Do you like your girls' names more short and snappy than long and lacy? We've rounded up a dozen names that pack their power into concise and upbeat packages.
The names below come from many angles: surnames, literary heroines, and crossovers from traditional boys' names. They range in popularity from the top-200 list to extremely rare. Many have a unisex style, but what they have most in common is a compact sound and snappy girl power.
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Scout. To Kill a Mockingbird introduced American audiences to a female Scout long before the name was ever written on a birth certificate: the first time the name was recorded for more than five girls was in 1992. With Atticus and Harper in the spotlight, Scout has gained more attention; it’s energetic and tenacious, as well as an occupational choice. Still, it’s been relatively unpopular - could Scout rise up the ranks in the next decade?
Ryan. Though it’s currently a favorite for boys, Ryan has quite a few traits that lend it to the other list: it sounds similar to trendy Riley; the “-an” ending offers a more feminine twist (even more so with the Ryann spelling); its current popularity level makes it unlikely that there will be multiple female Ryan’s in a classroom. If you’re looking for a name that crosses the gender divide with grace and poise, Ryan is an excellent choice.
Blake. We have actress Blake Lively to thank for popularizing Blake for girls in recent years; though the name ranked earlier thanks to Dynasty, it’s the popularity of Gossip Girl that brought Blake to the top 500. Other than pop culture cred, what are Blake’s top qualities? A short but polished tone, a few friendly variants (Blakely and Blakesley), and a meaning that can be personalized - its origins include Old English words for both “dark” and “pale.”
Indie. The buzzword of the 2010’s, Americans see “indie” everywhere - indie films, indie music, indie artisan craft beer. With so many more creators and artists able to produce their own work that ever before, why not celebrate that independent attitude? Indie can be a nickname for India, Indiana, or Indigo, but it stands just as well on its own as a bright and spirited option.
Dylan. Twentieth-century poets Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan have given this Irish choice some literary credibility, boosting this name to #27 on the boys’ list. But “the order is rapidly fadin’”: Dylan has been rising up the feminine list through the past decade (party thanks to Drew Barrymore's character in Charlie's Angels). What makes this name viable for girls? Like Ryan, it feels unisex and modern - in actuality, the name was first recorded for girls in 1967. “The times they are a-changin’!”
Reese. Saying Reese puts chocolate in your mind and a smile on your face (try it in front of a mirror if you’re skeptical). It’s no surprise then that the name is euphonic - Greek for “sweet-voiced” - with its soft “r” and “s” sounds. Thanks to actress Reese Witherspoon, the name is now a permanent choice for girls; it ranked at #173 in 2015. It also has a lovely origin meaning - Welsh for “ardor.”
Merritt. Though it sounds like a modern virtue name, Merritt was originally an English surname. Its form is classic and refined, with double consonants and a resolved “-t” ending. Still, Merritt feels more merry and playful than stuffy. Spelling the name as Merit highlights its character, and similar-sounding Marit is actually a form of Margaret. This could work as a distant honorific choice, or just as a unique name with substance.
Joss. A diminutive of Jocelyn or Josephine, Joss no longer needs a longer form for credibility: celebrities Joss Stone and Joss Whedon have brought the name into the cultural zeitgeist. It’s concise and peppy, working well as an alternative to Jessie or Josie. Though it’s heard more often across the pond, it’s still rather rare in many English-speaking countries - only twenty baby girls named Joss were born in the US last year.
Shiloh. Popularized by the birth of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, Shiloh has in reality been recorded for girls since 1969. It’s a pretty, Biblical name meaning “tranquil,” and has gained fans on either side of the gender divide. Shiloh works for all sorts of styles, from southern names to religious names to “ending-in-o” trends, and is still relatively uncommon.
Brett. Ernest Hemingway was ahead of the curve when The Sun Also Rises was published in 1926: his leading lady’s name is Lady Brett Ashley. While Brett for boys ranked highly throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, it’s now in decline - making it a perfect time for the girls to claim it! Brett fits in with current faves like Brynn and Brianna, but it’s bright sound sets it apart. It’s literary inspiration wouldn’t make a bad namesake either - she’s smart, funny, and “damned good-looking.”
Teagan. Though it works well as a successor to Megan, Teagan is more than just a sequel: it comes from the Old Irish name Tadhg, meaning “poet.” While the spelling may have been anglicized, the rhythm and melody of this creative choice remain. The pronunciation varies based on region and accent - “Tay-gun,” “Tee-gun,” and “Teg-han” are all options used today.
Gray. With Scarlett, Violet, and Ruby in the top 100, it’s a wonder there aren’t dozens more color names waiting in the wings. Grayson and Grace help this particular name fit in on the playground - just Gray. It’s dashing and demure, sophisticated and unexpected all in one. Gray has also become a celebrity choice, giving it some attention, but don’t worry - only forty-five girls were given the name in 2015.
When it comes to baby name style, it's not just about where you start — it's where you finish. Name endings shape style and are a big part of the sound of their times. The 1960s were the age of Teri, Sheri, Keri and Geri. The 2000s gave us Aiden, Brayden and Kaden, along with Landen, Holden and Camden.
Where do names end up today? I looked at 40,000 names to calculate which three-letter name endings have risen the fastest in popularity over the past three years. Putting aside endings dominated by one fast-rising name (like -zra, which is all about Ezra) I zeroed in on five fresh sounds of the generation to come.
Hot names: Cooper (M), Harper (F), Juniper (F), Jasper (M), Piper (F)
The 1990s were the heyday of -ler "tradesman" names like Tyler, Chandler and Taylor. The crisper -per names have now overtaken them. Many are still trade-based surnames, but the botanical name Juniper points to way to broader possibilities. (Read more about the new generation of -er names.)
