Olive, Elaine and Estelle: Girls Names Without A Endings

by appellationmountain on December 28, 2012

Olive, Elaine & Estelle Original photo by Beverly & Pack via Flickr

The most popular girls names today are flowing, mellifluous appellations.  Six of the current Top Ten end with the letter a, and three of the top four are three syllables or better: Isabella, Olivia, Sophia.

But could a more tailored era be ahead of us?  Lop off that final a, and there are some interesting possibilities to consider.  Many of them feel like antiques, though some manage to feel modern, too.

Isobel – Isabella has been a popular name for years now, and Isabelle isn’t far behind.  But the Scottish form of the name is stripped down, spare and unexpected.

Olive – Sweetly vintage Olive is gaining on mega-popular Olivia, especially now that actresses Isla Fisher and Drew Barrymore both chose the name for their daughters.  High-profile blogger Gabrielle Blair has launched a web series called Olive Usnamed after her family’s middle daughter.

Elle - She’s a short form of any El- name, the French word for she, and a fashion magazine, too.  Supermodel Elle Macpherson and Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods helped put the name on the map.  Young actress Elle Fanning was born Mary ElleWith Ella at #12, Elle feels tailored and feminine at once.

Neve - Okay, I’m cheating.  Nevaeh ends in -aeh, not -a, but you get the idea.  If Nevaeh is a nouveau coinage heavy with meaning, Neve is a crisp alternative, sometimes linked to Niamh.  Late night talk veteran Conan O’Brien chose the name for his daughter.

AliceAlyssa has been a hit ever since Who’s the Boss? ruled ABC’s Tuesday night line-up.  Today, Alice feels like the gentler choice, conjuring up Wonderland and white rabbits.  It’s also the name Tina Fey chose for her older daughter.

Alix - A medieval French form of Alice, Alix is fresher than Alexa and more original than just borrowing Alex for a girl.

Camille – The Spanish Camila is in the US Top 1000 and Camilla is stepmother-in-law to William and Kate.  But tragic heroineCamille, with her French sound, feels promising, with the possibility of vintage nickname Millie or the boyish Cam.

Bel, Bell, or Belle - Between the popularity of Isabella and the Twilight empire, Bella is everywhere.  Remove the final -a, and you have a mini-name, a musical one, or a Disney princess.  If Mae or Elle made your short list, you might like the idea of Bel, Bell, or Belle.

Estelle -  Once best left to bellowing actors in white tees, Stella is a white hot choice for parents today.  Estelle is her old lady counterpart – for now.

Eve - Eva is in the US Top 100, and Ava is in the Top Ten.  Could Adam’s rib be the most stylish of them all?  She’s also a possible short form for more than a dozen names.

Marie – Spanish-speaking families lifted Maria past Mary on the popularity charts.  But Marie is the real rarity, last seen in the Top 100 back in the 1950s.

Julian – Like Alix, she seems boyish, but has valid roots as a feminine appellation.  If Julianna and even Julianne feel too elaborate, this is one to consider.

Valentine - Valentina has an awful lot of style, thanks in part to Salma Hayek’s use of the name for her daughter.  Valentine is bolder, a word name with connections to Cupid and candy hearts.

Elaine – Arthurian legend gave us the graceful Elaine.  Today girls are more likely to be called Elena or Alaina, but I think the literary Elaine wears well, too.

Elise – It turns out that Eliza is less popular than Elise, but I’ll list this one anyhow.  Drop off the zippy -za ending, and Elise is a quiet, gentle choice for a name with quite a bit of strength, too.

Maris - Marissa is fading, but what do you think of Maris?  She’s from the Latin term meaning “of the sea,” and she’s sometimes associated with the Virgin Mary.  She’s also the name of Niles Crane’s never-seen neurotic wife on long-running sitcom Frasier.

Are there other names that belong on this list?  Does your name end with -a?  If so, do you like the alternative form?  Would you consider any of these for a child?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela 2 January 25, 2013 at 3:13 PM

I think Alice is a nice one without an ‘a’ ending. I also like Violet. Iris is kinda nice too!

