Your female protagonist. You know her. You love her. You want everyone else to love her, too. What are you going to call her?

One of my most popular posts is my 100 Sexy Names for Contemporary Romance Heroes, so I thought I’d do a female counterpart. This list is for any kind of story, not only romance!

I creeped on a bunch of boards where moms-to-be discussed the stereotypes they had about names. I couldn’t find many negative associations with the names on this list, though everyone is different, so I can’t promise you won’t see the name of the bitchy lady you work with, or the mean girl who made middle school hell for you.

The names with asterisks by them are common names for women in their 20s and 30s in the United States, according to the Social Security database. I’ve tried to give you a mix of common and unusual choices. If you want help with a last name, here’s a list of the top 1000 surnames in the United States.

In no particular order, here you are!

100 Likeable Names for Your Heroine

  1. Sarah*
  2. Jacqueline* Bound to have associations with elegance, thanks to Jackie Kennedy.
  3. Felicia
  4. Sage I know a Sage, and she’s extremely intelligent, as the name implies. Some people think of Sage as being kind of wild.
  5. Dominique Kind of a glamorous French name. Some people think of it as African-American, maybe because of the gymnast Dominique Dawes. Monique has a similar feel.
  6. Hope
  7. Selena Of course, the two big associations here are the late singer who went only by her first name, and Selena Gomez.
  8. Julia*
  9. Grace
  10. Molly People think of Molly as really cute and maybe kind of innocent. Note that it’s on this list of the “top 10 whitest names,” although that goes back to 2006.
  11. Aria
  12. Elizabeth* All kinds of nicknames possible.
  13. Bethany
  14. Joy
  15. Carolina/Caroline The Carolina I know has Colombian parents, and everyone calls her Caro, which I think is a fantastic name.
  16. Vanessa*
  17. Jia A Chinese name that means “good” or “outstanding,” according to a couple of websites I consulted.
  18. Camille
  19. Gabrielle/Gabriella*
  20. Octavia Two wonderful associations here: the actress Octavia Spencer and the scifi author Octavia Butler.
  21. Lilly/Lily
  22. Serenity Not just the name of an awesome spaceship!
  23. Paige
  24. Maria* As classic as it gets, and most people will see it as a Hispanic name.
  25. Zoe
  26. Allison*/Allyson Alyssa is another option. Most people think of Allison as blonde and friendly.
  27. Carina/Corrina/Karina Almost everyone online loved this name, except for one doctor who didn’t like it because carina is the name of part of the trachea, or windpipe. I don’t think many readers would know that. Corinne is a similar name.
  28. Megan*
  29. Autumn
  30. Hannah*
  31. Gillian/Jillian
  32. Caprice She might get you into trouble, and it might be worth it.
  33. Maureen
  34. Penelope Although Penelope in The Odyssey stayed home and waited for twenty years, people imagine Penelope as an adventurous type. Nickname options are Pen, Penny, Nell, and Nellie.
  35. Estelle Stella is a variation.
  36. Diana
  37. Annika Both a Russian and a Swedish name…and actually, I knew an Annika from Finland.
  38. Eden
  39. Emily*
  40. Marissa Marisol is a similar option.
  41. Holly
  42. Tameka/Tamika/Tamikah Aramaic in origin. 
  43. Leila
  44. Athena The goddess of wisdom and war. Suitable for a brave, smart heroine.
  45. Chloe
  46. Robin/Robyn You might think of the “y” spelling as more modern, but Robin Hood was often spelled “Robyn Hode.”
  47. Rebecca*
  48. Jamie.*
  49. Devi A Hindu name that means “divine” or “goddess.”
  50. Skye
  51. Jade People imagine that Jade has a carefree personality. The name might also make people think of actress Jada Pinkett Smith.
  52. Jessamine Jess or Jessie for short. This was my great-grandmother’s name, and I think it’s gorgeous.
  53. Violet Most people seem to like this name, but it has a split personality. On the one hand, it sounds quiet. On the other hand, it sounds like the word “violent.” Recommended for shy demon hunters.
  54. Nina
  55. Lauren* Laurel is a similar choice.
  56. Piper
  57. Eva Could also be short for Evangeline.
  58. Rowan/Rowena
  59. Amy*
  60. Charlotte I knew one Charlotte who went by Lottie. 
  61. Linnea
  62. Maya
  63. Tuesday
  64. Jamila/Jamilla/Jamillah An Arabic name that means “beautiful.”
  65. Andrea*
  66. Winter
  67. Renée
  68. Tegan/Teagan
  69. Rosemary Rose on its own is also a nice name.
  70. Jane I think of this as a good name for a reserved person, probably because of Pride and Prejudice. Janelle and Janae are variants.
  71. April* Abril is the Spanish version.
  72. Kristina
  73. Iris A pretty flower and the name of a famous writer, Iris Murdoch.
  74. Abigail
  75. Samantha*
  76. Rhiannon This is the name of the Celtic goddess of horses, inspiration, and the moon. It’s also a really old rock song.
  77. Olivia
  78. Cecilia
  79. Noel/Noelle
  80. Audrey I’ve always loved this name, which has an elegant association with Audrey Hepburn. Audra is a possible variant.
  81. Zara/Zahra People see Zara as someone who likes to have fun, which is how they think of Tara also.
  82. Naomi
  83. Carissa
  84. Jennifer*
  85. Amaya A pretty Japanese name with a pretty meaning—“night rain.”
  86. Florence Flora or Flory are nice nicknames. Flo, not so much.
  87. Josephine
  88. Lucia
  89. Maggie
  90. Katherine*/Catherine. A few different choices for nicknames here.
  91. Angelina
  92. Erin*
  93. Samara
  94. Chaya This is a Hebrew name meaning “life.”
  95. Amanda*
  96. Ruby
  97. Catalina
  98. Genevieve Geneva is a similar choice.
  99. Sidney/Sydney

100 Alexandra/Alexandria


Not enough names for you? I’ve expanded this list to 200 names in my book Master Lists for Writers: Thesauruses, Plots, Character Traits, Names, and More. It has lists of character names for contemporary heroes and lists of names from several historical periods as well. Hope you like it!

Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan