The 16 Girls’ Names Everyone Wonders About

Jan 22nd 2015

Is Bellatrix a traditional name, or did J.K. Rowling make it up? Is Sookie short for something? And how do you pronounce Quvenzhané?

Image via Photo Image Press / Splash News

Let this list satisfy your name curiousity. I've compiled a list of the girls' names that everyone wonders about -- the names that send us scurrying to the internet to learn more, or to settle a bet. I identified those hot-button names based on the ratio of visitors the name attracts on Namipedia vs. its popularity as a baby name. If everybody's looking it up and nobody's using it, that's wonder-land.

The most wondered-about names for girls: (See the boys' list)

Abcde. Nope, it's not just an urban legend. Since the late 1990s, about 20 American girls each year have been given this alphabetical name, pronounced "AB-si-dee." The wordplay isn't for everyone, but it does lend Abcde a spirit of fun that stands out in the sometimes self-important realm of contemporary names.

Bellatrix. From the Latin for "female warrior," Bellatrix is the name of a star in the constellation Orion. It wasn't considered a given name until Harry Potter introduced the wildly villainous Bellatrix Lestrange, who was part of a celestially named family tree (e.g. Andromeda, Sirius, Regulus). This could be a smashingly stylish name if it weren't for the mad murderatrix.

Eilonwy. Writer Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, including The Black Cauldron, drew on Welsh myths. Ultimately, though, the stories, characters and names were his own creations. That includes the name of Princess Eilonwy, which resembles Welsh names like Aeronwy and Eirwen but is the stuff of dreams.

Greer. Greer became a girl's name thanks to 1940s film star Greer Garson. Greer was originally her second middle name, from the maiden name of her mother; it's believed to be a form of MacGregor. Actress Greer Grammer has carried on the name's Hollywood tradition. Fittingly, it's Ms. Grammer's middle name as well.

Kinga. Kinga is a classic Polish and Hungarian name honoring St. Kinga, a medieval queen. The name's standard-bearer in the United States is television host Kinga Philipps, born Kinga Szpakiewicz in Poland. Pronounce it with a hard g.

La-A. Yep, this one IS an urban legend. It's impossible to prove the total non-existence of the "dash don't be silent" name, but the many circulating versions of the tale are classic examples of urban legend, and often nasty-minded ones at that. For a deeper look, please see the past post "Ledasha, Legends and Race."

Malala. By the age of 17, education activist Malala Yousafzai had been the subject of a documentary, survived an assassination attempt, written a best-selling autobiography, and received the Nobel Peace Prize. Not surprisingly, this remarkable young woman's name has attracted attention as well. Malala is a Pashto name meaning "grief stricken." Ms.Yousafzai was named after after a Pashtun hero who rallied troops in the 1880 Battle of Maiwand.

Paget. This old English surname is a diminutive of page, pronounced to rhyme with gadget. As a first name, it's all about actress Paget Brewster. Her parents were reportedly inspired by 1950s starlet Debra Paget, née Debralee Griffin, who in turn took the stage name from an aristocratic ancestor in her family tree.

Phryne. The epicenter of Phryne curiosity is Australia, home of the roaring-twenties Phryne Fisher mysteries. The Honourable Phryne (FRY-nee) is beautiful, wealthy, stylish and adventurous. She's named for a legendary courtesan of ancient Greece, who was similarly known for her beauty, wealth and boldness. Phryne was the courtesan's nickname, meaning – brace yourself – "toad."

Quvenzhané. Quvenzhané Wallis was the youngest person ever nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, and she also turned heads with her mega-Scrabble-value name. Her parents built it off of parts of their own names, Qulyndreia and Venjie. If your curiosity is about the pronunciation, it's kwa-VEN-zha-nay.

Rapunzel. We all know the second half of the fairy tale Rapunzel, with the tower and the hair. But the key to the name comes earlier in the story, before the titular heroine is born. Her pregnant mother is beset by cravings for greens she spotted in a private garden: rapunzel, or mâche. It has never caught on as a baby name.

