10 Baby Names For Ambitious Women

I’ve remarked before that what you name your child won’t necessarily dictate what their personality will ultimately end up being like — but if you want to give your future progeny a jump start, a name is a good place to begin. Take, for example, these baby names for ambitious women: Will naming your child after one of them mean that they’ll go on to conquer everything from governments to board rooms? Nope. But it’s kind of nice knowing you share a name with someone super badass, right? As Beyonce once put it, who run the world? Girls.

Speaking of Beyonce, you’ll notice that she’s not actually on this list. There’s a reason for that, though: Her name has become so iconic that it’s probably not the best choice for a baby. (Not unlike being immortal in the Highlander universe, when it comes to Beyonce, there can be only one). But there are loads of other ambitious, powerful women to take your naming cues from, both throughout history and today — so here’s a look at 10 of ‘em.

And ultimately, there’s really nothing stopping you from naming your child Beyonce, if that’s how you roll. So, y’know… you do you, my friends. You do you.

1. Catherine

A truly staggering number of powerful women have borne the name “Catherine” throughout human history: Catherine the Great, Catherine de’ Medici, Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr, Catherine of Aragon, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge… the list goes on. Catherine the Great is arguably the most notable, though; born in 1729, she was the longest ruling female leader of Russia, as well as one of the greatest powers Europe has ever seen. In Russian, the name is “Yekaterina,” but “Catherine” itself is Greek in origin. It means “pure” or “innocent.”

2. Eva

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People tend to have… uh… strong opinions about Eva Peron, but there’s no denying that she had ambition in spades — and that she accomplished a great deal of what she set out to do. The name itself means “life”; furthermore, it bears that meaning in a variety of languages: Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Hebrew, and even Latin.

3. Theodora

There were a lot of Byzantine empresses named Theodora, but the one I’m talking about here was married to Emperor Justinian I. A former actress and courtesan, she married Justinian when she was in her early to mid 20s, somewhere around 523 – 525 A.D. She was instrumental in making Constantinople one of the most important cities in the world; she supervised the building of bridges, aqueducts, and churches; and she was a great champion of women’s rights (comparatively speaking, at least). “Theodora” is also the name of the Greek goddess of justice.

4. Grace

Another name belonging to scads and scads of amazing women, “Grace” means exactly what it says it does. Among the many famous Graces we’ve seen throughout history are singer Grace Jones, pirate captain Grace O’Malley (that's her up there meeting with the Queen), and Grace Annie Lockhart, the first woman in the British Empire to receive a bachelor’s degree… but I’m not kidding when I say that these three are just scratching the surface. Take a look at Wikipedia’s list of notable people named Grace if you don’t believe me.

5. Elizabeth

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This one probably needs no explanation; odds are you can think of at least five extremely notable Elizabeths right off the top of your head, beginning with the two British monarchs that have shared the name. There’s also Elizabeth Warren, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elizabeth Jennings Graham (who challenged segregation on public transportation literally a century before Rosa Parks did), and a whoooole lot of royalty. Hebrew in origin, it means “God is my oath.”

6. Zenobia

Born in Syria sometime around 24 BCE, Zenobia would go on to become one of the great warrior queens of the ancient world. As queen of the Palmyrene Empire, she did a heck of a lot of conquering; given how smart she’s said to have been, this is perhaps no surprise. The name translates from Greek to “force of Zeus.”

7. Mae

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Mae Jemison is the coolest. Not only is she a badass scientist and physician, but moreover, she became the first African-American woman to travel in space in 1992 as a member of the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s crew. She’s continued to make waves even after resigning from NASA in 1993; currently, she’s the principal of the 100 Year Starship project.

And, of course, let’s not forget the other notable Maes around: Maw Whitman and Mae West are the first to come to mind, but there have been a few leading ladies named Mae throughout Hollywood history.

A form of “Mary” or “Margaret,” the name means “bitter” or “pearl.” It’s also the Portuguese word for “mother.”

8. Eleanor

My main inspiration for this one is Eleanor of Aquitaine. Sure, as the daughter of a duke, she started life privileged, but what she also did a whole lot on her own steam, too: When her first marriage stopped working for her, she fought for and obtained an annulment; she was Queen of both France and England at various points in time; and she took active part in the Second Crusade. (Yes, the Crusades were more than a little problematic, but that’s a whole ‘nother article.)

That said, though, Eleanor of Aquitaine is far from the only notably ambitious and high-achieving Eleanor out there. Personal favorites include Eleanor “Nell” Gwynn, a Restoration-era actress and mistress of King Charles II (not that I condone cheating — but Nell seriously worked the system to get what she wanted out of life, which I find quite admirable), and Eleanor Roosevelt. “Eleanor” means “shining light” in Greek; it also has a ton of fun variants, like Elinor and Lenore.

9. Matilda

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First off, “Matilda” means “mighty battle maiden” in German and “brave in war” in Swedish. And second off, Roald Dahl’s Matilda is one of the most ambitious little girls I’ve ever seen. Heck. And yes.

10. Sheryl

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I mean, hi. Sheryl Sandberg. One of the most powerful women in business, according to Forbes. It’s a variation of “Cheryl” with a C, so if you wanted to go for something a little less overtly Sandberg-inspired, that’s an option. It’s thought to be a modern invented name inspired by the French word “cherie,” or “darling” — which honestly I think just makes it even more fitting for an ambitious woman: It pretty much willed itself into existence.

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