Mabel: Baby Name of the Day


Mabel: Baby Name of the Day

Mabel made for a jaw-dropping, unexpected choice when Paul and Jamie Buchman chose it for their daughter on Mad About You. But two decades later, Russell Brand and girlfriend Laura Gallacher picked it for their new arrival to almost universal applause.

Thanks to Nessa for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.

Mabel: Lovable

Parents like their children’s names to have great meanings, and this one delivers. It comes from the Latin amabilis, meaning lovable.

You might also hear the meaning “my beauty,” but it’s pure folk etymology. In French, ma belle translates to my beauty or my pretty one. It’s not the source of the name.

Two French saints answered to Amabilis – one male, one female. The fifth century male priest also answered to Amable; the seventh century nun is often called just Mable.

Over the years, the name became Amabel and then dropped the A entirely. It appears in lists of Anglo-Norman names, like this one, so it definitely saw some use in the Middle Ages.

Mabel: Charlotte M. Yonge

Charlotte M. Yonge penned an astonishing 160 works, most of them novels and many of them romances. 1853’s  The Heir of Redclyffe would become her first bestseller.

Yonge isn’t a household name today, but in her era she outpaced even Charles Dickens. The novel’s Mabel Kilcoran boosted the name’s use throughout the English-speaking world

Mabel: Top 100

By the time the US records capture birth names in 1880, Mabel appeared in the Top 100. Actually, the name ranked in the Top 25 through 1904 and remained in the Top 100 for another 20 years.

By the 1960s, however, the name trended towards obscurity, leaving the US Top 1000 entirely.

Mabel: Mothers Always Bring Extra Love

Mad About You starred Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt as newlyweds Paul and Jamie Buchman. Towards the end of the series’ seven-season run, they welcomed a daughter.

Paul and Jamie struggled to find a name. After considering mainstream picks like Julia and Lily, they settled on an acronym name: Mothers Always Bring Extra Love.

When Paul and Jamie announce the name, their friends and family freeze.

The year was 1997. A mere 42 girls were named Mabel that year, but in 1998 it increased to 77, and 1999 that number grew to 90.

And that was it.

Despite a boost from a wildly popular sitcom, the name stayed obscure, hovering under 100 girls for the next few years.

Mabel: Revival

You might also think of a princess in the Dutch royal family; a dog from BBC children’s show Blue Peter; famous silent movie star Mabel Normand; or a comic strip matriarch from the long-running Motley’s Crew.

But none of those associations quite make the mainstream today.

Instead, this name’s revival is powered by sound and time. The long ‘a’ and -el ending makes Mabel a successor to Hazel. Plus we’ve been embracing Mae names for a while. And parents will always seek out the new wave of revival names. Since this name peaked way back in the 1880s, it feels quite ready for a comeback.

Mabel returned to the US Top 1000 in 2013, and now stands at #578.

With high profile parents, from Chad Lowe to Bruce Willis to Russell Brand, choosing the name for their daughter, Mabel is one to watch.

What do you think of Mabel? Would you consider it for a daughter?

This post was published on December 19, 2008. It was substantially revised and reposted on November 10, 2016.

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39 Comments

My little sister watches the Disney XD show Gravity Falls, which features a 12-year-old main character named Mabel, who is known for her optimism and enthusiasm. The show has done well with children and adults alike, which may help the name seem more youthful and vibrant.

Part of my fascination with names is rooted in having a rather useless and intrusive form of synesthesia. Mabel is very weird for me because it’s one of the only words where the way it looks written down is completely different to the way it affects me said out loud. Written down it’s powder pink and sky blue with a red stripe, smells like a puff of this ‘impulse’ body spray called True Love. ..when I actually hear it, I taste little pieces of limestone jostling in my mouth, with salt on them. Don’t know why. Sometimes when people discuss it too much the writren and spoken version blur together and it tastes super weird.

I’ve been a fan of Mabel since I read “The Adventures of Mabel” by Harry Thurston Peck as a child. I’m committed to only using family names for my children so Mabel is off the table (when a few hundred other lovely names that I would otherwise consider) but it will always be special to me.

