About A Name: Arabella

August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment


In a recent interview with the Today show, businesswoman and reality TV star Ivanka Trump revealed the origins of daughter Arabella Rose‘s name, born July 17th in New York City.

“I have always loved the name Arabella, and Jared’s grandmothers had names beginning with an A and an R. We wanted to pay a subtle homage to those two strong and wonderful women while also adopting a name that was very unique. Plus, we thought that the initials — ARK — were cool!”

The name may be unique now, but it’s similarity to the name Isabella – the number one name in the US in 2010 – gives parents an equally fluid, Italian-influenced, ultra-feminine name while offering a fair bit of originality. But I predict that’s going to change, and fast.

Not only has it become the femme nom du jour since Trump selected it for her bub, British soap actor Neil McDermott named his daughter Arabella Betsy, born January 9th. Back in 1960, British character actor Edward Fox named his daughter Lucy Arabella – she grew up to become a Viscountess by marriage.

Indeed, the name does possess regal qualities, and is quite popular in England – especially among the posh upper-crust. Arabella Spencer-Churchill was a well-known British aristocrat in the 1960s and 70s, a granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill and one of the driving forces behind the creation and sustainability of the world-famous Glastonbury Festival in Scotland. The name just entered the Top 1000 in the US in 1880, falling out completely for more than 100 years. But since 2004 it has surged ahead, placing in the top 500 in 2009. In US history, the ship Arbella brought puritan English aristocrats to Massachusetts Bay in 1630 – descendents of which are socially prominent Bostonians today. Other notable Arabellas in history include Arabella Mansfield, first female lawyer in the United States, and Lady Arabella (Arbella) Stuart, considered a successor to Queen Elizabeth I, who had no children.

The last collaboration between German composers Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal was a lyrical opera in three parts called “Arabella,” first performed in 1933. It tells the story of a beautiful but proud daughter from a wealthy family, on the verge of financial ruin if Arabella will not marry a wealthy suitor, no matter how much she wants to marry for love and not money. The character of Arabella Figg is a neighbour of Harry Potter in JK Rowling’s beloved children’s series, and the full name of popular character Babe, famously portrayed by Alexa Havins on the soon-to-be-cancelled American daytime soap, All My Children, is Arabella Babe Carey.

“Arabella” is believed to be derived from the Latin “orabilis,” meaning “prayerful,” but could also be a variant form of Anabella/Anabel, derived from the Latin word “amabel,” which means “lovable.”

Like Isabella and Anabella, Orabella, Ara, and Araminta are considered cousins or variations to Arabella, but none are currently as on-trend as this name. Araminta was a name created by 18th Century English playwright William Congreve in his 1693 piece “The Old Bachelor,” a combination of Arabella and Minta.

Common nicknames, often bestowed upon women with such names due to the comparative simplicity to their origin names, are Belle or Bella – hugely popular lately thanks to lead character Bella Swan of the Twilight series. Far less common as a nickname is Ara, also a stand-alone Arabic name meaning “brings rain.”

Summoning a nickname for a name with such a strong note of upper-classmanship is almost a necessity for those of us in the real world with a penchant for the name, and creative namers may lean towards the nickname Ari. Traditionally a male name, it has popped up as a feminine moniker of Arabic origin – a variation of Ara, though if seen it’s usually a nickname for something like Arianna or even Ariel. Still, with the huge pop culture surge from Entourage and Jeremy Piven’s scene-stealing character Ari Gold, it’s been impossible not to notice that the name has risen in popularity for both sexes. Though Piven’s character is classified as a horrible human being on the show, it’s hard to deny the character’s strength, directness, and smarts – all positive characteristics to consider when testing out the suitability of a name, in your head or on your kid. The origin of the name also denotes strength of spirit – it’s a Hebrew name meaning “lion,” but also a name of Scandinavian origin that means “eagle.” Despite it’s simplicity, the name may still be too masculine for some to use as a shortform, especially for those who favour flirty and feminine Arabella. But creativity is easy with long, multi-syllabic names like this one.

My advice? Go for it – but first consider whether you like the name because it’s currently trending and whether you’d have the same affection for it without all the recent press. It’s a beautiful, unmistakably feminine name with lots of options for creative license, whether you opt for the less common Arabelle or go with an alternate spelling to enhance the name’s uniqueness (Arabela). And there are plenty of variant options and nickname possibilities to suit anyone’s taste.


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