31 popular girl names and the meanings that make each special

From Olivia to Charlotte and beyond, here are some of the most popular girl names today and their meanings.

baby-girl

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 girl names. The list of popular girl names has remained surprisingly stable in the past two decades. No dark horses, no surprises—just tried and true classic girl names like Amelia and Charlotte vying for the top alongside "newer" more modern names like Arya and Isla. So whether choosing a popular girl name tops your list of pregnancy to do's or you plan to wait until you meet your little one to choose her name, when the decision is made it will feel so right that you'll wonder how you could ever have considered anything else.

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


Harper

Of English origin meaning "harp player", it's hard not to think of Harper Lee when you hear this name. The "To Kill a Mockingbird" author brought this family name into the public consciousness in the 1960s. Flash forward to 2015 when it first entered the Top 10 girls name lists, and it has stayed there ever since (it didn't hurt when Victoria and David Beckham named their little girl Harper in 2011).

Avery

While seen most often as a girls' name, Avery is actually a really lovely unisex name as well. Meaning "ruler of the elves", this sprite-like name originated in the Middle Ages and is of English and French origin. While it's been floating around for the past several decades, the name has increased in popularity in recent years, as it provides a fresh alternative to uber-popular Ava.

Camila

An exotic name growing in popularity, Camila is derived from Latin, meaning "young ceremonial attendant". The Spanish Camila name is pronounced ka-MEE-la, not to be confused with the British version, Camilla, ka-MIL-la. If you are a fan of pop music, you're likely know Camila Cabello, who used her first name for her debut album. Camila also has the added bonus of a great nickname build in: Mila.

Amelia/Emilia

Amelia is a German name that means "hard working." The Germanic root of this delicate and pretty name, amal, means "work," and is suggestive of fertility and productivity. Parents inspired by the determination and adventurousness of Amelia Earhart love the name Amelia for their daughters. My daughter's name is Amelia, but we actually came about it in a funny way. My husband and I both liked the nickname "Millie" and looked for a proper name that used it as a nickname. Vetoing Millicent and Mildred, we saw Amelia was next on the list and loved it!

Charlotte

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, she leapt into the Top 10 in the early 2010s and is currently at #6 in popularity, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA) as of 2019.

Aurora

Of Latin origin meaning "dawn", Aurora was the name of the Roman goddess of sunrise. Perhaps your child will be an early riser with this name? Aurora is also associated with the Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, as well as the enchanting princess from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Between a goddess, princess and gorgeous natural phenomenon, it's hard to go wrong with this one.

Violet

The name Violet's popularity has slowly risen over the years, finally cracking the top 50 list for the first time in 2015. A celebrity favorite, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck chose the name Violet for their first child. Meaning "purple" and of English origin, it's one of the prettier flower-themed names out there, and the color purple itself has been associated with royalty for centuries. While I do tend to think of Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (who wasn't the sweetest of characters), I can see why this pretty name has climbed in popularity over the years.

Olivia/Alivia

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 #1 girls' name in the U.S. (according to the SSA as of 2019) and is popular in other countries as well, including parts of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Olivia is a strong, feminine name with sweet nicknames like Livvie and Liv, and a host of famous namesakes (actress Olivia Wilde comes to mind).

Ava

Ava is a girls' name of Latin origin that means "life." 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 (despite Ava Gardner, a famous actress in the 1940s and 50s) and shows no sign of slowing down—it is currently ranked as #3 girls' name and is predicted to land the #1 spot before the end of the 2020s.

Aria/Arya

The name Aria is a girl's name of Hebrew (meaning lion) and Italian (meaning air, song or melody) origin. For the musically inclined, I definitely think most of Aria's literal meaning, air, which is a musical term denoting a kind of song or melody in opera. Aria first entered the scene in 2000 and has risen steadily in popularity over the years. Game of Thrones fans will be particularly interested in the name, thanks to the young heroine Arya Stark.

Luna

The name Luna means "moon" and is of Italian origin, stemming from the Roman goddess of the moon. Luna is often depicted driving a chariot in Roman art, and is a popular name for fans of Harry Potter who may be influenced by the character, Luna Lovegood. While this may seem like a more "new age" name, Luna has actually been around since the turn of the 20th century. Often ranked number one on Nameberry internal charts, it has a solid place in the top 20 most popular girl names. So popular, in fact, that celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, and Penelope Cruz and Javier Barden picked Luna for their little girls.

Isla

Of Spanish and Scottish origin, the name Isla means "island" in Spanish. This top girls name is part of a growing trend of classic, old-fashioned names and is also popular in Europe, particularly England, Wales and Scotland. You may think of the actress Isla Fisher, too? Names that end in "a" tend to be popular: Ava, Ada, Ella, Emma… the list goes on!

Hazel

The name Hazel is a girl's name of English origin meaning "the hazelnut tree". I think it's fair to say Julia Roberts helped bring this old-fashioned name back into popularity when she named one of her twins Hazel in 2004, and it has maintained a place on popularity lists ever since. Most recently, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski named one of their daughters Hazel. This botanical and nature-inspired name is really quite pretty. And while it can be found in literature periodically, the most influential Hazel of recent years is the heroine of John Green's Fault in Our Stars.

