In this era of boys’ or at least boyish names for girls, feminizations — classic feminine forms of male names such as Charlotte and Georgia — seem almost quaint. Why not just name your daughter Charlie….or George?
Well, there are a lot of reasons. And choosing a more traditional feminization can give you the best of all name worlds. Most are distinctly female without being frilly, have deep roots yet feel right for the contemporary world, let you honor a male ancestor without creating any confusion about the gender of his little namesake.
There are so many great feminine forms that it was difficult narrowing the list down to just a dozen. But these are our current favorites:
Antonia — Antonia is a lush and gorgeous name that has not found favor the way sisters Charlotte and Georgia have. In fact, it fell off the US Top 1000 in 2007 — which may be a very good reason to use it now. While some may find it too Old World, we think it’s lovely in its full form, not shortened to the considerably less classy Toni or Tonia.
Charlotte — The name Charlotte has gotten so much attention on Nameberry recently — it was our Number 1 girls’ name for the second year in a row and also triumphed in the Favorite Name Brackets Challenge we created with the Huffington Post — that we hate to write about it yet again, but how could we leave it off this list? It’s a name that offers so much to so many that we had to include it among our dozen best feminine forms.
Clementine — Clementine has definitively transcended its “Oh My Darlin'” associations (well, almost) to become a stylish and charming choice for modern parents. In the US, it’s pronounced with a long i while in Britain, it’s Clement–een, or Clementina, also pronounced with the long e sound as in Christina.
Georgia — Gorgeous Georgia is a current star of a name. While there’s a very real risk of overpopularity, Georgia may be worth it: It combines a soft, feminine sound with the strong, creative image of artist Georgia O’Keeffe (that’s her painting illustrating this piece).
Harriet — Fans of our books may know that two of the few names that Linda and I disagree on are Harriet and Henrietta. I love them both (and agonized over which to include here) while Linda, not so much. Even lovers of vintage names seem so far to be siding with Linda, though both offer fresh options that are familiar yet unusual — both fell off the Top 1000 half a century ago! Cute celebrity-endorsed nickname: Hattie.
Josephine — If I had six daughters (one prime name lover’s fantasy), one of them would surely be named Josephine, a lovely feminine form that pulled back from its lows in the late 1980s to reach Number 186 today. Bonus adorable nickname: Josie.
Louise — Louise or Louisa? That is the question, but while neither is on the Top 1000 (yet), we think that, after a generation of the domination of a-ending forms, Louise feels more stylish — and indeed, is chic in Paris. Lou or Lulu are perfect short forms.
Petra — While many of the names on this list lie outside the Top 1000, Petra is undoubtedly the most obscure. We’re not seeing this feminization of Peter on any baby namers’ short lists. But it’s sleek and surprising and won out for a place among our favorites over Philippa, which has been made more visible and attractive by its association with Royal Bridesmaid Pippa Middleton — except if you choose it, everyone will say, ‘Oh, like Pippa Middleton?’
Simone — While other feminizations have swung wildly in and out of style — so long, Stephanie, Michelle, Danielle, and Nicole — Simone has maintained a fairly steady middle-of-the-road pace since 1960, when French feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir gave the name visibility and glamour. For over 50 years, it’s been between Number 350 and 750 on the official US popularity list, which makes it neither trendy nor obscure, both familiar and distinctive.
Theodora — Theodora may not have cracked the Top 1000 for nearly 60 years, but it makes up for its long nap with style power. With a range of nickname possibilities, Theodora also has the cool stamp of approval from none other than Keith Richards, who gave the name to one of his daughters.
Willa — Willa, recently chosen by actress Keri Russell for her daughter, is a feminization of William that is beginning to rouse from its long slumber. This form feels sleeker and more modern than many of its feminized sisters. Author Willa Cather is a noted heroine.