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Girls’ Names: 8 great ones under the radar

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The other day we offered eight fresh choices for boys, and now it’s the girls’ turn—girls’ names ranging from a rare botanical specimen to a nostalgic nickname to an undercrowded place name.

1–Acacia—This a a pretty and delicate botanical name that has hardly been heard in this country, though it ranked as high as Number 273 among girls’ names in Australia, where the Acacia is a common flowering shrub, in 2008.  Acacia has a heritage that dates back to ancient Egyptian mythology, in which it was considered the tree of life due to the belief that the first gods were born under a sacred Acacia tree.  There is also an eponymous fantasy novel, Acacia. Caveat: just don’t think about the other name of the Acacia tree—the Golden Wattle.

2–AmabelNot to be confused with Annabel (though it well might be), the lovely Amabel has been around since medieval times, and has appeared in a number of British novels, including Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death, and heard as well as among the English aristocracy.  Amabel gave birth to the shortened form Mabel, which has a much brasher image, and we think a name that means lovable, deserves more love than it’s gotten.

3–FabiolaAn Italian name hardly heard on these shores, Fabiola has an admirable heritage attached to the sainted fifth century Roman widow who founded the first Western hospital, in which she attended the sick pilgrims who flocked to Rome.  A rhythmic name with a beginning that ties it to the present love of word names like Fable and Story and an ending that could lead to some creative nicknaming.  Bonus: Fabiana and Fabienne are other fab Fab choices.

4– FenellaThere’s Finella and Fionnuala and Finola, and Fiona, (all of which mean ‘white shoulder’), but the one we’re suggesting here is the unusual but accessible Fenella, which is the Scottish form.  Fenella became well known in Britain via the character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Peverel of the Peak, but she has yet to be discovered here.  Fenella carries a whiff of the licoricey scent of fennel– and there are all those ‘ella’ nicknames at her disposal.

5– FlorrieIf you’re looking for a charming but forgotten nickname name, here’s one that hasn’t been around since 1913—it was actually in the US Top 600 in the 1890s, and especially well used in ScotlandFlorrie has a lot going for it—it’s floral and furry and was the kind of name used for baby dolls at the turn of the last century. The English singer who goes by the single name Florrie was born Florence Arnold. As a pet name of both Florence and Flora, Florrie beats Flo, and as a nickname name so old it sounds new, it beats Laurie. Bonus: Flossie is Florrie’s Bobbsey Twins’ name-cousin—though there is that possibility of “Don’t forget to floss, Flossie.”

6–Rhonwen Though Irish names have long been popular in America, Welsh names are just beginning to be noticed and we see them as a wave of the future.   In medieval Welsh poetry, Rhonwen is called “the Mother of the English Nation,”  and Rhonwen Baganes was a heroine of Welsh folklore.  A soft and gentle name, Rhonwen’s meaning—slender and fair–evokes the image of a lovely, light-haired girl.  Other appealing ‘wen’ choices include Aelwen, Arianwen, Branwen, Bronwen. Gwendolen, Olwen and Tanwen. Just don’t be tempted to change the ‘wen’ to ‘wyn’, which would transform it into a male name.

7–SaskiaArt aficionados will recognize this name as the frequently-painted attractive young wife of Rembrandt.  Though it has the Russian feel of the more common Sasha, Saskia is a Dutch name of unknown derivation.  And while it is fairly well used among girls’ names in the UK—as in the actress Saskia Reeves, who is the daughter of a Dutch mother—Saskia has never reached the Top 1000 in the US.  We think it has a rich, warm and friendly ethnic appeal and is worth thinking about.

8–Venice—A beautiful city and a lovely name, Venice is for the most part an unexplored location appellation.  It calls to mind both the magnificent città on the Adriatic, but also California’s Venice Beach, hip home to celebs ranging from Julia Roberts to the creators of South Park. Bonus: Venetia and Venezia are two other gorgeous Venetians.

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