Frills-free names for girls fall somewhere between James and Arabella.
They’re clearly feminine. And yet, sound-wise, they’re tailored. Even brisk.
And they’re not primarily surname names. Blair and Sloane, Harper and Peyton count as frills-free names for girls … but we could just as easily use them for our sons, so they seem to belong on a slightly different list.
They also lean traditional.
It would be easy to come up with frills-free names for girls drawn from the natural world. And some of these do fit that description! But to belong on this list, they also need to feel like names with some amount of history … even if it’s twenty years, rather than two hundred-plus.
So if you’re into names with a little bit of history, but with a spare and buttoned-up sensibility, this list might be for you!
FRILLS-FREE NAMES FOR GIRLS
We’re wild about Adeline – choose your spelling – but spare Adele seems like a traditional, restrained option.
A sweetly flowing Scottish river, immortalized in poetry and song.
Storybook Alice is the restrained, vintage charmer that has eclipsed frillier 80s favorites Alicia and Alyssa.
Among the most traditional of choices, and as stripped-down as they come. Adding an ‘e’ to make it Anne is only a little fancier.
A Viking name that’s equal parts accessible and fierce.
Seasonal Autumn is tailored and just on the right side of traditional.
A nature name with a fairytale tie-in, via Sleeping Beauty’s story.
Carmen means “song,” and since it’s famous as an opera, that tracks.
A Welsh name meaning “love” and a thoroughly tailored option.
A sophisticated name, all wrapped up in a single syllable. Clare makes it even sparer.
It’s French and maybe a little fancy … but only a little. The strong sounds put Colette on the list of frills free names for girls.
A virtue name with a serious vibe.
Pretty, but still far more restrained that Cordelia, Coraline, or many other Cora names.
It fits with Penelope and Persephone, but Daphne seems just a little briefer and more contained.
A Biblical Garden, and a strong, distinctive sound.
A vintage name with a capable vibe.
An Elizabeth nickname, Elise feels complete and slightly spare.
A single syllable name, though one with quite a bit of style.
Pleasantly old-fashioned, and surprisingly overlooked today.
A Scottish take on Elizabeth, short and strong.
Like other frills free names for girls, Esme is just the tiniest bit romantic – but still far less elaborate than many favorites.
Stella and Estella seem sparkly, while frills free Estelle is the strong, serious type.
An Old Testament name known for heroics.
A virtue name, rich with meaning.
Gentle Fern is as simple and lovely as a name can be.
Classic and traditional, Frances has long been in the shadow of frillier Francesca.
Simple, straightforward, and as elegant as the late Grace Kelly.
Another Hollywood-inspired name, Greer started out as a contraction of Gregory, but today feels more like a rare name for a daughter.
Like Margot, Greta comes from Margaret – but stands on its own today.
Few names sound quite like Gwen, and Gwen seems whole and complete – even though it could be short for the elaborate Gwendolyn or Guinevere.
A virtue name with sharp and tailored style.
Nature name Hazel is almost exclusively used for girls, packing plenty of style into two short syllables.
A serious name with plenty of notable namesakes.
A simple word name that carries so much potential.
A strong Scandi import with the glam of Hollywood Golden Age star Ingrid Bergman.
An early twentieth century favorite with a powerful meaning: peace.
An elegant floral possibility.
A mini name at home in the winter, or really any season.
A glittering green name with a straightforward sound.
Frills free and oh so literary.
Judy is a Jetson, but strong and capable Judith belongs with the frills free names for girls.
A summery month with a sunny disposition.
Goddess Juno is bright and frills-free.
A distinctive sound with a great meaning: just.
The original frills-free name for a daughter, bright and upbeat.
Helena and Magdalena and Catalina are elaborate, dramatic choices. Just Lena seems far more down-to-Earth.
A Scandinavian name meaning “life,” Liv is the pared down alternative to romantic and elaborate Olivia.
Sister to Louis, with a vintage vibe.
