Expecting a little angel soon and want her name to match? You're not alone—many parents look for heavenly qualities in a name. Whether you want to express spiritual beliefs, pass on a wish for her lifelong bliss, or share what your daughter means to you, these idyllic choices are full of otherworldly charm.
Of course, we couldn't create this list without addressing one name in particular. It's been a few years since Nevaeh, which spells "heaven" backwards, took this country by storm, and we thought it was time for a check-in.
Even though Nevaeh is still in the top 50 names for girls (sitting between Alexis and Sarah), it's slowing down in popularity since it hit a peak in 2010. The Baby Name Wizard has discussed how polarizing Nevaeh can be, but whether you love it or hate it, there are plenty of equally inspiring celestial names. The great news is that these encompass a variety of styles, so you are bound to find one or two that lift you to another realm.
Angelina, Angela, Angel, Angelica, and Angelique: These names, listed in order of popularity, all signify what an angel your daughter is. The most popular option, Angelina, has a little star-power in actress Jolie and Jersey Shore's Pivamick. They all come from Latin, meaning "messenger of God".
Celeste: This French form of the Latin for celestial is perfectly heavenly, though it's tapered off a bit in use recently and sits in the middle of the top 1,000 girls' names. It may not have any traditional short forms, but Ella is a round-about possibility.
Celine: Brought to us by a certain French-Canadian singer, Celine hit a peak right after the movie Titanic came out. Parents are starting to catch on to this name's elegant sound and blissful message once again, as it means "heavenly."
Cielo: This romantic name is synonymous with "sky" and "heaven" in Spanish and Italian, and it was given to 100 American girls last year. This celestial name is truly without borders, given that its lyrical lilt will be understood in nearly every romance language spoken, and it's showing potential in America, too. In Italy, this name is pronounced CHEH-loh, while the Spanish form sounds like SYEH-loh.
Eden: A picture of paradise gives Eden a heavenly feel, which comes from a word that means "delight". Eden has ancient sensibilities coupled with a perfectly modern sound. It feels like a biblical, feminine answer to the popular boys' name Aiden.
Evangeline: Once old-fashioned and nearly unheard of, Evangeline is now contemporary and fresh. It has a natural nickname in Eva, and we also love that it has the word angel in the middle, making opportunities for variations like Angie, Angeline, and Vangie. It means "good tidings" and sits in the 300s. The name was coined in an epic poem of the same name by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and recently revived with the help of actress Evangeline Lilly.
Eternity: Something close to a virtue name, Eternity is an otherworldly, pretty word along the lines of Serenity and Felicity. It's much more unusual than both of those names, which is one reason why some prefer it.
Ever: This simple storybook word hints at forever and is sweet and blissful. It is still rare, while Everly (which has different origins) quickly rose to 383 last year. Chosen by actress/model Milla Jovovich for a daugher, and Alanis Morissette for her son.
Gabrielle, Gabriella: The feminine form of Gabriel, a prominent angel named in the Bible, Gabrielle and Gabriella are pitch-perfect choices featuring the much-loved bree sound. Their ancient roots give them both a sound that is equal parts traditional and contemporary.
Gloria: After WWI, Gloria soared. Its beautiful sound, coupled with angelic associations, kept it in the top 100s for nearly four decades. While it manages to be elegant and cute at the same time, Gloria isn't quite ready for its former (ahem) glory because it reminds us of our parent's generation instead of our grandparents.
Halo: Fit for a cherub, Halo is saccharine and saintly...unless, of course, it reminds you of the online gaming phenomenon of the same name. With such divergent associations, it's hard to know where a name like Halo sits. We place it in the heavenly realm for now, though some gaming fanatics may find the name appeals from every angle.
Haven: A lovely name that conjures safety and warmth, Haven is a step away from Heaven with a hint of Raven. Famously used by Jessica Alba and Cash Warren for their second daughter, sister to Honor.
Heaven: For the past decade, Heaven has been near the 300s out of the top 1,000 girls names. It has a soft sound and a can't-miss-it meaning, making it the most straightforward heavenly name on this list.
Lani: Hawaiian for "heavenly", Lani is more often than not combined with other words to create naming sensations like Leilani, which means "heavenly lei". But on its own, Lani is still an elegant celestial name with lots of potential.
Luz: A Spanish name meaning "light" with references to Our Lady of Light, this name makes us think of beams of sunshine and parting clouds. Pronounced "loos", it shares roots with other light-related names like Lucy, Lucia, and Lucille.
