For the 'different, not weird' baby namer

It’s that time of year! The SSA name rankings are here!

April showers bring May flowers, the Social Security Administration baby name popularity list, and apparently, more showers. That’s right…the SSA has released the 2017 U.S. name rankings, and it’s a good thing it’s pouring rain outside, as I’ll be spending the day poring over this list with a cozy blanket and a hot tea.  While there will most certainly be more posts to come on this topic, I wanted to share my initial reaction by highlighting some newcomers to the top 1000!

-Personally, I’m super excited to see Simeon and Magdalena return to the list.  I think they’re both super attractive, accessible yet unusual choices.

-On the girls’ side, “Oak-” names had an epic showing, with Oaklyn, Oaklynn, and Oaklee all joining Oakley in the Top 1000 for the first time.  Oaklyn soared 742 places to debut at a startling #676, and Oaklynn was the second fastest rising girls’ name, ascending a whopping 1072 spots to #886.  Does anyone have an idea of where this trend originated?

-Speaking of “Oak-” names, “O-” names have generally been fairly rare, with the exception of Olivia, who was at one point the sole “O-” name in the entire top 1000 until Olive returned after her 56-year hiatus.  There certainly seems to be an “O-” trend, though, as Opal (#859) and Octavia (up 435 spots to #593!!!) both rejoined the list in 2017, on the heels of Ophelia, who made her comeback in 2015.

-We also see a couple new place names on the girls’ list, with Egypt making her debut and India returning after a three-year hiatus.  And while Cairo has been making the boys’ list since 2015, Kairo joined him for the first time in 2017.

-For boys, it’s no surprise to see more surnames join the list (or should these two be in the word names category?), with Wells and Ledger both making their Top 1000 debut.  Both of these are clearly fashionable, with trendy endings, celebrity ties, and a surname-y style.

-Wacky “word” names: 2017 brought some…interesting…spelling variations: Kyng for boys and Paisleigh for girls made their top 1000 debuts.

Juelz (more likely a variant of Jules) for boys and Jurnee for girls also returned this year.

Other new word names on the girls’ side include:

Dream– making her Top 1000 debut at #828

Sunny– returning to the list for the first time since 1985

Emerald– returning for the first time since 2002

Legacy– debuting at #945

Treasure– has only made the top 1000 in one other year (2004)

The boys’ side included some surprising gender-bending word names:

Nova soared up 323 spots to debut at #918 on the boys’ list.  Nova has consistently ranked for girls since 2011, and lands at #95 in 2017.

Briar has been making the girls’ list since 2015, but joins the boys’ list for the first time this year at a very respectable #880.

Reign debuted for girls in 2016 and rose to #704 last year.  It’s close behind on the boys’ side though, debuting on the boys’ list at #961.

**It was remarkable to find Nova, Briar, and Reign on the boys’ list since they all have stronger histories on the girls’ side.  Gender neutral names overwhelmingly tend to migrate in the other direction (Kelsey, Ashley, Riley, McKenzie, etc).  And, ultimately, names that make the switch will often become exclusively used for girls (think Meredith and Hillary).  It is therefore refreshing to see names moving the other way, and perhaps reflects the broader movement in our society toward blurring the lines between expectations for boys and girls.

-On that note, Frankie is another really interesting gender neutral pick.  Frankie took only a brief hiatus from the boys’ Top 1000 in 2016, but had been fading for awhile,  ranking #994 in 2015.  He makes a strong comeback in 2017 at #898 on the heels of the girls’ Frankie, who rose to #844 in 2017 from #956 the previous year.

-I was personally surprised to see Melania make the Top 1000 for the first time ever, given the controversy swirling around this one, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

-Surprising comebacks:  I thought these names still sounded a bit dated and would be on the downswing for awhile, but they’re back!

Tara only the left the Top 1000 for one year, but had previously been plummeting for several years.

Renee left the Top 1000 after 2014, but returned in 2017 at #966, albeit a far cry from her #62 peak in 1967.

Jenny– while she only left the Top 1000 for a year, Jenny doesn’t exactly make a strong comeback, ranking only #996.

Miley– I honestly thought we were over Miley when she very abruptly dropped off the list after 2014, as it seemed she was inextricably associated with Miley Cyrus.  Apparently I was wrong; Miley’s back at #923.

-The Top 1000 contained a few surprises (for me at least), but many of the newcomers were very much on-trend, and have been on the upswing for quite a while:

Florence– The U.S. tends to trail behind Britain with regard to naming trends (think Elle, Olive, Liam, Oliver…) and I’ve been waiting several years now for Florence to make her comeback.  She makes her triumphant return to the Top 1000 for the first time since 1981 at #980, and I’d bet this is just the beginning of her ascent.  Florence has been trending in the UK for many years, ranking #20 there in 2016.

