By Linda Rosenkrantz
T names for girls is a category that has hardly been heard from since the days of Terry, Tammy, Tracy, Tori and Toni. As a matter of fact, there is only one T girl in the current Top 100 list, and that’s (the fading) Taylor at Number 76.
But there are some wonderful, offbeat, choices starting with this letter, and here is a baker’s dozen of the best.
This shortened form of Thomasina is occasionally heard in the UK, but rarely in the US—only American 22 girls were named Thomasina in 2015, though its meaning of ‘twin’ makes it a natural for a multiple. In Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native, heroine Thomasin Yeobright is known as Tamsin, a name that was given to their daughter by Sir Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright. Currently Tamsin Grieg plays the witty British screenwriter on Episodes. Not on the US Top 1000, but well liked on Nameberry at Number 257. And no, you don’t have to nickname her Tammy.
Short and sleek, Teal is an underused color name–it’s a dark turquoise—that gets its name from the uniquely colored stripe on the head of the Teal, a small freshwater duck. The name of a Native American woman character in A.B. Guthrie’s The Big Sky, Teal would make an intriguing middle name choice.
As Saoirse Ronan says of her own name, it rhymes with inertia. Meaning ‘third’, Tertia was given to a third-born child in ancient Roman families—a practice that could be revived in the here and now. Even more unusual is the Italian and German version, Terzia.
A lovely Greek mythological name redolent of the sea: Thalassa was the primeval spirit of the sea, depicted in art wearing bands of seaweed. In 1991, a newly discovered moon of the planet Neptune was christened Thalassa.
Another name plucked from Greek mythology—this one more familiar, and meaning ‘to flourish’ —Thalia was the joyous muse of comedy and pastoral poetry, a daughter of Zeus. She is ranked Number 792 in the US (entering the list in 1992 and peaking in ’93, influenced by the Mexican actress and singer known solely as Thalia), 360 in France and 318 on Nameberry. In the Percy Jackson series, a main character is named Thalia Grace. The related Hebrew name Talia is far more widely used.
The charming Theodora has not been heard from much since 1954, after which such feminizations went out of style, but now that all things Theo/Thea are trending, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from her. Theodora may no longer appear on the US Top 1000, but it does rank at Number 319 on Nameberry, and has made a return in England. It was the name of several saints and of the beautiful and powerful wife of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Keith Richards named his daughter Theodora back in 1985. Prime asset: a menu of tasty nicknames.
For a long time I’ve been hoping to meet a Thisbe, who might use Bee as her nickname—it’s a name with such terrific, whimsical style. She is best known for her role as co-star of the classic tragic love story, Pyramus and Thisbe (the basis for Romeo and Juliet), which appears in the play-within-the-play is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the Sarah Dessen novel Along for the Ride, baby Thisbe is nicknamed Isby.
Thomasina is another girl version of a boy name but, unlike Theodora, it has ranked in the Top 1000 only once—in 1937. Maybe that’s because a lot of her literary history is in animal form, such as Beatrix Potter’s Thomasina Tittlemouse and a couple of feline appearances. More substantial is the character Thomaina Coverly in the Tom Stoppard play Arcadia. But with so many girls with boyish names and nicknames like Charlie and Frankie and Sam, perhaps we’ll start seeing some Tommys.
One of the least frequently heard of the –ora girls, Thora was at one time right up there with Dora and Cora and Flora—the other Floradora girls, in the 600s in the 1890s. Thora is the female version of Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning. Most modern parents will have heard of it via actress Thora Birch, who broke through in the movie American Beauty in 1999.
An adorable nickname for Matilda, Tillie had a long independent run on the popularity list—from at least 1900 to1923, peaking in 1913. It has made a comeback in the UK, where it was Number 383 a couple of years ago; and alternate spelling Tilly has reached the Top 100 there. Tillie, like sister name Millie, is one of the frilliest of the old Victorian valentine nickname names, combined with a dash of sass. Tillie Olsen is a feminist favorite author, best known for her short story collection, Tell Me a Riddle.
In George du Maurier’s eponymous novel, Trilby is described as “out of the common clever, simple, humorous, brave, and kind”; unfortunately she falls under the spell of Svengali. Trilby is lively and spirited, and is also the name of a hipster hat. Trivia tidbit: the Florida town of Trilby was named for the du Maurier novel.
This old Beatrix nickname has a wonderful high-stepping showgirl air, and was the protagonist of a very popular mid-century girl detective series, Trixie (born Beatrix) Belden, whereas the long-suffering Trixie Norton on the classic TV The Honeymooners was christened Thelma.
Though the garden of exotic flower names (eg Zinnia, Azalea, Camelia) has continued to expand, Tulip is one that has yet to blossom, perhaps because of that iffy final P sound or the lack of obvious nicknames (Tutu??). It would make a highly distinctive choice though—decades ago Tiny Tim used it for his daughter and more recently Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell made it a middle name for one of their twin girls. Tulip might just be waiting for a Jamie Oliver pick.