If there's one thing we've learned in the last few decades, it's that sound matters when it comes to baby names. In the list of important factors in today's naming landscape, sound often trumps all—over family traditions, meaning, and even cultural associations. Todays' favorite names for girls roll off the tongue with airy femininity.
Just in time for Valentine's Day, we think that the word "love" has a perfectly appealing sound too. That's why we're inspired to find names with flowing vowels surrounding consonants like l and v. Whether they are longer or short-but-sweet names, they each have a softness that makes us swoon.
Alva: It's a bit sad that Alva is known mostly as Thomas Edison's middle name. While it was once given to boys as well as girls, this Scandinavian choice feels decidedly feminine to our ears today. It's a bit no-nonsense, but Alva is also a darling name straight from one of today's favorite decades for names—the 1890s.
Amara: Amara is a beautiful name that found its way on this list because of its similarity to the word "amor" (we had to cheat just a little). In the Nigerian language Igbo, Amara means grace, making this a near-virtue name with a proud heritage.
Ava: You can find this beautiful choice across the globe, worn by girls in Europe, Australia, and North America . It may be short, but it has loads of appeal, and it makes a perfect little palindrome. As the number 5 girls' name in the US, it's not unique, but Ava is truly well-loved.
Clove: Clove may be a spice name, but it's far from the popularity of more established choices like Ginger and Sage. Its use in The Hunger Games series has given Clove more attention, while solidifying its quirkiness. No matter how you view it, Clove is seriously charming and simple, and it has "love" built right in.
Dove: A nature name that conjures up peace, Dove is also just one letter away from love. It may be far out of the top 1,000, but parents do tend to like this simple, sweet name for the middle spot.
Evelyn: Most people wouldn't have guessed that Evelyn would be a top 20 name today, but looking at the trends, this one has had an almost predictable rise to the top over the last 30 years. No matter what, Evelyn will always feel stylishly vintage, thanks to its popularity in the 1910s and 20s.
Lavinia: Lavinia is a flowing, gorgeous Victorian choice that just begs us to dot its "i"s with tiny hearts. This name is besties with Olivia but has experienced none of her success. And Lavinia has a surprising history with namesakes from Roman mythology, Shakespeare, and even Downton Abbey. For those turned off by the nickname Vinnie, Linnie is another possibility.
Love: Sometimes the most obvious choice is the best. Love has immediate meaning, and it's simple, beautiful, and pretty to look at as well as to say. Love is rare for a first name, but parents have favored it for the middle spot, à la Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Maeve: A powerful name taken from the pages of Irish mythology, Maeve has crossed the Atlantic and is having a moment here in the US. It's unusual, but in the top 500 and rising with some momentum. Maeve is both a simple and spirited one-syllable choice (pronounced MAYV) that's rich in heritage and full of fashion.
Nova: A bright, rising star of a name full of sparkle and modern sensibilities, Nova is going to catch on quick. It only recently appeared in the girls' top 1,000 and at last check it sits at 529. We love its sound, meaning, and how it feels like a twist on names like Norah and Noelle.
Olive: Rearrange the letters in this name and you can spell "I love". It's a Victorian favorite that sounds perfectly old-fashioned and pretty, without being frilly. And we have nothing but positive associations with olives, as a staple in mediterranean cooking or an olive branch that symbolizes peace. Drew Barrymore would agree, who chose Olive for her first daughter, born in 2012.
Sylvie: This sweet form of Sylvia is surprisingly out of the top 1,000, while Sylvia is starting to make waves in the US once again. Its charming sound and French stylings make Sylvie a graceful, alluring choice.
Valentina: Google this first name and you'll see the most famous women to wear it come from a variety of countries across the globe: Italy, the Ukraine, Argentina, and Russia. Aside from having the v-and-l factor we're looking for, its connotations are especially appropriate this time of year. It's a beautiful name that's doing very well in the US, aiming for the top 100 soon. Chosen by actress Salma Hayek as well as Victoria Secret model Adriana Lima for their daughters.
Valeria: This name feels like it's part Valentine, part exotic foreign land. It shares roots with Valentina and is another top pick in places like Russia, Spain, and Latin America. Here in the US, Valeria hit a peak in 2009, but it's still in the top 200s today.
Viola: This violet-colored floral name blooms with old-fashioned charm. It's rare but packed with theatrical and artistic qualities, thanks to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, as well as Shakespeare in Love and actress Viola Davis.
