Ends with R: Esther, Piper & Silver

by appellationmountain on October 19, 2012

Marble R (London, England)

Marble R (London, England) by TakomaBibelot via Flickr

Ends with R names have always been with us.  About a year ago, I wrote a post of ends with R names for boys, from Prosper to Chester to Thayer.  I’ve always meant to follow it up with the girls’ edition.

With Harper so in vogue, the sound feels terribly current for both genders.  But not all of the choices in this category are modern surname picks.  There are a handful of vintage gems, choices rich with meaning, a few from the natural world, and yes, a number of last names ready to be promoted to the first spot.

While names like Walter and Archer are clearly masculine, the ends with R sound works well for girls’ names, too.  A few of these might be gender neutral, but the overwhelmingly majority of these represent Team Pink nicely.

The Vintage Gems

Elinor – Or Eleanor, for that matter.  It’s a sensible girls’ name with plenty of short forms, a sister for Beatrixan alternative to Elizabeth.  I also think of her as the new Margaret – the go-to name for parents seeking a strong, intelligent name for a daughter.

Esther – She’s an Old Testament queen and the name Ewan McGregor chose for his second daughter.  Sepia-toned Esther shares something with spunky Stella, but she’s more determinedly granny chic.

Hester – Worried that everyone is discovering Esther?  Go rarer, with Hester.  It worked for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s heroine in The Scarlet Letter.  Bonus points because adding the H creates the possibility of Hettie as a short form.

Leonor- Leonor is to Elinor as Hester is to Esther – a rarer, related form.  Leonor is the Spanish version, but she’s not unknown in the US.

Tamar – Another Old Testament name, also worn by a medieval queen of Georgia.  Now that Tammy is firmly in mom-name territory, maybe it is Tamar’s time to shine.

Surname Picks

Greer – Brooke Shields has a daughter called Grier, and while we’re talking celebrity, it also brings to mind celebrated 1940s actress Greer Garson, born Eileen Evelyn - Greer was her mother’s maiden name.  A contracted form of Gregor most common in Scotland, Greer sounds harsh to some – and strong to others.  I think she’d fit right in with Sloane and Blair.

Harper – She’s the white hot starbaby name of the moment, the new Taylor, but with a musical lilt.

Parker - If Harper is big for girls, how ’bout the outdoorsy ends with R Parker, complete with indie actress Parker Posey helping to claim her for the girls.  Posey, incidentally, was named after 1950s supermodel, Suzy Parker.

Pfeifer – Or Pfeiffer, Fifer, or even Fyfer.  Another musical surname, albeit one with spelling challenges.

Piper – A more approachable form of Pfeifer, this time with Piper Laurie helping us think of this one as an appropriate name for a girl.

Sailor – I’ll admit that I raised an eyebrow when Christie Brinkley gave this name to a daughter in 1998.  But she had a great backstory related to her husband’s family history, and since we’ve met kids called Marina, Bay, Ocean, River, and Harbor since then, Sailor feels less out there.  Of course, there is Japanese anime franchise Sailor Moon, but she’s not the worst role model.

Modern Meaningfuls

Easter - It sounds outlandish today, but there have been moments in time when being born on a holiday was a surefire way to receive a very specific name – Loveday or Christmas or Easter.  Of course, it also has a history as a surname, not necessarily related to the religious observation.  Today, could it really be anymore out there than Nevaeh?

HonorJessica Alba’s girls share virtue names with a modern vibe: Honor and Haven.  While Honor would’ve been at home in the Puritan era with Hester, and names like Honora and Honoria have a long history of use, she feels like a modern choice.

Noor – Speaking of names that aren’t really modern, the Arabic Noor isn’t new.  But she is meaningful – like Lux, she means light.  For American parents seeking a global appellation, Noor could be a fascinating pick.

Pilar – A reference to the Virgin Mary, Pilar is often bestowed in combination with Maria.  She’s an openly spiritual choice, and a substantial one, too – pillar of strength, anyone?

Vesper – She’s almost a straightforward nature name.  Vesper is the Latin word for evening.  But Vespers is an evening prayer service in many Christian traditions, lending Vesper a slightly different vibe.

Nature Babes

Aster – Asters are a showy plant that look a little bit like a star.  The surname Astor ultimately refers to a bird of prey.  Either way, it is a solid nature name, though one with more teasing potential than some.

Briar – A thorny, thicket-forming plant, sometimes spelled Brier, this ends with R name takes on a Disney princess aspect.  The Brothers Grimm originally used this name for Sleeping Beauty.  She was re-christened Aurora for the animated flick, but used Briar Rose as an alias.

Clover – Long considered lucky, Clover makes a distinctive choice for parents thinking of their Irish heritage – or just wishing to embrace their good fortune in welcoming a daughter.

