Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Isabella

Isabella is the Latin form of Isabel which developed as a medieval Provençal form of Elizabeth originally used in France, Spain and Portugal. France brought the name to England after the Norman Conquest in 1066. The name was further popularized in the early 13th century by way of Isabella of Angoulême, a young French noblewoman who was betrothed to King John of England in 1200. Another namesake was Isabella of France (daughter of King Philip IV of France). As a girl of twelve, this Isabella was also sent to England to marry King Edward II (whom she would eventually have deposed and murdered). Another illustrious medieval Isabella was the 15th century Queen of Castile and León who famously financed Christopher Columbus’ 1492 voyage to the New World. See historic references below for more information on these memorable medieval Isabellas. While the name Elizabeth has maintained widespread popularity thanks to the Biblical reference, the forms of Isabel, Isabelle and Isabella were largely popularized by European royalty in the Middle Ages. The name's root origin "Elisheba", which means "God is my oath", shows up in Exodus as the wife of Aaron (the older brother of Moses and a prophet in his own right). Separately, another Biblical Elizabeth appears in the New Testament (herself a descendant of Aaron) as the mother of John the Baptist. Through centuries of movement through various geographies, cultures and languages, Isabella is yet another derivation of Elisheba. Today, the name Isabella is hugely popular among North Americans and Europeans alike. Isabella ranks in the Top 10 of most commonly used female names today in the United States, Canada, Denmark, and Australia. It is also a favored choice among all Scandinavian countries as well as Great Britain and Ireland. Diminutives include Isa, Bella and Izzy.

All About the Baby Name – Isabella

Personality

OF THE GIRL NAME ISABELLA

The number Seven personality is deeply mystical and highly in tune with their spirituality. They operate on a different wavelength than the average joe. Spending time alone comes easily to Sevens, as it gives them time to contemplate philosophical, religious and spiritual ideas in an effort to find "real truth".  Sevens are wise, but often exude mystery as if they are tapped into something the rest of us don't understand. They love the outdoors and are fed by nature. Sevens are constantly seeking to understand human nature, our place in the universe, and the mystery of life in general. This makes them quite artistic and poetic, but they are also keen observers with high intellect - so they are equally scientific-minded. Sevens are charitable and care deeply about the human condition.

Popularity

OF THE GIRL NAME ISABELLA

The name Isabella has had an interesting ride on the trends of popularity in the United States. In the first half of the 20th century, the name had only moderate to very low popularity, and then for 40 straight years, Isabella went completely out of fashion and disappeared from the female naming charts altogether (1949-1989). Bring in the 1990's and Isabella reared her lovely head again. By the end of the decade, it surged back to the Top 100, and then by 2004 it achieved a position on the Top 10 list. For two short years (2009-2010) Isabella claimed the very heights of her glory when she reached position #1 on the charts. This is a feat reserved for only a few names, and is testament to the strength of Isabella’s appeal. Alas, in 2011, Sophia knocked Isabella off the top spot and she now reigns in second place. Still, not too shabby. The French form Isabelle is also quite popular as is the more minimalistic Isabel. Most people would agree that the four-syllable Isabella is a beautiful, royal, elegant and all around gorgeous name.

Quick Facts

ON ISABELLA

GENDER:

Girl

ORIGIN:

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

4

RANKING POPULARITY:

4

PRONUNCIATION:

iz-ә-BELL-ah

SIMPLE MEANING:

