By Linda Rosenkrantz
M names for girls have been going through a kind of hiatus, with only two appearances in the current Top 50—Mia and Madison. That’s a far cry from the 00s, when there were six, and the 80s, when there were seven (Misty!).
So I think we’re ripe for an M-girl uprising, simply because there are such gorgeous choices waiting in the wings! Here are 15 of the very best, including a pair of offbeat florals and some sweet vintage nicknames.
She’s a saucy, sassy diminutive of the charming Victorian Amabel, with the lovable meaning of ‘lovable’. Now ranked at Number 578 (86 on Nameberry), Mabel was a Top 20 pick at the turn of the last century. She’s a celebrity fave (Bruce Willis, Chad Lowe), has appeared on Downton Abbey, and is what the fictional Bridget Jones named her daughter.
Here’s a twofer: Maeve, a sweet mythological Irish name meaning ‘she who intoxicated ‘ that is beginning to catch on (it’s 33 on Nameberry!), and offers an opportunity to use Mae as a nickname. Mae–aka May— is a delightful old favorite that can be used on its own, as a nickname, or as a vintage middle.
Namers tiring of Daisy and Lily are looking to more exotic blooms and Magnolia is one of the most fragrant and fresh, oozing with Southern charm. Magnolia was on the popularity list from its 1880 inception through 1940, when it withered and dropped off. Nickname Maggie brings it down to earth.
This Scottish diminutive of Margaret is another perfect stand-in for Daisy. It came back into the limelight in 2014, thanks in part to Harry Potter and Rainbow Rowell characters and also by the attractive young Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams (born Margaret), who plays Arya Stark.
When Meryl (born Mary Louise) Streep gave the nickname Mamie to daughter, Mary Willa, she went a long way towards reenergizing and rescuing the name from its dated old Mamie Eisenhower image. Mamie hasn’t reentered the Social Security list yet, but it’s already on the NB Top 1000 and we predict big things for it.
She’s sleek and sophisticated and making a welcome return appearance. A French short form of Margaret, Margot is Number 52 in her native France and 592 in the US, after being in limbo for decades. Lovely Australian actress Margot Robbie, a big in The Wolf of Wall Street, has embued it with some contemporary glamour.
Pretty and perky, with a children’s fairy tale book quality, Marigold has gone from quirky to quaint, helped by its use as Lady Edith’s daughter on Downton Abbey. Though it’s never appeared on the US Top 1000 list, Marigold is now in the Nameberry Top 500.
A name redolent of the sea, currently popular in France but less frequently heard here than Marina, Marin is a major character in the video game The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Marin is unisex in parts of Europe. Also worth considering: the intriguing Maris and the Scandinavian Maret/Marit.
Though it sounds like a relatively new, comixish word name, Marvel actually has a substantial history, on the US pop list from the 1890s to 1941, sometimes reaching the Top 500. It’s recently been seen as a male character in The Hunger Games, but we can see it having a fresh beginning for girls.
A Spanish name referencing the Virgin Mary (Mary of Solitude), though also associated with the sun and the sea, Marisol is a Latin favorite, which we happen to love, with its strong rhythm and consonant ending. Marisol Gonzales, nn Flaca, is a young character on Orange is the New Black.
A sweet vintage name with a choice of irresistible nicknames, Matilda is a Top 40 name in England and Australia and moving up in the US. Assets include its tie to the charming Roald Dahl storybook heroine and earlier literary and lyrical associations, plus starbabies such as Matilda Ledger.
Another pastel-hued vintage charmer—actually a variation of Matilda—Maude was a Top 25 name at the end of the 19th century, when popularity was just beginning to be tracked, then leaving the list completely in 1950. But our Nameberries have propelled it back up to 462. A thoroughly modern Maude is the elder daughter of director Judd Apatow.
A highly-ranked name in the 1920s, this is another that has been revived by our Berries, who place it at Number 361. And there are not one but two Millicents in the Harry Potter series. Millie and Tillie (Matilda’s pet form) are two of the cutest of the nostalgic nicknames—in fact Millie on her own is Number 477 in the US, 26 in England and 10 in Scotland.
One—or two—of the loveliest substitutes for the sweepingly popular Isabel/Isabella, the medieval Mirabel is just beginning to resurface—we’ve already seen a couple on our Nameberry birth announcements. Also spelled Mirabelle (which Steve Martin used for the protagonist of his novel Shopgirl), it comes from the Latin word meaning ‘wonderful’. Singer Bryan Adams has a daughter named Mirabella Bunny.
Shimmering Shakespearean (he actually invented it) name that may have peaked in popularity in the nineties but for me retains its timeless beauty. Sex and the City/Harry Potter/Bond girl/Supergirl/and Devil Wears Prada characters, Miranda now ranks at Number 288.