Editor’s note: This post was originally published on July 10, 2008. It was substantially revised & republished on September 24, 2012.
She’s an intriguing blend of clunky medieval appellation and current français style.
Thanks to Lola for suggesting a rare gem indeed for today’s Baby Name of the Day: Ottilie.
Ottilie is unusual in recent decades, but she once ranked in the US Top 1000. Circa 1890, she kept company with other now near-extinct appellations: Zenobia, Eulalie, Rosamund, Tilda. Once she must have sounded uncommon but not outlandish.
Today she’s something of a daring pick. Ottilie last appeared in the US Top 1000 in 1905. She was given to fewer than five girls in 2011, though Otilia and Odelia just snuck into the charts.
This is yet another variation of the Germanic Odo, meaning wealth or fortune, the ancestor of plenty of names:
- The palindrome Otto
- Jazzy Otis
- Odilia was an 8th century nun, said to have been born blind, but had her sight miraculously restored during her baptism.
- Odile (pronounced oh DEEL) and Odette (oh DET) both appear in the ballet Swan Lake. Odette is the virtuous princess, and Odile the villain – but somehow I think Odile is the more wearable name circa 2012.
- Ottoline is another possibility, as in the eccentric Lady Ottoline Morrell, known for hosting some of the leading thinkers in the World War I and post-war era in England.
In recent centuries several smart and artistic Ottilies have made their mark:
- German feminist writer and abolitionist Ottilie Assing had a long and tumultuous affair with Frederick Douglass.
- German actress Ottilie Godeffroy appeared on screen in silent films as Tilla Durieux.
- Ottilie Metzger was a Frankfurt-born opera singer well known in the early 1900s.
- Irish born jazz singer Ottilie Patterson is probably the last of the well known bearers of the name, with her career at its peak in the 1950s and 60s. She was actually born Anna Ottilie, but dropped her first name.
19th century Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson even penned a short poem To Ottilie. It’s not clear who the inspiration was for the poem’s name; Stevenson’s wife went by the humble moniker Fanny. Still, it lends the name a bit of literary cred.
Truman Capote gave the name to a prostitute in his novella House of Flowers. In 1971’s Quest for Love – a relatively forgettable sci fi flick – Joan Collins played a character called Ottilie. Neither use had a lasting impact.
To most Americans, sounds a little bit French, something like Rosalie and Coralie. While she isn’t unknown in France, Ottilie is definitely more common in German-speaking countries, where she’s actually pronounced oh TEEL ee ah.
The one place Ottilie is a smash hit is amongst name aficionados. Rowan at Eponymia gave the name to a daughter. So did Bewildertrix, the fabulous name blogger who went offline a few years ago.
If you love the idea of Tillie or Tilly but aren’t wild about Matilda, then Ottilie could be the name for you. She’s an unusual choice, a little bit clunky, a little bit pretty – and that makes for a winning combination, the kind we expect to see in the London Telegraph birth announcements.