Baby, You’re a Star!

April 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

In celebration of the birth of Sweden’s future Queen – Princess Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary, Duchess of Ostergotland on February 23rd in Stockholm, I was inspired to write a post in tribute to another theme we can’t get enough of in the naming world – the stars. And in case you’re wondering if you read my blog semi-regularly, yes, I love outer space.

The stars provide countless naming inspirations for us. First, there’s Estelle, which means “star” in Old French (a variation on Latin Estella that is nowhere near as overexposed these days as Stella). We love the word ‘star’ so much, we’ve gotten a little creative with it over the years – like Starlit, as chosen in captivity by California abduction victim Jaycee Dugard for her second daughter. Then there’s a multitude of names, like Orion, in honour of the ancient, storied constellations in our night sky.

The Swedish princess, the first future queen born to a future queen in Sweden’s history, and what she might be named, had been the source of speculation for months. And her birth may have been met with more fanfare stateside than it was, if William and Kate’s new puppy didn’t also get a name around the time of her birth! Nonetheless, Princess Estelle looks set to join a group of young females who are expected to one day be queen – Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway, Princess Elisabeth of Belgium, and Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands. The laws of primogeniture stand in the way for some, like Infantas Leonor and Sofia, daughters of Prince Felipe of Asturias, heir to the Spanish throne, but the laws continue to fall away, country by country – even William and Kate’s firstborn, no matter the sex, will become Britain’s future king or queen following a unanimous decision by Commonwealth leaders at a summit last fall.

Estelle is reputedly in honour of Estelle (nee Manville) Bernadotte, wife of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden’s ancestor Count Folke Bernadotte af Wisborg, a cousin to Victoria’s great-great-greandfather, King Gustaf V. Estelle Manville was the first American-born individual to marry a member of any European royal house on American soil, and she used her status as a countess to provide leadership and spread the work of the International Red Cross and, so very Kate Middleton of her, the Girl Scouts. (Or perhaps instead, it’s so very Estelle Bernadotte of the Duchess of Cambridge!) Estelle’s charitable endeavours continued long after Count Folke was assassinated in Israel in 1948 as a mediator for the United Nations following World War II, and Estelle Bernadotte was a beloved member of the Swedish Royal Family until her death in Uppsala in 1984.

The newborn princess’ middle names, Silvia and Ewa, are in honour of each of her grandmothers – Victoria’s mother is the former Silvia Sommerlath, now Queen Silvia, and her husband, the former Daniel Westling’s mother is named Anna Ewa (the Polish form of Eva, pronounced the name way). But her third middle name, Mary, is one with uncertain inspiration – Mary means “wished for child” in Latin and is one of the most common female names in the world, but is not a well-used name in the Swedish Royal Court. (Though some will try to tell you that the name means “star of the sea” in Latin, that belief derives from the phrase stella maris, or “sea star,” where stella means “star” and maris means “sea.” Mary is an anglicized version of Hebrew Miryam and is the name of the mother of Jesus Christ in Christianity – it was 2nd Century St. Jerome who caused the confusion when he attributed “star of the sea” to the Virgin Mary.)

In the world of celebrities, Estelle is steady in popularity compared to fanciful Estella, which feels less old-fashioned than Estelle (it was, after all, the name of Golden Girls star Estelle Getty, who portrayed curmudgeonly Sophia Petrillo). Model/actress/TV presenter Ali Landry and her Mexican-born filmmaker husband Alejandro Monteverde’s daughter is named Estela Ines, the daughter of Aussie fashion designer Collette Dinnigan is named Estella Sophia, and just one day before the princess of Sweden’s birth, Brazilian model Lavinia Vlasak welcomed a daughter named Estella.

Variation Stella is the most overexposed – given to the daughters of Matt Damon, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott, John Ritter and Amy Yasbeck, Harvey Keitel and Lorraine Bracco, actors Jennifer Grey and Clark Gregg, Elisabeth Shue, Ellen Pompeo, Dan Aykroyd, Molly Shannon, Dave Mattews, actor Dylan Walsh, Australian swimmer Michael Klim, German singer/actress Ute Lemper, actress/model Gena Lee Nolin, guitarist Carlos Santana, French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, and the list goes on – I told you, overexposed. Perhaps the most famous celebrity baby named Stella is Stella Nina McCartney, daughter of Macca born in 1971, and now one of the most well-known fashion designers on the planet.

A few celebs have used Estelle. Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt welcomed Estelle Desiree in 1997, but his daughter is most commonly known as Stella. Belgian TV host Ben Roelants had daughter Estelle in 2008, and last October, Australian TV weathergirl Sara Groen welcomed daughter Estelle Kathryn. Estelle’s French pet form, Estée, is also notable thanks to the 20th Century American socialite and businesswoman who cofounded the make-up company which bears her name, Estée Lauder – but Estée, in her case, is from Esther. She was born Josephine Esther Mentzer, but was nearly called Esty after her mother’s favourite Hungarian aunt. Her mother settled for Esther instead, deeming Esty too unusual and a name no one knew how to spell, but called her Esty at home. But little Esty’s father, Max, pronounced his daughter’s name with an accent that sounded like Estée, and the rest is history. Derived from the Persian word sitareh, Esther also means “star.” It was the name given to the Jewish virgin Hadassah, the central character in the Bible’s Book of Esther. It’s also Madonna’s Kabbalah name.

