This name was fairly common in France, England and the United States in the early 20th century. It became quite popular in France and England at the end of the 20th century, just when it was at a low point in the United States. It quickly climbed the American charts and entered the top ten in 2014.
After the Norman Conquest this name became common in England. It was revived in the 18th century, perhaps in part due to Matthew Prior's 1709 poem Henry and Emma . It was also used by Jane Austen for the central character, the matchmaker Emma Woodhouse, in her novel Emma (1816).
In the United States, it was third in rank in 1880 (behind only the ubiquitous Mary and Anna). It declined steadily over the next century, beginning another rise in the 1980s and eventually becoming the most popular name for girls in 2008. At this time it also experienced similar levels of popularity elsewhere, including the United Kingdom (where it began rising a decade earlier), Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia and the Netherlands.
In the United States this form was much less common than Isabel until the early 1990s, when it began rapidly rising in popularity. It reached a peak in 2009 and 2010, when it was the most popular name for girls in America, an astounding rise over only 20 years.
A famous bearer is the Italian actress Isabella Rossellini (1952-).
In medieval Arthurian legend Isolde was an Irish princess betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall. After accidentally drinking a love potion, she became the lover of his knight Tristan, which led to their tragic deaths. The story was popular during the Middle Ages and the name became relatively common in England at that time. It was rare by the 19th century, though some interest was generated by Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde (1865).
Though in use elsewhere in Europe, the name was very rare in the English-speaking world until the 19th century, when Queen Victoria began her long rule of Britain. She was named after her mother, who was of German royalty. Many geographic areas are named after the queen, including an Australian state and a Canadian city.
A famous bearer of the surname was James Madison (1751-1836), one of the authors of the American constitution who later served as president.
The popularity of the name in continental Europe was due to the fame of Charles the Great (742-814), commonly known as Charlemagne, a king of the Franks who came to rule over most of Europe. His grandfather Charles Martel had also been a noted leader of the Franks. It was subsequently the name of several Holy Roman emperors, as well as kings of France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Hungary (in various spellings). After Charlemagne, his name was adopted as a word meaning "king" in many Eastern European languages, for example Czech král, Hungarian király, Russian король (korol), and Turkish kral.
The name did not become common in Britain until the 17th century when it was borne by the Stuart king Charles I. It had been introduced into the Stuart royal family by Mary Queen of Scots, who had been raised in France.
Famous bearers of the name include naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) who revolutionized biology with his theory of evolution, novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870) who wrote such works as Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, French statesman Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), and American cartoonist Charles Schulz (1922-2000), the creator of the Peanuts comic strip.
Due to the popularity of the biblical character, the name came into use in England during the Middle Ages. Though it became rare by the 15th century, it was revived after the Protestant Reformation. Famous bearers of this name include English author Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782), and American frontiersman Daniel Boone (1734-1820).
The popularity of the saint led to the name being used by nine Byzantine emperors, including Michael VIII Palaeologus who restored the empire in the 13th century. It has been common in Western Europe since the Middle Ages, and in England since the 12th century. It has been borne (in various spellings) by rulers of Russia (spelled Михаил), Romania (Mihai), Poland (Michał), and Portugal (Miguel).
In the United States, this name rapidly gained popularity beginning in the 1930s, eventually becoming the most popular male name from 1954 to 1998. However, it was not as overwhelmingly common in the United Kingdom, where it never reached the top spot.
Famous bearers of this name include the British chemist/physicist Michael Faraday (1791-1867), musician Michael Jackson (1958-2009), and basketball player Michael Jordan (1963-).
This name has been borne by two early kings of France, two Dukes of Normandy, and three kings of Scotland, including Robert the Bruce who restored the independence of Scotland from England in the 14th century. The author Robert Browning (1812-1889) and poets Robert Burns (1759-1796) and Robert Frost (1874-1963) are famous literary bearers of this name. Other bearers include Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), the commander of the Confederate army during the American Civil War, and American actors Robert Redford (1936-), Robert De Niro (1943-) and Robert Downey Jr. (1965-).
Due to the saint's popularity, the name came into general use in medieval Europe, especially in Spain and France. It was also borne by a 16th-century king of Portugal who died in a crusade against Morocco.