Girl names starting with N range from former favorite Nicole to well-why-not Novella.
It’s the fourteenth letter of the alphabet, and the tenth most popular first letter for girls names in the US as of 2021. That puts it right in the middle of the pack, well behind the chart-topping letters like A (Ava and Amelia) and E (Evelyn and Emma), but well ahead of letters like F and W. It’s easy to think of N names for girls, but they’re not exactly everywhere – the most popular pick – Nora – stands at a modest #27 as of 2021.
Still N baby name choices for our daughters remain a diverse and intriguing pool.
Nancy has grown up from girl detective to pop singer to powerful woman; the sensational rise of Nevaeh remains one of the more polarizing name stories of the early twenty-first century; and names like Nora have become culture-spanning chameleons that fit just about anywhere.
Whether your tastes run to traditional favorites or unique girl names, the wildly unexpected or the oh-so buttoned-up, this list of girl names starting with N could satisfy.
MOST POPULAR GIRL NAMES STARTING WITH N
Short for Eleanor – or maybe other names with the right sound – Nora is nicely international. It works in English and Arabic, Italian and Norwegian. Nora feels almost classic, a traditional pick – and yet it’s quite stylish now, too, a sister for Emma or an alternative to Charlotte.
The Latin word for new, associated with stars and science, Nova succeeds for these associations. But sound helps, too – just ask Ava, Evelyn, Everly, Vivian, and so many more middle-V favorites.
An Old Testament name, Naomi has a certain traditional, noble vibe. But it’s also versatile. Famous figures range from actor Naomi Watts to singer Naomi Judd to supermodel Naomi Campbell. And it’s just plain fun to say, too.
Natalia Zakharenko, the daughter of Russian immigrants, became a star as Natalie Wood. She starred in 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street as a child, 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause as a teenager, and racked up a trio of Oscar nominations by the time she was in her early 20s. She also helped launch her adopted name, a Top 100 favorite since 1976.
As pan-European as Sophia/Sofia, Natalia is the Latinate form of everybody’s favorite, Natalie. It refers to Christmas Day, from the Latin phrase natale domini and familiar thanks to phrases like Buon Natale, Italian for Merry Christmas.
Nevaeh is heaven spelled backwards. Sonny Sandoval, frontman for Christian metal band P.O.D., gave the name to his daughter in the year 2000. While Sandoval’s daughter wasn’t the first, the name was new and very rare when at the time. A year later, Sandoval appeared on MTV’s Cribs, and Nevaeh took off. It succeeds on sound and meaning, and seems to be shedding some of its pop culture baggage as it becomes an established, mainstream choice.
Simply Nora-plus-an-h. It might make the name feel more like an independent choice rather than a nickname. It also recalls another traditional favorite: Sarah.
Another Christmas-inspired name, this time from the French word for Christmas. Noel is considered masculine, but is little-heard in the US.
A Kyla/Mylah invention, Nyla feels like an obvious twenty-first century creation. But there’s also the Arabic name Naila, which means “attainer” – or maybe “winner” – and adds some history to this appealing sound.
Effortlessly pan-global, Nina exists in dozens of languages. It means “girl” in Spanish, but also serves as a short form of names like Antonina – itself an elaboration of Antonia. There’s a Saint Nina, especially significant in the Georgian Orthodox Church. And the name also occurs in indigenous languages in North America.
It looks like an attempt to feminize Top Ten staple Noah, but this name actually has separate Old Testament roots. Given to the daughter of Zelophehad, the name means motion.
A long-time favorite in the US, this French feminine form of Nicholas – “victory of the people” – ranked in the US Top Ten from the late 1970s into the 1980s. While it feels more mom-name than daughter today, it’s likely to make a comeback – eventually. Skip the once-dominant nickname Nikki, though, and Nicole still has potential today.
We tend to hear Nayeli as Latina, and it first caught on in Mexico. It comes from a Zapotec phrase meaning “I love you.”
Nyla with an h, just like Norah and Lilah.
A color name in the hue of blue, Navy is following middle-v favorites like Ava and Ivy up the charts. It also owes a little something to colorful favorites like Scarlett, Ruby, and Olive.
This name backflipped its way into the spotlight when teenaged Romanian gymnast earned the first perfect 10 in Olympic history. The year was 1976; the event, the uneven bars. She’d win another four medals at the Montreal games – three gold, plus a silver and a bronze – and go on to have a long, celebrated career.
