3 letter girl names range from the modern to the vintage, the edgy to the sweet.
The very nature of mini names means that there are only so many choices. In fact, just a handful chart in the current US Top 100.
Still, if keeping it brief appeals to you, 3 letter girl names could be just right for your daughter.
And the fact that many of these pack two syllables into so few letters? That’s a bonus.
As in Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and pioneering computer programmer, centuries before such a thing even existed. It fits with Addie names like Addison and Adeline, and substitutes beautifully for chart-topping Ava, too.
A traditional masculine choice in Arabic, Ali means lofty. On a girl, Ali probably serves as a slimmed down version of Allie, the first few letters of Alison, Alexandra or Alicia.
Little Women makes Amy literary, and a great meaning – beloved – is also appealing. This former Top Ten favorite has fallen in use for now, but chances are this mini name will make a comeback.
It doesn’t get much more classic than the Ann- names. At #211, Ana trails Anna and even Annabelle in the rankings, but remains quite popular. The single ‘n’ spelling is preferred in Spanish, but also several Slavic languages.
With so many girls’ names including Anne or Anna, Ani feels like an inevitable possibility. (Legendary singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco was born Angela.)
ANN (unranked; Anne #588)
If you love your Anne of Green Gables, Ann might look plain wrong to you. Anne explained to us, “… A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. If you’ll only call me Anne spelled with an E I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.” And yet, the simplicity of the e-free version retains its own kind of appeal.
In Hebrew, it’s a masculine name meaning lion. But girls’ names like Ariana and Aria have become staples in recent years, making Ari an obvious feminine nickname choice, too – or maybe a mini name for a daughter.
Ash fits with 3 letter girl names, even though it’s more popular for boys. After all, long-time favorite Ashley has been succeeded by Ashlyn and Ashlynn, making these letters familiar choices for our daughters.
Ava languished in obscurity during the 1970s and 80s, but rocketed to the top after a string of celebrities chose the name, especially Heather Locklear in 1997 and Reese Witherspoon in 1999. Now those celebrity kids are all grown up, and the name is still going strong.
Another of the mini names for girls with a global vibe, Aya is usually listed as Japan in origin, but it has charted in the Top 100, or higher, in Spain, Belgium, Denmark, and France in recent years.
A nature name in the key of rising River and Ocean. Fans of Switched at Birth on ABC Family will also recognize it as the name of one of the series’ main characters.
BEA and BEE (unranked; Beatrice #565)
An obvious nickname for Beatrice, Bea can also stand on its own. So, of course, can Bee, an initial name in the key of Kay.
A brief take on former favorite Beverly.
Blue with an E is rare, but climbing in use. It turns out three letter mini name Blu is on the upswing, too.
Does Bri rhyme with fry and sky or Bea and key? Probably the latter, since Bree name like Aubrey and Brielle are popular choices.
Another spelling for Kai, though this is traditonally a Welsh masculine name from Arthurian legend.
Either an unexpected take on Dee or maybe another way to spell Dia. In Scandi languages, it’s a common short form for any name with a strong D sound and the right ending, like Dorotea or even Adelaide.
Another initial name, short for anything beginning with D.
We all that doe is a deer, a female deer. Doe could also be a given name, just like Wren, or possibly one inspired by longer Do- names, like Dorothy.
The Spanish word for day, as well as a name across cultures, including multiple figures from Greek mythology.
Once a Dorothy (or Theodora) nickname, brief and complete Dot has potential as an independent name, too.
We’re used to seeing Drew as an Andrew nickname. Drew Barrymore raised the name’s unisex potential. Dru isn’t just a re-spelling. It also connects to overlooked Roman possibility Drusilla, a name that also appears in the New Testament.
In could be short for names like Elizabeth and Eleanor – and in some languages, it is. But Ela also claims a Hebrew origin. It refers to a type of tree, though it’s also often spelled Elah.
Emi is to Emmie as Ali is to Allie. Or not. Because Emi also derives from a Japanese name. It can be short for Emiko, or stand on its own.
Ev- names are having a moment, and longer options abound – from Evangeline to Evalyn to some far more obscure possibilities. But Eva is brief, complete, and elegant.
Consistently less common than the two-syllable Eva, Eve brings to mind the Garden of Eden, as well as joyful celebrations like New Year’s Eve.
FAE, FAY (unranked; Faye #607)
Fae, Fay, and Faye all come from an English word meaning fairy. Minimalist and magical, too.
Short for Florence, and made famous by an Olympic champ and a fictional Progressive spokesperson.
GEM (unranked; Gemma #191)
Gemma is popular; just Gem offers just as much sparkle in a mere three letters. Jem is an option, too, if one that brings to mind 1980s cartoon Jem and the Holograms.
Mia opens the door for Gia. It’s an Italian nickname for Gianna, which is short for Giovanna, making this a feminine form of John.
