Great Girl Names Starting with I
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Vowel names have been fashionable for several years now, but while A, E, and O names predominate, we’ve had relatively few great girl names starting with I.
I never cease to be intrigued by the fact that not only do names go in and out of style, but letters do too. And especially vowels. And especially vowels at the start of names.
We’ve had a long period of names beginning with the letter A, which was followed by E-names for both girls and boys, and lately parents have been showing their love for names started with O.
But the letter I has had a pretty paltry presence on the SSA list. There are only 16 I-initialed girls name out of the 1000 total, and of those, four are Isabel-related, and just Iris, Ivy and Isla in the Top 150, and Ingrid and Iliana just hanging in in the Top 900s.
But there are still a number of I candidates for success—or there for the taking for those avoiding popular examples. Here are some recommended off-list names for girls that start with the letter I:
IANTHE—This lovely Greek mythological name of a daughter of Oceanus means purple/violet flower (so called because she was so beautiful that after she died, the gods made purple flowers grow around her grave), and so would make a distinctive alternative to that flourishing flower name. Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley chose it for his daughter, as did writer Richard Brautigan. Nameberries have placed her at #589. Iolanthe has the same meaning and is familiar via the eponymous Gilbert & Sullivan comic operetta and is a character in the X-Men universe.
IDA—With all the love for Ava, Ada, Eva and Isla, you might have thought the vintage Ida would be a likely candidate for admission into that group—but not so far. This wasn’t always the case—Ida was the 7th most popular girl in the US in the 1880s and would inspire songs like ‘Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider’, staying on the list till 1986, and is still #9 in Denmark, 10 in Norway and 61 in Sweden. Could she make a comeback here?
IMOGEN- A Berry fave (#21) and Top 40 in England and Australia, Imogen has not succeeded in finding national success in the US. Despite the fact that it has so much going for it—Shakespearean cred (via a charming character in Cymbeline), a great artistic namesake (Photographer Imogen Cunningham), book and TV appearances (Artemis Fowl, Pretty Little Liars) and a cute nickname (Immy). It’s only a matter of time before this I-starting girls’ name starts getting ore love..
INDIGO—My favorite of the blue names—even though I do have a nephew called Cerulean. This rich purplish-blue dye from plants native to India is completely gender neutral, an equally arresting choice for both girls and boys, emphasized by its o-ending. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips named his daughter Indigo Samara in 2007.
INES/Z—This multi-cultural variation of Agnes has an exotic charm in both its spelling and it’s achieved new notice via Inez being the choice of media stars Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds for their second daughter—a far cry from first girl James. Inez hit the Top 100 mark in the early years of the 20th century, falling off the list in 1976; she’s now 570 on Nameberry, while Ines is 124. Which do you prefer?
IO –Would you be short-changing your daughter by giving her a name with only two letters? Not at all if it were as richly resonant as this one. Her Greek mythological story does have a #MeToo moment with Zeus, but has a happy ending when, after being transforming into a white heifer, she does eventually return to human form. Io is one of the moons of Jupiter and the possible namesake of the Ionian Sea. It stands out as being the rare two-letter name with two-syllables and, unlike Jo and Bo, Vi and Ty and Si, isn’t a nickname. And there were only 7 girls with the name born in 2018.
IONE—Another violet-hued name, this was the name of one of the 50 sea nymphs—Nereids– in ancient Greek myth and has been used in the English-speaking world since the 19th century. It’s become familiar via actress Ione Skye, daughter of sixties folksinger Donovan. Another substantive alternative to Violet.
IRELAND—Were Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin the first to use this place name for a baby in 1995? Probably not, but the name is very much associated with their now grown model daughter. Ireland appeared in the lower limits of the popularity list sporadically from 1998 to 2015 and still stands as an untouristed place name. Question: Are you an Ireland person or an Erin person?
ISOBEL—Yes, there are four versions of this name on the list, including Isabella at #4, but this somewhat more buttoned-up Scottish version (it’s that ‘o’ replacing the ’a’), although it’s pronounced the same as Isabel, has an image and charm all its own. Think Isobel Crawley in Downton Abby and Isobel Flemming in The Vampire Diaries. Isobel is #136 in England and 313 on Nameberry.
ISADORA –The much-neglected Isadora is well worth considering as an alternative to Isabella. Assets include the namesake of iconic modern dancer Isadora Duncan, the liberated Isadora Wing character in Fear of Flying, the starbaby daughter of Bjork—and of course the nickname Izzy she could share with all those Isabel/Isabellas
ISMAY—If you can’t decide between one of those Is-names and the springtime name of May, here is your perfect smooshlike solution. It’s been a favorite of modern fiction writers from Robertson Davies to Ken Follett to Ruth Rendell and is an unusual name that would be easy for any girl to handle.
ISOLDE—A name associated with the popular medieval Arthurian legend of an Irish princess and her love for the knight Tristan—which did not have a happy ending. The story was told in Richard Wagner’s 1865 opera Tristan und Isolde. Variants include the old French form Iseult, and the Italian Isotta. The romantic Isolde has had some mid-list popularity in the Netherlands since 2008.
What’s your favorite I-starting name for girls, on or off this list?
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on August 15th, 2018 at 1:47 am
I love Iris, Ivy and Isobel, plus Irina and Irena. (I go back and forth on which of those two I prefer!) Indigo is lovely too. A long-time guilty pleasure is Isle—so serene and mysterious.
on August 15th, 2018 at 2:35 am
Ianthe, Ines and Ismay are huge favourites of mine!
Others: Iona, Ishbel, Ivalo, Isabeau, Ishtar, Iseult, Inga, Iskra, Ismene, Indie…
on August 15th, 2018 at 2:59 am
I love Ianthe, Iolanthe, Ines, Ismay and Isolde.
on August 15th, 2018 at 6:05 am
I love Ianthe (as soon as I saw I, I thought Ianthe!), Ida (can’t decide which pronunciation I like), Imogen (my first ever favourite name), Isadora. I also quite like the look of Isobel, although Ysabel is my favourite variant for the Ee- beginning, and Isolde has some great imagery. Other I names I like or am thinking about:
on August 15th, 2018 at 6:07 am
A recent new favorite “I” name is Indy or even Indiana, which is not only a great place name, but is a fresh take on Deanna. I also have grown to love my great grandmother’s name, Iola.
on August 15th, 2018 at 7:21 am
I love Ivy and Imogen, but I am also intrigued by Io.
on August 15th, 2018 at 8:08 am
My favorite I name is Iris. But I also really like Irina and Iola.
on August 15th, 2018 at 8:21 am
From this list, my favorite is Isadora. Imogen and Ismay are also nice. I like Inés when pronounced like in Spanish, but I’m not a fan of the English pronunciation. Isolde would be nice if it weren’t prime teasing material by sounding like “is old”.
Even though it’s been very popular for quite a while, my favorite I name is still Isabella. I also love Ivy, Isla, Isabelle (I’m not a fan of the ‘o’ spelling), Irene, and Iris.
How are most people pronouncing Ianthe? ee-ANN-thee? ee-ANN-tha? eye-ANN-thee? eye-ANN-tha? YANN-tha? YANN-thee?
on August 15th, 2018 at 8:29 am
I have a 6 year old Ivy and I love her name (obv) but we also considered Iris for her. Ultimately I’m happy with our choice because the more playful-sounding Ivy seems to fit her personality more than the more mature-sounding Iris would have. I also love Isadora, and Isobel is a lovely spelling of Isabel/le but I’m not a fan, personally, of a name where you have to clarify the way it’s spelled every time you say it.
Also for the record, my kids (9 and 6) each have no fewer than 5 friends/acquaintances each named a variation of Isabel/Isabelle/Isabella/Bella/Belle/Izzy…it’s the closest thing I’ve seen to being the Jennifer of the 2010s.
on August 15th, 2018 at 8:31 am
I love Indigo and Indiana, but what about the more vintage-flavored India? I’m surprised this name hasn’t come back into fashion more, as I feel it fits right in with “stylish antique” favorites Charlotte, Amelia, Alice, and Georgia.
on August 15th, 2018 at 9:58 am
You mention Imogen, but what about Imogene? Imogene “Idgie” Threadgoode was a character in book/film “Fried Green Tomatoes”.
on August 15th, 2018 at 11:03 am
I adore Ingrid, Indiana, and Indigo.
on August 15th, 2018 at 11:17 am
I love the idea of “I” names for girls because our first two girls have names starting with “A” and “E”, respectively, but none of the actual names I could find fit our style. My favorites so far have been Iona, Idony, and Idalia.
on August 15th, 2018 at 1:28 pm
My two favourite names right now are Isley and Ilsa, with Isolde and Iris close behind. There’s just something so unique about a name that starts with I.
on August 15th, 2018 at 1:57 pm
My favorite I names are Ingrid, Irene and Ivy.
