Girls’ Names: 8 great ones under the radar

The other day we offered eight fresh choices for boys, and now it’s the girls’ turn—girls’ names ranging from a rare botanical specimen to a nostalgic nickname to an undercrowded place name.

1–Acacia—This a a pretty and delicate botanical name that has hardly been heard in this country, though it ranked as high as Number 273 among girls’ names in Australia, where the Acacia is a common flowering shrub, in 2008.  Acacia has a heritage that dates back to ancient Egyptian mythology, in which it was considered the tree of life due to the belief that the first gods were born under a sacred Acacia tree.  There is also an eponymous fantasy novel, Acacia. Caveat: just don’t think about the other name of the Acacia tree—the Golden Wattle.

2–AmabelNot to be confused with Annabel (though it well might be), the lovely Amabel has been around since medieval times, and has appeared in a number of British novels, including Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death, and heard as well as among the English aristocracy.  Amabel gave birth to the shortened form Mabel, which has a much brasher image, and we think a name that means lovable, deserves more love than it’s gotten.

3–FabiolaAn Italian name hardly heard on these shores, Fabiola has an admirable heritage attached to the sainted fifth century Roman widow who founded the first Western hospital, in which she attended the sick pilgrims who flocked to Rome.  A rhythmic name with a beginning that ties it to the present love of word names like Fable and Story and an ending that could lead to some creative nicknaming.  Bonus: Fabiana and Fabienne are other fab Fab choices.

4– FenellaThere’s Finella and Fionnuala and Finola, and Fiona, (all of which mean ‘white shoulder’), but the one we’re suggesting here is the unusual but accessible Fenella, which is the Scottish form.  Fenella became well known in Britain via the character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Peverel of the Peak, but she has yet to be discovered here.  Fenella carries a whiff of the licoricey scent of fennel– and there are all those ‘ella’ nicknames at her disposal.

5– FlorrieIf you’re looking for a charming but forgotten nickname name, here’s one that hasn’t been around since 1913—it was actually in the US Top 600 in the 1890s, and especially well used in ScotlandFlorrie has a lot going for it—it’s floral and furry and was the kind of name used for baby dolls at the turn of the last century. The English singer who goes by the single name Florrie was born Florence Arnold. As a pet name of both Florence and Flora, Florrie beats Flo, and as a nickname name so old it sounds new, it beats Laurie. Bonus: Flossie is Florrie’s Bobbsey Twins’ name-cousin—though there is that possibility of “Don’t forget to floss, Flossie.”

6–Rhonwen Though Irish names have long been popular in America, Welsh names are just beginning to be noticed and we see them as a wave of the future.   In medieval Welsh poetry, Rhonwen is called “the Mother of the English Nation,”  and Rhonwen Baganes was a heroine of Welsh folklore.  A soft and gentle name, Rhonwen’s meaning—slender and fair–evokes the image of a lovely, light-haired girl.  Other appealing ‘wen’ choices include Aelwen, Arianwen, Branwen, Bronwen. Gwendolen, Olwen and Tanwen. Just don’t be tempted to change the ‘wen’ to ‘wyn’, which would transform it into a male name.

7–SaskiaArt aficionados will recognize this name as the frequently-painted attractive young wife of Rembrandt.  Though it has the Russian feel of the more common Sasha, Saskia is a Dutch name of unknown derivation.  And while it is fairly well used among girls’ names in the UK—as in the actress Saskia Reeves, who is the daughter of a Dutch mother—Saskia has never reached the Top 1000 in the US.  We think it has a rich, warm and friendly ethnic appeal and is worth thinking about.

8–Venice—A beautiful city and a lovely name, Venice is for the most part an unexplored location appellation.  It calls to mind both the magnificent città on the Adriatic, but also California’s Venice Beach, hip home to celebs ranging from Julia Roberts to the creators of South Park. Bonus: Venetia and Venezia are two other gorgeous Venetians.

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19 Responses to “Girls’ Names: 8 great ones under the radar”

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BasicSand Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 1:02 am

I’m glad Louisa still hasn’t been even in the top 1000 for the past decade.

The name Arden really stands out for me. It’s like the perfect nature/botanical name that is the antithesis of a name like Rose. I love the fact that it’s also the last name of style icon as well. The Shakespeare fact is an added plus. Arden’s so underrated.

Abby Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 6:00 am

I love Fenella and Saskia!

