Girly Baby Names

girly names

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck’s choice of the name Seraphina for their second daughter has put the spotlight on ultra-feminine names. Lots of syllables, ending in a vowel: Those are the classic earmarks of the girly baby names.

When I had my first — and as it turned out, my only — daughter, I was afraid of girly-girl names. I wanted my child to be the kind of girl who could compete with boys in the classroom and on the playing field, who was adventurous and spirited, not bound by any outmoded female conventions.

And so I rejected all kinds of girly-girl names that I otherwise liked — Susannah and Flora and Carolina and Daisy — and picked the anything-but-girly name Rory.

But something surprising happened over the years. I came to not only like the girly names, but to love them. To not merely accept them, but embrace them. Maybe what changed was not entirely within me but in society at large: Why couldn’t a girl combine the frankly feminine with the formerly masculine and end up with an identity and an image that transcended any old gender stereotypes?

In fact, I began to think it was almost revolutionary to choose a girly-girl name but raise your daughter to be whoever she wants: To wear tutus and play lacrosse, to be great in math and grow her hair to her waist. To defy the stereotypes that led to one study showing that girls who’d been given girly baby names did worse at math and science, mainly because teachers expected them to do worse.

I also came to see that the trappings of conventional little girlhood that made me so nervous — the pink and purple ruffle-y dresses, the glittery shoes and the Cinderella DVDs and the passion for Barbie — came and went as quickly as any other stage of early childhood. Whereas a gorgeous feminine name was an attribute that would last forever.

Several girly baby names have been moving up the popularity list, with Olivia, Sophia, and Isabella heading for the top of the charts. Plus, more of my ultra-feminine favorites:

ANNABELLA
AURORA
CATALINA
CELESTIA
CLEMENTINA
CRESSIDA
DELILAH
ESTELLA
EVANGELINA
GEORGIANA
JOSETTE
JULIETTA
LEONORA
LILIANA
LUCIANA
NATALYA
RAFFAELA
ROXANA
SABRINA
SERENA
TABITHA

And by the way, a big shout-out to Beth Delany of Inverness, Illinois, the winner of the nameberry Jennifer Garner baby name contest! Though no one guessed Seraphina Rose, 16-year-old Beth, a name lover who already has all her children’s names picked out, guessed Susanna Rose. Although Carlie guessed the middle names Rose and Elizabeth first, our email to her bounced back — so if you’re out there, Carlie, let us know and we’ll send you a book too! Beth‘s prize is an advanced signed copy of our upcoming book, Cool Irish Names for Babies, due out in March.

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25 Responses to “Girly Baby Names”

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molly Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 2:28 am

The most popular names right now, Olivia, Sofia and Isabella are also ultra-feminine girly-girl names.

And on the topic of Seraphina, I’ve noticed that names that sound like characters from fairy-tales or cartoons are very popular.

Violet, Ruby, Aurora, Penelope, Lola.

In fact, it’s popular for a name to reference something-

a thing- Ruby, Olive, Lilly, Scarlet, Clementine, Ivy, India

or a character- Stella, Ramona, Scout, Matilda, Alice, Juliet

I think people like the fact that the name already exists to mean something else, and that their child can reclaim it. Same with a cartoonish name; it sounds like it belongs somewhere else, but your child is extra special if they can carry off and own a name like that for themselves.

Abby Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 3:19 am

I like the idea that choosing an ultrafeminine name doesn’t mean that your daughter can’t grow up to be just as strong and capable as a girl called Hadley or Jane.

But then I think of Nymphadora Tonks, the Harry Potter heroine with a serious case of disappellatia. (When she’s introduced, she insists on being called just Tonks, saying “So would you if your fool of a mother had called you Nymphadora.”)

So while I love Sabrina, Estella, Tabitha and Luciana, I always wondered if my daughter would grow up and feel that her name made for a poor fit. Sure, Georgiana can be a surgeon or an Olympic athlete – but would she insist on going by George?

I guess that’s the saving grace of the girlie-girl names – most of them have potential nicknames built in. My hockey-playing cousin Adriana is known as Dana – and may grow into that full name yet.

pam Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 7:02 am

This is an excellent point, that these girly-girl names do carry a powerful feminine image, not necessarily one that a little girl will want to live up to or live down. (Except when she’s four and only wants to wear purple ruffled dresses and silver sequined shoes.)

chloezoe Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

As Abby said, nicknames are usually built-in to girly-girly names. To use two examples from the post, Aurora becomes Rory if her full name feels too frilly.

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Eek! I have a similar celebrity baby name post up today, with an even more similar post on the docket in the coming days. It has been a lively week for famous baby names.

Baby Seraphina is sure to be influential indeed. Will S become the new “it” letter? Shiloh, Suri, Sunday, Seraphina…

Leonora and Raphaela (this spelling, or Rafaella) are my personal favorites from the above list. Delilah, Liliana, Natalya and Serena all feel very familiar, and I bet we will be hearing more and more of those if we’re not already.

http://youcantcallitit.com

Lola Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 5:00 pm

I love girly names, but prefer mine with a little bit of steel from the boys department, My girls list reads like a veritable sea of boy names gone girly. I have a name like that as does my daughter and I like that it can go from princessy to boardroom effortlessly. Georgiana & Roxana are my favorites from your list above. I really hope this style does kick into high gear, I’d love to see more of them! I know I hope I’ll be adding to it in August!

Eva Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 5:02 pm

This is a great list – I love Aurora, Catalina, Clementina, Delilah, Estella, Evangelina, Julietta (or Juliet), Leonora, Liliana, Luciana (also Lucia), Natalya (also Natalia), Raffaela (or Raphaela and Rafaela), Sabrina, Serena, and Tabitha. Basically all of them.

my favorite girly girl names are:
Arabella
Ariana
Angelique/Angelina/Angeline
Adelina/Adelia
Amelia/Amelie
Athena
Aurelia
Anastasia
Cordelia
Cecilia/Celia
Camilla
Demetria
Esmee/Esme
Esmeralda
Eliana
Francesca
Fiona
Genevieve
Giovanna/Giana
Gwendolen
Guinevere
Isabella
India
Iliana
Katarina
Lavinia
Lydia
Maddalena
Magdalena
Marina
Miranda
Mirabelle/Mirabel
Octavia
Rosabel/Rosabelle
Rosalina
Tallulah
Valentina
Victoria

okay, I ‘m done. Sorry this was long haha

Paige Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 6:45 pm

I love girly-girl names, even if my own is not.
My favorite ultrafeminine/girly-girl names:
Adelaide, Aurora, Alexandra, Arabella
Beatrix/Beatrice
Clementine, Charlotte, Caroline/a, Catalina, Cecilia/Cecelia, Cecile, Cordelia
Delphine
Evangeline, Elizabeth, Eleanor/Elanor/Eleonore, Eloise
Francesca, Felicity, Feodora
Genevieve, Gemma, Georgiana
Helena, Heloise
Isadora, Isobel, Isolde (iz-OLD)
Jocasta, Jessamine, Josephine, Juliana, Jocelyn
Katija, Katerina
Lydia, Louisa, Livia, Lila, Lillian, Lucia (lou-chee-ah)
Mariuccia, Mattea, Maria
Octavia, Ophelia, Ottilie
Phillippa
Quintina
Rebecca, Rosabel, Rhianwen, Rhonwen
Seraphina, Susannah, Sophia, Solita
Tatiana, Titania
Violet, Victoria, Vivienne
Willa
Xaria, Xanthe
Yelena, Yekaterina
Zara, Zaria

Carlie Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Hi it’s me Carlie!! I can’t believe I won. My email account got hacked earlier so I had to delete it so I called my friend and asked if I could use hers and then she deleted hers for personal reasons. I don’t remember what it was because I am really bad at memorizing (sorry!) and I just copy and pasted it into the mail bar. I’m so happy that they chose the names Rose and Elizabeth

pam Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Congratulations, Carlie! We’re so glad we found you. Send your address to pam@nameberry.com and linda@nameberry.com so we can mail you your book. And tell us a little more about you — nameberry wants to know! Thanks for entering the contest and hope you love the new book.

rachelmarie Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 8:13 pm

From your list, Aurora is my favorite. It’s on my favorites right now. Plus, Rory-your daughter’s name-is a great nickname for it. I love both names so much.
Annabel (as opposed to Annabella) is a gorgeous name to me, I also love Annalee, because I love the nickname Annie.