Scarlett

This may seem obvious, but the name Scarlett means "red" and is of English origin. According to Nameberry, the word is thought to derive from the Arabic siklāt, referring to silks dyed with kermes. Among them, the fanciest color was scarlet red. Scarlett is also one of the most popular girls' names starting with S, right up there with Saylor and Savannah. While some might immediately think of Scarlett O'Hara from the movie Gone With the Wind, these days actress Scarlett Johansson is top of mind.

Maeve

A popular name in Ireland and now in the United States, Maeve means "she who intoxicates". The name appears in Irish mythology in two forms, one as the powerful warrior Queen of Connacht, and the other as the Queen of the fairies. According to Nameberry, Maeve "makes an excellent first or middle name choice, with more character and resonance than Mae/May and more modern charm than Mavis." You be the judge.

Nora/Norah

Another name of Irish origin tops popular names for girls list: Nora. Meaning "light", Nora has two separate origin stories, and is said to be a derivative of both Honora (based on the Latin word honor) and Eleanor (a shorter form of Eleanora).

This lovely name (another ending in "a") has only grown in popularity over the years. I think immediately of author and screenwriter Nora Ephron, and singer Norah Jones

Sophia/Sofia

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 give their child a name that signifies intelligence and grace on their little girls.

Sophia has a sophisticated and international appeal that gives it extra staying power (I'm thinking of Sophia Loren) with popular variants that include the French Sophie and the Italian Sofia.

Chloe

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.

Freya/Freja

The name Freya is a girl's name of Norse origin meaning "a noble woman" and is the name of the Norse goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. Popular in the U.K. and growing steadily in popularity in the United States, Nameberry predicts Freya will only continue its rise. Literary types will be reminded of Joseph Conrad's novel, Freya of the Seven Isles.

Abigail 

Abigail is a girl's name of Hebrew origin meaning "my father is joyful". Often thought of as a Biblical name, in the Old Testament, Abigail was the wife of David, said to be beautiful, wise, and prophetic. In the early nineteenth century, however, Abigail became a term for a maid which led to a decline in popularity. Needless to say, Abigail has risen again thanks to a rise in vintage and old fashioned names- all the way to the top 20 popular girls' names, and quite high on the list of girls' names starting with A.

Audrey

Of English origin, the name Audrey means "noble strength" and has been around for centuries. For context, Shakespeare bestowed the name Audrey on a character in his play, As You Like It. Thanks to the radiant Audrey Hepburn, the name has stayed near the top of girls' name lists for decades and is often considered when parents are looking for girl names that mean strong, brave, or powerful.

Grace 

One of the most classic names out there, Grace is of Latin origin and is derived from gratia, the Latin word for "grace." Used as a virtue name, it refers to divine grace, and the love and kindness of God. The name Grace will always be synonymous with Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco. A popular name since the Victorian Era, I don't see Grace ever losing its most popular girls name stature.

But, if Grace is too overused for you, consider variations on the name that have also become more popular over the years, like Gray or Grayson.

Adelaide

Of German origin meaning "noble" or "nobility'', the name Adelaide is growing in popularity along similar names like girls' names starting with A, like Ava, Ada, Adeline and Amelia. One fun fact: the German princess who married British King William IV in 1830 was known as "Good Queen Adelaide", and inspired the name of Adelaide, Australia.

Lily/Lilly

Short for Lily flower, this fleur-themed name is as pretty as it sounds (and would probably smell great, too, if that were possible!) It's name popularity has grown steadily since as far back as the late 20th century, and now finds itself on a seemingly permanent place in the Top 25 of popular girls names. A symbol of purity, in Biblical terms, Lily means "God is abundance". These days, parents-to-be might think of singer Lily Allen or actress Lily James.

Isabella

Of Italian origin, Isabella means "God is my oath" and has been recognized in literary circles for hundreds of years, from Shakespeare to Jane Austen. A charming name that comes with the best nicknames around, like Izzy, Iz, Bella and Belle.

Vivienne/Vivien/Vivian

I'm partial to this one as this is the name of my second daughter (we spell her name Vivian). Of French origin meaning "alive", this name is a gorgeous one any way you spell it. And if you're a Pretty Woman fan, then you're really going to love it.

Eleanor

Of Greek origin meaning "bright, shining one", Eleanor is one of those classic girls names that never really diminishes in popularity, and for good reason. Beatles fans will love it because of the song "Eleanor Rigby", as well as the variation Elinor, used by Jane Austen in "Sense and Sensibility".

Ella

Another name I'm partial to, as this was my grandmother's name and is my younger daughter's middle name. Similar to Eleanor and Elizabeth, Ella really stands on her own. Of English origin meaning "fairy maiden", could you get any sweeter for a girls' name?

Mila 

Of Slavic and Russian descent, Mila means "dear one". A name that had dipped out of popularity, Mila is becoming more and more popular in the last few years (it's ranked in the top 20 of baby names in 2021, according to BabyCenter)!

Evelyn 

Interestingly, Evelyn, which means "wished for child" was originally used as a boy's name, and is of Irish and English origin. It's also another example of the rise of vintage, old-fashioned names.

Gianna

This pretty name is the feminine form of John in Italian, which means "God is gracious", and is growing in popularity. It's a shortened form of the more formal Giovanna, and in turn, Gianna can be shortened to Gia or Nina, two equally adorable names!