Word Names: A Dozen of the Best for Girls

The lovely Lemon, one of nameberry’s greatest treasures, guest blogs on her favorite word names.

I’d venture to say that many of the frequent posters on the Nameberry message boards consider themselves equipped with a “name-sense” of sorts, but for me it’s more of a “word-sense,” really.  After all, at their foundation, aren’t names actually just words – meaningful units of spoken language?  There’s something beautiful about language and, by extension, names.  So, when you’re out there, browsing through sites and books looking for “the” name, perhaps you should hit up a dictionary.  Here are a few word names you may not have considered before…

CadenzaCadence with an Italian flourish, literally.  Found in both instrumental and vocal music, a cadenza is an elaborate, oftentimes rhythmically free solo passage allowing for virtuosic display – the solo of all solos, if you will.  With its international flavor and striking Z, Cadenza is a great alternative to Cadence, Melody, and even the on-the-rise Aria.

Echo – A mythological name meaning “a repetition of sound,” Echo makes a lasting impression.  In Greek mythology, Echo was a beautiful but talkative mountain nymph who loved her own voice.  Unfortunately, she is most famous for her unrequited love of Narcissus, which resulted in her demise.  However, this short but striking name might be the ideal choice for your little chatterbox!

Fate – A short form of Lafayette meaning “faith,” this name’s about as modern as you’ll get in the virtue set!  Defined as “that which is inevitably predetermined,” one’s fate is his or her destiny.  In Greek mythology, The Fates – or Moirae – were those who controlled the thread of life for each mortal; as such, the name has a uniquely powerful energy.  Slightly unisex in sound, Fate is the perfect alternative to the classic Faith or the overdone Destiny.

Glory – You can’t get much more positive than a name meaning “great praise” or “absolute splendor,” can you?  Though Glory can take on a religious undertone, it also has a patriotic feel to it – think “Old Glory,” the nickname for the American flag.  Through the morning glory, one of September’s birth flowers, this one’s also got a natural, whimsical flair.   Methinks it’s the perfect name for a morning baby or one born on the Fourth of July.

Hosanna – Shouted by pilgrims in Jerusalem upon the arrival of Jesus the Messiah, Hosanna – a variant of the Hebrew Hoshana – is a cry for salvation.  However, beyond this liturgical context, the name can be taken as a declaration of praise or applause in any setting.  With its familiar Anna ending, Hosanna is primed and ready for major use.  If Susannah and Shoshana aren’t for you, consider this one!

Quince – Not to be confused with quints or the Spanish word for fifteen, this nature name is pronounced [kwins].  Literally the “apple of Cydonia,” quince is a small tree bearing yellowish fruit similar to apples and pears.  With its similarity to Quinn, Quince is the only name on this list that I count as wholly unisex – in fact, the most notable namesake is Quince Rudolph Galloway, an American painter.  A refreshing alternative to the growing-for-girls Quinn and the dated Vince and Lance, Quince shouldn’t be forgotten.  As a side note, quince sorbet is a great palate cleanser between courses!

Remember – At the least, this one’s hard to forget!  Defined as possessing the capabilities of memory or simply being mindful, Remember is one modern word name with a serious history.  Remember Allerton, easily the most famous Remember, came to America in 1620 aboard The Mayflower.  With a sassy nickname like Remy, it’s a wonder Remember hasn’t caught on yet.  But, if Remember is a little too Puritan for you, Ember presents a fiery alternative.

Tansy – This oft-invasive member of the Aster family has small, button-like yellow flowers that bloom in late summer.  With a history of purposes ranging from use as a contraceptive to use as a bug repellant, the tansy has long been forgotten in modern times.  However, its “immortal” meaning alone makes this a vivacious – and vintage – choice for a girl.  If Daisy’s too tame but Acacia’s too bold, Tansy might just be the happy medium you’re looking for!

Temple – With place name Tempe and virtue name Temperance gaining more familiarity, it seems that Temple – meaning “sanctuary” – would catch on, too.  At the most obvious, the word temple refers to any place of public worship.  For those who favor a more secular meaning, Temple can also be an architectural reference.  Literature buffs might recognize the name from the works of William Faulkner, whereas a more pervasive namesake might be Shirley Temple, the epitome of sugar, spice, and everything nice.  However, you might also know the name from a 2010 biopic, Temple Grandin, based on an autistic woman of the same name who advocates for autism and the humane handling of livestock.

