Merry May Names for Girls


The merry month of May has arrived and you just might be shopping for a name for your May baby girl.  How about choosing a baby name that incorporates the pretty sound of the month of May itself?  One way would be to take the vintage smoosh route, with something like Annamae or Ellamae or Maybeth, but we think–Ismay being one charming exception)– a more straightforward choice would be better. Here, an overview of May baby names for girls.

May and MaeYes, they sound identical, and share a sweet faded yet fresh flowery feel, but there are some slight—almost indefinable—differences in tone. May started as one of the innumerable pet forms of Mary and Margaret, as well as a springtime month name along with April and June.   She’s represented in classic American lit by May Bartram in Henry James’s The Beast in the Jungle and May Welland in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.  Actresses Emily Morton and Madeline Stowe named their daughters May, and Eric Clapton, Molly Sims and Jodie Sweetin used it in middle place for theirs. May ranked as high on the list as Number 57 in the 1880s; it’s now 228 on Nameberry.

Mae has beaten May back onto the popularity list—it’s now at Number 589—but still has a way to go before it reaches the Top 100, a place it held through 1920.  It was attached to some of the leading ladies of the silent screen era—Maes Clarke, Marsh, Busch and Murray—but its most famous namesake by far is the sultry Mae West—who was born Mary Jane—and who added some definite sass to this version.  Mae is making a considerable comeback as a middle, used as such by Greg Kinnear, Samantha Brown and Ian Ziering, though it has also been used as a first by actors Laurie Metcalf and Kathryn Hahn.

MabelMabel has the cheeky charm of a whole group of old-style wisecracking waitress names. She originated as a shortened version of Amabel, which is French for lovable, losing her initial A along the way and becoming a Victorian favorite, especially popular at the turn of the last century.  But Mabel has definitely been making a comeback, now at #578 and 85 on Nameberry. Modern  Mabel dads: Russell BrandBruce Willis, Chad Lowe and Dermot Mulroney.  Variant spelling Maybelle is strictly country, Maybelline a bit too cosmetic.

MacySinger Macy Gray (born Natalie) popularized this upbeat, onetime strictly department store-related surname choice to the point where it now ranks Number 413 on the chart.  First noticed on a soap opera, it entered the list in 1990. Actress Edie Falco chose it for her daughter.

MaeveThis lovely name of an ancient Irish queen is gaining more and more U.S. attention among parents both with and without Irish roots.  It now ranks at #450, appreciated for the unusual amount of charm, richness and resonance it has for a single-syllable name.  Irish novelist Maeve Binchy was an inspirational literary namesake; Chris O’Donnell has a daughter named Maeve.

MaidaA relic of the era when young women were still referred to as maids and maidens, Maida was last heard in reference to eminent pastry chef Maida Heatter.  Maida danced around the lower edges of the popularity list at the turn of the last century and into the teens, when it was also a favorite in children’s books for girls.

Maisie, Maizie, MaisyMaisie in all its forms is one of the most irresistible of names, a Scottish variant of the Gaelic form of Margaret.  She’s had an interesting and varied history—as a character in works by Rudyard Kipling, Henry James and J.K.Rowling, as the brassy leading lady in a popular 1940’s movie series, and as a picture-book mouse spelled Maisy. Along with other old nickname names, Maisie returned to the pop chart in 2014, is now at #624 nationally, 33 in Scotland, and 54 on Nameberry!

Maize –A sunshiny color name, which is, for better or worse, redolent of corn, and also sounds like a pet name for Maizie.

MameHard to think of this without the word Auntie in front of it, but Mame could make a cute retro middle name choice.

MamieA Top 100 name in the US until 1912—as high as Number 53 in 1888—Mamie was long stuck in the dated image of First Lady Eisenhower’s trademark short bangs, but now seems ready to take her place among the other revived vintage nns.  Meryl Streep’s actress daughter Mamie Gummer was Mary Willa at birth.

MapleOne of the newest and more striking possibilities, used by the Jason Batemans for their daughter Maple Sylvie, establishing it as more feminine, less arboreal.

MavisMavis, despite its trace of a British accent, was a Flapper Era favorite in the US, and could conceivably make a comeback, along with such other s-ending names as Iris, Agnes and Frances. Namesakes include singer Mavis Staples, Canadian writer Mavis Gallant and activist Mavis Leno.

What’s your favorite May-sounding name?

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

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