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Operatic Baby Names

You don’t have to be an opera buff to appreciate the rich variety of baby names found in the classic repertoire. It’s an especially appealing category because it contains such an interesting mix of languages: there are frilly French female names, unusual Italian male names, as well as some usable German and Russian character names. These range from leads such as Aida and Tristan, to featured players to those with minor roles.

Along with Tristan, other operatic baby names in the US Top 1000 include Andres, Bianca, Carmen, Elena, Giovanni, Lucia, Rocco, and Romeo. Rare names with strong ties to the opera include Fiorello, Musetta, and Violetta.

Omitting common names like Amelia, Norma and Susanna, and the more uber-the-top names like Brunhilde, here are some lyrical opera baby names:
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ElenaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish, Italian, German, Greek variation of Helen
  • Meaning:

    "bright, shining light"
  • Description:

    Elena, a pan-European version of Helen, has roots in Spanish, Italian, Slavic, and Romanian, among others. Helen, the name from which it derives, came from the Greek word helene, meaning “torch.” Alternate spellings include Elaina, Ellena, and Alena.

TristanHeart

  • Origin:

    Celtic
  • Meaning:

    "noise or sorrowful"
  • Description:

    Tristan -- known through medieval legend and Wagnerian opera -- has a slightly wistful, touching air. This, combined with the name's popular "an" ending, makes Tristan very appealing to parents seeking a more original alternative to Christian.

LuciaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian, feminine variation of Lucius, Latin
  • Meaning:

    "light"
  • Description:

    Lucia is derived from lux, the Latin word for light. It is considered to be the feminine form of Lucius as well as the Latinate spelling of Lucy. Due to its connection to light, Lucia was traditionally given to babies born as daylight was breaking.

IsoldeHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "ice ruler"
  • Description:

    Now that Tristan has been rediscovered, maybe it's time for his fabled lover in the Arthurian romances and Wagnerian opera, a beautiful Irish princess, to be brought back into the light as well.

BiancaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian
  • Meaning:

    "white"
  • Description:

    Bianca, the livelier Italian and Shakespearean version of Blanche, has been chosen by many American parents since the 1990s, just as Blanca is a favorite in the Spanish-speaking community. It's meaning of white relates to snow, making it one of the prime names for winter babies.
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ElsaHeart

  • Origin:

    German diminutive of Elisabeth
  • Meaning:

    "pledged to God"
  • Description:

    Lost in limbo for decades and decades, Elsa now stands a good chance of following along in the progression from Emma to Ella to Etta, thanks to the ice queen heroine who "Let It Go" in the wildly popular Disney movie Frozen. The name shot all the up to Number 286 (its highest ranking since the 1890s) in the year after the release of the movie, though it's now dropped back down the list in the US.

JulietteHeart

  • Origin:

    French from Latin
  • Meaning:

    "little Julia"
  • Description:

    Juliette, pronounced with the emphasis on the last syllable, adds a little something extra to Juliet. In the past years it has been rising up the chart.

CarmenHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish variation of Carmel
  • Meaning:

    "garden"
  • Description:

    Carmen has long been associated with the sensuous, tragic heroine of Bizet's opera, based on a novel by Prosper Merimee; more recently it has called to mind two other bombshells: Carmen Miranda (born Maria) and Carmen Electra (born Tara), as well as the great jazz singer Carmen McRae. In the celebrity baby name world, this classic Spanish name for girls was used by Hilaria and Alec Baldwin for their daughter.

RomeoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian
  • Meaning:

    "pilgrim to Rome, Roman"
  • Description:

    It wasn't so long ago that Romeo was considered as outre for an American baby as Casanova or Cupid. But that really changed when David and Victoria Beckham chose it for their second son in 2002, a path followed by Jon Bon Jovi.

LeonoraHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian diminutive of Eleonora or Eleanor, meaning unknown
  • Description:

    Its mellifluous sound makes Leonora--which has a rich history and a tie to the popular Leo names-- a keen possibility for revival. Though it's been hiding below the Top 1000 since the 1940s, Leonora is being rediscovered by stylish parents in the US and Europe.
    Leonora has the distinction of being three major opera characters, including the heroines of Beethoven's Fidelio and Verdi's Il Trovatore. It was also the name of two characters played by Elizabeth Taylor--in Secret Ceremony and Reflections in a Golden Eye.
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AidaHeart

  • Origin:

    Arabic
  • Meaning:

    "happy"
  • Description:

    Aida is a melodic name largely associated with the title character of the 1871 Verdi opera, an enslaved Ethiopian princess who dies to save her people. In the past, her name was rarely heard outside the Latino community, but in the current time of love for all A-starting girls' names, this could very well change.

GiovanniHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian variation of John
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    Giovanni is a venerable Italian classic that suddenly sounds fresh and cool. Ubiquitous in Italy, it has countless notable namesakes, from writer Boccaccio to designer Versace (nn Gianni).

ManonHeart

  • Origin:

    French, diminutive of Marie
  • Meaning:

    "bitter"
  • Description:

    Manon is an endearing French pet name for Marie or Marianne; it has the exotic yet straightforward feel that makes it a viable import. Manon of the Spring was a gorgeous French film, Manon Lescaut a 1731 novel by Abbe Prevost, set in France and Louisiana, that was controversial in its day. It formed the basis of operas by Puccini and Massenet, and several films and TV series.

RoccoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian from German
  • Meaning:

    "rest"
  • Description:

    Madonna did much to polish up the image of this old-neighborhood Italian choice when she picked it for her son with British director Guy Ritchie, and several years later it was also used by Rose Byrne and Bobby Canavale for their son. It now feels much more mainstream than many celebrity baby names, sharing the quirky appeal of some other so-far-out-they're-in baby names as Bruno and Hugo.

MargueriteHeart

  • Origin:

    French variation of Margaret; also a flower name
  • Meaning:

    "pearl; daisy"
  • Description:

    Marguerite is a classic French name with a remnant of old-fashioned Gallic charm; and is also a variety of daisy. Chic again in Paris, it's definitely ripe for revival here.
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ViolettaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian
  • Meaning:

    "purple"
  • Description:

    Violetta is a more vibrantly colored, feminissima form of Violet. It is the name of the heroine of the Verdi opera La Traviata--in fact Violetta was the original title of the work.

MarcelloHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian and Spanish
  • Meaning:

    "young warrior"
  • Description:

    Based on the ancient name Marcellus, drawn from Mars the god of war, Marcello -- it's pronounced mar-chell-o -- is one of the most lush and attractive Latin names.

SenecaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin surname and Native American
  • Meaning:

    "people of the standing rock"
  • Description:

    Seneca's distinguished heritage as the name of the ancient Roman philosopher-playwright who tutored Nero, and of an Iroquois tribe makes this an interesting choice for either sex.

MimiHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Mary, Miriam, and others
  • Description:

    Sweet, nicknamey name belonging to the tragic heroines of both La Bohème and Rent. Mimi might feel too slight for many parents to use on the birth certificate, but as a short form, it's one of the cutest of the cute baby names

ClaudiusHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "lame; enclosure"
  • Description:

    Claudius is one of the most user-friendly of the ancient Roman names – even though it's associated with the villainous character in Shakespeare's Hamlet. But as with feminine form Claudia, the "lame" meaning may stymie the rise of Claudius. Some etymologists theorize that the name may relate to the word for enclosure or clause, an alternate meaning that may appeal to a child with a form of this otherwise-appealing name.
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GiovannaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian, feminine variation of Giovanni
  • Description:

    Like Galilea and Livia, one of the Italian names that fashionable American parents—with or without Italian roots—have started to choose for their daughters. It has endured ups and downs since entering the popularity charts in 1991.

BorisHeart

  • Origin:

    Slavic
  • Meaning:

    "to fight"
  • Description:

    Boris is one of the old Russian names being revived by chic Europeans; it hasn't quite made a comeback yet in the U.S., but it does have potential.

GuntherHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "battle warrior"
  • Description:

    When it's spelled with two dots over the 'u' in German, Gunther is pronounced GUWN-ter, but it has a much softer sound when the 'h' is voiced by English-speakers, as it was, for example, for the name of a character in Friends.

