Looking Beyond Emma and Ella: Who’s next?
It’s pretty obvious that some popular names start a daisy chain of cousins that become equally popular, as was seen most recently in the progression of a group of top girls’ names beginning with E. First there was Emily, which was the Number 1 name from 1996 to 2007. One year after that, Emma reached the top spot, only to be trailed by Ella, who has now been in the Top 20 since 2008.
Yet as recently as the 1980s, Ella wasn’t even in the Top 1000, seen as a rather frumpy has-been, stuck in appellation limbo. Which leads us to wonder who will be next? Which two-syllable E-name will escape from the lower depths to follow in this progression?
The leading contenders:
ETTA has taken the first step, having recently been picked by a celeb, Carson Daly, said to have been inspired by the late great soul singer Etta James, just as previous parents were similarly influenced by Ella Fitzgerald. Etta was born as a shortening of names with that ending, such as Henrietta—in fact Etta James’s birth certificate name was Jamesetta. Etta was a Top 100 name in the last decades of the 1800’s, then slid down until it fell off the list completely in 1966. But with its delicate sound that also has a bit of crackle, and its new starbaby status, we can see this as a likely successor.
ELSA is similar in structure but with quite a different feel. A German offshoot of Elisabeth, Elsa came into English-speaking use in the nineteenth century, boosted by Wagner’s operatic bride in Lohengrin—the first to walk down the aisle to the famous wedding march. For a while Elsa projected a leonine image via the lioness in the popular book and movie Born Free, but she has also had lots of varied and interesting human namesakes—designer Schiaparelli, writer Morante, Bride of Frankenstein Lanchester (borh Elizabeth), and several current stunning European models.
ENID lacks the feminine ending of Emma, Ella, Etta and Elsa, but it’s still another forgotten four-letter E-possibility: Enid has been M.I.A since 1954. You might not know it to look at her, but Enid is Welsh, from the word meaning ‘life’ or ‘soul.’ Back in the Age of Chivalry, to call a woman ‘a second Enid’ was the greatest of compliments, as she was a legendary romantic figure, revived in Tennyson’s Idylls of the Kings. In more modern times: not so much, unless you want to count the title of a Bare Naked Ladies song or a quirky character in the quirky film Ghost World.
EDNA is probably the longest shot of the group, if only by virtue of its sound, so that today’s parents looking for a female relative of Edward would more likely choose Edwina. Edna, a Top 25 name for decades, has the assets of biblical ties, Irish roots and some highly regarded literary namesakes—Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edna Ferber and Edna O’Brien—but its more recent references have been a lot more clunkier—I’m thinking Dame Edna and Mama Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.
There are a few other outliers as well, though not as directly connected: the soulful Alma, the star-sanctioned (via Lily Allen) Ethel, the Gallic Esmé and—I probably shouldn’t even mention it– the beyond unlikely Erma. But then there’s also the possibility that Ella will lead instead to one of the other types of El– names: Elle, Eloise, Elodie, Eleanor, Elsie and Eliza are all on the upswing
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on September 13th, 2012 at 12:08 am
Ethel is actually via Lily Allen–she just named her baby Ethel Mary. I definitely think Etta and Esme pick up the flirtatious elan of Ella–I’d bet on those ones. But Elodie and Eloise will rise with them.
on September 13th, 2012 at 12:12 am
Katy Perry –> Lily Allen!
I actually really like Edna, but there is already a little girl in my DD day care named that.
on September 13th, 2012 at 1:13 am
Elsa has recently moved to the top of my favorites list. 🙂
on September 13th, 2012 at 1:17 am
Any of the El names, as it seems that a lot of people are looking for alternative names to get the Ellie nicknames. I want to say Eleanor as it’s already getting popular, but I feel that Eliza or Eloise could definitely be Ella’s successor.
on September 13th, 2012 at 4:14 am
The thing that bugs me about Etta is that it’s said totally differently by Americans and Brits. The former (me) say what is effectively Edda and the latter (my husband) say Ett-ta. I love the name but could never use it for that reason.
on September 13th, 2012 at 6:13 am
Ethel is one of my favorite names! I have it on my short list for girls, but my husband isnt exactly onboard with it. I love the old sound… it’s ready for a comback!
on September 13th, 2012 at 6:54 am
Ev(i)e or Eleni could be contenders. Hubby’s and my current favourite girl’s name is Ember.
on September 13th, 2012 at 7:13 am
Elva is a nice Irish one, as is Eithne (pronounced ETH-na). I also know a lady called Ettie, short for Esther, which I think is lovely.
on September 13th, 2012 at 7:16 am
How did Isla not make the list?
Not an “e” but an audible offshoot of Ella and rapidly rising.
on September 13th, 2012 at 7:24 am
Isla! I definitely think that’s a prime direction, Julyshewillfly. And from Isla to Ida….
on September 13th, 2012 at 7:26 am
My personal favorite from the list of contenders is Elsa, but I also think Esme has a lot of potential to rise quickly.
on September 13th, 2012 at 8:43 am
My two-year-old daughter is Esta, but I doubt that’ll make it to the top. We named her after her great-great-grandma.
on September 13th, 2012 at 9:04 am
Edna is a guilty pleasure of mine.
I can see any short, spunky name ending with an ‘a’ rising. Most of the top 10 end with an a (Sophia, Isabella, Ava, Emma, Mia, ect.)
Bella is becoming an independant name on it’s own. It’s mostly traced to the Isabella origin, but Bella could be a successor to Ella.
