Sunday, June 29, 2014

Adelaide vs Adeline

Both Adelaide and Adeline are beautiful, classic sounding names that have been gaining popularity for the past decade in the U.S. While both quite similar looking, they are also distinct enough that it's very possible they would both appear on many people's lists. So how do you choose if you are partial to both? Well, hopefully today's Name Battle will help you do just that!

Before I go into these names in depth, I'm going to add a disclaimer here. I actually lived in the Australian city of Adelaide for six years. It was where I moved to when I left home, where I went to University, where I went clubbing and where I met my husband. Both of us still have family there, so we occasionally visit. I have some fond and sentimental memories of the city, and a few no so good ones too. But it makes it very hard for me to think of it as an "exotic" destination name. You however may feel differently.

Origin and Meaning
While some may not care about origin or meaning, for others this can make or break a name. Meanings can carry aspirations for our children, or be a way to honour someone or something we love, while origins can be a way of honouring a particular heritage or your ancestry.

Adelaide - Adelaide has quite the European heritage. She's German, originally Adalheid from the words 'adal heid', meaning 'noble kind'. She's Adelaide to the French, and you'll also see her as Adelheid for the Dutch or Adelaida for Polish.

In Adelaide's original context, noble was meant to denote that someone was highborn. When I hear of noble though, I think of the alternate definition of "exalted moral or mental character or excellence; admirable in dignity of conception, manner of expression, execution, or composition". This makes me love names with a "noble" meaning.

Adeline - Speaking of noble names, Anna at Waltzing More Than Matilda tells us that "Adel" names were abundant amongst the Frankish nobility as it emphasised that their daughters were high-born and hence made them better marriage prospects. With that in mind, you may have already guessed that Adeline comes from similar roots as Adelaide. Also German, she simply means 'noble'.

Adelaide Kane
Famous Namesakes & Associations
Let's face it, this stuff matters. If for no other reason than we understand the horrified looks we get when we tell people that we have named our new bundle of joy Adolf, Alcatraz or Jezebel.

Adelaide - For many Australians, Adelaide will always be a not-so-glamorous city. The city itself was named for a beloved queen. Queen Adelaide was a German princess who married King William IV of England. She was adored as a modest, charitable queen with a sympathetic record of several miscarriages and no surviving children. The city of Adelaide was founded during William's reign in 1836, however there are also many other towns, streets, buildings, monuments, rivers, places and even an asteroid named for her.

Many other noteworthy Adelaides can also be found in history, song and fiction. There was a Saint Adelaide, songs by Beethoven and artists Anberlin, The Old 97's and Ben Folds; the ditsy but lovable character Miss Adelaide from the musical 'Guys and Dolls'; and Madame Adelaide of Disney film 'The Aristocats'. Contemporary examples include character Captain Adelaide Brooke on 'Doctor Who', young Australian actresses Adelaide Clemens and Adelaide Kane (who plays Mary Queen of Scots in 'Reign') and daughters of celebrities Rachel Griffiths and Katherine Heigl.

Adeline - Adeline seems to be most popular in song - 'Sweet Adeline' was a barbershop quartet favourite and covered by The Seekers, and since then Weezer and Elliot Smith have also released songs with this title. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers went with 'Oh Adeline' for one of their songs instead, and Brian Wright and Kasey Chambers both simply used 'Adeline'. Green Day owns indie record label Adeline Records, and at the other end of the spectrum there's 'Ballade Pour Adeline' or 'Ballad for Adeline', an instrumental piece. 'Sweet Adeline' is also a stage musical.

Famous bearers include Virginia Woolf (who was born Adeline Virginia Stephen); Chinese-American author Adeline Yen Mah; Malaysian model and 2006 Miss Malaysia World Adeline Choo; French actress and writer Adeline Blondieau; and South African model come pop sensation Adeline Mocke. Variant spellings seem to be more popular for our screens, with Bailey Noble playing an Adilyn currently on 'True Blood'; Claire Coffee Adalind on 'Grimm' and Blake Lively due to appear as Adaline in the upcoming 'The Age of Adeline'. And let's not forget those celebrity babies - Simon Helberg's Adeline was born in 2012.

