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The Namesakes Everyone is Hunting For…

Every month, thousands of readers search our Namipedia for girls’ names starting with Ken, Jeff, Tom, and other masculine nicknames. Searches for boys’ names with those beginnings are much scarcer. What’s the story? Should we expect a coming generation of little girls name Jeff and Tom?

I believe the phenomenon actually arises from a more traditional naming impulse. Our readers are looking for namesakes.

Ken, Jeff, Tom and friends are (sorry) “grandpa names” – nicknames for super-popular male names of the 1930s-1960s. In particular, they’re grandpa names with no popular female counterparts. If you want to name a daughter after Grandpa Stephen, you have easy choices like Stephanie and Stevie. A Grandpa John might be honored with a little Johanna or Jane. But what about Grandpa Tom? What’s a female counterpart to Thomas? Or Jeffrey? Or Kenneth? The answers aren’t obvious, so parents come to us seeking namesake inspiration.

[In case you’re wondering: nope, there is no corresponding trend for boys’ names to remember a Grandma Susan or Deborah. It appears that even when it comes to honoring our beloved relatives, we’re much more willing to name girls after males than boys after females. Anyway…]

We’re here to help. Below are female name possibilities for seven of the male name roots that parents of girls search for most.

To Name After a… Try…

The Hebrew word Ben means “son,” so no girls’ names share the root. Allowing some space between the Be- and N offers: Bethany, Berenice, Bettina, Belinda, Bethan



Calla, Calista, Callie, Calliope, Calanthe, Calais, Caelia



Jamie, Jacqueline, Jamesina, Jamila, Jamaica, Jamiya



OK, there is no girl’s name close to Jeff (or Geoff). But the “frey” part of Jeffrey could yield Freya, and it comes from the Germanic “frid” meaning peace, also found in Frida and Frederica



Kenna, Kendall, Kendra, Kennedy, Kensington, Kenya, McKenna, Kenzie, Kinneret, Kinsley



Mattea, Matilda, Mattie, Maddie, Madeline, Maddalena, Madison, Matisse



Philippa/Pippa, Philomena, Phyllida, Phyllis, Ophilia, Theophilia


Tom/Thomas Tamsin, Thomasina, Tomasa, Tommie, Toma




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