Velvet – A soft and thick fabric symbolic of luxury and elegance, this name speaks both of the comforts of home and Old Hollywood glamour.  Who could forget the sweet 1920s story of The Velveteen Rabbit or National Velvet, a 1944 film starring Elizabeth Taylor as the determined young jockey, Velvet BrownEven if other textile names haven’t caught on – hello, Cotton Mather! – Velvet might have just the right amount of oomph to launch her to the top.

And, just because it’s 2011, I’ll throw in an extra-special eleventh name:

Diva – I’m anticipating looks of “she’s crazy!” with this one!  Yes, it is a bolder choice, especially in today’s world where diva is more than likely referencing a demanding celebrity.  But, if you think about it, Diva means “goddess,” a woman of outstanding talent and power.  At least one celebrity understood the message of the name – in 1979, Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen Zappa was born!  Now, I’m not saying you should take naming inspiration from Frank Zappa – actually, please don’t – but this name does have a certain sparkle to it.

For those of you wondering what my own favorite word name is, I’ll give you a hint – it’s not on this list!  But, I will say that I’ve got a three-way tie going for my favorite name here – Glory, Temple, and Velvet win out for me.  What about you?  Are you brave enough to take on the celebrity trend and use a word name for your child?

(And, in case you’re really dying to know, my #1 word name is Wren.  Why?  Because of the bird connection.  Because of the architect.  Because it contains the last three letters of my first name.  You know – stuff.)

Lauren Miller – better known to the nameberry community as Lemon – was the type of kid who didn’t want to stay home from school when she was sick because she’d miss the spelling bee.  Now, she’s whipping out her dictionary again to bring you some of the freshest and boldest word name choices for girls.  But, grab ’em fast – with the Celebrity Baby Explosion of 2011 in full swing, it’s only a matter of time before these gems show up on the cover of UsWeekly.

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48 Responses to “Word Names: A Dozen of the Best for Girls”

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Stefanie Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 2:28 am

I have a friend whose wife’s name is Velvet.

I’m a fan of unusual flower names – Calla, Aster, Anemone.

And I love Wren! I have ever since reading Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfumer, which features a character named Wrenna – Wren for short.

Lyndsay Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 2:49 am

Great blog, Lemon! My favorite is Tansy, I try to convince the hubby to like it from time to time, to no avail. I also have a soft spot for Glory, she was a funny bad guy on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Echo is cool, too. Gotta admit, I was totally thinking “She’s crazy!” about Diva, and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen didn’t really help your case! LoL!

Mystery0_0 Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 4:29 am

Tansy is a beautiful name. The only problem is that Tansies are toxic and give you Tansy Poisoning, though they’re supposedly delicious.

Christine Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 5:36 am

Interesting blog! A few of these are lovely (i.e., Cadenza, Wren) but I find it hard to believe you’re serious about Remember? And Diva? And VELVET?? I’m sorry but, imo, Velvet = Stripper, Diva = spoiled brat (why not just name her Brat or Queen?), and Remember = parents who have done too many drugs.
I’m all for creativity and uniqueness but quite a few of these cross that fine line from unique into weird and all that’s going to do is create extra problems for your poor child (Pilot Inspektor anyone?)!

Abby Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 6:32 am

I love the idea of Tansy as a nickname for Constance.

Valentina Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 6:45 am

Interesting list, I really like Echo, Temple, and Cadenza. However, my favorite word name is Memory.

Stacy Lou Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 7:59 am

I Love word names! After reading this I am finding myself in love with Remember and Temple.

Other favorites are Journey, Truth, Sonnett, Lyric, and Story. (can you tell I’m a writer?)

Lola Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 8:01 am

Glory & Echo are the only two I like up there although Wren can be charming on occassion as well.

Tansy’s toxicity turns me off of it as a standalone but whomever mentioned it as a nn for Constance, now that’s outstanding (beats Connie)!

I don’t like Diva, particularly. It seems overexpectant & presumptious. Could be just me, though *shrug*.