Lucia, Lucinda, and Lucienne all turn it up to eleven, while homespun Lucy is the spare alternative.
A Top 100 favorite with maybe the tiniest bit of frill.
A music name with a tailored sound.
Mini Mae offers a brief, bright possibility for a daughter.
A name from Irish legend with a strong sound and an appealing meaning: intoxicating.
Possibly a Mary cousin, but with an even more tailored sound.
Margaret isn’t frilly, but the French nickname Margot seems like a separate – and even more straightforward – option.
Marlowe is the surname name possibility, but mid-century Marlo seems like the definition of frills free girl names.
A classic with history to spare, Mary is also nicely free of embellishment.
Some a first, and sometimes a last; sometimes masculine, but more often feminine in recent decades, Meredith feels like a name that continues to adapt to our changing world.
A name with multiple meaning and origins, Neve seems like the perfect brief, but complete, choice for minimalist parents.
As simple and feminine as a name can be.
The edible – and far simpler – alternative to Olivia.
A gemstone name that’s slowly returning to wider use.
Understated and sophisticated, all at once.
A rarity with a strong and unexpected sound.
A late twentieth century favorite, but an enduring classic, all the same.
A garden full of roses is anything but frills-free, and yet this name sounds brief and strong.
Steely Ruth is an Old Testament name with plenty of backbone.
A Welsh name meaning star, tailored and complete.
A French name with a serious, sophisticated appeal.
More common than word name Sky, this name seems as big as the natural world it seeks to describe.
Once a name for a prophetess, Sybil now feels practical and self-contained.
An Old Testament rarity that fits with surnames like Harper, Parker, and Piper.
A slimmed-down take on elaborate Thomasina.
A lively name with a bright sound, Vivian is just on the right side of frills-free.
A tree name with an appealingly brief sound.
One of several avian names very much in favor today.
What are some of your favorite frills-free names for girls? Would you use any of the names on this list? Are there more names that should be included here?
First published June 28, 2008, this pst was substantially revised and re-posted on February 24, 2014 and again on July 1, 2021.
C in DC says
Two more for the list: Audrey and Nerys.
This is such a great idea and a great list!
I’ll add Sarah, Joan, Agnes and Nicole.
This list is great. I think Mairi, Greer, Zola, Zora, Freya, Zara, Lark, Wren, Xanthe, Dinah, and Maisie would make great additions to the list.
Oh and Noa, Airi(or Irie), Zinnia, and Marnie(this might’ve already been suggested).
Maple would fit in too!
And Lou, Lula, and Juniper. I’m done now. I promise.
I can’t completely decide between Ivy, Ingrid, and Iris. Ivy is the most spritely, Ingrid has the highest cheekbones, and Iris has the goddess aspect. I don’t know how to choose! (Also, do you think Irene is usable or still too old? But if Iris is back…?)
Esther was completely off my radar for a long time but my husband championed it and it’s really grown on me. It’s not tough but it’s slim and stately.
However, he nixed Tamar and Hazel and I was devastated. Tamar I will admit is plagued by pronunciation issues – I only love ta-MAR, not TAY-mer.
We both like Briar… overall, I’d say this is the style we have the most overlap on.
Awesome post and comments — between them both we’re generating quite a wonderful list of strong, frills-free girls names!
To them I’d like to add:
Thora (maybe breaks the rules a bit, but Thor isn’t a realistic boy’s name for most folks)
Bavin (pronounced like bay-veen or bee-veen, not like Kevin)
This is my favorite kind of girl name!
From your original list I like Ailis, Carys, Daphne, Elspeth, Hazel, Iris, Ivy, Juno, Maren, Margo, and Olive. I second the suggestion of Edith, Fern, Mabel, and Pearl, and I’d add Maud to the mix. Particularly since you list Ingrid, I think my daughter’s name – Astrid – also qualifies. Definitely feminine, not frilly, and unranked in the top 1000.