EmberAmber is fading, but Ember is red hot – literally.  The glowing coals of a barbecue might seem like strange inspiration for a child’s name, but factor her similarity to Amber and Emily, and the beauty of a roaring bonfire and suddenly Ember seems like a natural.

Flower, Fleur - Fleur brings to mind the impossibly gorgeous Fleur Delacroix from Harry Potter, while Flower makes me think of the skunk from Bambi.  Still, both belong on this list, even if their cousins Flora and Florence seem like more conventional picks.

Ginger - The most glamorous of the  Gilligan’s Island castaways, a spice, and dancing sensation Ginger Rogers – born Virginia.  It’s also the name of one of reality mega-family the Duggar’s daughters, but they spell it with a J.

Hesper – Also known as Hesperus, it is a poetic name for the evening star, and also for the planet Venus.  This makes her a cousin to Vesper.  In Greek myth, the Hesperides were the nymphs living in Hera’s garden tended to the golden apples of immortality.

Lavender - A pretty shade of purple, and a flowering plant, too.  Harry Potter fans will recognize this ends with R choice as a Hogwarts student.

River – He’s on the rise for boys, but River wears equally well for a girl.  Sci fi favorites Doctor Who and Firefly have both given the name to female characters.

Summer – Among the most solidly established of season names, Summer is a gentle choice for a child.

The Eclectics

Blanchefleur – Borrowed from medieval romances, Blanchefleur is usually an innocent maid – after all, Blanchefleur translates to white flower.

Cinnabar – A deep shade of red sometimes called vermilion or Chinese Red, the substance has a long of history of use.  Though Cinnabar isn’t just a pleasing hue – mercury is extracted from cinnabar, meaning that all of the various dinnerware and other luxury items made with cinnabar were ultimately poisonous.  Still, it makes for a lovely sounding name – and if children can answer to Indigo, Violet and Emerald, why not Cinnabar?

Demeter - One of the relatively few goddess names that ends with R, the earth goddess more frequently inspired parents to use Demetria or even Demi.  But she’s a recognizable choice with a great meaning.

Kester - A medieval short form for Christopher, Kester is masculine.  But in 2012, Kester feels like a mix between Kristen and Bess/Tess.  If you’re looking for a truly distinctive way to honor grandma Christine, Kester is a surprising alternative.

Lior - A modern Hebrew name used for boys and girls, Lior means my light – a name rich with meaning and a modern sound.

Loire - A French place name that’s a bit tricky for native English speakers to pronounce, Loire could be a great middle.

Silver – She’s a color, she’s a precious metal, she’s a character on 90210.  Could she be a daughter’s name, too?

Are there other ends-in-r choices that should be on this list?  Which are your favorites?

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Poppy528 October 21, 2012 at 10:53 PM

So glad you added Hesper!! I love that name. Aster is another fave short form of Astoria.

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Charlotte Vera October 21, 2012 at 6:31 AM

Mark has suggested Esther with each pregnancy. I always veto it. It’s not that I particularly dislike the name, it just feels overly familiar to me. Not growing up in North America, I wasn’t surrounded by Amy’s, Jennifers, and Stephanies, but I did know quite a few Esthers.

If Guinevere counts as an ends-in-r name then she’s one of my favourites. Oh, and Dagmar too. I love me some good, hard G’s. Greer is also great.

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appellationmountain October 21, 2012 at 8:19 PM

Dagmar! I haven’t thought about Dagmar … and suddenly she seems like the greatest idea ever.

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Saranel October 21, 2012 at 3:09 AM

Maybe I missed it but why is Silver in the title and not in the post? I would love to meet a limitless girl named Silver possibly Silvie for short.

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appellationmountain October 21, 2012 at 8:20 PM

No, you didn’t miss it. Somehow I deleted her when moving her between categories! She’s back now, and I love the idea of Silver, nn Silvie.

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Havoye October 19, 2012 at 10:04 PM

I love Briar and would love to see Demeter used more often – I find it more interesting than Demetria. I think your assessment of the lovely Eleanor is right on. The medieval French form, Aliénor, has made a comeback in France (along with Léonor and other forms), but I think the ‘alien’ will prevent it from crossing into the English-speaking world.

Dagmar is a guilty pleasure of mine, which I guess would fall into your ‘eclectic’ category. Although Jennifer is not very current, I think Guinevere and possibly variants Gaenor and Gwenivar appeal to a certain kind of parent.

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Megalady October 19, 2012 at 10:40 PM

I love Dagmar’s meaning, but this one might better stay GP. Though I can’t say much since Ragnar is a guilty pleasure of mine.

