Show-Stopping Baby Names Inspired by Country Music
Many parents-to-be turn to music for baby-name inspiration. If you’re more than a little bit country, the options are endless, whether you want to name your tot after the Man in Black, the Queen of Country or the Backwoods Barbie (or one of their hit songs).
Whatever place country music has in your life and your heart, here are some cute country baby names with a true down-home vibe from every era.
The name Dolly means “gift of God,” but for many country music fans, “gift of song” is more appropriate. No celebration of country music is complete without acknowledging what diminutive blonde bombshell and songwriting powerhouse Dolly Parton has contributed to the genre.
Dolly may be short for Dolores or Dorothy, but it has been standing alone as a name in its own right since the 17th century. It fell out of the U.S. top 1,000 baby name chart in the early 1970s, but is still a big hit in England, claiming the 305th spot in 2017.
Fun fact: Dolly, the sheep that was the first mammal to be cloned, was named after Dolly Parton.
Speaking of Dolly, another baby girl name that screams “country” is Jolene, the name of her 1973 single and title track from her album of the same name. It’s probably not a name you would choose unless you have a soft spot for the song, and you wouldn’t be the only one — Jolene re-entered the U.S. top 1,000 baby name chart in 2010 and has been gaining popularity since then, hitting the No. 456 spot in 2017.
It looks set to continue to rise, thanks to the new version of “Jolene” that Parton recorded for Jennifer Aniston’s 2018 Netflix film “Dumplin’.”
If your country playlist includes “Ring of Fire” and “Walk the Line,” but the name Johnny is too traditional for you, why not go for Cash? This baby boy name is of English and Latin origin, is also a diminutive of Cassius and means “hollow.”
Cash enjoyed a surge in popularity in the mid-2000s, possibly due to the release of “Walk the Line,” which tells the story of Johnny Cash’s rise to stardom and battle with addiction. The movie was a huge success and won Reese Witherspoon her first Best Actress in a Leading Role Academy Award for her role as Cash’s second wife, June Carter. In 2017, Cash was 285th on the U.S. top 1,000 baby name chart.
A girl’s virtue name of English origin meaning “belief,” Faith peaked at No. 48 on the U.S. top 1,000 baby name chart in 2002 and continues to be a popular choice today, ranking 119th in 2017.
While many parents name their babies Faith as a nod to their religious beliefs, it’s also the name of singer/songwriter Faith Hill, whose fourth album “Breathe” is one of the best-selling country albums of all time. Another award-winning country music star, Keith Urban, chose Faith as the name of his second daughter with actress Nicole Kidman.
Arguably the most successful country music star of all time, at least in terms of album sales — 148 million and counting — Garth Brooks provides baby name inspiration for parents who want to acknowledge their love of country music with an unusual choice for a modern baby.
Despite the icon’s most famous bearer-breaking records and award-winning music, Garth — a name of Norse origin meaning “groundskeeper, enclosure” — isn’t going to hit the top spot on the U.S. baby name chart any time soon, having dropped out of the top 1,000 in the 1990s.
Loretta, meaning “bay laurel,” is the English variation of the Italian name Lauretta, but it has stronger links to Nashville, Tennessee, thanks to country singer Loretta Lynn, whose career has spanned more than 60 years. She’s the most-awarded female country recording artist and the only female Academy of Country Music’s Artist of the Decade (1970s).
Loretta fell out of the U.S. top 1,000 baby name chart in the early 1990s, but is predicted to make a comeback. One celebrity parent who loves the name is Sarah Jessica Parker, who chose it as a middle name for one of her twin daughters in 2009.
Originally an English surname, meaning "brave in war," Wyatt made it into the top 25 U.S. baby names in 2017. It’s traditionally a boy’s name, but is growing in popularity for baby girls, perhaps partly due to Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis choosing it for their daughter in 2014. Other celebrity parents who chose Wyatt include Sheryl Crow and Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.
One of the most legendary Wyatts was the frontiersman, marshal and gambler Wyatt Earp. He was involved in perhaps the most famous gunfight in American history in 1881, following a feud with a local rancher in Tombstone, Arizona. Country music artist Blake Shelton played Earp in Adam Sandler’s western spoof “The Ridiculous 6,” which was released in 2015.
In the modern music world, Wyatt is the name of a Canadian country band, and Jaime Wyatt is a rising star in the Southern California country scene.
Most common as a diminutive of Patricia, Patsy is also a name in its own right. An English name meaning “noble, patrician,” its most famous bearer is the country music icon Patsy Cline, who was part of the Nashville sound in the early 1960s. Her career may have been short — she was killed in a plane crash in 1963 — but hits like “Crazy,” “Walking After Midnight” and “Sweet Dreams” ensure her talent will never be forgotten.
