New 2-in-1 Surnames for Girls

Aug 30th 2018

Why did Addison and Emerson become popular names for girls, while Harrison and Jefferson stuck to the boys' side of the charts? The answer is in the nicknames. Addison and Emerson trim down to the familiar girls' nicknames Addie and Emmy—cozy counterweights to the unisex formality of the full surnames.

This 2-for-1 punch of surname and pet name has propelled a series of hit names for the past generation. Contrasting nicknames offer a best of both worlds scenario for parents who like the two different styles. Even more importantly, their daughters get a choice of how to present themselves as they grow into new roles.

With another wave of cozy nicknames on the rise, are there more undiscovered surname options ready to meet them? I've identified 38 prospects. Some may be hard for you to picture as girls' names right now, but remember that it wasn't so long ago that Cassidy and Madison meant Butch Cassidy and James Madison, not Cassie and Maddie.

Surname                Nickname
Abbott Abby
Alcott Allie
Arlington Arly
Callahan Callie
Calloway Callie
Carling Carly
Carrigan Carrie
Carrington Carrie
Charleston Charlie
Connolly Connie
Dempsey Demi
Ellington Ellie
Ellison Ellie
Ettinger Etty
Halston Hallie
Hathaway Hattie
Holland Hollie
Holliston Hollie
Jennings Jennie
Lexington Lexi
Livingston Liv
Mabry Mae, Mabs
Macallister Callie
Madigan Maddie
Marlowe Marly
Merrigan Merry
Merritt Merry
Milligan Millie
Pennington Penny
Starling Star
Talbot Tally
Tilden Tillie
Tillis Tilly
Truett Tru
Willoughby Willie, Billie
Windsor Winnie
Winslet Lettie, Winnie
Winslow Winnie




August 30, 2018 3:21 PM

Wow, if this were anywhere near the galaxy of my taste in names, this would be such a helpful list! There are so many excellent suggestions for people who swing that way.

August 30, 2018 7:26 PM

Some seem more of a stretch and I would assume they would be namesakes from the family tree... that said I really like the principle behind this, the versatility of a name. There are many notable and unimpeded people that have a last-name-first moniker, male and now more female alike. :)

August 30, 2018 9:11 PM

I can understand why they might seem like a stretch, but most of them already show up on the U.S. baby name stats (used 5 or more times last year alone)! Little girls named Halston, Willoughby, Livingston and Winslet are a reality.

August 30, 2018 11:23 PM

LOVE this style! Holland to Holly/Hollie has long been on my list of favorites. 

August 31, 2018 9:58 AM

Surname-names are very much Not My Style, especially masculine patronymics (-son, Mac-) on girls, but I don't mind them nearly so much if they're surnames from the family tree.

If parents name their daughter Madigan because it's grandma's maiden surname, I'm good with that. If they choose it simply because they want a "unique" formal name for Maddy, I cringe. This is especially true for very-masculine surnames like Abbott and Emerson.

By mk
August 31, 2018 1:14 PM

A lot of these would make me wonder if they were fans of a famous person with the same name, but other than that, sure. I'm fine with surnames as first names on anyone.

Holland reminds me of actress Holland Taylor.

August 31, 2018 2:08 PM

I know a Tally whose given name is Talbot, a family name. 

September 1, 2018 12:51 PM

This is exactly my style and I am so glad I didn’t see this list three months ago otherwise Emersyn may have been Hathaway or at least made it harder. And I just can’t see our Emie named anything else now. We love that she has a full name and a pet name. She has options and will tell us what she prefers when she is older. Also went with Dylan (Dilly) and Finley (Fifi).

September 3, 2018 3:28 PM

I agree with the main point, but the feminine potential of Addison and Emerson had to exist before any expectant parents even could get to the step of considering a nickname. That potential was there because the initial syllables align with common female names.

Addison came along after Madison had soared to popularity, and many parents probably wanted an alternative. It also has a first syllable that resembles Adelaide and Adele. The "Em" in Emerson would have reminded people, maybe subconsciously, of Emily and Emma. So even the nickname-averse could read or hear these names and think, "Sounds like a girl."

Harrison and Jefferson, on the other hand, don't sound like any female names, other than Harriet, which has been out of style for a long time. These names are literally "Harry" and "Jeff" with more syllables tacked on.

I realize this is all of a piece, and I am sure millions of parents were indeed thrilled with the nickname potential of Addison and Emerson, but first they had to encounter the name and think, "female."