This name, spelled Mable, is also a fun catchy song by the pop-punk group Goldfinger (“I gotta say that Mable, she’s the bomb”) which is why my husband and I have always considered it. It’s cute and definitely wearable now that all these “old lady” names are coming back.

Mabel is the name of the character Bridget Jones’ daughter, in the 3rd book (book and movie are not alike).

I find it quite clunky.

Our little Mabel Grace was born this evening. She’s a beautiful baby and perfect in every way. Out of curiosity I just now googled Mabel B…….., expecting no results since Mabel’s surname is not a common one. But there it was, a Mabel with the same last name. And proving the “hundred year rule’ in baby naming, this Mabel (Minnie Emma) B…….. was born in 1918. She acquired the B…….. surname through marriage, but still the same name as a baby born almost 100 years later.

I’m not sure our Mabel will also be called “Maisie” as I mentioned above: her mommy likes Maisie okay but far prefers Mabel. I think that’s who she’s going to be.

Friends are naming their baby girl Mabel with the nickname Maisie. I found this connection when I came across a reference to VP Biden’s granddaughter Roberta Mabel who goes by “Maisy”, and it works well for this couple. Yet Maisie seems to be a recent nickname for Mabel, and my friends are really into vintage names. Thus I was so exited to find this obit for a Mabel called Maisie who was born around 1906:

Fulton. Mabel “maisie” (liggett) Fulton

Mabel “Maisie” (Liggett) Fulton, 89, of West Hartford, widow of James Fulton, died Saturday (May 20, 1995) at home. She was born in Portadown, Northern Ireland…

I very much like the whimsical “Maisie” as a nn for the turn-of-the-19th century favorite Mabel. Having Mabel as her given name and Maisie as her nn (especially with her dad who LOVES that name) will give her two options when she’s an adult.

So happy to have found this ‘historic’ linking of the two names for my friends!

Its a fun name to have and its annoying when people spell it horribly wrong. Sometimes people spell it M-A-B-L-E or even M-A-Y-B-L-E. Overall I get lots of complements on my name. My mother did name me after the TV show.

i Really like the name Mabel. I’m having a baby soon . don’t know what it is. We have Piper picked out as a name. Which i do like . But my thoughts Always come back to Mabel. I Really Don’t know why but i like it. It Probably be a boy anyway. We already have that name picked Lanigan.

I adore this name. I think it’s peppy and energetic but with a bit more substance than Poppy or even Molly. I think there will be many Hazels in the coming years, and a Mabel would fit in nicely.

Emily is right. Mabel Stark was a tiger trainer and quite the character. If you want to read a great book that will make the name Mabel come alive for you, read “The Final Confessions of Mabel Stark” by Robert Hough. I was super amused by her and now Mabel is one of my name crushes. I can’t stop thinking about it!!

I LOVE Mabel! My DH and I find out the sex of baby number 1 in less than a week. We are hoping for a girl but if it IS a girl, we have “decided” on Millie. I have told my DH if this one is Millie, the next girl is Mabel. I’m not one for all M names or all same letter names, but those are my top two. I very much adore Adley and Hadley but DH pronounces those two with an extra a after the d making it Adaley and Hadaley. Oh how tough I never thought it would be to name a baby!

I have Mabel and she’s beautiful… All names make a revival, in 50 years time people will be saying Sharon, Melissa, Simon and Jason are old peoples names, just saying! x

There was a woman named Mabel Stark (1889-1968) who trained tigers, which definitely changes my impression of the name!

When I think of all the -bel/belle names I never consider Mabel as being one of their number, I think it’s because of the pronounciation of the last syllable which Shannon has already pointed out. One thing I would say is that this ending does give Mabel the advantage of feeling more well rounded than some of the other bel/belle names. As they can have a tendancy to feel like two names sandwiched together: take Annabel, Christabel or Rosabel for example.

