Positively Perfect and Phantastic “P” Names

Parker Posey, Peppermint Patty and Pablo Picasso Our history and pop culture have produced some notable “P” names. A perfect “P” name makes you stop and take notice.

I do not have anyone in my family whose name starts with a “P,” but the other day I had “P” names on my mind. There are a few classic girls’ “P” names – Paula and Patricia come to mind – but for the most part, “P” names are a more elusive bunch than names beginning with an “A” or “B.” I decided to set out to round up the best of the “P” names, including those looking for a comeback and others that have never broken the top name ranks. This blog will focus on the most promising “P” names for girls.

I began my analysis with a review of the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”, for short) most recent list of popular baby names. I had to scroll down the list to #56, where I found Penelope, the most popular “P” name for girls in 2013. Penelope’s ascent up the baby name ladder didn’t surprise me, as both celebrity parents and regular folks have embraced this name.

Cute as a button Paisley trailed behind the “P” leader at number 80, though this trendy name is more popular than she appears at first glance. Alternative spelling Paislee came in at a respectable #628, and other variations (Paisleigh, Paizley, Paizlee and Payzlee) were bestowed upon multiple babies that year. So if one combined all of the Paisley variations, this name might actually be used more than Penelope. I would recommend using the original Paisley spelling to maintain the integrity of this intricate pattern.

Other popular “P” names include celebrity favorite Piper, Payton (with variation Paityn) and Paige. Place name Paris, unisex Parker and famous surname Presley also made the top 1000 cut. Princess came in at #982, but I would caution a parent against using this name as anything other than a casual nickname. Of these popular names, I would recommend Parker, as this gender-neutral name sounds fresh used on a girl, Presley for its musical roots and Paige for its refreshing simplicity.

Some promising top 1000 names that don’t seem at risk of overexposure are feminine Priscilla (#485) and exotic sounding Perla (#668). Paola (#671) and Paloma (#755) both share understated pizzazz. Vintage Pearl ranked #677 and could be on track to match the success of old-fashioned gems like Ruby and Cora.

If you are looking for a “P” name that hasn’t broken the top 1000 yet, there are some ripe possibilities. Promising choices include Pia, a simple name with international flavor, and Palmer, similar to Parker but less used. Glam Petra, socialite Pippa and sophisticated Portia showcase the best of the flying-below-the-radar “P” names. Spunky Pepper (given to only 152 girls in 2013) could provide a winning alternative to the trendy Piper. Pacey (with only 15 newborn girls bearing this name in 2013) adds some P-attitude and could be used in lieu of out of favor Tracy or Stacey.

There are a plethora of “P” names that espouse desirable virtues in a little girl. Patience is the most popular, ranking #891, followed in popularity by Promise, Precious and Prudence. None of these names are my cup of tea, but of the four, I agree with the masses that Patience is the most usable. Please do not name your daughter Precious – her 40-year-old self will not appreciate it.

Like a colorful bouquet of pansies, the “P” names present a colorful arrangement of floral-inspired names. My favorite option is Poppy, a choice of several celebrities for their offspring as well as our neighbors on the other side of the pond. In 2013, Poppy was bestowed upon only 179 girls in the United States, so this name is a fresh and modern choice. Other floral options include spunky Petunia, cool Petal, hip girl name Posey (or Posy) and the unexpected Primrose (given to 34 girls in 2013).

If you really like the look of a “P” name, but aren’t so keen on the “pee” sound, then a “Ph” name might be for you. Phoebe (#301) leads the soft sounding “Ph” names in popularity, followed by Phoenix (#486). “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Phaedra Parks provides another unique option. Her first name was given to a mere 33 baby girls in 2013. And finally, regal Philippa, the formal name of Pippa Middleton, has a rich heritage and is underused in our country.

If you haven’t seen a “P” name yet that captures your imagination, the next group of names have been taken down from the attic and dusted off, in hopes that you might use one of them. These are the names that you are more likely to hear on a modern day grandmother or great-grandmother than a little girl.

Pamela is a feminine sounding name with an accessible nickname, Pam. Pamela enjoyed massive popularity from the early 1940s, hitting the top 10 in 1953, and remaining in the top 100 until 1984. Pamela finally fell out of the top 1000 in 2011. This attractive name may be primed for a comeback.

Polly enjoyed a steady presence on the SSA Top 1000 for most of the 20th century, falling out of favor in 1978. Polly has a sweet, girl-next door vibe. Jennifer Aniston brought the name to life as a quirky character in the 2004 comedy Along Came Polly.

Related to Polly but a little more sugarcoated, Pollyanna was given to only nine baby girls in 2013. Pollyanna calls to mind the best-selling children’s classic novel of the same name, as well as the film adaptation with Hayley Mills as Pollyanna. The name entered into the English language as both a positive and a negative connotation of someone who is excessively optimistic.

Paulette remained in the top 1000 from the mid-1930s through 1980, peaking in 1946. Paulette is a name one doesn’t hear too often these days. It has a little more flair than the more serious sounding Pauline. I expect Paulette to remain a relic of the past. A more modern version of the feminine Paul- names, Paulina came into favor in the late 1980s and still claims a spot on the SSA Top 1000 as of 2013 (at #825). Former supermodel Paulina Porizkova probably lent this name more style and cachet than its more pedestrian cousins. The girl-next-door sounding Paula peaked in the 1950s and is still clinging onto the top 1000.

The more formal Patricia ranked a respectable #680 on the most recent SSA list of popular baby names. Patricia enjoyed massive popularity from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War. Not surprisingly, many modern day grandmothers and great-grandmothers bear this enduring name. Patricia conveys a classic and refined image and lends itself to the cute but older sounding P- nicknames, Patty or Patsy. Whether the new generation of mothers will glom on to Patricia and propel it to its past glory days remains to be seen.

Most popular in the 1960s, Penny reemerged in the Top 1000 at #993 after a more than two-decade hiatus. Penny has a friendly retro vibe. Penny also makes for a sweet nickname for the popular Penelope.

Whether your taste skews toward trendy, upwardly mobile, artsy or archaic, there is a perfect “P” name waiting for every little girl. Do you have a favorite “P” name? Did I leave any promising “P” names off the list? Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on polished “P” names for boys.