What a great list! I’m not sure if these meet the popularity standards, but I would add Agnes, Ruth, Sibyl and Helen.
I think this must be my favorite category for girl names. I love almost every one you listed. Some others I love that I think fit your criteria are…
Some of these will be on Friday’s 25 more list … and some of these are making me think that I need a THIRD installment of the list! 🙂
Alma is my current frill-free name obsession. Unfortunately my SO doesn’t like it.
Oh, I love Alma – so vintage!
Love this list! I could easily name my daughters from this list.
This is my favorite category of girls. I’m really not a fan of the flowery/frilly girl names. I’ll add:
Three of my absolute favorites 🙂
Nice list. The other two that came to my mind were Irene and Frances, but I don’t know if they fit your ranking criteria. I also think along the lines of Maren, Marian fits quite well here.
Frills-Free is my favourite category, too! If I ever have a second daughter, I’ll be lobbying hard for Carys!
I think my first daughter’s name qualifies? She’s Afton. We were attracted to it because of the poem/lyric connection and the Scottish connection. While it comes across as a surname name, I don’t think it is. It was a little popular in the early 1900s, but pretty rare these days!
Oh, I love Afton! Absolutely frills-free and completely lovely, too.
Tamsin is such a nice name! I can’t believe it’s not used more!
Great suggestions! I particularly like Irene (my grandmother’s name), Io and Zelda, but I think this is just a category of which I’m quite fond. And DH, Kiersten is great!
Catherine, I think you’re exactly right – there’s something flat-out wrong about feeling that the only “strong” name choices for daughters are those that we’d also consider for our sons. Though I’ve known girls named Ryan and Evan, and I don’t think they’ve been scarred for life. Though I remember Ryan once mentioned that she went through high school known as “girl Ryan” to distinguish her from the other Ryans, who were all male … so I’m not sure I’d love that.
I still love Carys and Maren best! Sarai has a pleasing sound to it, too. Not sure of Esther, queenly name or not, to me it just sounds elderly. Ever gives me a little thrill (along with Harlow, these are two starbaby names I actually like) but I highly doubt husband of mine would ever let me use Ever. No pun intended. Nice article!
Some lovely names – i particularly like : Brier (i spell it with an “E”), Esme, Iris and Ivy.
That’s really interesting. Frills free is usually my favourite category for girls, since I hate frilly names and equally hate putting boy’s names on girls. It’s just so WRONG to me, you know? It just enforces that masculine is positive, (a “strong” name, we wanted a “strong” name) and feminine is negative and weak. =P As well, you guys have managed to include a wide variety of styles. These are the ones from your list I like: Ailis, Daphne, Elspeth, Hazel, Iris, Ivy, Margo, Olive, Tamsin. An interesting point, though: I never considered Willow no frills. It’s such a feminine name that it always struck me as a bit fussy.
Anyway, some of my favourite no frills that fit your criteria:
I can’t speak for all of these not being feminisations, though. Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana by Rosenkrantz and Satran has a great section on no-frills names.
Hooray! I think this a much needed and well-compiled list. Here are a few that I think make the no-frills grade and will appeal to parents who might be tempted by Ryan, Dylan etc.:
Kiersten: I love the clean, nordic sound of this one. Admittedly, it doesn’t work with every last name, but it does have the potential for the super-cute nickname Kirstie (all of the fun of Kylie or Callie but with a bit more substance).
Irene: A bit too old lady chic for some, but I really like the strong sounds in this one. I think it’s a celebrity baby away from from being hot.
Willa: I keep hearing this one thrown around more and more and it strikes me as soft but not frilly. I could imagine parents who like Kate, Jack, Claire, Max, Sam, etc. going for the ease of Willa.
Phoebe: This one might be a tad more popular than the other choices mentioned, but it’s got the same spunky vibe as Chloe, Daphne, Zoe, all those fabulous greek mythology names.
There are more that I just can’t think of at the moment. Oh, mommy brain!