Top Ten Girl Names: Too Popular to use?
Their favorite name has been in the US Top Ten for years! Should they find something new, or embrace a very popular name?
My husband and I are expecting our second daughter. We thought we had arrived at the right name, but I keep having second thoughts.
Our older daughter is Dorothy Katherine and our last name is a three-syllable, Czech name, starting with R. It’s a bit of a mouthful. We chose Katherine as her middle name because it was my grandmother’s middle name and my mother’s first name. We love the name Dorothy and she often goes by Dot as a nickname.
For our second little girl, we’d like for her middle name to be Ruth (we each have a grandmother with that name and really like it).
I like Abigail because of its traditional, colonial connection. My other favorites are Harriet, Frances, Louisa, Beatrice, and Ida. My husband tends to like more modern names: Lisa, Molly, Maude. We both liked Penelope and Margaret, too. But at this point I feel like we’ve read over the same 20 names a million times!
We are totally stuck and only weeks away. Thanks for your help!
The Name Sage replies:
What should you do when your favorite name is everybody else’s favorite name, too?
After all, if Abigail was as uncommon as Dorothy, this wouldn’t be a discussion. (I may be biased, but I think Abigail Ruth is a great name!) But while Dorothy comes in at a relatively rare #714, Abigail has ranked in the US Top Ten for fifteen years straight.
The good news is this: the most popular names are no longer as common as they once were. Based on frequency of use, today’s Top Ten Abigail was 1985’s Rebecca or Erin – around Number 25. In 1965, the equivalent would be Kathleen, at Number 34.
More good news: Abigail doesn’t sound like many other names. Sure, Abby can be misheard as Gabby or Addie. But there’s really only one way to spell Abigail. That’s very different from Sara and Sarah, two familiar spellings of one very popular name.
And yet, it’s absolutely true that you will meet many more Abigails than Dorothys. It’s perfectly possible your daughter will share her name with another girl in her kindergarten class or soccer team, and spend months answering to Abby R.
I’d suggest this: assume that her name is Abigail Ruth, unless you can find a name that you like more. Popularity might be a drawback, but is it really worth trading the name you love for one you like less, just to minimize your daughter’s chances of sharing her name?
Let’s take a look at names that might substitute for Abigail, with an emphasis on choices that feel slightly more modern. I’ll avoid any name in the current Top 200, and also look for something that lends itself to an easy nickname.
Adelaide – If you like Abby, I wonder if you would like Adelaide, nickname Addie? The downside is that there are many popular names that shorten to Addie, including Top 25 Addison and at least nine spellings of Adeline. But at Number 273, Adelaide remains far less common than Abigail.
Agatha, Agnes – I always expect the Aggie names to catch on, given the popularity of Abby and Addie. But so far, they remain very rare indeed – neither has appeared in the US Top 1000 for four decades. I do think the Ag sound is the tiniest bit harsh, and yet they’re also substantial names with plenty of history and great meanings.
Coraline – If classic Caroline is too common – and it has been in the Top 100 since the 1990s – it might be worth considering Coraline. Neil Gaiman stumbled on the name as a typo, but it has existed in French since at least the mid-1800s. Coraline ranks outside of the current US Top 500, making it familiar, but not too common.
Eloise – Dorothy brings to mind Dorothy Gale, of The Wizard of Oz fame, ruby slippers and all. Eloise belongs to another fictional girl, a mischievous, outgoing six-year old living at New York City’s Plaza Hotel. Like Dorothy, Eloise requires no nickname. But it does shorten easily to Ellie, Lo, or maybe even Lou. It reminds me of Louisa from your list, and Lisa from your husband’s suggestions.
Georgia – Georgia is one of those names that almost everyone likes. The state makes it slightly Southern, but it is used pretty much everywhere. Sisters called Georgie and Dot are quite sweet together.
Juliet – Juliet currently ranks Number 240; Juliette comes in slightly higher, at Number 226. It reminds me of Harriet, from your list, but with a slightly more modern appeal. Though, of course, Shakespearean Juliet could never be dismissed as a recent invention.