Luella– L-heavy names have been exploding for awhile, but Luella hadn’t made the top 1000 since 1955!

Marlowe– Marlowe makes her debut at #981, but has been on a painstakingly slow but steady climb for many years, just barely missing the top 1000 in 2016 with 256 girls receiving this cute moniker.  Marlowe ticks so many trendy boxes, I’d bet she’ll be here for a while.

Koa– Koa weds the hipster vibe of Kai with the biblical Noah, a top 10 name since 2009, so it’s no surprise to see him finally join the Top 1000.

Caspian– Chic Caspian has been on a steady ascent for a decade or so, but only made the Top 1000 for the first time in 2017.  With a familiar but still off-the-grid sound, and with both geographical and literary ties, I foresee this name continuing to rise in the coming years.

So there you have my first thoughts on the names of 2017…what do you think of the Top 1000 newcomers?  Check out the list at


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Thinking outside the box: Ends in “-ina”

Names ending in -ina often have a frilly, princess-y vibe, which many people love.  Here I’ve gone beyond Sabrina and Katrina to compile some fresh, beautiful “-ina” names sure to satisfy those looking for an elegant, feminine moniker. A nice feature of many of these names is that, even though they’re complex and so rare you might never encounter one, they’re still familiar and easy to pronounce.


Catalina– I love this name for it’s elegant femininity that isn’t too over the top.  The salad dressing association is unfortunate.  Caterina makes an equally lovely alternative.

Abelina– Abelina, given to only 8 girls in 2016, provides a cute spin on the timeless Abigail. Similar Ambellina is fit for a princess but given to only 9!

Ravina– A pretty, strong name given to only 7 girls in 2016.

Stellina– A simple syllabic addition elevates the already mystical, heavenly Stella.

Rubina– One of the less frilly choices on this list, with great nickname potential (Rue, Ruby, Bee)!

Marcellina– Derived from “Mars,” the Roman god of war, Marcellina also has cute potential nicknames, from the obvious but dated Marcy to Macy to Marley and more!

Czarina– This list would be complete without this term for Russian royalty, but is certainly a heavy, daring choice.

Honorable Mention (some of these are a bit clunkier): Faustina, Azmina, Evelina, Adalina, Augustina, Antonina, Zina

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The next generation of word names

The 1970s gave us Dawn and Heather, the 80s Amber and Crystal, and Destiny begin to rise in the 90s, with Serenity and Trinity close behind.  Today, many of these names have begun to feel dated, and parents are flocking to vintage picks like Ruby and Lily instead.  But, there are plenty of lovely word names that haven’t quite reached the mainstream success of beloved classics like Grace yet.  I’ve previously posted some of my favorite noun names, and I thought it was time to expand on that list. Here, I’ve gathered what I believe to be some of the most wearable word names lying outside the top 100, and often far outside mainstream popularity.  I’m focusing on girls’ names here, but many of these would easily work as unisex choices.

Freesia– This lovely floral name seems like a logical step from trendy Freya, but for some reason is super rare! It was given to fewer than 5 girls in 2016!

Auburn– Audrey and Aubrey are popular, and “-N” endings are trendy, so why not Auburn?  It was only given to 40 babies in 2016.

Tansy– A cute, unique flower name that both fits in and stands out among the likes of (Mc)Kenzie, Tenley, and Daisy.

Reed- This simple but attractive nature name ranks #351 for boys, but could easily follow Reese across the gender line, and was given to 38 girls in 2016.

Maile- This Hawaiian nature name is pronounced similarly to Miley has all the makings of a trendy moniker, and could appeal to a wide variety of stylistic preferences. Only 23 girls received it in 2016.

Indigo– While I’m not a fan and wouldn’t personally call this one wearable, I had to mention it because its elements are so on trend.  The gender-neutral sound, “O” ending, and nickname Indy/Indie make it a perfect up-and-coming word name.  It missed the top 1000 in 2016, given to only 118 girls and 44 boys, but could be on the upswing.

Cadence– Cadence is on the downswing after suddenly soaring into view in the early 2000s. It’s a pretty name with a pretty meaning but shares the spotlight with spelling variants like Kaydence.  It peaked at #199 in 2007 and now sits well outside the top 100 at #376.  It might be grouped in with the Kayla/Kaylee/Katelyn clan in a world saturated with Kay- names, but I feel Cadence could be worth a second look.

