By Abby Sandel
When we talk modern girl names, we’re often thinking about picks like Harper and Sloane, or Willow and Sage. They’re surname names and word names, choices that trend girl, but could just as easily be given to boys. Tailored and trim, these unique baby names feel right at home in the twenty-first century, even though many have roots in ages past.
But there’s another class of modern girl names. They’re novel – at least in the English-speaking world – and yet they’re traditionally feminine in sound.
But the dominant quality of romantic girl names? They’re just plain pretty. With warm weather arriving, these are the sundresses of baby names.
Alena, Alina – Seldom heard before the 1980s, Alena and Alina started out as short forms of longer names. Today, they stand separate from Magdalena and Adelina. Jonas brother Kevin named his daughter Alena Rose in 2014, but the ‘i’ spelling is much more popular, currently ranking in the US Top 200. Used throughout Europe, it’s a portable name with roots that feels fresh and modern, too.
Amaya – With separate Spanish and Japanese origins, Amaya makes for a new name in English – one that first charted in the US in 1999. The reason? MTV’s Real World: Hawaii included a cast member by the name. But like many modern romantics, it feels more traditional, perhaps because it’s so close to long-time favorite Maya. Mariska Hargitay is mom to Amaya Josephine, and the name currently ranks just outside of the US Top 200.
Eliana – Take Ellie and Ella, add an –ana, and you’ll have this elaborate choice. It feels invented, but has Hebrew roots and a lovely meaning: “God has answered.” In the US, Eliana falls just outside of the current Top 100. Factor in Elliana and Elianna, and this name becomes even more popular. Thanks to the popular El– sound, this pretty name should continue to rise.
Liana – American parents love L names. Our current Top 100 includes Lily, Layla, Leah, Lucy, and Lydia, plus Ella, Mila, Stella, and more L- heavy choices. Liana could be a cousin to many a longer name, or maybe it’s just another spin on those popular sounds. A type of forest vine is called Liana, too. While compound names like Leanne fared well in the 1960s, romantic Liana belongs to a new generation.
Lorelai, Lorelei – Whether you prefer the Gilmore Girls-approved Lorelai, or stick with the more traditional –lei ending, this name is on the rise. Originally borrowed from German folklore, Marilyn Monroe wore the name in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. But the twenty-first century is the age of Lorelei, a moment when romantic girl names heavy on the L sound fare well. Lorelei recently entered the US Top 500 for the first time; Lorelai isn’t far behind.
Malia – Former First Daughter Malia Obama got her unusual name thanks to dad’s Hawaiian roots. But unlike some Hawaiian names – think Leilani – this feels like one that could occur in many languages. Used in small numbers since the 1950s, it spiked following the election of Malia’s dad. Since then, the named cooled slightly, but seems to be back on the rise, suggesting that the romantic sound of Malia appeals to many.
Selah – Biblical baby name Selah comes from a term in the Book of Psalms, which may mean “to praise” or “to pause.” Despite this history, it’s been rare as a given name until recently. Selah entered the US Top 1000 in 2005, and cracked the Top 500 a decade later. The similar Sela is less common. Today it feels like a successor to long-time favorites like Leah and Sarah.
Vienna – If the Italian Sienna appeals, why not the Austrian Vienna? A newcomer to the US Top 1000 in 2015, it owes something to The Bachelor’s winning couple from Season 14, Jake Pavelka and Vienna Girardi. But Vienna’s rise is also about our affection for place names, and our love of names like Violet and Victoria, and, of course, the whole class of modern romantic girl names.
Viviana – Speaking of V names, Viviana belongs with modern romantic girl names, too – at least in English. Vivian has ranked in the US Top 1000 since 1880, the earliest year data was reported. But the Spanish and Italian Viviana arrived in 1979, and is now more popular than ever. A popular Mexican telenovela might explain the name’s initial rise; since then, it’s served as an alternative to favorites from Sierra to Savannah.
For more names like this, see our collection of Best Cool Unusual Girls’ Names of 2017.
Do you like modern romantic girl names? Are any of these on your list? What would you add?