This post was originally published on March 2, 2012. It was substantially revised and re-posted on October 14, 2014.
Strong names for girls range from evergreen classics to modern possibilities. Most of the names on this list lean new, since they’re inspired by Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen.
To be a Katniss name is tough – literally. The name has to be strong and resilient, while also feeling fresh and unexpected. Katniss names have an edge, but many of them have subtle ties to nature, too – just like the original.
The first installment of this list included choices like Aderyn, Lux, and Elke. Here’s the second half!
Strong Names for Girls: M – O
Maeve – Maeve is a new addition to this list, thanks to a sharp sound. It’s not a new name – it’s borrowed from Irish legend. But it is the name of a warrior queen, so I think it definitely fits with strong names for girls.
Maren/Marit/Merit – It’s a group of names that comes from evergreen classic, like saintly, regal Margaret and Mary. But with their tailored endings, Maren, Marit, and Merit strike a balance between the feminine and the strong.
Morrow – I nearly added Marlo to this list, but Marlo is more quirky-retro than epic. Morrow feels like a masculine surname if you think of legendary news journalist Edward R. Murrow. But think for another minute, and Morrow has possibilities. An archaic term for either the next day or the morning, Morrow is almost a subtle way of communicating hope and faith in the future – an auspicious name for a child, heroine or not.
Neva, Niva, Neve – These short names have many possible origins, ranging from famous rivers to Irish myth to the Latin word for snow. They also have an awful lot of edge. It’s easy to imagine any of them wielding a bow and arrow.
Noor – An Arabic name meaning light, Noor was made internationally famous thanks to Queen Noor of Jordan. Nora is a sister for Mary, but Noor is a Katniss name.
Odessa – I’m fascinated by Odessa, which brings to mind both Texas and the Ukraine, thanks to places on the map. While it’s longer and more feminine than of the Katniss-inspired strong names for girls, it’s also got a surprising backbone. Maybe it’s because of the ties to the Wild West, or the connection to Odysseus and his odyssey. I can see Odessa as a sister for Wyatt or Atlas.
Strong Names for Girls: P – R
Petra – If Peter means rock, then so does this feminine form. The name is little known in English – Petra last charted in the Top 1000 back in 1973, and has never climbed higher than #493 in 1929. But Petra is also an ancient city, once the capital of the Nabatean kingdom many years BC. Petra feels vaguely Eastern European, but also brings to mind Peeta, the name of Katniss’ love interest and fellow Hunger Games contestant.
Reverie – How can a dreamy, musical name fit in with the other names on this list? Chalk it up to sound. While Reverie is rather gentle, short form Rev is pure power. Reverie is also a name virtually unused for girls until the twenty-first century, when we start to hear it surface at a steady clip. Marginamia’s daughter wears it in the middle spot. Girls’ Gone Child has girls called Fable, Reverie, and Boheme.
Rivka – The name Katniss is distinguished by its ties to the natural world. Rivka can’t claim those – it’s the Hebrew form of Rebecca. But Rivka sounds like river. And speaking of sounds, the ‘vk’ combination is pretty darn fierce.
Romilly – A rarity on the rise amongst name fans, Romilly is a French surname of sorts, one that traveled to England with the Normans. Like Katniss, this name is feminine but frills-free. The first syllable conjures up an ancient empire, and even if Millie is sweetly vintage, all combined, this is a compelling option.
Rowan – Katniss is a nature name, and many of these are also borrowed from the natural world. Rowan is probably the most mainstream choice on this list, a gender neutral tree name. It’s also the name of one of Anne Rice’s powerful characters in The Witching Hour.
Strong Names for Girls: S – U
Scout – Scout is best known as a child’s name. And while Jean Louise Finch is admirable, she’s only six years old. And yet, to scout is to travel ahead of the rest, looking for information. It’s a tough gig, and so I think Scout fits with strong names for girls.
Sea – Secret and Season are more common, but I think Sea is the Katniss name. Why? It brings to mind the forces of nature. We’ve used Kay and Jay and Dee as given names, so why not Sea? Another option that might fit this list is the slightly more familiar Ocean.
Seren – Seren is the Welsh word for star, not used much before the twentieth century in Wales and still rare in the US today. She shares sounds with the traditional Sarah, but is far more unexpected.
Sojourner – Sojourner Truth was born Isabella Baumfree. She became famous as an abolitionist and suffragette, a true heroine. Journey is far more popular, but the related, and far rarer, Sojourner feels like it fits better with strong names for girls.
Sorcha – One of my favorites, this Gaelic import is also spelled Saoirse. The name means freedom, and like Seren, is a relatively modern discovery in her native tongue. Saoirse first came into use during the Irish War of Independence in the 1920s. Just as Katniss Everdeen started a revolution, Saoirse is a name for a girl out to the change the world. The phonetic spelling Sorcha made this list, however, because one Katniss quality is a straightforward pronunciation.
Thisbe – Thisbe was the original Juliet, a maiden in Roman myth who falls in love with a guy from the wrong family. They attempt to elope, but there’s a hungry lion about, and the rest is tragedy. Given her age, maybe Thisbe should’ve made the list of Hermiones. But Thisbe’s sound is remarkably modern, and many ends-in-e names – Chloe, Zoe, Penelope – are having their moment in the sun now.
Thora – Thora did make the list of Hermiones, but the name makes a cameo here, just to demonstrate that not all names are exclusively one or the other. Thora has more bite than gently old-fashioned -oras like Cora, Nora, or Dora. Golden Globe nominated actress Thora Birch has put the name on the radar of some modern parents, yet the name has been missing from the US Top 1000 since the 1920s. Any name that conjures up a thunderbolt-wielding god is definitely belongs among the strong names for girls.
True – Like Sea, True is short. A modern virtue name akin to Hope and Faith, True is possibly spiritual, but maybe not – you can imagine parents from many points-of-view embracing this one. Looking for an even edgier option? The French equivalent is Vrai, which sounds something like fray. Or does Vrai sound more like a brutal District 2 contestant taken down by Katniss?
Strong Names for Girls: V – Z
Vale – Gale is Katniss’ closest friend when the series begins, but he’s a he. Vale – as in valley – could be a Katniss name for a girl.
Vesper – Vesper was made famous as a Bond girl, which isn’t necessarily the equivalent of Katniss. But in this case, the name was inspired by a real life spy. Plus, vesper is another name for the evening star, and sometimes used to refer to an evening prayer service, meaning that the name is layered with meaning – just like our inspiration.
Yvaine – Speaking of stars, Neil Gaiman borrowed a masculine name from Camelot for the heroine of his novel, Stardust. Just Maeve, Vesper, and Reverie, that sharp ‘v’ sound makes Yvaine a natural Katniss name.
Zella – There’s something exuberant and playful about Zelda. But remove the ‘d’ and the intriguing rarity Zella might belong among the strong names for girls. It has many a potential meaning.
Zora – Another of the -ora names, this Slavic name meaning dawn has been worn by literary powerhouse Zora Neale Hurston. It’s distinctive and undeniably strong, but still wearable.
Are there other Katniss names you would add to this list? Do you think these feel like strong names for girls, or would you define that category differently?
Vale, so in love!
Reading this the name Saoirse came to mind. Too bad I can never remember how to spell it because I love it!
I love Vesper and had never considered it for a name. Do you think it’s too close to Vespa, like the scooter (literally “wasp” in Italian)?
She would probably be called Vespa at least a few times … but whether lots of people would think through to the wasp association? I doubt it … but maybe.
We named our daughter Maren, a name we think conjures the inscrutable majesty of the sea. When spoken it sounds Irish, but has been mostly given to girls of Danish, German, and Norwegian blood. While the “Marin” spelling is also pretty, I think it looses the elusive, elemental, feminine curved strength of the letter “e.”
I love Briar, Echo, Leta, Lux, Neva, Reverie, and Zora. While I do steer mostly in the Hermione direction I do favor some Katniss vibed names: Ember, Cassia, and Cassidy. I also like Indigo, Onyx, Topaz, Phoenix, Ebony, Merris, Jonquil, Ixora, Poppy, and Sunniva. I loved Julie’s suggestions from Part 1 of Katsa and Sojourner and Dearest’s Part 1 Sequoia nomination. Isadora Vega’s Kestrel pick is also an intriguing choice, as is Julie’s suggestion of Bo and V’s Tesla. I also adore Catherine’s Tansy addition. So much win!
Oh, and I am kinda stuck on Xerk, a short form of Xerxes, and Gentian as male counterparts to Katniss names, on equal footing with Peeta, Gale, Cato, and Finnick.
Would Xanthe fit this group?
I have a neighbor named Xanthe! I’ve always wondered about her name, but never looked it up. I’ll have to do that now.
Kelly Bensimon from Real Housewives of NYC has daughters Thaddeus (never heard that on a girl before) nicknamed “Teddy” and Sea. I’ve always thought they were a mismatched but interesting sibset.
Lou @ Mer de noms says
What a fascinating group of names. I guess a suggestion for other names include Mika – it is subtly tied to nature through the variant spelling Mica.
Maren and Marit are names in my family going back to the 1600’s. So it’s interesting to see them called modern. 🙂
I’ll throw out:
Saba — Heroine in the book Blood Red Road, another dystopian trilogy.
Trillian / Trill – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Bo – Okay she’s a succubus, by the lead character on the new show Lost Girl is pretty kick-ass. Maybe as a nickname for something “typical” like Bonnie or Barbara.
And from real life:
Vonn – as in the World Cup alpine skier Lindsey Vonn.
Venus – as in Venus Williams, need I say more?
Dara – as in twelve-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres.
Manon – as in the first and only woman ever to play in a NHL (an exhibition game) Manon Rh
Love Bo for a girl! Although I really like Babs as a nn for Barbara…it’s tough and girly at the same time.
My sister is a Barbara who goes by Babs sometimes (also Barb and Barbie)
Isadora Vega says
I would add Kestrel to the list!
Sorsha was the name of the evil princess warrior turned heroine (and Val Kilmer’s love interest) in the movie Willow. I have ALWAYS loved it, but didn’t realize it wasn’t completely made up. I think that like makes it even more Katniss-y.
I would add Tesla to this list <3 I love this category!
As in Nikola Tesla? Way to give our physicists some love!
Neva is my grandmother’s name and my middle! Love it. I also love Vesper, she has been on our long long list for a while… but I think I would have to have 10 girls before I used her.,
I’m a Neva, a great name:)
LOVE this category for girls – Romilly and Maren are in my top 5 for girls, and I love some of the others you’ve picked: Seren, Zora and Vesper especially seem wearable to me, probably because of the appealing meanings.
I like the sound of many of these names but, like Katniss, I would never actually use them.
I like Rowan for a boy, maybe because all the Rowans I know are boys. I like Rowena for a girl. In fact Rowena would probably fit this list.
What Bryony said! I LOVE Sorcha, love love love it! how about a list of names that mean “light”? (Sorcha, Lux/Lucy, Stephanie, Clair, and that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head!). I love Romilly too I’d add Willa to the list and Tansy.
Love all these names! Sea made me think of Seaborn (nn Sea), a name on our short list for boys. We love Seaborn for its antiqueness and what it means to us, but wonder if it’s too out there or old-fashioned for a child these days. Perhaps Sea for a girl would be better. I don’t know. I’d love some opinions from name nerds on Seaborn 🙂
I’ve been intrigued by Seaborn ever since I found it on my family tree. I think it’d be an awesome, unusual name for a boy. I don’t get that much of an antique vibe from it, it really feels almost modern to me. Totally wearable, I think.
I guess I get an antique vibe from it because most of the Seaborns I’ve found lived 200 years ago…the most recent one I know of is Seaborn Beck Weathers. It’s so cool that you have a Seaborn on your family tree!
Sorcha and Saoirse are different names. Sorcha is pronounced SOR-ka or SOR-uh-cha. Saoirse is pronounced SEER-sha, SIR-sha or SAIR-sha. Sorcha means “light”, Saoirse means “freedom” (and is very popular among Sinn Fein supporters. Strangely, it is also catching on in the US, while its counterparts, like Aoife and Sadhbh, are not.) Non-Irish people probably know Sorcha as the main character of Juliet Marillier’s “Daughter of the Forest”, while Saoirse is more commonly recognized because of actress Saoirse Ronan. Both are beautiful names — but they are different.
Yikes, you’re absolutely right. Thanks for the correction.