Pronunciation & Nicknames
Some people fall in love with a name for it's nicknames. Others aren't too fussed. But if it matters to you....

Adelaide - Pronounced AD-a-layd, immediate nicknames that spring to mind are Addy or Ada. Then there's Aidy (I like this one), Dell, Della, Ads, Lady, Adele, Ley, Lainey, Leia, Elle or Ellie. Most of the ex-Adelaidians I know living in Melbourne tend to refer to Adelaide as "Radelaide" - it's an inside joke because while Adelaide is a very nice city, it's not exactly exciting or "rad". But I mention it because Rad, Rads or Radelaide would make for a pretty cool nicknames for a spunky little girl.

Adeline - Adeline has a few different pronunciations, which tends to explain why there are so many spelling variants as parents try to make it clearer which pronunciation they are aiming for. The French pronounce it a-de-LEEN, while English speakers will say ADD-a-line (rhymes with fine) or ADD-a-lyn. Nicknames are almost exactly the same as one would use for Adelaide, although Lin, Linny and Lina are extra possibilities depending on which pronunciation you use.


Graph courtesy of
Our Baby Namer
Some want a name that is popular because it means it is familiar and well liked, others prefer a name that is
rare and will make their child stand out in a crowd.

Adelaide - Adelaide is well recognised but not super popular. She's never been in the top 100 in Australia, but has gotten close in a couple of states in recent years. She has started dropping again though, possibly due to false concerns that she was getting a little "too" popular. In the U.S, more babies than ever before were named Adelaide in 2013 - 1007 to be exact - which still puts her at #321. She's been slowly rising for the past decade and could continue to climb higher.

Adeline - Adelaide and Adeline have followed very similar popularity patterns in the U.S, although Adeline has consistently been the more popular of the two. She was a top 200 name at the start of the 20th century but dropped out of the top 1000 in 1954, returning in 1999. It has followed a similar path in Australia. It's hard to gauge her true popularity with so many variant spellings around now, although Kelli Brady estimates her popularity to me more like #34 (not #232) in 2013 when alternate spellings are combined.

Feel & Impressions
These are the things that often attract us most strongly to a name, whether consciously of unconsciously. What feelings does it evoke for you? What characteristics or traits do you envision someone with this name having? And do you like those things?

Adelaide - Of the comments I've read about the name Adelaide, overwhelmingly the most common impression is that it's an elegant name. It's also described as classic, regal, beautiful, feminine, delicate, graceful and timeless. I'd like to add spunky to that list.

People who don't like it tend to say it feels fussy, fusty, clunky and old lady-ish. They don't like that it has "laid" in it, or that it reminds them of lemonade, Gatorade and Powerade.

Adeline - Pronunciation is a major factor here, as the most common complaint seems to be that it sounds like "add a line". Why not just use Madeline, people say. Of course, this is avoided if you're using the a-de-LEEN or ADD-a-lyn pronunciations. It also explains why most of the spelling variants seem to be aimed at emphasising the latter pronunciation - Adalynn, Adalyn and Addilyn are all more popular than Adeline is. However for that sweet, classic and old fashioned charm it's hard to go past Adeline.

Having lived in Adelaide I have quite a soft spot for this name, but feel like it would be a little too dorky for me to feel comfortable using it as a name. I say dorky because Melbournites generally consider Adelaide (the city) to be a bit quaint and behind the times. Maybe I's use it as a middle, due to the meaning it has as the city where I met my husband. Adeline though.....

Objectively, I like Adeline as a name - it's pretty, a little bit different and sweetly charming, but it's just not quite my style. For me it lacks a little of the spunk and flair that I feel Adelaide has. I'd probably go with one of the many other "Adel" names out there so I could have a name with the 'noble' meaning that I love but that also has spunk and flair, vintage charm and a less direct association with the city.  Maybe Adelaine or Adelais. Just thinking out loud here ☺

How about you - what arguments would you add, and which (if either) would you be more likely to choose?


