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Pretty Baby Names: 9 Kinds of Names for Girls

Looking for a delicate, feminine name for a daughter? Here’s your guide.

By Abby Sandel

What’s wrong with pretty?

Some weeks it seems like all of the newborn girls are being called James. Or Dashiel, Ryan, Wilder, Arlo, or Charlie, all names that appeared on celebrity girls’ birth announcements last year.

But pretty names for girls still carry the day. Nine of the US Top Ten names are clearly feminine. And graceful, pretty girls’ names are well represented on Nameberry’s Hottest Baby Names list.

This week, the pendulum swung towards girly-girl names. Looking at this list, it’s easy to argue that pretty names can still be strong, and girls with lovely names can grow up to be world class athletes or CEOs. After all, those are the job descriptions of the high profile parents who chose such lovely names for their new arrivals.

From Renaissance queen Isabella of Castille to nineteenth century suffragettes named Antoinette and Arabella, history demonstrates that girls with gorgeous names grow up to be world-changing women.

Let’s talk about nine types of pretty baby names for girls in the news this week:

Popular pretty – The NHL’s John Scott and wife Danielle have welcomed daughters three and four. Their older girls are Eva and Gabrielle. The family stuck with feminine choices for their twin daughters. One of their new arrivals is Sofia, the most popular name for girls in the US based on our Playground Analysis, and perhaps the most popular girls’ name worldwide.

Vintage pretty – The Scotts’ second daughter is Estelle, a name that feels every bit as pretty as Sofia. But while her sister’s name is wildly popular, Estelle is a quieter choice. It peaked about a century ago. Today, Stella is the star, with antique Estelle making a slow, steady comeback. There’s no shortage of names that feel both pretty and vintage.

Literally pretty Bella – the Italian word for beautiful – has been popular in recent years. Now singer Jana Kramer has welcomed daughter Jolie. Jolie is a French word meaning pretty. While it’s not traditionally used as a given name in France, it’s been in the US Top 1000 every year since 2000.

Literary pretty Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is an enduring favorite, and her lovely first name has finally re-entered the US Top 1000 after more than four decades’ absence. Louisa is a pretty, polished choice for a girl, rich with history and nickname potential. It makes this week’s list thanks to the upcoming big screen adaptation of Me Before You, a Jojo Moyes romance featuring characters named William and Louisa.

Botanical prettyLouisa, Sofia, and Estelle are traditional choices. But there are plenty of pretty names like Jolie – new, but not completely novel. Nature names, and especially flower names, often fit this description. Names for Real recently spotted a Petal Juliet. It’s an unexpected name that’s undeniably pretty.

Italian pretty – Romance languages are a great source of pretty baby names for girls. This list from the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources is full of elaborate names for children, all from fifteenth century Florence. Antonia was in use then, and it’s rising in the US again, too.

French pretty – Italian and Spanish names are lovely, but there’s something special about French baby names. Marielle is a French form of Mary. It brings to mind the gorgeous Mariel Hemingway. And now it’s the name of one of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s new daughters. Marissa and husband Zachary Bogue are also parents to son Macallister.

Elaborate pretty Marielle’s twin is Sylvana. It comes from silva, the Latin word for forest, and the root of Sylvester, Silas, and Sylvia, too. Sylvana brings to mind popular, elaborate names like Olivia and Ariana, as well as rising names like Carolina, Adalina, and Evelina. No word yet from Marissa or Zachary on the reasons they chose their girls’ names, but the couple seems to love longer choices, like big brother’s name, Macallister.

Understated pretty – Names like Charlotte and Grace don’t scream pretty – they whisper. They’re understated, but still feminine and lovely. In a recent Names for Real birth announcement round-up, Elise stood out as a name that was both understated and pretty.

Do you like your girls’ names tailored? Borrowed from the boys? Or do you prefer your names pretty?

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19 Responses to “Pretty Baby Names: 9 Kinds of Names for Girls”

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lesliemarion Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 12:47 am

NOT borrowed from the boys. No girl wants to be named Howard.

DEFINITELY pretty or beautiful.

Muffins05 Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 11:33 am

Pretty names are totally my style. I very much dislike boys names on girls. With so many beautiful feminine choices why would you pick a masculine name for a little princess?

EmmaMay Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 12:39 pm

I am wholeheartedly devoted to elaborate, flouncy, girly names for girls! Sorry, Madison, Emerson, Devin, Ryan, and Harper. Even Joan, Erin, and similar girl’s names are just not frilly feminine enough for me — lol!
My short list for girls has names Elliana, Arabella, Antonia, Giselle, Evelina, Vivienne, Charlotte, Rosemarie, etc.
I don’t mind unisex names, but they are certainly not for a child of mine.

senseandsensibility Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Pretty names for girls all the way! This is totally my style. My list is practically made out of them – word names such as Aria and Saga, nature names like Lavender and Marguerite, feminizations like Francesca, Bernadette, Cecilia and Valentina… long or short, they’ve got to have a frill. There’s just something romantic about them that hits the right note for me.
I don’t mind unisex names such as Blair or Sage though, but James on a girl is just a wee bit too much for my taste.

teacupsandtiaras Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 2:46 pm

My favorite styles are French, vintage, and literary. Although I’ve recently discovered a favorite that’s Italian!

On my short list: Charlotte, Josephine, Minerva, Christabel, and Elisabetta.

