15 popular girl names and name meanings

From Ava to Olivia and beyond, here are some of the most popular girl names today and what they mean.

girl names

When baby name trend trackers write about the top names of the twenty-first century, their job gets pretty easy when it comes to the top girls' names. The list of top girl names has remained surprisingly stable in the past two decades. No dark horses, no surprises—just Emma (and her lovely soundalikes Emily and Amelia) and Olivia (and her pretty cousins Ava and Evelyn), vying for the top.

Here are some of the most popular girl names today and what they mean.


Abigail is a Hebrew name for girls meaning "my father's joy." The name Abigail has a sweet vintage vibe as well as a serious pedigree: Two First Ladies have been named Abigail, and the Abigail of the Bible was the beautiful, intelligent wife of King David. Abigail's charming nickname Abby makes it a versatile and appealing name for a little girl. Abigail has ranked in the top 20 names for girls since the early 2000s.


Amelia is a German name with the meaning "hard working." This delicate and pretty name has a hard-working Germanic root, amal, meaning "work," suggestive of fertility and productivity. Amelia's nickname Amy is a popular choice in her own right, and both have a classic feel and a long history. Parents inspired by the determination and adventurousness of Amelia Earhart love the name Amelia for their daughters.


Ava is a girls' name of Latin origin that means "life." Calling to mind the great silver screen beauty Ava Gardner, Ava is a name associated with elegance and charm, and has been chosen by a number of celebrity parents for their daughters, from Reese Witherspoon to Hugh Jackman.

Ava shot straight into the top 5 names for girls in the 2010s from relative obscurity and shows no sign of slowing down—it is currently ranked #3 and is predicted to land the #1 spot before the end of the 2020s.


Charlotte is a French name signifying "freedom," and the feminine form of the name Charles, which means "a free man." Charlotte has been the name of queens, princesses, authors (most famously, Charlotte Bronte) and a certain beloved, wise spider from the classic E.B. White novel for young readers, Charlotte's Web.

After a lengthy period in which Charlotte was relatively underused as a girls' name, graceful Charlotte leapt into the top 10 in the early 2010s and is now ranked #6.


Chloe is a girls' name meaning "a young green shoot," and was the springtime name of the ancient Greek goddess of fertility Demeter. A classic name that peaked in popularity in the early 2000s, Chloe has now begun trending downward slightly in the ranks.

Notable women named Chloe include the actress Chloe Grace Moretz, the Kardashian sister Khloe, and (surprise!) award-winning author Toni Morrison, who was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford.


Elizabeth is a girls' name of Hebrew origin meaning "pledged to God." Elizabeth has the honor of being the most consistently popular name for girls in America, never dropping below #30 in the Social Security rankings since 1880. Elizabeth is also, of course, the name of two of the most famous female monarchs ever to live, as well as the classic screen beauty Elizabeth Taylor.

Elizabeth's durability as a name stems in part from its versatility. There are so many cute nicknames for Elizabeth, it always manages to feel fresh, from modern variants Eliza and Liz to the so-vintage-they're-cool-again Betsy, Betty, Bess and Libby.


Ella is a newly popular girls' name with a variety of origin stories and meanings. In Hebrew, Ella means "goddess." Ella's Germanic roots give it the meaning "fairy maiden." Meanwhile, in Scandinavian and English-speaking countries Ella is also a shortened form of feminine names beginning in "El" such as Ellen and Eleanor.

Ella rose to popularity in the 2000s and is now ranked #15 among girls names in the U.S., aided by the bestselling young adult novel Ella Enchanted as well as by the jazzy, vintage appeal of namesake Ella Fitzgerald.


Emily is a girls' name of Latin origin meaning "industrious." Emily was the highest ranked name for girls for over 10 years from 1996 to 2007, and carries a high literary pedigree thanks to novelist Emily Bronte and poet Emily Dickinson.

While recently Emma has replaced Emily on top of the popularity list, Emily has an appealing, old-fashioned feel that keeps it a classic.


Emma is a German name for girls meaning "universal." It has been the top girls' name in the U.S. for four years running (although Olivia looks poised to unseat Emma in 2020). Beloved for its simplicity and strength, as well as its association with heroines from Jane Austen's Emma to Emma Bovary to Emma Peel of the Avengers, Emma is also the name of a number of widely-respected actresses (Stone, Thompson, Watson) as well as Ross and Rachel's baby on Friends.


Evelyn is an English version of the French name "Aveline" meaning "wished-for child." While Evelyn was wildly popular in the 1910s and 1920s, it had fallen out of style until its revival in the 2010s, as a sweet vintage variation of other trending girls' names like Ava, Eva, and Avery.

Evelyn's cool factor is heightened by the fact that it's one of the original gender-neutral names—in fact the most famous Evelyn is author Evelyn Waugh, who was married to a woman named Evelyn.


Isabella is the Spanish and Latinate version of the name Elizabeth, which itself is derived from the Hebrew for "pledged to God." Romantic and distinguished, Isabella was the name of the powerful Spanish queen who sponsored the exploration of the Americas as well as the heroine of the Twilight books (which were responsible at least in part for the huge resurgence of the name Isabella in the 2000s).

