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Bright New Surname Names for Girls

August 20, 2020 Sophie Kihm
surname names for girls

Surname names for girls are as established as popular favorites Harper, Madison, and Avery, but what about the new choices in this stylish class?

If you love the gender neutral feel and classy image of surname names for girls but want to move beyond the expected choices, we have some new ideas for you. 

Adair — A Scottish surname related to Edgar, Adair shortens to the heard-everywhere Addie, but has a bold, unexpected style. Still rare as a first name, 17 of the 39 babies named Adair in 2018 were girls.

Adler — Adler has been growing in popularity as a unisex surname-name, and interestingly 11 percent of the babies with this German and Yiddish surname meaning eagle are girls. That may be thanks to the growing popularity of Adley, which is overwhelmingly female. But Adler is a surnamier spin that also gets you to the cute if, ahem, pandemic short form Addie.

AndersonAnderson Cooper undeniably inspired the name many of the 1000+ baby boys named Anderson, and we’re going to bet he inspired many of the nearly 80 baby girls too. While this name technically means son of Anders and so refers to a boy, it can be used as an honor name for any ancestral Andrew or Andrea.

Anniston — Why are there so many more baby girls named Anniston and even Annistyn than Aniston, the spelling of actress Jennifer‘s surname that launched the popularity of this surname-name? Maybe to remove the name at least by a letter or two from Jennifer, and also Ann might make it seem more like a legitimate first name. Interestingly, this choice is not at all unisex, with no boys given any variations of this name.

Arden  Arden is an increasingly popular surname-name for both sexes, hovering at the bottom of the Top 1000 for girls but also given a third of the time to boys. A Shakespearean name that gets some heat from its similarity to “ardent,” Arden means “valley of the eagle” so could be a good choice for bird lovers.

Ashby — Part-Ashley, part-Beatrice, Ashby was the name television host Nancy O’Dell chose for her daughter in 2007. Ashby was given to 14 baby girls and 20 boys in 2018.

Auden — The surname of renowned poet W.H., Auden is a rising name for boy genders, with nearly 40% of the baby Audens girls. Auden actually started life as a first name meaning “old friend.”

BakerBaker is a rising baby name now in the Top 1000 for boys, but about 10 percent of the baby Bakers are girls and we could see that increase given the baking craze of these months in lockdown.

BanksHilary Duff may single-handedly populate this surname name for girls, after choosing it for her baby daughter in 2019. Originally referring to a riverbank, these days Banks is more likely to conjure up the image of money. Banks is the surname of the family in Mary Poppins.

Banner — 2020 has hardly been a banner year, at least in the positive sense, but Banner is growing as a baby name, still rare but used about 15% of the time for girls. Found mainly in Scotland, it’s an occupational name referring to the person who carried the flag or banner.

Baylor — The occupational surname Baylor, which has to do with measuring sticks, is in the Top 1000 for boys but is rising for girls too, perhaps thanks to its similarity to Taylor. More than a third of the baby Baylors are girls.

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. Now ranking at the bottom of the Top 1000 for girls, Bellamy is also used more than a third of the time for boys.

Bowie — Singer David‘s death has sparked a new generation of baby Bowies, more than a third of them female. It’s a cute name with resonant history for a music lover.

Braxley, Braxton, and Braxtyn — Taken individually, the Brax names may be rare — with the notable exception of Braxton for boys — but collectively they are numerous. While much more popular for boys, these three choices are growing for girls.

BrennanBrennan is a Top 1000 surname-name for boys, but we’re seeing it start to appear for girls as well, along with the more synthetic feeling Brenley, Brennley, Brenlyn, and even Brennex.

BroganBrody is overwhelmingly male, but Brogan is 20% female and not quite as uncommon as you might think. Brogan originated as a personal name — it’s the name of an Irish saint and an ancient king. It has several possible meanings, among them sorrowful, sharp-faced, and shoe.

CallahanCallahan is one of the rising Irish surname-names, predominantly for boys but for girls too, with 35 of the 232 baby Callahans born in 2018 female and another five baby girls named Callaghan. We’re also seeing Callan, Callaway, and Calloway, any of which could get you to the nickname Callie.

