Ellington, Anniston, Hollis: Surname Names for Girls

Ellington Aniston Hollis

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, ElliottScrubs 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

TildenMatilda 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

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How about something like Kensington (also after a place) nn Kensie maybe? I think kensie and denali sound beautiful together!
But then again if u are completely against another “i” or “y” ending maybe…

Hope I helped!

You know I love Ellis!! It’s still near the top for me. Holland is another top contender. I wish I could get my husband on board with Hollis, I really love it too.

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You wrote
Carlton – I still think Fresh Prince of Bel Air when I hear Carlton, but this surname could lead to Carly.

I guess I’m showing my age. That name immediately makes me think of “This is Carlton… your doorman(?)” from the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

I have been obsessed with last names for first names for quite some time- and I especially love the idea of a more unisex or masculine name for a girl as well. Every name I have picked out is a surname name so it was so great reading this one. My daughters name is Kennedy and these are the other names I have picked out.

Girls: Parker, Callahan, Raleigh, Collins
Boys: Sawyer, Cohen, Beckett, Cullen (though I can’t get over the Twilight feel of this one)

Great list, Nicolina131 – thank you for sharing! My all-time favorite surname name for girls has to be Sloane. I blame Princess Diana and Ferris Bueller. 🙂

LOVE your list – I have them on mine!!!

I agree with you on the Cullen-thing, but I really like this name so I would probably use it anyway. 🙂

If Cullen get’s too Twilight for you… I think Callum is a suitable alternative. 🙂 It’s one of those names on my short list.

Just a quick note: you could also use Lennox to get to Lexie and it is a lovely tipoff to The Secret Garden’s Mary Lennox and British singer Annie Lennox.

This is basically my list! Carlisle has been a favorite of mine for a while.

Other surnamey trends I love are Spencer, Austin, and Tatum for the girls.

A couple of these are nice, but a couple are definitely making me cringe. I don’t like this idea of using a cutesy/girly nickname though as a way to make the surname/boy name more acceptable or usable on a girl. If you want to call her something girly, then give her a girly name. If you like the sound of a surname on a girl, then use the surname.. not some silly, cutesy nickname.

My MIL’s maiden name is Evans and I always wanted to have a little girl named Evans, nicknamed Evie. Unfortunately my my BIL and SIL beat me to it and had an Eva.

Madigan is in my family tree and I think it would work to get to Maggie as well.

I know a Sheridan and a Sloane (girls) under five. I grew up with a Padgett in the south, but I have no idea if it was actually a family name.

I’d probably give my eye teeth for a Lawless in the family tree.

I have always loved Hadley! There was a girl in my high school a few years ahead of me named Hadley and she wore the name well. I also had a high school English teacher who had a daughter named Emerson; clearly named for Emerson Thoreau. As an Emerson my self (and a fan of the nickname Emmy) I found it to be brilliant. Surprisingly I also like the sound of Lexington I never thought of that one as a name.

You mean Ralph Waldo Emerson? 🙂 Henry David Thoreau was his contemporary. I come across so many Emersyns these days, and I have to admit it’s a major pet-peeve of mine to see a writer’s name “feminized” with that awful y! Like saying you named your daughter Bronteigh after Charlotte Bronte or something.

Winslet would be the only one of these I might consider. Then there’s also Callaway for Callie and Hathaway for Hattie.

I’ve liked Padgett “Jett” for a boy, but the name could work easily for a girl too.

A friend of a friend has a daughter, Addleton “Addie.” I thought it was interesting when I heard it but I dislike the Addle- part because it reminds me of “addled brains” and Addleton could literally mean City of Confusion.

I like most of the Ellie, Emmy & Evie choices and Madigan nn Maddie is just adorable!
Tilden nn Tillie & Truitt nn Tru are some more inspired choices.

Embry is on our list for a girl. I really, really loved Gears of War 3, and spent a lot of time trying to earn the Embry star medal. I’d like to add it to the boy list, but fiance thinks it sounds to feminine. I don’t think that the Twilight character would sway him either. :p

I loved Dead Like Me. However, Adair makes me think of My Sweet Audrina, one of the craziest of VC Andrews’s original novels.

Abbott will always be Costello’s pal. Sorry, can’t get over that one.

Hadley is my guilty pleasure. Once I read The Paris Wife, I was hooked on Hadley.

Sheridan would be another contender, but it is soooo unrealistic to expect my husband to ever use it. And I wouldn’t push the issue.

I’m still not convinced this trend is for me.