At one point Patsy was a hugely popular girl name, reaching No. 52 in the late 1930s. However, it dropped out of the top 1,000 completely in 1970.
Either as a diminutive of Bradley or a name in its own right meaning “wide meadow,” Brad could be a nod to the award-winning country singer/songwriter Brad Paisley, whose 1999 debut album “Who Needs Pictures,” went platinum. Since then, he has won several Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Grand Ole Oprey in 2001.
Brad made it into the U.S. top 100 baby name chart in 1975, but dropped out of the top 1,000 in 2008. Another option — with unisex appeal — is Paisley, which is the name of a town in southwestern Scotland and means “church, cemetery.” Whether it charts high as a boy name remains to be seen, but it reached an impressive No. 45 in 2017 for girls.
If it wasn’t for a certain country music artist, the name Shania would be nothing more than a Native American word that means “I’m on my way.” In fact, Shania Twain, who gave the world hits like “That Don’t Impress Me Much!” and “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” wasn’t even born with the name — she dropped her original name, Eileen, for it.
Shania hasn’t been featured in the U.S. top 1,000 baby name chart since 2011, but it was 965th on the English chart in 2017.
Hank Williams dominated country music in the 1940s, and his son and namesake Hank Williams Jr. made his own mark on the scene in the 1970s and 1980s. As a diminutive of Henry, Hank is a German name meaning “estate ruler,” but it might as well mean “musical” — Hank Williams Jr. can play piano, guitar, drums, banjo, saxophone, harmonica and fiddle, to name but a few.
In 2017, Hank was 450th on the U.S. top 1,000 baby name chart.
The name Lucille comes with a long history. Originally a French name meaning “light,” it was popular with Christians of the Roman Empire and began being used by American and British parents in the 19th century. For many people, its strongest link is to 1950s actress Lucille Ball, but country music diehards will associate it with Kenny Rogers’ single of the same name.
Lucille was featured in the top 40 U.S. baby names from 1906 to 1924, but fell out of the top 1,000 completely in 1977 — ironically, the same year as the Rogers release. It made a comeback in 2003 and was chosen by celebrity couple Maya Rudolph and Paul Thomas Anderson for their baby girl in 2009.
A country music name with unisex appeal is Blake, which was originally an English surname meaning “fair-haired, dark.” It dropped out of the top 100 in 2017 for the first time since 1988, but remains a popular choice. It may be a top choice for fans of country singer Blake Shelton, who moved to Nashville to pursue a music career when he was 17 and scored his first No. 1 hit in 2001 with “Austin.”
Celebrity parents with kids named Blake include actress and TV presenter Rosie O'Donnell and singers Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt of “Everything but the Girl.”
If you’re having a baby girl, look no further than the “Queen of Country,” Reba McEntire, for a short, sweet, rare name with strong country links. Reba, a Hebrew name meaning “fourth born,” actually dropped out of the U.S. top 1,000 baby name chart in the mid-1960s, many years before McEntire released her first self-titled solo album in 1977 with Mercury Records.
Since then, she’s been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, has won numerous country music awards and even starred in her own award-winning sitcom.
Jackson is just one example of the increasingly popular “surnames as first names” trend, and it’s also linked to country music, thanks to Johnny Cash and June Carter’s hit song of the same name. “Jackson,” which is about a married couple whose relationship has lost its spark, reached No. 2 on the Billboard Country Singles chart in 1967. Another country music connection is the award-winning artist and “I Don’t Even Know Your Name” hitmaker, Alan Jackson, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2017 by Loretta Lynn.
A name of English origin meaning “son of Jack,” Jackson was No. 20 on the U.S. top 1,000 baby name chart in 2017 and has been chosen by many celebrity parents, including Spike Lee, Maria Bello, Natalie Maines (lead vocalist for the female country band the Dixie Chicks) and Maya Rudolph.
After winning season 4 of “American Idol” in 2005, Carrie Underwood went on to become one of the top-selling acts in country music. She was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2008 and has co-hosted the Country Music Association Awards with Brad Paisley several times since then.
The name Carrie, a diminutive of Carol or Caroline, means “free man” and remains a sweet choice for a baby girl, despite dropping off the U.S. top 1,000 name chart in 2008.
