Parents have long sought strong names for their sons. Macho names like Gunner and Wolf have a distinct appeal for boys. But increasingly, parents are looking for names that reflect qualities of courage and strength for their daughters as well. Gone are the days of dainty girls and tough boys- modern parents see the benefits to allowing girls strength and boys sensitivity. So for those out there who hope their daughters will grow to be as fiery and brave as their sons, these names may appeal:
Millicent- Millie is coming back, but this longer version has remained under the radar. It comes from the Germanic elements amal (“work”) and swinth (“strong.”) It’s a vintage pick, but Millicent may be ready for revival.
Melisande- Melissa comes from the Greek word for “bee,” and although Millicent looks like Melissa, it’s actually a form of Millicent. It could work for parents who find Millicent too clunky or prefer Mel to Millie.
Leona- The leo- family of names- including Leona, Leonardo, and Leo itself- comes from the Latin for “Lion.” While lions aren’t inherently masculine, they’re often used to symbolize qualities like courage and ferocity. Those qualities are more valued in girls today than in the past, so Leona and company could be an ancient way to honor modern values.
Ariella- Like Leona, this name means “lion,” or more specifically, “lion of god.” Ariella comes from the unisex Hebrew name Ariel, but the -ella ending is used exclusively for girls. Ari- names like Aria, Ariana, and Ariadne are hot, so this ultra-feminine choice would fit right in on the playground.
Audrey- A well-loved classic, Audrey has been a staple in the top 1000 for as long as records have been kept. Although for most of its history it’s ranked between 100-300, Audrey has recently been on the upswing. It currently sits at its second highest rank ever, #37. With a glamorous image and the beautiful meaning “noble strength,” it’s no wonder Audrey is a perennial favorite.
Valeria, Valentina, Valencia- These names come from the Latin valens, meaning “strong, healthy.” This family of names is fabulous for parents who want a strong meaning with a frilly style.
Bellatrix (pictured)- Although most famous as a Harry Potter character, Bellatrix is also the name of a star in the constellation Orion. It means “female warrior,” a fierce, strong name with a feminine but tough sound.
Hera, Hero- Hera has three possible origins: the Greek words for “hero/warrior,” “length of time,” or “to be chosen.” All three possibilities are rather epic. And Hera the mythological character was no pansy- she was wife to Zeus and the Queen of the Heavens. Hero is a related name worn by a different female mythological character and a lead in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Alexandra- The “Alex” in the Alex family of names means “to help” or “to defend.” “Andros” means “man.” There are plenty of options related to Alexandra- Alexis for fans of unisex names, Alessia for a girly girl, Sandra for a mid-century throwback, and many others.
Matilda- Matilda means “strength in battle,” a bold meaning for a quirky hipster favorite. Nickname possibility Mattie makes for hipper, more tomboyish version of the tired Maddie, while Tilly and Tilda have a distinctly British vibe.
Bernadette- Bernadette comes from Germanic elements meaning “bear” and “strong.” It’s an unusually powerful image for a girls’ name. The name has fallen out of favor in recent years, but it remains a well-known and fairly traditional option.
Gertrude – Yes, Gertrude is a clunky grandma name. But its nicknames seem very wearable- Tru/True is a hot modern virtue name, Gertie is an adorable E.T. inspired choice, and German diminutive Gesa is short and chic. I can’t see the full form coming back any time soon, but the diminutives are great ways to honor an ancestral Gertrude.
Koa- Traditionally, Native Hawaiian names are all unisex. Koa is both the Hawaiian word for “warrior” or “fearless” and a type of tree. Kekoa (ke is a definite article in Hawaiian, so Kekoa means “the warrior” or “the koa tree”) currently ranks #88 for boys in Hawaii, but Koa itself is less popular. The koa tree grows best in volcanic ash, a lovely symbol of life rising from ashes.
Pilar- This name, pronounced pee-LAR, is the Spanish word for pillar. Pillars often symbolize strength because their purpose is to carry the heaviest loads of buildings. Pilar’s -r ending is newly trendy for girls (a la Harper and Piper) so this name could catch on.
Petra – Petra is a feminine form of Peter, meaning “stone.” Stones have symbolized strength and permanence for centuries- think of expressions like “rock hard” and “stone faced.” Petra is the unusual name that is widely recognized but not widely used, a wonderful combination.