Campbell Campbell 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. Campbell is among the most gender-neutral surname-names for girls, currently 56% female.

Carlisle, Carlyle — Both spellings of this name are uncommon and used more for boys, but they’re growing for girls now too. Popularized by a (male) character in Twilight, Carlyle and Carlisle are successors to Carter.

Carrington — There’s definitely a quiet but growing trend toward locational surnames with the ton ending (meaning town) for both girls and boys. We’re seeing Arlington, Arrington, Lexington, and of course, Carrington, which is more than two-thirds female.

Channing — The most famous Channing may be male, but a third of the baby Channings are girls. This name is growing for both genders. One possible meaning: wolf cub. It made the Top 1000 for girls for a single year, 1987 — the year after actress Stockard Channing appeared in the film Heartburn.

Chesney — The most famous Chesney is country singer Kenny, but this rising surname-name is 87% female. It’s also inspired the unmistakably feminine spelling Chesnee. Chesney was derived from the Old French chesnai, meaning “oak grove.”

Clarke — Streamlined Clark is almost exclusively male, while female Clarkes outnumber males by 2:1. And while Clark has plateaued for boys, Clarke is climbing rapidly for girls — over the past five years, it has more than tripled in use.

Collier — A collier was one who gathered coal — a rather humble profession. In 2020, Collier feels like a twist on Colette, with the popular ‘r’ ending of Harper and Piper. 27% of the baby Colliers born in 2018 are girls.

Copeland — An English surname meaning “bought land,” Copeland calls to mind esteemed ballet dancer Misty Copeland, which perhaps contributes to its rising popularity among baby girls. Out of the 100 babies named Copeland in 2018, 29 were female.

Dempsey — Jaunty Irish Dempsey may be mostly associated with Grey Anatomy’s McDreamy, Patrick Dempsey, but it is given to girls almost one-third of the time. Dempsey could prove to be the next Delaney.

Ellery Ellison has already broken into 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 Ellington has been heating up over the past few years, thanks to the one-two punch of a trendy -ton ending and ready-made nickname Ellie. The latter contributes to Ellington’s popularity among baby girls — over 70% of Ellingtons born in 2018 were female.

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 92 for girls in the US. Embry remains rare — just 65 girls and 7 boys were given the name in the last year on record.

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. Flannery was given to only 15 baby girls in 2018.

GentryGentry was historically a term for the well-born social class below nobility in the UK. Its use was transferred to surnames, and now in the 21st century, a unisex baby name. Gentry may be the perfect baby name for our time — it falls into the trendy categories of surname-name, word name, and aspirational name, and at 54% female usage is truly gender-neutral.

Golden — Whether you consider Golden a word name, a color name, a surname-name, or more accurately all of the above, it’s a rising name that’s extremely gender-neutral: 54% female at last count versus 46% male. 

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 727 for boys. But if Scarlett and Ivory work for girls, Gray might, too. There were 67 female Greys and 39 female Grays born in 2018.

Halston Halston was the fashion designer who dressed the decade of the 1970s. Today it feels vaguely retro and less flashy than Chanel. It’s very evenly distributed across gender lines, with 44% of Halstons born in 2018 girls. Drop the H, and you have another possibility: Alston.

Hartley — The ley ending may have started with Ashley but it’s since been appended to almost any prefix you can imagine. There are a rising number of boys given the name Hart, as in tragic poet Hart Crane, but Hartley is a surname-y spin used more than 80 percent of the time for girls.

Hathaway If Harlow and Anniston are girls’ names, why not Hathaway? It could have originated as a name for someone who lives near a heath or be derived from Germanic feminine name Hedwig. Either way, Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway lends the name some visibility. 11 baby girls received the name at last count.

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 that’s just starting to get noticed — only five girls were given the single-L spelling in 2018. Liv, a reversal of the middle three letters, is a potential nickname.

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. Holiday, used for 20 girls in 2018, would be an ideal choice for a daughter born around the winter holidays, while double-L Holliday plants the name firmly in surname territory.

