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Pretty Baby Names: 9 Kinds of Names for Girls

February 7, 2016 Abby Sandel

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?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

View all of Abby's articles

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