With baby name trends constantly changing, it’s hard to find a name for your child that’s special and timeless. In many ways, the south is responsible for some time-tested baby name trends. Floral names are popular among southerners, evoking memories of gardening, fragrant air and classic photos. Double names have long been reminiscent of southern culture, often using the names of two beloved family members to pay tribute. Nature-inspired names are chosen by outdoorsmen who love the lush landscape and small bodies of water for fishing and reflection. Even region-inspired names (i.e. Savannah, Carolina) have become popular, paying homage to one’s hometown or family farm. Naming babies after beloved family members or favorite Bible passages is also quite common in the south, demonstrating that southerners find inspiration everywhere.
The “southern belle” is a longstanding movie and television trope of a beautiful, worldly, somewhat upper class woman. The phrase is used to describe someone sweet, beloved and dainty. It’s no surprise, then, that southern baby names are making a comeback in a big way. Celebrities love them for their charm and distinction, while regular folk can’t get enough of their whimsy and flourish.
Baby girls are delicate and charming, making these names for a southern belle the perfect fit. Their sweet smell, baby coos and affectionate nature remind us of elegant, angelic southern creatures. Finding a great name can be challenging, but the image of the southern belle leaves us with so many wonderful options. From little girl to adult woman, these names are sure to differentiate a pretty girl from a true southern belle.
The obvious first choice is a shortened version of “Isabelle” or “Isabella”. It is also a french word meaning “beautiful”. A stunning name for a sweet southern girl, Belle is reminiscent of the bookworm heroine of Beauty and the Beast. An outlaw of the American West, Belle Starr was also a strong female character. With its sing-songy sound and easy rhyming ability, there is something melodic about the sound of the word. The Beatles must have agreed, as they found success with their hit “Michelle, My Belle”. Other versions of the name include Bella, Maybelle and Annabelle.
Fit for a Disney princess, Belle is a great name for a francophile or Disney fanatic. With only good associations, every little girl will grow into the name as a book lover, hero, great beauty and do-gooder.
The past few years have shown a rise in the popular girls’ name Savannah. This is a classic southern name taken straight from the famous city of Savannah, Georgia. With it’s warm weather and lush landscape, Savannah is a beautiful place to name a child after. The name itself is getting very popular, though, and can also be difficult to spell. If you’re looking for something with that same type of southern charm, but more modern, Savvy is a great choice.
Short and sweet, Savvy also means smart. Increasing ever-so-slightly in popularity since 2016, the name Savvy ranked this year at #2577 for most popular girls’ names. Those who like the name Savvy will also like the shortened versions of Sylvia (Sylvie) and Estella (Stella). What little southern belle isn’t sassy and smart?!
Fans of southern classic “Gone With the Wind”, will surely adore the name Rhett for their little girl. Meaning “fiery”, it’s no surprise that Rhett Butler is the name of the bold hero of the story. Being tough is an innately southern quality, and naming a little one after someone remarkable is an obvious choice.
Originally a surname, Rhett emerged in the 1960’s as the moniker of a famed politician active during the Civil War. Since Rhett is considered more of a unisex name, it would be perfect for a little tomboy that loves fishing, playing in the mud and sports.
Not surprisingly, the name Rhett has jumped up the popularity lists recently, coming in at #8,351 for girls and #220 for boys in 2016. Similar names include Rex, Reese and Ryder. If it’s another English/Welsh sound you’re looking for, the name Rhys is an edgy choice.
Another name taken from literature, Cordelia is the name of King Lear’s favorite daughter in the famed Shakespeare play. Of uncertain origin, Cordelia is old-fashioned, feminine and stylish. It suits both little girls and older women. The meaning of the name is thought to mean “heart”, or “daughter of the sea”.
Currently #128 on Nameberry.com, Cordelia is beginning to sprout up all over the country. It’s southern feel has people clamoring to give the name to their daughter, as antiques always come back in style. Cordelia lends itself well to nicknames Cora, Delia, and Lia.
