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Nameberry Picks: The 12 best feminizations

In this era of boys’ or at least boyish names for girls, feminizations — classic feminine forms of male names such as Charlotte and Georgia — seem almost quaint.  Why not just name your daughter Charlie….or George?

Well, there are a lot of reasons.  And choosing a more traditional feminization can give you the best of all name worlds.  Most are distinctly female without being frilly, have deep roots yet feel right for the contemporary world, let you honor a male ancestor without creating any confusion about the gender of his little namesake.

There are so many great feminine forms that it was difficult narrowing the list down to just a dozen.  But these are our current favorites:

Antonia Antonia is a lush and gorgeous name that has not found favor the way sisters Charlotte and Georgia have.  In fact, it fell off the US Top 1000 in 2007 — which may be a very good reason to use it now.  While some may find it too Old World, we think it’s lovely in its full form, not shortened to the considerably less classy Toni or Tonia.


Charlotte — The name Charlotte has gotten so much attention on Nameberry recently — it was our Number 1 girls’ name for the second year in a row and also triumphed in the Favorite Name Brackets Challenge we created with the Huffington Post — that we hate to write about it yet again, but how could we leave it off this list?  It’s a name that offers so much to so many that we had to include it among our dozen best feminine forms.

ClementineClementine has definitively transcended its “Oh My Darlin'” associations (well, almost) to become a stylish and charming choice for modern parents.  In the US, it’s pronounced with a long i while in Britain, it’s Clementeen, or Clementina, also pronounced with the long e sound as in Christina.

FedericaFrederick is back and so, among adventurous parents, are his feminine forms.  Our favorite is this lighter Italian version.

GeorgiaGorgeous Georgia is a current star of a name.  While there’s a very real risk of overpopularity, Georgia may be worth it: It combines a soft, feminine sound with the strong, creative image of artist Georgia O’Keeffe (that’s her painting illustrating this piece).

HarrietFans of our books may know that two of the few names that Linda and I disagree on are Harriet and Henrietta.  I love them both (and agonized over which to include here) while Linda, not so much.  Even lovers of vintage names seem so far to be siding with Linda, though both offer fresh options that are familiar yet unusual — both fell off the Top 1000 half a century ago!  Cute celebrity-endorsed nickname: Hattie.

JosephineIf I had six daughters (one prime name lover’s fantasy), one of them would surely be named Josephine, a lovely feminine form that pulled back from its lows in the late 1980s to reach Number 186 today.  Bonus adorable nickname: Josie.

LouiseLouise or Louisa?  That is the question, but while neither is on the Top 1000 (yet), we think that, after a generation of the domination of a-ending forms, Louise feels more stylish — and indeed, is chic in ParisLou or Lulu are perfect short forms.

PetraWhile many of the names on this list lie outside the Top 1000, Petra is undoubtedly the most obscure.  We’re not seeing this feminization of Peter on any baby namers’ short lists.  But it’s sleek and surprising and won out for a place among our favorites over Philippa, which has been made more visible and attractive by its association with Royal Bridesmaid Pippa Middleton — except if you choose it, everyone will say, ‘Oh, like Pippa Middleton?’

SimoneWhile other feminizations have swung wildly in and out of style — so long, Stephanie, Michelle, Danielle, and NicoleSimone has maintained a fairly steady middle-of-the-road pace since 1960, when French feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir gave the name visibility and glamour.  For over 50 years, it’s been between Number 350 and 750 on the official US popularity list, which makes it neither trendy nor obscure, both familiar and distinctive.

TheodoraTheodora may not have cracked the Top 1000 for nearly 60 years, but it makes up for its long nap with style power.  With a range of nickname possibilities, Theodora also has the cool stamp of approval from none other than Keith Richards, who gave the name to one of his daughters.

WillaWilla, recently chosen by actress Keri Russell for her daughter, is a feminization of William that is beginning to rouse from its long slumber.  This form feels sleeker and more modern than many of its feminized sisters.  Author Willa Cather is a noted heroine.

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43 Responses to “Nameberry Picks: The 12 best feminizations”

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Poppy528 Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 1:44 am

I love this list! And the pic too!

