It doesn’t seem like there should be such diversity from a single letter, but it’s true.
H also offers a surprising number of surname names for girls. Blame it on celebrity baby name Harlow, maybe, or semi-historical figure Hadley Hemingway. But it’s a letter that gives us lots of last names eager to leap into the first spot.
In some ways, girl names starting with H stay under-the-radar. They don’t seem like they ought to be sensations, not the way that vowel-forward names like Emma, Isabella, and Olivia are. Then again, nearly every generation has a runaway hit of a H name for girls. The early twentieth century gave us Helen; fifty years later, Heather dominated. Hannah followed, and then Harper.
What’s next? That’s hard to say, but maybe it’s on this list!
MOST POPULAR H NAMES FOR GIRLS
Born Nelle Harper Lee, and named after grandmother Ellen, Harper was only her pen name. But Harper Lee penned one of the most influential American novels of the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird. And, as the twentieth century slipped into the twenty-first, it also became one of the hottest baby naming influences, with Harper, Atticus, and Scout all on the rise.
Homespun and wholesome, Hannah is the Old Testament version of Anna, closer to the original Hebrew. It spiked in popularity earlier in the century, and remains slightly more popular than Anna today.
When Julia Roberts named her daughter Hazel in 2004 – twin sister to Phinneaus – many dismissed it as too old-fashioned. But Roberts was right. Hazel quickly became one of the fastest rising ecovintage picks of our moment.
First came the comet. Then came child star Hayley Mills. Somewhere along the way, parents settled on the spelling Hailey, and made this one of the hottest names of recent decades, entering the US Top 100 in 1996, and peaking just inside the Top 20 in 2010.
She’s known to history as Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Hemingway. (Like Nelle Harper Lee, she was born Elizabeth Hadley Richardson.) When bestseller The Paris Wife imagined their relationship, the work of historical fiction pushed Hadley up the name popularity lists, too. It’s tailored, and the literary connection lends it an appealing backstory, too.
A musical word name that implies peace and understanding, Harmony is more popular today than ever before.
A surname name, Harley evokes two things. First and foremost, there’s the iconic motorcycle company, and all the ideas about adventure and the open road that the brand conveys. More recently we’re adding Harley Quinn, the DC Comics supervillain brought to life by Margot Robbie.
A classic virtue name, Hope boasts centuries of use. Plus, it’s never ranked in the US Top 100, making it feel more timeless than trendy – though it fits nicely with so many meaningful word names parents love today.
A surname name that rose with all of the other Aidens, Hayden was boosted for the girls by Hayden Panettiere, most recently of Nashville fame.
Another word name with rich meaning, Haven caught our eye for two reasons. First, Jessica Alba gave the name to her second child in 2011. Plus, Haven boasts that great middle ‘v’ we love in Ava, Olivia, Evelyn, and Everly.
RARE H NAMES FOR GIRLS
In 1819, Lord Byron’s epic poem Don Juan introduced us to Haidee. She’s the daughter of a pirate, and one of Juan’s love interests. Alexander Dumas named a character in The Count of Monte Cristo Haydee, the French version of the name. Neither spelling has seen much use in the US, but they fit in with our Hailey/Hadley moment.
Like Penelope and Chloe, the final ‘e’ is pronounced on Halcyone. That might be confusing if you’re familiar with the word halcyon – peaceful. There’s a story here. In brief, Alcyone was turned into a kingfisher because she displeased the gods. So was her husband, Ceyx. During the winter solstice, the weather would be calm for fourteen days, as a respite from their punishment – hence, the phrase “halcyon days.” As for the H, that was added in the translation from Greek to Latin, because hals refers to the sea.
It looks like Hannah, but Hanae is Japanese. It’s pronounced ha na eh – three syllables. The first element means flower; the second might refer to a picture, or mean favor. Either way, it’s famous thanks to Japanese fashion designer Hanae Mori.
