baby name OpheliaThe baby name Ophelia is an elaborate, literary gem, continuing to rise in popularity.

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


Chances are you know something about William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, if only famous snippets like “To thine own self be true.”

You probably also know that Ophelia is the ill-fated girlfriend of the Prince of Denmark.

The name means help or aid, from the Greek word ophelos.

Italian poet Jacopo Sannazaro used it for his 1480 poem Arcadia, with the spelling Ofelia. Sannazaro wrote about leaving the city for the countryside.

Sannazaro was widely read, and it is likely that Shakespeare borrowed the name from Arcadia.

After all, Hamlet’s Ophelia needed a lot of help.

Her story is one of an innocent girl, who suffers mightily, goes mad, and ends the story in a watery grave.

Some suggest that Shakespeare based part of the story on an accidental drowning of another girl in the Avon River. (There are two candidates, though their names are Jane and Katherine.)

The tragic character has been painted by artists, referenced in novels, and ultimately became the symbol of teenage girls’ struggles in Mary Pipher’s 1994 bestseller Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls.

The name speaks volumes – about the hazards of love, the nature of young women, romantic ideas about death, and depictions of insanity.


There’s a second literary Ophelia, a character from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s enduring 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

This Ophelia is capable of offering the Greek ophelos to the enslaved characters in Stowe’s novel. She’s white and wealthy, a Vermont native who opposes slavery when she arrives in the New Orleans household of her cousin. And she does tutor a young enslaved girl in their household.

During the course of the novel, Ophelia changes, committing to shedding her prejudices. Stowe likely intended Ophelia as a model for her readers, showing how Northerners content to accept slavery in the South could revisit their beliefs.


The baby name Ophelia wasn’t all that unusual back in the day.

In 1880, the name ranked in the Top 250. It remained in the same range through the late 1920s, and in the Top 1000 until 1958.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that the name fell into disuse.

In 1960, just 103 girls were named Ophelia. By 1965, that number was 67. And in 1970, it was a mere 49.

The low point? A mere 17 girls were given the baby name Ophelia in 1992.


It’s not that adaptations of Hamlet slowed. Indeed, Richard Burton famously played the prince during the 1960s. A television adaptation cast popular folk singer Marianne Faithfull in the role.

But the name changed, now sounding fusty and antique or even outlandish.

Both The Addams Family comic strip and later television series gave the name to Morticia’s sister, Ophelia Frump.

Marvel supervillain Ophelia Sarkissian – also known as Madame Hydra or Viper – debuted in 1969.


The name might’ve been forgotten entirely, at least in English.

But it wasn’t so elsewhere.

In fact, the French form of the name – Ophelie – peaked in popularity during the 1990s, rising in use in France just as Ophelia cratered in the US.

Other potential variations include Ofilia and Ovelia, though they’ve never caught on as baby girl names in the US.

And then along came a movie, using the Spanish and Italian version of the name – Ofelia. Pronunciation is different. In Spanish, it’s oh FAY lee uh. 

Guillermo del Toro wrote and directed dark fantasy movie Pan’s Labyrinth in 2006.

The story features a heroic young Ofelia.

Her life becomes entangled with a fairy tale against the backdrop of 1940s Spain.

The movie became a sensation, garnering international acclaim and making many best-of lists.

There’s a small uptick in the use of the name Ofelia in the US following the movie’s release. But it’s even more true for the baby name Ophelia. In 2006, 47 girls received the name. By 2008, there were 101 newborn Ophelias.


English actress Ophelia Lovibond helped raise the name’s profile, too.  She played Carina in Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, and later appeared in Elementary, Minx, and This Sceptered Isle. 

Dave Grohl gave the name to his youngest daughter in 2014.

In 2015, E!’s first original series, The Royals, featured a character by the name. The series was originally based on a 2011 novel by Michelle Ray, Falling for Hamlet, which updates the doomed couple’s story and tells it from Ophelia’s perspective. The E! series quickly moved past the original plot, and sent Ophelia to America.

The biggest boost came in 2016, when folk rock band The Lumineers released “Ophelia” as a single from their sophomore album Cleopatra.

It’s clearly inspired by Shakespeare’s tragic tale.

“Oh Ophelia, you’ve been on my mind girl, since the flood.”

It was a big enough hit to boost the name.

In 2015, 276 girls received the name. By 2017, that number had reached 764.


The baby name Ophelia returned to the US Social Security Administration’s Top 100 in 2015 at #979, and surged to #416 by 2017.

But it’s not just the success of the song.

It’s also the name’s stylish sound. We’re in the era of Olivia and Amelia. Feminine, ends with -lia names are favorites today.