Willie means “resolute protection,” but for country music fans, the name is the ultimate tribute to Willie Nelson, one of the genre’s greats. The braided legend is responsible for the most-beloved version of the country classic, “Always On My Mind,” which flew to the top of the country singles chart in 1982 and also became a big crossover hit by cracking the top five on the Billboard Hot 100.
If you’re not a hardcore country fan who’d get a kick out of your kid being called, “Shotgun Willie,” you could always go for the long-form William as a safer option.
It may officially be a diminutive of the girl’s name Susan (meaning “lily”), but in country music history, there’s a little more to Sue. Johnny Cash’s No. 1 hit, “A Boy Named Sue,” told the tale of a young boy who was deserted by his dad when he was only three years old and left to struggle alone with having a traditionally female name.
Years later when he meets his father in a bar (and ends up fighting him), he finds out why he was named Sue: “It’s the name that helped to make you strong.”
Austin, meaning “great, magnificent,” is a popular name for boys, reaching No. 80 on the chart in 2018 (its all-time high was in the 1990s, when it made the top 10). Hardcore country fans will know that Willie Nelson left Nashville for Austin in 1972, helping to define a new form of country music, later referred to as “country rock” and “progressive country.” And in 1991, Austin was crowned “Live Music Capital of the World.”
The name is less popular for girls, although you could switch the spelling to Austen for a literary touch.
Martina McBride might never have reached the same level of global fame as her country contemporaries Faith Hill and Reba McEntire, but she’s had several No. 1 hits on the country chart and has even been named the “Celine Dion of country music” due to her soprano singing range.
Plus, she has a great name (it means “warlike”) if you want a country vibe for your tot that’s not as obvious as Dolly, Patsy or Shania. Martina dropped out of the U.S. top 1,000 in the mid-1990s, but is super popular elsewhere, ranking fourth in Spain and ninth in Italy in 2017.
It may be a bit of a mouthful, but the place-name Tennessee (adopted as a pen name by playwright Thomas Lanier Williams) was back in the spotlight in 2012 when actress Reese Witherspoon named her newborn son after the southern state.
Singer Tennessee Ernie Ford (responsible for the 1955 No. 1 classic “Sixteen Tons”) gives this name even more country charm. Oh, and did we mention the state's capital is the heart of the country music scene?
The most famous Tammy is, of course, Tammy Wynette, who was actually born Virginia Wynette Pugh. Epic Records encouraged her to change her name to be more recognizable, and Tammy was chosen due to her resemblance to Debbie Reynolds in the film “Tammy and the Bachelor.”
Known as “The First Lady of Country Music,” Tammy helped pave the way for future generations of female country stars and will forever be known for telling the women of the world to stand by their men. Tammy, which means “date palm tree,” enjoyed eighth place on the U.S. top 1,000 baby name chart in 1966, 1967 and 1968, before falling out of the top 10 in 1972 and beginning its steady decline.
Waylon means “land beside the road,” but what it means to country music devotees is creativity, determination and rebellion. Waylon Jennings personified the outlaw country movement of the 1970s, demanding — and eventually getting — the right to record the material he wanted, in the studio he wanted and with the musicians he wanted.
Waylon has risen steadily in the U.S. baby name chart since the 1990s, reaching an all-time high of No. 142 in 2018.
It may not be the most popular spelling of the name, but the missing “e” from the end hasn’t done country music star LeAnn Rimes any harm. She hit the big time at the tender age of 13 with her 1996 release of the Bill Mack song, “Blue,” making her the youngest country music star since Tanya Tucker in 1972.
If the names “Lee” and “Anna” just aren’t country enough for you, you know what to do. And if LeAnn doesn’t quite hit the spot, you could always consider Liana, a French name meaning “to climb like a vine” as an alternative.
Merle is the perfect name for a budding country star — it means “blackbird” and was originally a nickname for someone who loved to sing or whistle. It’s truly a unisex name, but the most-famous bearer in country music is Merle Haggard, the singer, songwriter, guitarist and fiddler who pushed the limits of mainstream Nashville and enjoyed 38 No. 1 hits on the country charts.
Notable female Merles include fashion writer Merle Ginsberg, ballerina Merle Park and actress/singer Merle Dandridge.
A short name that’s altogether more modern than Jack or Max, Zac (the diminutive of Zachariah or Zachary, meaning “the Lord has remembered”) has to be on the shortlist of any fan of the Zac Brown Band.
Led by Zachary Alexander “Zac” Brown on lead vocals, guitar and banjo, the group has an impressive country back catalog, including “Chicken Fried” and “Toes.” They’ve flirted with both rock and pop over the years, but never lost their country roots.
