Relatively few girl names starting with O rank in the US Top 1000 – just eleven total. But their number includes white hot, won’t-stop Olivia, as well a forest full of Oak- names, and some dazzling vintage revival picks.
But beyond those few names, the letter O offers a great many options for our daughters. And the letter ranks just 18th out of 26, meaning that unless you’re choosing one of the chart-toppers, most girl names starting with O are nicely rare.
In some cases, these names have lost out to A spellings. (We love Ariana, so why not golden Oriana?) Others have gotten so much buzz – looking at you, Odette – but have yet to translate to parents choosing the name for their children. And there’s at least one on the rare girl names starting with O list that seems poised to enter the popularity rankings any day now.
If you love vowel-forward names, but are trying to avoid the most popular picks, there’s a good chance that girl names starting with O might satisfy.
MOST POPULAR GIRL NAMES STARTING WITH O
Shakespeare gave the name to a character in Twelfth Night in 1602. Centuries later, The Waltons chose the name for matriarch Olivia in the 1970s. While it’s always been in use, it’s never been as popular as today. Long and lovely, Olivia entered the US Top Ten in 2001 and continues to hold a spot there, nearly twenty years later. It’s become the most popular name in the US, as well as a favorite among O girls’ names across the English-speaking world and much of Europe.
A spare sister to Olivia, Olive is more nature name than romantic literary pick. Though literature has given Olive a boost – Elizabeth Stout’s celebrated novel Olive Kitteridge debuted in 2008, and was quickly adapted into an Emmy-winning mini series by HBO. Fun fact: Olive is an anagram of “I love.”
At first glance, Oakley came out of nowhere. It debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2013, and cracked the Top 500 by 2017. But it’s actually gained in use slowly over the last twenty years, a mix of new nature-inspired choice and bold surname. One reason it leans girl? Annie Oakley, nineteenth century sharpshooter. It means “meadow of oak trees,” a pretty and resilient image for a daughter’s name.
Rising fast, following Oakley into the mainstream.
An ancient name, Octavia followed Olivia up the charts. But it caught on in a big way after post-apocalyptic television series The 100 gave the name to a warrior. And why not? It’s a commanding sound with the auspicious meaning eight – considered a lucky number in some cultures.
Another long and lovely O name with roots in Shakespeare, Ophelia’s rise is almost certainly tied to the runaway popularity of Olivia. But it also benefited from a handful of pop culture uses, including The Lumineers’ 2016 single. Spanish spelling Ofelia is sometimes seen, too, but remains relatively uncommon in the English-speaking world.
Another take on Oak names, and not the last one on this list.
A gemstone name that’s a little more homespun than flashy Emerald or Ruby, Opal ranked in the US Top 100 back in the early 1900s and 1910s. The hundred-year rule means that Opal should be ready for revival right about now. And, sure enough, Opal returned to the US Top 1000 in 2017.
The Oak names just don’t stop!
The last Oak name in the US Top 1000 … at least for calendar year 2020.
Straight-up word name Ocean follows choices like River and Bay. It also ranks in the boys’ Top 1000.
RARE GIRL NAMES STARTING WITH O
Océane really should be spelled with an accent to emphasize the pronunciation: oh say AHN. It had a good run in the French-speaking world in the 90s. Oceana is another possibility.
The major city in the Ukraine is spelled with a single S – Odesa – while the Texas town is Odessa. It comes from Odysseus, the hero of ancient tales who traveled so far. If this seems like a wild attempt to find the next Savannah or Brooklyn, it’s not. Odessa ranked in the US Top 1000 every year from 1880 into the 1950s. It’s a straight-up vintage revival with mythological roots and a modern sound.
If you know your Swan Lake – or your Black Swan – you’ll recognize Odette as a princess, transformed into a bird by an evil sorcerer. Tchaikovsky’s ballet flopped on its 1877 debut in Moscow. But it’s since become one of the most popular ballets of all-time. For a few years, Odette topped all the lists of hipster baby names. While it did rise modestly in use, it never joined Scarlett in the Top 100.