Liberty– I’m not a huge fan of virtue names but I feel Liberty is one of the most wearable, with a few cute vintage nickname options.  Felicity and unisex Justice are other nice options in this category.

Olivine- This pretty green mineral doubles as a more elegant update to the trendy, vintage Olive!  It’s very rare (given to only 10 girls in 2016) but would be unlikely to encounter pronunciation issues.


Honorable Mention: Merit, Laurel, Sorrel, Camellia, Eve, Joy, Mercy, Ember, Senna, Poppy, Penny, Sage, Haven, Rowan, Magnolia, Calla, Rue, Mesa (many of these were discussed in a previous post).

BONUS NAME: Kyrielle! Kyrielle is a bit of a cheat because it’s not included in some English dictionaries (it’s technically French), but isn’t it gorgeous?  And it has a nice meaning too: it’s a form of French rhyming poetry.

Obviously this is just a small sampling of the word names out there!  Share your favorite word names in the comments!!

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Beautiful Names from Orphan Black

Orphan Black is a fantastic thriller series that perfectly mixes futuristic science, human drama, and the phenomenal acting talents of Tatiana Maslany, who plays the roles of several very different human clones.  It’s truly a series like no other…if you haven’t seen it, go watch it!  Once you’re hooked, come back and read this post 🙂

Another thing I’ve noticed about Orphan Black is that the characters are superbly named.  This show is chock full of slightly off-beat names that are still very wearable.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Leda- This name from Greek mythology is used in reference to the entire line of female clones.  I think it fits in easily with popular Leah, Lily, Lila, and the like.

Helena- One of the most entertaining of the clones is Helena.  Helena is raw, impulsive, and at times frightening, but is as big-hearted as they come. Her name is an easily wearable classic, and a nice alternative to Elena or Hannah.

Cosima- Cosima, a scientist, is another of the clones, or “sisters.”  I think her name is a perfect choice for parents looking for something very unusual, but not clunky.  Pronounced “cuh-SEE-mah,” this sweet, feminine moniker has never ranked in the top 1000!

Mika- Pronounced “MEE-kah,” this name is worn by one of the most most mysterious sisters.  She also goes by the names Veera and M.K.

Delphine- The beautiful French scientist Delphine is also Cosima’s lover.  While Delphine is a bit frilly and dramatic for me, I think it’s a great choice for someone seeking an ultra-feminine girl’s name!

Kira-While Kira isn’t particularly unusual nowadays, I think it’s a very pretty, not too common name.  Here, it’s worn by the young daughter of one of the Leda clones, Sarah.

Evie- This villain has such a sweet name!


Castor- The male clones are referred to as Castor clones, drawing again from Greek mythology.  I wouldn’t use this name, personally, but for someone looking for an unusual name with a trendy sound, Castor could work!

Ira- For those looking for an alternative to the popular Noah, Elijah, and Ezra, consider Ira, worn here by one of the male clones.

Rudy- This Castor clone is recognizable by the prominent scar on his face.  I think the vintage nickname Rudy is cute and could easily be revived!

Cal– Cal is Kira’s father.  I think his name is super cute, and could stand for a variety of longer forms ranging from the obvious Calvin to the less common Callum, Callahan, or Calder.

Felix- Felix is an obvious choice for someone looking for that perfect mix of classic and edgy, and not surprisingly, this name has been climbing over the past few years.  In Orphan Black, the name is worn by Sarah’s sassy adoptive brother.


Isn’t this a lovely collection of well-named characters?  Who are your favorites from the show?


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The Great and Glorious Names of ‘Gilmore Girls’

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the TV show ‘Gilmore Girls’ for its wit, its fast-paced dialogue, its quirky characters, and its collection of names!  With rumors of a reunion circulating, I was inspired to mine all seven seasons of ‘Gilmore Girls’ and pick out some of the most interesting names used throughout the series, from the obvious Lorelai to the obscure Drella.

Lorelai- The two main characters in the series are a mother and daughter, both beautifully named Lorelai.  Lorelei was a favorite of mine years before the series began, so I was delighted to see a variation used for such vibrant and lovable characters.  I think the show made this name wearable and familiar, but it isn’t too common, with Lorelei ranking at #479 and Lorelai at #821 in 2014.  The elder Lorelai, played by Lauren Graham, is a beautiful and quick-witted inn owner and mother.  Her bookish daughter and best friend, ‘Rory,’ is portrayed by Alexis Bledel.  There is also a third Lorelai, great grandmother to Rory, who is inexplicably nicknamed ‘Trix.’

