You might expect that Southern parents are only interested in traditional names and conventions, and you are partly correct. Southerners love to keep a name in the family, which is why names like John and Mary are much more prevalent in the South than in the rest of the country. Further, using a mother’s maiden name is a time-tested tradition, resulting in more babies named Collins and Davis. However, Southerners are some of the most inventive baby-namers. As such, respellings of names are very common. Karter, Aubree, Ryleigh, and other variations are abundant.
Baby name database Nameberry looked at the data to uncover the baby names that are heard more often in the South than elsewhere. Thanks to a mix of traditional and stylish new options, a complete picture has been painted of Southern naming trends. Many Black Americans call the South home, and appellations popular in the community rank higher there than in whiter states. Now, let’s take a look at these deep-fried baby names to get a better understanding of the standouts.
Southern Baby Names for Girls
Names that end in the -ley sound are more prevalent in Southern states. One example is Blakely, which is pretty popular nationally, but you will find it in the top 100 in Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas. Blakely started as an English surname, meaning “dark wood clearing.”
Vintage charmer is rising nationally, but it’s been a hit in the South for quite some time. The name is a diminutive form of Elizabeth, meaning “pledged to God.”
While the rest of the country has fallen back in love with Josephine, the nickname Josie has been going strong in the South for years. Josie and other classic nicknames like Millie and Annie are big contenders. This name comes from a Hebrew root that means “Jehovah increases.”
Journee is especially popular, ranking in the top 50 in Mississippi and Louisiana and the top 100 in Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. Journee is a respelling of Journey, which has an adventurous spirit to it.
The R&B singer of the same name helped propel Kehlani into the top 1000 in 2016. The name is of Hawaiian origin and means “sea and sky.”
Another celebrity name that has stuck in the South is the respelling of Chloe: Khloe. Khloe comes from a Greek root that means “young green shoot.”
The Magnolia tree is the state tree of Mississippi and the state flower of Louisiana. The tree is native to the South, which has profoundly influenced baby names there. The appellation is more popular than ever before today.
Mary is on the decline in most states, but it’s a top 20 name in Alabama and Mississippi! Mary comes from a Hebrew root that means “bitter.”
Despite what you might expect, Southerners are trendsetters regarding baby names. Oaklynn caught on first in states like Kentucky and Arkansas before becoming mainstream. This name was invented in America, but the sum of its parts means “oak lake.”
As we mentioned, surnames as given names are huge in the South. Saylor is one example that is soaring in places like Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina. The name comes from a German root that means “rope maker.”
Adalynn is an American invention, a variation of Adeline, from a French root that means “noble.” Names ending in -ley and -lynn are big hits nationally but perform even better in the South.
In Cajun country, Brielle has long been a popular choice. There, it’s a short form of Gabrielle. But the name is also found in French naming tradition, meaning “hunting ground.”
As you rightly suspect, names inspired by faith are wildly popular in the Bible Belt. Eden was first used by Southerners beginning in the late 1980s before it gained traction elsewhere. Eden comes from Hebrew and means “place of delight.”
Amber is out, and Ember is in. Ember is a French form of Amber and refers to the low-burning bits from a fire. Ember first landed in the US top 1000 most popular names in 2009. Today, it ranks in the top 100 in many Southern states.
Hadley is another surname turned given one. The name comes from an English root that means “field of heather.”
Names starting with Har- are prominent in the South. Harper, Harlow, and Harley all do well there. Harmony is no exception.
Lainey has now surpassed its sister name, Laney. Both mean “bright light.” It has that long-E ending that so many parents are after these days.
Lyla is used more today than ever before in the US. It is a spelling variant of the Arabic name Lila, meaning “night.”
Like Mary, Margaret is a traditional choice showing staying power in the South, especially in Alabama. Margaret is a name of Greek origin that means “pearl.”
As with Oaklynn, we have Southerners to thank for Oakley. This unisex name is on fire nationally. The name comes from an English root that means “oak clearing.”
Occupational baby names are given widely across the South. As with Piper, Parker is also a gem you will hear there more than elsewhere. This unisex name is of English origin and means “park keeper.”
The most famous person named Peyton is Peyton Manning, who was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Peyton has been on the rise for baby girls since the early 1990s. This name comes from an English root that means “fighter’s estate.”
Remi is a unisex name of French origin that means “oarsman.” Despite being rare just a couple of decades ago, the name has exploded in popularity.
Southerners love the name Riley and will take just about any available spelling route to get there. Railey, Rylee, Ryleigh, Reilley, Rheilly, Rheilley, Rhiley, and Rielly are all on the table. However you spell it, the appellation comes from an Irish root that means “courageous.”
Sutton has enjoyed remarkable success over the past decade. We imagine that Southerners took to the name first because of its meaning: “from the southern homestead.” While this name is unisex, it’s performing far better for girls than boys.