All sorts of languages and ancestries can be mined for ‘star names. Dara (Cambodian Khmer), Tu (Vietnamese), and Sterre (Dutch) are all unisex names meaning “star.” Dara Torres is a US Olympic Champion swimmer (female), who famously competed in Beijing at the age of 42, twenty-four years after her first Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984. American actor Rob Morrow faced his fair share of critics when he welcomed daughter Tu Simone in 2001. It’s not that Morrow selected Tu as a name meaning “star,” it’s that he and his wife Debbon Ayer (get it?) gave their daughter the name Tu Morrow (I know you get it). Sterre has popped up on babies from the Benelux region, including Belgian cyclists Nick Nuyens and Evy Van Damme, whose three sons are named Sterre, Sting, and Storm.

Seren, which is a female name I love, is Welsh for “star.” Tara can also be a ‘star’ name for girls, of Hindu origin, though most North Americans refer back to the English meaning – from the Irish Gaelic place name Teamhair, the seat of the high kings of Ireland, meaning “high place/hill.” You also might think of the name of the O’Hara plantation in the classic Gone With the Wind, which was also named for the seat of the Irish high kings by the author, Margaret Mitchell, as the O’Hara family were Irish immigrants.

Danica, like American race car driver and pin-up Danica Patrick, is Slavic for “morning star” (and Latin for “from Denmark”), while lovely Vespera, which might get some attention thanks to Vesper’s rising profile, means “evening star” in the romantic Esperanto language, spoken in about 115 countries around the world. Vesper is Latin for “evening.” And lest you think the boys are forgotten within this trend, consider Sterling, from the Middle English word sterrling, which means “little star.” It’s also one half of the original ad agency on the hit show Mad Men, Stirling Cooper – with Cooper itself a wildly popular first name for boys. Southern-inflected Zeke means “shooting star” in Arabic.

The constellations have been a source of influence for centuries (we met Orion a while back). Mythological figures in countless cultures wound up ‘among the stars’ somehow, whether they were tossed into the stars for protection, like the Big and Little Dippers, or as punishment, like Cassiopeia. Exceptionally vain, Cassiopeia was a queen in Greek mythology, whose name name means “she whose words excel.” Wife of Cephus, Cassiopeia believed that she and her daughter, Andromeda, were more beautiful than the Nereids, the nymph-like daughters of sea god Nereus. This arrogance angered Poseidon, ruler of all sea gods, who set out to destroy Cephus’ kingdom (what is now modern-day Ethiopia) by sending the fearful sea monster Cetus. Cephus and Cassiopeia consulted an oracle and discovered the only way to save their kingdom was to sacrifice their daughter, but Andromeda was saved from Cetus by the hero Perseus. Poseidon did not believe that Cassiopeia, whose daughter was saved despite her efforts to destroy her, should escape punishment, so he tied the queen to a chair and tossed her into the sky, where she spends half the year hanging perpetually upside-down by her ankles thanks to the rotation of the earth.

Andromeda is another interesting name choice, though not for the faint of heart, from the Greek andreia (bravery) + medomai (to think, to be mindful of), and means “one who has bravery on their mind.” The constellation Andromeda (depicting her chained and waiting to be sacrificed by Cetus) contains the Andromeda galaxy, which has helped the name’s standing within science fiction. But Cassie, as a nickname for Cassiopeia, and Andie, for Andromeda, would firmly nestle these complex Greek names into everyday territory.

Other constellation names we’re already familiar with as baby names include Leo (Latin for “lion,” it just appeared as the name of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia stars Kaitlin Olsen and Rob McElhenney’s second son, Leo Grey, born last week), Lyra (Latin for “lyre,” as in the harp-like stringed musical instrument, it’s based on the myth of Orpheus’ lyre – after his death his lyre was tossed into a river, but Zeus sent an eagle to retrieve it and ordered that both be placed among the stars – and was selected by British jazz musician Jamie Cullum and model wife Sophie Dahl for their daughter, born February 2011), Draco (Latin for “dragon,” it’s the name selected by former Wonder Years star Danica McKellar – who also has a ‘star’ name – for her son), and Phoenix (named for the mythical firebird, it’s got serious legs, enough to be a Top 100 name for girls in the Canadian northern territory of Nunavut).

But there’s more to be mined from the constellations – though not a particularly bright group of stars, there’s Caelum, derived from the original Latin name Caela sculptoris, for “sculptor’s chisel.” It fits right in with hot names Caleb, Calum, and Kalan. Ara, which is Latin for “the altar,” was said to warn ancient Greeks of the oncoming stormy season when she rose in the sky late every fall. Southern sky constellation Vela sports the Latin name for “sails,” as in the sails of a ship. Vela was originally deemed part of a larger constellation in the shape of an ocean-crossing ship, called Argo Navis.

Bonus ‘star’ names for creative types: Starlit, Starr, Starla, Astaria (which is awfully similar to gorgeous Astraia, a Greek name meaning “starry one.” In Greek mythology, Astraea was the virgin-goddess of justice, who lived peacefully and fulfilled among humans during the Greeks’ Golden Age, but retreated amidst the brutality of the Bronze Age. Zeus rescued her and placed her among the stars as the constellation Virgo.)

Got a favourite? How could you not!

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§ One Response to Baby, You’re a Star!

  • Estelle is a relatively common French name from my own experience – I know 3 of ’em. As for other star names, I do think Bellatrix is rather pretty in sound, although the HP association is still at the forefront of my mind.

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