My youngest had a preschool teacher named Ingerlene who always goes by Ing.
on August 15th, 2018 at 5:31 pm
Ireland, Irina, and Ivy!! And I like Isabella and Isola as middles-Isola was the name of Oscar Wilde’s younger sister. I like the name Ibsen after the playwright for a boy, but seeing as it’s an uncommon surname, it might fit a girl. Indigo and Ingrid are nice.
on August 15th, 2018 at 5:34 pm
One of my favourites, Imogen, is in the top 100 girls’ names in Australia where I live. So adding in the other popular I names such as Isabel, Isabella, Ivy, and the growing Iris and Indigo, I names aren’t so unusual here. I also love Ingrid.
Just with Ida – it’s pronounced differently in Scandinavian countries where it’s popular – EE-da – so I think it’s almost a different name there. Recently there was a question of the name forums from someone wanting to use Ida (in US I assume) but pronunce it EE-da, so that may raise challenges. I really like the medieval name Eda, related to Edith and Edel, as an alternative to Ida for the Scandinavian pronunciation.
on August 15th, 2018 at 6:32 pm
More “I ” names to love: Ife , Isabelline, Idony, Immacolata
on August 15th, 2018 at 7:00 pm
I love Ismay!
on August 15th, 2018 at 9:02 pm
Yay! Fun article today. The short-I sound was an intuitive transition from the short-E name trend (i.e. Ella to Isabella) and the long-O names have been a great change of pace (we’ve even seen a good number of long-U names though not as the starting initial, i.e. Lucy, Luna, Juno, Ruth, Hugh, etc). But, my favorites are the long-I’s and I’m so pleased to see them finally getting a nod. I have a baby Iolanthe (prn like G&S in their play by the same name https://forvo.com/word/iolanthe/#en). We use Ionie on occasion, too. I also love Isolde and Ianthe from this list, and I always suggest Isannah to parents looking for an uncommon-but-accessible I-name. With at least one documented use during the American Revolution, and literary cred in Esther Forbes’ “Johnny Tremain,” I’m always a little surprised that this one doesn’t get a bit more love.
on August 16th, 2018 at 4:28 am
I really like Imogen (nn Immy) and wanted to use it for my daughter but my DH said it reminded him of a pharmaceutical product and wouldn’t go for it. Anyway, I find ‘I’ such an intringuing starting letter, and I am charmed by Iona, Irene/Irene/Irenee, Isla, Ingrid, Ivy, India (though I know some see this as a no-no name) and Indira.
on August 16th, 2018 at 4:29 am
Meant Irena in there!
on August 16th, 2018 at 10:58 am
I love Inessa (I = E) and Ina (EE-n-ah).
on August 17th, 2018 at 11:52 am
I really like names beginning with I, these are all on my list –
Ida, Idalina/Idaline, Idonia, Iduna, Ileana, Imogen, Ingrid, Iola/Iolana, Iona, Iphigenia, Irelina, Irene, Iris, Isadora, Isaline/Isalina, Isaura, Ivalo, Ivara, Ivora & Ivy.
Others that I like but aren’t on my neverending list are –
Idalia, Idony, Ilaria, Ilena, Illiana, Ina, Irina, Irma, Irmelind, Iselin, Isolde, Issoria & Ivalice
on August 17th, 2018 at 8:18 pm
Two old-fashioned names that I’d love to see come back are Irene (“peace”) and Ivelisse (“life” or “vine”). They both sound so elegant to me.
on August 18th, 2018 at 11:46 am
Indira is the most beautiful I name out there. En-dear-eh. It means beauty and splendor. It also sounds endearing! The nickname Indy is super cute on a little girl. But it’s the name of a South Asian relative in law of mine, and I don’t know how they would feel about us naming a child after her. Is it respectful, off putting, or perfectly normal? I’m not sure and I’m shy to ask.
I also like Inez from this list, and Irene and Iris. Isolde sounds perfectly stunning but it’s a little unusual (of course so is Indira!)
on August 18th, 2018 at 2:46 pm
I’ve liked Ida for a long time, and Ida Jane would make a nice first name. Could call her Jennie, Jessie, Jinny.
Of your list, I particularly like Iris, Io, Inez, Ireland.
Here are others:
Ilse – I believe it’s a German short form of Elizabeth. Could call her Elsie.
Ilona, Ilana – I knew of a girl named Ilona, pronounced like Ilana.
on August 18th, 2018 at 2:49 pm
Also there’s Immanuelle, Immanuella, Irene.
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