October 22, 2015

Harriet and Hattie

Harriet ~ Ruler of the Home ~ French, English

This name should be an enduring classic, a timeless star that shined steadily throughout the last century or two. Instead, America only embraced Harriet for a short time. There are finally some hints that we're warming up to this name, and I think a Victorian-style revival of the traditional names Harriet and Hattie is long overdue.

This rather British name is the result of dressing Henry up for the girls. It comes from the French Henriette, and while it's French in origin it also appears to take advantage of the boys' short form Harry. This name has made it big in the UK.

In America, Harriet was a top choice in Victorian times, when ultra-adorable nicknames like Hattie decorated the country classrooms of one-room schoolhouses across the US. It came across the pond with English immigrants, and America embraced it thoroughly at the time. It hit a high point at a rank of 73 in 1880, but records are very spotty from that time and it's likely this name was even more popular in the decade before. The name Hattie follows a similar pattern, hitting a high point at 27 the same year.

This name feels smart and simultaneously precious, the result of two different impressions passed along through famous females in addition to its pioneer era charm. Namesakes like Harriet Beecher Stowe or abolitionist Harriet Tubman lend a powerful and intellectual heritage, while the fictional girl obsessed with writing of Harriet the Spy fame adds more to this name's charmingly bookish personality.

Today, Harriet isn't even in the top 1,000 names in America. Words like "ridiculous" and "appalling" spring to mind when I consider this fact. In England and Wales, it's a firm top-100 choice that currently ranks at 61.

Hattie is seeing a little more of an upswing in the states, sitting at 590, down a bit from the spot it held previously. It's more popular in England and Wales, as you may expect, though the full name is favored while Hattie sits at 310.

Americans are starting to notice how sweet the short form Hattie is, but times are still tough for its elegant big sister Harriet. In the UK, it's a much different story!

  • Harriette
  • Henriette
  • Hattie
  • Hettie
  • Etta
  • Ettie
Famous Namesakes
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe, writer
  • Harriet Chalmers Adams, explorer
  • Harriet Martineau, English writer
  • Harriet Taylor Mill, philosopher, activist
  • Harriet Nahienaena, Hawaiian princess
  • Harriet Quimby, first American female pilot
  • Harriet Tubman, abolitionist
Harriet Carter is a retailer and Harriet M. Welsh is the star of the children's book Harriet The Spy.

Celebrity Babies
  • Hattie Margaret, daughter of Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott

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