While we’re talking swans, Odile is the daughter of the evil sorcerer in Swan Lake. Sometimes one dancer takes both parts; at other times, they’re cast separately. Odile is far less common for children born in the US, but that seems just right for a black swan, doesn’t it?
OFIRA and OPHIRA
A Hebrew rarity with a pretty, sophisticated sound.
OFRA and OPHRAH
Ofra is the modern Hebrew of this Old Testament name meaning fawn. It’s originally masculine, but has long since become unisex.
Like many a mini name, Ola is short for something longer. In Polish, it’s a nicknam for Aleksandra. It might also mean “wealth” or “respect” in Yoruba, and it is part of many West African combo names.
OLEANNA and OLIANA
Theres’ more than one spelling for this -ana name, and more than one origin, too. In some cases, it’s a feminine form of the Scandi Olaf. Others might take Oliana – or even Oliano and Uliano – from Guiliano, the Italian equivalent of Julian/Juliana.
A Ukrainian cousin to Helen. Despite the popularity of Elena and Alina, Olena remains among the more unique girl names.
The Russian form of a Scandi import, Olga means blessed. Diminutive form Olya is another option.
It seems like an elaboration of Olive, a spin on Olivia. Except it’s actual the name of a mineral, named for its olive-green color. It’s one of many O girls’ names with a strong LIV soun, just like the olive tree.
A name from Welsh legend, tailored and unexpected. Olwen means “white footprint.”
Immortalized by Puff the Magic Dragon, Onnalee – or Onnolee or Honalee – has never hit the mainstream, but it’s an intriguing choice that fits right in with compound names like Oaklynn.
First there was Serena Williams. Then Usain Bolt. With legendary athletes choosing the name for their daughters, Olympia feels like it could be the next big thing. It refers to the highest mountain in Greece, the legendary home of the gods. While it’s always been rare, it seems promising in our age of Olivia and Ophelia.
A Ukrainian name, Oksana comes from the Greek word for foreigner. Ukrainian figure skater Oksana Baiul is one noteworthy bearer of the name. Figure skating fans may know the name because she won the gold medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, leaving Nancy Kerrigan in second place with silver.
In some cases, it’s a cousin to Anna and Ana. But Ona also coincides with a word meaning “wave” in Catalan, from the Latin unda, which makes this rarity a nature-inspired possibility among O girls’ names.
An Irish import meaning lamb, it’s also spelled Una. Legendary actor Charlie Chaplin married Oona O’Neill, daughter of Irish-American playwright Eugene O’Neill. Her granddaughter, Oona Chaplin, is also an actress, seen in Game of Thrones, among many other well-known television series and movies.
ORA and ORAH
A mini name, Ora could come from the Latin word oro – to pray, or from the Hebrew or – light. The ‘h’ spelling is more likely to be Hebrew in origin. Both spellings saw some use in nineteenth and early twentieth century America, but are rare today.
A take on golden Aurelia.
ORIANA and ORIANNA
Golden Oriana sounds almost exactly like the chart-topping Ariana, only it features in medieval legend, rather than Greek myth. Oriana comes from the Latin aurum, so it literally means golden.
An Irish import, Orla means golden princess. Designer Orla Kiely makes raised the name’s profile in the US, at least a little. It’s short, accessible, and yet quite rare.
ORLI and ORLY
Spell it Orli, and it’s a Hebrew name meaning “light for me.” But Orly is a village outside of Paris, named for Emperor Aurelius. That connects Orly to the word for gold, too. The village is known for Orly Airport, the main airport serving Paris until the 1970s opening of Charles De Gaulle.
The Italian form of Octavia, far more rare and possibly slightly smoother.
British parents love Ottilie, but Americans have yet to embrace this appealing name. Maybe it’s because Ottilie can sound a little like Odd-a-lee in American English. But this name is rich with potential, just like Elodie, Coralie, and other neglected possibilities.
What are your favorite girl names starting with O? Would you consider any of the names on this list?
First published on July 27, 2020, this post was revised and re-published on December 20, 2021 and again on January 16, 2023.