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Averella December 31, 2012 at 4:29 AM

my short list is split exactly in half as far as -a endings go. I have Elizabeth, Adalheid, and Miriam and the on the flip side I have Isannah, Casilda, and Jemima

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Havoye December 29, 2012 at 10:36 PM

I think Alice will definitely supplant Alyssa and Alicia in many places.

I have noticed the trend you describe – the birth of another celebrity baby named Olive made me think about it – but I also note that the top 100 girls’ names in the US are quite varied in terms of their sonority and endings. Yes, there are the flowery Olivias, Isabellas and Sophias, but names as varied-sounding as Charlotte, Elizabeth, Addison, Grace, Brooklyn, Alexis, Taylor and Autumn are all there as well. True, they may not all be trending upward, but generally speaking I’d say the ends-in-A trend for girls is not nearly as marked as, say, the ends-in-an/en/on trend for boys.

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liz December 29, 2012 at 8:39 AM

Julian! Like Julian of Norwich. Great.

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Lola December 29, 2012 at 1:39 AM

I would joyfully use Valentine! For my late Pop. My having an Aunt Val has nothing to do with it either ;)

I don’t think there is a non-a version of my name that I like, but my daughter, Josephine sports a non – a name. In fact, if people make her Josephina she goes bananas!
I’ll second Sylvie. I beyond adore the name but will never get the chance to use it. I’d love to see some celebrity use Sylvie, even. :D

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Katybug December 28, 2012 at 10:26 PM

I love Alice and Maris! I prefer almost all of the names on this list to their -a counterparts. I know a little Isabel and its really hard to not call her Isabella.

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Sara A. December 28, 2012 at 9:26 PM

A ending names just aren’t an option with my husband’s last name they smoosh together. Isabella Ut–r becomes Isabelle Ut–r spoken aloud. So our entire girls list was and still is without A endings. I used to love them, but now they seem to frilly and elaborate like one ruffle too many on a lacy pink dress.

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Kristin December 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM

I almost always prefer the non-a ending form of a name, and love all of the examples you listed. I especially love Elaine, and would happily use it if a close friend had not already used Alaina. I would add Sophie to the list and Sylvie, though neither Sylvia nor Sylvie are very popular. The same for Louise and Louisa, though I love both of them equally.

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Kristin December 30, 2012 at 3:32 PM

I would like to add Anne in place of Anna to this list. This is another where I actually love both, but would rather see the more uncommon Anne used up front.

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Hugz December 28, 2012 at 6:11 AM

All very nice choices. The “ee” sounding ending and “A” endings are so abundant, it is often difficult to break away from. Both my girls have “ee” endings.
My favourite non ee or a ending names are:
Imogen
Rachael
Adele
Piper
Saffron
Shannon
Louise
Hazel
Isis
Juliet
Paige
Quinn
Violet
Vivian and
Willow

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Angela December 28, 2012 at 2:45 AM

Some that I like
- Adelaide
- Adrienne
- Amaryllis
- Annabel
- Annette
- Arielle
- Ayelet
- Beatrice
- Beatrix
- Bernadette
- Calliope
- Charlotte
- Chloe
- Cicely
- Claire
- Clover
- Corinne
- Daphne
- Diane
- Dorothy
- Echo
- Edie
- Elisabeth
- Ellery
- Elodie
- Eloise
- Emmeline
- Eulalie
- Faith
- Felicity
- Genevieve
- Gladys
- Grace
- Harper
- Hazel
- Holly
- Hope
- Iris
- Jane
- Janelle
- Jeanette
- Joy
- Judith
- Julie
- Juliette
- June
- Juno
- Lily
- Lorelei
- Lucy
- Mary
- Meredith
- Natalie
- Penelope
- Phoebe
- Piper
- Posy
- Robin
- Rosalie
- Rosalind
- Sophie
- Suzanne
- Sylvie
- Valerie
- Verity
- Violet
- Wendy
- Zoe

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