We’ve written about middle names before. But today, we’ve decided to offer a fairly simple list for your consideration.

While many of these are gender neutral, this list was compiled with girls in mind. For decades, parents have stuffed an unimaginative Anne or Lynne between the first and last names. More recently, Grace and Rose have become the most common answers to the riddle of the middle.

Many fabulous pairings do not require a single-syllable middle name. We love unexpected combinations like Mary Veronica or Alice Zenobia. But if you find that keeping it simple is more your style, read on.

Ranging from the unexpected to the somewhat predictable, why not consider:

  • Beach, Bay, Cay: For parents happiest down by the sea, or hoping to raise a surfer girl.
  • Belle, Elle: They’re overexposed as first names, true, but if you love them, tucking them in the middle is a nice way to preserve a favorite.
  • Blythe: It means joyful – and works much better than the dated Joy or Joyce.
  • Blair, Blake, Beau, Drew, Finn, Flynn: They’re all a bit boyish – Beau literally so! – but could compliment a frilly first name. Think Genevieve Blair or Cordelia Finn.
  • Bess, Bette, Bex, Liv, Nell, Tess: These nicknames would seem flimsy as a given name, but they can offer a fresh and unexpected twist in the middle.
  • Blue, Gray, Teal: A splash of color in the middle can perk up an otherwise common given name. Emma Blue stands out miles from Emma Rose.
  • Chance, Chase: Nouns and verbs are fair game these days, and these two single syllable choices work well in the middle.
  • Dree: While we find Bree horribly unappealing, Dree has some zip. Mariel Hemingway used it for her daughter, and Wookiepedia, the Star Wars Wiki, lists Dree as the name of a minor (male) character. It’s modern and interesting.
  • Dove, Pax, Paz: Three names that mean peace – Pax was the Roman goddess; Paz is the Spanish translation of the word; and a Dove, of course, is its well known symbol.
  • Fife, Fyfe: A Scottish place name that works well for boys and girls, Patrick Dempsey chose the “y” version as a middle name for his daughter, Talula.
  • Greer, Grier: Oscar-winning actress Greer Garson lends this name Hollywood glamour. Brooke Shields chose Grier for her second daughter.
  • Gwynne, Wynne: Both names are Welsh in origin and mean fair. Unlike Greer or Fyfe, these are soft enough to work with a less conventionally feminine first name. Think Hadley Wynne, for example.
  • Hue: This unexpected choice could be thought of in three different ways. It could be a feminine version of Hugh; the quintessential color name; or, a Vietnamese name pronounced Hway that means lily.
  • Jaye, Sian: While Jane is a bit plain, the boyish Jaye is a perkier choice. Sian – pronounced Shan – is the Welsh version of Jane. It’s more interesting than the expected, and far more sophisticated than Shea, Shay or Shane.
  • Joss: It brings to mind Bess or Tess, but has a more modern vibe than either of those gently old-fashioned options.
  • Jewel, Jin, Jules: These three middle name possibilities suggest precious gems and metals. Jewel is the most literal of the bunch. Jules merely hints at the idea, and with its masculine, French-friend appeal has other attributes to recommend it. While Jin might conjure up images of bottles, rummy or blue ruin, this spelling is actually a Chinese name, meaning gold.
  • Kai: Kay gave way to Kate, and now perhaps it’s time for both choices to step aside in favor of Kai, traditionally a Japanese boy’s name meaning ocean – and pronounced to rhyme with tie.
  • Lark, Wren: Depending on your perspective, an avian name is either charming or flu-inducing. These two bird names, along with Dove (see above) might make good choices for parents interested in a nature-inspired choice for their daughter.
  • Luz, Noor: Claire’s appeal as both a first and middle name is long established. In addition to its simple sound, Claire’s meaning – clear, bright – is an attractive one. The more exotic Noor is an Arabic name meaning light, and Luz is a Spanish version with the same meaning. They both make for good alternatives to Claire – though even so, that’s one choice that is not yet as overused as Grace or Rose.
  • Mair, Maire: A variant of Mary, Mair or Maire might be a twist on the overtaxed Marie, or it might be a great way to honor Great Aunt Mary Jo. Both spellings are fair game, but we advise you to stay away from Mare, as it is a bit too horsey to wear well on a child.
  • Maeve, Neve, Niamh – Maeve and Niamh are great Celtic choices for parents embracing their heritage. The first sounds like May with a “ve” at the end; the second like “Neev.” Neve is either the simplified spelling of the last name, or an Italian word meaning snow. The actress Neve Campbell popularized the pronunciation “Nehv.” It’s her mother’s maiden name.
  • Penn, Quinn, Reese, Tate, Tyne, Sloane: If surname choices are at the forefront of popular first names, there’s no reason they shouldn’t appear in the middle, too. This list is certainly not exhaustive – in fact, some of the best choices are probably home grown on your own family tree. Actress Amanda Peet named her daughter Frances Pen; but in her case, Pen honors her mother, Penny. One word of warning with surnames in the middle – if your child’s name looks like it could be a law firm, rethink. Madigan Sloane Hunter sounds more like it should have offices on Wall Street, not a desk at PS 102. And, of course, many surnames are also place names – the Tyne River in England, fashionable Sloane Square at the Tate Modern museum, both in London.
  • Scout: One of the few literary names on this list, Scout was, of course, the nickname for Jean Louise Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • Sage, Sky, Skye, Star, Rain: The well of nature names is deep, but these are among the most commonly heard. We can’t help feel that these are tricky to use. Giselle Rain is appealing; Amber Rain sounds like more like a sign of rampant pollution. Still, they’re worth considering.
  • Taj: A Sanskrit name used for boys, Taj means crown. Taja is the feminine version, but we can’t help think the simpler Taj would wear well as a girl’s middle name, especially when paired with a very simple given name – Elisabeth Taj, for example.
  • Tai: When spelled Ty, this is squarely a choice for boys. But Tai evokes the Vietnamese girl’s name meaning talent – and the very talented figure skater Tai Babilonia, herself the mother of a son called Scout.
  • True, Vrai: True is a more extreme version of popular virtue choices like Hope and Faith; Vrai – rhymes with way – is the word translated into French, making for an exotic choice.
  • Zan: It sounds like a twist on Jan, but in fact Zan is a Chinese girl’s name meaning support; favor; praise. Zan was also the (male) Wonder Twin. His sister was Jayna. But we’re willing to overlook that – as long as you stick this name in the middle.