Personally, I adore Mabel’s sweet, cutesy, hip, vintage feel and think she could be set for a comeback. She reminds me of big flouncy English rose floral prints; yet she’s no frilly princess and can definately hold her own. Just listen to the lyrics of the Fratelli’s latest hit single Mistress Mabel if you’re in any doubt: “Takes a liberty if you let her, yes she’s old but she should know better”. This broadcast of the name, coupled with the popularity of all the other -bel/belle names and the current trend for old fashioned names means that Mabel could very well be the next logical step on from Ruby and Lily, Isabel and Milly…

My original reaction to Mabel was similar to JNE’s: old lady. But you’re beginning to sway me. Changing the spelling (Mabelle, Maybelle, May Belle) to suggest the French sounding emphasis on the last syllable gives it a much more attractive air to my ear. It rings brightly like a bell as opposed to the dull thud you get from MAY-bull. Too much fluttering of the lips. Belle is lyrical. You can sing it better.

Mabel still has an old lady image for me and it’s mostly the pronunciation of the last syllable that does it – with the unstressed e it’s not bell. Hazel I dislike a little less. Ethel, Myrtle – no. Like Rachel though. Amabel, though.. that is pretty and unusual and I have only seen it in books – by British authors. I have never heard anyone say it though. Is is AM-uh-bel (like it) or AM-uh-bul? (don’t like). Annabel… that is one of my top 10 names.

I assume Amabel would be said like Annabel, but with an “m” sound instead of “n.” So AM uh bel, I think. The drawback is that she’d be forever correcting those who call her Annabel – which is probably how Amabel went extinct in the first place. 🙂

I quite adore Mabel! I had the same problem with Isabel vs. Annabel, and now Mabel is involved too! I wouldn’t nickname her, Mabel’s too perfect, and I think that Mabelle/Maybelle/Maebel/Maebelle is too darn insulting to the perfection that is Mabel.
I’d love to use her, but Isabel’s my #6.

Amabel’s lovely, but I prefer Annabel, because it mixes the old and the new, while still being a classic revival.

I just find Mabel so sweet and charming. I’ve never met one, but I’d love to. Amabel is beautiful, but I prefer Maybelle, sounds quite southern. My favorite of all though is definitely simple Mabel. And “Princess Mabel” sounds so cute, seems like there should be a children’s picture book about her adventures or something. It’s something i would use if i didn’t have so many other’s on my list that I love more. But I wish more people would use it, she’d fit in so nicely with Sophia, Olivia, Oscar, etc.

I like Mabel! I prefer the orginal Amabel, personally but Mabel is beautiful all by herself. I agree she sounds current and I would be thrilled to meet a little Mabel. Maybe I’ll be lucky and there’ll be one in Josie’s kindergarten class next fall (already, I’m a touch flipped about that) ! Wasn’t there a Maybelle in “Bridge to Terabithia”? My bad, she was May Belle (what a cutie, too bad she’s a Bailee, Maybelle would have been darling on her, for real!)

Mabel’s not one that shows up in my top 20 (Where Maud reigns) but I do admire her and will happily encourage anyone thinking about Mabel. With engaging May as a possible nickname as well as the more popular Bel- sound, I think she’d be a real winner of a choice. Stand out, absolutely fantastic Mabel!

Just can’t get past Mabel being an old lady. It’s right there with Myrtle (and I do love Crape Myrtle trees, but I couldn’t name my child Myrtle). Amabel, sure, fine, okay… but maybe that’s because I say that “AM – uh – bell” and Mable is “MAY – bull”. Bell sounds pretty to my ear, bull does not. I do like Hazel – it’s a color, it’s got a nice zingy z in the middle, it doesn’t have the bull ending (zull is OK). There’s a character, Maybe, that was on Arrested Development. I’d rather call my baby Maybe than Mabel, but perhaps “Maybe” could be a nickname for Mabel… at least it’s amusing/comical. Sorry, just can’t go for Mabel.

This is one where my age shows, too. I just can’t get past the commercials of my childhood – Auntie Mabel, Auntie Mabel, put some (brand name) on the table! It’s not terrible, but it’s hard to get on board.
(Full disclosure – it’s also took me years to get behind Olivia on little girls, too, so foibles? I have ’em.)