Little girls are faced with a cornucopia of potential names. Some of them are overflowing with beauty and some of them are brimming over with meaning, but each has their moment on at least one person's top ten list.
For some names, the number of people picking them reaches critical mass and they are catapulted to the forefront of everyone’s minds. Some combination of pretty sounds and deep meaning touches a cord in the collective mind of the people, and hospitals are flooded with little girls sporting these monikers. These days, it seems that the classics seem to be hitting this divine combination that sets moms dreaming.
Names such as Olivia, a name of Latin origin indicating peace, have been gracing our list of favorites for a decade now, and there seems to be no end to the trend in sight.
These make for familiar spellings and fine pedigrees, letting your girl go through life without having to constantly explain how their name is pronounced. The classy-sounding names might even give them a leg up in their careers, as studies have shown that people with classic names on their resumés are often given preferential treatment. The names on this list often embody this trait, and are rocketing up the popularity chart because of this. You will definitely want to get these names while they are hot.
Serenity is the name of the spaceship from the show, Firefly, and the movie made from that show. Also, it’s the feeling of being at peace with the world: There is nothing to fight, and the universe is sending its love to you. As a girl’s name, it has been creeping up the charts steadily ever since the 1990s, coming up to number 48 as of 2018.
Aside from being the name of a highly-rated movie and a feeling everyone is striving for, where does this name come from? Malcolm Renner had to pick it up from somewhere, after all. Well, ultimately it comes from the Latin word serenitatem, which meant ‘clearness’ as well as what we think of as peacefulness. A similar word was used as a title for Roman emperors and popes. The French changed it to sérénité and used it to describe peaceful weather in the 1530s. They started applying the word to people in the 1590s and the English picked it up as a name for a girl. Now you, too, can join the tradition if you give this name to your baby girl.
Number 49 on the list of most popular girl’s name as of this moment is Gabriella. It’s the Italian spelling of the Hebrew name Gabrielle, which means ‘God’s bravest woman’ (or something to that effect, at least, being the feminine version of the name of an archangel). Believe it or not, it has been having a rocky ride on the popularity charts. It had a brief spike in use in the late 1960s and declined in the 1970s, only to slowly creep up in use since the 1980s.
The famous people who sport this name probably help its continued climb. For instance, Coco Chanel’s first name was actually Gabrielle, and there is the actress Gabrielle Anwar, who played Fiona Glenanne in Burn Notice. Another boost would be that you can nickname your baby girl ‘Gabby’ if you give her this name.
Flower names have been a favorite for little girls since the late 1800s. They seem to encapsulate everything we want for our daughters - growth, beauty, and charm. Violets were always particularly popular, not just because of their Latin origin and lovely purple color, but because the flowers represented modesty. Violets were painted around people who were supposed to have deep spiritual insights, during the Renaissance, and they were often associated with the Virgin Mary and the Holy Trinity, in Medieval times. It was also associated with nobility, since the flower lent its name to the Royal purple of Roman times.
Even without the spiritual connotations, it was a wildly popular name between the 1890s and the 1910s, when it started dropping in frequency. Then the flower theme in naming returned in the 1990s, starting Violet’s slow rise to its current position on the charts at 44.
This is the number 1 name in America at this moment. Whether the name makes you think of the spunky heroine in Jane Austen’s novel, the actress Emma Thompson, or the actress Emma Watson, you have to admit, it’s a catchy name. So catchy, in fact, that it cracks the charts throughout Europe and New Zealand as well as America.
The name comes from the German word ‘erman,’ which means ‘universal’ or ‘whole,’ and it goes back a long way. The first Emma to get her names in the history books was a Viking queen from Normandy who was ruling in 1002 AD. It remained a common name in Europe for centuries, and it was consistently one of the 10 most popular names between the 1880s and the 1910s. The name plummeted in popularity after that, bottoming out at #458 in 1976. It’s been crawling back to its accustomed place ever since then.
This is another name that crops up in the media a lot. It’s the name of the main character in Anne Perry’s Victorian mystery series, the name of the spider in Charlotte’s Web, and the name of the actress Charlotte Rampling. It’s the name of someone who can never be pinned down, as it means ‘free woman’. Actually, it’s a French feminine diminutive of Charles and first appeared in the 14th century. King Charles II of England named two of his illegitimate daughters this, and it was the name of the Queen Consort of Armenia and Jerusalem in the early 1400s.
While Charlotte dropped in popularity in the middle of the last century, it has never been completely out of style, and it is number 1 in places such as Australia and England. In the US, it’s number 8 in popularity.
