Everyone wants their kid to be special, and for some, that starts with giving them a special name. The eras of Sarah, Jessica, and Emily reigning supreme are behind us. In an interview with Quartz, Laura Wattenberg, founder of the site Baby Name Wizard, said, “I think in past generations, parents were much more concerned about their kids’ names fitting in. But in the past 20 years, the focus has been 100% on standing out. Parents are really, really worried about their kids being ordinary.”
There’s a fine line, though, between special and silly. No one wants to see their child being bullied for school years to come because of their name. Even worse, it could detriment their adult-life and sabotage their future. Thus, parents are on the hunt for the next Harper. It’s not easy finding something that’s hip and modern, but not too trendy. Interesting, but not weird. Classic, but not dated. There’s so much to think about!
Of course, at the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a perfect name, and picking the “right” name is totally subjective to the parents and the child. But, alas, we’re offering some objective information about names that might spark some inspiration. To help, here are some unique baby names your kid won’t hate as an adult.
Using nature as inspiration for your child’s name is nothing new. Names like Iris have been middling in popularity for girls in recent years. However, there’s endless obscure sources just begging to be used as inspiration for your baby’s name. Why not give these a whirl? Clover is a simply adorable name and brings to mind luck and the freshness of spring. Plus, it’s a great choice if you want to move past the typical flower names like Daisy and Rose for your budding baby girl. Willow also gets an honorable mention for its natural roots and mystical feel. Plus, it has that celebrity flair thanks to Will Smith’s impressively precocious daughter.
Boys unfortunately get passed over more often when it comes to considering nature names, with parents opting for more traditionally “masculine” names. But don’t let that stop you. Trees and flowers aren’t just for girls! Forrest and Sage both sound dignified with a cool earthy twist. Natural sounding names are seen as uplifting and inspiring, perhaps because they remind us of just how beautiful the world can be. And that association certainly isn’t limited to girls.
It’s always fashionable to go the nostalgic route. We currently live in an era where the 1980s are making quite a comeback in pop culture. You can take a hint from the hipsters and start looking backwards, without choosing something that’s totally inappropriate and bully-worthy. Cecil peaked in the early 1900s with just under 3,000 babies per million earning that moniker. Nowadays, it’s less than 30 per million. For the more historically-minded, you might recognize this name from the famous filmmaker. The feminine version of the name, Cecilia, has quite the sophisticated ring to it as well.
Caution is recommended when it comes to nostalgia, though, since not all names are created equal. None of us want to see a return of Ethel into the public consciousness. A name from the past should age like fine wine, not become crusty and dated. Good classics include Theodore, Henry, and Clara. A good vintage name should give off a sense of refinement. A bad one just reminds everyone of their embarrassing great-aunt Agnes.
Parents have been calling their daughters their “little princess” for decades. However, in the modern day and age, more of them are starting to be critical of the princess stereotype. The animated works of Disney are no doubt a huge part of the cultural image of a pretty, singing, damsel with a crown. A mom named Candace Kilpatrick told The New York Post that, “Women are portrayed as useless and dependent on men. Snow White needs a man to save her from a lonely life in the woods.” It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
All of this being said, it’s worth keeping in mind that perspective is key — a princess is actually defined as a woman with sovereign power, with high-standing and rank. Yes, you may want to raise a little princess, but that doesn’t automatically mean she’s a damsel in distress. As parents, we have the power to frame the princess fantasy in a way that’s empowering — that being a princess means being a strong leader.
Estelle has risen in popularity due to both the R&B star and the real life Swedish princess. It’s much more modern than other royal names like Catherine and Victoria, but still gives off a regal sensibility.
If you can’t tear yourself away from a common name, but still want to kick it up a notch, here’s a neat trick that’s simple yet effective: You can always look for some alternatives. Kieran shares Irish ancestry with popular names Liam and Aiden. It sounds similar to both, but manages to fly under the radar. Cultures tend to have names with similar sounds, so it can be easy to find many different iterations of the same pattern.