Buut Glory & Echo?*swoon* I adore those two (Glory Elinor & Cecilia Echo are on my list)!

crunchymama Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 8:21 am

You know my favorite is Glory! Is it going to be added to the NB directory? 🙂

I really think Hosanna is a fantastic choice too. I think the “anna” part makes it a little more accessible name-wise. Temple has so many connections and angles. I think that name could be on the rise. Right? Tansy is the name of a character on Big Love. She goes by the nn “Teeny”

littlebrownpony Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 8:35 am

I like Fate, actually. Never thought of that. My favorite word names for a girl are Honor and True (maybe those count as virtue names, though?)

Sandra Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 9:13 am

I love Wren. Names I like that are not listed are: Lark, True, Ever, Blue, and Lake.

Vanessa Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 9:17 am

I love Glory! People have told me throughout the years that Glory is not a name. They’re wrong! Now, if only it sounded good with my last name?

Thanks for sharing Lemon,

Jay Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 9:27 am

Lauren, pleased to see you regarded as “one of Nameberry’s greatest treasures!” Word names are great. I loved the name Remember as a child (I think I read it in a book about the Mayflower) and everyone thought I was crazy, so I’m glad to see it appreciated somewhere! I love Wren as well.

Nice work, as always!

sadiesadie Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 9:31 am

I actually really love Cadence but as a surprise middle. My favorite word name is Story. I think it is whimsical and fun.

LyndsayJenness Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 9:37 am

I think my favorite word name is Fable. Don’t think I’d ever be brave enough to use it though!

pdxlibrarian Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 9:50 am

Tansy used to be my secret code name in my childhood diary. 🙂

dotmyiis Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 10:08 am

Wren has always been a favorite, but I’m also a fan of Temple. I have a soft spot for many a word name… Oriole, Lark, Peridot, Fuchsia, Opal etc.

lemon Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 10:35 am


You know of a Velvet? Wow! And, no, I don’t see it as a stripper name because I associate it so heavily with Elizabeth Taylor’s character in National Velvet. I watched that movie so much as a child!


Yep, I know what you’re saying with Diva. I do think it could be a nickname of sorts. My grandmother used to call my sister Sassy, but Diva would’ve been complete appropriate!


Tansy for Constance? Inspired!

@Stacy Lou

I love Sonnet and Story, too!


Glory Elinor and Cecilia Echo? Those are gorgeous! Keep ’em on your list, okay?


There’s a pop culture Tansy? Wow! I know its toxicity is a big turn-off for some people, but it has a nice meaning and an unusual vintage flair. “Teeny” is sweet as a nickname.


Thank you! And, yes, that book about The Mayflower is where I first heard of Remember as a child, too! She had a brother called Bartholomew, right? So, no, I don’t see it as too weird in the slightest.


Fable is great! I’ve not come across anybody named Fable, but I think it could work. I tend to associate it with tall tales, though…


One, cool name! And, glad to see another Temple fan. Lark and Peridot are very pretty as well.

Looks like Diva isn’t getting too many positive reactions – ha. That’s why she’s the lucky eleventh name, right? (Don’t worry – I wouldn’t use it, either, though the meaning and sassy sound do appeal to me.)

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February 15th, 2011 at 10:47 am

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katybug Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 10:52 am

What an interesting list! I’m loving Echo and Fate especially, and have long had an interest in Temple. My favorite word name is Haven. Other word names I’ve heard: Star, Liberty (this was on a guy, but I think it would be great for girl, nn Libby).

linzybindi Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 11:13 am

I have a sister in law named Gloria and we call her Glory all the time.

We also refer to my friend’s grandmother as Grandma Glory because she is always so happy and glorious!

I have so many favorite word names…

The list could go on and on! Thanks for this wonderful post!

sadiesadie Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 11:18 am

@katybug I knew a little girl named Liberty nn Libby a few years ago. her brother was Henry so the name seemed more grounded than it would have if they had used another word name instead.

Danni Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 11:26 am

Phenomenal list, Lemon/Lauren 😀

I particularly love Cadenza–it’s stunning! Your other choices are all so interesting. Echo and Velvet are lovely, and you’re bold for adding Diva!! I think it’s really the associations that get people riled up, because the sound (Eva with a D) and meaning of the name are beautiful.

@Jay, I have also loved the name Remember since I was a child! I’m not sure I’m brave enough to use it, but I think it’s glorious.