Originally appeared on The Stir.
What do Noah and Sophia, two of the hottest baby names right now, have in common? Throw out as many adjectives as you want -- they're both elegant, charming, traditional, etc. But the secret to their attraction may just be that they both have a long "O" sound. And baby names that include the sound of "oh" are all the rage.
"Parents don't want to just write the circle of an O, like Robert," explains baby naming expert Laura Wattenberg, founder of Baby Name Wizard. "They want the 'oh' sound itself."
Certainly, some celeb parents jumped on the "oh"-sound bandwagon early on. Brad and Angelina have Shiloh. Nicole Richie named her daughters Harlow and Sparrow. "But trends this big don't come from celebrity names," says Wattenberg. "There's a huge overarching desire right now to choose names that contain long vowels and crisp consonants."
Names with long "A" sounds like Aiden and Ava have been "hugely dominant for years," Wattenberg points out, "so now parents are looking to I, U, and O."
More From The Stir: 8 Hottest Baby Name Trends for 2015
Surprisingly, names that actually end with the letter "O" aren't as popular as names that end on a consonant. "For instance, 'Marlo' is still stuck in the '60's," Wattenberg says, "but 'Marlow' is a rising name for girls. It has a nice, unexpected sound without going too masculine."
So what are some other hot names containing "oh" to look out for? Here are a few to put on your short list.
1. Arrow: Straight-shooting and strong, this name is only going up in popularity.
2. Bruno: Already popular in other parts of the world, Bruno's old-world charm is starting to catch on in the US.
3. Carrow: Pronounced "CAR-oh," we like the prep-school feel of this boys' name.
4. Kohl: A freshened up version of Cole, although both spellings share a likable charm.
5. Leonardo: Leo is strong enough to appeal to guys and sweet enough for girls to relate to.
6. Otto: This name of German descent is confident and smart, with just a hint of cuddliness.
7. Rocco: A big name for baby boys to grow into.
8. Shadow: No longer just for black cats, this name has real depth.
9. Woodrow: Responsible, fair-minded, and trustworthy -- all the qualities you want your son to grow up to have.
10. Yarrow: Unique without being off-putting, Yarrow has a quirky likability.
1. Harlow: This quiet bombshell of a name manages to connote equal parts smarts and style.
2. Joey: Dawson's Creek is long gone, but the irresistably tomboy-ish name Joey will live forever in our hearts.
3. Margot: Sophisticated, distinctive, and come on, what other name allows you to use "Go-go" for the cutest nickname ever?
4. Meadow: You don't have to be a fan of The Sopranos to appreciate the natural beauty of this girls' name.
5. Morrow: Meaning "the morning," we feel certain this name is on the rise.
6. Posey: We have no idea why this unique name isn't on everyone's short list. Reminiscent of olde England and princesses, with a hint of whimsy. Try it spelled "Posy" or "Poesie," too.
7. Shiloh: Endearing, especially when you consider it comes with two equally sweet nicknames, "Shi" or "Lo."
8. Sparrow: We love the delicate strength of this uplifting name.
9. Willow: A name as graceful and resilient as the tree it's named for.
10. Wynslow: The "y" makes this staid moniker surprisingly modern and feminine.
Which of these "oh" names do you like the best?
You love names. You notice baby name trends. But do you have your finger on the pulse of name style? Here's your chance to prove it. Enter BabyNameWizard's annual Baby Name Pool.
We're celebrating our 10th year of challenging the name-loving public, letting you test your baby name acumen against your peers. Just pick three names you think rose in popularity last year, and three you think fell. When the U.S. government releases its official 2014 name stats in May, I'll tally the results and present the top scorers to the world for fawning acclaim!
Be warned, the Pool is simple to enter, but tough to win. You might spot a hot new name anywhere, from your neighborhood playground to Bollywood. Even celebrity influence is tricky to predict. Not one Pool entrant last year chose the year's fastest-rising name: Daleyza, from the reality tv series Larrymania. Fast-falling names are even trickier -- quick, what names have you NOT thought about this year?
If you haven't played before, you can read more details and check out the fastest rising (boys, girls) and falling names of the previous year to get a sense of how name fashions operate. Then convince your friends and coworkers to enter and compete against you. This is an equal-opportunity contest, by the way; we've had male and female winners.
All entries must be received by April 22.
Ready to go? Fill out your ballot now!