For example, Isabella was the fourth most used girl name in the United States as of 2017 data via the Social Security Administration (the most recent data at the time of publishing). The use of the letter “a” with the fun junction of “ella” make the name flow. By taking those two elements, you can come up with the under-utilized Annabelle, Arabella or Mirabella. You can make sure your kid isn’t lumped in with all the other Liams and Isabellas in their class by simply using this secret as a guide.
A good name should roll off the tongue like a song. Going for a name that is literally a musical term may seem on-the-nose, but it’s hard not to fall for its charm. Cadence means the rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds. Just hearing the word brings singing and dancing to mind. Or, if you’re a fan of the show Nashville, you might recall that Juliette Barnes (played by Hayden Panettiere) named her daughter Cadence. It’s a beautiful way to pay homage to the arts with a modern-sounding moniker. Arietta and Viola similarly make one think of a grand concert hall, though these names evoke more of a nostalgic feel. These kinds of names are especially great for couples that are passionate about classical music.
If you’re not too keen on the literal route, you could always look to broadway. Eliza is fairly rare, and can claim both the main star of My Fair Lady and the beloved wife in Hamilton as namesakes. Those not afraid of a little spice could go for the bold Lola. Take heed, though. Any songs that produce these names are liable to get stuck in your head all the time.
Names are constantly immortalized in the pages of literature, which is great for parents! It shows that the name has stood the test of time. Dorian may have been more of a villain in his titular novel, but that’s fine since most people probably didn’t read it in high school. It still gives off an heir of nobility and class. If you need a more heroic figure to use as a starting point, you could always spring for the stoic Atticus.
Books can also give us glorious flights of fantasy, so why not use that to your advantage? Alice is a great choice — it’s currently on the rise, but still obscure enough to be different. Jules almost never gets used and that’s a real shame. More people should pay homage to the great French novelist. If you’re not a fan of the classics, go pick up a book you loved to read. Your choice will be personal to you, and remind you of all the good reads as your child grows.
More and more parents are sticking it to the gender binary by giving their kids names from the opposite side of the pink and blue list, according to Today’s Parent magazine. It’s 2019, why not name your baby boy Morgan? It’s a beautiful name! After all, Ashley and Lindsay are considered hyper-feminine names today, but they used to be strictly for boys. In a way, now you have twice the amount of options.
Many names don’t make it all the way to the switch, and have become gender-neutral. Charlie is a great example. Usually known for being a boys name, Charlie was given to girls in 51% of its overall use in 2016. Others like Quinn, and Tanner are following suit. Picking a name from another gender is the perfect way to have your kid stand out. It’s unexpected, but still keeping it respectable for years to come. You might even be ahead of the naming trend!
Long has man looked up to the sky and been filled with awe. With a galactic name, your baby could embody that same glorious wonder. A nova is the astronomical event that results in new stars, which is a pretty poetic metaphor for the birth of a child. Experts at Nameberry say that as a name Nova, “has the feel of both newness… and great energy.” Celeste and Stella are also good star-based choices. Though, with Stella, be prepared for many A Streetcar Named Desire references.
A lot of planets and moons are named after Greek mythology figures and Shakespeare characters. This works fine for names like Venus, which gains clout from the famous tennis player. Others should be used with caution. Pandora has a lot of negative connotations due to the myth itself, with all that unleashing evil on the world business. It might be safer to stick with the literal names to avoid confusion.
Using a surname as a first name was a popular practice in the 1800s, and it’s starting to make a comeback. According to Jennifer Moss, CEO of the site BabyNames.com, this is due to the current obsession with genealogy. “We see more of our family trees on sites like 23andme.com,” Moss told the Chicago Tribune, “Use one of these names, and your family’s happy.” This phenomenon would partially explain why names like Jackson and Hunter have gained so much popularity.