Wonderful blog!

lemon Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 1:44 pm


I love Sonata! I wish I would’ve thought of that one – so gorgeous. And Sonny as a nickname? What a great Susanna alternative, right? Jubilee is fun, too.


Ah, at last, another Cadenza lover! Isn’t she great? And, yes, it’s completely the associations with Diva, because the original meaning of the word is nothing but lovely. Don’t you hate when that happens?

spotlightstarlit Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Lauren this is great!

I have loved Echo and Tansy forever!

Macy Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Quince, Echo and Cadence to me sound better on a boy. Isnt Lafayette a male name though?

kristen Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Ohmygod, I have fallen in love with Tansy. I’ve really liked Wren for a while too, but TANSY! AHH. Perfect.

Claire Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Tansy was the name of a hedgehog heroine in “Pearls of Lutra,” one of the Redwall books (RIP Brian Jacques!) Positive or negative? You decide.

My favorite word names: Vesper. Daisy. Iris. September.

I went to grad school with a Sonnet, who was (surprise!) a poet. I also knew an Aria in high school who was (surprise!) a singer. And they say people don’t become their names.

lemon Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 4:10 pm


Yes, Lafayette is a traditionally male name. I can definitely see Quince on a boy, too!


Glad to inspire you! Tansy is a fun one, right? Something like Tansy Tallulah just makes me want to smile, whereas Tansy Margaret brings an edge of seriousness to the name.


Iris is lovely! The only reason she – like Daisy – isn’t on the list is because she’s much more familiar…

LyndsayJenness Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Tansy Tallulah is adorable! I dunno if you guys will think this is too much of a stretch, but I love Tansy as a nickname for Tamsin.

Whit Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I don’t really see how Fate (just Fate, not as a nickname for Lafayette, which I know originally was given to males) is feminine while Quince is unisex. Quince feels more girly to me, although I can’t see it on a human at all. Fate I could see on a boy though, and someone mentioned Honor which I much prefer on a boy. Honor just sounds masculine, nothing unisex about it.

lemon Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 6:25 pm


Sure Tansy works for Tamsin! I mean, if my parents can call me Birdie, why couldn’t you call a Tamsin Tansy? I think Tansy is preferable to Tammy or Sin – at least I think so…


I think it’s all a matter of personal preference. I’ve known both male and female Quinn’s, yet I prefer it on a girl. I see why the name is considered unisex, and I transfer that onto Quince – perfect for a foodie. I guess I see Quince as Quinn with a kick in the pants, so to speak, though I understand you not being able to see it on a human. As far as Fate, I see it as feminine because it reminds me of Faith, and I knew a female dog named Fate once. Ha! How interesting that you see Honor as masculine…

Sarah A Says:

February 15th, 2011 at 11:05 pm

I’m not really into word names myself, except for some of the virtue names like Temperance.

About the gender of the name Fate, there was a little movie about 10 years ago called Songcatcher. It takes place in Appalachia during the early 20th century and features a male character named Fate Honeycutt. I’ve never heard it anywhere else, but like many word names it seems quite gender neutral.

Dove14 Says:

February 16th, 2011 at 1:06 am

Hooray word names! (And hooray for Lauren!)
My favorite — and one I intend to use as a middle name if the opportunity arises — is Ransom. C. S. Lewis character. Love it. Love love love love it.

tarynkay Says:

February 16th, 2011 at 8:43 am

I know a Ransom. He usually goes by Randy. Hosanna is a lovely word, but I knew a Hosanna who got called “Ho” all of the time, which she hated. Maybe you could premptively nn her Anna? Jubilee is very popular amongst the quiverfull set for seventh babies, boy or girl. I LOVE Temperance (nn Tem) and Temple, too, but my husband will not agree to this. I really don’t think of Velvet as a stripper name. I knew a Satin in high school, and I definitely thought of that as a stripper name. Plus everyone called her Satan. I love Wren, and Lark- which has a fun double meaning of the bird and the good time- as well. I met two Larks recently- one was a beautiful girl in her early twenties, and the other was a 63 year old man.

Nora Says:

February 18th, 2011 at 8:15 am

I like Cadenza a lot, (I’m a musician), and Wren is pretty, so is Temple.

