What makes a name sound “feminine”? Answers may vary, but generally fall into a few categories: there’s the length factor, with long and melodic names like Isabella and Madeleine in the mix; there’s the connection to “Mother Nature,” with botanical names like Violet and Lily used more often for girls; there are womanly name traditions, with certain names ending in -a, -ette, or -lynn to denote femininity.
Still, the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts, and there’s more to a ladylike name -- there’s a feeling of romance, elegance, and daintiness implied. This list of fifteen such names has choices from every era and across the globe, and each is simply lovely.
Viveca. This sophisticated Scandinavian choice blends well with popular Vivian and Victoria, but has a more intriguing feeling about it. Viveca sparkles on a few notable Swedish celebrities - Will Ferrell’s wife among them - and American actress Vivica A. Fox wears the spelling variant well.
Primrose. Inspired by the sweet and caring sister of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Primrose has begun to blossom - after 30 years unrecorded in the US, this pleasant name has been rising slowly in use since 2012. It’s already gaining fans in the UK, and it would make an uncommon route to the nickname Rosie.
Linnea. Linnea is a gorgeous name that balances elaborate style with an understated sound. Another Scandinavian choice, Linnea is derived from the surname of Carl Linnaeus - a Swedish scientist in the 1700’s - who used the pretty choice for his favorite flower.
Bettina. Delicate yet memorable, Bettina is an exquisite diminutive option found in Germany - for Elisabeth - and Italy - for Benedetta. Its aural similarities to Betty give it a vintage air, but Bettina fits in with current choices like Brielle and Valentina as well.
Cambria. Originally an ancient name for Wales, attractive Cambria is also the name of a beachside town in California. Cambria can be shortened to sassy nicknames Cam or Brie, while the full form of the name feels bright and friendly. If Cameron is too boyish and Camille too popular, why not give stylish Cambria a try?
Viola. Similar-sounding Olivia and Violet have helped to define 2010’s name trends, but understated and elegant Viola could be the way of the future. Shakespeare’s heroine in Twelfth Night grounds the name historically, while modern athletic, activist, and actress namesakes give the name a contemporary edge.
Odette. A graceful Gallic choice, Odette is best known as the romantic lead character in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. It’s uncommon yet familiar, with names ending in “-ette” on the rise over the past decade. More than a few celebrities have chosen ornate Odette for their daughters in recent years (including Mark Ruffalo and Jared Padalecki).
Mariska. While lead actress Haritgay of Law & Order: SVU has made this a household name, Mariska is upbeat and charming enough to appeal to all kinds of namers. It’s a Dutch form of Maria, lending itself as an honorific for an assortment of Mary names. Mariska’s harmonious sound and engaging vibe is sure to make an impression!
Leonora. Boys have monopolized Leo names recently, but Leonora is a name fit for a modern princess. It’s actually a form of Eleanor (not Leonard) and has adorned operatic heroines, film characters, and a few real-life role models, including artist Carrington and Olympian Taylor. Lilting Leonora can also be shortened to adorable nicknames Lea or Nora.
Zosia. Pronounced “ZAH-sha,” this Polish form of Sofia has a soft and darling sound. Zosia Mamet of the HBO hit series Girls brought this name to national attention, but it has yet to be bestowed upon more than 27 girls in any year. As fans of multicultural favorite Sophia begin to look for alternatives, Zosia’s unique form and chic style may entice more and more parents in the coming years.
Allegra. Musical Allegra comes from the Italian word for “lively,” and offers a plethora of fictional and nonfictional namesakes, as well as the popular nickname Ally. Unfortunately, an allergy medication has diverted much attention from this beautiful name since its debut in 1996. Might lovely Allegra one day come out from under this unappealing shadow?
Fleur. JK Rowling introduced anglophone Harry Potter fans to exquisite Fleur with the publication of the fourth book in the series in 2000, giving the name to a strong and mesmerizing female character. With the connections to Fleur Delacour fading in public memory, modern parents may find this name especially interesting for its floral and confident air.
