Girl Names: Tailored but Feminine
Are there any choices that are a happy compromise?
The Name Sage replies:
So your husband likes his names time-tested, Top Ten, and clearly feminine, while you prefer something tailored, unisex, and maybe even downright new?
Let’s talk about three possible approaches – only one of which requires drafting a new list.
One of my all-time favorite combinations is Mary Blair. (Which just happens to the be the first and last name of the Disney designer responsible for It’s A Small World.) Or maybe Mary Reeve or Mary Quinn?
If neither of those approaches works, then it’s time to start fresh. Let’s find names that are conventionally feminine in origin and use, but with a tailored style that might feel unisex, even if the numbers give the names to the girls.
Afton – It’s a river in Scotland, made famous by a Robert Burns poem and a handful of song adaptations. (Most recently, Nickel Creek recorded it in 2000.) It’s tailored and nickname proof, but “Sweet Afton” makes it sound like a lullaby for a daughter.
Arden – Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden makes this name literary; it’s used for twice as many girls as boys, but doesn’t make the Top 1000 for either – at least not on the current list. (In 2015 and 2016, it charted for girls. Way back in the 1950s, it was used more often for boys.)
Bellamy – There’s a male television character named Bellamy right now (on the sci fi series The 100), but it remains twice as popular for girls as boys. It fits with names like Delaney, unisex in theory, but used in much larger numbers for girls. And, of course, all the Belle and Bella nicknames help.
Maeve – Since Ronan and Finn are on your boys’ list, would you consider something equally Irish for a daughter? Maeve is sharp and bright, not a ruffle or frill anywhere. But it’s traditionally feminine, associated with a legendary warrior queen of Connacht.
Maren – One of many names related to Mary, Maren sounds modern – but has traditional roots as a Mary name in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Country-pop crossover artist Maren Morris has put this on parents’ radar in recent years, but it still feels uncommon.
Sybil – As tailored as they come, Sybil feels classic and feminine, but quite unexpected. Even after the name’s use in Downton Abbey, it remains outside of the current US Top 1000. It’s a great substitute for Abigail.
Tamsin – Tammy reigned as the sweetheart of the 1960s, but Tamsin never caught on. Tammy is usually linked to the Old Testament Tamar and Tamara, but Tamsin comes from Thomasina, a feminine form of Thomas. It’s far more common in the UK than the US – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
My top pick for you is Maren. It falls exactly halfway between Mary and Halston, a tailored name with deeply traditional roots. It currently stands at Number 633 in the US, making it familiar, but not too common. I think it’s the perfect compromise for your daughter.
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on March 20th, 2019 at 7:40 am
I really like the suggestions of Maren and Maeve. Both sound like perfect compromises. I’d also throw in Maris, or even Frances. There really are a lot of options in that middle ground.
on March 20th, 2019 at 8:04 am
Great suggestions by Abby. A few more:
Yvette, nn Yvie
on March 20th, 2019 at 8:11 am
Great suggestions! I especially love Afton, Maren, Maeve, Simone and Tamsin.
Simone always makes me think of Maxine, so I’ll suggest that.
Another tailored traditional that’s both uncommon and bang on trend is Honor — might that appeal?
on March 20th, 2019 at 9:42 am
I love Maeve and Tamsin
on March 20th, 2019 at 11:13 am
I agree with the suggestions of Maeve and Maren, both feel right in between your varying tastes and work well with Jeannette in the middle.
More ideas for you. I think Irish names bridge the gap between your styles the best: not overly girly but could have girlier nicknames, some unisex and crossover names that are still familiar for girls, and match well with your boy picks.
Eilis or Ellis
Larkin nn Lark
on March 20th, 2019 at 12:27 pm
I love Maeve and Tamsin too!
I also think names like Blythe, Rose, and Wren might work. They are old fashioned and traditionally feminine, but I don’t find them girly or cutesy. Blythe is similar to unisex names like Bryce and Blaise. Rose reminds me of names like Ronan, Rory, and Rhodes by sound but is very feminine. And I think Wren is technically unisex.
on March 20th, 2019 at 5:21 pm
Hadley is the first name that comes to mind. Technically unisex but since it’s mostly been used for girls, it might be feminine enough for the husband.
on March 20th, 2019 at 10:27 pm
Frances nn Frankie
Maxine nn Max
Charlotte nn Charlie
Georgia nn Georgie
Joanna nn Jo
Josephine nn Jo or Josie
Bernice nn Berry
Florence nn Rory
Flora nn Rory
Elliott nn Ellie
on March 20th, 2019 at 10:28 pm
on March 20th, 2019 at 11:54 pm
Winslet is perfect!
on March 21st, 2019 at 4:54 am
I really like Afton, it is such a beautiful name to me. How about Abel? A male name but with a feminine sound and similar to Abigail?
Or how about
on March 21st, 2019 at 8:15 am
How about Mavis?
on March 21st, 2019 at 11:01 am
While I do prefer Remy for a boy, in this circumstance, I think Remy is perfection.
on March 21st, 2019 at 11:11 am
What about a feminine name with a unisex nickname. For example, if they chose Maren as the first name she could be called Ren.
on March 21st, 2019 at 1:39 pm
My list is short and simple, but that one name just popped in my head and seemed a good recommendation. It’s feminine and classic, while being pretty rare. Also the strong D sound and history of the name/meaning really make it feel like a powerhouse. So not quite unisex but I like to think just as mighty.
Congrats and good luck naming.
on April 1st, 2019 at 7:36 pm
How about Darcy?
on April 23rd, 2019 at 4:13 am
Lots of great suggestions. I particularly like:
Maris (prefer this to Maren)
Sybil (could go by Billy/Billie for a more unisex vibe)
Aubrey (used to be a boy’s name)
on August 6th, 2019 at 9:59 pm
We loved Maeve, but ultimately went with Blaire for our daughter, to big brother Finnian (Finn)!
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