Sometimes, inspiration for the perfect name is right under our noses. Parents-to-be seeking a name with time-honored charm might want to look no further than the Southern United States; namely, Dixieland. The Deep South, an area with a unique culture and a penchant for traditional values, holds a wealth of extraordinary names that are rarely used elsewhere in the world.
And I’m not just talking about typical double-barreled Dixie names, like Emmylou or Lula Mae, that sound right out of an old Western (although they do have a certain allure). There are plenty of other attractive, untapped names with a hint of Southern charm that could easily be transplanted to the rest of the world.
You could borrow from famous country music legends like Conway Twitty, Patsy Cline, or Dolly Parton; or take the lead from television shows like Hart of Dixie, Nashville, and Rectify, which have brought some of the South’s unique names into the mainstream in the last decade (gems like Lavon and Crickett; Deacon, Gunnar, and Rayna; or Tawney and Kerwin).
But if none of these strikes your fancy, there remains an abundance of equally delightful, lesser known monikers that might just have you, as they say down South, grinnin’ like a possum eatin’ a sweet potato.
Look no further to name your little cowpoke or Southern belle: if what you want is a one-of-a-kind name with gumption, I reckon you might find what you’re looking for in our list of 15 baby names you would only come across down South.
This name is, to borrow a Southern expression, as pretty as a peach. It was originally a short form of Marjorie (or, these days, also of Jordan or Jordyn), but the name has evolved to stand in its own right. It’s a vivacious, energetic name with just the slightest hint of country.
Feminine without being overly girly, Jorie is a close cousin to names like Rory, Cory, and Tory, but doesn’t hold any of the associations (Gilmore Girls, the Eighties, and Tori Spelling, respectively) that may render these options untenable to some parents. Jorie doesn’t rank in the top baby name lists in North America, meaning brand-new little Jories will these days be singular in their peer groups.
Jorie Graham, the American poet, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1996; so not a bad female role model for a new little girl to share her name with.
With Angus and Fergus rising in popularity, it’s a short jump over to Magnus. This name means “the greatest”, and it has been worn by a handful of early kings in Sweden and Norway. So, while it’s not from the Deep South originally, it’s still a name adopted in the region much earlier than the rest of the country.
If said with a Southern drawl, you can picture this name being just right for an old cowboy; but on second glance, even with its popularity down South, Magnus has no trace of hillbilly. Rather, it seems an almost magical name, and might befit a character in the Harry Potter series. It ranks outside the top 1000 names in the USA, making it a pretty unique choice for new parents.
Comedians Will Ferrell and Elizabeth Banks have both used the name for their respective sons.
Originally a surname, Hollis is used for both girls and boys, although with its similarities to names like Holly, it is getting much more play for females these days. It’s an English name meaning “dweller at the Holly trees”. It therefore might be a fitting choice for a December baby, for parents wanting something vaguely festive without being obvious.
It has a lot in common with Hadley and Harper, both H-surnames that have been steadily rising in popularity for girls (not least due to the author Harper Lee and Victoria and David Beckham’s daughter with the same name). Hollis, though, seems somehow more spirited than these other choices.
In terms of baby name charts in individual states, Hollis is most popular in Texas, with North Carolina in tow. But with its fresh, gender-neutral appeal, Hollis is ripe for the picking by parents in the rest of North America, too.
Truett, sometimes spelled Truitt, conjures a sweet-natured, somewhat cheeky image. It’s not clear where exactly the name came from, but likely moved from surname to first name, coming from the English village of Trewhitt, in Northumberland. In the US, it has associations with the Southern Baptist church, being the surname of one of the most prominent pastors in its history, George Truett.
Truett is similar to other popular choices like Everett and Emmett, and shares a certain charm with Asher. It could be considered by parents wanting a more unique Southern alternative to Rhett. Truett seems a little more fun than its close cousin Truman.
In pop culture, Judy Garland’s love interest in Meet Me in St Louis is John Truett, and the father character in the award-winning young adult novel Jacob Have I Loved is Truitt. Finally, the founder of the American fast food chain Chick-fil-A was named Truett Cathy.
