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42 Stylish Surname Names for Girls

Move Over Madison! 42 Fresh Picks from Madigan to Winslet

By Abby Sandel

Madison has been a Top Ten choice for girls since 1997. Harper, Kennedy, and Hadley are racing up the charts.

Plenty of parents love surname names for girls.

With choices like Avery and Piper well established, it might feel like there aren’t any great new options for girls. Or maybe it seems like borrowing a favorite for boys, like Parker or Maxwell, is the only way to go.

Instead, why not consider some great, undiscovered surname names? Ones that we’re not using at all, but that have potential to wear well on a daughter.

To make this list, a name had to:

  • Shorten to a feminine nickname, share sounds with a traditional feminine name, or possibly, be strongly associated with a famous woman. Harrison and Hawkins were out.
  • Be relatively unused for boys in recent years. That ruled out Logan and Parker.
  • Be relatively unused for girls, too. Because the first wave of girls named Madison and Mackenzie is all grown – it’s time for something fresh!

It was a tough list, and plenty of names didn’t make the cut. Here are 42 great surname names for girls that do pass those tests.

Abbot, Abbott – Vintage, lady-like Abigail has been a long-time favorite. Abbott is traditionally an occupational name tied to the church. But today, it could be a surname name that leads to the familiar Abby.

Adair – A Scottish surname related to Edgar, Adair shortens to the heard-everywhere Addie, but has a bold, unexpected style.

Anniston Jennifer Aniston’s signature haircut became a sensation when she was one of the Friends, and now a different spelling of her surname seems poised to be popular, too. Less conventional than Anne, Anniston ranked Number 905 for girls in 2014.

Ashby – Part-Ashley, part-Beatrice, Ashby was the name television host Nancy O’Dell chose for her daughter in 2007.

Bellamy Isabella is a Top Ten favorite. Bellamy – it comes from the French for beautiful friend – takes Bella in a different direction. The Novogratz design family gave this name to one of their daughters.

Campbell – Cambpell Brown was born Alma Dale Campbell Brown, but the anchorwoman has put Campbell on the list of possible surname names for girls, with built-in nicknames Belle and Bella.

Catesby – Catesby isn’t very common, but the Catesbys were an aristocratic English family who appear in the history books from the Wars of the Roses to the Gunpowder Plot. It sounds like an elaboration of Kate, making this a possible successor to Kaitlyn.

Collier – A collier was one who gathered coal – a rather humble profession. In 2015, Collier feels like a twist on Colette, with the popular ‘r’ ending of Harper and Piper.

Collins – Another Colette-inspired option, Collins has caught on in a small way, thanks to the daughter in 2009 Academy Award-nominated movie The Blind Side. It currently ranks Number 838 for girls in the US.

Ellery Ellison is already racing up the girls’ Top 1000. But Ellery remains relatively rare. It’s best known as the name of fictional detective Ellery Queen – as well as the penname for the group of writers who created the character. Ellery is a cousin to the name Hillary, a name that has become well established for girls.

Ellington – If Ellison is hot, and Ellery is a possibility, how about Ellington? It shortens to Ellie, and brings with it all the creative energy of jazz legend Duke.

Embry Embry is probably another English place name, but it makes this list because of its similarity to Emme, Ember, and Emily – as well as Emery, a surname name currently ranked Number 161 for girls in the US. Embry remains rare – just 39 girls and 15 boys were given the name last year.

Flannery Harper and Hadley are surname choices with literary ties, which makes it more surprising that so few parents have embraced Flannery. The Southern Gothic writer was born Mary Flannery – shades of Nelle Harper – but best known by her middle name only.

Gibson – The Gibson Girl was the epitome of feminine grace and style in the 1890s and early 1900s. Fashion-forward, independent, and always poised, the image of the Gibson Girl was everywhere for two decades. A century later, Gibson feels like a bold choice for a girl.

Gray, Grey Fay and Kay are typically reserved for girls, while Jay is usually a boy. Bay is an equal-opportunity nature name, and Gray? With the ‘e’ spelling, it currently ranks Number 911 for boys. But if Scarlett and Ivory work for girls, Gray might, too.

