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S Surnames for Girls: Sutton, Sloane and More

September 10, 2015 Abby Sandel
baby name sutton

By Abby Sandel

Taylor gave way to Madison, and now Harper is poised to crack the US Top Ten. But some of the most stylish surname names for girls are brought to us by the letter S.

Talented actress Sutton Foster (shown) has put her name on the map, and Sloane brings to mind everything from the stylish 1980s Londoners known as Sloane Rangers – the late Princess Diana was one – to Ferris Bueller‘s Day Off.

Let’s take a look at all of the possibilities:

SloaneFerris Bueller‘s Day Off  was packed with unusual names, from our hero, Ferris, to his gal pal, Sloane. It was easy to love stylish and thoughtful Sloane Peterson. And it felt like a girls’ name, because we’d just met Diana, Princess of Wales, and former Sloane Ranger, five years earlier. It’s taken a long time for Sloane to catch on as a girls’ name, though – Ferris took his day off back in 1985! Sloane first cracked the US Top 1000 in 2009. As of 2014, Sloane had climbed to Number 370, with no-e Sloan at Number 820.

SuttonSutton Foster hit it big on Broadway, collecting Tony nominations and two wins, before making the leap to the small screen. We loved her in Bunheads. Now she’s starring  in Younger on TV Land. Worlds collide – Younger is based on a novel written by Nameberry’s Pam Satran! Back to Ms. Foster – yes, it’s her real name, and she was part of a tiny trendlet – a handful of girls received the name in the 1960s and 70s. Sutton says her mom heard it on television, but exactly where on television has proved elusive. Sutton debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2013, and currently stands at Number 774.

SawyerSawyer first appeared in the US Top 1000 for boys back in 1991, but the first Sawyer I met was a baby girl, born around 2002. The name has rapidly risen in use for both genders over the last few years, reaching  Number 110 for boys and Number 344 for girls. It fits with so many literary surname names, from Harper (Lee) to (Huckleberry) Finn to Tom Sawyer.

Scarlett – It’s so easy to forget that Scarlett started out as a surname. There’s lovely Scarlett Johansson, and, of course, legendary Scarlett O’Hara, of Gone With the Wind fame. But Miss O’Hara was named Katie Scarlett, after her grandmother – and Scarlett was her grandmother’s last name. Once upon a time, Scarlett was an occupational surname for someone who dyed or sold bright cloth. Now, it’s so far into first name territory that it barely belongs on this list. Scarlett ranked Number 30 in 2014 – the most popular of all the S surname names for girls.

Shelby – Fictional characters took Shelby from a surname name occasionally given to boys to a popular name for girls. First was Barbara Stanwyck’s character in The Woman in Red, all the way back in 1935. 1935 was the peak year for Shirley – the original S surname name for girls! After Stanwyck’s star turn, Shelby rocketed in the girls’ Top 200. But the name was almost forgotten until 1989, when a young Julia Roberts played sweet, Southern Shelby in Steel Magnolias. By 1991, Shelby had shot to Number 33. Without a boost in recent years, Shelby now feels more mom name than rising surname choice – but that could change. Shelby currently ranks a respectable Number 294.

SantanaSantana is a surname, a contraction of Santa Ana, as in Saint Ann. So it is better for boys or girls? Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana makes me think boy, but the first high profile use of Santana as a given name was the fictional Glee character, a girl. Right now the numbers give this one to Team Blue. It stands at Number 887 boys.

SheridanSheridan briefly charted in the girls’ Top 1000 from 1996 – 1997 and again from 2000 – 2002. Sheridan could be big, but is dated nickname Sheri a drawback? Or is Sheridan the perfect way to honor an aunt Cheryl?

Sinclair Claire and Clara and company have been popular in recent years. Sinclair is a surname, a contraction of St. Clair. Just eight girls were given the name in 2014, so this one remains extremely rare – but perfectly wearable.

Smith – It’s among the most common of surnames, and yet it’s rarely borrowed as a given name. Until recently, that is. In 2014, 137 boys and 6 girls were named Smith. Let’s give this one to Team Blue for now, but we’ve certainly heard mothers consider it for a daughter. Most recently, Love and Hip Hop’s Yandy Smith toyed with passing down her surname, but went with Skylar Smith instead.

SpencerSpencer peaked for boys back in the 1990s, and currently ranks Number 247. Could the name feel fresh for a girl today? Once again, Princess Diana – born Lady Diana Spencer – comes to mind. The numbers seem to bear this out. 203 girls were given the name in 2014, a new high. Equally valid spelling Spenser is rarely heard for boys or girls.

SterlingSterling ranked Number 508 for boys in 2014, and feels like one of the more masculine choices on this list. As a surname, Sterling comes from the word for the coin. And yet, the name is probably derived from sterre – star. Like Esther and Stella, nearly any star name feels like a possibility for a daughter. There’s also alternate spelling Stirling, and the avian name Starling. Another association? Mad Men’s original ad agency, Sterling Cooper.

SullivanSullivan ranks Number 463 for boys in the US. I’d have never imagined Sullivan as a girl’s name, until someone mentioned the possibility of Sullivan, nicknamed Liv. Suddenly, it seemed like a real possibility that this one could be gender neutral. 49 girls were named Sullivan in 2014, compared to the 628 boys, so while this name is solidly Team Blue, it’s not unthinkable for a girl.

SumnerSummer has had a good run as a girl’s name, and Autumn and Winter have their fans, too. Sumner isn’t seasonal, though. Instead, it’s an occupational name for one who summoned witnesses to court. It’s rare as a given name. And yet, names that are just a little bit different can be exactly what some parents are after.

SutherlandEaston and Weston are mostly for the boys, but how about Sutherland? It makes me think of Law and Order’s Serena Sutherland (played by Elisabeth Rohm, who named her daughter Easton). It’s originally a place name with ties to Scotland. It’s probably the rarest name on this list, but with direction names so stylish, it might just work.

Have I missed any S surname names for girls? Would you consider any of these names for a daughter? How about a son? 

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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