(This article was originally published in 2006.)
It’s not unusual for celebrities to pick exotic or seldom-used names for their children (recent noteworthy examples are Suri Cruise and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt). Why? Many celebrities think of themselves as trendsetters. When they select names that are not on the list of most popular names, their unusual choices often call attention to either their perspicacity (as was the case with Grier, Brooke Shields’ daughter) or their foolishness (as was the case with Moxie Crime Fighter, Penn Jillette’s daughter).
What is unusual, though, is a celebrity couple selecting a popular name for their daughter. That’s what happened when Matt Damon and his wife Luciana Barroso named their daughter Isabella—the #7 most popular name in the country. It’s as though Matt and Luciana scanned the ten most popular girls’ names and picked the one they liked the best (which is what many non-celebrity parents do).
Ordinarily, I’m wary about picking extremely popular names because when the child goes to daycare or kindergarten, there’s the risk that several children in his or her class will have the same name, but Isabella has become increasingly popular in recent years (moving up from #19 in 2000) for a number of very good reasons: First, it’s a very beautiful name with four syllables that sound musical when you say them out loud. Second, it’s an Italian form of Isabel, which means “consecrated to God,” so it has a strong, serious religious significance. Lastly, it has historical significance: Queen Isabella I of Castile gave Christopher Columbus the ships he used to make his ocean voyages. Most people don’t know that Isabella is a Spanish form of Elizabeth, another royal name.
As you can see, Isabella is a beautiful name with both royal and religious overtones, so it’s not hard to understand why it’s already the #7 name in the U.S., and may rise higher next year. Nor is it hard to understand why Matt Damon and Luciana Barroso fell in love with the name and selected it for their daughter.
© 2006 Bruce Lansky
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