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. Hollis is given to girls and boys in roughly equal numbers, with more than 45% of new baby Hollises female. And Hollister is so rare it doesn’t even chart on the extended data, meaning it was used on fewer than five boys and girls in a given year.

Huntley — A more feminine Hunter? This is gender-neutral option is given to 47% girls and 53% boys. Huntley and Brinkley were a famous 20th-century news team; we’re seeing Brinkley as a new surname-name for girls too.

Huxley — Huxley is rising fast for boys and, although in smaller numbers, for girls as well. Huxley was used on 48 baby girls in 2018, making it around 11% female. We anticipate Huxley will continue its ascent, perhaps boosted by the recent adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World for television.

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

Kensington Kensington is on the fast-track to the Top 1000 — as of 2018, it sits right outside the threshold. It’s a natural successor to Mackenzie — sharing the same friendly Kensi/Kenzie nickname — and Kendall and Kennedy as well. It doesn’t hurt that Kensington has a royal touch, being the name of the palace where Will and Kate live with their children.

LexingtonLexington is a hot new surname-name with patriotic overtones and a nearly-equal gender divide. In 2018, 74 girls and 76 boys were named Lexington. Bonus: the adorable user-friendly nickname Lexi.

Linden — Y vowel-replacements typically skew more female than their counterparts, but Lyndon — as in former President Lyndon B. Johnson — is far more male than Linden, which is over 43% female. It’s a tree name, one that could also be used as a tailored update to Linda.

Madden — We’re not sure if Madden is rising on the wings of the football video game. It may be telling that this surname-name is given only 14% of the time to girls, despite its user-friendly nickname Maddie.

Madigan — A cousin to Madden and Madison, this Irish surname name was remarkably only used for 22 girls in the last year on record. Its charming meaning — “little dog” — could make it an ideal choice for a lover of hounds, mutts, or terriers.

Maguire Maguire could easily shorten to Maggie, making this seldom-used Irish surname name very wearable for a girl. 20 babies were named Maguire in 2018, 40% of whom female.

Malone — Yet another Irish surname beginning with M, Malone is slowly but steadily rising in use among girls and boys, currently 63% female. “Molly Malone” is an Irish folk song and the unofficial anthem of Dublin.

Mercer — This English surname comes from the French mercier, meaning “merchant.” Mercer was given to fewer than 50 babies in 2018, but it’s a covetable choice among those in the know. Mercer is one to watch — particularly for girls, for whom it can be easily be shortened to the feminine nickname Mercy.

Merritt — Part surname-name and part modern virtue, Merritt is a future Top 1000 pick that’s currently skyrocketing in use for both girls and boys. 59% of baby Merritts at last count were female, perhaps thanks to actress Merritt Wever of Nurse Jackie fame.

MillerMiller is a widely-used surname that’s gaining in popularity as a first name too, nearly 30% of the time for baby girls. It’s an occupational name referring to someone who mills wheat or other grain.

Montgomery Montgomery is one of the hottest boy names in the UK right now and is catching on in the US as well. But not just for sons — 17% of the parents who used the name Montgomery in 2018 gave it to a daughter.

Murphy — About as classic as Irish surnames come, Murphy is on the ascent as a first name — potentially headed for the Top 1000 for both genders. The ‘80s and ‘90s show Murphy Brown is a feminine touchstone and a likely influence for many of the 146 sets of parents who chose Murphy for their baby girls in 2018.

PalmerPalmer is one of the fastest-rising names for girls, ranking outside the Top 1000 in 2017 and then Number 679 in 2018. 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.

Payson — Is Payson the new Payton? Even though the son ending seems by definition male, Payson Is 45% female. 46 girls were given the name in 2018. To some it might be considered a place name — there are towns named Payson in Arizona and Utah.

Ramsey — A surnamier take on the most fashionable nickname names of the moment — Remy and Remi. It’s evenly split across gender lines, with 47% of the 240 babies named Ramsey in 2018 female.