Matilda – I wonder if you object to Maude because it’s so short? It’s not modern at all – it’s medieval! In fact, it’s the form of Matilda often used in English during the Middle Ages, and it enjoyed a revival in the 1800s, thanks to a Tennyson poem by the name. Matilda currently ranks Number 535, and shortens easily to Tillie. It strikes me as a logical sister name for Dorothy.
Susannah – I’ve saved my favorite for last. Susannah – also spelled Susanna, and a few other ways, too – was quite popular in Colonial America. We think of Susie as Baby Boomer name, but really that’s Susan. Susannah hits exactly the right note today – familiar, but seldom heard. Susie and Sukie work nicely as short forms, but, like Dorothy/Dot, none is required.
Susannah tops my list of names you should consider as alternatives to Abigail. But I also think there’s one from your list that deserves a second look – Louisa. It’s close to Lisa, and comes with nicknames galore, including Lucy, Lulu, and Lou. It’s every bit as literary as Dorothy, and barely ranks in the current US Top 1000. It seems like Louisa might check every one of the boxes.
But, at the end of the day, if Abigail still feels like your absolute favorite name, I wouldn’t avoid it on the basis of popularity alone. Let’s have a poll, because I think this is the kind of question where more feedback is better.
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on December 21st, 2016 at 12:54 am
Abigail Ruth is beautiful and goes well with big sister’s name. What if she went by Gail/Gayle instead of Abby? It may feel less popular and more vintage that way?
From the other options I like Beatrice Ruth and Margret Ruth. I think Beatrice and Dorothy sounds like the perfect sib set.
Surprisingly I didn’t like any of Abby’s suggestions.
Perhaps look up the year Dorothy was most popular and see what names were most popular a couple years after that. It might bring some inspiration… My only other suggestion is Evelyn Ruth.
on December 21st, 2016 at 5:25 am
Georgie and Dot (Georgia)
Frankie and Dot (Frances)
Would make such an adorable sibset!
on December 21st, 2016 at 6:23 am
I like Abigail Ruth, but I would also be worried about there being too many Abbys and Abigail’s.
Teresa Ruth- Tessa
Philippa Ruth- Pippa
Isadora Ruth- Dora
Evangeline Ruth- Evie
Ingrid Ruth- Iddy
Gretchen Ruth- Greta
Bernadette Ruth- Etta
Cordelia Ruth- Lia, Delia
Felicity Ruth- Fee
Oriana Ruth- Ori
Prudence Ruth- Pru
Constance Ruth- Conny
Verity Ruth- Vee
Viola Ruth- Vee
Eliza Ruth- Ellie, Liz
Wilhelmina Ruth- Willa
Margot Ruth- Maggie
Eugenia Ruth- Genie
Eugenie Ruth- Genie
Patience Ruth- Pat
Amity Ruth- Amy
Augusta Ruth- Aggie
Jessamine Ruth- Jess
Jeanette Ruth- Etta
Josephine Ruth- Josey
Marianne Ruth- Ria
Amaryllis Ruth- Mary
on December 21st, 2016 at 6:28 am
Abitha Ruth- Different and less common than Abigail but shares the similar gist.
Tabitha Ruth- I think Tabby is such a cute nick name and it shares the hard B of Abigail.
Emmeline Ruth- Such a pretty name and less common than Abigail.
Amity Ruth- A nice colonial feel.
Since your last name starts with an R and Ruth is the middle name. I think the first name should be ‘free” of Rs.
on December 21st, 2016 at 8:09 am
If you love Abigail Ruth I really think you should go for it. Take it from someone who was talked out of a name she loved (31 years ago!)- you may always be a little sad and wistful about about “the one that got away.”
