The Namesakes Everyone is Hunting For

Dec 28th 2017

Every month, thousands of readers search our Namipedia for girls’ names starting with Ken, Jeff, Tom, and other masculine nicknames. Searches for boys’ names with those beginnings are much scarcer. What’s the story? Should we expect a coming generation of little girls name Jeff and Tom?

I believe the phenomenon actually arises from a more traditional naming impulse. Our readers are looking for namesakes.

Ken, Jeff, Tom and friends are (sorry) “grandpa names” – nicknames for super-popular male names of the 1930s-1960s. In particular, they’re grandpa names with no popular female counterparts. If you want to name a daughter after Grandpa Stephen, you have easy choices like Stephanie and Stevie. A Grandpa John might be honored with a little Johanna or Jane. But what about Grandpa Tom? What’s a female counterpart to Thomas? Or Jeffrey? Or Kenneth? The answers aren’t obvious, so parents come to us seeking namesake inspiration.

[In case you’re wondering: nope, there is no corresponding trend for boys' names to remember a Grandma Susan or Deborah. It appears that even when it comes to honoring our beloved relatives, we're much more willing to name girls after males than boys after females. Anyway…]

We’re here to help. Below are female name possibilities for seven of the male name roots that parents of girls search for most.

To Name After a... Try...

The Hebrew word Ben means "son," so no girls' names share the root. Allowing some space between the Be- and N offers: Bethany, Berenice, Bettina, Belinda, Bethan



Calla, Calista, Callie, Calliope, Calanthe, Calais, Caelia



Jamie, Jacqueline, Jamesina, Jamila, Jamaica, Jamiya



OK, there is no girl's name close to Jeff (or Geoff). But the "frey" part of Jeffrey could yield Freya, and it comes from the Germanic "frid" meaning peace, also found in Frida and Frederica



Kenna, Kendall, Kendra, Kennedy, Kensington, Kenya, McKenna, Kenzie, Kinneret, Kinsley



Mattea, Matilda, Mattie, Maddie, Madeline, Maddalena, Madison, Matisse



Philippa/Pippa, Philomena, Phyllida, Phyllis, Ophilia, Theophilia


Tom/Thomas Tamsin, Thomasina, Tomasa, Tommie, Toma





December 29, 2017 1:41 PM

For a feminine Ben- name, there are the many feminine forms of Benedict, Benita being perhaps the most relevant.

Another thought: Jem is a traditional nickname for James, so Jemma. Also James is derived from Yaakov (Jacob), so Jacoba. 

December 29, 2017 2:08 AM

Kendra reminded me of a woman I know named T€dra, after her grandfather Ted (nn for Edgar).

She coincidentally has a brother named Jeff. Both fiftyish.

People who hang out here will be familiar with the first two Tom names.

December 29, 2017 11:45 AM

Benedetta and Benedicta also come to mind, and it will not surprise anyone to find that I love Jamesina. (I'm also finding Jamesetta, which is new to me and is an Etta James homage, apparently, as she was born Jamesetta Hawkins. I wonder if it's James-Etta or Jay-mes-EH-ta... anyone know?)

December 29, 2017 3:34 PM

I'm also intrigued at the dozens of Jeffifers in the SSA data -- clearly, parents are trying hard to find feminine forms of male standby names!

December 30, 2017 5:46 PM

I can definitely relate to this! Anyone have any suggestions for Kevin?

December 31, 2017 12:40 AM

Caoimhe, Anglicized as Kiva or Keeva, comes from the same root as Kevin (Caoimhín). 



January 1, 2018 9:52 AM

In the news this week was Erica Gardner, daughter of Eric Gardner.

January 1, 2018 8:11 PM

I think Richard is the toughest name to find a namesake for! Any suggestions?

January 1, 2018 9:57 PM

The most obvious feminine form of Richard is Richelle (like Michelle but with an R), but some people go the diminutive-as-feminine route with Rikki. There are also feminine suffix options: Ricarda, Richardine.

Further afield, any name in Ri- could work: Riley, Rita, Rivka, Rihanna. In the "it's the thought that counts" vein, you could also use something like Charmaine or Charity, based on the second syllable of Richard.

The etymology of Richard (Germanic, from elements meaning 'power, rule' and 'brave, hardy') leads to esoteric gems like Walburga and Waltraud, which may work much better as namesakes for a Walter.

January 1, 2018 11:33 PM

Perhaps closest is Richild/Richildis/Richilda. The first element is the same as the first element in Richard, while the second element -hild is the word for battle. Several medieval queens had this name including one from Hungary.

January 2, 2018 11:07 AM

It's etymologically unrelated to Richard, but Richa is a somewhat common Sanskrit feminine name, pronounced more-or-less like Richard without the -rd. I think it would be very reasonable to use in honor of a Richard, even without a South Asian heritage. I also think Luxe would be a fun nod to someone who goes by Rich, though I might tuck it into the middle name slot.

January 2, 2018 5:31 PM

Rick could be used by a Frederica or Erica. (I’m stuck on Erica this week). 

January 3, 2018 2:49 AM

I’m not one to be a stickler on an honorific sounding exactly the same as the name. They rarely end the same so they shouldn’t have to start the same; and some of these camps of names just don’t come across as I think people intend for someone who is still an individual and has to make it their own. It is tricky! That said, I do know someone on my husband’s side named Rica. It was a reflection of Frederica as the honorific changed down the line. From the list+comments I think the ones that *strike a balance between an easily relatable and understood male name with avoiding the very obscure* (for the ear and workability’s sake): Benita, Callie, Jamie, Freya, Kendra, Matilda, Pippa, and Tamsin... I would venture Evie for Kevin and I quite prefer Char for Richard. I wonder what I would come up with if I started from scratch. Interesting!