A just-slightly-different spin on Mia, Nia is also the Swahili word for “purpose.” It’s one of the seven virtues of Kwanzaa, which makes it deeply significant.
A Hawaiian name meaning heavenly, Nalani is following fast-rising cousins like Leilani, Kehlani, Kailani, and Alani up the popularity charts.
Nola might be short for Magnolia or other names with a similar sound. It’s the abbreviation for New Orleans, Louisiana. And it also feels like the kind of name that fits right in with Mila and Lyla.
An effortlessly international name, the late actor Naya Rivera helped put the name on parents’ lists.
Top of the boys’ list in recent years, Noah also charts for girls.
The form of Naomi used in several European languages, including Spanish and French, Noemi opens the door to Emmy nicknames. Noemie is also seen, but even less frequently in the US.
It’s a masculine name in Sanskrit, but Disney’s Lion King gave the name to Simba’s friend/future partner. The name also has legit African roots. In Sotho, a Bantu language spoken in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho, it means prosperity. Nahla might be a spelling variation, or a separate name meaning “first drink of water” in Arabic.
She was the mean girl of Little House on the Prairie fame, but decades later, Nellie sounds like a sweetly vintage sister for Sadie, or an alternative to Millie.
Add an -h to Nova, and you’ll arrive at this name.
Billie Letts’ 1995 novel Where the Heart Is gave this invented name to a character; Natalie Portman played Novalee in the 2000 movie adaptation. It’s been used in steadily growing numbers since.
Either a slimmed-down version of a Sanskrit name or an Anglicized version of Maori name Ngaire, meaning wetland. Ngaire saw a burst of popularity in the 1910s into the 1950s in New Zealand. Or maybe the most plausible explanation is simply that Nyra follows logically from names like Kyra and Nia.
An Arabic origin name meaning light, Noor is sometimes spelled Nur, and sometimes interchanged with Nora.
Originally a Russian origin nickname for Natalia, Natasha is a character in Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It was big in the US in the 1980s, and even bigger in the UK into the 90s. But while it’s falling fast in recent years, the name has plenty of history to buoy it up.
A phonetic take on Naomi.
From girl detective Drew to singer Sinatra to politician Pelosi, lots of famous women have answered to the name Nancy. Along the way it’s grown up nicely, evolving from mid-century favorite to near-classic status.
Another spelling of this powerfully popular name. Nathalie – the H is silent – is sometimes seen, too.
RARE GIRL NAMES STARTING WITH N
A French origin form of Nadia, Nadine caught on in the twentieth century, but has faded in the years since. With Josephine back in the Top 100, Nadine could follow.
Another globe-spanning possibility, Naima means happy in Arabic and serves as a Scandi form of Naomi.
A place name with a romantic sound.
Nan comes from Ann. How, you ask? The affectionate phrase “My Ann” or “Mine Ann” blends together to add an N to the beginning of lots of names. It helps explain all those Nells, too, another nickname with an English origin.
An Anne nickname with a midcentury vibe.
At least seven possible origins and meanings attach to brief, international, culture-spanning Nara. One especially appealing possibility? It means mermaid in Latvian.
This Greek origin name for the daffodil flower, Narcissa might be most famous as Mrs. Malfoy in the Harry Potter universe.
When it comes to unique baby girl names, Nausicaa stands out. It’s of Greek origin and means “burner of ships.” In Homer’s Odyssey, she helps him reach home.
Or Neely or Nealey or so on. This is part surname-name, part Cornelia short form, part feminine form of Neal. That last possible origin gives it an appealing meaning: champion.
A rarity that started out as fictional island name.
A Swahili name meaning “divine grace,” Neema succeeds on meaning as well as sound.
From the Egyptian queen.
A shorter form of Antonella, a longer form of Nell, or an just-formal-enough option to go with Nellie, Nella also brings to mind Harlem Renaissance author Nella Larsen.
A name borrowed from Irish legend, or possibly Hebrew, Nessa might be most familiar to parents thanks to novel-turned-musical Wicked’s character Nessarose Thropp. (She’s sister to Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West.)
An Annette-Jeannette nickname name that fits in with Hattie and vintage girl names on the upswing.