Please remember, even if there is another Abigail in her class someday she will always be the only one in your family – and isn’t that the place that matters?
on December 21st, 2016 at 8:13 am
My name is Rebecca and there were about as many rebeccas born the year I was born as Abigails last year. I never felt like my name was too popular. my sister, Sarah, had this complaint all the time though! I like Abigail Ruth. I like Ruth as a first name even better, have you considered that?
on December 21st, 2016 at 10:42 am
I think Abigail Ruth is beautiful, and I even think that Abigail is lovely with a sister named Dorothy even with the difference in popularity. However, I do think that “Abby” is lacking something when paired with spunky and old-fashioned “Dot”. I saw someone suggested using Gail as a nickname, but then you run into the Dorothy Gale issue (Wizard of Oz reference). What about Abigail with the nickname Aggie? If that is too much of a stretch, I think that your list has some other beautiful choices on it: Margaret Ruth or Louisa Ruth would be my pick. So classic and pretty. So many vintage nickname options. Also, Ruth/Ruthie would make a terrific first name with Dorothy/Dot. What about Ruth Abigail?
on December 21st, 2016 at 11:30 am
Abigail Ruth is beautiful. My only hesitation is the Abby nn. I would only use the full Abigail. I have actually only met a few Abigail’s and they all went by Abby. Abigail in the full form would really stand out. If you are looking for a colonial feel, how about Priscilla, nn Cilla? We read a colonial book with a character named this last year.
on December 21st, 2016 at 12:00 pm
Isannah is a Colonial name (from the book, Johnny Tremain). The “s” is pronounced with a z sound just like in Susannah. You wouldn’t have to worry about her being one of many with that name. Also, Isa or Izzy make cute nicknames.
on December 21st, 2016 at 12:57 pm
Hello, another Abby here! I’m pretty sure everyone who frequents this site knows how I feel about my name.
So, my name is Abigael but I go by Abby. First and foremost, I have to disagree with what the Name Sage said about there being only one spelling of Abigail. Not just because my own full name is a spelling variant, but because when I have my name spelled by other people, I get many more variations. Abbigail, Abigale, and Abbigael are all spellings I have gotten in my life. And, don’t even get me started on variations of Abby. I’m not sure if you were planning to call her Abby, but I’ve never met an Abigail who only goes by Abigail. I’ve met one who tried but gave up after a year. All other Abigails I know already go by Abby. Everyone will call her Abby unless she has an issue with the nickname and is persistent about correcting people. Then, you deal with people spelling it Abbie, Abbey, Abi, etc. and claiming that it’s the original spelling.
Second, I’m going to talk about popularity. I was born in 1999 when Abigail ranked at #18, and it’s only gotten more popular from there. Now, your daughter might have an advantage because Abigail could start going down in the rankings. But as it stands, she’s not only set to share her name with the thousands of girls born in 2016/2017, but also the tens of thousands of girls born in years prior, and probably in years to come.
Personally, I hate the popularity of my name. I don’t like sharing my name with every other girl I feel like I meet. I don’t like being distinguished from my peers with a last initial or a physical description because my name doesn’t do the trick. But, I know that other people don’t feel the same way. I know people on this site who are okay with or even like their popular names. It’s simply just a matter of opinion, and you can’t predict how your daughter will feel about sharing a name. I’m not trying to deter you from the name Abigail Ruth– heck, if Abigail was less common, I’d be endorsing it! I’m a bit biased, though– but I don’t like my own name and it’s solely because of its popularity.
Everyone talks about how popularity isn’t what it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
on December 21st, 2016 at 1:47 pm
I have met a LOT of little Abby’s and find it unfortunate that most of them get called Abby rather than by their beautiful full name. Personally I would search for a less common name for Dorothy’s sister.
I second the suggestion of BrittanyBrown: Amity Ruth. It feels quite similar to Abigail. It is familiar sounding without being overly popular. It’s classic and colonial but feels modern as well. Although Amity has a -y ending, like Dorothy, since it is a -ity instead of an
-othy, the sounds are quite different. It does not need a nick name but you could use the French “Amie” if you feel you need one. You could also call her by her full name Amity Ruth, which is so lovely together.
