Rafaela shares the stylish -ella ending sound of so many chart-toppers. Yet this one fails to crack the current US Top 1000 in any spelling. Could this be the undiscovered gem so many parents seek?
Thanks to Rebecca for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Rafaela: Raphael’s Sister
The name means “God has healed,” and in the Book of Tobit, he gives sight to a blind man.
Tradition makes Raphael an angel, across Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
He’s considered a Catholic saint, the protector of travelers, among other things. And plenty of writers have included Raphael in their works, from John Milton in Paradise Lost, to television’s Supernatural.
Renaissance master Raphael remains widely known, as does the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle named for him.
That’s plenty of history and pop culture for one name, so no surprise that Raphael appears in the US Top 1000 pretty much every single year.
So does the Spanish (and German and sometimes Slavic) spelling Rafael.
But feminine forms of the name? In the US, they’re quite rare.
Rafaela: Spanish and Portuguese
Not so elsewhere. In Spanish and Portuguese, Rafaela serves as the preferred feminine form. You’ll hear it in Portugal and Brazil. It rank among Chile’s most popular baby names. Back in the 1970s, a Venezuelan telenovela centered on the life of a character by the name; in 2011, Mexican television rebooted the series, now starring Scarlet Ortiz in the title role.
We’ve seen plenty of English-Spanish crossover names hit it big in recent years, and telenovelas often explain some of the newly fashionable options.
Despite all of this attention, just 45 girls were given the name in 2016. In 2011, that number reached 60 – perhaps a bump from the telenovela? But generally speaking, this one remains off our radar.
Rafaela: Raffaella, Raphaela
Other spellings don’t fare any better:
- Rafaella – Just 40 girls received this spelling of the name in the US last year.
- Raffaella – The Italian form, with a double L and double F, was given to a mere seven girls in 2016.
- Raphaela – And just 19 baby girls were given the Raphaela spelling.
All together, just over 110 girls received some spelling of the name in 2016, making this one a true rarity.
Despite this name’s seldom-heard status, it seems like it would wear well today.
Consider: it could borrow boyish nicknames like Rafi and Rafa, as well as the traditional Ella and Ellie, unexpected Rella, and maybe even Fae or Rae.
We’re all about -ella ending names, from Stella and Bella to Gabriella and Isabella. And this one also fits in with culture-spanning favorites like Ariana and Lucia.
This makes it a romance language option that feels familiar, while remaining undiscovered. A handful of athletes, a character from a Japanese magna, and a nineteenth-century saint all answer to the name, too.
But here’s my favorite namesake.
Back in the 1700s, a young woman named Rafaela de Herrera y Torreynosa was born into a military family, and she paid attention to all things strategic. This knowledge came in handy in 1762, when she was a mere 19 years old.
Her dad commanded the garrison a fortress on the San Juan River in Nicaragua. It was a critical spot for trade routes and access to the Pacific, and so the British came calling with 2,000 soldiers.
The garrison contained just 100 men, and Herrera’s dad? He was on his deathbed. The second-in-command considered surrender, but Herrera vowed to defend the Fortress with her life, and inspired the soldiers.
Herrera fired the canon that killed the British commander herself.
She relied on clever tactics, too, like soaking sheets in alcohol, setting them on fire, and launching them towards the British ships.
Within six days, she’d won an improbable victory.
Her story adds a fascinating layer to the name, and lends this elaborate, romantic name quite a bit of strength.
If you’re after a Spanish-English crossover less common than Sofia, but with the same globe-trotting bona fides, Rafaela belongs on your list.
Would you consider this name for a daughter? Which nicknames would you use?