What's in a name?

The rise of Charlotte

The Clintons and the Windsors picked a name perceived as trustworthy but not playful

The baby daughters of Chelsea Clinton and Kate Middleton share more than an early dominance of tabloid news and a lifelong guarantee of fame and privilege. They also share a name: Charlotte.

In September, Chelsea and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, named their baby Charlotte; on Monday, it was announced that Prince William and Kate Middleton had decided to call their daughter Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.

Chelsea Clinton/Twitter

Chelsea Clinton/Twitter

In the U.S., “Charlotte” has been rapidly rising in popularity since the early 2000s, according to data collected by the website BabyNameWizard. It’s common around the world; in Australia and New Zealand, it’s the most popular name for girls. The rising popularity of “Charlotte” taps into two trends: a resurgence of classic or “vintage” names, like Marjorie, Millie and Dorothy, and a trend toward “double-tt” names like Emmett, Scarlett and Wyatt.

In the U.S., according to Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard and founder of the popular website BabyNameWizard.com, Charlotte first caught on in this country among southerners. She credits Sex and the City’s Charlotte York with introducing the name to the show’s coastal audiences. Today, Wattenberg calls it “a top choice of relatively affluent, educated parents across the country,” particularly in New England and the upper Midwest. “It appeals as a fresh-sounding classic because we didn’t grow up surrounded by Charlottes,” she said.

The name Charlotte is perfectly on-brand for the the William-Kate dynasty: It’s not exactly risky, but it doesn’t feel stuffy, either. “It’s a regal classic, but it’s also popular today,” Wattenberg told Women in the World in an email. Charlotte, a female version of Charles, has its origins in seventeenth-century France; other royal Charlottes include Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of Britain’s King George III from 1761 to 1818; her daughter, also called Charlotte; and Charlotte Casiraghi, a current princess of Monaco.

Studies have shown that “Charlotte” has positive connotations among the general public. In his research, Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and author of The Baby Name Report Card: Beneficial and Harmful Baby Names, asks people to make predictions about the personality of someone they’ve never met, based only on that person’s name and gender. His subjects are asked to rate the person on a 0 to 100 scale for dimensions like “ethical-caring” (how trustworthy, loyal and kind is this person?) and “popular-fun” (how playful, funny and cheerful is she?). The imaginary Charlotte ranked high on the ethical-caring scale, with a score of 97 out of 100; she scored a 56 for “popular-fun.” (Other names that did well on the ethical-caring dimension include Hope, Mary, Emily and Emma; Cindy, Cindi, Trish and Stacy came in at the top of the “popular-fun” chart.) Which makes sense: the Clintons and the Windsors are probably going to value trustworthiness over playfulness in their children.

If either baby Charlotte grows up to dislike her name, she won’t be stuck with it. Jennifer Moss, founder of BabyNames.com and author of The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book, noted that Charlottes have plenty of nicknames to choose from: “Charlie, Lottie, Lotte, Char, and Charles.”​

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