Halston Halston was the fashion designer who dressed the decade of the 1970s. Today it feels vaguely retro and less flashy than Chanel. The name shortens beautifully to Hallie. Drop the H, and you have another possibility: Alston.

Hathaway If Harlow and Anniston are girls’ names, why not Hathaway? It could be a name for someone who lives near a heath, or it be derived from Germanic feminine name Hedwig. Either way, Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway lends the name some visibility. It could easily shorten to Hattie.

Haviland, Havilland – Let’s linger in Hollywood for this name, inspired by 1940s Oscar winner, Olivia de Haviland. It’s a longer, less expected choice, but it might shorten to Liv.

Holiday, Holliday – In Truman Capote’s novella, Miss Golightly is named Holiday. By the time Audrey Hepburn starred in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holiday was dropped for her nickname – Holly. Holiday also brings to mind legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday.

Hollis, Hollister – Two more Holly names, the first a surname given to those who lived near holly trees, the second most closely associated with American clothing company Hollister.

Isley, Eisele – The English Isley might come from the German Eisele, a name for a blacksmith. Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott gave this family name to her daughter in 2013, using the Eisele spelling. Isley might make for a more straightforward choice, and one that brings to mind musical group The Isley Brothers.

Kensington – Is giving your daughter the name of a palace where Will and Kate live with their two royal children too much? Kensington is also the fashionable London neighborhood around the palace, and a surname, too. If Kendall and Kennedy seem too popular, Kensington might be the name for you.

Lainier, Lanier An occupational surname for someone who traded in wool – lane or laine in Old FrenchLanier brings to mind nickname Laney. Laney was originally short for Elaine, but Lainer seems like a very twenty-first century alternative.

Linden – One of my favorites – a tree name and a tailored update to Linda, and a surname name that’s seldom heard but works beautifully in 2015.

Madigan – A cousin to Madden, this Irish surname name is most closely associated with the tragic story of Elvira Madigan. Elvira was a circus performer who fell in love with an already-married Swedish military officer. Their affair ended in tragedy, and inspired a 1967 movie. The movie featured Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, which is now known as the Elvira Madigan concerto.

Maguire Maguire could easily shorten to Maggie, making this seldom-used Irish surname name very wearable for a girl.

Maitland – Maitland sounds a little like former favorite Kaitlyn, but with the currently stylish Mae sound.

Meriwether, Merriweather – The surname was originally a nickname for someone with a sunny disposition. American explorer Meriwether Lewis lends the name some boldness. Merryweather was one of the three good fairies in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

Morrow – Marlowe and Monroe both seem likely to race up the girls’ popularity charts. So why not Morrow, a surname name, but also a poetic reference to the future?

Nealey – An Irish form of McNeely, which could mean “son of the poet,” Nealey sounds like a girls’ name. It’s livelier than vintage Nellie, but less expected than Riley.

Palmer In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet tells the cute boy she’s just met that “palm to palm is Holy Palmer’s kiss.” A Palmer was a pilgrim, one who had been to the Holy Land and returned with palm branches. It’s a romantic spin on the familiar surname.

Reeve – The youngest of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s children, Reeve was a family name honoring Anne’s older sister. It’s originally an occupational name for a bailiff. Reeve could be a successor to Reese.

Ripley Sigourney Weaver put her character’s surname on the map when Ellen Ripley first fended off a deadly alien in the 1979 sci fi hit. Thandie Newton has a daughter by the name.

Sinclair Sinclair comes from a contracted form of St. Clair, as in the saint who worked closely with Saint Francis of Assisi and founded a religious order for women based on his teachings. If Santiago is reserved for boys, why not Sinclair for girls?

Sullivan Sullivan never seemed like a feminine name to me, until someone suggested the nickname Liv. It’s still a stretch – Sullivan ranked Number 462 for boys in 2014. But it’s more original than Olivia.

Thayer Taylor was a smash hit for girls in the 1990s. Then it brought to mind Elizabeth Taylor. Now it conjures up the equally famous Taylor Swift. Thayer is a rarer form of the name, two parts Taylor and one part Thea.

Torrance, Torrence Kirsten Dunst played high school cheerleading captain Torrance Shipman in 2000’s Bring It On. Torrance is a Scottish surname and place name also spelled Torrence, and because it shortens to Tori, it seems like a natural option for a girl.