Miracle: Every year there are hundreds of baby girls born with this name, and its obvious why. A lovely word that means "divine work", this name makes it clear that the girl bearing it is extraordinary. The short form Mira is beginning to catch on, though it's not as popular yet.
Nevaeh: This name has a remarkable story and a not-so-secret meaning. Its on-trend sound fits in with names like Evelyn and Elena. So much can be said about this name that it has its own section for more reading at the end of this post!
Raphaela, Rafaela, and Raffaela: In several religious works, an angel named Raphael brings healing, making it a standout name on an international level. Feminine forms are particularly popular in European countries.
Seraphina: Derived from a Hebrew word that describes an order of six-winged angels in the Bible, Seraphina goes a step beyond angelic. This beautiful name has echoes of Sophia and Serena, and can be shortened to Sera. It was chosen by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner for their second daughter.
Trinity: Most parents discovered Trinity after watching The Matrix back in 1999. And since then, it has proved to have true staying power and is currently near the 100 mark. It's a spiritually-significant, divine name clad in patent leather and sunglasses. We love how it walks a line between spunky and holy.
Read the story of the baby name Nevaeh
Ms. Smith and her husband Mr. Jones have a baby, Little Timmy. What should Timmy's surname be?
The situation is common, the answers many and contentious. In some cultures Timmy would simply use two surnames, but the United States expects him to have just one. The two most common approaches for U.S. parents are to hyphenate (Timmy Smith-Jones) and to choose one parent's surname, most often dad's (Timmy Jones). A scattering of parents combine their surnames in other ways, or use mom's surname as a first name, or give mom's name to daughters, dad's name to sons. Same-sex couples may face different social expectations for their surname choices, but their actual options for kids' names are much the same.
Whatever answer you might choose for your own family, you can probably see both the positives and negatives of each approach. For instance, using Dad's surname is simple and traditional, but it cuts out mom in a way that's unequal in the present, and an echo of historical disempowerment. Hyphenating is fairer, but it creates awkward surnames that match neither parent, and has the effect of passing off the problem onto your kids. (What happens when it's time for them to name children?)
A perfect solution may not be possible, but parents struggling with the standard options might be interested in a compromise that’s popping up on more and more school rosters. I'll call it the "three name solution": call one parent's surname a middle name and the other a surname, but use them both. So Little Timmy is "Timmy Smith Jones," known as...Timmy Smith Jones.
There's nothing groundbreaking here. The double surname with one part optional is familiar in the Spanish-speaking world. Even in English, using mom's surname as a middle name is an age-old custom and including that middle name in your self-identification is a classic way to highlight your family connections. You might think of it as a throwback to the age of men like Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a scion of the influential Cabot family on his mom's side. Yet you might also hear a link to a very different three-name style: that of women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, for whom the extra surname underlines their independent identities and accomplishments.
You could argue that the three name solution combines the drawbacks of the more common approaches. It still makes only one surname the heritable family name, and it still makes the kids say both surnames. What's more, it introduces new potential for confusion in a society that's accustomed to ignoring middle names.
Yet the virtues of the other approaches converge here as well. Timmy gets a simple, punctuation-free surname that he shares with one parent, and his name reflects his relationship to both. On an emotional level, that may feel more balanced. On a practical level, it should help ease the familiar irritations surrounding "I'm Ms. Smith, Timmy Jones's mom." For parents torn between hyphenating and not, that may be a welcome compromise.
When it comes to the sound of modern boyhood, British and American parents just don't agree. American boys' names are getting more and more formal. U.S. parents even [LINK] invent new "formal" extensions for full names they consider too short. As for diminutives, you doubtless know families that correct any attempt in that direction: "It's Thomas, not Tommy." Even classic male names that end in a -y may be seen as too cutesy or feminine.
Meanwhile in Britain, it's a cute nickname carnival. The given name Charlie is five times as popular as Charles; Frankie five times as popular as Frank. And the -y ending is so hot it's sending names as stylistically diverse as Oakley and Barnaby soaring up the charts.
If you're an American parent, "cute" may not cut it for you. But other British name trends point to fashion opportunities your friends and neighbors haven't discovered yet. Read on for fresh ideas from the England & Wales top 100. (And be sure to check out the girls' list, too!)
While American parents get [LINK]ever more formal with male names, British parents are embracing fun, boyish nicknames.
A -y ending is increasingly feminine in the U.S., but plenty of masculine standbys remain.
Finley (34; Finlay ranks #87)