This week is ‘Sneak Peek Week’ at Nook of Names. Each day, I shall be previewing the entry or entries for the names of five friends who first ‘put their hands up’ when I announced it on Facebook.
So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Estelle. It’s a good name to start with, as it demonstrates very well how one entry often leads to another — a name in capitals indicates that name has an entry of its own. And Estelle leads us on a journey that takes us to Rome and beyond…
A French name. It may be from an old form of French: étoile ‘star’ < STELLA. A comparative development of how the word étoile arose from stella can be seen in the development of Étienne from Stephen. However, another plausible option is that Estelle developed as a variant of ESTHER. The -er ending sits awkwardly in French, and the linguistics involved in a shift to -elle in French are slight. Certainly, the resemblance to the Latin stella, if not an archaic form of étoile (no coincidence, as stella and Esther are probably cognate anyway), may have encouraged the development. The name was rare in France before the 19th Century, being found only in Les Charentes and Provence – another hint that its origins lie in Esther; Provence was where Isabella developed from Elizabeth. Although it had become more widespread by the 2nd half of the 19th Century, Estelle’s use in France still largely postdates the publication of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1860-61), the heroine of which is Estella – which naturally became Estelle in the French version. Bearers: Estelle Masterson, a (shrewish mortal) character in the US film I Married a Witch (1942).
Latin: stella ‘star’. Stella was used by Sir Philip Sidney in his Astrophel and Stella (1591). Stella Maris meaning ‘star of the sea’ is now considered a title of the Virgin Mary, but it is likely that the title was originally bestowed upon the Goddess Isis. 17th Century. Bearers: Stella Mayfair, a character in Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches series (1990-94).
In The Bible, Esther was the name given to Hadassah when she entered the harem of King Ahaseurus. It is widely believed to have derived from the Old Persian stāra ‘star’. However, it may actually be from ISHTAR. Esthêr was the Greek form used in The Bible; the Latin forms were Esthera and Hestera, with Esther deriving from the former and HESTER from the latter. Both came into use in the 16th Century and quickly became confused with EASTER and each other. Variant: Esta (modern). Diminutive: ESSIE. Czech, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Portuguese: Ester, Finnish: Esteri, Dutch, French, German, Spanish: Esther, Hungarian: Eszter; Eszti (diminutive). Bearers: Esther Vanhomrigh (c.1688-1723), probably the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s VANESSA; Esther Forbes (1891-1967), the US writer among whose works was A Mirror for Witches (1928) about the Salem Witch trials. Esther (1689) is a play by Racine.
As you can see, Estelle’s journey doesn’t end with Stella and Esther – but that’s quite enough for today .