Category: girly names
The other day we offered eight fresh choices for boys, and now it’s the girls’ turn—girls’ names ranging from a rare botanical specimen to a nostalgic nickname to an undercrowded place name.
1–Acacia—This a a pretty and delicate botanical name that has hardly been heard in this country, though it ranked as high as Number 273 among girls’ names in Australia, where the Acacia is a common flowering shrub, in 2008. Acacia has a heritage that dates back to ancient Egyptian mythology, in which it was considered the tree of life due to the belief that the first gods were born under a sacred Acacia tree. There is also an eponymous fantasy novel, Acacia. Caveat: just don’t think about the other name of the Acacia tree—the Golden Wattle.
2–Amabel—Not to be confused with Annabel (though it well might be), the lovely Amabel has been around since medieval times, and has appeared in a number of British novels, including Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death, and heard as well as among the English aristocracy. Amabel gave birth to the shortened form Mabel, which has a much brasher image, and we think a name that means lovable, deserves more love than it’s gotten.
Today’s Question of the Week is a two-parter:
Last week we talked about naming styles for boys, now it’s the girls’ turn.
- With girls’ names, there are even more style preference category possibilities. How would you characterize the names you like best? Girly girl, gender neutral, boyish? Classic, biblical? Vintage Old Lady? Trendy, nouveau? Family or surname names? British-inflected, international? Creative? Quirky? Eclectic? Exotic? Good girls or bad girls? (These are just a few suggestions–we’d love to have your own designations of your style.)
But very quickly, as Linda and I discovered classifying names for our books, what’s classic and what’s not becomes really murky. Anne, sure, but Anna? Annie? If Annie’s in, does that mean that Laurie also gets to accompany Laura?
Then recently, we hit upon a quantitative formula for choosing the classic girls’ names: We’d define that as every name that had been in the U.S. Top 1000 every single year since 1880.
We came up with 114 names, but many on the list will surprise you as much as they surprised us. Elizabeth is there, for instance, but so are Elisabeth and Elise. Jenny makes the grade, but not trendier sister Jennifer. Caroline and even Carolyn, yes; Carol, no.
To make the roster of classic girls’ names easier to digest, we’ve divided it into groups. If you think we misplaced anything, let us know. You always do!
Elisabeth Wilborn, creator of one of our absolute favorite blogs, You Can’t Call It “It,” introduces us to the wide world of great Italian girls’ names beyond Isabella. Elisabeth, a writer, artist, and mom, lives in Brooklyn, New York.
You don’t have to be Italian to fawn all over Isabella.
She’s lyrical, historical, and even practical with nicknames Bella and Izzy at the ready. It’s no surprise that she and cohorts Olivia and Sophia would be storming up the charts, now assuming spots 1, 3, and 4. But are these the only options for little girls if you want to honor your Italian heritage?
Let’s take a look at what people are choosing in New Jersey. As housewife fame has evidenced, they’re heavy on Italian pride.
Top picks for the state include:
Adriana (#64), Adrianna (#95), Angelina (#30), Ariana (#46), Arianna (#43),
Gabriella (12), Gianna (#11), Julia (#19- Giulia in Italy), Isabella (#1), Juliana (#49), Julianna (#63), Maria (#65), Natalia (#72), Olivia (#2), Sophia (#3), Valentina (#92), Victoria (#22- Vittoria in Italy).
Italian-American mothers often lament that all the good names are taken by their family and friends.
I assure you the options are vast!
If you’ll be summering with Nonna in Toscana, you may want a choice that is both well loved there and reads undeniably Italian here (rankings are from Italy in 2008): Alessia (#8), Chiara (#5), Federica (#21), Francesca (#9), Giada
(#13), Giorgia (#6), Ludovica (#27), Ilaria (#25), Vittoria (#26).
Italy also has a few popular names that wouldn’t necessarily scream Carbonara: Alice (#10), Anna (#11), Beatrice (#18), Elisa (#12), Emma (#14), Greta (#14), Marta (#29), Martina (#3), Matilde (#15), Nicole (#30), Noemi (#19), Sara (#4). Note Alice and Beatrice are pronounced ah-LEE-che and be-ah-TREE-che.
A triumvirate of recent Cosimas, Claudia Schiffer’s child, Sofia Coppola’s baby, and a Windsor 22nd in line to the throne, remind us that there are still other genuine Italian names to cull from the history books. Some are quite antique, but just as we have “old lady chic” here, so too do they in Italy.
I urge you to take a chance on an ancient beauty:
Romantic names for girls – loosely defined as creative and elaborate names that suggest an earlier era and a Latinate emotionality – have become more fashionable in recent years. As we grow more comfortable with the notion of equality for girls, we may also become confident enough to give our daughters elaborately feminine names rather than having to make our point with androgynous, modern monikers like Blair or Blake.
Of course, not every romantic name is a feminist statement. These names may just feel fresh again after decades of sleeker, more straightforward girls’ names like Mary and Betty, Karen and Lisa. Even Jennifer and Ashley pale in the face of these flagrantly feminine names.