C is for classic. While C girl names rise and fall, relatively few ever feel trendy or fleeting. They’re solid citizens, from the chart-toppers to the overlooked.
Of course, many C names can be spelled with K, too. That’s true for evergreen favorites like Katherine, as well as names like Khloe and Korra. The C-to-K swap is only one letter, but it can change the entire style of a name. And it means that many C girl names actually feel far more popular, thanks to a K cousin elsewhere on the popularity charts.
Of course, C names are popular in their own right. As of 2020, it’s the sixth most popular first initial for girls’ names.
Some of my favorite girl names start with C. I used three of them! And I could easily name another daughter or two from this list.
MOST POPULAR GIRL NAMES STARTING WITH C
The littlest princess answers to a classic name, one that already ranked in the US Top Ten by the time she was born. It’s traditional, tailored, and nicely feminine.
Speaking of royalty, singer Camila Cabello went from a member of Fifth Harmony to a household name in just a few years. She brought her Spanish-English crossover name along for the ride.
Along with Zoe, Chloe soared up the US popularity charts in the 90s, paving the way for Penelope. While Chloe has left the Top Ten (and Zoey outranks Zoe), it still feels like a stylish option.
Spare and simple, but rich in meaning, Claire shines. The ‘i’ spelling is French. Earlier generations favored the more traditionally English (and Irish) Clare.
Like Charlotte, Caroline developed as a feminine form of Charles, via the Latin Carolus. But while Charlotte tops the charts, Caroline hovers just beyond the spotlight, traditional but slightly less common.
Nora’s rhyming sister, Cora went from sometimes-heard to everywhere, thanks to the Countess of Grantham, the kind-hearted Cora of Downton Abbey.
The Latin form of Claire, Clara headlines Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, saved lives as a pioneering nurse, and became of the very first Hollywood icons.
Boy names on girls stir up controversy galore, but Charlie started out as a nickname for Charlotte. Like Ellie, Millie, or Hattie, it stands on its own today.
Long and lovely Cecilia fits with so many favorites, like Amelia and Olivia. It might appeal for another reason: Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians.
Sometimes short for Caroline, Callie stands on its own today. It’s fresher than Kelly, but not quite as retro as Millie or Hattie.
Classic Katherine has staying power, and we’ve been wild about Katherine names like Kaitlyn, too. Catalina, the Spanish form of the name, sounds like a sister for Isabella, an alternative to Camila.
Camila is the fast-rising favorite, the double-L spelling is catching on, too.
The French form of Camila, Camille feels just different enough. As tailored as Madeline, Camille is a compact, sophisticated option for a daughter.
While the K version of this name is more popular today, Catherine has been on top in the past – and it’s a perfectly reasonable choice for a daughter.
Yet another Charlie spelling! This one is influenced by Kaylee and company.
It’s likely just a slimmed-down spelling of Callie, but Cali also looks like a short form of California.
Elegant, ethereal Celeste is surprisingly underused, but instantly familiar.
Colin caught on in the 90s for our boys, but Collins leans feminine. That’s thanks to real life story turned 2009 Hollywood blockbuster The Blind Side.
The cattleya is an orchid. It morphed into Cataleya as a given name, and rose in use following Zoe Saldana’s turn as Cataleya in 2011 movie Colombiana.
A feminine take on classic surname name Cameron.
FASTEST RISING C GIRL NAMES
A musical name in the key of Penelope, Calliope could be the next big thing – eventually.
Cameron is more popular for boys; Camryn, for girls. But we’re still hearing plenty of Cameron for our daughters, too.
An Italian place name known for its natural beauty.
After briefly leaving the US Top 1000, Cara is back. Credit might go to The Mandalorian’s Cara Dune. (In the character’s case, it’s short for Carasynthia.)
While Celia claims separate roots from Cecilia, the names feel almost interchangeable.
Sleek and sophisticated, this French name brings to mind singer Celine Dion. It’s ultimately related to the Latin word for heaven, though you might also think of Selene, from the Greek word for moon.
A surname made famous by a designer, Chanel’s recent burst of popularity might have more to do with a handful of reality stars and young actors/models by the name.
One more way to spell Charlie.
Oh my darling, this sweet name means gentle. It’s the feminine form of Clement.
Recently returned to the US Top 1000, Cleo combines the mystique of the ancient Egyptian queen with a cool, modern sound.
EASILY OVERLOOKED C NAMES FOR GIRLS
Short for Carla or Caroline – or maybe even Charlotte – there’s something about Carly. While it peaked in the 1990s, it fits in with surname-style names like Riley.
The fiery and ill-fated hero of Bizet’s opera Carmen, the name couldn’t fit better. It means song.
Carolina feels like a romance language spin on Caroline, and it is. But it’s also a place name that might appeal to anyone with roots in the Tar Heel or Palmetto states.
Cassandra was big in the 1980s, but not Jessica-Amanda big. That means it feels more like overlooked girl names beginning with C than dated mom names beginning with the letter. Plus, Cassie is a sparky and timeless nickname choice.
A Hebrew name with a pan-global vibe, Chaya offers a great meaning: life.
It’s a little bit of a mom name today, but really, Christina ought to be considered a classic.
We all recognize tailored, vaguely French Colette – even though few of us are using it.
A rare French name, Coraline’s boost came courtesy of a typo. Author Neil Gaiman reversed the vowels in Caroline to re-discover this lovely name.
Elaborate, even frilly, Clarissa is Claire in a ball gown. It peaked in the 90s, at the height of Melissa Joan Hart’s Clarissa Explains it All on Nickelodeon. But it never rose so high that it wouldn’t still work years later.
Cindy is stuck sharing a room with Jan and Marcia, but Cynthia? In our age of Olivia and Sienna and Thea, it sounds like it could fit right in.
VINTAGE & RARE C NAMES FOR GIRLS
Classic Charles started out as Germanic Karl, with Karla as the feminine form. Vintage and unexpected Carlotta is an Italian take on Karla, energetic and high-stepping.
Lacy, elaborate Cecily was a medieval English take on Cecilia. It remains relatively rare today – as does the tailored, French Cecile.
A virtue name that’s universally pleasing, with spiritual and secular sides.
A Claire elaboration that might still bring to mind Silence of the Lambs, but has plenty of potential nonetheless.
An ancient name, Claudia feels strong and determined – qualities we prize in our daughters.
A strong and traditional name, Constance fits with virtuous Grace, but also vintage Charlotte.
A Spanish name taking from a title of the Virgin Mary – Our Lady of Consolation. Gilded Age heiress and socialite Consuelo Vanderbilt lends the name some vintage glam.
The French form of Coralia, an all-but forgotten Greek name, Coralie seems like a substitute for Rosalie.
Lear’s loyal daughter, and an antique name long overlooked.
An ancient Roman name with plenty of potential.
UNEXPECTED C NAMES FOR GIRLS
A surname name inspired by activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
An unexpected option in the key of Penelope, with a great meaning: beautiful flower.
Actor Calista Flockhart briefly boosted her name, but it’s mostly overlooked now. It comes from the Greek, meaning most beautiful.
A type of Lily, and a -lla name in the key of Stella.
A name with multiple meanings, from beloved to pure to a ship’s keel.
Journalist Campbell Brown boosted her unusual name during her time at NBC and CNN. What’s not to love about this mix of Camila and Isabelle, with a hint of Harper, too?
A modern virtue name connected to classic Claire.
Lucky Clover sounds upbeat and just slightly Irish.
The Spanish word for sky – or heaven.
A sparky French nickname-name that now stands on its own.
A sweet nickname turned given name, thanks to Les Misérables.
What are your favorite girl names starting with C?
First published on June 15, 2020, this post was revised and updated on June 28, 2021.