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Strong Girl Names: Matilda, Fiona, Adair

March 6, 2018 Abby Sandel

Their daughter is facing surgery immediately after birth. Let’s help her mama find a strong name for this little warrior!

Ellen writes:

We recently found out that our baby girl has a rare condition that will require surgery and a NICU stay when she finally greets the world.

I’ve always loved powerful female names in history and fiction. Now I need help picking the perfect one for our little warrior! The names on our current list happen to be associated with characters (not purposefully – but they fit!) and I also like names with strong meanings.

Our last name sounds like seal, so any nature, color or S names tend to sound weird (or like a friendly zoo animal) – but I’m open to suggestions!

Current frontrunners:

Arielle – Meaning “Lion of God.” 

Arwen – Not that we’re huge Lord of the Rings fans, but I do love her character.

Cleo – A nod to Cleopatra.

FionaShrek does come to mind, but I don’t mind the association! Princess Fiona is independent and certainly not shallow.

Lydia – Brave and awesome character from Beetlejuice – and also one of the few women mentioned in the Bible, which doesn’t hurt.

Thanks so much for your help!

The Name Sage replies:

We all know that our children have great things to do in this world, and many challenges to face along the way. But your daughter is starting out with a battle, so let’s help her find a name that summons strength and energy for all of the work facing your family.

The first question, though, is what makes a name strong? Sometimes it’s meaning. In other cases, a fictional or historic figure transforms the way we see a name. And sound, too, plays a part.

The trouble is that the names that inevitably come to mind, like Brunhilde, aren’t exactly playground-ready picks for 2018.

And there’s a wide range, from classic Eleanor (as in Roosevelt) to fanciful Katniss (as in Everdeen).

I think you’re on the right track with your current list. Let’s see if we can add a few more options, and then let’s pick a few favorites, too.

AdairAdair started out as a surname, but it’s also used as a Scottish form of Edgar. Regal Edgar means wealthy spear. But I also like the way Adair sounds like “dare” – as in “to brave danger.” It’s a confident, capable name. Re-arrange the letters, and you’ll have Adira, which comes from the Hebrew for mighty.

Corin – It looks like a slimmed-down version of Corinne, but Corin comes from Quirinius, and means spear. It reminds me of Arwen from your original list.

Diana – Nothing says that traditionally feminine names, like Lydia, Fiona, and Diana, can’t be powerful choices. In Roman myth, she’s goddess of the hunt. But for 2018, it’s also the given name of Wonder Woman. And that transforms this lady-like name to a twenty-first century powerhouse faster than you can say Gal Gadot.

Maeve – Irish legend gives us a warrior queen called Maeve. The name sounds sharp, too, a strong and memorable choice. But with a short surname, this might be too choppy.

Matilda – It sounds like a storybook kind of name, but Matilda means “strength in battle.” Medieval queens answered to Matilda. More recently, the most famous fictional Matilda is Roald Dahl’s creation, a child both brilliant and kind, and one who endures much to find her happily ever after.

Ramona – Since your list ranges from the Top 100 (Lydia) to the daring (Cleo), I wonder if you’d like Ramona. It means wise protector. A 1930s favorite, today it’s just slowly starting to come back into favor. Like Matilda, there’s a storybook character that adds to Ramona’s appeal.

Thora Thor might be too much to live up to for a son. but Thora carries all the Norse god’s power while masquerading as a vintage sister to Nora and Cora. With Thea bounding up the popularity charts, Thora – and other Th- names – might be just behind.

Valentina – The Latin valentia means strength. It makes a powerful choice for a daughter. Other names derived from the same word include Valeria, Valerie, and my personal favorite, Valencia.

Happily, there are dozens and dozens of strong girl names with ties to admirable women. But let’s return to your original list. The name that keeps coming to mind is Fiona. It just plain sounds strong, doesn’t it? And the Shrek association is, as you note, a positive one. If you don’t have a middle name chosen, I love the sound of Fiona Arwen.

From my list, I keep returning to Diana. It sounds like many of your favorites, and has been used for capable, powerful women across millennia.

On a practical note, I really do like the way the three-syllable names sound with your short surname. So even though I love Corin and Cleo, I keep going back to the slightly longer choices.

But I know our readers will have some amazing suggestions! Let’s hear your best ideas for strong, powerful names for a daughter.

(And if you’re looking for names in this spirit for a boy, see this post on Strong Boy Names.)

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.

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