Middle names might be seldom heard, but with all these fabulous options? We’re betting you’ll want your kiddo to get in trouble so you can call out their full name. 😉

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. There are a few there that I like
    One of the names that I actually love as a first name is Skye. I has such a clean, crisp sound. It sounds innocent and open-minded, without being a name that is good only for children. I find it a bit ridiculous when people say it’s a dog’s name. It’s in the top 100 in the UK and what are we supposed to name a pet – Fluffy,Buffy and Peek-A-Boo?

    I think middle name slots are also there for the parent to use those guilty pleasure (gp) names or those names that you might feel a bit too daring as a first. Middle names are not only reserved for honouring family

    I personally prefer it when people use a middle like the above mentioned ; it can SOMETIMES show a more open-mindedness.

    Overall, I think any of these are more intriguing middles – whether it is a vintage name like Blythe or Blue

  2. I like that Vietnamese names are being noticed more, or at least in this post. Though I might say that the pronounciations are slightly off, I do credit that it is quite hard to describe the sounds. This is a very nice list.

    1. Thanks, Amy – and if you have any thoughts on how to capture the pronunciations, please feel free to add them in the comments! I do sometimes try to split the difference between how a name should be pronounced and how it likely will be pronounced in the US, but I try to note that, too.

  3. Ah, my DD2’s mn is here! We settled for Iris Emilia Belle, but now I’m thinking I’d rather Iris Emilia Blythe and spelt her twin brother’s name the French variant of Sebastian! (-tien) Oh well!

  4. Abby, how about addressing Rose as a NotD? She’s awfully underused as a first.

  5. I adore Blythe and Wren. Those are two names I often suggest to others. They are soft enough (like Grace and Rose) to sound good with most first names.

    My fiance and I are probably going to use family names for our kids’ middle names, though we are planning to mix them up a bit. Our current favorite middle name choice is Anneliese (combination of our mothers’ overused middle names, Anne and Elisabeth).

  6. We’re boring. We’re going to use family names for middles: Kenneth, Margaret, Alan, and Jane. They’re better than Marie or Michael, but not a fun as Zenobia.