Elliot (as much as I hate it on girls, its being used more and more)
on September 13th, 2012 at 9:44 am
I love Enid!!
on September 13th, 2012 at 9:47 am
My two of my absolute favourite female names are listed here, Enid and Alma. I love them! I know many people do don’t like Enid, but I think it would wear on them until they see the real beauty of this name. Enid has such a rich history in literature and myth.
on September 13th, 2012 at 10:31 am
I’m going with Etta!
on September 13th, 2012 at 10:33 am
I hope Elsa isn’t next…..we named our daughter this 2 years ago and I would hate to see it get super popular =)
But based on negative reactions we get from some people about her name, I don’t think it has enough mass appeal to be the next Ella — it is too “old lady”, too “cow-ish” and/or “too lioness” for many.
I also think that people are getting tired of all the Ella/Ellie sounding names, which leads me to believe something fresher sounding like Etta, Evie or Edie has a better chance at gaining popularity.
on September 13th, 2012 at 10:35 am
I think Ellie might be the next one. It’s the short form of most El-starting girls’ names, and it’s really popular over here in Britain, and it fits in with the short old-fashioned nickname-name thing. I also think Eliza or Evie will rise some more in the next few years.
on September 13th, 2012 at 11:02 am
You can go in a lot of directions for the next “it” name. I think like baby name trends in general there won’t be just one natural successor. Amelia and Mila/Milly feel like successors to Emily/Emma. Eliza, Eloise, and Isla are all great suggestions as successors to Ella.
Ida could be a name to watch in a few years–you can get there from Ava to Ada to Ida OR from Ella to Isla to Ida.
on September 13th, 2012 at 11:11 am
I think the rise of Ella also had a lot to do with Twilight and the rise of Isabella/Bella.
My guess would be something starting with Ed, like Eden, Edith, but I can’t Edna rising in the real world; its too old ladyish.
on September 13th, 2012 at 11:20 am
I’m surprised I haven’t seen more Ada’s, honestly. I’ve also seen Edith quite a bit.
on September 13th, 2012 at 11:53 am
Etta for sure seems like the natural progression of things. Alma & Althea have potential. Esme for the connection to short/cute E names & also Twilight. I love Edna, but maybe the world isn’t ready? I think Elsie will beat Elsa out, which I find unfortunate. I don’t love Elsa, but find her far more sophisticated than Elsie…just like Elle vs Ellie. Alva? Alba? Effie (hunger games name & fits the theme)?
on September 13th, 2012 at 1:15 pm
I’m going with Eliza as the next big thing, but I also feel Adele has a similar flair and may be the rising star.
on September 13th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
Maybe Esme could be another rising star name?
on September 13th, 2012 at 3:44 pm
I’m surprised to not see my two name crushes up here! (or my name… Erin, included in the 4-letter name group.)
Eden – which I am in love with right now. It just feels so… woman, and peaceful all at the same time.
Emme – I am falling hard for this one right now, though her whole name would be Emerson. I like the androgynous feel with a super feminine nn.
I bet Esme may jump a bit too, thank’s to Twilight. It has such a pretty sound.
on September 13th, 2012 at 5:10 pm
I think Eden, as well. It has the benefit of a cute nickname Edy.
Amelia/Mila also seems like a natural successor to Emily, as a few have already stated.
I’m not sure that the Emily, Emma, Ella successor needs to start with the letter E.
on September 13th, 2012 at 6:34 pm
My bet is for Elsie. I’ve met several little Elsies recently.
And I think that Ella is popular not because of Bella in Twilight, but because of Ella Enchanted. My sisters and I all wanted to name our future daughters Ella after we read that book. So did my roommates at college and their sisters…
on September 13th, 2012 at 6:49 pm
I also think Eliza is going to make a resurgence.
I met a little Eloise last week and I could definitely see that rising in popularity but never as much as Ella etc.
I also think that Ella is benefiting from another daisy chain: the whole Stella-Bella conection lends itself towards Ella.
I personally think that Ayla will be a fast riser. Emily –> Emma –> Ella –> Ayla
on September 13th, 2012 at 10:29 pm
Eloise has recently made it to the top of my favorites list. I think a nn Ellie would be really sweet for a little girl.
I also really like Eliza and Elsa.
on September 13th, 2012 at 10:47 pm
(short for Henrietta)
on September 14th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
I’m in shock. My great-grandmother’s name was Etta, which I always thought was short for Esther, and I was middle-named for her. I always thought it was dreadful, and so am amazed to see it’s coming round again! And my grandmother was Ida. Everything old is new again!
I met a Rosetta who goes by Zetta; I thought that was pretty cool.
on September 17th, 2012 at 3:37 pm
Of these ideas I agree that Etta is fastest on the heels of Ella. I hear Eleanor and Ellie a lot lately. Eliza and Eloise seem to be ripe for a larger resurgence above and beyond the suggestions here. I agree with Aura about Elliot moving up even more in the “El-” trend. Another oldie that may be back before long, Ellen, and “modern” version, Ellery.
My future daughter will be an Elsa (after many Elizabeth’s in my family and old Northern European heritage). Over the years as I have introduced the name to friends and family I have to agree with Norskelove that initial reactions can be negative (in time most people come around to appreciate it). Still I have to doubt that it will become super popular since it doesn’t have that instant appeal to most ears.
on September 18th, 2012 at 3:22 pm
@Aurra: stop trying to make Ezra happen for girls. It isnt.
on September 30th, 2012 at 10:29 pm
what about ELLIS?
on February 28th, 2013 at 7:15 pm
Eleanor seems definitely more likely to follow than any others currently on the list. (Much to my disappointment.)
on February 28th, 2013 at 7:15 pm
on August 10th, 2013 at 10:21 pm
on June 20th, 2014 at 7:05 am
I think Elia because it is like a cross between Ella & Ellie and Elia has the -is ending that is very popular
on June 20th, 2014 at 7:06 am
I meant the -ia ending
on August 10th, 2014 at 10:14 pm
I personally like Erma. I think it has the same effect as Emma, but without being overly common.
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