To me, I like girl’s names that have a unisex nickname, or a boy’s name for a girl that has a girl nickname.
Examples from my favorites:
Alexandra – Alex
Samantha – Sam
Elliott – Ellie, Ella
Aurora – Rory
Willow – Will

I also wondered about what you said, not wanting to give a girl a too-feminine name, just incase she became the complete opposite. But, they will become who they want.
Other girly names I’ve grown to love:
Amelia, Leah, Eliza, Delilah, Deliah, and Cora.
Not so girly names I love:
Remy, Rory, Elliot, Kennedy, Delaney, and Sawyer

pam Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 10:02 pm

LOVE this idea of the feminine names with the tomboy nicknames. Great idea for a future blog post! Thanks. And thanks everyone for all these wonderful and very extensive lists!

Penelope Says:

January 15th, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Congratulations to Carlie and Beth for their awesome guesswork.

I am another who likes girly names that can be shorten to a fun, boyish nn.

Thanks Eva and Paige, those names are great!!! I should just pick one from there and be done with it.

Tirzah Says:

January 16th, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Bennifer’s girls should have been Violetta and Seraphina to really match.

The problem with ultra girly-girl names in my opinion is that it evokes a dolled up version of a girl rather than a natural beauty. It’s the girl who spends forever on her hair, make-up and clothing and maybe is just a little bit full of herself. Violetta is at the opera with a full length gown and an up-do; Violet is out in the meadow picking flowers.

Regarding matching a personality to a name, I do think it’s a little risky picking an ultra girly-girl name. In the general population of grown women, there really aren’t that many really girly-girls. As you said in your post, they grow out of that phase rather quickly. Hence, you may be setting yourself up for some cognative dissonance (as in the Harry Potter example above). It’s not as bad as names like Princess and Treasure (did you see the woman named Treasure on The Bachelor?), which are perennial little girl names, but it leans that direction.

Tirzah Says:

January 16th, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Bennifer’s girls should have been Violetta and Seraphina to really match.

The problem with ultra girly-girl names in my opinion is that it evokes a dolled up version of a girl rather than a natural beauty. It’s the girl who spends forever on her hair, make-up and clothing and maybe is just a little bit full of herself. Violetta is at the opera with a full length gown and an up-do; Violet is out in the meadow picking flowers.

Regarding matching a personality to a name, I do think it’s a little risky picking an ultra girly-girl name. In the general population of grown women, there really aren’t that many really girly-girls. As you said in your post, they grow out of that phase rather quickly. Hence, you may be setting yourself up for some cognative dissonance (as in the Harry Potter example above).

Clare Says:

January 17th, 2009 at 6:22 pm

I see Octavia crops up a couple of times on girly-girls name lists. My second daughter is Octavia (nn Octi) and out of all three of my girls she is the tom-boy dressing herself in blue and wanting to be a pirate, knight, Sportacus etc etc. Therefore I don’t really regard it as girly (and never have done). I think that the personallity of the child will shine through and if they really can’t stand their name in future years, they’ll be the first to change it, so Seraphina the tomboy could always become Sara, Raph or even Phina!

Tori Says:

April 12th, 2009 at 11:19 am

I love the idea of girly names with tomboy nicknames! Here are some of my faves

Ariana > Rian (like Ryan)

Anastasia > Ana, Stacy

Madison > Sonny

Camille/Camilla > Cam

Samantha > Sam

Amelie/Amelia > Mia (still kinda girly)

🙂

Pamela Satran Says:

April 12th, 2009 at 3:57 pm

great idea and would make a good blog post. How about Victoria/Tori?

littlemissdotty Says:

April 18th, 2009 at 4:29 pm

It’s lovely to see my name (Cressida) on the list in this blog post. Even here in Britain, the name is still criminally underused, although it’s still heard more than it is in the US. I was born 27 years ago, and I can’t believe that in that time, still so few parents have caught on!

merryjulie Says:

July 11th, 2009 at 7:34 pm

well my mom is pregnat we dont know if its a girl or a bo but am so excited that am helping my mom in websites to find the perfect name for my babby bro. or sis.

sarahbelll Says:

March 29th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I’ve been looking around nameberry.com and actually am impressed by the amazing content here. I work the nightshift at my job and it really gets boring. I have been coming right here for the past couple nights and reading. I simply wanted to let you know that I’ve been enjoying what I have seen and I look forward to reading more.

linda Says:

March 29th, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Thanks!

Natasha-scarlett Says:

September 28th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

heey, all these names are great my favourite names are
Annie,amelia, my absulout favourite is TEGAN i love that name, roxie, sophia,thylia,kimberley,mannon,rosie,sadiee and millie

isabel Says:

February 9th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I love Estella.

Taylor Herring Says:

April 16th, 2011 at 10:53 am

I love all of those names but sadiee is my most favorite

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