We’re definitely considering the name Harriet should we have a baby girl. I have two great grandfathers named Herschel but called Harry… I really love it; so clunky and vintage but made friendly with the Hattie nickname. I’m glad you added it!

stackety Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 2:43 am

I love Harriet too, again becasue I think Hattie is a really cute nickname. It’s on our top 10 list for our baby girl due in May. I am only slightly put off by the fact that a lot of people don’t seem to like it 🙁 We have a Pippa too, named a couple of years before the royal wedding and we do get “Oh like Pippa Middleton” on occasion. We still love it and suits our little pixie to a “t”.

notsoclevername Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 8:54 am

Hmmm Harriet I’m not digging so much but I do love the sound on Henrietta! I’m not the fondest of feminizations. I like a name to be feminine in its own right, but I do like a good chunk of feminizations anyway. One of my favorite feminizations is Josepha. Josephine is lovey too but for some reason I really like the simplicity of just adding the A for Josepha. (But not to sound like a hypocrite based on my recent forum post, I don’t like simply adding an A to feminize a name most of the time. Josepha is one of a few exception)

miloowen Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 9:15 am

I still prefer Louisa to Louise and Caroline to Charlotte.

For your consideration: Edwina and Edmonde, two feminisations that are simple and classic.

KKRvF Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 9:38 am

We have a Benedikte and I am so pleased we went with it. Should we have a second daughter, she will also have a feminization: Augusta. We have a long, formal german last name and it just works.

jpruitt76 Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 10:35 am

I agree – love Harriet and Henrietta (Hattie for Harriet and Hettie or Etta for Henrietta).

name-obsession Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 11:17 am

I think that if I can get future hubby (I’m 17, no babies for at least 10 years!) on board, Petra will be on my short list. Petra Simone or Petra Louise… I love Petra and always have!

Zeffy Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 11:18 am

Adore these names. Josephine, Petra, Willa and Georgia being my favourite. Also, the two British Clementines I know both pronounce their names with a long I.

Lola Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 11:20 am

Ooh, Josephine! I adore it so much, she’ll be 8 at the end of May. 😀 Josie is starting to appreciate her enormous amount of nicknames, she picks a new one every other week. This week, she’s Fifi again.

If she had a sister, I’d be torn: Caroline (beats cHARLOTTe in my book), Clementine or Henrietta. A Henrietta of mine wouldn’t be Hattie, she’d be Etta or Hettie. And then there’s Wilhelmina/Mina, Philippa & Frances… See what I mean about torn? Good thing she has 2 big brothers!

LJandRL Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 11:37 am

Its funny, Harriet is a top 100 name in the UK. In fact I love it and had it on my list until I decided it was being too popular. I know a Harriet who goes by Harri, but personally I prefer Hattie. It was never very popular when I mentioned it on the boards but that didn’t bother me because I love it.

Also, maybe its just me but I’m British and I pronounce Clementine with a long i! And I’ve never heard it any other way around here. Maybe Clemen-teen is more of a European pronunciation? Don’t quote me though!

samjaymc Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Totally agree with Charlotte and Harriet! I much prefer Louisa to Louise, though.

Oh, and where’s Eliza? That’s a very classic feminime name

SugarPlumFairy Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Wouldn’t it be cute if people started feminising boys names again instead of using the masculine forms? Like using Elliotte instead of Elliot on a girl.

pam Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Sugarplumfairy that’s been happening for a long time! See names like Jamie and Sami and yes Elliotte

Mcdonak1 Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I love Henrietta and Harriet. Not sure that I would use them (if I ever have another girl, she is 100% Louisa), but I think that either would be adorable for a little girl.

I recently encountered my first Jamesina, a 30-something woman living in my area. At first the feminized form felt a bit forced, but it grew on me, and now I kind of love it. Won’t someone out there in nameberryland name their daughter Jamesina?

moxielove Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 1:52 pm

My daughter’s name is Petra and we have Simone on our (well, ok, MY) short list for our next daughter – it never occurred to me that there was a pattern there! Now that I think about it, I suppose another favorite – Ramona – also fits the trend.

I also really love the stately elegance of Francesca and Thomasina.

I wonder if Roberta will ever start appealing again? To me, it seems to fit perfectly with the Charlotte & Harriet crowd, complete with it’s own cute Robbie nickname…

Sarah.Jane Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

My list would look like this:
1) Georgiana
2) Henrietta (I do love this name a slight bit more than Harriet)
3) Louisa (the ‘a’ sells the name for me)
4) Philippa (I think many people live this name, but not many are actually using it. I can deal with Pippa Middleton)
5) Victoria (I am becoming more and more in love with this name)
6) Alexandrina (I love the unexpected ending to this name)
7) Caroline
8) Justine
9) Johanna

Sarah.Jane Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

My 8 turned into a cool sunglass wearing smiley.
Also, I know a 28 year old Petra. Our teachers could never pronounce her name right.