Wallis – While it’s usually spelled Wallace, Wallis is also a surname given to someone of Welsh descent. The most famous bearer of the name was born Bessie Wallis Warfield, better known as Mrs. Wallis Simpson, the American socialite for whom King Edward VIII abdicated his throne. Because of the legendary love story, Wallis is almost exclusively feminine.

Whitaker Whitney was a girls’ staple in the 1980s. Whitaker could refer to the color white or to a wheat crop, but it’s a place name with a similar sound.

Winslet – Hathaway, Harlow, Anniston. If actors can put their surnames on the list, surely Kate Winslet fits. It splits the difference with Winifred and Juliet, and shortens to Winnie.

Winslow – Speaking of Winnie, why not Winslow? It brings to mind the Eagles’ reference to Winslow, Arizona. Winslow could shorten to Winnie or Win, and feels like an alternative for Harlow and Marlowe, too.

Yardley Yardley of London is a historic London-based maker of soap, perfumes, and other toiletries. It’s named after William Yardley, one of the early owners of the company, which has operated since 1770 and holds two Royal Warrants. Megyn Fox has a daughter named Yardley.

What are your favorite surname names for girls? Are there any that should be added to this list?

 

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26 Responses to “42 Stylish Surname Names for Girls”

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mermuse Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 7:03 am

Some of these I could never see as a girl’s name because they’re so masculine to my ear. But a few are kind of pretty.

Like on a brand new two-week-old girl I know named Ellery nn Elle!

lesliemarion Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 8:15 am

I eagerly await the nameberry column titled “42 Stylish Floral Names for Boys”.

southern.maple Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 10:27 am

What an excellent list of fresh possibilities for a boy!

JulesBerry Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 11:31 am

Oofta.

aranciaincinta Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 12:00 pm

I know of a baby girl named Westlund …

I’m planning to use my grandmother’s maiden name – Hatfield – for a girl! We’d call her Hattie. Can’t decide if we would actually name her Hatfield though, or just name her Hattie in honor of Hatfield.

vito208 Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 12:08 pm

I love Sloane … Surprised that it’s not there .

ARead Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 12:32 pm

I love Isley and Catesby–so cute!

LoveBugsMama Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 12:41 pm

My kind of list! So many of these are already favorites and now I’ve discovered some new ones to love. Hopefully this won’t cause a surge in popularity for these, I love the rareness!

I do know little girls named Isley, Thayer, Torran, Madigan, Kensington, Hollis, Gray, Embry, Campbell and Anniston.

emilybk Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 12:44 pm

My daughter’s name is Cates – it was her great-grandmother’s maiden name and is also my husband’s middle name. I know a lot of people on here don’t like surname names for girls, but we live in the American South, where using family surnames as first names for girls or boys is a traditional and fairly common way to honor relatives. We gave her a classic, feminine middle name (also a family name), in case she would rather use that when she’s older, but to me she just seems like a Cates. I love her name and have never regretted choosing it, even when I’m spelling it for the millionth time.

epowell Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Ditto to emilybk. I know surnames can cause a stir for some people but in the Southern US it is VERY common to use a maiden name on a girl whether it sounds like a boy name or not. I live in TX and last names seem to be fair game for boys or girls. Girls names don’t have to be “flowery” to suit them. I know girls named Cates, Hollis, Rivers, Adair, Cambelle, Collins, Ellery, Neely…and so on. Although I do prefer Abbott, Collier, Thayer, Gray, and Reeve on boys for one reason or another although none of those names are on my list.

jpruitt76 Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 2:35 pm

A few additional ones:

Sheridan
Tierney
Tiernan
Tennyson
Adler

Howboutno Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Catesby kind of sounds like Gatsby. ❤️ that movie

samanthamwebb Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Totally agree with epowell and emilybk. I would much prefer a surname honoring a family member than an overly-frilly floral name I picked out of the air because it was on-trend that year.. I named my daughter Pryor and have gotten tons of compliments on it- it suits her well. She does have a feminine middle name, also honoring a family member. Some on this list do sound overly masculine, or names I just wouldn’t use in general, but most I like and would use for either a boy or a girl, with a more feminine or masculine middle, depending on gender. A single middle name of course- for monogramming purposes 😉

amberdaydream Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 4:07 pm

This is a good list! I love Embry in particular.

