More Names Like Harper: The Search for Alternatives

Feb 15th 2017

Once in a while, a baby name hits the bullseye. It clicks with parents in a unique way and sends them hunting for more name ideas that can fill that same space in their hearts. Harper for girls is one such name. 

Don't just take my word for it, ask the whole internet.

I turned to Google to find top completions for search phrases like "baby names like..." The result is a collection of unique baby name fashion flashpoints, including Harper. I recognize many of them as names that users look up at a tremendous rate, much higher than the names' actual usage would suggest. Most importantly, each of them is the epitome of a particular hot style with a character that's hard to match.

I'm taking up the challenge of finding alternatives for these names, starting today with Harper. Let's break down the elements of Harper's special appeal.

Harper Lee: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Name Harper Is:

Unconventionally feminine. Harper is not a traditional girl's name, either in usage or sound. But because the most prominent Harper, author Harper Lee, was a woman, it doesn't come across as a boy's name being "repurposed." It's confidently if non-traditionally feminine.

Fresh for this generation. Have you ever personally met an adult woman named Harper? Mostly likely not, so it has no negative associations and nobody's gotten tired of it.

An action surname that doesn't get its hands dirty. Harper is one of a new generation of -er names that keep the "doer" energy of the suffix but lose the workaday connections of a Cooper or Tannner.

An artistic homage. Again thanks to Harper Lee, the name has a literary style that broadens its appeal and deepens its sophistication.

No other name will be a perfect match for all of those qualities, but each of the names below captures parts of Harper's allure.






















February 15, 2017 12:32 PM

I'd be interested to know if the name is significantly less popular in Canada because of its association with Stephan Harper, the former PM, who is a member of the Conservative Party and therefore not too popular in many circles (although everything's relative. Historically bad politicians are looking pretty good by comparison these days).

February 15, 2017 2:52 PM

Sawyer and especially Carson are very much masculine names, and using them on girls goes way over the "probably unintended, but still utterly [insert word here that begins with s and ends with exist - have we mentioned lately how utterly MORONIC a word-based spam filter is?]" borderline for me.

Basically, using a name that signals "male" on a girl says that it's better to be a boy than a girl. Ambiguous gender names like Taylor, Tracy, or Rowan don't have this problem, but until "a boy named Sue" becomes accepted practice instead of a song lyric (or joke), naming a girl as somebody's son just says "people will think you're a boy, but that's OK, because it's better to be a boy than a girl."

By mk
February 15, 2017 5:03 PM

Scarlett and Juniper seem traditionally feminine to me, even if they aren't commonly used names.

Seeing Carson on a list about the name Harper makes me think of Carson McCullers (first name Lula), and then Flannery O'Connor.  So Flannery could also fit on this list.

February 15, 2017 5:58 PM

Harlow, Marlo(we), and Tatum were the first three to come to my mind - I see we agree!

Unfortunately, other than Briar and Rowan, I'm not sure how well these will date.  Of course you could probably say that for a lot of names and I don't think anyone is too concerned about that when naming now.

February 15, 2017 6:00 PM

@dorit: Harper is not really my style but more appealing to me than other names that aren't really my style... but as a Canadian it's true that I could never, never, use it for precisely that reason.

(And everything may be relative, but we had to put up with him for a decade!)

February 16, 2017 9:56 AM

Piper was my first thought. Great post Laura, very intersesting to read.

August 30, 2017 4:50 PM

@dorit and emily.ei - I'm also Canadian and I second that about Stephen Harper. I actually love the sound of the name Harper, the musical association, and will eventually want to honour a namesake in my family who had an 'H' name,  but I don't want to look like a Stephen Harper fangirl so unfortunately this name will be out of the question when the time comes.