History of our favorite female Disney characters

Disney Princesses are more than just fairytale maidens that sing cute songs and dance along with their cartoon friends. In fact, there are significant historical meanings for many of these characters’ names.

These meanings come from the different cultures represented in many of the cartoon animations. 

Having nearly completed my 6 week placement with Settle Stories from Leeds Trinity University, I was intrigued about story and characters, so I did a little research on the female characters found in Disney films. There are fascinating meanings behind these characters names. Here's some that interested me most.  

1 Pocahontas

The name means ''a flower between two streams'' in Matoaka. Pocahontas was the daughter of the Powhatan chief, Wahunsenaca. There are many misconceptions about Pocahontas, many of them being that she was a grown woman in the Disney movie. In reality, John Smith came to the Powhatan when she was only nine or ten years old. That isn’t even old enough for a Disney romance!

The crazy part is that she actually did not save John Smith’s life. Sorry all you Smith and Pocahontas shippers.

2 Tiana

Tiana has different meanings. One meaning is “fairy queen.” Another more suited translation of the name “Tiana” is “princess.” The origin is English.

No matter where it comes from, though, it’s still a beautiful name.

3 Ariel

The name Ariel actually has nothing to do with being a mermaid or any sort of marine life, for that matter. Ariel in Hebrew means “lion of God.” In Christian and Jewish mysticism, she is also anarchangel.

4 Jasmine

Princess Jasmine's name has the meaning “scented flower.” This makes sense because Jasmine flowers do hold a beautiful scent.

The flower grows in tropical regions and actually has medicinal benefits. If you sniff enough jasmine it will cause you to be as perky as a flower and if you sniff a crazy amount of it, it relaxes you instantly. It also helps with stomach pain and it’s a natural aphrodisiac.

Spritzing a little jasmine-scented perfume may also be of use if you are heading out on a date.

5 Belle

Belle Is short for Isabella and is French for beautiful, which makes sense since the movie takes place in France.

This name has positive connotations too, like being the “belle of the ball.” 

The name was popular in the 1930s, and became even more desired when “Beauty and The Beast” came out in the ’90s.

6 Cinderella

Poor Cinderella, it sucks to mop and sweep after your evil stepmother and sisters. What sucks even more is that her name literally means little ashes, after the ashes that she had to pick up after she cooked for her lovely stepmother.

7 Rapunzel

Rapunzel was known for her long golden hair. The true meaning of her name has nothing to do with beauty or hair, though. Unless, of course, you consider spinach or lettuce beautiful.

The name Rapunzel comes from the common name Rampion, a spinach or lettuce mostly grown in Europe and certain parts of Asia. At least spinach is a good source of B vitamins, right?

From spinach to flowers to beauty, it doesn’t matter what a woman’s name means because, in the end, they will always be princesses.


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Written by Olivia Coulthard - placement student from Leeds Trinity University.