This is the Appellation Mountain list for the upcoming year.
They’re not predictions – not exactly.
Instead, it’s a mix of guesswork and gut instinct. A style direction. And it’s also a list of very wearable names for a daughter born in the upcoming year.
If there’s a defining character for girl names 2023, it’s sweetness with a spark.
These sixteen names feel versatile. You could the names to an animated rabbit. The girl next door. A district attorney.
That is some impressive range, and while it might seem like a stretch at first, I don’t believe it is. We’re meeting women of accomplishment with names like Kayla, Sadie, and Annabelle. As children of the 1990s and early 2000s grow up, these names follow logically, fitting in and standing out.
And yes, a few of these are repeats from the 2022 list. After all, sometimes it takes a while for a great name to catch on!
SWEETNESS with a SPARK: GIRL NAMES 2023
At first glance, Ayla is just more of the same – another spin on Kayla and company. Except it’s actually a relative newcomer to the popularity charts. Depending on your preference, Ayla might be a Hebrew name referring to a type of tree, or a Turkish one meaning moonlight. But it caught on in the US after writer Jean M. Auel gave it to a character in her 1980 bestseller The Clan of the Cave Bear. Daryl Hannah played the role in the 1986 movie. The name entered the US Top 1000 in 1987, and has slowly worked its way up the charts since. With Isla, Ella, and Mila on top in the US, Ayla feels like a very likely successor in 2023.
A former Top Ten staple, Betty has tumbled towards obscurity in recent decades. Except that’s almost always a signal that a name might be ready for revival. And while Betty has fallen in use, it’s traditionally a nickname for the evergreen Elizabeth, a perpetual favorite on the girls’ lists. Now Taylor Swift has put it in a song – a song that served as an unconventional birth announcement for Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ third child, born in 2019. It’s kept us talking about the name ever since. With sweet nickname favorites like Ellie so popular, Betty fits right in. Another factor: the late 2021 passing of the beloved comedian Betty White emphasizes the name’s strength – and vintage status, too.
In the 1990s, Calista Flockhart starred in Ally McBeal, briefly sending her distinctive given name onto the popularity charts. But Callisto, the original name from Greek myth, has always been quite rare. Her story tells us that she was a follower of Artemis, until she was seduced by Zeus. Ultimately, Callisto ended her days as the constellation Ursa Major. (Her son with Zeus became Ursa Minor.) With Persephone, Calliope, and Athena all climbing the charts, Callisto feels like a logical contender. Another factor: from Margot to Willow, we love o-ending names for girls these days, and Callisto shortens naturally to Callie, a Top 200 choice in recent years. But the ultimate reason Callisto appears on the 2023 list is a character in Disney’s Strange World, voiced by Lucy Liu.
Gale. Day. Dandridge. Parker. Dorothy sounds old-fashioned, but it’s been worn by world-changing women – real and fictional – across the twentieth century. There’s every reason to believe it would work for a twenty-first century girl, too. Nicknames include Dori, Dolly, and Dot, making this a remarkably flexible choice. Plus, this generation grew up with Elmo’s pet goldfish Dorothy. A Top Ten choice from 1904 through 1939, Dorothy just plain seems like a name ripe for revival.
We love a flowing, vowel-forward liquid name. But parents often prefer names with at least a little bit of backstory. That makes romantic Elora just perfect. Not only does it sound stylish, but it also connects to the Ellora – or Elura – Caves in India, a series of Hindu temples cut straight into the rock. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating to 600 to 1000 BC. That’s plenty of history. Modern parents might also know it thanks to Willow, the 1988 movie. No word yet on whether Elora will appear – or even be mentioned – in the 2022 Disney+ sequel. But it almost doesn’t matter. Because celebrated Netflix series Reservation Dogs has already given us a compelling Elora for the twenty-first century. (Speaking of intriguing names, the actress who plays Elora is named Devery.)
Like Dorothy, this is a name that just feels right on time for revival. But there’s also the talented Florence Pugh putting this name in the spotlight again and again. She’s Scarlett Johansson’s little sister in Black Widow, Harry Styles’ model housewife in Don’t Worry Darling, and, of course, as the youngest March sister in Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version of Little Women. Playing Amy March netted her an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. If there were any doubt that Florence would wear well on a modern woman, Florence Pugh can definitively show it does. There’s also Florence + the Machine, lending a bit of edge to the name. And, of course, the Italian city makes Florence every bit as romantic a destination as Paris. If we name our daughters Brooklyn, why not Florence?
Celebrity birth announcements do sometimes influence what the rest of us name our children. But lately, the celebrities that sway us are less often major Hollywood A-listers. Instead, reality stars – including families famous through social media – make the biggest impact. One possibility: Halston, as in Halston Blake Fisher of FishFam fame. Their other kids’ names are more mainstream: daughters Taytum and Oakley, and sons Cohen and Oliver. But Halston seems like the perfect undiscovered surname name for girls, a successor to Hadley and Madison, with a touch of throwback 70s glam to make it stand out even more.
For years, Juniper has quietly trended upward in use, from an out-there nature name to a rising favorite. Could 2023 be Juniper’s big year? Consider this: it’s a nature name, at a moment that choices like Willow and River are everywhere. It shortens to sparky nicknames Junie and June, two names that are enjoying an increase, too. And we’re still wild about -r enders for girls, from modern Harper to classic Eleanor. Juniper splits the difference between the two, and it’s easy to imagine it breaking into the Top 100 in 2023.
A rebellious, outspoken nineteenth century Southern Baptist missionary who ultimately pioneered women’s leadership abroad, Lottie Moon is the kind of figure you’d almost have to invent – except she’s absolutely real. Her full name was Charlotte, but she’s referred to as Lottie 99% of the time. She pushed the Southern Baptists to increase financial support to missionaries overseas; the outcome of her work is the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. So what does this have to do with girl names 2023? Two things: first, names inspired by faith have always spoken to parents. But today we want them to appeal to our sense of meaning and style, too. Lottie checks both of those boxes. It’s also true the Princess Charlotte, the middle daughter of Will and Kate, is known as Lottie to her family. An an independent name, it’s a Top 100 favorite across the UK. If Hattie can catch on, why not this sweet nickname name?
The medieval Amabel was whispered down the alley into our Annabelle … and also shortened to Mabel. A Top 100 favorite into the 1920s, Mabel hibernated from the 1960s into the 2010s. That’s even after television smash hit Mad About You gave the name to Paul and Jamie’s daughter in 1997, inspired by the phrase Mothers Always Bring Extra Love. Then in 2013, Mabel returned to the US Top 1000. Now another television series set in New York City might take Mabel from quietly climbing vintage revival to chart-topping favorite, though. Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building debuted in 2021; it’s headed for a third season now, with Selena Gomez holding her own as Mabel against comedy veterans Steve Martin and Martin Short.
Downton Abbey took this unexpected floral name and added to the same family tree that boasted Violet. There’s no question the show increased interest in this name. The series has given way to movies, including May 2022’s A New Era. Even without the show, it’s possible parents might have considered Marigold for their daughters. It’s an accessible nature name, complete with plenty of nickname potential – Mari, Mimi, Maggie, and Goldie, to list just a few. It feels like an ecovintage possibility, a successor to Ivy and Magnolia, too.
Professional dancer Pasha Kovalev is a fixture on the BBC’s reality competition Strictly Come Dancing. He and television presenter wife Rachel Riley are the parents of two girls: Maven and Noa. The girls appear often on their parents’ social media channels. American comedian Tracy Morgan gave the name to a daughter several years earlier, in 2013. So it’s been quietly catching parents’ attention over the last decade. 2023 could be Maven’s year. It mixes sweetly vintage Mae with modern powerhouse Haven, and it has plenty of meaning, too. While we use “maven” as a synonym for “expert” in American English, it ultimately comes from a Hebrew word meaning “one who understands.”
Stranger Things has gone from a Netflix breakout hit to a pop culture phenomenon, making celebrities of the talented young cast. Sadie Sink plays Maxine – Max – a second season addition at the heart of season four’s drama. It’s just the boost this name needed. Parents have flirted with Max names for girls, in the spirit of Alex. Maxine is the equivalent of Alexandra – traditional, feminine, undeniably strong. A century ago, it was a Top 100 favorite. But Maxine has been slow to return to popularity since then. Here’s guessing that the bravery of the fictional Maxine “Max” Mayfield could make all the difference.
If parents love place names and virtue names and literary ones, too, Meridian ought to be wildly popular. It ultimately comes from a Latin word meaning “midday.” And it can mean “point of highest power,” because a meridian is also a circle of longitude. Meridian, Mississippi takes its name from a misunderstanding – residents believed “meridian” meant “junction.” (There was, indeed, a railroad junction in Meridian from early days.) The place name appears in the lyrics to mournful Emmylou Harris song “Red Dirt Girl.” It’s also the name of the main character in Alice Walker’s 1976 novel of the civil rights m movement, Meridian. Now it’s a character name in Disney’s 2023 movie Strange World. Could it all build up to the perfect 2023 name – meaningful, directional, just storied enough?
First The Hunger Games gave us a young Rue, literally fighting for her life in the dystopian novel. Then Euphoria introduced us to Zendaya as Ruby “Rue” Bennett and her struggles. As a word, rue is both an herb with a bitter taste and a word meaning to regret. That’s not exactly auspicious – though it feels right for both fictional characters. But it’s also a mini name with a stylish sound, worn by the late actress Rue McClanahan, and potentially short for names like Ruth. It feels like a powerful set of associations for such a simple name, and rich with potential.
Lately it feels like there’s an Anastasia for every Mia; and so there must be a Tallulah to balance out Rue. For years, Tallulah has been the epitome of excess. It brings to mind legendary actress Tallulah Bankhead, as well as Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s youngest daughter, Tallulah Belle, born in 1994. Patrick Dempsey’s daughter Talula was born in 2002. It’s a sparky name, one with roots in either a Native American language (Bankhead claimed it was Choctaw, though other origins are possible) or Irish (which tracks with Dempsey’s daughter). There’s no single factor pointing towards Tallulah’s success in 2023, but it just feels like a name for our moment.