Southern Baby Names for Boys
The South is leading the way with the name Amir. It comes from Arabic and means “prince.” The name hasn’t cracked the top 100 nationally, but it does in several states. Amir is a top 50 name in Georgia and Louisiana and a top 100 name in Mississippi, Alabama, and both Carolinas.
With its Biblical sound, Asher is a hit nationwide, but it’s a top 10 name in Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Georgia. The appellation is of Hebrew origin and means “blessed.”
As we mentioned, surnames as given names are prevalent in the South. Braxton is another example. The name comes from English and means “Brock’s town.”
Carson outperforms in the South, especially in Mississippi. The name comes from a Scottish root that means “son of the dweller by the marsh” or “Carl’s son.”
Both spellings, Jace and Jayce, are rising. The Louisiana-set Duck Dynasty helped put the name on many Southern parents’ radars. Jace is a short form of Jason, a name from Hebrew that means “the Lord is Salvation.”
Kingston has emerged as a distinctly Southern baby name in recent decades. It’s a top 10 name in Mississippi and the top 50 in South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Kingston comes from English and means “King’s town.”
A top 50 baby name in Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Arkansas, Legend speaks for itself.
A name most of us did not see coming, Messiah, has taken off. It’s number 188 in the USA but ranks 64th in South Carolina and is also in the top 100 in Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. Messiah comes from Aramaic and means “expected savior.”
As we shared while discussing names like Piper and Parker, occupational names are prominent in the South. Sawyer is no exception. This appellation of English origin means “woodcutter.”
A name that screams Appalachia, Waylon is a top 10 name in Mississippi and Kentucky and the Top 20 in Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The name comes from an English root that means “land beside the road.”
As with Braxton, Ashton is another surname that’s taken off as a given name. The name was common in the South before Ashton Kutcher became known nationally. Ashton comes from English and means “ash town.”
Luxury baby names are on the rise, especially in the Southern states. Bentley is a surname that also brands an exclusive English car manufacturer. Bentley comes from English and means “from the field where coarse grass grows.”
We likely have actor NeNe Leaks and singer Bryson Tiller to thank for the rise of the name Bryson. Leaks chose the name for her son. Bryson comes from English and means “Brice’s son.”
Dallas is a delightful gender-neutral name that Southern parents have frequently used in recent years. Dallas comes from an Irish root that means “skilled.”
Hunter has been falling nationally, but it’s going strong where the mercury rises. Again, Hunter is an occupational name that means “one who hunts.”
Jasper is a name with a long history in the South. The name belongs to one of the region’s most celebrated artists, Jasper Johns. Johns was born in Augusta, Georgia. His father was also named Jasper. This name comes from Persian and means “bringer of treasure,” a reference to the Three Wise Men in the Bible.
Karter is a respelling of Carter and an example of the South’s obsession with K-names. K is substituted for C with reckless abandon. Kaleb, Karson, Kameron, Kole, Kolton, Kristian, Kulture, Kaiden, Kamden, and the list goes on and on. Karter is the most successful of the pack and comes from an English root that means “cart maker” or “cart driver.”
Kayden is a unisex name that feels like it should be more popular for baby girls, but the opposite is true. Kayden is a respelling of Caden, a name of English and Irish origin that means “barrel.”
Myles is a respelling of Miles, a name found in both English and Latin meaning “merciful” and “soldier.” Texas-born pro basketball player Myles Turner uses the spelling.
It should be no surprise that a name featured in Gone with the Wind would be popular in the South. Clark Gable played Rhett Butler in the film. During the Civil War, Rhett was first recorded in the US as a surname belonging to a politician in South Carolina. The name comes from Dutch by way of English and means “advice.”
River is a baby name that exploded in the 1990s and is more popular today than ever. It’s no mystery why this gentle and serene appellation has become a beloved choice for both boys and girls.
Another English surname to make the list, Ryder, means “calvary” or “messenger.” It sits just outside the top 100 nationally but is even more popular in the Southern states.
A name belonging to a Cowboy hats and apparel brand, Stetson has rocketed to popularity as a baby name for boys. The name comes from English, meaning “Stytt’s son.” Stytt is a forgotten Anglo-Saxon name that likely means “boxer.”
Ace is a unisex name that performs best for boys. The name is of Latin origin and means “one” or “unity.” A term you will hear in poker, tennis, and golf, it’s a winner, baby.
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August has performed better in the south through the years than nationally. While it’s an it-name at the moment, it was primarily used by German immigrants to the South in the late 19th century. August is the German form of the Latin name Augustus, meaning “greatest.”
These timeless and evocative names carry the charm of the South, blending a respect for heritage with a spirit of uniqueness. Each is more than just a moniker; it’s a story, a legacy waiting to be passed down from generation to generation. Whether you’re expecting a little belle or a future gentleman, these names offer a touch of Southern flair that will make your child stand out. So go ahead, let tradition inspire you as you choose a name that’s stylish and soulful.
- 1 Southern Baby Names for Girls
- 2 Southern Baby Names for Boys
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