Emery is a surname that started popping up in England and France from the invading Normans. It means busy, industrious, and powerful. While at first look, it’s a good fit for a boy name, the soft sounds also make it a nice fit for a girl. The practice of using a last name could also be a good compromise for any women who gave up their maiden name when getting married. Thus, you can celebrate both sides of your baby’s family.
It might not seem like it at first, but Ellie is a nerdy name in the best way. Ellie is one of the protagonists of the beloved The Last of Us video game series. She’s a spunky little girl that works to survive a zombie apocalypse. Video games might seem like a weird source of inspiration, but it’s not all that different from taking a name from a beloved movie or book. The late actor Robin Williams named his own daughter, Zelda, after the titular video game character.
Geek media is becoming more and more mainstream, especially with Disney pumping out Marvel films every year. Names from the recent hit Black Panther like Shuri and T’Challa are starting to appear, according to Today’s Parent. One of the most popular names today, Logan, was given a significant boost due to a certain clawed X-Men character on the big screen. As long as a name sounds good, it shouldn’t matter where it comes from. Though, we’d probably advise against naming your baby after Sonic the Hedgehog.
Americans live in busy times, we don’t have time for a long name! Maybe that’s why Nameberry reported a strong trend towards three-letter names. It’s even better if you can say them with one syllable. A short name can work to balance out a long surname, if that is a concern in your family. Nameberry recommends some up-and-coming short names like Kit and Liv.
Ray comes from the name Raymond, but the latter is a bit-old fashioned, so Ray gives a sleek update to the name meaning “wise protector.” It also brings to mind the classy singer-songwriter, Ray Charles. Change one letter to Rae and it transforms into an uber-feminine classic moniker. Many of the female three-letter names move into two-syllable territory. This is most likely due to those irresistible “a” or “ia” ending. Both Ada and Ava broke through to the top 20 names of 2018 in the United States. To move away from the same sound, you could try Ivy, Ali, Joy, or Val.
Aquinnah might sound exotic, but it’s actually an island town off the coast of Massachusetts. The name comes from the Wampanoag term for “land under the hill,” and the town continues to be a cultural center for the tribe today. Naming a baby after a location is not a new trend, but there are still plenty of interesting hidden gems to use, rather than relying on the increasingly popular Brooklyn or Dallas.
Vienna is recommended as a substitute for the mega-popular Sierra. It evokes all the culture and class of Austria. Cheyenne is another Native American-based name that means “people of a different language” in the Sioux language. The name saw a rise in popularity in the 1990s, but has been dropping steadily over the decades. For whatever reason, location names tend to be used for girls more than boys. However, if you’re looking to be different, there’s always Memphis, Kingston, Aspen, and Raleigh.
It might not always be such a disaster to take a naming cue from celebrities. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to go full Kimye and name your baby after a literal direction. If an artist is important to you, though, it might not be such a bad idea to take their name. Elton obviously comes from the master musician Elton John. The man has created many classic hits and composed music for the Broadway darling Billy Elliot. It makes sense to select such an icon as your child’s namesake.
Some celebrities, like Oprah or Beyoncé, are so inexorably linked to their name that it seems ridiculous that someone would think to use it for their baby. Looking at celebrities of the past, though, can be simply vintage-chic. Aretha, Billie, and Quincy all harken back to the jazz greats of years long gone, and don’t seem like inappropriate choices at all.
Sometimes, you get sick of being humble and just want to show off! Names that mean wealth and fortune are usually fittingly fabulous. Meera is no exception, meaning “prosperous” in its original Sanskrit. Those of the Hindu faith might associate Meera with Meera Bai. Meera Bai was a mystical Hindu poet, whose works are still popular today. Fans of Game of Thrones might also recognize the name. Don’t worry, she’s one of the good guys who hasn’t been killed off just yet.
There’s no need to worry if you are concerned that your baby will be associated with avarice or greed. Wealth doesn’t just have to be about monetary gain, it could be a richness of spirit. Asher and Felix both have similar meanings of “happy,” “fortunate,” and “blessed.” These names might not immediately bring fortune and fame to your little one, but it may give them something to aspire to.
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