Along the lines of Arden and Acacia, I love Linden.

frf1537 Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 6:25 am

As far as city names, Verona was once on my list for a girl.

Lola Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 8:53 am

Amabel, Gwendolen & Saskia are loves! Saskia’s His Mom’ middle name, Gwendolen’s lush and Amabel is just so sweet! Happy to see Gloriana isn’t here, she’s another “undiscovered” beauty! 🙂

Marginamia Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I love Fenella, Florrie (though I do think Flo is beautiful), and Saskia! Fenella does remind me of Fennel, but I like that! I just did a spice/herb/plant name post on marginamia
today, actually. I’m loving more and more anything plant related!

Rachaol Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Acacia was on the short list for a little girl I used to watch. Her mom decided against it in the end because she found out the acacia tree has big spiky thorns! I really like Saskia and Rhonwen. They both sound like strong and extraordinary women.

iheartnames Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I named my dog Acacia. We affectionately called her “Caci” (Casey).

withourwings Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Can I just say that I just met this little girl named Indigo and now I am in love with it. It is definitely under the radar! She is called Indigo, Gozy, Indy, Gozo, and Blue. And her middle name is River. How cute is that?
Not to mention that her twin brother’s name is Fisher nn Fish, Fishy, and Fisherman. <3 CUTE

anniebee Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I may just not be very avant-garde about names, but I don’t care for any of these, except Florrie, which is really cute and I love Florence.

I have never gotten into Saskia for some reason. It reminds me of Alaska and I like Alaska, but it’s a little out of nowhere.

Acacia would be a cool name were it not the name of a fraternity in the US. That completely rules it out for me. I don’t want to name my daughter after a bunch of sweaty frat boys with popped collars. Sorry to be blunt.

rollo Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Venice, Verona, Venetia are all so beautiful I would love to meet a little lady with one of these names.

linzybindi Says:

August 13th, 2011 at 12:56 am

Fenella! My husband teases me for loving this name. I love that there are so many cute nickname options. My favorite under the radar names are…


OliviaSarah Says:

August 13th, 2011 at 6:07 am

I love Amabel, Fenella and Florrie! Florrie especially is very cute, and has a rhythm to it which makes it fun to say 🙂 However, it sort of reminds me of Dory off Finding Nemo, for some reason! I still like it. The only thing that puts me off from using Amabel is that Annabel is so well known, pretty much everyone thinks I’ve misspelled it, or they’ve miss-heard me say it.

Flenella is gorgeous, and it reminds me a lot of Floella (As in Floella Benjamin) which I’ve loved for years!

Great list. Thanks for posting!

Nook of Names Says:

August 14th, 2011 at 10:52 am

Nice choices, though as you mention, some aren’t quite so under the radar here in the UK. Saskia had an unfortunate outing on the UK Big Brother a few years ago, which put a distinct dint in it. With Florence’s continued rise over here, Florrie is on the up too. It hasn’t yet reached the top 1000, and I hear Flo and Flossie most for the Florences and Floras I’ve encountered!

Folk might be interested to known that Rhonwen’s epithet – Baganes – means ‘the Pagan’ :D.

Lilibet Says:

August 14th, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Saskia is gorgeous. Met a little Saskia at the library! My husband likes Fenella, but he is drawn to anything ‘Ella!

sunshinetina Says:

October 24th, 2011 at 11:08 pm

There was a girl in my highschool who I had science all four years. She intrduced herself as Casey, but on graduation day I found out her real name was Acacia. Wonder why she shortened it? I think Acacia is lovely.

Great Names Under the Radar #1 | Chlokie For Names Says:

December 28th, 2011 at 8:18 pm

[…] saw this lovely blog post on Nameberry about girls’ names under the radar… Which inspired me to start a new […]

Great Names Under the Radar #2 | Chlokie For Names Says:

January 22nd, 2012 at 3:21 pm

[…] saw this lovely blog post on Nameberry about girls’ names under the radar… Which inspired me to start a new series of […]

R_J Says:

March 5th, 2012 at 11:20 am

Wow… Rhonwen is so beautiful! I love how nameberry describes it as “delicate and haunting”– so true.

erin13 Says:

May 25th, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Saskia is one of my favourite names, it deserves a lot more respect – although I kind of hope it doesn’t get any because if I have another girl I want to use it :p

Also, another -wen name: Elowen. It comes from the Cornish word for Elm tree and I think it’s very pretty. 🙂

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