If there’s a Name Nerd Code of Conduct, giving a masculine name to a daughter is definitely a violation. Most surname names tend to be ceded to Team Blue.
But despite objections voiced on name forums everywhere, parents continue to embrace surname names for girls. From invented andro-girly choices (think Anastyn or Graycen) to names like Madison and Kennedy that are used almost exclusively for our daughters, no amount of wishing will make it go away. And I’m not convinced that it is a disaster.
Instead, a few fascinating things about the trend:
- Southern families have passed down surnames without regard to gender for generations. It doesn’t matter if the surname feels like a conventional given name, either. I once met a girl named Lawless, her grandmother’s maiden name. I’ve also known families who choose the name long before they find out the gender. It’s quite egalitarian, I think.
- The tendency to go nickname-free can encourage the use of unconventional names for our daughters. Harrison is handsome, but somehow a girl called Harrie is a little bit off. If you’re the kind of family who prefers to use names in full, that’s not an obstacle. I’ve known girls named Tucker, Jordan, and Ryan – all nickname-free.
- Most of us won’t bestow family names that don’t have some history of use as a given name. Wagner and Jimenez are very common last names, but I doubt you’ll meet children answering to those names anytime soon.
- Fictional characters can make us think of a name as feminine – Sutton and Sloane both come to mind.
- There doesn’t seem to be a tie between parents’ aspirations for their daughters and those who embrace the trend. You’re just as likely to see a frilly, extravagantly pink nursery for Mckenna or sparkly first birthday invitations for Princess Jameson. While some parents might choose the names in an attempt to raise strong daughters, most of us just like the sounds.
But what really intrigues are the large numbers of surname names where the first (or sometimes second) syllable contains a conventionally feminine sound. Madison and Addison lead to Maddie and Addie. It’s the best of both worlds – a friendly, feminine short form that says girl, paired with a tailored, gender-neutral given name.
In some cases, the first syllable leans feminine, but the nickname is no longer fashionable: Patterson leads to Patty, but Patty is the grandma. And Sheri is your mom, so Sheridan is less likely to be a top contender.
So what are the names that seem most likely to be embraced?
Surnames Names for Girls: Getting to Abby
Abbott – If Abigail is hot, how about Abbott?
Abingdon, Abington – More place name than surname, this makes the list thanks to the other ends-with-ton possibilities coming up farther down the alphabet.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Addie
Adair – One of my personal favorites, it’s originally related to Edgar, but makes me think of Dead Like Me’s Daisy Adair.
Addison – Madison’s successful spin-off.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Annie
Anderson – You could choose Andi as a short form, but Andrea’s heyday has past.
Aniston, Anniston – As in Jennifer from Friends. Her dad came to the US from Greece, where his surname was originally Anastasakis.
Annesley – There are oodles of Ainsley-like names, but this one leads most directly to Annie.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Bella
Bellamy – The Novogratz design family gave this name to a daughter.
Campbell – Emmy-winning news anchor Campbell Brown – born Alma Dale Campbell Brown – put this choice on the map for girls. She could just as easily lead to the nickname Cammie.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Callie
Calderon – A place name with Spanish roots and a nature name vibe.
Calder – On my boys’ short list, but in our Harper-Piper era, not unthinkable for a girl.
Callahan – I actually love Callahan for a boy, a great way to get to Cal.
Callan – An Irish surname that’s awfully close to Colin.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Cammie
Cameron – Respelled and girlified as Camryn and Kameryn, the original version has strength – and Hollywood allure, thanks to actress Cameron Diaz.
Camden – A fast-rising place name for boys, the Cam sound could make this one a crossover, an edgier choice than Camille.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Carly, Carlie
Carlisle, Carlyle – I like the idea of this surname for a girl. Like Sinclair or Sloane, it just reads feminine to me.
Carlton – I still think Fresh Prince of Bel Air when I hear Carlton, but this surname could lead to Carly.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Carrie
Carrillo – We often stick to English-Irish surnames for our children, but there are tons of names from other origins that work just as well.
Carrington – She’s gained for girls in recent years, and this one still retains some of the glitter of the fictional family from Dynasty.
Carroll – With rumors that Will and Kate are considering this name as a middle for a future princess, could Carol and company get a boost? Carroll is a surname form also worn as a masculine given name.
Carson – A Top 100 pick for boys, Carson gained momentum for girls in the late 1990s. Today it has leveled off.
Carter – Wildly popular for boys, and occasionally heard for girls, too.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Ellie
Ellery – It’s related to the very dated Hilary, but is far less expected.
Ellington – A jazzy surname choice.
Elliot, Elliott – Scrubs gave this name to a girl.
Ellis – Sounds an awful lot like the girls’ classic Alice.
Ellison – If Ellis brings to mind Alice, then Ellison is just a letter away from the popular Allison.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Emme, Emmie, Emmy
Embry – If Ashley opens the door for Ashby, does Emery’s success boost Embry?
Emerson – One of the names at the forefront of the trend, actress Teri Hatcher gave the name to a daughter back in 1997.
Emery – A sister for Avery, Emery is one of the fastest-rising names on this list.
Emmett – Could a girl answer to Emmett? Maybe … it’s almost a smoosh between Emma and Juliet.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Evie
Evans – With choices like Ames and Brooks on the books for boys, could we hears Evans in use?
Everly – Along with Reverie, this name has a sound that could be white hot.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Gracie
Grayson – Add an “n” to Grace, and you have Gracen. Or Graycen. Either way, suddenly this feels feminine.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Haddie, Hattie
Hadley, Hatley – Thanks to Hadley Hemingway, Hadley reads feminine.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Holly
Holland – A place name put on the map as a girls’ name thanks to actress Holland Taylor.
Hollis – Like Ellis, this sounds like a crossover possibility.
Hollister – This might be more of a contender, if not for the Abercrombine spin-off brand.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Jamie
Jameson, Jamison – If Jamie if a mainstream choice for girls, why not these surname forms?
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Kenzie
Kensington – I’ve seen this one respelled Kenzington to get to Kenzie, but Kensie works just fine, too.
Mackenzie – One of the grandmothers of the surname names for girls movement, still seeing plenty of use in 2013.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Keri
Kerrington – Carrington’s cousin, with the letter K as a bonus.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Lexie
Lexington – Southern city meets the popular Alexandra nickname.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Maddie
Maddox – It is hard to imagine Madden or Maddox on a girl, except for the über-popular Maddie connection.
Madigan – Now this is a name that I love, with her romantic connections to the tragic Elvira Madigan. Except is it really different enough from Madison?
Madison – One of the names at the forefront of the trend, thanks to a mermaid and the popularity of Allison.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Maggie
Maguire – If Margaret is too staid for your tastes, how about Maguire?
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Tillie
Tilden – Matilda is the obvious route to Tillie, but this surname option works, too.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Tru
Truett, Truitt – This name makes me think of Chick-fil-A. The average Tru is more likely to be a Truly.
Surname Names for Girls: Getting to Winnie
Windsor – Very British royal. Maybe too much so.
Winslet – As in Kate, part of the next wave of Hollywood surname names.
Winslow – As charming as Harlow and Marlowe, but far less common.
Would you use any of these names? Do the feminine short forms influence your opinion?
Original photo credit: Beverly & Pack via Flickr