Fetching Names: Slim, Trim Girls

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No, this list isn’t about emaciated supermodels.  But it is about slim, trim girls – those very spare single-syllable names that feel feminine without being frilly.

They range from the mainstream to the retro to the downright modern.  Many of them are short forms of well-established appellations.

Mainstream Minis

Ann or Anne – More enduring that Elizabeth, too often relegated to the middle spot.  There are rafts of Ann- based appellations, but the original retains some real appeal.

Claire or Clair or Clare – At #50 in 2011, Claire has never been more popular.  Despite her single-syllable status, Claire retains just a touch of feminine frill, thanks to her français style.  She’s on short lists with names like Genevieve and choices like Harlow – making her quite the versatile choice.

Eve – Elaborations of Eve are all the rage, from Evelyn to Eva to Everly, but Eve is her purest form.

Jane – She’s an every-girl name, once rather anonymous.  But in recent years, plenty of stylish parents have rediscovered her straightforward appeal.

Kate or Cate – Thanks to the former Miss Middleton and Hollywood icon Katharine Hepburn, Kate is the ultimate sensible-yet-stylish girls’ name.  She’s smart, even gutsy, but lovely, too.  I’m rather fond of the C- versions of this name, as in Cate Blanchett.  And while Cait has a whiff of the nouveau about her, she does follow logically from the kelly green Caitlin.

Rose – Less popular than all of the names listed above, and just as likely to found in combination, Rose shines on her own, too.

Retro Shorties

Bess – The original Queen Elizabeth was called Good Queen Bess, and the name ranked in the US Top 1000 on her own for a few years.  Today Bess would be a surprise – completely retro, and yet comfortably familiar, too.

Bette – Hollywood legend Bette Davis pronounced her name like Betty, but you could opt to pronounce this one like bet.

Dot – She’s short for Dorothy, of course, and there’s something daffy about Dot on her own.  Or is there?  UK television presenter Anna Ryder Richardson has a daughter named Dixie Dot, and in the company of Bess and Nell, Dot seems almost ordinary.

Elle – Like Claire, Elle is both spare and delightfully French.  Reese Witherspoon’s feisty-and-fashionable character in the Legally Blonde franchise gave her a boost, too.

Faye or Fay or Fae – She brings to mind fairies and the damsel in distress in King Kong.

JoanMad Men has given brought this name back to the small screen, with plenty of style and intrigue.

June – She’s climbing in the US, thanks in part to (currently) France-based Design Mom.

Kit – The American Girls heroine Kit Kittredge was born Margaret Mildred, but most Kits are probably Katherine.  It’s a name made to go with tennis whites and an MG.

Lou, or even Lu – If it works for Heidi Klum, then why not everyone else?

Mae or May or Mai – She feels sweetly vintage, but has the energy of that long -a vowel sound, too.  Elaborations abound.

Meg – She’s the shortest of the many short forms of Margaret.

Nell – Nell’s swell, a stand-alone staple from the nineteenth century into the first half of the twentieth.  Nellie Olsen dissuaded a generation of parents from using the name, but she could be quite current in 2012.

RuthLike Nell, another name once fusty, now fresh again.

TessElizabeth is still going strong, but Theresa has faded.  Perhaps that’s why we’ve embraced Tess but have been slower to consider Bess.  In any case, Tess isn’t common, but she feels literary, lady-like and very wearable.

Minimal Mods

BlairGossip Girl and The Facts of Life gave this name to their poor little rich girls.  Maybe that’s why Blair feels polished, and at home in a headband.

Bree – If Bree is the sound of the moment, thanks to Briella and Aubree, then why not just Bree, as worn by Marcia Cross on Desperate Housewives?

Brooke – Between Astor and Shields, she’s something of a twentieth century staple.

Bryn or Brynn – Reality star Bethenny Frankl named her daughter Bryn.

Greer or Grier – Hollywood star Greer Garson put this surname name on the map for girls in the 1940s.  It’s derived from a name related to Gregory, making her an option if you’re looking to honor grandpa Greg.

