Every month, thousands of BabyNameWizard.com readers search our Namipedia for girls’ names starting with Ken, Jeff, Tom, and other masculine nicknames. Searches for boys’ names with those beginnings are much scarcer. What’s the story? Should we expect a coming generation of little girls name Jeff and Tom?
I believe the phenomenon actually arises from a more traditional naming impulse. Our readers are looking for namesakes.
Ken, Jeff, Tom and friends are (sorry) “grandpa names” – nicknames for super-popular male names of the 1930s-1960s. In particular, they’re grandpa names with no popular female counterparts. If you want to name a daughter after Grandpa Stephen, you have easy choices like Stephanie and Stevie. A Grandpa John might be honored with a little Johanna or Jane. But what about Grandpa Tom? What’s a female counterpart to Thomas? Or Jeffrey? Or Kenneth? The answers aren’t obvious, so parents come to us seeking namesake inspiration.
[In case you’re wondering: nope, there is no corresponding trend for boys' names to remember a Grandma Susan or Deborah. It appears that even when it comes to honoring our beloved relatives, we're much more willing to name girls after males than boys after females. Anyway…]
We’re here to help. Below are female name possibilities for seven of the male name roots that parents of girls search for most.
|To Name After a...||Try...|
The Hebrew word Ben means "son," so no girls' names share the root. Allowing some space between the Be- and N offers: Bethany, Berenice, Bettina, Belinda, Bethan
Calla, Calista, Callie, Calliope, Calanthe, Calais, Caelia
Jamie, Jacqueline, Jamesina, Jamila, Jamaica, Jamiya
OK, there is no girl's name close to Jeff (or Geoff). But the "frey" part of Jeffrey could yield Freya, and it comes from the Germanic "frid" meaning peace, also found in Frida and Frederica
Kenna, Kendall, Kendra, Kennedy, Kensington, Kenya, McKenna, Kenzie, Kinneret, Kinsley
Mattea, Matilda, Mattie, Maddie, Madeline, Maddalena, Madison, Matisse
Philippa/Pippa, Philomena, Phyllida, Phyllis, Ophilia, Theophilia
|Tom/Thomas||Tamsin, Thomasina, Tomasa, Tommie, Toma|
• "Y2K" panic
• Destiny's Child ruling the radio
• "Friends" ruling television
• Palm Pilots being the height of techno cool
Yep, it's been a while since the year 2000. Long enough, in fact, that we've seen a generational turnover in baby names.
I calculated the names that have fallen the farthest since the year 2000: the names that have just turned the generational corner. If the first X-Men movie still feels recent to you, you might want to sit down for this list of "Turn of the 21st Century Throwbacks."
|NAMES THAT HAVE FALLEN THE FARTHEST SINCE THE YEAR 2000|
In theory, that list is diverse in style. It includes names short and long, old and new, biblical standards and unisex surnames. And yet, they all go together, don't they? You can feel that despite their differences, they make up a coherent set. That's the feeling of a generation. In particular, it's the generation of the 1980s-'90s, which was still ruling the roost in 2000 but has been sliding since. Here's the same list in NameVoyager graph form:
Just to be clear, there's nothing remotely wrong with these names. After all, they're a whole generation's favorite names – and, likely, names of people you know and love. What's more, they can still be considered popular. 18 of the 20 names on the list (all but Megan and Jessica) still rank among today's top 200 for boys or girls. Plenty of them are such classics that they will never fully disappear.
Yet the shape of that graph reminds us that a lot of these names that we take for granted as standards were virtually unheard of back when our parents were born. They're names that define a specific era, an era which is rapidly being supplanted on the baby name popularity charts. They're stepping aside to make way for new hits like Harper, Penelope, Bentley and Maddox, that were themselves unheard of back when the Palm Pilot was king.
The 1970’s brought us word names like Heather, Crystal, and Dawn, lovely nature-inspired choices that embodied the hippie vibe of the previous decade. While bell-bottoms may have gone out of style, the desire for peace and love (and nonconformist names) certainly hasn’t! The legacy of the hippie movement continues today in popular names like Summer, Harmony, and even Paisley.
If you love the prettiness and positivity of this name style, check out these fifteen word names that haven’t yet cracked the top 500. Bohemian yet robust, these choices are sure to inspire and encourage your own little flower child.