With its regal and international appeal, Isabella is a favorite among parents looking for an elegant name for their daughter that also has cute and energetic nicknames, like Izz, Izzy, Bella and Belle.


Madison is an English name meaning "son of Maud" or "son of Matthew," and was originally a surname. In the 1984 movie Splash, the main character, a romantic, plucky mermaid, christens herself Madison after seeing a sign for Madison Avenue, and within ten years the name Madison as a given name for girls was a sleeper hit.

That said, today's parents are less likely to be obsessed with self-actualized mermaids and more likely to be attracted to Madison because it's gender-neutral, has a "place value," like newly-popular given names Brooklyn, London and Paris, and is a "soundalike" of trendy names like Addison, Madelyn and Mason. Madison peaked at #3 in the 2000s but remains in the top 20.


Olivia is a girls' name of Latin origin meaning "olive tree," an ancient symbol of friendship and peace. As Nameberry notes, Olivia first rose to prominence as a girls' name in the 14th century when Shakespeare used it for one of the heroines of Twelfth Night. Olivia is currently the #2 girls' name in the U.S. and is popular in other countries as well, including Scotland, England, Australia and New Zealand.

Olivia is a strong, feminine name with sweet nicknames like Livvie and Liv, and a host of famous namesakes from Olivia de Havilland to Olivia Wilde. Olivia is also one of the most popular names for celebrity daughters: Denzel Washington, Al Pacino and Tom Hanks all have Olivias in the family.


Mia is the Scandinavian short form of the name Maria, and also the Italian word for "mine." Streamlined but feminine, Mia has emerged as a fresh alternative for parents who want something simpler than Isabella or Olivia but also more modern than classics like Mary, Maya or Nina.

Mia came out of nowhere in the 2010s to debut in the top 10 girls names, thanks in part to a number of high-profile pop culture Mias, from the heroine of The Princess Diaries to the tough-girl Mias of Pulp Fiction and the Fast and the Furious franchise.


Sophia is a Greek name that means "wisdom." Sophia was the #1 girls' name for much of the early 2010s, and it remains a top choice for parents wanting to bestow a name that signifies intelligence and grace on their little girls.

Sophia has a sophisticated and international appeal that gives it extra staying power, with popular variants that include the French Sophie, the Italian Sofia and the up-and-coming modernization Zofia.

Create a school-ready capsule wardrobe for your kids

Dress for success whether virtual learning or in the classroom!

Tina Meeks

Going "back to school" this year may be less of a literal statement than in years past—but there is just as much reason for your kids to celebrate moving on to new grades. Just like in every new school year, a big part of the fun is refreshing your kids' wardrobe with clothes that allow them to express themselves.

Even if finding back to school clothes this year doesn't include a trip to the mall, you can still make an event of it by shopping H&M's kids collection from your computer. Pull up another chair for your shopping buddy and get the cart started with these fave capsule wardrobe options we've already scouted.

Here are our favorite picks:

A t-shirt made for play

H&M t-shirt

Call them essentials, not basics. A graphic t-shirt aces the test when it comes to being perfect for school. And because your little student will probably want to wear something that expresses their personal style as often as possible, it's great to know the shirts can stand up to school time, playtime, downtime and everything in between!


Dressed-up casual shorts for total comfort

H&M boy shorts

Whether pulling up a chair for a virtual meeting with the class or heading back to the school for in-person learning, some comfortable, yet stylish, shorts will help your kid focus on the real tasks at hand: learning—and having fun while doing it!


Layers for when seasons change

H&M sweatshirt

When it comes to feeling comfortable at school, layers are the MVPs. Whether the AC is blasting or the day started off cool and is warming up quickly, having a unique sweatshirt to shed or add will help your kid look cool while staying warm.


A bit of flair with distressed denim

H&M distressed jeans

A school staple for generations, denim is both classic and continually fashionable with updates like distressing and new wash colors. If you're shopping online for jeans this year, take note of H&M's generous return policy—your kids can try on the orders at home and return anything that doesn't fit without a trip to the store.


A fashion statement piece

H&M girls skirt

What's better than expressing yourself through a stylish outfit when school is back in session? Still feeling perfectly comfortable and ready to tackle anything the day holds while looking so good. With so many fashion-forward looks available at budget-friendly prices, H&M's children's collection means every kid can find an outfit that speaks to them.


Some comfy kicks

H&M boys shoes

A sure way to put a little pep in your child's step this year, cool and cozy shoes are a staple on all back-to-school shopping lists for good reason. (Plus, it's fun to compare them to last year's shoes to see how much your kid has grown!)


Anything-but-basic blouses

H&M girls blouse

Whether in the classroom or showing up for a video call with the class, a styling blouse or button-down shirt is a great way for your student to comfortably dress up the day. Better yet? Style doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort with so many made-to-move tops designed just for kids.


A shirt ready to go whatever the day holds

H&M boys shirt

With "going to school" meaning anything from showing up in the classroom to doing a virtual session, it's important to have clothes that are perfect for anything the day holds. A classic, cotton shirt with a fashion-forward design is a great way to keep your student feeling ready to start the year with an A+ attitude.


This article was sponsored by H&M. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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