baby name MatildaThe baby name Matilda blends traditional roots with bohemian style. It’s less classic than Katherine, not as daring as Lilou.

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


The baby name Matilda comes from Germanic roots: maht – strength – plus hild – battle. That’s one mighty meaning!

Born to a noble family, the future Saint Matilda became a queen by marriage. Their son, Otto, would become the first Holy Roman Emperor after a break of several decades.

She established convents and supported charities generously.

Several other well-born Matildas wore the name, including the wife of William the Conqueror. Born Matilda of Flanders, the future queen brought her name to England with the Norman invasion.

A list of European royals and nobles answered to the name, and various forms are heard in other languages.

It changed quite a bit in English, too, becoming Maud and Maude in everyday use.


So how did the baby name Matilda travel from Europe to become the unofficial national anthem of Australia?

Packed with deliciously strange slang and memorable lyrics, the folk song “Waltzing Matilda” isn’t actually about a girl. Instead, to “waltz matilda” is to travel with all of your possessions on your back.

Poet Banjo Patterson wrote the lyrics in 1895, rich with Australian slang and language from the era: billabong (a river bend), billy (can for boiling water), and jumbuck (sheep).

It’s broadly familiar, well after a century later.


If not Australia, this name might make you think of Roald Dahl’s Matilda Wormwood.

Published in 1988, Matilda is the story of a whip-smart and very kind five year old, born to neglectful parents. She starts out as a prankster, using her abilities to get the best of her obnoxious older brother and uncaring parents. But ultimately she lives happily ever after. A 1996 movie adaptation remains in rotation, and a Tony Award-winning musical debuted on Broadway in 2010.

It’s an enduring story, one that makes Matilda an appealing choice for a daughter’s name.

While we’re talking about fictional girls by the name, you might also recognize Mafalda. The Portuguese and Italian version of Matilda, Mafalda is the star of an Argentine comic strip from the 1960s, one that led to books and an animated series. She’s a little like Charlie Brown – an enduring cultural touchstone.


What does it mean for the baby name Matilda’s popularity?

From 1880, the first year for which US data is available, into the 1910s, the name ranked in the US Top 250. It was more popular in the late nineteenth century, and waned as the twentieth century began.

By 1965, the baby name Matilda exited the rankings entirely.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, just around 100 girls received the name each year.

Then actors Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger welcomed daughter Matilda in 2005. The trend reversed, and the name slowly started to gain in use.

By 2007, the baby name Matilda returned to the US Top 1000 for the first time in decades.


There’s something about the baby name Matilda that feels Bohemian chic. It’s just a little bit different, a name that sounds like few others.

The nicknames seem cool, too. There’s Tilly and Tilda, plus white hot Millie, a name rising independently right now.


Then again, the baby name Matilda feels almost traditional, too. It boasts history galore – saints and queens and historical figures, too. The name is in use across the world.

And Matilda almost feels like an alternative to the long-time favorite Madeline – choose your spelling. After all, Mattie could easily hang with all of those little Maddies.

At #447 in 2019, the name is at its most popular rank since the 1930s.

Overall, it’s easy to imagine the baby name Matilda appealing to parents today. It’s sweetly old-fashioned, but with plenty of sparky, modern spirit, too. And much as Matilda fits right in with favorites like Sophia and Evelyn, it’s distinctive and different, too.

What do you think of the baby name Matilda?

Originally published on November 7, 2008, this post was substantially revised and re-posted on May 19, 2014, and again on January 6, 2021.

baby name Matilda

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I do love Maude and Tilly, but my husband and I usually go for girls given names 4+ syllables in length (even though we do use shorter nicknames).

  2. I absolutely adore this name. It was one of our very top choices for our daughter but it’s extreme popularity here in Australia turned me off actually using it. Still, if I ever have another daughter it will likely be at the top of our list.

  3. I love this name. If we have another daughter this is it! How can anyone not love this name? Its perfect becuase it grows with you. The little girl named “Tilly” grows up to be the mature woman named Matilda.

  4. Ah, now this caught my attention! My eldest is named Matilda Poppy Rae, and she’s almost four. (I have twins, Iris & Oliver, too). DH and I chose her because of her somewhat quirky grandma feel. But that was four years ago.. whilst I still love her name and it fits to a tee, I’m in Australia and I’m hearing it so often around here!

    And I can’t stand Waltzing Matilda – it’s a terrible song with shocking slang that not even Australians understand, but DD feels special because she has “an entire song all about her!”, in her words 🙂

  5. Matilda’s a name I go back and forth on. Usually she seems sweet and just the right amount of mischievous (in a Roald Dahl sort of way), but some days she feels too stuffy (as is she were the twin sister of Anne of Green Gables’s Marilla Cuthbert). Today I like her quite a lot!