Idalia. Though it has a mysterious etymology - possibly connected to an epithet of Aphrodite or a form of classic Ida - Idalia feels fashionable and bold. It was first recorded in a Polish play in 1866 and has been used sporadically in the US since 1889, giving it some historical credibility. Idalia fits in aurally with Delilah and Amelia, but stands out in its rarity.
Novella. If you’re looking for an exceptional way to reach the nickname Ella, Novella could be the name for you. This merry choice has a literary vibe - it’s a piece of prose longer than a short story but shorter than a novel - and comes from the Latin word for “new” -- perfect for a newborn addition to the family.
Amoret. Passionate yet refined, the name Amoret was invented by author Edmund Spenser for his poem The Faerie Queene. The character (and her sweetheart) personify married love, and Amoret is commended for her virtue and loyalty. With such a tender background combined with a contemporary sound, Amoret is a choice worth consideration.
When it comes to baby name style, little is getting bigger every day. We're drawn to miniatures like Eli, Leo, Ava and Zoe that pack all their style into a tiny form. In fact, the percentage of American babies receiving a three-letter name has more than doubled over the past two decades. Take a look:
That's a major shift, but historically it's a return to form. Over the past 20 years, miniature names have been rebounding from a historic drought. In fact, from a zoomed-out graph it looks like our 20-year climb is just a return to the mini-name rates of the early 1960s:
That graph, though, conceals a major shift in style. Rather than returning to a previous style of short names, we're moving in a new direction.
The last time three-letter names were as popular as they are now was in 1963. Compare the top 10 mini-names of that year with today's:
|1963 Boys||1963 Girls||2016 Boys||2016 Girls|
The 1963 names shared a remarkably consistent style. 90% of them were a single syllable, and most were also common as nicknames for longer popular names of the time. They're the result of paring names down to their simplest, most direct, and most cheerfully informal cores.
Today's list looks and sounds very different. Every name on the girls' list is multisyllabic, along with half of the boys. The names are diverse in origin and style. High-impact leters like V, X and Z are plentiful. Nicknames are scarce.
In short, the new miniatures look a lot like a cross-section of today's naming trends. They're just...little. The miniature size itself is luring in parents from across the style spectrum.
When you think "cowboy," perhaps the names that come to mind are Wild West legends like Wild Bill Hickock, Kit Carson and Doc Holliday. Or maybe they're Hollywood cowboys like Hoss Cartwright, Bart Maverick and Rooster Cogburn. Today's new cowboy names give a nod to those traditions, but with a new spin. They're both more adventurous, and more formal. So long, Bill and Hoss; hello Ryker and Weston.
I identified that new cowboy style based on a statistical tally of the boys' names that are currently most distinctive to America's cowboy country. My target was names that are especially popular in states like Wyoming, Oklahoma and their neighbors, and not elsewhere. That means eliminating names like Oliver that are popular in Northern Plains cowboy territory, but also in other Northern states like Vermont and Wisconsin. It also rules out country music names like Bentley and Easton that are popular across a swath of the South along with Oklahoma and Kansas. The result is pure distilled contemporary cowboy style.
While old-time cowboy names were heavy on nicknames, the new cowboy sound is dominated by surnames and action. The hottest surnames typically have some connection to America's Western mythos, from cowboy hats (Stetson) to rifles (Remington) to Western movie stars (Cooper) to the land itself (Ridge). Action is represented by the "doer" suffix -er, or by energized spellings like a double-t ending or the letter x.
Take a look for yourself:
To get at the heart of this style, consider the names Colter, Bridger and Stryker. All three are doer-styled surnames. All are built around a common one-syllable word with an action edge: colt, bridge, strike. And all three have Western connections and rugged connotations.
John Colter was a pioneering explorer of the Mountain West region, where places like Colter Bay and Colter Peak are named after him. Legendary mountain man Jim Bridger is memorialized in many place names including the Bridger Mountains in Montana and Wyoming. Stryker is a U.S. Army fighting vehicle named after two Medal of Honor winners—and the name of movie soldier Sgt. John M. Stryker, played by Western legend John Wayne.
Together the three names paint a clear picture. They're turbocharged surnames that honor the dauntless spirit of men who were themselves called John and Jim. That's your modern buckaroo.