God is my oath, Sworn to God

Characteristics

OF ISABELLA

Mystical

Wise

Eccentric

Intuitive

Imaginative

Philosophical

Solitary

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Isabella

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME ISABELLA

Isabella Thorpe is a character in Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey, written about 1798/99. She is a pretty and vivacious eighteenth century version of a gold-digger – all manipulative artifice – and very attractive at it, indeed. We cannot help but like her, as she wends her way through the minefields of her society, trying to find a suitable husband, but without the advantages of money and high family connections. She befriends the rather insipid Catherine Morland and soon attaches herself to Catherine’s brother, James. Before long, she has a marriage proposal from him, but she has aimed her arrow at the wrong target – he is not a wealthy man, as she soon finds out. Not to worry – she merely turns her attentions to Frederick Tilney – who does have the dollars. Poor Isabella, she has met her match. Captain Tilney is more than responsive to her flirtations, indeed he improves upon them and seduces her, as he has done so many times before with so many other women. Ultimately, he leaves her, taking the shreds of her reputation with him, and leaving her with little hope for a suitable marriage in the future (James having reneged on the engagement due to her shocking behavior). Catherine, of course, fares quite well. Our sympathies are with Isabella – yes, we know we’re applying 21st century sensitivities to the situation, but we can’t help but like this high-spirited, hilarious little vamp, who livens up the proceedings considerably. (Check out the Masterpiece Theater’s production for a perfect Isabella Thorpe in Carey Mulligan.)

Isabella is the very virtuous and religious main character in William Shakespeare's play, Measure for Measure. This chaste young woman is about to enter a nunnery when she learns her brother, Claudio, is sentenced to death for unlawfully impregnating a woman before they were married. As a very spiritual person, Isabella does not condone the actions of her brother, yet she faces a dilemma. Devoted to her brother, she pleads for mercy, only to be asked for her chastity in exchange for her brother's life! Plans are devised and carried out, and all ends well in Measure for Measure. Yet Isabella never compromises her honor. It's no wonder Shakespeare gave his main character such a virtuous name!

Isabella Swan is the main character in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight book series, although she is called "Bella" throughout the novels. She is an average girl who moves from Arizona to a remote part of Washington state to live with her father. There, she befriends, is intrigued by, and eventually falls in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen. Strong, independent, sassy and willful, it seems everyone falls under the spell of this girl, including the warewolf/friend Jacob Black. But Bella's heart remains with Edward, and this devotion propels her to join the coven of vampires herself.

Popular Songs

ON ISABELLA

Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella
by Joan Baez

San Isabella
a song by The Great Divide

Isabella's Eyes
a song by Kenny Loggins

Famous People

NAMED ISABELLA

Isabella Rossellini (Italian Actress)

Children of Famous People

NAMED ISABELLA

Nicole Kidman; Matt Damon; Tom Cruise;

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME ISABELLA

Isabella was born into the world of nobility as the daughter of the Count of Angoulême (a region in the medieval kingdom of Aquitaine in southwest France). She had originally been betrothed to some other important French count until King John of England came a’callin’. Isabella was sent to England to marry King John at the tender age of 12, much to the chagrin of the King of France (Philip II). Isabella of Angoulême was actually King John’s second wife, his first being Isabel of Gloucester (which was annulled on the grounds of consanguinity which means, as second cousins, they were too close ancestrally to be married. The Pope only agreed to the union provided the couple never engage in sexual relations). Um, ok, so we understand that annulment. Well, John, who was now King, hit the jackpot when he snagged Isabella of Angoulême out of France. She was already well-known for her great beauty and John was apparently whipped. Isabella was also quite fertile and produced five children in all with King John (her first son would later become King Henry III of England). Her reign as queen consort was a turbulent one; under King John, England lost its duchy of Normandy and there were on-going squabbles with the English nobles, the French and the Pope. In the end, John was forced to sign the Magna Carta limiting the powers of the monarchy. He died shortly thereafter of dysentery in 1216. Queen consort Isabella, then about 28 years old, first secured the throne for her nine-year-old son Henry, established his regency, and then returned to France to tend to her own inheritance. She remarried a French count and produced another nine children, remaining in France. Her position as Countess in France wasn’t as high-flying as Queen dowager of England which bothered the vain Isabella (especially after being publically snubbed by the Queen dowager of France, mother to the then King Louis IX’s mother). Deeply insulted, Isabella embarked upon revenge, going as far as amassing other disgruntled French nobles and attempting to take out Louis IX. This plan was ultimately botched, and Isabella escaped to England where she was hidden in an Abbey until her death. Disgraced, her nine children in France jumped the channel to England where they mingled with their other half-siblings in the court of Henry III.