Similar in style to Delaney, Darby has a laidback, carefree feel, which jives with the name’s meaning, “free from envy”. Darby originated in Ireland, and was primarily a boy’s name, but as with many names ending in “y” or “ie”, it has for the most part migrated over to the girl’s side of the name game.
With that said, it does have a gender neutral feel, and would well suit a rough and tumble “girl next door”. Darby is an excellent choice for parents who liked the name Riley before it became ubiquitous on the playground.
In the 1990s, Darby enjoyed an increase in popularity, rising to around the 800th spot on the North American charts, but these days it doesn’t rank in the top 1000 names. In Hollywood, actor Paul Rudd named his daughter Darby, and the actress who plays Abby Whelan on Scandal also shares the name.
Alonzo sounds fresh and new, being similar in style to chart-topping names like Milo and Leo, but it actually appeared just outside the top 100 names in North America as far back as 1880. By the 1930s, it had dropped down the list to the mid-300s, and has remained near there ever since. It’s a close relative of the French Alphonse, meaning “noble”.
This historic name, which is extremely popular in the South, is poised for a nationwide comeback. It embodies a suave elegance, and would suit parents looking for a boy’s name with a hint of old-world glamor.
The title character in the novel Don Quixote is actually Alonso; the name was translated from Spanish to English and thus came to fame. And there are two characters named Alonzo in the classic film Meet Me in St Louis; Judy Garland’s character’s father and brother both carry the name.
Magnolia is a sweet Southern name with deep roots: Magnolia trees are native to the southeastern United States, so it’s not hard to discern why this name’s popularity might have blossomed in the region. It’s also Louisiana’s state flower.
The name Magnolia is just as pretty as the soft pink flowers it comes from. Floral names will always have a certain appeal, but Magnolia seems a more striking choice than dainty Rose or Lily. It’s a name that transitions well from baby to toddler to teen to adult, and could be a bold, slightly whimsical choice for intrepid parents seeking a feminine name with strength.
The name is closely associated with the main character in the musical Show Boat, which was adapted for film in both 1936 and 1951. In the story, Magnolia is nicknamed Noa and Nollie, as well as the more obvious Maggie.
Dalton is a name synonymous with the Wild West, thanks to the Dalton Brothers, a gang of outlaws active in the region between 1890 and 1892. They mainly robbed passenger trains, and once attempted to rob two banks in one day. In the 1950s, the Dalton Brothers also became characters in a Lucky Luke comic book. Other well-known Daltons include Dalton Trumbo, the Spartacus screenwriter who blacklisted during World War II.
This association with a notorious gang of outlaws gives the name a nonchalance and swagger. It has ranked in the top 1000 baby names in North America since 1910, and competes well against other names ending in “n” like Colton, Graydon and Trenton.
Despite having strong ties with the Old West, Dalton has a universal appeal, being in line with the trend for appropriating surnames as first names. We think it could suit babies all over the world just dandy.
Rhetta has the sound of a classic country music star, from the era of Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. It has an old-fashioned feel, yes, but the old names are becoming new again for the most recent generation of parents. Rhetta might be a little outside the current trend for Victorian names, but for parents looking to the next wave of popular eras, it could be an excellent choice.
Rhetta is really just a feminine version of Rhett, which means “advice”, and for most people will bring to mind the dashing Rhett Butler from the book and film Gone with the Wind. A lesser-known association, Rhetta Hughes is a Tony-award-winning stage actress.
This name’s unique spelling is attractive in itself, and Rhetta seems a more graceful cousin to outdated Rita and Loretta. Could Rhetta become the Ruby of the future? Only time will tell.
This biblical name has so far been outshone by its peers Abraham and Abel, which is funny, seeing how the name means “father of light”. Abner has all the makings to become a new scriptural favorite, now that the passing of time has allowed it to shake its associations with the comic strip L’il Abner, which followed a fictional family of hillbillies in Dogpatch, USA.
Abner ranked highly on the North American baby name charts in 1910, but has steadily decreased in popularity since then. Abner is an unfettered and sprightly name, even with its ties to religion, and parents looking for something playful yet with the weight of history could add this charmer to their list.
