Head to any elementary school and you’ll find an Abigail or three – and yet you probably won’t find a single girl answering to this name.

Thanks to Sarah M. for suggesting Abby’s other half as Name of the Day: Gail.

Between 1937 and 1961, Gail was a Top 100 choice. Nickname forms often follow their more formal versions up the charts. But during the same era, Abigail rarely appeared in the US Top 1000.

Today, the situation is reversed. Abigail ranks in the Top Ten, while Gail left the charts entirely after 1986.

In nature, a gale is a strong, gusting wind – the kind that prompts meteorologists to issue advisories. According to the Beaufort scale, gales are stronger than a breeze and just a bit more mild than a storm. It might not be the image that you imagine for a child’s name, even though it might be fitting during the toddler years.

So is there a case for bestowing Gail as an independent name?

Abigail clearly comes from the Hebrew – the first element refers to father and the second to joy, so the common definition given is “my father is joy.” Most sites simply list Gail as a nickname.

But the meteorological term has different roots. It could trace back to words that mean furious, intense, even bewitched. Or it might trace back to the Old English galan – to sing – as in the nightingale.

Gail can also be linked to the word gala, which comes from galer, to make merry.

Throw in the fictional Dorothy Gale of Kansas, heroine of the Wizard of Oz, and the name takes on a literary, adventurous feel – and a surname vibe, too. From the 1930s through the 1970s, Gale ranked for girls and boys.

Besides Dorothy, there are a few other notable bearers of the name:

  • Top Chef features Gail Simmons of Food & Wine Magazine;
  • The cast of British soap Coronation Street has included character Gail Platt since 1974;
  • Gale Gordon got his start in radio. After making a splash in classics like Fibber McGee and Molly and Flash Gordon, he moved to television, eventually playing Theodore J. Mooney opposite Lucille Ball on The Lucy Show;
  • Hollywood gives us Gale Sondergaard (born Edith), remembered for winning the first ever Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, back in 1936;
  • Honor Blackman played the confident, leather-clad Dr. Cathy Gale on The Avengers in the 1960s;
  • Country crooner Crystal Gayle lends the name a musical edge.

While Gail’s Baby Boomer credentials are against her, she could fit right in with popular picks like Brooke and Paige, as well as emerging options like Blair and Sloane.

She’s simple, breezy and stands on her own surprisingly well.

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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


  1. Gael Garcia Bernal is a [male] Mexican actor that a couple of my girlfriends are rather infatuated with. I know it’s not actually the same name, but it’s certainly similar.

  2. Gail is my grandmother’s name, and one I’ve often thought of using for a middle name. I’m tempted to use Abigail in honor of her, because I find Abigail easier to pair in combos then the short Gail. I also live and grew up in Kansas, so I’m very surrounded by the Wizard of Oz Dorothy Gale fame. All in all, I like this name!

  3. I like the simplicity of Gail and the Gayle spelling too. I’m thinking it might make a good compromise name for couples considering Jane, Kate, May, Sage or Paige as either a first or middle name. Personally, I think it makes for a good first name.

  4. Thanks for posting this! Gail (and its various spellings) has really grown on me. I think we’re going to use this in the mn position. We have a tradition now of giving nature-type names that have double meanings for our daughters’ mn. We have mn’s Raine and Skye, so I think Gail (Gale? Gayle?) will fit in nicely with that. I love seeing the history of the name and think it would wear nicely on a lil’ girl. Dorothy Gale is a great association (just don’t get me started on singing, I love Wizard of Oz songs!)

  5. I knew a Gail as a kid, she lived down the street from my Grandmother. Awesome chick she was. Lost track of her bewtween summers 12 & 13. No clue what happened to her.

    So I have a soft spot for Gail. Or even Gale or Gael but not Gayle (too surnamey). I think it’s simple, sweet and pretty. I LOVE the Dorothy Gale assocation! Funnily enough, while I have a dislike of Abigail (I rememeber it’s older assocation of “lady’s personal maid”) Might have to do with my love of all things Medieval to Victorian but it’s there alright. But Gail by herself? Sweet!

  6. Oprah’s bff is also called Gail (or maybe Gayle). This name is so 1950s for me and in a dated way, not it a cool retro way (plus I know a vintage Gail who did not leave the most favorable impression). It’s not for me.

  7. What about a connection to the word Gael? I know two Irish-American Gails in their 50s or 60s. With sisters named Kathleen and Colleen and brothers Patrick, their names definitely have a connection to their heritage!

    I’ve always loved my Aunt Gail’s name. And while Abigail is adorable, I would never use it myself… I love your connection to Dorothy Gale – that really perks it ups!