I don’t know if you have ruled out Maude but I find this name utterly charming. I really like the French pronunciation which is more like “mode”. And the nick name “Maudie” is so darling to me. It is unusual but I think it is coming back into fashion.
I am also a big fan of Louisa, an underused classic with much to recommend it. I think Lulu is a darling nickname paired with Dot!
I was not really struck by any of the name sage’s suggestions either but these came to mind…
— Calliope Ruth — It has that classic sound like Abigail, many of the same letters even, and the spunkiness of Dorothy with a sweet nn Cali.
— Marian Ruth — A name that is classic and timeless but not common.
— Emmeline Ruth — While it’s a longer name it rolls off the tongue easily and is easy to say/spell. Emme and Lina are just the beginning of the nn possibilities.
— Helena Ruth — This feels very in tune with Dorothy to me.
— Gemma Ruth — More brief than Emmeline but still spunky and sweet and old fashioned in the way Dorothy is. Gem and Dot are darling!
— Cecilia or Celia Ruth — This also seems similar in feel to Dorothy. Cici and Dot are great together.
— Mabel Ruth
on December 21st, 2016 at 1:51 pm
Oops, I forgot to commend on Mabel Ruth — This is one of those older names coming back into fashion and I thought it might appeal. It’s sweet and simple and stands on it’s own, as a full name Mabel Ruth, or nicknamed as “Mabie” perhaps?
on December 21st, 2016 at 2:06 pm
Abeline is very similar, and instead of Abby, you could call her Lina, Libby or Billie. I guess you could call Abigail Libby or Billie too!
on December 21st, 2016 at 2:52 pm
I love Abigail Ruth, and personally, would tend to go with that, if it’s your genuine favourite name combination. I feel that there are pros and cons, but in general, people worry too much about avoiding popular names.
Beau Jean Said
on December 21st, 2016 at 3:24 pm
Ruth. Go with Ruth as a first name. Ruth goes beautifully with Dorothy and Dot. Name her Abigail Ruth and call her by her middle name or name her Ruth Abigail. Ruth is a gem of a name. It has the cutest nick name Ruthie and will never be misspelled. Everyone has heard the name but it is not common. I loved growing up with a name nobody else had. I would go with Ruth.
on December 21st, 2016 at 7:46 pm
I am definitely partial to the name Susannah, although mine is with a ‘z”. I also love Louisa Ruth. Maybe instead of Margaret, you could consider Margot Ruth. Also, Lillian Ruth and Mollie Ruth are both adorable. And all go well with Dot.
on December 21st, 2016 at 8:15 pm
I have always loved the name Abigail but it is definitely far, far too popular for me to ever consider using. I have to disagree that popularity is definitely a big enough reason for me to want to use a name, even if it’s not what it used to be. Even if everything else as perfect, I can’t imagine going with a top ten name. It also tends to drive me a little crazy when I see families with one child with a very popular name and another child with a much less common name. For this reason, I personally don’t see Dorothy and Abigail as a good fit together at all, even though I love both names and Abigail definitely does have the same classic, traditional roots as Dorothy. I absolutely LOVE the suggestion of Agatha. I think it goes much nicer with Dorothy and I like the fairly subtle but still there connection of the “th” sound in both names. Plus Aggie is adorable! Dot & Aggie would make great sisters, in my opinion.
on December 21st, 2016 at 11:50 pm
Abigail Ruth is a lovely name and it sounds good with Dorothy Katherine. All feel old-fashioned to me, one of my favorite kinds of names.
Colonial is the perfect word for Abigail too.
I would go with the name I love. I know Abigail is said to be popular, but I’ve taught for almost 30 years (3rd through 12th grade at various times) and while I have taught two Abbey or Abby’s, I’ve never taught anyone who went by Abigail.
Of course maybe scads of newborns are being named that, but if it’s a classic it doesn’t matter. If it were some despicable trend like Bloodrayne, it would matter!
