Snow White ___________________________
In the beginning of the Grimm's Tale Schneewittchen, Snow White's mother pricks her finger with a sewing needle and three drops of her blood fall onto the snow which lay on the ebony windowsill. Oddly enough, this made her long for a daughter of a similar color scheme. While this reflects the arc of the story: (white)innocence, (red)maturity & love, and (black)death, her name particularly represents a season when the world metaphorically sleeps only to be inevitably awakened with the coming of spring.
Omitted from the Disney version of the fairytale, Cinderella was actually the cruel nickname given to her by her stepsisters for sitting at the dying cinders of the fire after her long days work. Cinderella's real name is never mentioned. Cinders have a number of symbolic meanings from being merely a source of warmth and a hidden fire to represent rebirth in the story of the Firebird or Phoenix. In myth, the creature would die in the fiery blaze of its nest only to rise again reborn from the ashes signifying a rise to glory from the lowest of places.
Latin for "light" or "dawn", Aurora is her royal name given by her parents. It may be stated in the film that this was "because she filled their lives with sunshine" but its also fitting for this princess since dawn is the time when the sleeping world awakes. It's no accident that she falls asleep at dusk and awakes upon sunrise. Incidentally one may recall her "hair of sunshine gold" but her "lips that shame the red red rose" are more linked to her second name.
Briar Rose ________________________________
Briar Rose, a pseudonymn given by her fairy godmothers also has poetic meaning. The first word BRIAR, a mass of thorny plants obviously makes sense with the story's motif but a rose also has numerous conotations. Roses have represented love, beauty, virtue, femininity, and virginity hence why it is also a symbol of the Virgin Mary. But a briar rose is a thing of beauty surrounded by harsh thorny bramble -- much like Aurora herself in the castle surrounded by the forest of thorns.
Ariel's name probably has the most mysterious of origins but there are two possible sources that equally make sense. Song writers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (both of Jewish heritage) had a surprising amount of creative input in the story having named several of Ariel's sisters. This could leave reason to suspect they may have also suggested the name Ariel, Hebrew for "Lion of God". Lions are well known symbols of strength and courage.
The second possibility which actually ties into the first is the connection to the word 'ARIA'. Hebrew for "lioness". However in Italian it means "air" and is a musical term for a solo vocal piece with a light instrumental accompaniment. This probably makes the most sense considering music, and not lions, is the most obvious if not significant factor in Ariel's story.
The most straight forward of names, Belle is literally French for "beauty". Granted this makes sense since Belle's character is meant be physically attractive. However beauty is not just restricted to our visual sense but can encompass all the senses and even that of our spirit. Intended to contrast the physical ugliness of the beast, Belle's purpose in the story is ultimately to transform the beast's soul to match the beauty of her own. She is everything the beast must aspire to be.
Most people assume Jasmine is merely a reference to the jasmine flower and to a certain degree it is. Jasmine is actually indigenous to the Middle East. Known as "yasmine" to the natives, the flower is so pleasantly fragrant that the name translates to "gift from God" in Arabic. In the western world it can represent sensuality, elegance, and modesty -- a particular virtue Aladdin or Ali Ababwa must obtain to win the heart of the princess.
Pocahontas is unique being that she is the only Disney Princess whom we know actually existed. Historically she is known by three separate names. Powhattan for "little mischief", Pocahontas was actually a nickname given to her because of her precocious and playful nature. Her real name was Matoaka or "bright stream between the hills". This can easily be linked to her affinity for rivers in the film. Her third name Rebecca, which she adopted after being baptized, is Hebrew for "to bind or bring together" and this is exactly what she did for her people and the Jamestown settlers.
The story of Mulan is not a fairytale but a legend potentially based on real events of a woman named Hua Mulan which literally translates to "flower wood orchid", or the magnolia. Magnolias are a symbol of perseverance and nobility. The film makes reference to this in the scene when Mulan and her father sit beneath the magnolia tree. Her father subtly parallels his daughter to a late magnolia [mulan] blossom and how it will one day be the most beautiful of all.
Potentially derived from the Greek word 'TIANI' meaning "princess", being a popular name among African-Americans it may be fitting that the first black Disney Princess was named Tiana. However this was not her first name choice. Originally her name was Maddy but was deemed too racially insensitive. This is odd since Maddy is short for Madeline derived from Magdeline. Mary Magdeline was a friend of Jesus and only disciple strong enough to witness his crucifixion and the first to witness his resurrection -- a woman who went on a long journey and acheived a great spiritual transformation.
Also known as "rampion" or "bellflower", rapunzel is an edible plant. In the Grimm's Tale, it was specifically this plant that a poor man stole from a witch's garden to feed his pregnant wife. As punishment, the witch took the poor couple's daughter and raised her away in a tower without any doors or stairs. This plant is not only beautiful but is also noted for its ability to grow in very inhospitable soils. Rapunzel is very much like her namesake plant in that she too flourishes in beauty, kindness and curiosity despite being locked away in a cruel world. (she will also be the first Disney Princess who's main color is purple.)