This is one of those names that derives from the trend in giving last names as given names that started in the 1940s. It means ‘meadow of hay,’ and comes from the Old English tradition of naming families after the place where they live. That’s probably not where the actress Hayley Mills comes from, though.
It is currently 50 on the chart of top 100 names for girls, but it has been steadily rising in popularity since the 1980s. It has the feeling of practicality to it - what could be more useful to farmers than a meadow of hay? It’s also sweet, a source of nourishment and joy, while also being scratchy if you rub it the wrong way. That’s an excellent description for many girls, and a lovely name for them.
Harper is a more unisex name, but you find more girls than boys with it. It comes from Merry Olde England, and means ‘someone who plays the harp’. A tendency in Medieval England, besides naming families after their homes, was naming families after their occupation, so it became a surname for many musicians. And then it got adopted as a given name for boys in the 1800s.
The most famous bearer is the author of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,’ Nelle Harper Lee. Her getting the Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for the novel introduced it as a girl’s name, but it didn’t really catch on until recently. Harper has been shooting up in popularity throughout the 2000s, with many celebrities giving it to their daughters. It is currently number 11 on the charts, and there are many states where it is in the top ten. I doubt that this has to do with Harper Lee’s death in 2016 or her publishing a second novel in 2015, as you probably ready her first book in high school and the popularity of the name spiked before her 2nd novel came out. Whatever the reason, it’s a lovely name for any creative little girl.
Evelyn is number 12 in popularity right now, and it does deserve its position. Classy and easy to spell, people love it for the timeless sound. Believe it or not, it was traditionally a surname. It then became a boy’s first name, gracing people like Evelyn Baring, the Consul-General of Egypt from 1880 to 1907. But it became more popular as a girl’s name by the 1900s.
It means ‘life’ and ‘light,’ and comes from Ireland. The name was spelled Aibhilín and Eidhleann, and might come from the Old Irish word for ‘radiance’ or ‘beauty’. The British eventually got a hold of the name and changed the spelling. Alternatively, there is an Evelyn from German, meaning little bird, and it could also be from the Hebrew words meaning ‘life-bringer.’ Pick whichever meaning you want for your little Evelyn.
Another last name that got co-opted as a first name, it’s an English name that means ‘son of Matthew’. It was used as a boy’s name at least sometimes, as it was in the top 1000 names for boys until 1952. Nobody used the name from then until 1985, when the movie Splash came out, and even then it was from the punch-line of a joke. The main character, a mermaid turned human, gives herself the name after seeing a sign for Madison Avenue (Why didn’t she name herself Avenue?).
Enough people saw the movie to start up the name again. It can be a boy’s name still: it went back to being in the top 1000 on the charts, but it never got really popular. It was 858th on the charts in 2004 and stays at about the same place now. However, as a girl’s name it snowballed until it was the 2nd most popular name in the US in 2001. It still comes in at 13 on the name popularity charts, and is one of the more iconic names of the 1990s.
Nothing says old times like the name of an English queen that literally defined an era. It brings with it the flicker of gaslight and the crinkle of crinoline skirts. So why is it 14th on the list of popular names for girls now?
Well, the name is Latin for ‘conqueror,’ so it is a strong name. And it isn’t just the name of a queen. It was the name of the Roman goddess of Victory and the name of several Christian saints. It never really went away as a popular name for girls. It dipped below 225 on the charts in the 1940s, but it shot right back up to the top 100 in the 1950s. It has been tap dancing its way up the charts ever since.
This is another Old English occupation name. It takes its meaning from a word for a person who made or sold clothes made from scarlet. Anyone named Scarlet can take pride in the fact that this was a premium cloth that the Old English vendors were selling. It was a high-priced woolen broadcloth that was made from the finest British wool. The name probably derives from a Persian word siklat, which indicated a type of cloth that was dyed with a very expensive red dye called kermes. The name entered the Romance languages as escarlate, and English translated it as Scarlet. Scarlet cloth was the height of fashion for the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. So, scarlet indicates more than a pretty color; it indicates luxury and high class.
Scarlet got popular as a name after Gone With The Wind came out, but it didn’t get really popular until recently. It finally reached 16th on the top baby names list in 2018.
Someone saw the My Little Pony movie Equestria Girls and thought that the siren Aria Blaze had an awesome name. That is the only scenario I can imagine that puts Aria at 17 in the popular baby names lists. In fact, if you go to the Social Security page for name popularity, you will find that Aria wasn’t even cracking the top 1000 names before the year 2000. It leaped to number 746 in 2001, fluctuated in popularity until 2010 when the Equestria Girls came out, and has been soaring up the charts ever since.
At least the siren’s name was thematically appropriate. Aria is a music term for a long song for a solo that is accompanied by music. It comes from Latin and literally means ‘song’. If you love music and feel that your little one has a promising set of pipes, this name may be for you.