I like your other choices, but it sounds to me like you both have THE name. Of your husband’s choices, Maude does not strike me as modern, especially spelled Maud, but as quaint and charming. And I love Maudie as a nickname.
on December 22nd, 2016 at 12:17 am
This is the exact dilemma we’re dealing with right now! My husband suggest Abigail for our girl (coming next spring) and I actually liked it. Then I found out it was a top 10 name! I always swore I’d never use a top 20 name, but he loves it and I am really liking it too. It just doesn’t sound like a top 10 name to me, not like Emma and Ava and Olivia, etc. I’m a teacher so I hate hearing the same names over and over, but I rarely hear Abigail or Abby. Luckily we still have a few months to come up with something, because I am really having a hard time here!
on December 22nd, 2016 at 2:16 am
I love the names Matilda Ruth and Eloise Ruth! Tilly and Dot or Lola and Dot. Adorable! For suggestions I would say:
Abihail Ruth- You can still get the nickname Abby, yet this pretty variant is virtually never used.
Madeline Ruth- Like Eloise, Madeline is literary. It may be quite popular but not as popular as Abigail, for sure!
Alice Ruth- This one also is quite popular, but it’s just so classic and beautiful.
Edith Ruth- It flows badly with Ruth but I wanted to suggest it because it’s around the same popularity as Dorothy and shares similar sounds.
Beatrix Ruth- Gorgeous! Trixie and Dot make an adorable sibset, don’t you agree?
Genevieve Ruth- This name is lovely and goes well with Dorothy.
Margot Ruth- tfzolghadr suggested this and I think it paires perfectly with Dorothy.
Emmeline Ruth- BrittanyBrown suggested this stunning name and this is a very pretty three-syllable name, just like Abigail.
Annabelle Ruth- If you say Annabelle then Abigail you’ll find they sound very similar. It’s also classic, just like Dorothy.
on December 22nd, 2016 at 7:28 am
I’m another victim of the popular name trend. When I was born in 1996 I go the second most popular name of the year. I like it but, I got so confused sometimes in class if it was me they were calling on. I also know many people with names that were popular when they were born.
Jessica-7 (one of them went by Erin)
There are many more but, that is my short list. I like the names Georgia, Penelope (Penny), Louise, Eleanor (Ellie). Cecelia (Cece), Beatrice (Tris), Genevieve (Ginny), Felicity (Flick), & Gabrielle (Gabby). I like it would be really cute to do Felicity (Flick) and Dorothy (Dot) like the movie A Bug’s Life.
on December 22nd, 2016 at 7:36 pm
I completely understand the hesitance to use a popular name, but if you truly love it, you should use it. I answered the poll that I wouldn’t personally use a top 10 name, because in my case, I find that popularity diminishes the appeal of names. I may still appreciate popular names, but they just sound overused to me. So, they simply wouldn’t be in my top favorites.
on December 23rd, 2016 at 1:46 pm
Use the name you love. I am a high school teacher in the suburbs and of my 175 students this year, 3 are named Abigail. There will always be little girls named Abby because it’s a wonderful name!
on December 23rd, 2016 at 6:46 pm
I usually say use the name you love, but it seems like you’re hesitating. I love the idea of Abigail Ruth, nn Aggie, as a previous poster suggested. Louisa, Alice, and Helena are lovely choices as well. Here are some suggestions as alternatives to Abigail:
Rose/Rosa – classic and underused, cute nickname Rosie, and Rosie and Dot sound so cute together!
Lucille – I think this is probably my favourite, just because Lucy and Dot sound adorable and Lucille and Dorothy sound like sisters.
Mary – countless nicknames, including Molly from your husband’s list!
Elizabeth – doesn’t flow with Ruth, but it has so many great nicknames!
Anna/Anne – classic and beautiful, they sound nice with Dorothy as well 🙂
Nora – the ‘or’ sound doesn’t flow well with Dorothy, but it’s a beautiful name so I thought I’d throw it out there!
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