She’s a little bit hippie chick, a little bit granny chic.

Thanks to Bek for suggesting Fern as Name of the Day.

Fern is that kind of name. Visit your local playground and listen. If you hear Opal, Roscoe and Atticus, you’re in the right place to name a daughter Fern. If you hear mostly Madison and Aiden? Not so much. Isabella and Oliver? Maybe.

Much has been made of Hipster Baby Names, but many are gaining in use. As Asher and Sadie go mainstream, could Fern be among the Hipster Baby 2.0 choices?

While plenty of botanicals are enjoying heights of popularity, Fern has felt as dated as a macrame plant hanger. And indeed, the plants themselves are ancient. Mesozoic era dinosaurs would’ve munched on them. (You might try it, too – but be careful. Only some ferns are edible.)

Ferns themselves have much to recommend them – they’re easy to grow. A number of folk traditions hold that ferns can bestow invisibility or serve as guides to secret treasure. The Victorians went wild for ferns, collecting and preserving them. They called it Fern Fever or Pteridomania.

Pteridomania refers to their phylum – pteridophyta. (They’re also referred to as filicophyta.) There are more than 20,000 types of ferns in all, as well as a few not-ferns that we lump together. As for the word fern, it comes from the Old English fearn, which traces back to the Greek pteron – feather – and brings us full circle to the scientific name.

The unrelated Fernando and Fernanda are both found in the US Top 1000, but Fern? She last charted in 1961. Her best showing was 1916 at #152.

Notable Ferns are few. There was Fern Fitzgerald, the actress who appeared on Dallas as Marilee back in the 1970s. In the 1940s, the NHL’s Fernand Majeau of the Montreal Canadiens was known as Fern.

The Fern that you might think of is the (human) heroine of Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White’s novel about a barn spider’s efforts to save Wilbur the Pig from the butcher’s block. First published in 1952, it is a beloved tale. Fern Arable takes a backseat to the talking livestock, but she’s the one who first rescued the runt.

But is Fern ready to join the garden of girls? Other old lady appellations are back – for every Mikayla, there’s a Violet. And choices like Hazel, Iris and Ivy can rise through the rankings, is Fern such an outlandish choice?

Perhaps the challenge with Fern is that you’ll have to be willing to embrace her spare, tailored sensibility. Yes, you could call her Ferny, or possibly Fee. But there’s not much wiggle room with this choice. If you can overlook that, though, Fern could be ready for reconsideration.

Your macrame plant hanger, however, will still have to go.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. When I was little my mother wrote me letters in tiny writing pretending to be a fairy named Fernly (pron Fern-Leigh) who lived in our snowdrop flower patch. When I uncovered the truth I was shattered!
    Fern reminds me of that innocence and like my name you’d have extend it to create a nickname: I got Clareabell, she can have Fernly!

  2. Fern is not harsh, or country bumkin. Fern is a tall elegant person. A fresh radiance glows from her. She commands presence, because she is serene. She has beauty, and presence of mind. She may have a quirky name, but she doesn’t sound silly. I should know about Fern, as mine is a very lively 8 year old. In England we have two famous Fern’s, Fern Britton and Fearne Cotton. I prefer Fern spelling. No, nobody teases or bullies her about her name. People think Fern is one fantastic name. Differant, but good.

    1. I love your comment !!!! As I’m a Fern !! I was born in England and now I live in Australia , and no one gets it here and it is not common , most people assume my parents were hippies, but might I add their not well mum maybe a little. So your comment made me really appreciate my name as sometimes I have struggled especially since in Australia everyone has nick names and fern is a hard one to think of a nickname … However I don’t mind the the suggestion of “Fee” that one could go !!

    2. Love your comment! My name is Fern, too. Actually, my nickname but I’m Thai so my name is pretty long and kinda hard to remember. There’re lots and lots of girls with nickname ‘Fern’ here… I have about 6-7 friends whose nickname is Fern.
      When I’m abroad, I go with Fern and sometimes people were like ‘why?’…my reply is simple ‘my mom likes it’…I never know that it’s an old name.
      I used to hate it at one point because I’m tried of explaining why I’m FERN but at the end of the day, my mom likes the name so I cool with it 😀

      P.S. My host sister used to call me ‘Ferny Baby’ since she can’t shorten my name so she thinks that it’s better to make it longer…lol

  3. My husband and I did name our daughter Fern. She is six months old now and she knows her name well. Whenever someone asks her name and we tell them, they always comment. Fern? Why that? That’s an awesome name. So unusual. We ALWAYS have to repeat it, like they didn’t hear it the first time though. F-E-R-N. We wouldn’t change her name for the world but just be prepared to always have to explain where you got the name. People don’t ask when you say Hailey or Ava.

    1. I love the name Fern. I have a 15 month-old Pearl, and I always get the same reaction from people. They seem so shocked her name isn’t something like Riley.

  4. I am so in love with the name Fern but no one — not my husband, not my mother, no one else likes it. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I mentioned to people I was thinking about name her Fern, people laughed or screamed. We named her Gloria.