Conjuring up images of hearts, pink and girly sundresses, the name’s connection to love makes it a wonderful choice for a baby girl. Its connection to the sea makes it an appropriate choice for fisherman, water-sport enthusiasts, sailors and swimmers. A strong choice for a loving, sea-faring southern family, Cordelia will catch everyone’s eyes.
A southern state itself, Georgia is reminiscent of sprawling landscapes and sunny skies. Actually an English name, Georgia ranked #227 for baby girls in 2016. The female form of George, Georgia sounds regal and feminine. Several children in the royal family have been given this name, making it socially relevant and classic. Conversely, the name is perfect for someone living on a farm, as it literally means “farmer”.
Culturally, the name has also become quite popular. The Ray Charles hit “Georgia On My Mind” is a classic American tune, surely making the name Georgia a longstanding favorite. The female form of “George”, the name can also be a little bit tomboyish. The nickname “Georgie” is cute for a little girl and for those looking for a slightly different take, “Georgina” is quite lovely as well.
Beautiful actress Selma Blair rocks this name, and we can totally see why! It’s different, easy to spell and pronounce and just, well…cool. The name carries the Muslim meaning of “peaceful; pacifist”. Sounding like the world “Salam”, meaning peace, Selma is a pretty name for an angel of a girl. A southern sweetie with a big heart would totally rock this one.
Also a city in Alabama famous for its civil rights march, Selma is as southern as it gets. In the United States Selma ranked at #1670 for popularity, however it came in at #34 in Germany and Norway in 2016. Originally a Scandinavian name, Selma has a beautiful balance of European and southern influence, making it extra unique. Those who love this name will also like Salma, Clara and Hazel.
Who doesn’t love flowers? Daisies are pervasive in the south, covering fields and land like a layer of snow. The image of a daisy is sweet, pure, feminine and fresh. Daisy actually began as a nickname for the name Margaret – the French name Marguerite is also the name of a type of daisy. A symbol of cheerfulness, a bouquet of daisies would bring a smile to anyone’s face.
Ranking #190 for girls names in 2016, Daisy toes the line between overly popular and weird. Everyone knows the flower and how to spell it, nipping clerical errors in the bud. Flower baby names have a certain vintage feel, making them chic and fresh although they’ve been around for decades.
History shows that these names reached their peak of popularity in the early 20th century and have re-emerged since the beginning of the current one. A little girl named Daisy will surely bloom into a lovely young woman.
Another floral name, Dahlia means “from the valley”. The name elicits a picture in the mind’s eye of a beautiful garden. A hearty flower, the dahlia is known as a “survivor”. Dahlias can withstand hot temperatures, different amounts of rain and inclement weather. When given as a gift, a dahlia is a symbol of lasting commitment – something that southerners take very seriously.
Once thought of as a “hippie” name, Dahlia has climbed the charts over the past few years. Now ranking at #393, the Victorian word for this flower itself was actually created to honor Swedish botanist Anders Dahl. Reminiscent of Delia, Dahlia also has other translations. In Hebrew, the word translates to “tree branch”, or “olive branch”, making it great for a nature lover. Similar names include the aforementioned Delia, Delilah and Ivy.
Not just for grandmas anymore, Pearl was a pretty common name in the late 19th century. Over time, it lost its luster. Showing signs of a big comeback, this gemstone-inspired name means “precious”, and it’s one syllable makes it a great option for a first or middle name.
The name is also favored by celebrities like Jack Osbourne and Maya Rudolph. Old-fashioned and originally English, the name sounds great with a southern accent over a cup of sweet tea.
Thought of as a special piece of jewelry, a pearl is also the birthstone for the month of June. In 2016 Pearl ranked #567 among girl baby names, making it used but not overused. The name has an elegant sound, feminine feel and evokes the strength of a southern woman. If you like gemstone names, you might also like Ruby or Sapphire.
