13 rising girl names 2016 The 13 best rising girl names 2016 are the head of their class.

They’re the names that define how we’re naming our children today, and set the trends that will define the names we use for the next decade.

I started out with ten, then twelve, and finally thirteen best rising girl names 2016 – though you’ll see I squeezed a few extras in, too.

They’re brand new names and great old names back in vogue. Some signify a trend or style change; others are names that just feel like The Next Big Thing. And – to be perfectly honest – some of these are just personal favorites, names that strike my fancy as a lifelong observer of names.

My rules for inclusion on this list were simple: the name has to rank in the current US Top 1000 as just released by the US Social Security Administration, and it had to rise in rank in 2015.

Please comment with your favorites from this list – or with your list of the best rising girl names 2016! There are plenty to choose from.

Best Rising Girl Names 2016

Thea – Short and sassy, Thea is a nickname for Theodora or Dorothea. This makes Thea a member of the rising Theodore family. More than that, I think it’s a signal that Th names – long in style limbo – could be back. I’ll be keeping an eye on other gorgeous rarities, like Thessaly and Thisbe, in the coming years. Thea was up more than 300 places, suggesting that it’s a sister name for vintage choices like Cora and Stella.

Gwen – Is Gwen the new Claire? It’s a spare, simple name with plenty of backstory. And that’s not the only thing it has in common with Claire. While the name’s origins are different (Welsh, rather than French via Latin), Gwen means fair or blessed to Claire’s bright and clear. Gwen was up more than 200 places, and Gwendolyn was up, too. Guinevere remains unranked.

Lorelai and Adaline – We often debate whether pop culture boosts names or scares parents away. In truth? It’s both. But here’s something that pop culture can do consistently: completely change our opinions about the best spelling for a given name. The Gilmore Girls was a television staple beginning in 2000, and last year was filled with talk that Netflix is bringing back the popular series soon. Both mother and daughter (and grandmother) are all Lorelai, an alternate spelling for the German Lorelei. Lorelai was up 170 places, gaining on Lorelei – which all rose. As for Adaline, combine all of the spellings and this name skyrockets into the US Top TenThe Age of Adaline, Blake Lively’s April 2015 movie, put this alternative spelling on the map. Adeline remains more popular, and Adalynn is most popular overall – but this one is catching on.

Briar – A nature name with fairytale cred, Briar fits right in with Brianna and Brielle, as well as Harper and Piper. The most intriguing thing about Briar isn’t the name necessarily – it’s that Briar debuted on the girls’ and boys’ lists in the same year. And why not? Briar also fits with Brayden and Bryce, Carter and Hunter. If Rowan can remain nicely gender neutral, why not Briar, too?

Esme – Every pop culture sensation has a break-out name. Luna from Harry Potter, Luke from Star Wars, and now maybe Esme from Twilight. Stylish parents were using Esme long before Stephenie Meyer’s vampires ever glittered, thanks to JD Salinger’s use of the name. This year, it was up over 100 places, making it almost mainstream.

Edith – Another E name up more than 100 places, the rise of Edith points to several trends: the influence of Downton Abbey; the popularity of nickname Edie, chosen by Keira Knightley for her daughter in 2015; and once again, those th names. Not so long ago, Edith felt hopelessly fusty. Today it’s a fresh possibility for a daughter.

Juniper – Juniper has gone from quirky rarity to mainstream nature name. It echoes the rhythms of former #1 name Jennifer, and picks up on the sound of another rising favorite, the vintage June. Juniper was up more than 60 spaces this year. This is the first year I’ve done this list, but something tells me that Juniper would’ve made best rising girl names 2016, 2015, 2014 … heck, way back to the name’s 2011 debut.

Liv – A minimalist approach to baby naming is trending, with super-short names like Ava and Mia on top. Liv could be a nickname for the very popular Olivia, but it also stands on its own as a Scandinavian import. It comes from an Old Norse name, but happens to coincide with the modern Swedish and Norwegian word for life. Liv was up nearly sixty places this year.

Vera – Move over, Cora and Clara. After rising more than fifty spots, Vera could be the new go-to name for parents after a short, sweet, and complete vintage name for girls. Vera comes from the Russian word for faith, but we tend to hear Vera and think of the Latin veritas – truth. Either way, it’s a great meaning for an appealing name. Plus, V is the letter of the moment – just ask the parents of Ava, Olivia, and Victoria.

Coraline – Coraline is an interesting name. While it existed before Neil Gaiman chose it for the heroine of his 2002 novella, it wasn’t often used. Only after the 2009 movie came out did Coraline really take off, a mix of our affection for Cora names, and the rise of choices like Madeline and Adeline. Now Coraline is up another fifty-plus spots, and feels like an intriguing possibility – literary, heroic, vintage, but completely novel at the same time.

