Amabilis of Riom (d. 475) was a French male saint who logically would have assumed the name Amabilis upon entering the priesthood: his veneration may have resulted in Amabilis being used as both a male and female name or the name's female usage may have been initiated by the female saint Amabilis of Rouen (d. 634), the daughter of an Anglo-Saxon king who would have adopted the name Amabilis upon becoming a nun.
The vernacular French form Amable was brought by the Normans to the British Isles where both Amabel and the abbreviated Mabel were common during the Middle Ages to subsequently become obsolete apart from Mabel remaining in regular use in Ireland where it was perceived as a variant of the Celtic name Maeve.
Mabel's modern usage was subsequent to the 1853 publication of the novel The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge which featured a character – who was Irish – named Mabel Kilcoran; Yonge's novel also features a character named Amabel but her novel only boosted the popularity of the name in the form Mabel which became immensely popular in both the British Isles and the United States.
At the start of the 20th century Mabel's popularity began a slow decline which accelerated from the 1930s with the name in very light usage since the 1960s. Due to its origin as an abridgement of Amabel it has been surmised that Mabel was originally pronounced with a short A the name's pronunciation with a long A dating only from its mid-19th century revival. 
Notable people of that name include:
- Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau (born 1968), member of the Dutch royalty
- Mabel Albertson (1901–1992), American character actress
- Mabel Besant-Scott (1870–1952), British occultist
- Mabel Gardiner Hubbard (1857–1923), wife of Alexander Graham Bell
- Mabel King (1932–1999), American singer and actress
- Mabel Lee, Australian translator
- Mabel Dodge Luhan (1879–1962), American patron of the arts
- Mabel Mercer (1900–1994), American cabaret singer
- Mabel Mosquera (born 1969), Colombian weightlifter
- Mabel Normand (1892–1930), American comic actress
- Mabel Poulton (1901–1994), British actress
- Mabel Seeley (1903–1991), American mystery writer
- Mabel Stark (1889–1968), tiger trainer
- Mabel Strickland (1899–1988), Maltese journalist and politician
- Mabel Vernon (1883–1975), American suffragist
- Mabel Walker Willebrandt (1889–1963), U.S. Assistant Attorney General from 1921 to 1929 under the Warren G. Harding administration.
- Reclams Namensbuch, 1987, ISBN 3-15-007399-5
- "Saints.SQPN.com". Saints.SQPN.com. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- "Mabel on BabyNamer: Baby Names and Meanings". Babynamer.com. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- Mike Campbell. "Meaning, Origin and History of the Name Mabel". Behind the Name. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- "Mabel - Meaning of the girl name Mabel at Baby Names Pedia". Babynamespedia.com. Retrieved 2012-08-19.