Reeve — A potential successor to Reese, Reeve was originally an occupational name for a bailiff. In 2018, 15 baby girls were named Reeve. A famous bearer is author Reeve Lindbergh, the youngest of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s children. Reeve was a family name honoring Anne’s older sister.

Rooney — Once a rare, exclusively male name, Rooney is now on the rise, especially among baby girls. Actress Rooney Mara is, of course, to thank, lending her name a stylish and slightly quirky feel. Rooney is actually her middle name — she was born Patricia.

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. Now, almost 90% of all Ripleys born are female. Thandie Newton has a daughter by the name.

SheridanSheridan has never lived up to its potential as a baby name. Only 20 sets of parents chose it for their daughters in 2018. It has the same pleasant rhythm as Kennedy and Addison, two of the top surname-names for girls.

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? 15 girls were named Sinclair at last count, along with another nine dubbed Sinclaire.

SterlingGolden‘s cousin? Sterling is also rising mostly for boys, but 14% of the nearly 1000 baby Sterlings born the last year counted are female. And there’s nothing intrinsically gendered about it.

Sullivan Sullivan may not seem like a feminine name, but it’s easily shortened to the nickname Liv. It’s still a stretch – Sullivan ranked Number 387 for boys in 2018 and was only given to 83 girls, making it 91% male. But it’s more original than Olivia.

Swayze — Late actor Patrick Swayze has had a profound influence on his lively Anglo-German surname. It’s 83% female, with 50 girls given the name at last count. Another twelve were named Swayzee.

Tinsley — Tinsley has received a massive boost in popularity thanks to the increased visibility of socialite Tinsley Mortimer on The Real Housewives of New York City. It’s one of the few surname-names used exclusively for girls — in 2018, it was given to 352 baby girls but virtually no boys.

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. Torrance is the more gender-neutral spelling, with 45% of new babies with the name female. It is also the name of a town south of Los Angeles.

Vaughn — Tailored Vaughn has fallen off the charts for boys but piqued the interest of some parents expecting daughters. As of 2018, only 11% of baby Vaughns were female, but it is increasingly headed toward a more balanced gender split.

Wilder Wilder has become a, well, wildly popular name for boys, entering the Top 1000 for the first time in 2015 and already about to hit the Top 500. And now 10% of the baby Wilders are female.

Windsor — This locational surname, drawn from Windsor Castle, was adopted by the British Royal Family only 100 years ago. Rare as a first name, two-thirds of the babies named Windsor are girls. Winnie is a friendly and optimistic nickname.

WinsletKate Winslet gives an attractive, elegant, and undeniably feminine feel to her otherwise under-the-radar surname. Only 19 girls were named Winslet in 2018, but five years prior it had never been used as a first name at all. Cute nickname Winnie is a definite plus.

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. Traditionally a masculine name, Winslow is now over 60% female.

WrigleyWrigley is less a surname-name and more a baseball name, with a growing number of babies named for Chicago‘s iconic Wrigley Field. And 42% of those baby Wrigleys are girls. Wrigley Field itself was named after William Wrigley Jr., chewing gum tycoon and owner of the Chicago Cubs.

WylieWylie and its alternate form Wiley are both moving more toward the center, with more than a third of the babies named Wylie in 2018 female — though oddly, only 10% of the Wileys. There’s something about that prominent Y that says girl to some parents.

YancyYancy is very rare as a first name: Only 17 babies were named Yancy in 2018, but half of them were female. As a surname, Yancy is an ancient derivative of Johnson or Jansen and might be the forerunner of the term Yankee. So it could make a possible honor name for an ancestral John or Jane or Johanna.

What are your favorite surname-names for girls?

About the author

Sophie Kihm

Sophie Kihm has been writing for Nameberry since 2015. She has contributed stories on the top middle names of 2019, the top baby names in each state, and the hottest nickname names of 2018. Sophie is Nameberry’s resident Name Guru to the Stars, where she suggests names for celebrity babies. She also manages the Nameberry Instagram and Pinterest. You can follow her personally on Instagram or Pinterest, or contact her at sophie@nameberry.com. Sophie lives in Chicago.

View all of Sophie Kihm's articles

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