A lack of nicknames might hold Ophelia back just a little. Ophie is a non-starter. Lia – or Leah –  works, but isn’t quite as obvious. Phelia sounds just like Feel-Ya. In the Flavia de Luce mystery novels, her sister Ophelia is called Feely, taking it even further.

But that’s a minor consideration.

With an impeccable literary pedigree and long history of use, Ophelia almost reads like a neglected classic name. It’s distinctive, elaborate, and unforgettable.

If you’re after a literary name with presence, the baby name Ophelia is one to consider.

Would you consider the baby name Opehlia for a daughter? 

This post was originally published on June 18, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on May 10, 2016 and again on October 26, 2022.

baby name Ophelia baby name Ophelia

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’m a tremendous Shakespeare nerd and kinda love the connotations, in addition to the beautiful sound. Always reminds me of the quote from Hamlet’s Ophelia, “Where the rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.” A combo like Rosemary Ophelia or Ophelia Rosemary is so beautiful! I also love Ophelie, nickname Faye.

  2. I’m a huuuuge fan of Ofelia, so I was quite happy to see Ophelia had finally made her return to the top 1000. Gone are the days when such an occurrence would make me nervous that a name is getting “too popular.” Now, I’m happy when people use names that I like. But back to Ofelia/Ophelia. I prefer Ofelia because I like the Spanish pronunciation, and I like the connection to “Pan’s Labyrinth.” If I ever get the chance to use it, I think she would be shortened to Fae in my family.

    Unrelated, but is anyone else experiencing problems with the site because of all the video ads and the moving banner? My computer can’t take it anymore.

    1. i have to visit the site in Chrome because it crashes all other browsers and it sometimes still crashes this one.

    2. Hi Madelyn – Would you let me know which browser you’re using? I checked with my ad server, and they don’t see a problem, but the more information I can give the better, and they’re usually pretty good about keeping things running. Thanks!

        1. Actually, I just talked to my ad server and they think they found a potential problem. They’re working on it now, and they’re usually super quick – so it should be resolved shortly. Again, thanks for letting me know – these things are almost impossible to find from my side.

  3. There is now a fairly catchy song by X-Ambassadors called Ophelia…and we all know how music can influence names so I’d imagine a boost from it.

  4. Hi there my name is Ofelia , my friends and family call me Ofe, I love my name, it was my mother’s name too, by the way I think the festivities of St. Ofelia is April 2nd., suppose to be tomorrow I wonder if I get a present….hum… will be nice.

  5. My grandmother’s name is Ofelia (pronounced oh-FEL-ee-a) and I’ve always considered it for a possible name for a future daughter. Her nickname is Fela, (pronounced FEH-la), which I like and find preferable to “Lia”.

  6. I adore this name! I also like Aurelia, it was actually what my brother’s name would’ve been if he were a girl and if my parents had let me name him :).
    Anyway, I like both pronunciations (Oh-FEEL-ee-yah and Oh-FELL-ee-yah) of the name. A lot of Shakespeare’s names are pretty, like this one, and Alice, Celia, Cassandra, Rosaline and Valeria. Ophelia is also on my shortlist.

  7. I happen to love the name Ophelia, adore it even. I really don’t care about the pronounciation, be it Oh-FEEL-yah or Oh-FEL-ee-yah, but I think, at times, that the latter can get a little bulky at times. Lea is a pretty nice nickname, but I agree it could get lost in all the generic names. When I’m old enough to have kids, that will absolutely be one of my kids names haha (I’m near 16 right now).

    The Shakespeare reference is actually what drew me to the name, because Hamlet is one of my favorite plays, and Ophelia is a great character, and a beautiful character, despite her tragic, romanticist ending. I also think that, although some shakespeare names have become famous, this name has gotten lost as one of the most beautiful names (I’m also a fan of Rosalind and Julietta, as well as Luciana – in As You Like It, Measure For Measure, and The Comedy of Errors, respectively) in Shakespeares works. It’s uniqueness is what makes it special, and I think being traced back to such a tragic, beautiful, famous literary heroine.

    Honestly, I would much rather have Ophelia become more popular than Juliet, because, although both heroines met tragic ends, Ophelia’s events leading to her sinking into madness follow a more understandable pattern – her brother was going crazy himself, her father was murdered by her lover, and she was spurned by him who was most likely her husband; while juliet can be today viewed as a girl who got too caught up in the romance of a moment, a normal teenager who overreacted.

    and Yeah, when I saw the article, I was prepared to correct you as well on the “double double, toil and trouble” bit, because I am kind of a shakespeare snob myself, and am currently doing Macbeth with my Shakespeare theater group (nationally acclaimed haha, sorry done bragging my little bit :P)

    but back to the point, Ophelia is extremely under-rated