In Arabic, Hania means pleasant. In some Slavic languages, it’s a pet form of Hannah. Either way, Hania has potential. Vin Diesel named his daughter Hania Riley in 2008.
An old school German smoosh of Hannah and Eleanor, Hannelore isn’t stylish in Germany today. (Though Hannah and Johanna are popular now.) But American parents love longer names, and choices like Annalise are heard, so Hannelore isn’t so out-there.
It looks like a cousin to Harriet, maybe. Or Patrice. Except Hatice is none of those things. It’s Turkish, a form of Khadija – the name of Muhammed’s wife, and a central figure in Islam. It’s not new, either – this version of the name is in use by the 1600s.
Place name Savannah has topped the US popularity charts for years. So why not Havana? The Cuban capital shares the same sound, and it’s an equally beguiling place. Camila Cabello’s hit 2017 single “Havana” might have put the name on parents’ radar – it more than doubled in use going into 2018.
Ultimately a feminine form of Hercules, Heraclea consists of two names no one is using: Hera, as in the Greek goddess, and Clea, meaning glory. We often see it as Cleo. Since neither name ranks in the US Top 1000 in any form, it seems likely Heraclea will remain virtually unused – but it has plenty of potential.
The Greek goddess of the hearth and home, Hestia is rare in the US. But, given our love of so many mythological names, a few brave parents have discovered this possibility.
An ancient name, Hypatia was a noted philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician in the fourth century. Despite her tolerance for Christianity, rumors of her pro-pagan sympathies led to her murder by a mob. It’s believed her life might be the basis for some of Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s life story, with the Christian and pagan roles reversed.
VINTAGE H GIRL NAMES
A feminine form of Henry, via nickname name Harry, Harriet topped popularity charts in the late nineteenth century. Today it’s seldom heard, but feels ready for revival. Increased interest in the life story of Harriet Tubman might boost the name.
In German, Hedwig means battle. It appears from the Middle Ages through the present day, but most of us will recognize Hedwig only as Harry Potter’s pet owl. Nickname Hedy, though, seems intriguing. During Hollywood’s Golden Age, Austrian-born actor Hedy Lamarr starred in dozens of films … and also invented a torpedo guidance system for the US Navy in her free time.
A Top 100 favorite from the 1960s to the 80s, Heidi remains in the US Top 100. It’s a form of Adelaide, but that’s not what comes to mind where we hear it. For most of us, Heidi is forever Johanna Spyri’s child from the Swiss Alps. Or, with a very different image, supermodel turned television host, Heidi Klum.
Long and lovely, Helena ought to rank with popular girl names like Isabella. Instead, a raft of possible pronunciations tends to distract parents. Instead, it’s Elena that makes the current US Top 1000. But with generations of use, vintage Helena could wear beautifully.
An elaborate name from another age, Henrietta almost sounds like it’s wearing a hoop skirt. But with sparky nicknames like Hetty and Etta, Henrietta might be the perfect pick for a daring namer set on a nickname-rich choice.
A Latin form of Esther, Hester is far more rare these days. Most of us hear it just once, when we read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the tale of Hester Prynne and her trials in Puritan Boston.
A nickname for Henrietta – or possibly Hester – there’s something delicious about a rare vintage nickname, nearly forgotten, for seldom-heard given names.
It puts the -ilda in Matilda. Hild is a Germanic element meaning battle. Hilda stands on its own as an independent name. It ranked in the US Top 100 from the 1890s into the earliest years of the twentieth century, but today is all-but forgotten.
It’s sometimes short for Hildegard, another Germanic name in the key of Gertrude and Millicent. If you know your Trading Spaces, you might think of daring designer Hildi Santo-Tomas. Or if you follow Haley Stewart, there’s her daughter, Hildie – actually short for Hildegard Rose. No matter which way you spell it, I think it’s a sweetly vintage choice.
Word name Honor inspired Honora and the ever-more elaborate Honoria. (Annora and Onora and Onoria might all be cousins, too.) It’s both clearly connected to the meaning, and undeniably name-like at the same time.