In 1970, Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon wrote a bluesy rock song called “Layla”. According to the writers, the song was inspired by a Persian story about a young man named Majnun who falls madly in love with a beautiful girl named Layla, but isn’t allowed to marry her and so he goes crazy. It was made into a beautiful 12th century poem, too. ‘Layla’ was a good name for a heroine of this poem and song, as it is an Arabic name meaning “intoxicating.”
The song ‘Layla’ was made into an acoustic version in 1972, and got onto the top 40 songs charts. Not surprisingly, many moms were inspired by the catchy tune about a bewitching woman that someone loved to distraction, and Layla entered the top 1000 names. The name skyrocketed in popularity in 2000, and jumped up the charts in 2005 again. It scooted rapidly into an even more popular name after that. If you feel your baby girl will be particularly electrifying, this may be a great name for her.
This name has an interesting background. It ultimately comes from the Latin word for a youth that serves as an acolyte in Roman religion, and may refer to a huntress who could run so fast that she wouldn’t bend a blade of grass. The French and Spanish picked up the word as a girl’s name from the Latin surname. The English started using it as a girl name in the 16th century, perhaps because there is a Camilla in Virgil’s Aeneid. The name spread through the literary world, showing up as a name for the heroine as early as 1796 and continuing to today. I mean, there is a Muppet named Camilla.
So the name was always around, but why did it go from number 876 on the popular name charts in 1997 to number 32 in 2016? It has steadily gotten more and more popular. Well, it might come from the name’s presence in movies, or it maybe because of the members of various royal families associated with this name; everybody thinks that their daughter is a princess.
Wisdom is a virtue that we all wish on our children, so it isn’t a surprise that the Greek word for wisdom is popular around the world. And unlike a lot of other names on this list, it is very old. It was a central tenet of Greek philosophy, and it first appeared as a given name in the 4th century. Throughout Europe in the medieval times, people loved naming their daughters Sophia.
It waxed and waned in popularity throughout the time, too. It was in the top 200 name charts in 1900, and was never really below that baseline for the entire century and a quarter since. In the 1990s, it started busting into the top 100, and it is now number 4 on the list. It got so popular that when the Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics made a humanoid robot for 'AI for Good', they named her Sophia.
Everybody loves an Abby. I mean as a nickname, Abby is cute and sweet. And the long form of the name, Abigail, sounds official enough to grace a resumé or an office nameplate. It is a name that will carry your little girl through all the phases of her life.
For all the versatility of the name, Abigail has a pretty simple meaning. It’s the name of the wife of King David in the Bible, it means ‘joy of my father’. Since Dad is surely happy to have a baby girl, it will describe your daughter easily. And it describes everyone’s daughter! It has never been off of the top 100 name list since 1901, here in the US. We know that it was a name that was common way before that, because one of the accusers in the Salem witchcraft trials was named Abigail Williams- which means that the name was normal on this continent in the 1600’s.
And it is a pretty universal name, as well, cropping up in one form or another all over the world, from Germany to Egypt. There is even a Maori variant, Apikaira. So, your Abigail will have plenty of international company.
Emily is a classic. It has been in the top 10 of the name charts since 1991, and it has been in the top 300 since 1900. Frankly, it was probably common as a name long before the Social Security Administration started counting the number of people who are given that name. It is an old name based on the Latin family name Aemilia, which belonged to a family that was hugely powerful in Rome. How they got the name is difficult to say. They were probably descended from the Sabines, and the name might mean ‘a rival’.
It became Amelia as a given name, but England modified it to Emily. Once it got transcribed, it came to mean ‘to strive or excel’. I think that everyone would like their daughters to excel at something, and to take a name from ancient overachievers.
It was the most popular name for a decade in the 1990s, and it is number 9 on the charts this year.
Ava is a wonderful name for many reasons. It is easy to spell and pronounce, and it sounds like it means something close to the ‘Ave Maria’ or something similarly spiritual. There is also a Saint Ava from the 9th century.
Actually, Ava was originally a shortened form of the Latin name, Avis, which means ‘like a bird’. Why would someone want to name their kid bird-like? Birds can be a symbol of our aspirations, of freedom, and seem like messengers between the mundane and the spiritual. These lovely connections have made Ava a relatively common name since 1900, and wildly popular since the early 2000s. It is now the 3rd most popular name in the country, and has been so since 2016.
As a side note, you might see people suggesting that Ava is a variation on Eve, which is possible. There were also many German women in the early Medieval times who were called Ava as the first part of names such as Avagisa, Avuldis, and Auwanildas. We really need to bring back those early German names.
