Adelaide Giuri as Odette and Mikhail Mordkin a...

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?

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. Came across this post because my almost-7-yo daughter, ODETTE ❤, asked me to look up how many other people have her name (as did her non-identical twin sister, Estela). Odette is actually named for a French woman who, like the Odette who was the subject of the 1950 eponymous movie, was active in the French resistance (secretly fighting the Vichy fascist regime) during WWII. She was a wonderful human who taught me a lot… A lot like *our* Odette, who is a force in her own right and learning to love her (still pretty unusual) French name.

    1. What a great story (+ role model) for your daughter! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I want to like it, I love -et/ette names, but it almost seems like a word describing feminine body odour :/

  3. I just love Odette! I had no idea she was so interesting. I think Odelia is beautiful and I’ve never heard it before, I think it’s going on my list! I know this is trendy, but I love O names. Odessa is my number 2 name right now, but I adore Odette, Ophelia, Opal, Olive and Olivia too. Olivia was my favorite before it got so popular, so I’d never use it now, but I think it’s probably my favorite popular name right now. Anyway, Odette is just perfect to me. Ill never get to use her because my first girl will be Lulette and that’s just too matchy for my liking… but if it weren’t for that I would use her in a heartbeat. As it stands though, I’ll probably use Odessa… but Odelia is a REALLY appealing option to me.. That could honor a Cordelia, couldn’t it?

  4. Love, love, love Odette!
    She has been on my list for a good while now.
    Other “O” names that make the list are – Ophelia, Octatvia and Opal.

  5. Ah, I’m a sucker for the vowel names… and Odette is no exception. It is slightly more feminine with it’s ette ending, as Lola mentioned, which is a little lacy for me, but I still like it!

  6. I want to like Odette, really I do. I adore the Od- (and Ot-) girls, all of them but Odette is one I can’t like enough to want to use myself. She’s a bit too light for me, I like my girls to have some heft to their names. I also generally like Opera names and by association, Ballet names.
    Odette’s also got Etta nickname potential, which is another point in her favor. I should love Odette. Sadly, I do like her but not enough to consider her myself. She’d be stunning on some else’s kid, though! Odette’s neat. 🙂