Sansa. The most-researched names from Game of Thrones are fashionable-sounding girls' names. Many parents are hoping to find that an appealing name exists outside of the fantasy realm as well, making it an easier sell as a baby name. While you can hunt down examples of women named Sansa, realistically this name is pure Westeros. If it helps, Arya is a traditional Sanskrit name meaning "honorable."

Sookie. Year in and year out, True Blood's Sookie Stackhouse is name-curiosity royalty. Sookie is just a good old-fashioned nickname, a pet form of Susan. Creator Charlaine Harris knew the name via a friend of her grandma's, and felt it had a nice Southern feel to it. Outside the supernatural realm you'll usually see the spellings Sukey and Sukie, as in the nursery rhyme "Polly put the kettle on/Sukey take it off again."

Taissa. Actress Taissa Farmiga comes from a large Ukrainian-American family, and her six older siblings all have names that cross over smoothly from Ukrainian to English. Taissa (tah-EE-sə) also fills that bill, though it's more often written as Taisia or Taisa.  The usual origin cited for the name is "dedicated to Isis."

Veruca. A veruca (or verruca) is a wart. We're only discussing this as a name thanks to the marvelously twisted mind of writer Roald Dahl, who named the spoiled brat in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory "Veruca Salt." An alt-rock band later named itself after the character, and Buffy gave the name Veruca to an alluring werewolf. But Dahl's wicked little joke remains the name's essence.

Zuzu. "Zuzu’s petals!" Those two words from the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life represent the joy of everyday life itself. Zuzu was the main character's daughter, but how did a small-town girl with siblings called Pete, Janie and Tommy end up with such an exotic name? Probably the same way Sookie Stackhouse got hers: as a pet form of Susan. Zuzu comes from Zuzana, a Czech/Slovak form of that name.

On to the boys' names you've been wondering about!


January 22, 2015 7:53 PM

In the story I was told as a child, Rapunzel's mother wanted rampion, not mâche.  I'd never actually heard of the latter before today.

I love the name Sansa a lot.  She's my favourite character in A Song of Ice and Fire by far.

January 24, 2015 1:51 AM

Again, Greer might be getting a bump from CW's fashion extravaganza, totally alt-universe ~historical romatic drama "Reign," where Greer is Queen Mary Stuart's lady-in-waiting and bestie along with Kenna, Lola, and Aylee. Her extramarital love interest is named Leith, pronounced "Layth," not "Leeth," on the show. 

Sukey/Suki/Sukie to me are different from Sookie. I pronounce the first group as rhyming with mookie or pookie, and Sookie rhymes with cookie.

I did not know that about Veruca. :-)

January 25, 2015 10:17 PM

Zu Zu was also the name of a popular gingersnap cookie at the time - hence George's line, "Zuzu, my little gingersnap, how do you feel?!"

January 29, 2015 2:24 PM

Yay, Eilonwy! I love Eilonwy (obviously), both the name and the character.  Lloyd Alexander has been one of my favortie authors since I was 10.  I tried to talk my husband into Eilonwy for our daughter, but he wanted a name from reality.  Sometimes I still wish I'd gotten away with it.  

January 29, 2015 11:06 PM

Ahh, Taissa. Such a lovely name. This morning I was thinking of the biome Taiga and whether anyone used that as a name, and I forgot about the name of a family friend (I'm Ukrainian-American) Taissa. I love short three syllable names -- Helena comes to mind.

January 29, 2015 11:12 PM

And yeah, I never knew what rampion was from the story. 

But I know mâché -- corn salad -- and it comes up early, when nothing else is growing. If the lady stole from someone's garden when everything else was still dead, the reaction almost makes sense!!! If I was down to eating kale and a beet or two and someone swiped my new greens... I guess I'm empathizing with villians. 

Maybe I've overlooked it but that would be a great post -- classic villian names and their growing popularity -- Maleficient et al.

April 10, 2015 3:16 PM

I love Bellatrix, Greer & Kinga (if I am pronouncing it right).  Call me crazy but I also like Rapunzel and think it's usable.  Zuzu makes me thinks of my daughters nick name XaXa which is so cute.

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May 20, 2017 12:33 AM

My husband and I have always loved Zuzu, but will probably chicken out and save it as a name for a dog.