OVERLOOKED H NAMES FOR GIRLS
Halle Berry boosted her given name, but she also lifted Hallie. The actor’s name comes from a department store in her Cleveland, Ohio hometown. Hallie started out as a Harriet nickname, the feminine equivalent of Hal for Henry and Harry.
While lots of sites list this name as Native American, it might be best considered Hawaiian. It means lookout, and it’s the name of a rock formation on Oahu. It’s been used in sparing number in the US since the 1970s.
This name offers two origins: a Swahili name meaning good, or an Arabic name meaning beautiful. The latter might be connected to masculine name Hasan. Either way, it’s an appealing and unexpected sound.
As classic as Eleanor or Katherine, as nickname-resistant as Alice or Claire, it’s easy to imagine parents embracing this short, strong name.
The queen of the Greek gods, Hera fails to rank in the current Top 1000. So does Juno, her equivalent in the Roman pantheon. But Juno does generate some buzz as a cool, edgy baby name. It’s not clear why we overlook Hera.
Luna makes the US Top 100. So does Penelope. So shouldn’t Harry Potter heroine Hermione have boosted the name?
A place name with long history as a given name, Holland benefits from easy nickname Holly. Actor Holland Taylor – yes, that’s her birth name – also lends it some familiarity as a feminine choice. Though the bigger name this decade is Tom Holland, which makes this name feel even more unisex.
This name would be huge today – except that Holly ranked in the US Top 100 from 1969 straight through the 80s. That said, it’s an approachable nature name that’s still perfect for a winter-born daughter.
A straight-up word name with an almost vintage appeal, Honor fits in with Faith and Grace, but also Journey and Valor.
An unexpected flower name, bold and surprising, Hyacinth might bring to mind the garden. Or, you might think of long-running Britcom Keeping Up Appearances. Hyacinth Bucket – she pronounces it Bouquet – is houseproud, snobbish, and oh-so-funny … but maybe not baby naming inspiration. Still, the series left the air in 1995, so maybe it’s time to reclaim this pretty name.
SURNAME STYLE GIRL NAMES BEGINNING WITH H
The singer too her name from two things: an anagram of her given name, Ashley, and the New York City street. Plus, it just sounds like a girl’s given name.
A 1970s fashion powerhouse, Halston retains a little bit of that high fashion glam, while blending in with more familiar picks.
Made famous by trendsetting namer Nicole Richie, the name nods to Hollywood screen legend Jean Harlow. Harlow Winter Kate was born in 2008, and the name has continued to climb in use.
Hart is another word for deer. Rare for boys and girls alike, this surname refers to a clearing where deer were frequently spotted. But today, it’s likely to make parents think of hearts – a positive association.
As in leading lady Anne, but also Shakespeare’s wife, this surname name seems a little unlikely as a first. Except it shortens to Hattie, which puts it in the same camp as Ellison/Ellie, Emerson/Emmy, and so many other surname names with feminine short forms.
Another Hollywood-inspired H surname name, Haviland comes from Olivia de Havilland. The Golden Age celebrity is probably best known to modern audiences through Ryan Murphy’s docdrama, Feud. The miniseries aired in 2017. A note on spelling: while Olivia’s surname has a double-L, the surname more commonly has only a single-L.
A preppy surname name associated with crew, but also the 2013 movie Now You See Me. One of the magicians/bank robbers was Henley, played by Isla Fisher. The name spiked in use for girls in the years following.
We tend to hear “holiday” as secular – as in a vacation get-away, or “happy holidays.” But it refers to a holy day – a feast. As a surname, it likely refers to someone born on such a day.
This s-ending pick takes long-time favorite Holly in a tailored, unisex direction.
A Top 100 staple for boys, Hunter – like Emerald and Olive – is a color name as well as a surname pick. Soap opera star Hunter Tylo – born Deborah Jo Hunter – helped put this name on the map for girls.