An American army officer named Abner Doubleday has widely been credited with inventing baseball (despite a lack of evidence), and the writers Thomas Hardy and Eugene O’Neill used Abner for characters in their works.
Twyla is a fantastical, dreamy name, and could almost be the name of a fictional woodland creature from a children’s movie. Still, it has a certain appeal, perhaps due to its attractive combination of “wy”, similar to the very popular Wyatt (a name that is now being used for both boys and girls, after Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher named their daughter Wyatt in 2014).
Although it seems to convey a weightless feeling of whimsy, Twyla means “woven of two threads, or strong”, as “twy” means “two” in Old English--so despite appearances, there are hidden depths to this girlish moniker. Parents choosing this name can rest assured that their choice is rooted in history.
It should be noted that French and Chinese people find this name difficult to say, and even some English people find the construction baffling, even though it’s pronounced phonetically. Far-travelling parents might find their daughter’s name is a bit of a mouthful for foreign friends.
Probably the most obviously Western-inspired name on this list, Boone is a name that conjures a deep-voiced and manly man; perhaps a gentle giant with impeccable manners. It means “the blessing” (as does the English word “boon”, from whence it came), and has French origins, despite being largely an American name these days.
The name will be forever linked to the frontiersman Daniel Boone, one of America’s most famous folk heroes. There is also a town in North Carolina called Boone, after the famous explorer. Parents choosing this name must be certain they are thoroughly comfortable with Boone’s country feel, as most people who hear the name will imagine a lone ranger-type riding through expanses of farmland under big open skies. It’s not a name that will easily shake its provenance, but that’s not necessarily to its detriment.
Boone a nice alternative to another Southern favorite, Brock, having a softness that its cousin lacks, and is less haughty than Bronson.
Clover might be a common plant that blankets meadows and fields, but it’s anything but common as a first name. The four-leaf clover association could well bring its wearer good luck, although any girl bestowed with such a cheery moniker can probably make her own.
Clover is a bright and bouncy name, more akin to good-natured flower names like Daisy and Poppy than the more cultivated and sophisticated Violet and Iris. While it is often used as a nickname, there’s no reason why Clover can’t stand in its own right as a pretty first name for a little girl with gumption, and it transcends its Southern roots due to the universal appeal of nature names.
Parents considering the often-used Chloe might look to Clover for a more playful sound-alike name. A handful of celebrities have chosen Clover for their daughters in the past few years, including skateboarder Tony Hawk and Franklin & Bash actor Breckin Meyer.
Vernon has a particularly genteel quality about it; it’s a boy’s name that is strong, yet soft, and therefore might appeal to modern parents. It was very popular in North America about a hundred years ago, and could easily be ready for a revival.
The nickname Vern brings to mind Jules Verne, the French novelist who wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, among others. It’s a nice association for this affable yet solid name. Vernon has a lot in common with Dalton, which also appears on this list, as they both use the popular n-ending, and are masculine without being over the top.
George Washington’s plantation home in Virginia is called Mount Vernon, which might explain the name’s popularity Down South. Vernon was also the name of Elvis Presley’s father, and more recently, the actor Vince Vaughn used the name for his son.
Pronounced aw-GUS-ta, this name is one with a long and distinguished history, having derived from Latin for “great, or magnificent”. It leaves a rather stately and dignified impression, but with old-fashioned names being right on trend, it wouldn’t be out of place in a playground full of Mabels and Eugenies. The name is popular in the South likely due to the town of Augusta, Georgia.
Augusta hasn’t ranked on the North American baby name charts since the 1930s, making it a name with good chances of a comeback; it might be a nice substitute for Autumn. The masculine variants of Augusta (August, Augustus) have been gaining in popularity for the past few years, probably partly due to the charm of the nickname Gus. Gus (or Gussie) could be a tenable nickname for Augusta, although Aggie might be a sweet alternative.
In literature, Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest featured a Lady Augusta Bracknell.
Sources: Southernliving.com, Babycenter.com, Nameberry.com, Baby.lovetoknow.com, Wehavekids.com, Countryliving.com, Usadeepsouth.ms11.net, Babynamescience.com, Babynamewizard.com