She’s a doomed romantic teenager, an eternal reminder that teenagers fall in love hard.
Thanks to Melissa for suggesting Juliet as Name of the Day.
Americans – and most English speakers – tend to favor diminutives formed by shortening a name. William becomes Bill and Caroline answers to Carrie. But in many other languages, the pet form is longer than the original. So it is with Juliet. In the Italian, Giulia becomes Guilietta. In the French, Julie transforms to Juliette.
Bill Shakespeare borrowed the names and plot of his enduring tragedy from poet Arthur Brooke, whose 1562 The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet is largely forgotten. Brooke, in turn, owed his inspiration to Italian writer Matteo Bandello, though Bandello may have simply been assembling traditional stories and Shakespeare was reading translations into English from French translations of the original, rather than Bandello’s Italian collection.
In any case, Giulietta had been streamlined to Juliet early in the story-telling, and despite the diminutive form, there’s no indication in the play that her name is anything other. She is, of course, the daughter of the Capulets, a wealthy heiress about to be wed to a suitable suitor. Romeo gate-crashes the Capulet’s ball, and well, you know the rest.
Romeo’s name was long considered much too much for parents to give to a son, but there’s been a steady willingness to use Juliet for generations. Her 2008 ranking of #451 isn’t her peak – that was #442 in 1886 – and she appeared in the Top 1000 right through the 1970s.
Add in Juliette, currently ranked at #549 and the name is more common than you might think.
Juliette is a Top Ten pick in Quebec and a Top 50 choice in Belgium. The two spellings combined could be nearly as successful in the US.
Just like her beloved, Juliet owes much of her popularity to the 1996 Baz Lurhman reboot of Romeo + Juliet. She’d fallen out of use until the year of the movie’s release, when she resurfaced at #825.
It isn’t just the silver screen encouraging parents to consider the lovely Juliet. It’s also that stylish -et ending, shared by:
- The Irish Bridget;
- Botanical Violet;
- The colorful Scarlet.
A handful of pop culture references continue to boost Juliet. Television characters on Lost and Psych wear the name. Recording artists from Stevie Nicks to LMNT have recorded singles called “Juliet.” Taylor Swift’s 2008 hit single “Love Story” gives the ill-fated lovers a happy ending.
There’s also the popularity of Julian, currently a Top 100 pick for boys and the rise of many a French nom for jeune filles.
Real life Juliets can be found, too, from FOX News’ Juliet Huddy to French actress Juliette Binoche. Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low is one of the best known Juliettes. She was named after her grandmother, Juliette Magill Kinzie, an early nineteenth century writer.
While some literary choices feel like a lot of name, Juliet can wear Julie or Jules as easily as Julia, Julianne or any of the formal versions might. Doubtless that’s part of her appeal.
Overall, Juliet and Juliette make for names that are just a little bit different – not quite the classic Julia, but not too unusual either.