Nook of Names Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I was utterly in love with Harriet twenty years ago — I was reading all the Dorothy L. Sayers’ at the time, so that probably had something to do with it.

It’s always surprised me that Antonia has seen so little use. I did teach one once. And, as it happens, her sister was called Henrietta.

Jacquelini Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Just curious- are there any male names that are masculine forms of female names?
Has the female version ever come first?

Kyri Laina Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Other Feminized Boy Names:

Stephen- Estephania
Dean- Deanna
Eli- Ellie
Aaron- Erin
Jack- Jacqueline
Hollis- Holly
Joe- Jo (Joelle)
Adrian- Adrielle or Adriana
Clarence- Clara or Clarissa
Michael- Michaela
Daniel- Danielle
Bernard- Bernadette or Bernadine

R_J Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Great blog! I’m in love with Theodora. Love Thea, love Dora, love it all. (Also Teodora- so pretty!)

Poppy528 Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Jacquelini, I was wondering the same thing! It’d have to be an old name. What about Damario as the masculine form of Damaris? Maybe Mariano for Mary. No clue really, just guessing.

miloowen Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Mariano and Marius are both masculine forms of Mary. Also, in Italian there is Caterino, the masculine form of Caterina.

Eliza is not a feminisation, which is why it’s not on the list….

mmljar Says:

February 28th, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Some of the above comments refer to similar sounds not feminisations.

My favourites are Mattea and Frances. I have an aunt Thomasina which I would have thought too far out to ever come back but now I don’t know…

Hannah-Banana Says:

February 29th, 2012 at 12:33 am

Petra is on MY short list. Petra Marilyn. I love it so much. It was inspired by a beautiful marble statue on my college campus, the abstract shape of a woman lounging on a pedestal. It stuck in my head, plus, I love the meaning, strength.

Roux Says:

February 29th, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I love love love love love these names! I cant for the life of me understand giving your daughter a boys name when you have these options! So much better IMO. I also ADORE Philippa.

SugarPlumFairy Says:

February 29th, 2012 at 1:47 pm

@Jacquelini

Marion from Mary
Emmett from Emma
Evelyn from Aveline
Averill from Everild
Blythe from Blithe
Dwight from Diot (Dionysia)
Edison from Eda (Edith)
Merrill from Muriel
Nino from Nina
Clair from Claire
Agathon from Agatha
Lilian from Liliane
Carmine from Carmen
Caomh from Caoimhe
Zoran from Zora

(most of them are surnames that were originally from feminine names)

I think it happens more in Latin countries, where you can find man named Cândido, Amélio, Natálio, or Catarino.

lisar Says:

March 1st, 2012 at 9:42 am

I love this post! My brand new baby girl is Harriet and we live in Canada where it’s not heard at all (at least I haven’t heard it). I also really love the names Josephine, Clementine, Louise and Willa.
My great aunt’s middle name is Frederica and our family always thought that was a terrible name!

arianabelinda Says:

March 28th, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I am not a big fan of most of these names. I like their classic, stately quality, but they don’t sound pretty to me. I really do understand why others like them, and it fascinates me how we all differ. I guess the 2 I like best are Willa & Petra. Intetesting article!

embattler Says:

April 8th, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Bernadette should be on this list! Beautiful Bernadette! Such a lovely name, and so underused. I don’t see what Charlotte has over Bernadette, especially to warrant being so much more popular. Simone, Harriet, Georgia, Clementine… Bernadette beats them all! In my opinion, at least 🙂

bjoy Says:

April 27th, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Josephine is in my tip three girl names. I think Jo and Josie are my favorite nickname options, but Sephina is nice too. Funny, whenever I mention it to my Grandma (her middle name would be Josephine’s middle name), she thinks it’s so old fashioned and unattractive. She has a sister Harriot, which I think is lovely and sassy but she considers it dreadful. I suppose I’d feel that way if I have a granddaughter that wants to name her baby my name, Brittany, in a few decades!

Pandme Says:

May 11th, 2012 at 10:30 pm

My daughter is a Clementine. We call her Tiney. She’ll be three in September. Love, love, love the name. Second favorite is Josephine, my grandma’s name. I also like Georgianna.