Ophelia and Cordelia – Last year it was Cordelia. This year, it’s Ophelia’s turn to re-enter the US Top 1000. Shakespeare died four hundred years ago, but the names he chose for his characters remain broadly influential. Just ask all those women named Jessica. Or Juliet, Miranda, or Phoebe. While he borrowed as much as he invented, the Bard has the ability to make a name forever revival-ready. In the case of Cordelia and Ophelia, they’re both long, lovely names for girls with a -lia ending – an extra boost in our age of Amelia. Another name with Shakespearean influence? Arden debuted in the girls’ Top 1000 this year, too.

Iris – Floral names are pretty. That’s a good thing, but maybe Daisy and Lily strike you as too fleeting. In that case, may I direct you to Iris? It’s the name of a gorgeous flower, but also a name with spine. That’s partly the legacy of Irish writer Iris Murdoch, and partly just sound. 2001’s excellent biopic, Iris, starring Kate Winslet and Judi Dench, boosted the visibility of both. Now that Violet – another strong botanical possibility is so popular, no wonder Iris was up more than 25 spots.

Zuri – Zuri is thirteen on the list of best rising girl names 2016. (Okay, fifteenth. But who’s counting?) It makes the list for two reasons. First, there are always a handful of names that feel global, but increasingly mainstream. Zuri is latest in a long line of imports. It comes from Swahili, and means beautiful. It’s also the name of a cute Disney Channel character on series Jessie. Zuri was up more than 30 places, also boosted by LeBron James’ daughter Zhuri Nova.

Which of my best rising girl names 2016 is your favorite? Would you have included other names on this list?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I know four Junipers. It’s HUGELY popular here in the pnw. I also wonder about Vada vs Vera. I know a 4 year old Vada and I know of a 1 year old Vada—it seems up and coming.

  2. I like a lot of these, although Vera and Edith will always be fusty to me (probably shows my age) and I’ve never cared for Esme.

    I suspect Thea will be the next Maya or Mia – the latter names were fairly rare a few decades ago and now they’re everywhere. Both Theodore and Theo are rising steadily, and Thea has many qualities that seem to be popular right now – short and sweet, Greek origins, and it rhymes with the already popular Sophia, Mia and Leah. I’d have used it if a cousin of mine didn’t do it first!

  3. Esme has been one of my favorites since the first time I saw it (thanks JD) and Iris since I heard my first story about my Great Aunt Iris (I also have a great aunt Adeline, funnily enough!) Lorelai (called Lola) has had my heart since I was in high school and wanted to be a Gilmore. Liv, Gwen and Edith called Edie are great, too! So many great names here!

  4. Briar, Esme, and Iris are all so appealing to me.

    Gwendolen is rather beautiful if clunky, and Theodora would match well to it. I know a few Theas, and I think I would call a Theodora Teddie instead, but I love the options there… Theodora is a bit like Alexandra in that regard.

    I should like Ophelia too, but I don’t – much prefer Octavia or Cordelia. Or Imogen! When will Imogen hit the Top Thousand, ever? It has a rhythm like Adalynn…

  5. My favorites are Vera, then Esme, then Briar and Juniper. Vera and Esme especially feel like up-and-coming names that are still quite underused. They could also be good nicknames.

  6. Since I have a Thea, that is of course my favorite! But I also love Ophelia and Cordelia! I only know one Adeline and of course my Thea. I haven’t met any children with the other names, it will be interesting to see how they rise. I never would have expected to see Thea rise so sharply!

  7. I find it interesting that you consider Adaline/Adeline to be the same as Adalynn. To me they are pronounced completely differently and are not the same name. Just as Lora and Lara and Laura are all distinctly different names. Ah, regionalism and accents.

    1. I pronounce Adeline and Adalynn differently, but I still lump them together as the same name. They are just not very distinct from one another, imo.

    2. Lora and Laura are the same name to me; Lara is different. Adeline/Adalynn can be said the same way, but may also be different.

      1. My mom and sister are both Laura and have the problem of people saying their name as Lora all the time. We don’t pronounce the “AU” like an O but rather more like AH, though not quite. To me the name is L-ARE-a. Lora is pronounced like Lure-a and Lara is L-AIR-a.

        I had a discussion the other day about how imprecise the English language is regarding pronunciation and that there are some other languages that do not allow for the kind of variation in accents, emphasis and pronunciation that we have. On the one hand there would be less confusion and on the other hand we’d never have these kinds of discussions.