Meaning: a contraction of Nicolette
The name is a contraction of the French, Nicolette, which is a feminine form of Nicolas.
As an independent given name, it has been in use since Medieval times. A notable Medieval bearer is St. Colette of Corbie (1381-1447). According to legend, St. Colette’s mother gave birth to her at the age of 60, after praying to St. Nicolas after years of infertility. The happy parents of the saint named her Nicole, in honour of St. Nicolas and she was known as Colette thereafter.
St. Colette lived a great deal of her life as an ascetic hermit, until she was inspired to join the Poor Clares, and eventually founded her own religious order known as the Colettines.
St. Colette was known for performing miracles on women who were experiencing difficult childbirths and as a result, is venerated as the patron saint of women trying to conceive, expectant mothers, and sick infants.
A more recent famous bearer was French novelist, Colette, however, in her case, Colette was her surname, her true name being Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954). Colette did go on to bestow this name on her own daughter, Colette de Juvenal (1913-1981).
And it is perhaps due to the latter illustrious figure that Colette took off in the English-speaking world. Among those of non-Frankish roots, whether in the U.K. or North America, Colette did not come into use until the 1920s. Her world famous novella, Gigi however, did not come into the spotlight until the 1940s, so there may have actually been a different source that propelled its use.
Currently, Colette is 468th most popular female name in the United States (2016). It first entered the U.S. Top 1000 in 1928. Colette peaked in 1966, ranking in as the 372nd most popular female name.
In France, the name was in the top 10 between 1934-1942. She was the 6th most popular female name in France between 1936-1937. Colette fell out of the charts in 1977 and has not been seen since.
Other forms of the name include:
- Coleta (Catalan/Spanish)
- Koleta (Czech/Polish/Slovakian)
- Collette (English)
- Coletta (Italian)