About Names: ‘Days of Our Lives,’ ‘Twilight’ helped Isabella regain its crown

Isabella Rossellini at Cannes in 2015

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his June 18th column, he looks at the history of the name Isabella.

Occitan is a Romance language spoken in southern France. In medieval times, Elisabel appeared there as a variation of the biblical name Elizabeth. Though linguists explain that “th” or “t” don’t normally end Occitan words, that “bèl” means “beautiful” in Occitan surely helped. Elisabel shortened to Isabel, which quickly became the normal form of Elizabeth in Spanish and Portuguese. Isabel spread to northern France, and was introduced into England by the Normans.

Isabel was hugely popular in medieval England because of three queen consorts. Isabella of Angoulême (1186-1246) was wife of King John and mother of Henry III. Isabella of France (1295-1358) was Edward II’s wife and regent for her son Edward III. Isabella of Valois (1389-1409) was the child bride of Richard II.

The hit book series about high school student Isabella “Bella” Swan and sparkly vampire Edward appeared in 2005. Author Stephenie Meyer, who has only sons, gave her character the name she was saving for a future daughter. The first “Twilight” film, starring Kristen Stewart as Bella, premiered November 2008. In 2009, over 25,000 Isabellas were born, ranking the name No. 1.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Isabellas in history!