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.
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.
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.
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.
Joan –Mad 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.
Ruth – Like Nell, another name once fusty, now fresh again.
Tess – Elizabeth 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.
Blair – Gossip 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.
Quinn – Glee’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.
Sloane – Ferris 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?