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Dellitt October 21, 2012 at 12:30 AM

I love Alienore. I like Dagmar too, even though it’s not usable. I think Alienore could be.

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Dellitt October 19, 2012 at 6:07 PM

My favorites from each category: Esther, Piper, Noor, River, Demeter (Lior has a prettier sound, but I love the strength of Demeter). Esther is my favorite of all of them.

I’d add Guinevere, Eilir (ay leer), Jennifer (I’d be fine with this coming back a bit), Heather (I think in the right combo it works nicely as a middle name), and Sinclaire.

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Emily October 19, 2012 at 5:30 PM

I know a guy named Pfeiffer, and I think that’s why I find Pfeiffer (or whatever spelling you want) an odd choice for a girl.

Lavender is the only name that appeals to me here, but I do prefer Lavinia over Lavender.

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Julie October 19, 2012 at 4:51 PM

Our surname ends in -er, so a lot of these have to languish on my guilty pleasure list.
My favorites are Esther, Hester and Juniper, but after reading “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making” I’ve really warmed up to September as a given name.

Oh and the lovely Swedish name Lillemor.

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Dellitt October 19, 2012 at 5:51 PM

I’ve never heard Lillemor before. Very cool. I agree on some of the months making good names. I’d add November.

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appellationmountain October 20, 2012 at 6:27 AM

Lillemor is a great addition to the list – thank you!

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Bryony October 20, 2012 at 11:33 AM

What about the beautiful Irish Emer/Eimear?

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Bryony October 20, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Gnaagh, this wasn’t meant to be a reply to those! Well, since I’m replying anyway — Lillemor’s a really interesting one; doesn’t it mean “little mother”, quite literally, in Scandinavian languages? I wonder how that’s received. It sounds to me like it started out as a fond nickname for a little girl who seemed particularly maternal.

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Dellitt October 21, 2012 at 12:16 AM

I like that meaning.

Bryony October 23, 2012 at 10:34 AM

@Dellitt — Yeah, it’s quite sweet!

Megalady October 19, 2012 at 2:34 PM

I love most of the Nature Babes — Briar, Clover, Ember, Ginger, Lavender, Summer — and a few of The Eclectics — Blanchefleur and Lior (though I do prefer Liora to just Lior).

I’ll also mention Nature Babes Juniper and Winter. I’ve only recently been warming up to Winter (lol), mostly because of the potential nickname Winnie. Then there is Rumer, which I love (though I might love Rumi more) and is probably my favorite ends-in-R name for a girl.

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Lindsay October 19, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Can you relink the boys names that end with -r post? I’m getting a 404 and search isn’t helping. Definitely want to see that article!

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appellationmountain October 20, 2012 at 6:24 AM

It’s linked! My apologies – I removed the dates from the link structure and assumed it would only apply to posts going forward. Not so. It effectively broke every. single. interal. link. on the site. If you get a 404 code, you can always try removing the 12/10/20 part from the link and seeing if it takes you there. 99 times out of 100 it should … My apologies!

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Shelby October 19, 2012 at 10:24 AM

@Kristin- We considered Juniper briefly …but in the end decided to go with Ginevra…but he turned out to be a boy anyway! I also love Briar and we considered Aurora for a girl (since it would be a little nod to Vesper, meaning evening, and Aurora meaning dawn).
Winter is great name- I have known a few Summers and Autumns through the years…I wonder why Winter hasn’t caught on. Is it thought of as negative?

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Shelby October 19, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Great list! Gives us more ideas for if our Vesper ever has a little sister in the future!

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Kristin October 19, 2012 at 10:15 AM

Love Elinor, Esther, Honor, Clover, and Lavender. My favorite ends in -r names are Juniper and Winter, though.

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AJ October 19, 2012 at 9:47 AM

These days I’d be more inclined to think of Piper Perabo than Piper Laurie.

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KatieB October 19, 2012 at 8:54 AM

Elinor/Leonor and River are by far my favorites. Funny how they seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum.

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Jordanna October 19, 2012 at 4:31 AM

My favourite is Tamar, (especially with the accent on the second syllable, ta-MAR)followed by Briar and Vesper rounding out my top 3. My husband’s favourites are Briar and Esther.

Kester is too close to keister (heinie, tuchus… your butt) for my Yiddish-influenced parents/siblings to ever be able to take seriously.

I find Liora/Leora too flowing and melodious to trade in for Lior, which is odd, because I don’t feel that way about Tamara at all.

I strongly prefer Winter to Summer. But I’m not sure about as a first name.

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KatieB October 19, 2012 at 8:57 AM

I have the same problem with Kester…Kestrel would be a nice alternative.

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Megalady October 19, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Ooh. I really like Kestrel. One of the few K- names I do.

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