Harper, Harlow, and Henley: H Surnames for Girls

Photo credit: Wikipedia

First there was Hayley, as in Mills.

The year was 1960, and Miss Mills had just nabbed an Oscar as the star of Pollyanna.  She’d go on to headline in The Parent Trap a year later.  From her big screen debut well into the twenty-first century, Hayley became a favorite name of many parents.  For the child star, it was her mother’s middle – presumably a family name.

By American standards, Hayley was novel, but not completely different.  Sure, Lisa and Mary were the top choices for girls.  But Kimberly, Julie, Nancy, Tracy, and Leslie were in vogue.  Doesn’t Hayley feel at home on that list?

Hayley helped kickstart our affection for many of today’s mix-and-match names, the Kaylie and Baylee of recent years.  Today, Hailey is the Top 100 spelling, much more popular than Hayley, though Haylie and Haylee are also heard.

But besides all of those names, something else has happened.  Did Hayley help usher in a long list of starts-with-H surnames for girls?  The list of possibilities is rich, from current favorites to those that might wear well in 2013.

H Surnames for Girls: Current Favorites

Harper – She was a stylish celeb favorite before the Beckhams welcomed Harper Seven.  Today she’s epidemic, the new Madison, a go-to name for parents seeking something tailored for a daughter.  At #24 in 2012, will this name crack the US Top Ten?

Harlow – Reality star and fashionista Nicole Richie put Harlow on the map when she chose the Hollywood surname for her daughter in 2008.  She’s not nearly as popular as Harper, but Harlow has rocketed up the charts, from obscurity to #578 in 2012.

Hadley The Paris Wife tells the story of Hadley Hemingway, the famous author’s first wife.  She was born Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, but known by her middle.  If Harlow is pure Hollywood, Hadley boasts a literary pedigree – more Alice than Aniston.

Hayden – Hayden Panettiere graduated from soap operas to prime time in late 2006, as Claire – the cheerleader – in Heroes.  It was the height of the -aiden craze, and Hayden was already in use for both genders.  But the actress gave her name a boost for girls.  At #196 in 2012, Hayden is still in steady use.

Harley – The iconic motorcycle company has inspired fans to give the name to boys and girls.  Harley ranked #415 in 2012.

Haven – More virtue name than surname, Haven just sneaks on to the list.  Like Harper and Harlow, she was boosted by a high profile birth announcement – Jessica Alba’s second daughter, born in 2011.  Haven ranked #432 in 2012.

H Surnames for Girls: Stealing from the Boys

Hunter – On the one hand, Hunter keeps company with Slade and Gunnar – tough guy names that bring to mind camouflage and weaponry.  But Hunter also has a prep school, rep tie feel, and with his ends-with-r sound, he’s quite fashionable for boys.  Is there a case to use Hunter on a daughter?  It’s rare, but when I think about it, an image emerges: part Katniss Everdeen, part Artemis.  This one isn’t headed for the top of the girls’ list anytime soon, but it isn’t unthinkable.

Hayes – I’m loving the ends-with-s trendlet for boys.  Brooks, Yates, Ames and the like all seem very wearable right now.  Hayes is another one along these lines, and with Hailey and Hayden solidly established as feminine options, why not Hayes?

Holden – It is tough to imagine this one on a girl.  First there was the literary Caulfield, and then came the soap opera character on As the World Turns But a very few girls have received the name in recent years.

Houston – Funny how place names seem to have gender.  Savannah is definitely a girl, Houston is always a boy, and we can’t quite make up our minds about Dallas.  Still there’s no real reason that should be.  It’s related to Hugh, but distantly – Houston has been a place name turned surname turned Texas city for generations.

H Surnames for Girls: Rarities

Halston – Girls are called Chanel.  Why not Halston?  The designer dominated the 1960s and 70s, from Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat to airline stewardess uniforms.  He was born Roy Frowick in Des Moines, Iowa – Halston was his middle name.  Despite that glittering association, Halston feels a tiny bit awkward to say aloud.

Henley – It’s the name of Isla Fisher’s character in this summer’s Now You See Me, and also brings to mind the royal regatta and the shirts associated with the sport.  As a given name, Henley is rare, but not unknown.  Hailey, Hadley, Henley … it fits.

HennesseyHennessy is a cognac, and Jill Hennessy is an actress.  Either with or without the -e, this surname possibility has a certain appeal.  For girls, Hennessey fits right in with names like Kennedy and Delaney.

Holland – Another place name found in the surname spot, Holland has multiple origins besides the geographic one.  With the potential nickname Holly, it seems like an obvious pick for a daughter.  There’s also successful actress Holland Taylor.

Holliday – Speaking of Holly, Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame was actually Holiday, though we only learn that fact in the novel.  As a surname, Holladay is also seen.  Odds are that this surname refers to someone born on a holiday.  It could work in the same way in 2013.

Hollis – Related to the holly tree, and somehow feminine in sound, Hollis might be my favorite of the rarities on this list.

Hutton – Take the up-and-coming Sutton, add a dash of the glamorous Lauren Hutton.

What do you think of H surnames?  Are there others that you would add to this list?  Are there any that you would consider?


  1. Jonquil says

    I think the American Hillary can be considered a surname name, probably unwittingly – in Australia and the UK this double L spelling of Hilary is definitely regarded as a surname.
    I feel sorry for Hilary – overlooked in favour of such monstrosities as Hunter!

  2. Micaela says

    Another H surname — Hollister, as seen on Hollister Hovey, the designer and author. The clothing store might nix it for some, but I think it fits in well on this list.

  3. Angela says

    I used to watch a TV show called Grosse Pointe, which had a female character named Hunter Fallow. That was in the early 2000s.

  4. Katybug says

    I know a set of toddler-age twins named Harper and Hadley–one of three Harpers born to my circle of friends within a 6-month span. It’s true that these names are having a monent right now. I like all the Hol- names on this list. Maybe it’s the Holly nickname, but they seem have more classic feel, less trendy than the others.

Leave a Reply