Many popular names come from ancient Rome, ancient Greece, or the Bible. However, ours is a world that is increasingly interconnected, and that interconnection brings with it some amazing names. One of these names is Leilani, which comes from Hawaii. It means ‘heavenly flower’, as Hawaii is full of beautiful tropical flowers that could definitely be called ‘heavenly’. Naturally, with such a source, the name comes with many spellings such as Lilyana and Meilani.
This name entered the country in the 1930s with the discovery by fruit companies that Hawaii is a great place to grow food. It’s been climbing up the charts pretty steadily. In 2016, it was 159 on the name charts, and this year it's number 91. Unfortunately, Microsoft Word’s spellchecker will still think that your girl’s name is spelled wrong.
Are you due around Christmas-time? You are in luck, because there is a great seasonal name that sounds wonderful and has the subtlety of a classic name. Natalia is Latin for Christmas Day (from Natale Domini). The name is popular wherever the Roman Empire had extended to, including Ukraine, Bulgaria and Poland. Many countries spell it Natalie or Nathalie or Natalia.
As you can imagine, this name is as old as the Christmas holiday. There was a martyr of that name that died in 306 AD. Here in America, it has been in the top 500 of the name charts since 1900. The highest it has been on the charts since then is 14 in 2011. It has been bouncing around the top 100 in since, and is currently 92 on the charts.
Gemstone names have been popular for girls for ages. We all think of our girls as precious gems. Opal and Jade have been options on the top 1000 list of names, but Ruby is really the gem of choice here in America. According to the Social Security Administration, it hasn’t been lower than 401 on the popular name charts since 1900. These days it is number 71 on the name popularity charts.
This may have something to do with what rubies represent. They are rare and expensive compared to other gems, for one thing. For another thing, they are often used to represent passion, protection, and prosperity. It was often associated with the sun in ancient times, and people thought the red color was from an inner flame that could do a number of things, such as make water boil (our ancestors probably didn’t see many rubies in real life).
You have likely seen Jasmine flowers. They smell like summer and look like bright white lace. It isn’t a wonder that the Persians named it their word for ‘Gift from God’. The flower is frequently associated with love, beauty, and purity. Traditionally, they are used in garlands in Pakistani weddings. In Indonesia and in the Philippines, jasmine is often used in religious ceremonies.
You can see why Jasmine became a popular name for girls when flower names were all the rage. And the name sticks around even after the flower theme fades. Of all the flowers that you could name your daughter after, it is the most empowering. It isn’t a surprise that it remained common throughout the last 2 centuries and is 98 on the popular name charts this year.
Lydia is the archetypal girl’s name in some ways. It means ‘beautiful or noble one’ in Greek, and was probably a surname given to women who came from the region of Lydia. It is so ancient that it appears as the name of a businesswoman and a seller of purple in the New Testament. It was also used as a family name from England, and it applied to a family that owned a village called Lydiate. They were listed in the Domesday Book in 1086 AD. A host of fictional characters bear the name, from the character in Pride and Prejudice to the protagonist in Hotel Transylvania, and it has graced women from every walk of life. This includes a spy, a patent medicine vendor, and a bunch of singers.
This name with a long history has never been out of the list of the top 200 favorite names in America. It is currently ranked 100 in popularity. It will probably rocket even higher as this classic of a name gets the respect it deserves.
Fans of The Little Mermaid will recognize this name instantly. You might also recognize it as the name of an androgynous spirit from the Tempest. These 2 sources might keep it in its place at 99 in the name rankings. After all, it sounds pretty and is recognizable to most people. But people may be surprised to learn that Ariel is actually a masculine name.
It was originally a Hebrew name for boys that means ‘lion of God’. Ariella is the feminine version, but that version is only 335 on the name list. Ariel has been used as a girl’s name since the 1970s, which must have been where the mermaid in the movie got her name (the original story’s protagonist didn’t have a name). The movie came out seven years after the name entered the top 100 list of names. It has stayed in that top 100 since 1982 and it is currently ranked 99 in the list of popular names.
Never cross the Greek goddess of wisdom. See, she is also the goddess of war, but not just all war - she is the one that you pray to for tactics and clever spying. She would do serious damage if you, say, try to get cute with the spelling of her name when you give it to your daughter. This name should be treated with respect, and lends itself to an image of dignity. It even makes sense, as the name is Greek for ‘praise’.
Perhaps surprisingly, the name entered the top 1000 names in 1955. It stayed low on the list, common enough to catch the attention, but not really popular until 1998. It’s been shooting up the charts ever since, and it is currently ranked as 81 on the list of popular girl names.
Sources: mom365.com, babynames.net, dictionary.com
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