Looking for baby names that feature the appealing letter-pair PH?
I’ve collected a hundreds of options for you in this post!
Before we get to the names, though, let’s get one big question out of the way…
Why does PH sound like “F”?
In English, PH is a digraph, which means that it’s a pair of letters that make a single sound. (It’s interesting that the word “digraph” contains a digraph, isn’t it?)
Most of the English words that have PH were derived from Greek — specifically, from Greek words that included the Greek letter phi:
In ancient times, the Greek letter phi made an aspirated p-sound. (The unaspirated p-sound, on the other hand, was made by the Greek letter pi.)
When Greek was transliterated into Latin, the letter phi was written as “ph” to denote this aspiration — that is, to signal that the letter “p” was accompanied by a brief puff of air.
So, what happened?
In the first several centuries A.D., the pronunciation of the Greek letter phi changed. It slowly evolved from an aspirated p-sound into an f-sound.
As a result, the letter-pair “ph” underwent a corresponding (though somewhat illogical) pronunciation change. It, too, came to represent an f-sound — and still does to this day.
Now, back to the names!
Top baby names with PH
Let’s begin with the most popular names with PH (including a few names that start with PH):
|Top girl names with PH||Top boy names with PH|
Now here are the same names again, but this time around I’ve added some details (including definitions, rankings, and popularity graphs).
Christopher + Kristopher
The name Christopher was derived from a pair of ancient Greek words: christos, meaning “Christ” or “anointed one,” and phoros, meaning “bearing” — hence, “Christ-bearing.”
Kristopher is a slightly simplified form of Christopher (perhaps influenced by the Scandinavian spelling, Kristoffer).
Christopher is currently the 52nd most popular boy name in the nation, and Kristopher ranks 936th.
Other forms of the name include Christoph (German) and Christophe (French).
The name Daphne was derived from the ancient Greek word daphne, meaning “laurel.”
In Greek myth, Daphne was a naiad who was saved from the advances of the god Apollo by being transformed into a laurel tree.
Daphne is currently the 288th most popular girl name in the U.S.
One variant form of the name is Daphna. The name is also sometimes spelled Daphnie, Daphney, or Daphni.
The name Ephraim is the Biblical Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning “fruitful.” It’s pronounced a variety of ways: EHF-rum, EEF-rum, EHF-fray-um, etc.
Ephraim is currently the 978th most popular boy name in the nation.
The name is also sometimes spelled Ephram or Ephrem.
Joseph + Josephine
The name Joseph is based on Ioseph, the Biblical Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning “he adds.”
Josephine comes from Joséphine, the French feminine form of Joseph.
Joseph is currently the 28th most popular boy name in the U.S., whereas Josephine ranks 72nd for girls.
The Dutch form of Joseph is Josephus. Other feminine forms include Josepha (German) and Josephina.
Memphis was the Greek form of the ancient Egyptian city-name Men-nefer, which meant “his beauty.” (The nefer element is also evident in the Egyptian name Nefertiti.)
The Egyptian city is long gone, but a city in Tennessee was named Memphis in the 1820s.
Memphis is currently the 404th most popular boy name in the nation.
The Irish surname Murphy was derived from a medieval Irish given name comprised of the elements muir, meaning “sea,” and cath, meaning “battle.”
Murphy is currently the 716th most popular girl name in the U.S. (It’s also sitting just outside the top 1,000 for boys.)
The name is also sometimes spelled Murphie, Murphee, or Murphey.
The name Ophelia was derived from the ancient Greek word opheleia, meaning “aid, help, succor.”
It’s not a name found in Greek myth, but William Shakespeare used it for a character in his play Hamlet around the year 1600. And, much more recently, the Lumineers featured the name in their 2016 song “Ophelia” [vid].
Ophelia is currently the 321st most popular girl name in the nation.
The French form of the name is Ophélie.
The etymology of the Greek name Persephone (pronounced per-SEH-fuh-nee) isn’t known for certain, but one modern theory suggests that it means “she who threshes ears of corn.”
In Greek myth, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter (the goddess of agriculture) and Zeus.
Persephone is currently the 778th most popular girl name in the U.S. (It entered the top 1,000 for the first time in 2019.)
The name is also sometimes spelled Persephonie or Persephony.
Philip + Phillip
The name Philip was derived from a pair of ancient Greek words: philos, meaning “beloved, loving,” and hippos, meaning “horse” — hence, “lover of horses.”
Phillip-with-two-L’s is a common variant of Philip.
Philip is currently the 451th most popular boy name in the nation, and Phillip (two L’s) ranks 523rd.
Both spellings are typed entirely with the right hand on a standard QWERTY keyboard, which is interesting.
