By Abby Sandel
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 French – Lanier brings to mind nickname Laney. Laney was originally short for Elaine, but Lainer seems like a very twenty-first century alternative.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?