life – both scandalous and tragic – that so often captures our imagination.
The most famous story concerns her death. Leaving for an excursion in an open-top car, Duncan donned one of her signature flowing scarves. As the car drove away, the scarf became entangled with the axle. It dragged her from the car, and she was killed.
References to her legacy are everywhere. Her biography inspired a 1968 film, a 1981 ballet, a 1991 stage play, and a 2008 musical.
In Talking Heads’ song “Pscyho Killer,” David Burns sings what is reputed to be her final words: je me lance vers la gloire – I am off to find glory.
On a lighter note, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events includes siblings named Isadora and Duncan Quagmire.
Isadora: On the Rise
All of this makes for a rich and complex name. From ancient Egypt to a series of saints, this name boasts history galore. Isadora Duncan lends the name serious creative spirit.
It makes a great substitute for Isabella, or just a longer name for girls that remains rare. 169 girls were given the name in 2015 – a new high – along with 20 Isidoras.
But that’s still nicely under the radar. If you’re seeking a rare but familiar name for a daughter, with a feminine and creative vibe, this name belongs on your list.
What do you think of Isadora? Would you consider this name for a daughter?
This post was originally published on December 27, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on August 28, 2016.
Izzy’s mom says
We named our daughter Isadora. We call her by her diminutive of Izzy usually. She gets many compliments on the full name. Have heard lots of ‘sounds medieval’ etc. It has a lovely history and I appreciate your site adding some extra info. For those who follow the Catholic European tradition of celebrating names days- Isadora is May 1.
I have yet to meet an Isadora, but I understand it’s very popular in South America, so I’m just in the wrong hemisphere I guess! I think the name is elegant and historic and I hope she likes it when she grows up.
Alas, the character of Endora in “Bewitched” makes “-dora” names sound occult-y to me.
Hi! I’m an Isadora and I love my name ! I’m half italian and half brazilian and my parents wanted a name that worked in both cultures, everyone compliments me saying my name is kind of royal and princessy and it suggests a sweet but strong girl, May I suggest Aurora as the name of the day? I think it has all the qualities Isadora has
haha I’m an Isadora, and I LOVE it! And yes, I’ve gotten is-a-door and isadorable too, but mostly I have the pleasure of getting compliments on my name pretty much everytime i’m introduced to someone. It’s so much fun to carry it =) Thanks for this lovely post!
JNE, the Isadorable thing is a bit saccharine, but you might be interested to know that Isadora Duncan’s students referred to themselves as the Isadorables. (They all also used Duncan as their stage name. Take your pick which is more curious.)
Me, I’m a sucker for the Elizabeth variant Isabeau, so I wouldn’t use Isadora.
k, Doris is quite the daring name! And yet, if Frances and Alice are rising, maybe it’s not such a stretch. And Doris Day is charming. She’ll be NotD on 2/7 – hopefully that’s before little Doris arrives!
I don’t dislike it, and I surely can see it would make a less common substitute for Isabella. I do like the “bella” sound better than the “Dora” one, and don’t really like the “Izza” sound. I knew a little girl named this, she was Hispanic and it was pronounced ee-sa-doh-rah, nn Doh-rah.
Isadora is a very nice name, too close to Isabella for my tastes but charming nonetheless. I think I’m just burnt out on Isa names, although I love the sound. I always imagined the iguana from Dora as an Isadora, so the name is green to me. I would rather see more Isadoras than Isabellas at this rate, though!
My baby was very nearly Isadora – if she’d come a couple weeks earlier, she’d have definitely been Isadora – I love the name… love the nickname options (Izzy of course would get confused with all the Isabellas out there), but it’s a great name… And despite the tragic death and somewhat over-the-top life of Ms Duncan, I love the artsy fartsy association to it.
As mentioned, no one would mispronounce it, everyone can recognize it and spell it, and it’s a great “international” name, since it’s fairly easy to say in most languages.
And someone mentioned to me that you could say Isadorable, which smacks of sickly sweet, but perfect for a tiny baby…. In all I love the name!
Isadora has all those lovely aa sounds – I bet it will be moving up in popularity.
Can I suggest Doris for a name of the day? A friend is planning to use for her child and I’ve really fallen for it since she mentioned it.
I love Isadora! Of course my other half says “who’s a door-ah? in response, so I’ll never get to use her myself. But if I were allowed to consider Isadora, she’d head to the top of my list! I think she’s rich & lush and just perfectly divine. She feels princessy but is too rich to fly off, and she’s luscious to look at. If Isadora were chocolate, she’d be dark & sweet.
As it is, I would swoon upon meeting a little Isadora and probably hug her Mom! Isadora’s simply fantastic!