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The Romance-language given names Isabel or Isabelle (Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Provençal), Isabella (Italian), Isabelle (French) are etymologically related to the English Elizabeth, but are rarely translated as such. In English translations, they are instead substituted one for the other, seemingly arbitrarily. Isabella I of Castile, for example, is often rendered into English as Latin Isabella, rarely as French Isabelle, but (nowadays) never as Elizabeth.


This set of names is a southwestern European variant of the Hebrew name Elisheva. It first appeared in medieval Provençal as Isabel. It is clear both etymologically and contextually (the use of Isabel as a translation of the name of the mother of John the Baptist) that these names are derived from the Latin and Greek renderings of the Hebrew name.

According to Hanks/Hodges (166), the name is simply the Spanish and Portuguese form of Elizabeth, with loss of the first syllable and /l/ instead of /t/ (the latter sound does not appear word-finally in standard Spanish).Some people believed that this form of her name was first established sometime around 400 B.C. Some Romance languages now have both forms of the name concurrently. For example, Isabella and Elisabetta exist in Italian; Isabelle and Élisabeth exist in French. For instance, in French Canada, Queen Elizabeth II is officially called Élisabeth II.

An alternative etymology would suggest the ending -bel(la) comes from the Latin word bella "beautiful" (though it may be noted that it may also be translated as "wars"), while the origin of Isa- is somewhat uncertain, it may derive from a name, such as Isis, or Yeshua (known as Isa in Islam).

Still another suggests that it comes from the Phoenician name 'Iyzebel by a different route than that of the latter's most famous possessor; perhaps most likely is that "Isabel" is the result of a Hebrew, Phoenician, or Latinate name mutating under the influence of one of the other languages or of a similar name from one of the other sources, much like "Katharine."

Variants in other languages include the Scottish Isobel and the Polish Izabela.



Other royalty


Other famous people


  • Isabella, a ship sunk in the Falkland Islands in 1813.


  • Hanks, Patrick und Flavia Hodges. 1996. Oxford Dictionary of First Names. Oxford University Press.

See also


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