Sarah: Baby Name of the Day


An Old Testament choice with a long history of use, today’s name is nearly as classic as Elizabeth or Mary.

Thanks to Jill for suggesting Sarah as our Baby Name of the Day.

Sarah: An Overlooked Classic

Sarah is an interesting puzzle of a name.  With impeccable Old Testament roots and a long history of use, it would be hard to argue that Sarah isn’t an enduring classic.

And yet, Sarah is rarely mentioned on the same lists as Margaret or Jane.

Could it be her style?  There’s something simple and homespun about this name.  Maybe that’s thanks to award-winning children’s novel Sarah, Plain and Tall, about a sensible young woman who moves from Maine to Kansas to marry a widower.

And yet, Sarah means lady or princess – a title of respect in Hebrew.  And there have been plenty of aristocratic Sarahs over the years, including Lady Sarah Chatto, only daughter of the late Princess Margaret and niece to current Queen Elizabeth II.  That’s makes her twentieth in the line of succession … for now.

Sarah: Old Testament Roots, Modern Favorite

English: Sarah Bernhardt as GismondaIn the Old Testament, Sarai was the wife of Abram.  God promised the childless couple family of their own, and changed their names.  Sarah and Abraham may have had their doubts, but a year later they also had a baby – Isaac.

Plenty of other Sarahs are also famous mothers.  There’s the Duchess of York, politician Sarah Palin, singer Sarah MacLachlan, style maven Sarah Jessica Parker, and fellow actresses Sarah Chalke and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

And that’s just in recent years.  Go back a little farther, and nineteenth century activist Sarah Moore Grimke makes this a suffragette name.

Then there’s Sarah Bernhardt.  Born Rosine in Paris, France, Bernhardt was the most famous actress in the world in the nineteenth century.

Bernhardt’s legacy should add a certain level of glamour to the name. But since she’s a star from well before the rise of Hollywood, Sarah reads more vintage than glittering.

Sarah, Sara, and Sadie

We live in a casual age, one that often favors nicknames on the birth certificate.  And traditional nicknames can feel disconnected from their roots.

How do you get Sadie from Sarah?

The Norman invasion changed the naming landscape in England forever.  Hebrew and Latin names from the Bible, as well as French names with Germanic roots replaced Anglo-Saxon go-tos.

But the English didn’t adopt new names without alteration.  They often dropped the ‘r’ sound in everyday use.

In the years following 1066, Mary became Molly, Teresa turned into Tess, and Florence answered to Flossie.  Sarah became Sally and Sadie, too.

Today, the names stack up this way:

  • Sarah remains the most popular, at #48 in 2013.  That’s a big drop from the Top Ten, where she ranked from 1978 through 2002.
  • Sara – the spelling preferred in many a European language – has always ranked a few places behind the ‘h’ spelling.  As of 2013, Sara charts at a chilly #154.
  • Then there’s white-hot Sadie.  At #50 in 2013, bolstered by a reality television show, Sadie is at her most popular ever – and could eclipse the original.
  • Meanwhile, Sally and Sallie are well outside the US Top 1000.

Sarah: So Ordinary, She’s Surprising

Sarah is a study in contradictions.  Simple and homespun, but with a regal meaning.  A name that’s everywhere, over the years, and yet seems unusual on a child born in 2014.

Now that Sadie and Sally are seen as separate names, Sarah is also nickname-proof.

If you’re after a name that will wear well from childhood through adulthood, a name that is familiar but not trendy, Sarah is one to consider.

What do you think of Sarah?  Do you think this name should be considered a classic?  And do you think Sadie will be more popular than Sarah when we see the 2014 numbers?

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 Sarah (definitely with an H — it looks naked otherwise) but I also go by Sadie and have long before the recent surge in popularity for Sadie. It’s been almost 30 years now that I’ve gone by both and most everyone I told back in the 1990’s remembered an Aunt Sarah that went by Sadie. So it’s not that long ago that many Sarah’s went by Sadie or Sally.

  2. Sarah is definitely a popular name, especially it seems for people born in the mid-80’s. Growing up one of my best friends was also a Sarah and I currently work in an office with 2 other Sarah’s! As for dropping the “H”, to me that changes the sound of the name to something similar to Zara. I also don’t agree with the name being nickname proof, I had a few growing up. Most notably were “Sare Bear” and “Sarsaparilla”. I still get called “Sare” and “Sez” by friends and family.

  3. I’m a Sarah and I always heavily disliked the name. I often have people tell me how much they like it, how pretty it is, etc. and I never understood it. It’s sooooo plain and boring to me, especially since I was born right in the early-middle of its popularity. Sadie and Sally are both much more attractive.

  4. I actually represent the pro “h” group. Without it I just feel that my name looks unfinished. Growing up as a Sarah my main complaints were popularity and the fact that it was lacking in nns. My sister Abigail could be Abby but I was stuck with Sarah. Bows it’s grown on me and I love the meaning but gave both my kids names that could be shortened or customized if they wished.

  5. We just named our second baby Sadie Rose. Love that Sadie is a derivative of the more traditional Sarah, but with some sass and spunk. And appropriate that it means princess!

  6. I love the name Sarah so much, but it’s a little bit too popular in my area. Also, I used to care for a little girl named Sarah in day-care, and she was one of my favorites and owns th name for me.

  7. I was so excited to see Sarah featured this morning. I definately consider Sarah a classic. We nearly used Sarah for my 2nd daughter. Even on the way to the hospital I was wavering in favor of Sarah. I’ve since wondered weather it would have been too close to our older daughter Clare’s name.

    1. Ditto! I dislike the h in Sarah, even though that’s how my sister and a cousin, as well as almost every other Sarah I know spell it. Sara looks nicer to me. I am not big on names ending with the A sound having an H at the end of them for some reason. I see the H as unnecessary.