Girl Names: Tailored but Feminine

He says Mary. She says Halston. The Name Sage brokers a compromise.

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

He says Mary. She says Halston. Where’s the middle ground between those two extremes? The Name Sage sets out to find a compromise for their daughter.

Taylor writes:

My husband and I are expecting a baby girl in mid-June. For boys, we agreed on names like Ronan and Finn, but when it comes to girl names, our styles are completely different.

He likes Abigail, Mary, and Hannah classic/popular names that I do not like at all. My favorites are Hunter and Halston, as I prefer unisex names for girls, and he strongly dislikes them.

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?

As impossible as that sounds, let me assure you there’s a big middle ground. Some of my favorite girl names fall midway between Halston and Mary.

Let’s talk about three possible approaches – only one of which requires drafting a new list.

First, how about a double name? It sounds a little Southern, but a name like Mary Halston could offer the best of both worlds.

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?

Or maybe you choose the uncommon, unisex name … but your husband picks the conventional, feminine nickname. Would he like Halston if you called her Hallie?

There’s also:

Abington, called Abby
Campbell, called Cammie or Bella
Hunter, called Honey
Ellington, called Ellie
Grayson, called Gracie
Maguire, called Maggie
Sullivan, called Liv
Winslet, called Winnie

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.

Simone – This name reads exactly like what it is – French and feminine. But it’s tailored and relatively rare, too, a name that could satisfy cravings for something traditional and fresh at once.

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.

Readers, did you and your partner disagree on naming styles? How did you resolve your differences? And what would you suggest to Taylor?

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About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at
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18 Responses to “Girl Names: Tailored but Feminine”

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Titus245Mama Says:

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.

jpruitt76 Says:

March 20th, 2019 at 8:04 am

Great suggestions by Abby. A few more:

Yvette, nn Yvie

katinka Says:

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?

lavendel Says:

March 20th, 2019 at 9:42 am

I love Maeve and Tamsin

peach Says:

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

Anything appeal?

Jemberry Says:

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.

Pansy Says:

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.

Babies123456 Says:

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

Babies123456 Says:

March 20th, 2019 at 10:28 pm

Also Florian!

Gabriellenz Says:

March 20th, 2019 at 11:54 pm

Winslet is perfect!

Kjh446 Says:

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


kmdharrington Says:

March 21st, 2019 at 8:15 am

How about Mavis?

BluebirdBlossom Says:

March 21st, 2019 at 11:01 am

While I do prefer Remy for a boy, in this circumstance, I think Remy is perfection.

rlmurphy Says:

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.

zsazsa00 Says:

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.

1thomasn Says:

April 1st, 2019 at 7:36 pm

How about Darcy?

Cordelia16 Says:

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)

Other suggestions:

Aubrey (used to be a boy’s name)

Good luck!

beckmcjones Says:

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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