Rory- The younger Lorelai goes by the creative nickname ‘Rory,’ a traditionally male name that now seems wearable on either gender.

Lane- This cool, concise name was worn by Rory’s best friend, whose strict upbringing couldn’t suppress her rocker spirit.

Sookie- Melissa McCarthy played the lovable and spunky chef, Sookie St. James.  The name Sookie (“SUE-kee”) originated as a nickname for Susan, and has never made the top 1000 as a given name.  It could make a cute name in the same vein as Bonnie or Frankie.

Paris- Despite her abrasive exterior, Paris Geller turned out to be one of Rory’s best friends over the course of the series.  This intense, unforgettable character was perfectly executed by actress Liza Weil.

Louise- Louise Grant was one of Rory’s schoolmates at her private high school, Chilton, and was an amusing member of Paris’s entourage.  I think the name Louise is an adorable vintage choice and could easily make a comeback (especially considering the popularity of Eloise). I’ve even used this name for one of my pets 😉

Francie- Another unique, nickname-y choice, Francie was worn by one of Rory’s enemies at Chilton.  Rory’s estranged grandmother went by the more formal Francine.

Dean- Rory’s first boyfriend is the dashing Dean Forester, a sweet, loving character played by Jared Padalecki.  I find the name Dean as handsome as the character.

Tobin- Tobin is certainly on trend, with it’s surname origin and -n ending.  This moniker was worn by one of Lorelai’s employees, who appeared in a couple of episodes.

Rune- Comically obnoxious Rune makes a couple of memorable appearances throughout the series.  His unusual name is a point of interest for Lorelai, but despite her efforts, she fails to uncover its origin.  I can see Rune fitting in with other short boys’ names like Reid and Finn.

Drella- This unique appellation is worn by an ornery harpist at the Independence Inn, one of multiple roles played by Alex Borstein throughout the series.

Other lovely (or just interesting) names:

Male: Hanlin, Luke, Max, Morey, Doyle, Finn, Straub, Beau, Brennon, Kirk, Jess

Female: Lulu, Georgia (GG), Shane, Babette, Tana, Honor, Clara, Shira, Althea, Martha

Some of the actors have great names too:

Milo- Milo Ventimiglia played Rory’s rebellious boyfriend, Jess. Though he certainly had a chip on his shoulder, Jess cared deeply for Rory, and was smart and alluringly enigmatic.

Aris- Aris Alvarado appeared several times as the cook, Ceaser (jury’s out on the spelling), at Luke’s Diner.

Chauncey- Chauncey Leopardi makes a few appearances as the goody two-shoes Stars Hollow student, Kyle.  Chauncey is a little preppy for my taste.

Yanic- Yanic Truesdale plays the irritable, yet innocuous, French concierge, Michel Gerard.  Michel is known for his sarcastic quips and his unlikely soft spot for Celine Dion and chow chows.

Scout- Scout Taylor-Compton played Clara Forester, Dean’s charming younger sister.

Keiko- Keiko Agena played spunky Lane Kim.  Keiko is a Japanese girl’s name with several meanings, including “blessed child.”

Sally- Sally Struthers plays outspoken neighbor Babette.  I’d love to see this nickname come back!

Teal- Teal Redmann made frequent appearances as Chilton student Louise Grant.

Honorine- Honorine Bell plays Lulu, girlfriend of the hilarious Kirk Gleason.

Liza- Paris Geller is one of my favorite characters…ever.  I can’t imagine anyone doing as brilliant a job as Liza Weil. I find the name Liza more timeless than Lisa, and I think it could stand alone or serve as a less common nickname for Elizabeth.


What are your favorite names/characters from Gilmore Girls?


Comments on the SSA top 1000: My favorite new names!

The day the SSA list of most popular baby names comes out is one of my favorite days of the year. I’ve spent nearly every moment of my free time poring over the list for several days now, and I’ve picked out a few newcomers to the top 1000 list that I find most appealing (or at least interesting!). I’ve also noted some of my favorites that are returning to the top 1000 this year. What do you think of these names that have fallen short of the top 1000 in the past? Will they continue to rise?



Eliezer- This biblical moniker last appeared in 2010 and joined the top 1000 for the first time in 1982, also his peak year. With his stylish “El,” “z,” and “-er” elements and a popular nickname, Eli, I predict Eliezer will continue to rise. Consider Eleazar as an even more rare alternative.

Eliseo- Eliseo made the top 1000 in 2012 but fell short in 2013. With his popular “El-“ beginning and stylish “-o” ending, this Spanish and Italian variant of the Hebrew Elisha would fit in perfectly without being too common (Eliseo reached his peak popularity at only #830 in 1977).

