In an effort to expand my name knowledge, I'm starting a series of posts based on certain sounds in popular (and soon-to-be popular) names! This is all based on the General American accent, and is not intended to exclude varying pronunciations of names.
The key to the above map of accents can be found here. Today's post will focus on the lovely sound, Lou! Many names including this element come from Louis and its ancestors.
Lucy, Lucia, Lucille
All of these names are in the top 300, and for good reason. They're feminine, vintage, and have the inspiring meaning of "light". Nicknames Lu and Lulu are optional, but Lucy was originally a diminutive of the latter two names anyway. Namesakes Lucille Ball and Lucy van Pelt are other positive traits attached to these names.
The French variant (former) hasn't been seen in the top 1000 since 1991, but the English variant (latter) jumped back on the list after a 40-year hiatus in 2014. Both offer distinctly retro vibes, and statistically probably honor at least one relative in your family. On a personal note, there's an upbeat song in the musical The Bandwagon called "I Love Louisa" - give it a listen!
Emmylou, Bettylou, Marylou
Compound names often go unrecorded in the United States, but putting them together in one word keeps the friendly, old-fashioned traditions alive. Musician Emmylou Harris is the most notable namesake, with Marylou of Kerouac's On the Road providing a literary connection. Interestingly, Marylou and Marilou are also popular in France.
Speaking of French (and generally European) names, Lilou currently ranks at #12 in France. It's a diminutive of Lily or Liliane, and gained a huge boost in popularity via the Bruce Willis/Milla Jovovich scifi film, The Fifth Element (another personal favorite). Milou is a short form of Marie Louise, and was not used for any American children last year.
Onward to Spain and Latin America! Luna has been popular worldwide throughout the 2000's, and the inclusion of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter books has given the name extra positivity. Luz, another form of Lucia, is a bit more mature than its sister names, and has been relatively popular in Spanish-speaking communities. Guadalupe is another Spanish-language classic, honoring the Virgin Mary.
Louis, Lewis, Luis
This name has an incredibly long history across multiple continents, so if you're looking for something with gravitas, the buck stops here. Louis means "renowned warrior", another plus, and has hundreds of excellent namesakes to choose from - athletes, rulers, actors, scholars. Lewis is the English variant, and Luis the Spanish.
Luke, Luca, Lucas
The above three names - and their many spelling variations - rank throughout the US top 1000. Chances are you know a couple of Luke's other than Skywalker! There's a Gospel named Luke, dozens of fictional and actual famous people named Luke, and more than a few dogs named Luke (Lucy is also the second most popular female dog name).
Lucian, Lucien, Lucius
More elegant and old-fashioned than its shorter counterparts, Lucian jumped back on popularity lists in 2005 after 50 years off the list. It's still hovering at the bottom, which is helpful if you're looking for something recognizable but not popular. Lucien is the French version, and Lucius, while often attached to movie villains, is not totally unusable.
While its origin meaning is "army people", the name is now used by many to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. It's another name with a plethora of namesakes, including the eponymous current BBC drama starring Idris Elba. Luther is classic and demure, but definitely strong. Sidenote: creative spelling Luthor references a Superman baddie, so I suggest sticking to the original.
It should really be in a unisex column, because Blue is ranking fairly evenly for boys and girls. It's the "starbaby middle name du jour" (thanks Nameberry) and might rise through the ranks like other color names - Violet, Scarlet, Rose. But many parents are still stuck on the "blue = boy" idea, which has been thoroughly debunked, for the record.
There are plenty of names I didn't include above - Plumeria, Tallulah, Louanne, Lupita, Toulouse, Ludwig - and I look forward to finding more in the comments!