Lark – A great nature name with a nod to the songbird.

Lux – Straight from the Latin word for light and worn by a character in The Virgin Suicides, Lux is less expected than Lucy, but still accessible.

Neve – Funnyman Conan O’Brien has a daughter called Neve, typically considered the Anglicized form of Niamh.  But actress Neve Campbell is wearing her mother’s maiden name, which could mean nephew or refer to water or snow.  Niamh rhymes with eve, but Ms. Campbell pronounces her name like rev.

Noor – A regal Arabic appellation worn by a queen, close enough to the classic Nora to feel familiar in the US.

QuinnGlee’s cheerleader has helped spark a rise in parents bestowing this Irish surname on their daughters.

Rue – Like many a Hunger Games name, Rue has roots in the natural world.  She’s also a sound found in popular choices, from Ruby to Lucy to Drew.

SloaneFerris Bueller’s graceful girlfriend was Sloane, and the late Princess Diana was known as a Sloane Ranger – giving this name something of a 1980s vibe.  Except Sloane has only charted in the Top 1000 since 2009.  Nostalgia, or simply the right time for Sloane’s sound?

True – A virtue name of sorts, she’s perfect if you like Grace but want something less expected.

Wren – Another avian appellation, one that is yet to crack the US Top 1000.

What do you think of single-syllable names for girls?  Would you use one?  Are there names that I missed?

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26 Comments

I would absolutely use one. I love Elle, Eve, Claire and Anne nn Annie. I also love Meg and Kit…but only as nns.

There is something I quite adore about the purest, short, sweet names.

My name is Bess and I am so happy to see it included in this list. I have always loved having an old-fashioned, simple, but uncommon name. I have never met anyone my age (28) named Bess, which has allowed me to define it. I am mistakenly called Beth a lot (a name that I’ve grown to dislike), but otherwise I love my name. Any plans for Bess as the name of the day?

I also love Eve, Kate, June, Ruth and Wren.

I do sort of like Wren and Lark, but would never use them. Jane, Bess, Rose and May are some of my favorites. I’ve recently rediscovered Fern, and maybe some of Fern’s appeal is the one syllable.

I love lots of these! I’m a huge fan of no-nonsense girls’ names. Particular favorites from this list are Ann (no E), Jane, Bess, Dot, Joan, Nell, Ruth, and Tess. I’d also add my enthusiastic vote for Maud’s inclusion – one of my all-time name crushes. I know girls named Bryn (18-yr-old niece), Rose, and Quinn. And I know a girl with the middle name Wren.

A lot of the names I like are simple/classic names…Jane, Claire, Emma, Grace, Anna, Ila (Isla), Ida, or May.

So many of my favorites would make this list. From the traditionalist part of my brain: Fern, June, Joan, Nell, Ruth Jeanne and Liv. And from the Hippie-dippie part that likes virtue and word names: Praise, Roe, Raine, Dove and Reed.

Hee. I found it in the book “Rock & Roll Baby Names”, the rapper DMX has a daughter named Praise. While I’m not familiar with his music, I like to think of Praise as an fresh alternative to the ubiquitous Grace.

I have such a huge soft spot for 1-syllable names, especially for girls. So many of my favorites are on this list! To me, there is something really special about 1 syllable first + 1 syllable last name combos. The short names spend far too much time in the middle! Thank you for doing this post!

Love so many of these. Rose, June and Faye are on and off my short list all the time. Actually if my baby on the way had been a girl she would have been Rose.

Oh, I really like a lot of these:

I’d seriously consider Eve, Jane, Kate, and June for my own child.

I also like Rose, Elle, Joan, May, Meg, Tess, Lark, Quinn, and Wren- many of them would be on my long list.

I join the chorus on Maud/e. It’s awesome.

Oh, Maud, for certain! I’ve loved Maud and she’s been my default “if ever” name. Such lush solidity in one syllable. 😀 Fern crossed my mind as ‘missed’ too . I really like:Anne, Rose, Jane/Joan & Faye. Is there a corresponding “short & strong guys”? I’d *love* to see that list! 😀

Just thought of another: Fern. Not exactly one of my favorites, but she’s an intriguing pick. “Floral” without being too “flowery”.

I like so many names from this list!

I remember way back when, you were starting this blog and looking for tailored, no-frills girls’ names. This list brings it all back!

Claire, I love. Love, love, love it. Remember in The Breakfast Club, Judd Nelson’s character says Claire is a fat girl’s name? Well, I disagree! It’s a great name.

Tess, too. Love it. But would probably not use it. Because, like Bess (also nice) and Beth, it seems little too soft for me. I want something a bit stronger.

Sloane was my number 1 favorite name back in the 1990s. I was an English major in college, with a concentration in Creative Writing, and most of my short stories were about a girl named Sloane. I admit I was influenced by Ferris’s girlfriend. Turns out I have a second cousin, male, whose name is Sloane. Okay, it’s off the list. Also, my husband doesn’t care for it.

Brooke would make the list if, alas, my sweet ol’ doggy wasn’t named Brooklyn. Still our son is Sam, and I grew up with a dog and a cat named Samantha and Sam (the cat was named after the dog). But those were my parents’ pets, and Brooklyn is mine. So, Brooke is off the table.

June has been a long-time favoirte of mine, too, thanks to the Smashing Pumpkins. She’s a song, Bye June, and for some reason Billy puts the word into some of his songs. I love the way she sounds. When making a fantasy list, she’s usually a middle. I like here there better than Jane. She’s unexpected.

I think Paige might have been included on this list. She fits, and has a very modern, tailored feel.

Eek, when I saw the title, I said to myself…I hope my Claire is on the list! I was quite excited when it was. I also like Tessa (although my cousin has a daughter named this, so I can’t use it myself), Jane, Kate, Noor, Neve, Ruth, Brooke and Brynn. I love these names as middles, but I think they would be lovely and unexpected as first names.

My favorites are:
Jane, Anne, Beth, Maeve, Tess, Belle, June and Cate.
I love these as a third middle name option. It gives a child another name they could use without adding too many more sylables.

Really fun post!

Most of these I like as either short forms of longer names, as second middle names, or as parts of a double-barrel name. As first names on their own though…not really for me. While I like the simplicity of all the one syllable names, I love the versatility offered by longer names more.

Yet many of these names are truly lovely, especially Claire, Jane, Bess (reminds me of the Nancy Drew character), Dot, Faye, Kit (I do prefer it as a nickname for Christopher), Mae, and Rue. I also like Grace, Bliss, Dove, Snow, and Paige.

Grace and Faye, both family names, are my favorites right now, and I plan to use them as second middle names and part of a double-barrel nickname. Others I might consider using similarly would be Rue, Jane, Claire, and Snow.

I LOVE one-syllable girls names! Nell has been my favorite for years, but I also like Pimm, Tait, and North for girls as well.

I really like the whole “feminine but not frilly” aspect. I didn’t really realize until later that that’s what I was getting with Rose. 🙂 I’m just starting to like Jane a lot too.

I do like Dot. A lot. But it would have to be Dorothy on the birth certificate, I think.

A couple of friends from high school (in the UK) have daughters with hyphenated names. The first name part is two syllables ending in an “ee” sound and then one has “-Dot” and one has “-Mai”. Makes me think that must be a popular thing over there. Faye is more popular in the UK too. Another friend named her daughters Faye and Neve.

I had a thing for the name Meg, as a teenager. Also Ben. So I think I liked the short “eh” sound in those two.

Hope popped into my head for this list too, as I know a 3 year old Hope.

I would suggest Joy for this list.

I love Rose, Joan, Eve, June, Cate and Clare. I really like most of the other names on the list. I certainly see the appeal of the short and sweet names.

I love Anne, Nell, Lou, Cate, and Jane. If I ever get my Helena, she will certainly be Nell for short (although I’m not a big nicknames person). Maud/Maude is another one-syllable name I think we’ll be ready to hear again soon.