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.