MichaelaHeart

  • Origin:

    Feminine variation of Michael
  • Meaning:

    "who is like God"
  • Description:

    This most proper form of the name shot up the charts in the nineties, only to sink just as precipitously, supplanted by upstarts Makayla and McKayla ad infinitum.

TybaltHeart

  • Origin:

    Medieval form of Theobald "from bold people"
  • Meaning:

    "from bold people"
  • Description:

    Similar in sound to the French "Thibault", which is far more popular, Tybalt is best known as the bloodlustful and brawling cousin of Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps this connotation has kept parents from using Tybalt. However, given the recent fad for all things Theo, Tybalt might offer a familiar yet unusual option for parents who like the meaning but want to swim against the current. Cute nicknames Ty and Tibby might also appeal.
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ElettraHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian variation of Latin Electra
  • Meaning:

    "shining, bright"
  • Description:

    Less electric and melodratic, more serene, than ELECTRA

FiorelloHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian
  • Meaning:

    "little flower"
  • Description:

    Fiorello is one of the few floral names that works well for a boy. The colorful three-term World War II New York Mayor La Guardia made this one famous -- in fact he was nicknamed "the Little Flower". His life was the basis for the 1959 musical called, appropriately, "Fiorello!"

GildaHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "covered with gold"
  • Description:

    Gilda, although related to the words gold and gilded, has definitely tarnished. It once shimmered with the seductive image of Rita Hayworth in the torrid film Gilda, then was associated with the beloved early Saturday Night Live star Gilda Radner. In opera, Gilda lives on as the name of the daughter of Rigoletto.

SilvioHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese form of Silvius
  • Meaning:

    "wood, forest"
  • Description:

    Shiny and sylvan choice.

SilvanoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian form of Silvanus
  • Meaning:

    "wood, forest"
  • Description:

    Silvanus was the Roman god of the forests and is also an alternate name in the New Testament for Silas. Relatives include Silvio, Silvius, and Sylvia.
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AndresHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish form of Andrew
  • Description:

    The Spanish form of Andrew is popular enough in the US to rank near the Top 200. Andres has a global feel that could travel well anywhere.

RamiroHeart

  • Origin:

    Portuguese
  • Meaning:

    "great judge"
  • Description:

    Familiar as a Latin surname but has potential as a first.

BasilioHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian and Spanish variation of Basil, Greek
  • Meaning:

    "regal"
  • Description:

    A rare and romantic take on Basil.

OttavioHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian variation of Octavius
  • Description:

    Spirited and seductive Italiano.
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PaminaHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian
  • Meaning:

    "little honey"
  • Description:

    This operatic Italian name -- it appears in Mozart's "The Magic Flute" -- is a more unusual route to the nickname Pam/Pammy.

BeverlyHeart

  • Origin:

    English surname
  • Meaning:

    "beaver stream"
  • Description:

    An English surname name which was originally used as a masculine first name in the 19th century, before becoming more popular for girls from the early 20th century onwards.

MarcellinaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "warlike"
  • Description:

    Marcellina is one feminine form of the names derived from the ancient Roman Marcellus. There was a Saint Marcellina who was a 4th century virgin and the only sister of Saint Ambrose.

MusettaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "little muse"
  • Description:

    A musette is both a dance and an antique instrument, but the name is most associated with the classic opera La Bohème.
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BelloHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian
  • Meaning:

    "handsome, beautiful"
  • Description:

    Bello is as handsome as Bella is beautiful, but rarely heard outside the Italian community. With its energetic 'o' ending, it could be ripe for export.

NeddaHeart

  • Origin:

    Slavic
  • Meaning:

    "born on Sunday"
  • Description:

    Midcentury macramé-maker.
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TatyanaHeart

  • Origin:

    Spelling variation of Tatiana
  • Description:

    Tatyana, an alternate spelling of the lovely Tatiana, definitely has its followers.

TonioHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Antonio
  • Description:

    This short form of Antonio has long been used as an independent name, and would make a strong, slightly exotic choice.

NardoHeart

  • Origin:

    Spanish, diminutive of Bernardo
  • Description:

    Possible "nerd" temptation for nicknamers makes Nando a preferable choice.
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