Short for Dorothy and long for Dot, Dottie is the perfect middle ground. It originated in England and means “gift of G-d”. Perfect for religious southerners or those with strong faith and a penchant for tender-hearted little ones. Popular in the 1890’s, Dottie is due for a resurgence. In the US, Dottie barely cracked the top 1000 names for baby girls, however in England it ranked #576 in 2016.
Southern-sounding, short and sweet, Dottie is a wonderful way to honor family members whose names begin with “D”. Rather than using “Dorothy” or “Dorothea”, naming a baby girl Dot is an excellent use of the first initial and a more modern take on old-fashioned female names. Those bearing this name are country singer Dottie West, as well as Geena Davis’s character Dottie Hinson in the classic movie A League Of Their Own.
A diminutive of Elizabeth and a more stylish version of Betty, Bette is vintage and just downright cool. It also lends itself well to the ever-southern tradition of double names, like Bette-Sue or Bette-Ann. Popular from comics Betty & Veronica and movie star Bette Davis, the name was even used in the movie Clueless as a cultural reference to a “hot girl” (ex: “She’s a total Betty!”).
Derived from the Hebrew word Elisheba, Bette means “oath of God”. During World War II Betty Grable was a hot pin-up girl, making the name even more popular. Now, Bette ranks at #712 for baby girls.
With its spiritual meaning and connection to faith, the name is definitely poised for a comeback in the south. Bette is also becoming more common across the pond. In England, the name ranked at #395, likely due to the rampant use of the formal and royal Elizabeth.
Louise means “renowned warrior”, which makes us think of it as an outstanding name for a little girl. Everyone wants their daughter to be strong and show it! Originally Louise was a French name, however it has become quite popular in England and as a male version of Louis. My kids have a babysitter named Louise who they affectionately call “weez”, but I am personally partial to the nicknames Lou and Lulu.
Reaching its peak of popularity in the 1920’s, Louise now ranks at #6233. A surefire sleeper hit, the french sound and simple spelling of the name make it quite lovely for a little one. With this name, your daughter is sure to stand out among classmates. With a slight tomboyish vibe due to its counterpart Louis, the name has a bit of an edge. A chic name with a masculine twist, Louise is an oldie but a goodie.
Originally a Greek name, Cora comes in many variations. Coraline, Coralee and the aforementioned Cordelia are all similar choices. Cora is holding steady in the US’s top baby names for girls, and we can really see why. Cora is old-fashioned and was used frequently in the Wild West. Southerners and Northerners alike are fans of this name, not only for its elegance but for its easy pronunciation and spelling.
Cora was a daughter of mythological figure Zeus, as well as a heroine in The Last of the Mohicans, giving the name a tough and heroic vibe. It’s no surprise, then, that Cora jumped the charts in 2016 to become the 87th most popular baby name for girls. With popularity ups and downs throughout the past two centuries, the name is likely here to stay. Combining rare elements of old-fashioned elegance and modern feminism, Cora stands the test of time.
Dixie itself is a generic term for the entire American South, making it about as southern as you can get. It means “ten”, and some people refer to $10 bills themselves as dixies. We’ve all heard of “The Dixie Chicks”, a popular country band, and of course the lovely Dixie Carter, a member of Designing Women’s famed ensemble. We foresee this name becoming popular in Hollywood, as model Lily Aldridge and Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill named their daughter Dixie Pearl in 2012.
As it does literally translate to “ten”, the name would be extra special to use if baby is born on the parents’ tenth anniversary, the tenth day of the month or if it’s the tenth (yikes!) member of the family. As far as popularity goes, the name Dixie ranked 706th in 2017.
Meaning “she who brings happiness”, Bea is an outstanding choice for a little girl. Short for Beatrice, Beatrix, Bernice and even Bernadette, Bea is a little name for a big personality. The name evokes images of sweet honeybees, and with just one syllable, it goes great with almost anything.
At the beginning of the 20th century the name actually stood by itself on the popularity lists, turning it from just a nickname into a full-fledged full name of its own. Categorized by some as an “old lady name”, Bea is becoming fresh and young once again. Ranking at #316 in the year 2017, the name is becoming more loved by the day. Actress and writer Kelly Oxford uses the name for her daughter, whose full name is Beatrix. Another famous Bea is Bea Arthur from the television classic The Golden Girls.
Literary buffs rejoice in the fact that the name Holden, the main character’s name in Catcher in the Rye, is climbing the baby-name charts. Holden means “deep in the valley”, making it a great name for nature lovers and hikers alike. Traditionally thought of as a boy name, there is no reason that Holden can’t be the name of an adventurous, heroic little girl. In fact, actor Rob Huebel named his preemie daughter Holden after she lived in the NICU for nearly three months.
In a sea of Harpers, Hadleys and Haydens, the name Holden stands out with its English sound and surname-meets-first name feel. Ranking at #13,358 on the girls’ chart, your daughter is sure to be a standout at school. The name would be extra-special to use for a family that loves spending time in nature, reading literature or camping in the woods.
The gorgeous Pippa Middleton, sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, sent this name skyrocketing onto the popular baby name lists shortly after we saw her bum in a clingy white dress. Short for Philippa and meaning “lover of horses”, a girl named Pippa personifies class and athleticism. Horses are considered such an elegant animal that the name lends itself well to a worldly little lady. Along with its regal feeling, thanks to Ms. Middleton, the name has a subtle way of standing out.
Although famous in England, Pippa is actually an Italian baby name, making it a good fit for a family with Mediterranean roots. Ranking at #232 for baby girl names, Pippa is consistently climbing the baby name charts. According to its animal-specific translation, Pippa would be a fitting name for a youngin’ who helps out on the farm, pursues equestrian sports or loves caring for animals in general.
The name Ora carries more than one meaning. In Hebrew, the name means “light”. In Latin, it means “prayer”. Both meanings share a thread of spirituality, as does the phonetic spelling of “Aura”. Said to be someone’s field of energy, the aura can be colorful and bright. Ora is a beautiful name for the faithful and hopeful. What daughter isn’t a bright light in her parents’ eyes?
All religion aside, Ora is an easy name to use due to its length and ease of pronunciation. Similar to Cora and Nora, it fits well into the religious south because of its connection to prayer and energy. In 2017 it ranked as the #4,342nd most popular baby name for girls, letting it become a name representative of individuality and wisdom. Those who like Ora may also like Ada, Opal and Ava.
We know how southerners feel about mason jars. If the name is good enough to suit the multi-purpose vase, cool carafe and salad vessel, it’s good enough for a daughter. Another traditional boy’s name, Mason is uber-chic for a girl. For those who like unisex names and surnames, Mason is a simple yet distinctive choice.
Literally meaning “to build”, Mason is a good choice for the creative type. Whether born into a family of builders, artists or craftsmen, someone named Mason is surely destined to make things.
Kelsey Grammer and Camille Grammer have a daughter Mason, who has begun to make a name for herself as a model. She walked in the Malan Breton show at New York Fashion Week, and made several red carpet appearances. This name is sure to be loved by anyone living south of the (aptly named) Mason-Dixon line.
Meaning “cheerful” and “brilliant”, Sunny is an optimist’s dream name. I actually know a woman named Sunshine and have always been quite jealous of her name! It has such confidence and warmth to it. We’ve heard Sonny as a male nickname, but the girl version brings with it thoughts of summertime and warm weather, both prevalent in the South.
If you like weather-inspired names, there are plenty: Misty, Dusty, Stormy and Rain. We love all of these, however, who can resist someone named after a gorgeous day?! Some famous Sunnys include Food Network’s Sunny Anderson, YouTube’s Sunny Dahye and Adam Sandler’s daughter Sunny Sandler.