Ida came to England with the Normans. As a Germanic name, it means work. There’s a second Greek origin; Ida was the name of the mountain where the god Zeus was born. Ida flourished in the 1880s, following the success of a Tennyson poem and a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Pioneering Progressive-ear journalist Ida Tarbell is a notable namesake.
3 letter baby girl names might seem limiting, but sometimes short choices feel more international than their longer counterparts. In Sanskrit, Ila means earth. In several languages, it’s shorter for longer names beginning with Il. And sometimes Ila is a simplified spelling of popular Isla. The name ranked in the US Top 1000 every year from 1880 into the 1950s, making it brief and vintage, too.
Ina Garten – better known as the Barefoot Contessa – is a Food Network staple. While her given name is just Ina, it’s potentially short for dozens of names.
A traditional masculine name, Ira can also be short for feminine favorites like Irina.
This pretty Slavic name can mean willow tree or yew tree. It might also be short for Ivanna, which makes it a cousin to Gia, another name ultimately related to John.
Once dismissed as poisonous, Ivy is now a white hot favorite. Credit goes to our love of nature names, that stylish middle V, and, of course, our affection for brief, 3 letter girl names.
The middle Brady Bunch sister was Jan, but longer names like Janet and Janice were more popular. Once again, they’re all possible feminine forms of John, this time via the English Jane.
Frills-free and upbeat, Joy caught parents’ attention thanks to 2015’s Inside Out. The character was voiced by mini-named actress Amy Poehler
Fifty years ago, no one in the US answered to Kai – male or female. Now the Hawaiian name meaning sea has become established for boys, and is gaining for girls, too.
KAT (unranked; Katherine #158)
A go-to nickname name for Katherine, Kat has potential as a mini name that blends retro style with a very twenty-first century interest in word names.
If Kai is trending, Kay is languishing in style limbo. Still, Kay can claim a Scandinavian origin or a German one; in both cases, it’s short for forms of Katherine.
We tend to think of the car brand, which hails from South Korea. The corporation dervied the name from characters meaning “rising from Asia.” But Kia fits right in with popular feminine favorites, like Kaia and Mia.
KIM (unranked; Kimberly #220)
Sometimes masculine, sometimes a surname, and sometimes short for Kimberly, the last of which lands it on this list of 3 letter girl names.
Delia Owens’ controversial bestseller-turned movie I Know Where the Crawdads Sing is the story of a young girl named Kya.
LEA (#758; Leah #46)
Several languages drop the ‘h’ in Lea, including French. Glee alum turned Broadway star Lea Michele makes this spelling more familiar.
Long used as a unisex name in the US, Lee can be a surname or part of longer names, from Lee Anne to so many -lee ending favorites. The non-mini spelling Leigh is more common for girls in now, but both are quite rare.
Lia can be short for any of the many names ending in -lia. It’s also the preferred spelling in some languages, like Italian. And, of course, it’s a mini name that picks up on our love of Mia.
LIL (unranked; Lily #31)
We sometimes shorten little to “lil,” but it’s also a Lily/Lillian nickname. Think of the Rugrats’ Lil DeVille, twin to Phil, or Mae West’s Broadway play “Diamond Lil.”
LIN and LYN (unranked)
Lynn and Lynne are more familiar spellings, but these work, too. The Lin spelling is often Chinese in origin.
While it might be short for Olivia and friends, Liv also has independent Old Norse roots. It mirrors a modern Scandinavian word meaning life, just like fellow mini name Zoe.
LOU (unranked; Louise #643; Louisa #688)
We love a good Lou name. Luna is wildly popular. Classics like Louisa and Louise have risen in use in the US in recent years. But just Lou remains rare, as do alternate spellings, like Lue.
Looking for a mini name with a Latin origin? Lux means light.
Luz is the equivalent of Lux, though with a Spanish origin instead. It’s often used as a compound name with Maria.
MAE, MAI, MAY (#505; Mai and May unranked)
Mae West takes gentle nature name May and makes it sparky and retro. Sometimes used as a short form of Mary and Margaret, Mae stands independently, too. Spell it Mai and it could be a name with a Japanese origin instead, and several meaning, including dance or genuine.
MEG (unranked; Margaret #125)
A mini name worn by the heroine of A Wrinkle in Time, Meg is typically short for Margaret – or related names like Megan. They’re all still connected to Margaret, meaning pearl.
Mini Mia succeeds with speakers of English and Spanish – a reason this little name has had big impact. Rewind to 1963, and Mia was nearly unknown. Then young actress Mia – born Maria de Lourdes – Farrow – starred as Allison MacKenzie on Peyton Place. The show was a major sensation, and Farrow’s first name caught on quickly.
Mya might sound like Mia or Maya. The singer who made it popular favors the latter pronunciation.
Nia means purpose in Swahili. It’s one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, making it a festive seasonal name, too.
It looks like another case of borrowing from the boys. But Noa appears in the Bible as a feminine name, too – with separate roots.
In Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu, Nya is sister to Kai.
