Spotlight On: Sybella

The Erythraean sibyl with Christ.

The Erythraean sibyl with Christ.

American parents love anything “Bella”. Bella-names liberally appear in the top 350:

  • Isabella #2
  • Bella #60
  • Izabella #40
  • Annabella #328
  • Arabella #335

This trend may be losing steam. Most of these names went down in popularity in 2011 (the latest year name data is available). But the one exception, Arabella, rose an impressive 51 places.

Perhaps parents are looking for a fresher interpretation of this genre.

Sybella could be this fresh alternative. There were only 10 newborn girls named Sybella in 2011. The story is different in Australia where Sybella is somewhat common and happens to be the name of Nicole Kidman’s niece.

My interest in this name, like others, stems from a rock-folk song. That song is Sibella (different spelling, but similar pronunciation) by Richard Thompson. It is a passionate testament of love:

Sibella, we don’t make sense together
But my heart’s with you
Sibella, I found myself
Strangely true, strangely true

Most women want to be this woman, the Sibella in Richard Thompson’s song.

While I am always on the lookout for names that are different but not too different, and Sybella certainly fits that requirement, a name has to be more than just uncommon (in numbers) to catch my attention. Sometimes an uncommon name simply sounds common. Sybella is one of those names that sounds like it should be more common than it is. The song makes the name memorable.

The Sibella spelling from the song is an alternative spelling that is much less common than Sybella. Sibella doesn’t even appear in the Social Security data, meaning there were fewer than 5, if any, newborn girls named Sibella in 2011.

According to Behind the Name, Sybella is part of a family of names that goes back to the Greek Sibylla. The English version of Sibylla is Sibyl. Sibyl means “female prophet”. The more familiar Cassandra shares a similar meaning. Perhaps Cassandra and Sibyl (or Sybil) would make a good shared meaning sibling set.

The sibyls were 10 female prophets which appeared in Greek and Roman legends, and later in Christian theology.  The alternative spelling Sybil, which has become more common than Sibyl, goes back to the Middle Ages. A variant of Sybil is Sybella.

Sybella’s family tree almost comes full circle, with diminutives becoming shorter only to become longer again:

Sibylla – Sibyl – Sybil – Sybella

Cousins of Sybil and Sybella include Sibylle, Sibylla, Cybill, and Sibilla.

Whew. That was a long confusing trip on the etymology trail. The point is, Sybella’s connection to ancient prophets makes the name intriguing, more than just another path to Bella and Ella.

This name has a deep history, yet not a lot of exposure. There aren’t many famous people with the name, but I did find a skincare, apparel, and jewelry retailer with the name.

Sybella doesn’t have a lot of obvious teasing potential. No wonder the name is a hit in Australia. It is only a matter of time before the name gets discovered here in America.

Readers: What do you think of Sybella?

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    I prefer Sibyl.

  2. Being a Sibella, I have never met anyone else called Sibella. I love it because it’s different and unusual and it has the potential for a variety of nick names. When I was little I thought it was a bit grown up, but now it’s great! Also makes it harder for someone to steal my identity! Haha

  3. Stephanie says:

    My Daughter is named Sybella! I so so hope it doesn’t become popular! I love that her name is so unusual and everyone loves it!

  4. We named our first daughter Sybella and still love it. She is a gorgeous, confident, beautiful girl and it suits her immensely. She was named after a famous interior designer in Australia called Sibella Court but we chose to spell it with the y. We know of two other Sybella’s in Australia – so not very common at all. Thank you for your fabulous insight into the name.

    P.S. Our other two daughter’s are Eve and Olivia – very common!! However the three names work beautifully together.

  5. We named our daughter sybella. We absolutely love the name and it fits my daughter very well.

  6. My grandmother’s name was Sybella, my sister named her daughter Ebony Sybella and I know someone who named her daughter Sybella also – not very common, but by no means a rare name. (Australia)

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