Increasing almost 500 spots on the popularity chart from 2016 to 2017, more and more people are beginning to covet the name. With its pleasant disposition, the name Sunny is headed for a warm welcome at the top of the charts.
Dolly is an English name meaning “gift of god”. It’s also the moniker of the country singing goddess Dolly Parton. Synonymous with country music, Parton helped make the name famous in modern times. The name is also used for the heroine in famed musical “Hello, Dolly!”, now back on Broadway. This leads me to believe that a lot of little girls named Dolly will be born in the next few years.
Perfectly feminine, Dolly was used so much as a name in the 17th century that it became a generic term for a sweet little girl. Used as a nickname for Dorothy along with Dixie and Dot, Dolly also stands out as a first name.
Besides Ms. Parton, some other famous Dollys are the first mammal ever to be cloned (a sheep) and former first lady Dolly Madison. If you are a fan of this name you might also like Minnie, Teddy or Winnie.
A word that then became a name, Moxie means “guts” or “chutzpah!”. Southern women are known for being brash, yet bashful, and I think Moxie gets the balance just right. Quirky parents can revel in this name for their spunky and special little one.
Not even cracking the top 1000 baby names, Moxie is hardly run-of-the-mill. Parents that love different baby names and want to stand out will love this one. In fact, performer Penn Jillette named his daughter Moxie Crimefighter.
Writers will love this one, too, as the meaning behind the word makes a great quality in a baby girl. Other ways to spell the name include Moxy, Moxee and Moxey. While we don’t recommend Crimefighter as a middle name, we think Moxie goes especially well with longer middle and last names.
While it’s the 99th most popular name in the US for boys, Sawyer hasn’t yet hit the girls’ chart. Also a surname, the name itself became famous when Mark Twain penned The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876. The story of a young boy growing up along the Mississippi, Tom Sawyer is a classic artifact of the south. The book tells a tale that has stood the test of time, and so will its name. The perfect name for a girl to grow into, Sawyer is strong, unique and historical.
Ranking at #226 on the girls’ chart, Sawyer is starting to catch on as an amazing option. A more unique choice than Spencer, the name has a lot of heart. Celtic in origin, the name Sawyer translates into “cuts timber”. With its outdoorsy and literary qualities, the name would work great for a family that loves reading, camping, history or southern folklore.
An acronym for the beloved city of New Orleans, the name Nola has risen in popularity over the past ten years. The perfect fit for a Louisiana girl, Nola is a southern version of Lola and a female version of Nolan.
Another location, Nola is also the name of a town in Italy known for its invention of church bells. With each of these places being relevant to southern culture, a baby girl named Nola is sure to be a darling.
In 2016 Nola was the 820th most popular girls’ name, re-entering the top 1000 for the first time in 50 years in 2008. This is partly due to the beloved city, and also the use of the name in Spike Lee’s big break, She’s Gotta Have It. The name of the heroine of the film, Nola is a powerful sounding alternative to Nora or Nina. This would be an ideal fit for a southern family with Cajun roots or a penchant for church music.
Traditionally a boy’s name, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher chose Wyatt as a moniker for their second daughter. Meaning “little warrior”, Wild West hero Wyatt Earp made this name famous. Other celebrities that have used it for their children include country singer Sheryl Crow and Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.
The name Wyatt has been around since Medieval times. In old English, it is considered to mean “wood” or “guide”. A little girl in the woodsy south could easily carry this name, tomboy or not. A more unisex alternative to Willow, the name stands out among other nature-themed names.
Last year nearly 10,000 boys in the US were named Wyatt, but only 63 girls. Hardly on the radar for baby girls, Wyatt is the perfect choice for parents who want something different, but not too different. Those who like the name Wyatt for a daughter might also like Avery, Finley or Rowan.
Sources: Nameberry.com, babycenter.com, sheknows.com, babynames.com, behindthename.com
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