This post was originally published on December 23, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on October 6, 2014.
It’s a plum role for a ballerina, and a name worn by a World War II heroine, too.
Thanks to Nessa for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Odette.
Odette: Hipster Princess
Over the summer, a Fit Pregnancy article called Odette a hipster baby name.
That’s not inaccurate, but it would be better to say that many names in this family have an edgy, off-the-mainstream vibe. The Germanic Odo is lost to history, but Otis and Otto, Ottoline and Ottilie all feel fresh and stylish.
Odette is no exception.
Odette: Saint and Swan
All of the Odo names mean wealthy, and the -ette ending shows this name’s French roots. Odette probably developed as a nickname for Odilia of Alsace, the name of a medieval saint, also known as Odile.
Both French forms feature in Tchaikovsky’s legendary ballet, Swan Lake. Based on Russian folk tales, the story tells of a virtuous, white-featured swan, and her evil, dark-feather alter ego. Odile is the dark swan. Odette? Shes’s the virtuous princess.
The ballet has been performed consistently, all across the world, ever since its 1877 debut. The photo above is from a 1901 production by Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet.
The preschool set got their version of the tale with the animated version, The Swan Princess, back in 1994.
Then came 2010’s Black Swan, earning Natalie Portman a Best Actress Oscar for her role as a prima ballerina caught up in the role of the white swan.
Credit Portman – and Mila Kunis, who played the ballerina dancing the role of Odile – for raising parents’ awareness of the possibilities from Swan Lake and putting Odette squarely on the hipster list.
But there’s more to her story.
Odette: French Heroine
In the US, a handful of girls have revised the name every year. And in France, the name was very much in vogue in the early twentieth century.
One of those French Odettes was Odette Brailly Sansom. Sansom worked as a nurse during World War II, then became a member of the French underground. Eventually betrayed and arrested, Sansom survived torture and a concentration camp. She would later testify against concentration camp guards in war crimes trials. Her life story became the movie Odette in 1950.
Then there’s Odette de Crecy, the wife of Charles Swann in Marcel Proust’s novel Remembrance of Things Past. What better first name for Mrs. Swann?
Odette: Name on the Rise
Even before the name was dubbed a perfect hipster pick, there were plenty of reasons to think this one might be on the rise:
- French names for girls have had a good run, from Madeleine to Genevieve.
- The ballet link gives her undeniable style, and thanks to the 2010 flick, we all know this one comes from Tchaikovsky’s enduring ballet.
- O names, from Olivia to Owen, Willow to Leo, are so stylish.
- Odette is tailored, yet feminine, and nickname-resistant – a quality many parents appreciate in a child’s name today.
Sixty girls were named Odette in 2013, her best year yet. But that still makes this name pretty rare, a safe pick for parents after something obscure, but not invented or unknown.
What do you think of Odette? Is this name due for a big leap in 2014? And is it because all of those articles with headlines calling Odette a hipster name, or was the name ready for discovery?