With nearly 40 million residents, California the most populous state, and at 163,696 square miles, it’s the third-largest state. That’s a whole lot of people and a whole lot of state! Many people have ties to the Golden State and call the West Coast (best coast) home. This means there’s a lot of desire to honor those connections and all the beautify the state contains.
California also boasts a rich history that played out in some of the most iconic US cities. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego all were home to notable citizens that helped shape the state and continue to inspire us. We’ve gathered names of notable Californians and will use them to help inform this list. Other names will be perfect for parents who want to honor some of the natural beauty the state poses. Think Yosemite National Park, Joshua Tree, and other natural wonders. These 25 baby names will deliver the California vibes in more ways than one!
Ansel Adams was a world-renowned landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white images of the American West. He was born in San Francisco and spent the majority of his career photographing California. The name Ansel comes from Old French and means “follower of a noble.”
Isadora Duncan is a legendary dancer and choreographer that was born in San Francisco in 1877. Her talent catapulted her to fame and her career took her to Europe where she spent much of her adult years. Isadora is a gorgeous name that comes from Greek and means “gift from Isis.”
Buck Rock Lookout, perched at an elevation of 8,500 feet is a highlight at the Sequoia National Forest. The forest is located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains and it’s one of the most impressive natural wonders on earth. The name Buck is English and means “male deer.”
Emma Nevada was to opera in the late 19th Century as Lady Gaga is to pop music today. This hugely successful soprano’s career took her from modest roots in Alpha, California to the most popular opera houses of Europe. Emma has Germanic origins and means “whole” or “universal.”
Carlos Santana is a Mexican and American guitarist who rose to fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band Santana. Born in Mexico, Santana and his family eventually relocated to San Francisco and became synonymous with California cool. The name Carlos is a popular Spanish name that means “free man.”
Etta James was a prolific singer from Los Angeles, California. She gained popularity after songs like “At Last” and “Something’s Got a Hold Me” became smash hits in the 1950s. When she wasn’t touring she spent most of her time in California. Etta has French origins and means “keeper.”
George Lucas of Star Wars fame has deep California roots. Born in Modesto in 1944, the filmmaker has spent the majority of his life in the state. Lucas is a handsome name from antiquity that means “person from Lucania,” a region of Southern Italy.
Drew Barrymore comes from Hollywood royalty. She was born in Culver City and has spent almost her entire life in the biz. Drew is an attractive gender-neutral baby name that seems casual and cool. The name Drew comes from Greek and means “strong.”
Is Jon the best way to spell the many varients of John? Yes. From Palo Alto, Jon M Chu is a famous example with the name. He directed Crazy Rich Asians the first film by a major Hollywood studio to star a majority cast of Asian descent since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. Jon is a versatile name that means “God is gracious.”
Ana Lily Amirpour is a new visionary of American filmmaking. Her family moved a lot when she was a child, but they settled in Bakersfield. Amirpour’s 2014 debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night features an Iranian-American cast and was shot in Southern California. Lily means “flower.”
Colin Hanks might be son to legend, Tom Hanks, but he is an accomplished actor in his own right and has a great name! Colin was born in Sacramento in 1977. Colin is the Scottish Gaelic name that’s also a popular name in Ireland. The name means “cub.”
Actor Shailene Woodley was born in San Bernadino in 1991. Her unusual name has a lyrical quality to it that makes it seem both foreign and familiar at the same time. The name Shailene comes from Irish Gaelic and means “majestic.”
In North America, a maverick is an unbranded calf or yearling. It is synonymous with the American West. The name Maverick is an American invention and was used to describe ranchers who bucked tradition. The silly western, Maverick starring Jodie Foster was partially filmed in Yosemite National Park.
Greta Gerwig’s love letter to Sacramento, Lady Bird cemented her as one of the most talented filmmakers in the game. Greta, who is from Sacramento, is a true role model you could be proud of naming your daughter after. Greta has German origins and means “pearl.”
Luis Alvarez was born in San Francisco and spent most of his life in the state. He is a Noble Prize-winning physicist who is best known for the discovery of the iridium layer and his theory that the mass extinction of dinosaurs was caused by an asteroid or comet colliding with Earth. Luis is a fabulous name for boys that means “renowned warrior.”
The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is the prize of California. The range spans an impressive 400 miles with the majority inside California’s borders. Sierra is a girl’s name with Spanish origins that means “snowy mountain.”
Kirk Douglas might have been born in New York, but he called Beverly Hills home. The actor enjoyed an illustrious career and received countless awards for his acting chops. The name Kirk has origins in Danish and means “church.”
Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States and the Sierra Nevada, with an elevation of 14,505 feet. Whitney hits the highest heights in California. Whitney is a unisex English name (although its enjoyed popularity primarily for little girls) and means “from the white island.”
César Estrada Chávez was an American labor leader, community organizer, and Latino American civil rights activist. With Dolores Huerta, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later merged to become the United Farm Workers union. The popular Spanish name with Latin origins, Cesar means “thick head of hair.”
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You know it’s not too bold! Liza is such a fun and dazzling name for girls. It’s most commonly associated with Liza Minelli, an eccentric American entertainer who was born and raised in Los Angeles. Liza is a shortened form of Elizabeth that has origins in Hebrew and means “oath of God.”
Bixby Creek Bridge on the Big Sur coast is one of the most photographed places in all of California. A notable person who coincidentally shared the name was Bill Bixby, was an actor and entertainer and lifelong Californian. Bixby is an English place name for a place that no longer exists in East Anglia (modern-day Norwich). We love the playful sound of the name Bixby for a boy.
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Mount Saint Helena is a peak in the Mayacamas Mountains with flanks in Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties of California. It is one of the few mountains in the area that receives any snowfall. It’s glorious. The name Helena comes from Greek and means “bright.”
Kendrick Lamar is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer. He is considered one of the most talented musicians and most gifted rappers of all time. Lamar was born and raised in Compton. His 2017 album Damn became the first non-classical and non-jazz album to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Kendrick is a common surname in the UK and has recently become popular as a given name. It means “great champion” or “family ruler.”
Born in Los Angeles, Sally Ride was an astronaut and physicist that became the first American woman in space in 1983. She was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2006. Sally is an English nickname for Sarah but stands out on its own just fine. The name means “princess.”
Orson Welles spent much of his early filmmaking career in Hollywood until 1948 when he began directing films financed from investors in Europe. Welles returned to Hollywood time and again and eventually retired in Los Angeles. The accomplished filmmaker is considered one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. The name Orson has Latin origins and means “bear cub.” What animal is found on the state of California’s flag? A grizzly bear.
From its natural beauty to its world-class cities, California really does inspire so many of us. Whether you’re wanting to honor your California roots or just want to remember happy times spent in the state, these California inspired baby names should do the trick.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 25. Ansel
- 2 24. Isadora
- 3 23. Buck
- 4 22. Emma
- 5 21. Carlos
- 6 20. Etta
- 7 19. Lucas
- 8 18. Drew
- 9 17. Jon
- 10 16. Lily
- 11 15. Colin
- 12 14. Shailene
- 13 13. Maverick
- 14 12. Greta
- 15 11. Luis
- 16 10. Sierra
- 17 9. Kirk
- 18 8. Whitney
- 19 7. Cesar
- 20 6. Liza
- 21 5. Bixby
- 22 4. Helena
- 23 3. Kendrick
- 24 2. Sally
- 25 1. Orson
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