The Greek goddess of the night, Nyx is rare as a given name, but wearable.
A Hebrew name meaning light, and the surname of pop singer Rita Ora, too. The singer is Albanian; her surname means time.
The Roman goddess of peace, though Pax is slightly more common for boys now.
The Spanish word for peace, again often used in combination with Maria.
A feminine form of Pio or Pius, Pia means dutiful.
Also spelled Prue, this mini name is short for Prudence.
A ray of sunshine. A Rachel nickname. A feminine form of Raymond and company. There are many reasons to embrace this brief, brisk name for a daughter.
REN (unranked; Wren #251)
We’ve fallen for bird name Wren, but dropping the W works, too – and potentially makes Ren Japanese instead.
A spelling of Rae borrowed from two things – first, it’s the Spanish word for king. (Queen is reina.) It’s also the heroine at the center of the most recent Star Wars movie trilogy.
Ria looks like a slimmed-down spelling of Greek goddess name Rhea, though it might also be short for names ending with this soun.
Like Rosemary, Rue is an herb, which makes this a nature name. It’s also another word for regret. But the name’s recent use in The Hunger Games and Euphoria make it more familiar as a given name option. (Though the latter’s full name is Ruby.)
SAM (unranked; Samantha #105)
Most Sams are probably Samuel if they’re boys, and Samantha if they’re girls. But just Sam is very much an option, too.
Australian singer Sia put her unusual name on the list of options.
SKY (#717; Skye #429)
There’s Skylar/Skyler and Skyla, too, but just Sky is the miniest of them all – though spelling Skye has long been more popular.
The Spanish word for sun, though it’s also a masculine name short for Solomon.
Susan’s days near the top of the charts are over, but Sue remains a brief and complete option.
A unisex Hebrew name, Tal means dew.
Actress Tea Leoni also uses a diacritical mark to emphasize that her name is pronounced with two syllables, not just “tee.”
Celebrities like Tia Mowry and Tia Carrere – born Althea – boosted the name in the 1980s and 90s. It solves Tea’s problem of pronunciation, but it’s also the Spanish word for aunt.
Just like Blu, Tru requires no E to be a name possibility.
A mini name usually related to Ursula.
As in the radiant Uma Thurman, whose name came from a Hindu goddess thanks to her father, a professor of Buddhist studies.
Either from the Latin for “one” or an Irish import meaning lamb, Una is one of many spectcular names used by Edmund Spenser in his epic poem The Faerie Queene.
VAL (unranked; Valerie #153)
A unisex possibility, Val is short for a long list of names that come from the Latin valere – to be strong.
Zoe meets Mia.
Zoey-with-a-y outranks 3 letter Zoe now. But either way, this mini name has an appealing meaning: life.
What are your favorite 3 letter girl names?
First published on October 19, 2016, this post was revised and updated on October 27, 2022.
Another Emily says
My sister just named her baby girl Mya and pronounces it with the long I sound.
The Leas I know in Australia pronounce Lea the same as ‘Lee’ and you see Ashlea here as a variant spelling of Ashley, not an -ah sound ending. I can only imagine because of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lea_(surname)
Secretly I like ‘Lys’ for the romantic fleur-de-lys connotation but I’d only spell it that way if a middle. In the middle only, I also like Ann.
I love Zia and Zoe. I find Noa vibrant. And Ivy is one of my favourites.
Fay, Rei, and Mae all appeal to me. The sound is so bright. Is it weird that I’m inconsistent with favourite spellings for each? Because my faves are as listed and maybe that’s odd.
Mya is pronounced with the long i sound, as in Maya. It’s been a fairly popular name in this area and every kid who’s spelled the name Mya pronounces it this way. On the other hand, I have encountered a few girls named Mia who also pronounce their name with the long i sound instead of like Mia Farrow. I think the queen’s great-granddaughter Mia’s name is actually pronounced to rhyme with Maya. That makes less phonetic sense to me.
The Mrs. says
Amy is so evergreen!
Jen, Kim, Kat, Sal, Sue, Deb, Di, Meg, Kris, and Jo are more likely to be grandma names now, and Amy was around with them! Yet, Amy manages to stay fresh. (Although, I do love Meg still; perhaps it’s the Meg Ryan effect).
My daughter attends classes with a Teá. That’s a lovely little name, too.
Oh! And my favorite, Una!
There’s also Hebrew name Tal, Spanish name Pia, and Rae or Rey–the latter spelling made popular by Star Wars.
One point t about Nia. I don’t know anything about Swahili, but it’s also a popular name in Greek circles (think Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding), where it’s often a nickname for Antonia or Eugenia.
What a great post! One of our top picks for a girl is Caroline with the sweet little nickname of Ro (in honor of grandma Rose affectionately called Ro). We also love Zoe despite its rising popularity and I think Emi is such a sweet and logical nickname for Emily 🙂
Liv, Eva, Lia are great choices and I think Amy may be another great name to reconsider. These little mini names just make my heart sing!