Also, there ARE flower names that would be fresh choices for boys – Aster, Mandrake, Foxglove, Sage, Quince, Liatris, Narcissus and Thyme, anyone? I would be happy to take up that challenge.

thenameprincess Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Im surprised Connelly nn Connie wasn’t on the list, I hope I’m not the only one who thinks it would work!

southern.maple Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Not sure how family surnames as first names came into the equation. Giving your daughter a random surname as her first name is NOT the same as giving her a family surname. The former has no meaning but the latter does. I’m from Alabama. I’m very familiar with family surnames as first names. That has nothing to do with “42 stylish surname names for girls.”

samanthamwebb Says:

October 29th, 2015 at 9:33 pm

I think the point was- surname names on girls are not unheard of. Some of them work fine (maybe even better) for girls, & IMO aren’t reserved for Boys only. Really depends on the name. I personally wouldn’t give a daughter OR a son a random surname with no meaning- unless it was a name that wasn’t overly “surname-ish”. I am loving the name Linden right now, has no family ties, but is high on my list and I don’t think it’s strange at all.

maggiemary Says:

October 30th, 2015 at 3:57 am

Ashby is a huge guilty pleasure of mine.

epowell Says:

October 30th, 2015 at 8:58 am

Yes, the point is that when you choose a family surname the trend is obviously going to carry on past your family over generations and it clearly has. Maybe you use a friend’s surname to honor a friend and so on and so on. Often other surnames come into play that sound the same as over used names. Ashley or Asher gets turned into Ashby, for example. Many common names started out as last names. Some people choose Cooper because it’s a family name some choose Cooper because they like the way it sounds. Why can only boys get surnames?

laurelrobyn Says:

October 30th, 2015 at 11:52 am

I really like Isley…shame it’s not on nameberry so I can’t add it to one of my lists to remember for the future! Darn. What nicknames could be possible with that name?

emilybk Says:

October 30th, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Southern.maple, I get what you’re saying – I also prefer family surname names over random ones. My original comment was more addressing the comments I often see on Nameberry from folks who think surname names for girls are generally awful, regardless of family connections. I just wanted to point out that at least in the South, surname names are traditional and not a bunch of parents trying to get on some kind of naming bandwagon. You’re from Alabama, so you definitely know already!

Samanthamwebb, I had to laugh at your monogramming comment – why do we love monograms so much in the South? I once went to a craft fair in Birmingham with my aunt, and every single booth had a monogramming machine. She bought a plain gray sweatshirt (like, one she could have bought at Target) and had it monogrammed. Monogramming is out of control down here!

nat108 Says:

October 30th, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Nameberry sure loves encouraging masculine names for girls while discouraging “soft” names for boys. Why couldn’t the title just be “Stylish Surnames”?
And it always tickles me how people claim they don’t like “filly” names so they choose male names but then still call the kid by a “frilly” nickname, like Abbott called Abby & Ellington called Ellie.

patriciatm Says:

October 30th, 2015 at 6:49 pm

Love Adair, cant believe it wasnt already on my list.
My Father-In-Law just welcomed a baby girl Isley earlier this year.

I never watched the show Dance Mom’s, but saw a clip were a girl was named Anniston after Jennifer Aniston, and it turned me on to the name Deschanel! I love Zooey but think it’s too common of a name but Deschanel I think is a great change to the name Chanel.

Chloe14 Says:

November 2nd, 2015 at 2:57 pm

I really like Ripley, Campbell and Sinclair.

In Scotland many people chose surnames as first and middle names.

Fresh Flower Names | Nombres del Mundo Says:

November 15th, 2015 at 7:02 am

[…] admit I was inspired to write this while reading the comments for Nameberry’s blog post. I couldn’t just limit myself to floral names for boys, so here is a list for both […]

cj85 Says:

April 8th, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Everyone saying these are great names for boys or that they’re too masculine: NO ONE CAAAAARRRRESSS. Go name your kid Coralie or Brielle or something. Some people don’t want everyone to be so “gendered” when it comes to naming their kids.

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