An ill-fated silver screen courtesan wore it first, but it didn’t take long for real life children to follow.

Thanks to Hanalise for suggesting Satine as Name of the Day.

In 2001, Moulin Rouge! took audiences by surprise. My thoughts went something like this:

Nicole Kidman and Ewan MacGregor can sing.

They can sing mash-ups of pop songs by Elton John and Nirvana and Madonna and it works.

And Baz Luhrmann did manage to top his 1996 re-imagining of Romeo + Juliet.

It wasn’t just me. Moulin Rouge! became the first musical nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in more than two decades.

The genre-bending big screen extravaganza is based on Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, but Verdi’s courtesan was Violetta. Verdi borrowed his inspiration from Alexandre Dumas, fils’ La Dame aux camélias. Dumas called his girl Marguerite, but she became Camille in English.

Luhrmann had plenty of precedent to rename his leading lady and her would-be savior. (Dumas’ Armand became Verdi’s Alfredo.) The thing is, Luhrmann landed on Christian. It’s a handsome name, to be sure, and one that fit the idealistic, artistic character well.

But when Christian falls for Satine? At the risk of conjuring Dana Carvey’s SNL Church Lady skit, the name has always seemed awfully close to Satan.

Kidman’s Satine wasn’t evil, but she did represent a glittering, tempting world that would ruin young Christian.

Beyond He of the Cloven Hoof, Satine also brings to mind fabric. Satine is simply the French for satin. It’s a slightly more innocent spin, but it’s not quite calico or cotton. No one makes crib sheets in satin.

There’s a widely circulated tale that satin is originally a place name, based on Zaitun, a medieval name for a city in China. Others link the word to the Latin seta – silk. Satine might mean satin, but in English, she sounds like sateen – another glossy fabric, and one that feels slightly downmarket.

Satin could have been in use as a given name. Enid Bagnold called her heroine Velvet in her 1935 novel. Elizabeth Taylor starred in the 1944 film version of National Velvet. The character was courageous and strong-willed and lovely, and Velvet did appear in the US Top 1000 between 1961 and 1964.

Neither Satin nor Satine has ever cracked the US Top 1000, but a handful of Satines appear in US Census records over the years. Some files could be misspellings of Sabina, Savina and Sabine. Given the numbers of Saints Sabinus and Sabina, a series of mistakes almost seems plausible. Still, there were women and men named Velvet before Bagnold’s novel, so a few parents doubtless were inspired by a bolt of cloth.

Satine attracted the attention of modern parents when Real World: London alum turned actress Jacinda Barrett bestowed the name on her daughter in 2007.

Calling a daughter Satine isn’t nearly as extreme as choosing Lucifer or Spandex for your kiddo’s handle. It’s an undeniably pretty name. But it is quite the daring choice, and one that might prove difficult to wear.

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. My daughter is called Satine who is now 15. I lived in Paris when I was young and heard the name there and it always stuck with me. One of the first dates I had with her mother was when I took her to the moulin rouge. So the characters name in the film just consolidated it for a variety of reasons – beauty, love, kindness, sacrifice etc. Sati was the wife of the Indian god shiva and she threw herself onto his funeral pyre I believe so it’s derived from Indian gods etc. In fact although outlawed women still through themselves onto the funeral pyres of their husbands in some areas of India and it’s known as committing sati. The name always suited by daughter – we always called her teenie when she was very young as she was so small and dainty. And it suits her now and it’s obvoisly a very unusual name and rare. It just fits her and we are francophiles too so it alludes to that, everyone who meets her and knows her finds it very classy. We actually out an acute over the e so technically it is pronounced satin-ay but it’s always just been sat-een, she has the choice for either in life as she so wishes. I think it is an elegant and evocative name and she is an elegant girl who I’m very proud of, I wouldn’t change her name for the world.

    1. Dylan, thanks for your comment. I wrote this post way back in the earliest days of the site, and it is unnecessarily judge-y and harsh. All these years later, I can’t see anything wrong with Satine. I’ll be updating the post in the next few weeks, and I hope it does your daughter’s name justice.

    1. I kept hearing the SNL Church Lady sketch while writing this post, because yes, I get satan from this one, too!

  2. I typically don’t care for names derived from words, so I’ll pass on Satine. However, I don’t mind all -een names, just the ones that over-used in the 40’s and 50’s, like Doreen, Charlene and Jolene.

  3. I agree with photoquilty – een endings aren’t my thing, Satine sounds tawdry, and while I enjoyed Moulin Rouge, I wouldn’t dream of naming a child of mine the same as Kidman’s character. It’s a definite ‘no’ from me.

    Sabina, on the other hand, I have liked for a very long time – ever since I found it on my family tree – great grandmother… I didn’t know her, but I like the name. However, I like it said sa-BEE-na and I’m told my g-grandmother said sa-BYE-na… that variant does NOT appeal.

  4. Hm. All right. I did misread Satine as SALTINE. So, right off the bat it’s not quite for me. Also, I sleep on sateen sheets. Yeah, it’s a losing battle here. Satine doesn’t make my list.

    Here’s something. Years ago in college, at a party, a group of guys had a porn movie on. It was supposed to be shocking to us women, I guess. Anyhoo. The – what word am I looking for? Protagonist? – of the movie was called Velvet. So, yuck. Not something that could ever work for me.

    And finally, names ending in -ine – or the EEN sound – strike me as dated. Doreen, Martine, Loreen, Imogene, Irene, Pauline, etc.

  5. I think it sounds stunning! Very elegant & Old Hollywood. It could be difficult to carry the name.I think Satine (if I’m saying it right lol) sounds gorgeous