Hot names: Tobias (M), Elias (M), Matias (M), Matthias (M)
In the case of -ias, what's new is old—very old. The antique Grecian ending offers a sophisticated take on familiar name roots. This is a trend that spans multiple pronunciations, as heard in the English Matthias (mə-THYE-əs) and the Spanish Matías (mah-TEE-ahs)
Hot names: Aurora (F), Nora (F), Cora (F), Amora (F), Eliora (F), Eleanora (F)
This ending has a dual personality. In the form of Cora and Nora it's old-fashioned and sweet, but no-nonsense. In Aurora and Amora, it's romantic and even magical. Eleanora splits the difference.
Hot names: Rhett (M), Everett (M), Scarlett (F), Beckett (M), Emmett (M), Elliott (M, F)
The double-t trend has been rising for a decade now, and it's far from over. It's not just the look of the doubled letter that appeals, but the sound of a T after a vowel, closing the name with a snap. Similar-sounding names like Charlotte and Violet have risen too. (Read more about double-t names.)
Hot names: Maia (F), Kaia (F), Amaia (F), Gaia (F)
Names ending in -aya are on the rise as part of the "liquid" and "raindrop" names trends, but the -aia spelling is rising even faster. In some cases it reflects a name's roots, as in the case of the Greek Earth goddess Gaia. Most often, though, parents choose it for its trim and eye-catching style.
Occupation-based names are popular today, from "doer" monikers like Cooper and Hunter to titles like Deacon and King. If you like the style but want a truly uncommon name, here are some professional choices from outside the top-1000 names list. Though the jobs they represent may have changed (or disappeared) over the years, the names will grow and move right along with your little one.
Sailor. Once just a quirky celebrity baby name, Sailor today sounds like a friendly, mellow option that could become a new classic. It’s general enough to work as a name, and not only as a title; it’s nautical, boyish, and a little adventurous. While Saylor has been rising on the girls’ charts as an alternative to Taylor, the original spelling is a bit less trendy and a bit more enduring (especially for boys).
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Ranger. The name Ranger is reminiscent of old westerns and wide open spaces, thanks to its pop culture credibility - the Lone Ranger and Walker, Texas Ranger, to begin with. But its cowboy image is mitigated by a similarity to popular boys’ names Ryan, Ryder, and Roger. Ranger is strong and fearless, and works well for aspiring heroes of all ages.
Hopper. Though Robin Wright and Sean Penn chose this name for their son to honor close friend Dennis Hopper, the name no longer belongs strictly to the actor: American artist Edward Hopper, famous for Nighthawks, has been gaining more notoriety posthumously for his paintings of mid-century realism. Whether you’re looking for a subtle artistic name, a Disney-inspired name (Hopper was a powerful insect in A Bug’s Life), or just a name with rhythm and positivity, Hopper is a fabulous choice.
Sutter. Rich with history yet still relatively modern - it was first recorded in the US in 1995 - Sutter combines the best of both worlds. For Californians and fans of American history, the Gold Rush of 1849 began with the discovery of the metal at Sutter’s Mill. Although Sutter comes from the old English title for a shoemaker, the sound is far more accessible than Cobbler and maintains a subtle grace and integrity.
Pilot. Even fans of the most unusual names raised their eyebrows when actor Jason Lee named his son Pilot Inspektor in 2003. But in today’s name landscape, the first name Pilot isn’t quite as mind-boggling (Inspektor may still need a few years). Fifteen boys were named Pilot last year - their parents probably love the association with aerospace and flight!
Weaver. The name Weaver doesn’t only apply to those who work with thread - this attractive, serene name could honor a weaver of stories or a weaver of words. The name was used when the first name records debuted in the US - seven Weavers were born in 1880. But the name hasn’t been used for more than five babies since 1962 - why not bring back this handsome, occupational choice?
Abbott. With Abigail, Abel, and Abraham gaining fans, the word name Abbott could fit in nicely. It comes from the same root - the Hebrew “abba”, meaning “father” and often referring to God - and carries even more religious significance: an abbot is the head of an abbey or monastery. Abbott has a vintage English vibe and a morally upright attitude - it’s a stylish, virtuous name for boys.
Smith. The most popular surname in the English-speaking world - first in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia - hasn’t ranked on the top 1000 since 1939. But this Old English name meaning “metal-worker” would make a nice twist as a prénom. Smith is bright and bold, upbeat and upstanding. If you don’t have Smith as your last name, try it as a first!
Baxter. An adorable choice with a jazzy x-factor, Baxter already has a bunch of kid cred through PBS’ Arthur and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Like Smith and Weaver, it was used more often in the early twentieth century, but it’s been gaining traction recently - it was used for around sixty to seventy boys for each of the last five years. It’s youthful and timeless, retro and edgy, all in one.
Foster. Though the name comes from “forester”, the verb “foster” today is less woodsy and more caring and kind. To foster means to support growth and flourishing - not a bad connotation for any little one. It’s another popular surname, but its recognizability adds to its validity as a first choice. The arguably most famous Foster? Comedian and beloved actor, Foster Brooks.
Poet. Romantic and thoughtful, Poet is a gorgeous choice for boys and girls alike. This choice could honor a parent who loves literature, or an aspiring writer and artist. The occupational title comes from an original root word meaning “to create”; if you’re looking for a name that inspires and invigorates without overwhelming, Poet is a lovely option.
Sayer. No, this isn’t a misspelling of Sawyer - Sayer has long been used as a variant, or as a title for an orator. It’s less Southern and familiar, sure, but Sayer has a lighter, more refined sound. It’s been recorded since 1984, and has been gaining followers looking for names like Thayer and Grayer. Like the first name on this list, Sailor, Sayer is serene and amicable - a remarkable choice for a remarkable child.