Sunday Summary: 2/20/11 « Appellation Mountain Says:

February 20th, 2011 at 12:40 pm

[…] love Lemon’s guest post at Nameberry on word names: Echo, Tansy, Temple.  Ages ago I stumbled across Cascata – the Italian word […]

Janine Says:

March 7th, 2011 at 12:47 pm

To be honest, the names of the people that commented, were more useful then the names on the site itself♥

Sandra Says:

March 7th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

I agree with Janine!

Cat Says:

March 20th, 2011 at 6:08 am

@ Whit, I love the British spelling of “Honour” and with possible nns of “Hon” or Honey” how could it not be feminine? I love it and kinda had it in mind already, lol. I could definately see “Fate” used for a boy though, it just sounds more masculine imo, lol. And we actually have a male friend called “Quince”, but he goes by the nn “Quincy” lol.

Tansy is sooo pretty all by itself, it defo goes on the short list!!

Hoody Says:

June 4th, 2011 at 9:42 pm

I love Tansy and Echo. I am curious as to why variations of “Hoody” –Hoode, Hoodi, Hoodia, Hoodee, etc are not in the database, seeing as it is a word name I use for myself, but have seen it on others as well. 🙂

BeeJay Says:

June 28th, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Sorry, but I think Diva is a ghetto name. You have to consider current usage. And while Precious is not a trashy name, it’s really NOT precious for a baby. When handing out new trait names (not old ones like Hope or Grace), you have to consider that name on a grown-up lawyer, or drug addict, or minister or president.

Bree Says:

July 10th, 2011 at 5:06 am

I like Remember, Fate, and Glory. Some I like that are not on the list are Ever *people think I’m crazy because of liking this one, what if Ever is ever asked a question??* Honor, *After Jessica Alba’s daughter* Faith, *I knew a little girl named Faith and she was so cute and sweet* Nice post!! Luv it!!

Kisha Says:

July 23rd, 2011 at 1:59 am

Word names are my fave: Titan, Truce, Kruz and Amethyst are my new names. My husband hates Amethyst though.

Jiinxsay Says:

June 1st, 2012 at 5:45 am

i also have only caught on the the “word” names, which i am in LOVELOVELOVE with! the gal w/the blog, is it Rebecca? Woolf i think! she had twin gurls and they are Reverie Lux and Boheme Shalom!!! holy moly!!! plus her 2 older ones? yup, there’s a daughter named Fable! and son Archer! well i for one am SOLD! on THOSE word namiez! has given me all the incentive i needed to recognize my “change of name” that we know has only been going on here since 2008 :O well, say goodbye to Jiinxsay, which yes, i was the only one to spell it that way. but with the word names coming up and becoming known, one can find the word name that describes THAT specific person, me! i hope mrs. Woolfe won’t feel put out or like i stole from her, but i can’t deny my heart here. i’m going with Mia-Bohème 🙂 the others i saw are; Tru, True, Soul, Essence, Merit, Verity, Virtue-(wow! how’s THAT for a “virtue” name?) i love them ALL. let’s hear it for finding your “soul-name” as opposed to “soul-mate” <3
whether "word names" are just a passing phase, which i highly doubt, or are here to stay, we're just going to keep finding new and Lucious/Lucius ones <3 to all, the new & improved Mia-Bohème

Haili73 Says:

June 24th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I love Mercy as a word name, and I tried to name a character of mine Cadenza “Caddie” and somehow she ended up as Contenza “Connie” At any rate, it worked better with her twin Jensina “Jennie”
I’ve named characters Remember and Hosanna. Hosanna went by “Zahnna” and Remember was the name of a dream in an odd surreal play called
“Sweet Dreams” She was the dream you never remember. The other dreams were Nightmare, Fantasy, and Wacky, so I think she got it good for a name…
I’ve used Tansy as well (almost just typed that as Tanzy, which might be a cute spelling) She was a half fairy half human and had a twin sister named Bridget.

I also like Merit, because it’s like Mary, and Genuine “Gen” and True (boy) are my guilty pleasure twin names. I love Amethyst with “Amy” or “Aimee” as a nickname.

Plum Jo Says:

December 18th, 2012 at 6:27 am

This may sound odd, but what about Prairie for a name? Prairie could totally go hang out with Willow and Meadow.

cj85 Says:

March 17th, 2014 at 6:04 pm

My friend named her daughter Valley. I kinda dig it.

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