Feather. This light and airy choice is only one letter off from Heather, but it feels like a bold twenty-first century pick. While a few fictional characters have been given this sweet name over the years, Feather was given to only seven baby girls in 2016. With names like Birdie and Aviana on the rise, why not Feather?
Bliss. Cheerful Bliss makes an excellent alternative to popular picks like Hope or Faith, matching their concise sounds and upbeat meanings. The name is related etymologically to Blythe as well, giving Bliss an added retro sound. Despite its connection to an unpleasant idiom, the word bliss is filled with merriment and would make a unique, happy option.
Season. “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven”: whether this quotation reminded you of a Bible verse or a Byrds’ song, global harmony is an appealing connection to the name Season. Though Autumn, Summer, and Winter rank in the top 1000, this serene choice has yet to make similar waves.
Unity. A virtue name with untapped potential, Unity first appeared in Puritan societies alongside Felicity and Chastity. It’s also a literary pick, with authors like Thomas Hardy and Neil Gaiman choosing this harmonious name. With an uncommon first initial and an inherent meaning of acceptance, Unity could join Serenity and Trinity on today’s playgrounds.
Henna. The beautiful reddish dye originating in the Arabian Peninsula has a feminine connection as well; traditionally, decorating the body and hair with henna was a practice specific to women. The gorgeous patterns and colors relate the name to Paisley or Ruby, but Henna has a few other etymologies - it’s also a Finnish form of Henrike and an Arabic form of John.
Love. Romantic yet straightforward, Love is a daring choice that works especially well as a middle name. The name briefly rose in popularity after 1967’s Summer of Love, but has only passed 100 babies per year in the past decade. Could this passionate choice be the next Grace?
Meadow. Bizarrely, it took a character on HBO’s The Sopranos to bring this pretty and peaceful name into the spotlight at the end of the millennium. Meadow is a graceful, natural choice that fits in with the likes of Willow or Harlow, but it has a definite “free spirit” vibe.
True. Simple and sanguine, True is an encouraging, modern choice in times of “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Its sound has primarily been heard in vintage picks like Gertrude or Truman, making it particularly uncommon today. There is a plethora of adages and idioms praising this virtue - “to thine own self be true” - and True is sure to appeal to confident namers.
Promise. The word promise comes from Latin elements meaning “send forth;” to make a promise is to declare an intention to the world, and to follow through with words and actions. With such gravity in this word name, it’s no surprise that elegant and virtuous Promise currently ranks just outside the top 1000.
Haze. While English surname-turned-first-name Hayes has quite a few fans, hippie homophone Haze has yet to reach similar popularity. The song “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix (another rising H-surname), released in 1967, is a classic psychedelic rock song and often ranked as one of the best guitar tracks in history. If you’re looking for something a bit edgier than Hazel, try Haze!
Lotus. Now that Lily, Violet, and Rose rule the playground, other floral names with more unusual sounds are sure to impress. The lotus is an important flower in both Buddhism and Hinduism, symbolizing growth, purity, and beauty (being a lovely plant growing out of muddy water). Alluring Lotus also has connections in literature and music, lending it to all kinds of personalities.
Vesper. From Latin for “evening,” Vesper is a melodic and mysterious choice, adorning both a god in Roman mythology and a James Bond femme fatale. “Vespers” also refers to evening prayer services in some sects of Christianity, giving this dramatic choice some religious connotations.
Revel. One of the more exciting celebrity baby names of 2017, Matthew Morrison and his wife named their son Revel, a lively yet accessible choice. It softens the hard edges of Rebel but feels fresher than River or Raven. Whether you’re revelling in the birth of your little one or looking ahead to a life of revels together, this name may be the one for you.
Dream. Though whimsical Dream was first recorded in 1970, it didn’t begin appearing regularly on US name charts until the late 1990’s. It’s ethereal aura is tempered a bit by its uncomplicated sound, fitting in with Drew or Drake.
Poet. An occupational choice that works well for boys or girls, Poet feels both classic and contemporary (depending, of course, on the poetry that inspires you). A few celebrity parents have picked this bright choice in recent years - the fabulously named Soleil Moon Frye among them - and Poet would make an unexpected honorific for a familial writer or storyteller.