Other forms of the name include Philipp (German) and Philippe (French). Feminine forms include Philippa and Phillipa.
The name Phoebe was derived from the ancient Greek word phoibos, meaning “pure, bright, radiant.”
Many characters in Greek myth had this name, including a Titaness who was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia. This particular Phoebe was the grandmother of the sun god Apollo and the moon goddess Artemis.
Phoebe is currently the 247th most popular girl name in the U.S.
The spelling Phebe (used in certain translations of the Bible) was more prevalent in previous generations. Among the babies born in the city of Providence in 1868, for instance, we find four girls named Phebe, but none named Phoebe.
The name Phoenix was derived from the ancient Greek word phoinix, meaning “crimson” or “purple.”
In Greek and Egyptian myth, the phoenix was a bird that periodically self-immolated and then rose again from its own ashes.
In fact, the capital of Arizona was named “Phoenix” because early settlers, in the 1860s, noticed archaeological evidence of the previous Native American inhabitants and recognized that “the new town would spring from the ruins of a former civilization.”
Phoenix, a relatively gender-neutral name, currently ranks 248th for boys and 308th for girls.
Raphael is currently the 538th most popular boy name in the nation.
Feminine forms of the name include Raphaela (German) and Raphaëlle (French).
Sophia + Sophie
The name Sophia was derived from the ancient Greek word sophos, meaning “wisdom,” “sound judgment,” “skilled.”
Sophie is the French form of Sophia.
Sophia is currently the 6th most popular girl name in the U.S., and Sophie ranks 76th.
The name Stephanie was derived from the ancient Greek word stephanos, meaning “crown” (or, more precisely, “that which surrounds”).
Stephanie is currently the 455th most popular girl name in the nation.
One variant form of the name is Stephania. The name is also sometimes spelled Stephany or Stephani.
More names with PH
So, what other names have PH in them?
Here are some less-common choices (that are still seeing usage in the U.S. these days):
- Alphonse, Alphonso
- Delphina, Delphine
- Japheth, Japhet, Yaphet
- Mustapha, Moustapha
- Philopateer, Philopater
- Phineas, Phinehas
- Ralph, Ralphie
- Saphira, Sapphira, Saphyra
- Seraphina, Saraphina, Seraphine
- Zephaniah, Zephan
- Zephyr, Zephyra, Zephyrus
Finally, here are some very rare names with PH — some of which haven’t seen any usage in the U.S. in recent years, others of which never appeared in the U.S. data at all.
Alpharetta, Amphirho, Amphithea, Aphaea, Alphonsa/Alphonsine, Aphra (e.g., Aphra Behn), Cleopha/Cléophée, Christophine, Delpha/Delphia, Dymphna, Elpha, Elaphia, Eugraphia, Euphrasia/Euphrasie, Glaphyra, Iphigenia, Nephele, Nephthys, Ophrah, Orpha/Orphia, Phaenna, Pharaildis, Philia, Philena/Philene, Philina/Philine, Philinda, Phillis, Philomela/Philomel, Philotera, Phoenicia, Photina/Photine, Phronsie, Phryne, Phyllida, Ralphine, Seraphia, Sophilia, Sophonisba, Theophila/Theophilia, Theophania, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Zelpha, Zephyria/Zéphyrine, Zilpha/Zilphia
Alphaeus, Alphonsus, Amphion, Caliph, Cephus, Cleophas/Cleophus, Delphin/Delphinus, Demophon, Dolph/Dolphus, Eliphalet/Eliphelet, Eliphas/Eliphaz, Ephesius, Epiphanius, Eugraphius, Euphemius, Euphranor, Euphrasius, Hephaestus, Ildephonse, Jehoshaphat/Josaphat, Jephthah/Jephtha, Naphtali/Nephtali, Nicéphore, Onuphrius, Ophir, Orpheus, Pamphilus, Phaedrus, Phanuel, Pharamond, Pharez, Phelan, Phelim, Philbert/Philibert, Phileas, Philemon, Philetus, Philon, Photius, Porphyrius, Rodolph, Rolph, Seraphin, Sophron/Sophronius, Télesphore, Theophanes, Theophilus, Tryphon, Xenophon
Options that work for both genders include Alphie, Iphis, and Seraph.
Which of the PH names above to do you like most? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. If you’d like to see popularity graphs for any of the more common names in this post, just check below for the long list of tags. Each tag is a name, so find the name you’re interested in and click through. The graph will take a moment to load — it’s grabbing a lot of data — but it will allow you to see at a glance the name’s current and historical U.S. usage.
- Behind the Name
- Online Etymology Dictionary
- Phee-phi-pho-phum – The Grammarphobia Blog
- History – Offical Site of the City of Phoenix
Image by Jan Temmel from Pixabay