Let’s say you’ve always loved the name Isabella. You’re not alone. Back in 1992, when Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman chose it for their daughter, the name was a comfortably obscure choice – #487 in the US. In fact, from 1949 to 1989, it was not even in the Top 1000. But it gained steadily throughout the 90s, and by 2006, it was the fourth most popular name given to baby girls born in the US.
And let’s not forget Isabelle (#85), Isabel (#87), Izabella (#290), Isabela (#470) and Isabell (#724). And with Bella (#181) and Ella (#21) hot choices themselves, using a nickname won’t help your daughter stand out from the hordes of same-named girls.
The only alternative is to find one.
It’s tempting to dust off the Scottish variant, Isobel. The spelling looks spare and fresh, and the name is quite rare – it hasn’t been in the Top 1000 in the US since 1921, and while it was occasionally used in the early years of the twentieth century, it was never common. But alas, Isobel sounds exactly like Isabel and Isabelle, making it too close to for comfort.
Here are a few alternatives that might suit:
- Isadora – The most famous Isadora is undoubtedly the dancer, Isadora Duncan. She lends the name a certain artistic flair. But this exotic name has surprisingly humble roots, too – Saint Isidore the Laborer is the patron saint of farmers. Modern children would most likely link your Isadora with Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer, or possibly with Dory, the memory-impaired fish voiced by Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo. The nicknames, and their familiarity among the pint-sized, make this unusual choice quite accessible. (Isadora has not appeared in the Top 1000 names since 1900.)
- Isabeau – Like Isabel, Isabeau is derived from Elizabeth. But this version is nicely obscure and has an appealing French vibe, too. Perhaps the masculine -beau ending puts some parents off. Beau is French for handsome; it has also been used to mean boyfriend. But if little girls are named Ryan and Dylan these days, that seems a rather flimsy reason to dismiss such a stunningly attractive name as this. Rest assured that your Beau will share the playground with at least one little girl called Alex. (Isabeau has never appeared in the Top 1000.)
- Isolde – A princess in Arthurian legend, Isolde has stood by neglected while her true love’s name has become quite the popular choice for boys. (Tristan was #86 in 2006.) Richard Wagner turned their tale into an opera; in 2006, Ridley Scott brought it to the big screen. And yet, the name languishes in obscurity. It is, perhaps, a lot of name for a small child, but it is also a name with history and roots, and certainly no more of a mouthful that Isabella.
More names you might like: