Or it that too much G?
The thirteenth most popular letter for girls’ names in the US for the year 2020, G names for girls fall smack in the middle. It’s not the chart-topping A or the obscure U.
What’s more, we’ve always loved at least some G girl names. In an earlier age, Gertrude, Gladys, and Geraldine were everybody’s go-tos. Times have changed, though, and another group of G girl names top the charts today.
Some have history to spare. Others are modern innovations. We might not think of G as an especially diverse letter. But it does offer two pronunciations: the hard G and the soft J.
That means that a surprising number of options await, from chart-toppers to rare gems.
GIRL NAMES STARTING WITH G IN THE US TOP 500
In English, rock solid classic John becomes equally spare feminine forms Joan and Jane. In Italian, it transforms into the flowing and romantic Giovanna, or just Gianna. Gianna, in turn, shortens to Gia and Gigi, making this a wildly versatile name. It’s also the name of the late Gianna Bryant, daughter of Kobe, almost certainly the reason this rising name was so much on parents’ minds recently.
An old-school virtue name, Grace manages to feel specifically religious and generically good, all at once. Maybe it’s because of the phrase “grace under pressure.” Grace can be prim and proper, or athletic and fearless – but is probably best described as a little bit of both. It’s a straight-up word name we’ve been using as a first for so long it feels traditional, more a sister for Alice than Sky.
Genesis likely appeals to some parents who consider Grace, too. After all, it’s also a word name with significant spiritual overtones, but a meaning that extends beyond religion. Genesis ultimately comes from a Greek word meaning origin. It signals a beginning – an auspicious meaning for a child’s name, whether or not its status as the first book of the Bible appeals to you. With the easy nickname Gen, it reminds us of Genevieve and Jennifer. Except no one was using Genesis as a given name until the 1970s, coinciding with the rise of the rock band.
The angel Gabriel – “God is my strength” – served as a messenger in the Bible. While it’s always seen some use in the US, Gabriel started to rise in the 1970s. French feminine form Gabrielle became a Top 100 favorite in the 1990s. And in the 2000s, the Italian Gabriella took over as the most popular version for girls. It arrived just as we embraced Isabella and all of the -ella names. Today it’s falling slightly, along with Spanish spelling Gabriela, but all remain familiar favorites.
A French classic, Genevieve is the patron saint of Paris. With Josephine flying high, Genevieve sounds like an obvious name to watch, too. Not only does it share Josephine’s long, slightly tailored sound, but Genevieve also benefits from the ‘v’ of Evelyn, Ava, and Violet.
Georgia is a place name, every bit as much as Savannah or Brooklyn. But long before Georgia took up residence on the map, it was simply the feminine form of the venerable George, a regal and saintly favorite. But if George feels buttoned-up, Georgia is a little more down-home. Georgia can be elegant, artistic, creative – think Georgia O’Keefe – but songs like “Georgia On My Mind” and “Sweet Georgia Brown” lend this name a different kind of style.
The Italian word for gem, Gemma owes a little something to Emma and Jenna, and something more to the rise of G names like Gianna. While it’s not as classically Italian as, say, Francesca or Maria, Gemma has plenty of history. Dante Aligheri’s wife was Gemma, all the way back in thirteenth century Florence. It’s a sparkly name, but also a straightforward one.
Take elegant, enduring Grace and transport her to a playground. Gracie carries all the history of just Grace, but sounds more like a sparky sister for Sadie than an early twentieth century debutante.
A combination of classic Grace and contemporary ending -lynn, with a hint of Elvis’ Graceland, too.
Combine Gracelynn and Gracelyn, and it’s far more popular than either name alone suggests.
The single-L spelling, lagging a bit behind Top 100 Gabriella but still popular.
The name of an early supermodel, Gia fits right in with popular mini names like Mia, but remains nicely underused.
It sounds a lot like gazelle. Graceful Giselle also brings to mind a ballet by the name. Wildly popular since it debuted in Paris in 1841, it attracted more attention in the 1980s in the US. That’s when Mikhail Baryshnikov starred in Dancers, a movie about making a movie out of the ballet. Then came Disney’s Enchanted, complete with a princess named Giselle, and supermodel Gisele Bundchen. No surprise the name has seen a rise, though it probably peaked around 2007/2008.
The French feminine form of the name peaked earlier, following names like Danielle and Nicole into more widespread popularity. While it’s Gabriella that’s most popular today, Gabrielle remains a favorite.
A 1950s favorite, borrowed from a mythical Welsh queen. It’s originally Gwendolen, but the -lyn ending has long been more popular in the US. Gwendoline is seen occasionally, too.
SWEET SPOT GIRL NAMES STARTING WITH G
The feminine form of Galileo, relating to the ancient place name Galilee. It’s both Biblical and star-gazing at once.
Another possible spelling of Gianna.
The Italians spell it Giovanna, but Americans favor the phonetic Giavanna – possibly because it more easily shortens to Gia.
Gianna claims the spotlight, but elaborate Giovanna might be a slightly less common – and frillier – alternative. Italian offers many girl names starting with G, but Giovanna might be one of the most widely recognized.
Another Italian import, this time the equivalent of Juliana. Long-time E! personality Giuliana Rancic made this spelling more familiar over the last two decades.
Like Grace, Gloria bridges a deep spiritual meaning and a more generally virtuous one. It shares the -ia ending of current favorites like Olivia and Emilia. And it’s the name of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s younger daughter, a little sister for Ramona.
Originally a pet form of Margaret, Greta stands on its own. It manages to sound fresh-faced, while also dripping all the Hollywood glam of Greta Garbo and . Plus, everyone can immediately spell and pronounce it … even though your daughter will seldom share it. Young activist Greta Thunberg also comes to mind.
Serious and saintly Guadalupe comes from the Spanish Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, a title for Mary.
This name combines has all the cool of comic book hero Gwen Stacy and musician Gwen Stefani, too. But it’s spare and simple – not quite as classic as Jane, but not nearly as modern as Sloane.
RARE GIRL NAMES STARTING WITH G
Gaia rhymes with Maia, and it’s a goddess name, too. And not just any mythological figure, either. Gaia is Mother Earth, the primordial goddess of all things green and growing for the first generation of gods. But once Zeus and his siblings overthrew the Titans, she took a back seat. While it’s rare, this name combines several trends – it’s mythological, tied to the nature world, and something of a mini name along the lines of Emma and Ava.
A gala is a party, possibly from the Old French word for merriment. As a given name, it’s either short for the Russian Galina (meaning calm), or a Spanish name (possibly referring to a rooster or a pheasant). As for Gal Gadot, her given name means “wave” in Hebrew. So there’s more to Gala than you might guess. It’s an exuberant choice with an international vibe.
Back to that Russian name: Galina means calm, and it comes from the Greek name Galen, which belonged to a noted physician in the ancient world. While it’s never caught on in the English-speaking world, it’s heard throughout Slavic countries, though a few swap the G for an H and use Halina instead.
A red gemstone name, Garnet shares something with Ruby and Scarlett. It’s sometimes heard as a surname, and could easily work for a son, too.
Georgette feels like a not-too-different, not-too-common compromise, a spin on Georgia and Juliet that’s easily recognized, but far more rare.
A Top 100 staple through the 1920s, Gertrude will almost certainly be back – eventually. Nickname Trudy/Trudie might serve as a retro mini name in the key of Hattie and Sadie.
Jillian with a J ranks #961, while Gillian with a G fails to crack the US Top 1000. Both names feel instantly familiar, tough to pin to a specific decade, and yet nicely distinctive.
With the exception of Jinger-with-a-J Duggar, the most recent Ginger to make headlines was Spice Girl Geri Halilwell, aka Ginger Spice. Way back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, Ginger Rogers made headlines, too. But today, Ginger occupies an interesting space. It’s as edible as Olive and Sage, as colorful as Scarlett, and a nature name, too. But it remains seldom heard.
We sometimes imagine that place names are a novelty invented by this generation. Not so. Geneva ranked in the US Top 1000 every year from 1880 through 1995. It was the middle name of former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. A popular song inspired her geographic middle. That might make us think of Switzerland, but plenty of American cities – and more than one lake – were named for the Swiss original.
If you know your Harry Potter names, you’ll recognize Ginevra as the given name of the youngest Weasley sibling, Ginny. It’s also Italian, though there’s more than one possible meaning attached. It could derive from the Italian word for juniper. Or it might serve as the equivalent of Guinevere or Geneva. Regardless of origin, it’s an intriguing, distinctive sound.
With Italian names like Gianna trending, might others follow? Gioia is simply the Italian equivalent of Joy. It’s popular in Italy today, and despite some potential spelling and pronunciation confusion, it feels like a promising, just-different-enough choice in the US, too.
Glenda is hibernating with Geraldine, but Glenna might have some promise. It brings to mind current chart-toppers like Stella, as well as former favorites like Jenna. From 1880 through the 1960s, Glenna regularly appeared in the US Top 1000. It’s the feminine form of Scottish name Glenn, meaning valley.
A color name, Goldie shares something with Violet, but also brings to mind Sadie and Maisie, too. While Goldie has gained in use dramatically over the last few years, it remains far outside the current Top 1000. That could change, though – after all, Goldie was a Top 1000 staple from 1880 into the 1950s. Actor Goldie Hawn was born in 1945 – yes, it’s her birth name.
A lovely Spanish elaboration of Gracia – Grace.
A Scottish surname, Greer developed as a contracted form of Gregory. That might make it a better fit for the boys’ list. But British actor Greer Garson – born Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson – changed that. As her career took off in the late 1930s, Greer became associated with girls. While it’s risen in use for both genders in recent years, it remains more common for our daughters. In many ways, that makes Greer the forerunner of so many borrowed-from-the-boys favorites, from Taylor to Madison to Harper to Sloane.
Guinevere’s cousin, Jennifer, formerly held the #1 spot in the US. But Guinevere has never cracked the Top 1000. Still, we all recognize the name, thanks to the legend of King Arthur and Camelot. If we can embrace names likes Juliet and Genevieve, then is Guinevere such a stretch? Easy nickname Gwen is a bonus.
A Welsh name meaning fair and blessed, Gwyneth is broadly familiar thanks to Oscar-winning actor Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s peeked into the US Top 1000 just a handful of times over the last two decades, just enough to make it seem like the name isn’t restricted to the celebrity.
What are your favorite girl names starting with G? What would you add to this list?
Originally published on August 24, 2021, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on August 30, 2021.