Another hot southern place-name with strong country links is Alabama, which means “vegetation gatherers.” The band, Alabama (Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook), enjoyed decades of hits, including “Feels So Right” and “The Closer You Get,” and became one of the first country groups to have commercial success, paving the way for future acts like Sawyer Brown, Diamond Rio and Rascal Flatts.
Famous parents who’ve called their daughters Alabama include novelist William Faulkner, drummer Travis Barker and former Miss USA Shanna Moakler.
As a vintage name that still feels ultra-modern, Ruby (“deep red precious stone”) was chosen by country music legend Kitty Wells for her daughter (now a country star herself): Ruby Wright. Another famous Ruby on the country scene is Ruby Lovett, who released her self-titled debut album in 1998. Plenty of the genre’s biggest names have paid tribute to Ruby, such as Kenny Rogers in “Ruby (Don’t Take Your Love to Town).”
Modern-day parents can’t get enough of their own little Rubies — the name ranked No. 74 on the U.S. chart in 2018.
One of the early pioneers of the Nashville sound was Floyd Cramer, an American Hall of Fame pianist. He was a busy studio musician, playing piano for the likes of Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee, and enjoyed some time in the limelight himself with hits such as “Last Date” and “On the Rebound.”
Floyd, meaning “gray-haired,” dropped out of the U.S. top 1,000 in the early 1990s, but it still holds a certain off-the-wall appeal.
The meaning of Miranda says it all: “marvelous.” As is Miranda Lambert, who shot to fame in 2003 after coming in third in the TV talent show, “Nashville Star.” Since then, she has put her stamp on country music, both as a solo act and with her supergroup, Pistol Annies.
The name may have been declining in popularity in recent years, but it still ranked No. 367 in 2018.
Former Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker made the move from rock band to country soloist in 2008, and he hasn’t looked back. In 2013, he took home his first solo Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance for his cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.” He has no less than five successful country music albums under his belt, including 2018’s “When Was the Last Time.”
But beyond all that, he has a truly majestic, historic name. Meaning “kingly or possess well,” it’s shared with Emperor Darius the Great, a key figure in ancient Persian history.
As one-half of the hugely successful country music duo, The Judds, Wynonna Judd rose to fame in the 1980s alongside her mom, Naomi. She wasn’t born Wynonna, but it definitely has a more country vibe than Christina Claire. In fact, it came from the old swing song, “Route 66,” whose lyrics reference the tiny Arizona village: “Flagstaff, Arizona/Don’t forget Winona.”
Wynonna, which means “first-born daughter,” is also featured in the title of the supernatural Western horror TV series “Wynonna Earp” — and it would be remiss not to pay tribute to the other celebrity bearer of the name, actress Winona Ryder, who did more than a little to draw attention to the name.
If meaning is important to you, you can’t get much better than Bellamy, which means “fine friend.”
In the world of country, it’s also a nod to David and Homer Bellamy, a.k.a. The Bellamy Brothers. They boast more than 50 hits on the country charts and enjoy massive success in many European countries (they’re the only American members of the German Country Music Hall of Fame, apart from Johnny Cash, FYI).
Country trailblazer Ellen Muriel Deason is best known as Kitty Wells, the stage name she adopted from the folk song “Sweet Kitty Wells.” Unlike most country performers, she was actually born in Nashville, singing as a child and learning guitar from her father. She was a 33-year-old wife and mom when she hit the big time with her 1952 song, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” proving that country music wasn’t just a man’s game.
Traditionally, the name Kitty was the English diminutive of Katherine (it was popular long before Katie or Katy came on the scene), but today it stands alone — whether you love it for its cutesy animal vibe, its meaning (“pure”) or its salute to the Queen of Country.
Delilah has been the object of many a songwriter’s affections. Tom Jones, Chuck Berry, Queen, the Plain White T’s, Kiss and Azealia Banks have all given her the spotlight. But for country music fans, it’s Blake Shelton’s 2010 hit, “Delilah,” that might be featured on their pregnancy playlist. “I knew the moment that you walked in/You were looking for your old friend/Well, here I am/It ain’t no big surprise,” he sings.
This Hebrew/Arabic name meaning “delight or to flirt” is definitely having a moment; it ranked No. 94 on the U.S. baby name chart in 2018.
A cute “combination” name made up of Emmy (the diminutive of Emily/Emma, meaning “work, universal”) and Lou (the short form of Louise, meaning “renowned warrior”), Emmylou only needs one famous bearer.
Emmylou Harris has released dozens of albums and singles, won 14 Grammy awards and the Polar Music Prize, has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.