Lulacat Says:

May 30th, 2012 at 10:11 pm

My daughter is Simone Jade, and she just suits her name so much, she’s 30 now and due to have a baby girl in October and names are flying in and out! The middle name will be Kathraine, was the first part of my lovely Mams name (Kathleen) and second part of mine (Lorraine) but as for a first name, we havent a clue!

sahd721 Says:

September 30th, 2012 at 10:49 am

I love this list. Charlotte, Willa, Louise/Louisa are on my short list… So great! Charlotte for my grandfather Charlie, Louise/Louisa to honor a family name (Louise) on both sides of mine & hubby’s families. Great list!

Kat987 Says:

June 1st, 2013 at 10:13 am

I hate reeeally girly names, but I love names with a distinct feminine touch.

Charlotte
Josephine
Theadora
Louisa

All sound really gorgeous and classy.

Kat987 Says:

June 1st, 2013 at 10:15 am

Oh and I’d have probably used Charlotte if we’d have had a girl. but we had a boy and called him Charlie! So if we had a girl now and named her Charlotte it’d be Charlie and Charley – not good!

CsprsSassyHrly Says:

June 30th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

My grandmother (and cousin, who was named after my grandmother) are Petra. My grandma hates Petra and prefers adding the Spanish -ita to the end of it, making it Petrita. My cousin goes by Petra for work but she prefers people call her by her nickname, Pety. So, while I know a couple of Petra’s, neither of them actually like going by Petra.

I love Georgia but with as popular as it’s becoming, I think I prefer Georgianne or Georgianna, which I would use as a remake of my mom’s name Georgina.

I like the name Simone, but think I prefer its male counterpart, Simon, more. Though, I do like Simone Spanish form more, Ximena.

I agree with the person that said Bernadette. It’s not a name I would’ve thought about using before The Big Bang Theory, but I love the -ette ending (like another favorite of mine, Colette) and I love the possible nicknames, Bernie, Etta and a few others that may not seem like they come off of Bernadette.

I like Clementine but not sure which pronunciation I’d prefer. And Louise has been on my list forever and a day!

Other feminizations I love are Justine (probably my absolute favorite) and Geraldine (a favorite since I met the most adorable Geraldine about ten years ago).

obow Says:

October 21st, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I only really love Georgia (Gia) and Georgina (Gina) from this list. They just don’t do it for me, but many of the nicknames are adorable!

Orangerolls Says:

February 17th, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Petra is on my shortlist on here as my husband loves it. I love Josephine also – that was my grandma’s name. I’m also a secret fan of Albertine (with an ee sound). She was an ancestor of mine from Norway.

Gingersnap Says:

February 18th, 2014 at 12:20 am

I’ve always liked the sound of Paula. I also love Josephine (a family name for me) and Simone.

taliesin Says:

February 18th, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Alexandra
Caroline

also Victoria, Cosima, Jacqueline (from Jacques), Nicole, Andrea, Noelle, Olivia, Claudia.
I doubt I would ever use Timothea but I still like it, nn Timm.

I really, really don’t like Harriet, Henrietta, Josephine, Roberta. I see chintz, flowered dresses, wrinkles, blue hair and canes. All these names are preceded by ‘My great aunt–––––––”
Other feminizations could include Davinia, Michaela, Brianna, Daniela, Gabriella, Emmanuelle, Xaviera, Isadora

Haili73 Says:

June 15th, 2014 at 9:33 am

I’ve got a feminization: Michaila, which is much more popular than my parents thought when they gave it to me, thinking it was a unique name.
But my favorite off this list, and my all time favorite name right now for a girl is Antonia. I’d use Annie as a nickname.

I also have a character named Henrietta. I purposely gave her a feminization of her father’s name Henry. It’s a thing that’s important in the story. Josephine is nice as well.

taliesin Says:

June 15th, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Alexandra….Antonia….Alana….Nicole….Jessica….Erica….Victoria…..Jacqueline (Jacques)….Claudia….Olivia…..Andrea….Cosima….Noelle….Caroline….Gina….Emily….and Timothea, just because I like Timothy so much.

Erin really isn’t the feminine of Aaron – one is pretty Hebrew and the other is pretty Irish, although they would be funny together.

I like most of the other names on the list also EXCEPT Harriet and Henrietta. Please let these die. Can’t you start pushing something like Cecilia or Theodora or Eugenia or Domenica instead.

Domenica Macdonald is a character in the Alexander McCall Smith series.

Domenica Santolina Doone, or Dinnie, is the protagonist of Sharon Creech’s “Bloomability”.

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