AldabellaxWulfe Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 4:29 pm

It’s no secret that I hate unisex/boy names on girls. My mother gave me a boy name thinking that it was cool and spunky and unique and strong. For me, it is embarrassing, a constantly source of conflict between my mother and I, and serves as a permanent barrier between myself and my femininity. So, I definitely gravitate towards the elaborate-pretty names when it comes to my future daughters. No to Aubrey, Dylan, Emerson and Riley. Yes to Ambrosia, Diamanta, Euphemia and Rowena!

Suzannah Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 5:19 pm

I love pretty and feminine names. I realize that taste is completely subjective, but when I hear names like Mabel, Hazel, Agnes and Edna I think that someday these mothers will wake up and say “what was I thinking?”

Alsace Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 5:49 pm

To each his own I guess. I like a few of these names but most of them I would never use (or want myself). I have a name most would consider “pretty” name and for most of my life I hated it. I am not a girly person and it never felt right to me. I love unisex names because (depending on the name) they don’t force you into a box. Same thing for boys, I’m addicted to soft sounding names for boys. I agree that some names would cause needless confusion – James is an example unless it really takes off for girls. Even still, you can’t know whether your little princess will want to have a princess name when she’s an adult.

I gave my daughter a unisex FN and feminine MN. If she wants a more feminine name, she can always go by her MN (something my mother forbid me to do). But in 15-20 years, I’m guessing that unisex names will be so normal that no one will give it a second thought.

jtay07 Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 6:23 pm

I just can’t take Petal seriously.

lesliemarion Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 8:31 pm

I think my real response is that I love many feminine names (floral, vintage, multi-syllabic, ending in a) but that I mostly just love female names on females and male names on males. I love Gertrude, Enid, Agatha, Hazel, Gudrun, Eudora, Wilhelmina because they are female names which sound strong.

So to me Petal is fine and so is Winfred, just not Norman, Kenneth, and Myron.

nativoyoung Says:

February 8th, 2016 at 11:39 pm

I hate boy names on girls. It can’t help but send the message that it is cooler to be a boy than a girl. Bad message, bad trend. Truly unisex names are different in that they don’t send that same message, but they are rare (Reese is a good example) but still not my style. I like most names–I’m a name-nerd after all–but my personal style is a little less frilly but still very feminine. So Annabel rather than Arabella.

ottertails Says:

February 9th, 2016 at 4:01 am

I like feminine names, some of which may be too frilly to others. I think this push of “all things masculine are better” is making me move the other way. You can have a frilly name and still be a “tomboy”. I still see myself using a less frilly name, but still feminine, on a daughter because I don’t think I would have the energy to yell out Araminta every time. So many of those beautiful names get shortened all the time.

TheHumanCanvas Says:

February 9th, 2016 at 11:12 am

At the minute I like feminine and tailored, but not frilly. Call it the naming version of Coco Chanel 🙂 I do like Estelle on this list, though I probably wouldn’t use it.

ARead Says:

February 9th, 2016 at 2:53 pm

I agree with this post–there is nothing wrong with being feminine so why do people turn up their noses at feminine, pretty names? If we believe that Arabella will be taken less seriously than Charlie when both young women apply for the same high-powered job, what message are we sending our girls?

I like plenty of unisex names, but when it comes right down to it, I’ve used what this post describes as “complicated pretty” names for both my daughters. And I’m loving my decision.

ARead Says:

February 9th, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Oh, forgot to add that other names I love should #3 be a girl include Endellion, Seraphine, Isadora, Dulcinea, and Isolde.

EvaThyssen Says:

February 9th, 2016 at 8:13 pm

Sofia/Sophia/Sofía is soooooo overused, it’s not that pretty anymore. Just boring.

ashbee Says:

February 9th, 2016 at 10:01 pm

Pretty and tailored names are my favorite a la Charlotte, Louisa, and Celia. Sometimes a strong and feminine name catches my eye like Joan or Eleanor. On a side note, I hope Me Before You doesn’t popularize Louisa too much. I like names less common!

Care Says:

February 10th, 2016 at 8:21 pm

President Obama’s mother was named Stanley. Her Dad’s name was Stanley and she was an only child. So maybe when a little girl gets stuck with a man’s name there may be some reason for it other than making a statement of male superiority.
A man named John married an older woman (in her forties). When she became pregnant it seemed a miracle to them because she had been in a car accident a few years earlier making this baby even more high risk. They decided to name her Johnnie. This was understandable under the circumstances, but unexpectedly she was soon followed by a baby brother named John. Noooooo…. I hear you groan, but it meant a lot to this dad.
Sofia called Sofie still sounds like sofa to me. What if she’s plump? I once read an article titled “Freckles, 4 Eyes and Carrot Top.” This mother/author said she knew just what her future children would look like, beautiful, handsome and adorable. Then they arrived. And she was now mother of 3 ‘beautiful’ kids who could be called Freckles, 4 Eyes and Carrot Top!! LOL Love is blind. But the public isn’t. So if your little darling eventually has freckles, glasses and red/orange hair… please don’t saddle her with a name like Agnes, Mable, Hazel or Edna. Life is hard enough without the additional burden of a clunky old lady name.
Petal sounds like pedal. You can name her brother kickstand. Ugh.
Guess you can tell I’m 100% for PRETTY girl names!!

La violencia a los peques no funciona | Va de Bebés Says:

May 23rd, 2016 at 8:17 am

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