Crushed to find that your favorite name tops the popularity charts? Never fear! Beginning this month, we’re looking at alternatives to the most popular names in the US.
We’ll start with names like Emma.
Emma combines the literary might of Jane Austen’s unforgettable heroine with a short, simple sound.
The name has never left the US Top 500. In fact, Emma reigned as a Top Ten favorite back in the late nineteenth century. Now it belongs to the elite sorority of #1 names for girls in the US.
Names like Emma should be strong, straightforward, and familiar. A literary patina helps, but might not be required. Happily, there are plenty of candidates.
Not convinced that any of these names substitutes for Emma? I think there are plenty of good reasons to use a very popular name – yup, even the #1 name in the US.
But if you’d like to look for names like Emma that are slightly – or much, much – less common, this list is for you!
Names Like Emma: Cora
Cora ranks in the current US Top 100, but at #88 it’s not anywhere near the #1 name – yet.
The Last of the Mohicans makes Cora literary. If Emma got a boost from Gwyneth Paltrow’s star turn as Jane Austen’s heroine, Cora received a similar bump from Downton Abbey’s dignified, but warm Lady Grantham, played so masterfully by Elizabeth McGovern.
Plenty of Cora names – like Cordelia and Coraline – have gained in recent years. But for simple sophistication, nothing beats Cora.
Names Like Emma: Lila
The downside to Lila is that plenty of names sound just like Lila. Layla and Lily come close. And there’s more than one possible spelling of Lila, too.
Still, don’t rule out the #199 name in the US for girls. Lila claims roots in Sanskrit and Arabic, but sounds very much at home in the US. If you’re torn between the traditional Emma and names with more pan-global flair, Lila might satisfy.
Names Like Emma: Jane
Can you think Emma without thinking Jane Austen? I can’t! And so maybe it’s inevitable that Jane appears on this list.
Tailored Jane belongs to accomplished women in many fields. Science gives us Jane Goodall; there’s also activist Jane Addams; actresses like Kaczmarek, Curtin, Wyman, Fonda, and Lynch; and, of course, the folk hero Calamity Jane to name just a few.
Spare, simple Jane evolved as a feminine form of John, but has never reached the same heights of popularity. Today the name stands at #288.
Names Like Emma: Ada
Ada Lovelace makes a talented namesake. Both Ada and Emma sound capable, the kind of names that wear well on children or corporate executives.
But there’s something else the names have in common: a certain sweetness, maybe. They’re equally at home in the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries alike.
Ada currently ranks #357, making it a great, underused alternative to Emma.
Names Like Emma: Willa
I mentioned that names like Emma might be literary. American author Willa Cather more than satisfies that measure. Like Ada, Willa also shares a gentle, vintage vibe, without sacrificing any strength.
Willa ranks #481, far under radar compared to Emma.
Names Like Emma: Greta
Emma’s strength lies in the name’s ability to be flexible and nickname-proof at the same time. I think the same is true for Greta. At first glance, Greta is a girl’s name, charming and innocent. But Greta Garbo lends it some serious sophistication. And it’s hard to argue that any name derived from classic Margaret lacks strength.
Greta currently stands at #573.
Names Like Emma: Esme
Most of the names like Emma share a two-syllable, ends-in-a pattern. Esme breaks the mold, sound-wise, but it retains many of the same qualities. JD Salinger made Esme literary. And while the sound is more complex, it’s still short and complete.
Esme stands at #682, far rarer than Emma.
Names Like Emma: Martha
Maybe Martha feels like a stretch. The First Lady name last appeared in the US Top 100 in the 1960s. It has mostly slid towards obscurity since then.
But Emma cooled in the 1950s, and followed a similar decline in use in the 1960s and 70s. So why couldn’t Martha also reverse course?
As with so many names like Emma, the reason Martha makes the list is that antique appeal. The name could belong to a little girl in a white pinafore in a black and white picture. Fanciful, perhaps. But we never tire of reviving vintage names. And Martha also belongs to many an accomplished woman, making it just as wearable as Emma.
The name currently ranks Number 791
Names Like Emma: Emmeline
At #809 and #900, it’s not clear if Emmeline or Emmaline will prove more popular. But if you’ve vexed by Emma’s chart-topping rise, choosing a longer form might be an alternative.
The downside? Should you shorten Emmeline to Emma, your daughter’s name still blends in. Or maybe that’s the upside, because a common nickname paired with an unconventional formal name might be a winning strategy.
Names Like Emma: Della
Della doesn’t make the current US Top 1000, but it feels like a viable replacement for Emma. It regularly appeared in the rankings through the 1970s. Last summer, singer-songwriter Billy Joel welcomed a daughter named Della Rose.
If you’re looking for names like Emma that are truly unexpected, darling Della might belong on your list.
Are there more names like Emma that belong on this list? I feel like I could have added ten more!