  1. Thanks for the article! Just what I was looking for! We just found out we're having a baby girl, and Adeline (a-de-LINE) was top of our list, although a friend (not super close, but still) just named their baby that about a year ago, making it off limits for us. I love Adelaide, but am slightly concerned with the 'laid' and connotations to Gatorade, lemonade, etc. and also the city in Oz. In the US, people with city names are rarely really linked to those cities, if at all, so maybe it's not a big deal. So Adelaide is still top of my list. I was also thinking of Adelaine, as it's beautiful, and ends with the 'n' sound like my two sons' names, but wonder if it feels too made up? Anyway, thanks for the great article!

  2. I greatly prefer Adelaide - I would be bothered by all those variant spellings and even variant pronunciations of Adeline. To me, Adelaide seems more dignified, more exclusive, and much more substantial.

    It's true that Adelaide isn't a glamorous city, but it's a very pleasant one, and the queen it was named after wasn't glamorous either - but she was a good person, and very much loved.

    Besides, Paris and Miami are glamorous cities, and quite down-market as names!

    PS The preview says I am "Anonymous" - it's Anna from waltzingmorethanmatilda.

  3. Love, love, love Adelaide!! I adore the 'aide' sounding and I honestly just think Adeline is a little boring, still beautiful though!

  4. I love, love, love the name Adelaide! Rightfully so, as it is what we named our first born. We had the name picked out before we were even expecting. I love how the name rolls off the tongue. It is very sophisticated, without being too traditional. I am a huge fan of names that aren't completely uncommon, but for the most part under-used. The one con I always hear is that it sounds like the name of an old lady, but I personally believe it is one of those names that a young child and an older adult can bear. I love how a person has several options for nicknames. Will be interesting to see if it gains popularity over the upcoming years.

    1. I hate seeing people call it an old lady name. I named my daughter Adelaide too and I agree with everything you said. It's adorable for a little girl and sophisticated for an adult.

  5. I named my daughter Adelaide.She's only 4 months old. I researched so many names and it was the only one I really liked. It's not common where I live and most people ask me to repeat it then ask how I came up with it. I like that it's different, I love what it means, and I really love that it means the same as my husband's name (Albert) I didn't really look too much into the popularity until I saw Reign just recently. I like that it's not too popular. My brother already calls her koolaid, but if that's the worst l teasing she gets I think she'll be just fine. I love the way it sounds, and it's really a beautiful name to write in cursive. Yes I know that's weird, but I would write her name so many times.

    1. Hi, I'm a little late to the party but here goes anyway: my name is Adelaide, I grew up hating my name because people could never say it right. But I'm absolutely in love with my name now. The name does inspire respect and honor (hence its meaning I suppose). I have earned respect from people who otherwise don't respect my peers at all, but once I say my name - people's tones change - a confidence boost on its own. An old pal used to call me Queen, he didn't know what my name means by the way because later on he asked about the meaning. Anyway on asking him why he called me "Queen" he said there was just something regal about me. A few respected people have said they are always scared of saying the wrong thing to me, I'm not the kind of person anyone can just walk up to and speak nonsense and risk sounding stupid, they have to think whatever they are going to say before speaking to me . It may not have anything to do with the name but if your little girl has the same experiences as me for her name - then Bravo.
      A few nicknames I've been called: Adie (most people call me that), Adele, Adilla (my dad calls me that), Dilla, Dee, Delaida
      Hope you're enjoying mini-me***smiles**

  6. I am 26 weeks pregnant right now and if I have a daughter (we are letting ti be a surprise!) her name will be Adelaide. It's always been a family name in a sense yet no one has ever actually been named that, Adele is my aunts middle name because her grandfather (my great grandpa)'s name was Adelard which is the male version of Adelaide. Anyhow I hadn't even thought of it, it wasn't even on my list until I had a dream and baby came to me in this dream adn told me that if she's a girl that is what her name will be and I just love it. I'd forgotten about it in all honestly, we even had an Adelaide Street in my home town and I always thought it was such a pretty name as a girl, I can't believe I'd forgotten it. She will probably be called Addie but yes, it's a fantastic, sophisticated name that can be soft and sweet for a little girl or sophisticated and graceful for an adult woman. it's perfect.

  7. My name is spelled Adelynne. My mom gave me that spelling. I love my name a lot.