    I must say that I don’t see the appeal of Maud yet. I know this is one that’s been getting a little bit of consideration recently among those of us who like rarely-seen throwback names, but Maud just doesn’t appeal to me. Perhaps it makes me think to much of the word “maudlin.”

  6. I never realised there was any connection between Matilda and Maud, well you learn something new everyday… Like Lola, I also prefer Mathilda which sounds a little less ‘Kangaroo’ and a little more European to my ears (love how you put things Lola!).

    Indeed Mathilda has been on my list ever since I was charmed to meet a lovely young Mathilda about five years ago. Latterly though, she has quietly dropped off the list in response to her epic rise in the UK. I now know of at leasy two baby Matilda’s – one is the sibling of Olivia and Georgia, the other the sibling of Callum; I’ve also seen several Matilda birth annoucements in the local press. It’s funny how a name can seemingly come from nowhere and then everyone starts using it – I feel sure that as recently as a few years ago many of these parents would have found the name too outlandish a choice.

    The funny thing is though, that a when a name I adore becomes increasingly popular, it’s annoying but doesn’t necessarily put me off (Grace and Amelia are good examples of this phenomenon) so why has it put me off Matilda? The answer is that Matilda’s charm lies in her offbeat, out of the blue, funky oldy-wordly feel which over-usage diminishes to the point that she starts to sound a tad garish and too over-the-top try-hard.

    Maud on the other hand is a name to applaude! She sounds fresh, daring in a stuffy way, striking and unusual and I would be over-the-moon to meet a little Maud(e)!

  7. Just wanted to let you know I’ve taken on a new ID. This is photoquilty, formerly known as Another, okay?

  8. Aww, I like Bertha! (but then she’s Bear-ta to me)

    Another one we differ in, Another! 😀 I find Matilda’s pedigree impossible to dislike, unlike Sunday, Suri, Moxie (which I admit is growing on me and I LOVE her brother’s name!) Pilot &, Peanut.
    I actually prefer Mathilda, in looks. Matilda’s a bit too kangaroo for me, personally. I know of a lovely woman online with a Matilda (and an Iris & Oscar!) Mathilda, nn Tillie (for the family surname Tilley) or Maudie, for Great Grandma Rosamel (it was her middle name and the one she went by until she met G. Grandpa Cosmo. He so loved her first name, she started going by it). I like Maud, too and knew they were related but agree they feel worlds apart. Mathilda/Matilda feels elegant, spirited and a touch regal. Maud is a bit more delicate and more edgy than regal. (If I didn’t think a Maud would feel somehow jilted next to a sister named Josephine, I’d use Maud as a first name in a heartbeat, I really do love it) I like the mauve-y clunk that is Maud.

    Matilda’s a little sweet and I like her strength. My first assocation withe Matilda is Matilda & Stephen and the royal battles between them. What an awesome story that is! It’s the story that started my interest in Royals and royalty in particualar.

    I have a Mathilda combo in my wildcard spot: Mathilda Esme Primrose. The reason she’s wildcarded? Mathilda MacK sounds a bit cartoony or storybookish to me, and I’m not sure yet if I like it enough to move her up. That’s for my own ponderings.

    Matilda’s absolutely aces, and I wish it would get a bit more popular. She’s way better than Madison in a thousand ways and I’d so much rather meet just one in RL than any number of Madisons.

  9. This is one of my very favorite names. I see it as incredibly spunky and have a fondness for the uber-German considering my heritage. The only con I see is that many in America don’t seem ready for it with the experience I have had IRL. At the same time I fear it will inevitably pick up momentum matching the international rankings. With the popularity of Amelia and Madeline along with the current rise of Lorelei, I don’t see Matilda as incredibly different at all. I agree that it is far from classic, and any surge will surely date the name. 🙁

    If I ever do get to use Matilda, I will stay far away from Mattie as she is indistinguishable from the omnipresent Maddie. I adore nn Millie even though she is almost never brought up in the context of Matilda. Matilda nn Mattie would make her far more likeable for the masses, I’m sure.

  10. Ugh. No, thank you! This name is another one that makes me roll my eyes. It’s old fashioned (not classic), has a nasty gutteral sound, and althought people might think that they’re picking something offbeat and whimsical, to me it’s trying waaaaaaay too hard (just like most of the other starbaby names: Sunday, Honor, Moxie, Pilot, etc.) I can’t hang with this one. Might as well go with Brunhilde, Bertha, or Dorcas.