Isabella of France was the daughter of Philip IV, King of France. She was considered beautiful and intelligent with a great degree of charm and diplomacy. Isabella was married off to Edward II, King of England and became his queen consort in the early 14th century. Her life was turbulent in England where she spent many years jockeying for political power and support. She eventually had her husband murdered, and ruled as regent until her son, Edward III, asserted his own power. She lived out the rest of her life in wealth and style. However, she is always remembered as a "femme fatale" as she manipulated her husband throughout his reign.

Isabella was born into the world of nobility as the daughter of the Count of Angoulême (a region in the medieval kingdom of Aquitaine in southwest France). She had originally been betrothed to some other important French count until King John of England came a’callin’. Isabella was sent to England to marry King John at the tender age of 12, much to the chagrin of the King of France (Philip II). Isabella of Angoulême was actually King John’s second wife, his first being Isabel of Gloucester (which was annulled on the grounds of consanguinity which means, as second cousins, they were too close ancestrally to be married. The Pope only agreed to the union provided the couple never engage in sexual relations). Um, ok, so we understand that annulment. Well, John, who was now King, hit the jackpot when he snagged Isabella of Angoulême out of France. She was already well-known for her great beauty and John was apparently whipped. Isabella was also quite fertile and produced five children in all with King John (her first son would later become King Henry III of England). Her reign as queen consort was a turbulent one; under King John, England lost its duchy of Normandy and there were on-going squabbles with the English nobles, the French and the Pope. In the end, John was forced to sign the Magna Carta limiting the powers of the monarchy. He died shortly thereafter of dysentery in 1216. Queen consort Isabella, then about 28 years old, first secured the throne for her nine-year-old son Henry, established his regency, and then returned to France to tend to her own inheritance. She remarried a French count and produced another nine children, remaining in France. Her position as Countess in France wasn’t as high-flying as Queen dowager of England which bothered the vain Isabella (especially after being publically snubbed by the Queen dowager of France, mother to the then King Louis IX’s mother). Deeply insulted, Isabella embarked upon revenge, going as far as amassing other disgruntled French nobles and attempting to take out Louis IX. This plan was ultimately botched, and Isabella escaped to England where she was hidden in an Abbey until her death. Disgraced, her nine children in France jumped the channel to England where they mingled with their other half-siblings in the court of Henry III.

One of the darlings of the Italian Renaissance, Isabella d'Este was one remarkable lady. Above all, she was highly intelligent and very well-educated for her times. She loved books and devoured the classics in Latin and Greek. She was also a major patron of the arts during the times of Raphael, Michelangelo and da Vinci. Eventually she married the Marquis of Mantua and bore him eight children. During the time her husband was taken prisoner, she took command of Mantua and adroitly fended off invasions. Her success humiliated her husband who lamented his shame at having as a wife "a woman who is always ruled by her head." Ironically, she is most remembered for her style and fashion, but this feisty woman contributed a whole lot more!

Isabella of France was the daughter of Philip IV, King of France. She was considered beautiful and intelligent with a great degree of charm and diplomacy. Isabella was married off to Edward II, King of England and became his queen consort in the early 14th century. Her life was turbulent in England where she spent many years jockeying for political power and support. She eventually had her husband murdered, and ruled as regent until her son, Edward III, asserted his own power. She lived out the rest of her life in wealth and style. However, she is always remembered as a "femme fatale" as she manipulated her husband throughout his reign.

One of the darlings of the Italian Renaissance, Isabella d'Este was one remarkable lady. Above all, she was highly intelligent and very well-educated for her times. She loved books and devoured the classics in Latin and Greek. She was also a major patron of the arts during the times of Raphael, Michelangelo and da Vinci. Eventually she married the Marquis of Mantua and bore him eight children. During the time her husband was taken prisoner, she took command of Mantua and adroitly fended off invasions. Her success humiliated her husband who lamented his shame at having as a wife "a woman who is always ruled by her head." Ironically, she is most remembered for her style and fashion, but this feisty woman contributed a whole lot more!