From the late 1800s into the early 1960s, Neva regularly appeared in the US Top 1000. It might be short for longer names, like the romance language Genoveva or the Buglarian Nevena. Or it might be borrowed from the Neva River, which flows from Russia into the Gulf of Finland.
If it’s an Anglicized version of Niamh, then it means bright – and rhymes with Eve. But actor Neve Campbell’s name is a family heirloom that rhymes with Dev and Kev. It might also be a winter name, inspired by the Spanish nieves – snow – and the Italian word for snow, which is neve, but pronounced almost like navy – neh vay.
The Arabic name that inspired the Top 1000 favorite Nyla.
Nicole has been a long-time favorite, but Nicola remains under-the-radar. It sounds more like Ricola cough drops than the more familiar Nic- names.
Yet another Nic- name, this one picking up on the -ette ending we love in Scarlett and Juliette.
Another place name, borrowed from the capital of Cyprus.
A Scandi feminine form of Nils.
Feminine in some cultures, masculine in others, Nikita goes to the girls thanks to long-lived action series La femme Nikita.
A water sprite from European folklore, one that sounds like a given name.
A Spanish feminine form of Noel, Noelia is an even frothier take on Noelle. It’s a truly beautiful girls’ name, and just slightly unexpected, too.
In Roman myth, Nona is the goddess of childbirth, as well as one of the Fates.
A sweet form of Eleanor, or possibly other names with a strong N sound.
It might be Japanese in origin. JRR Tolkein gave the name to a male character – a dwarf, but now the 2022 Amazon series The Rings of Power uses it as a nickname for Elanor Brandyfoot. Which brings it back to the girls’ list, and makes it an even more possible Eleanor nickname.
A 1930s style star, introduced by an opera.
Before you dismiss Normandy as unwearable, consider this: French region name Brittany spent a decade in the US Top Ten, peaking at #3. Factor in Normandy’s potential nicknames Nora and Nora and the fame of singer Normani – similar, if not quite the same – and Normandy starts to seem like a rarity with potential.
It sounds like an elaboration of Nova, but a novella is also a short novel. That makes this name literally literary, but no less wearable.
An Irish import with plenty of charm.
The Greek goddess of the night, and a brief, striking, and nearly unique name.
What are your favorite girl names starting with N? What would you add to this list?
First published on February 1, 2021, this post was revised and re-published on February 28, 2022 and again on August 8, 2022.
The Mrs. says
A friend of mine is named Nerissa. It’s Shakespearean and means ‘black-haired’. Gorgeous!
I love three N names I have recently discovered. Niobe. That was to replace Phoebe because of the association with Friends, so Niobe seemed such a lovely name with a sweet meaning of Fern. How cute is that?! Too bad my husband vetoed that one. At least he was on board with two other N names I adore. They are Neroli and Nydia. Neroli means orange blossoms and thought that could be perfect for us since we live in Florida. Then Nydia seems more spunky but professional than Haven which is what Nydia means: safe place.
Lovely suggestions, Charmaine – thanks for sharing!
A lot of great names here! I really love Nella and Nell. Nella is Nela (same pronunciation) here in Central Europe, which gives it a sleek feel to me.
There is something about Normandy that I kind of love!
The story behind Noa (and her sisters) in the Old Testament is often cited as the first law suit (sort of) in the Bible and the first expression of upholding women’s rights (whether this is true, I’m not sure, but it’s a good story!).
I like Naomi and Natalie and Natasha and Nicola and Nicole. But not enough to use. I always think of Nora as a short form of Honora rather than Eleanor because of its Norman Irish associations. I love the combination Nora Katherine. A friend of mine growing up was Ninette – her parents were French but it was not her real name, just a pet name which everybody used. There has been a surfeit of girls named Noa quite recently. It is a pet hate of mine. A much prettier Hebrew choice imho is Nitza (pron. Neet-sah) meaning flower bud, though it may not work outside Israel owing to the “nit” element.
I love Natalie, Noelle, and Norah (Nora does nothing for me though for some reason). I like the idea of Nova but I think it’s more of a guilty pleasure name for me. Lots of lovely choices
I like Naomi, Noemi, Natalia, Natalie, and Nayeli. I’m not a huge fan of Novella as a name, it might take awhile for me to warm up to that one. I can see it doing well for people who like the name Story and the Ella names
A lot of N names are so pretty! Naomi’s my favourite, I’d also add Nerissa and Nerys.