Anton- Cute and versatile Anton returns to the top 1000 after only a brief hiatus in 2013. He’s made significant progress, ranking at #978 in 2012 and soaring to #897 in 2014. Anton isn’t modern, as he peaked before the 20th century, but I think the “-ton” ending makes him super stylish.

Henrik- This sharp variant of the popular Henry appears in the top 1000 this year for the first time, making a respectable debut at #863.

Gordon- Old man names are back in style, so it’s not too surprising to see Gordon resurfacing. Gordon peaked at #70 in 1935.

Leif- This Scandinavian name rhymes with ‘safe’ and is, I think, an intriguing and cool choice. He hasn’t made the top 1000 since 1987, and this past year fell just short, with 205 babies receiving the moniker (It took 206 to reach #1000!).

Dimitri- This cute, unusual, and exotic boy’s name peaked in 1992 at #502, so he’d certainly make an uncommon choice.

Axl- Axel has been around for a while, but this variant debuts this year at #850, perhaps getting a boost from singer Fergie.

Dash- This slick, cute boy’s name makes the top 1000 for the first time this year at #951. I predict Dash has yet to peak!

Chevy- This bold, sporty choice makes the top 1000 for the first time this year at #903.

Judson- This super masculine surname peaked at #431 in 1911 and has been absent from the top 1000 since 1986. I think Judson is very wearable and has several stylish elements.

Bode- Usually pronounced to rhyme with Cody, Bode has appeared in the top 1000 in only two other years: 2010 and 2006. This cute- sounding, sporty name was likely brought into the public eye by Olympic skier Bode Miller. I think it’s a cute name, but with the confusing spelling and similarity to the word “body,” I, personally, wouldn’t choose it.

Anakin- Yes, TWO HUNDRED EIGHTEEN boys were born to extremely dedicated Star Wars fans this year.



Cordelia- I could not be more thrilled to see this beauty finally make the list! Last seen in the top 1000 back in 1950, elegant Cordelia has a vintage feel and a wide variety of nickname possibilities, from sweet Cora and Delia to tomboy Cory and Cody.

Louisa- Soft, feminine Louisa hasn’t been seen since 1969, and I’m glad to see this classic name making a comeback. Most popular over a century ago, Louisa fits in well with other returning classics.

Mattie- Mattie seems like an adorable vintage-style variation, and perhaps a needed update, on the ridiculously popular “Mad-“ names. Mattie was last seen in 2012, and was extremely common in the early 20th century, but she hasn’t ranked within the top 500 in the last several decades, making her an unusual choice despite the popularity of Madison/Madeline.

Bonnie- Bonnie is another cute, older choice making a comeback. Last seen in 2003, Bonnie returns to the top 1000 at #866. She peaked in 1950 at #33.

Emmeline- Sugary sweet Emmeline makes the top 1000 this year for the first time, ranking #907. An adorable update or full name for popular Emma with a lovely vintage sound, I think I actually prefer Emmeline to both Emma and the similar-sounding Adeline. Variant Emmaline has ranked for the last 3 years, coming in at #880 in 2014.

Julieta- Julieta logically expands on the popular Julia/Juliet/Juliana series. She has made the top 1000 in only one other year: 2011.

Faye- I’ve always been attracted to Faye, so I am quite excited to see her making a comeback! I love her simplicity, femininity, and whimsical meaning: “fairy.” Missing from the top 1000 since 1979, Faye returns this year at #908.

Ariadne- I’ve always found this Greek name so incredibly beautiful. With elements of both stylish Penelope and long-popular Ariana, it’s no surprise she’s finally made the top 1000, ranking at #801. I’m sure this mythological moniker will continue to rise.

Jessa- I find this minimalist modernization of outdated Jessica refreshing and very pretty. She barely made the top 1000 for the first time in 2012 at #992 and fell short the following two years. In 2014, however, she seems more firmly seated at #849, perhaps thanks to celebrity Jessa Duggar Seewald.

Frida- For those seeking an uncommon name that isn’t overly frilly, Frida seems like a nice choice, and she’d make a good alternative to very trendy Freya. She’s never been popular, yet doesn’t have a particularly modern sound.

Thea- Delicate Thea first appeared in the top 1000 back in 1965, but she’s currently at her highest ever rank: #776.

Cambria- Only making the top 1000 for the first time in 2009, girly Cambria combines cute and popular elements “cam” and “bri” and has several potential nicknames. She fell short of the top 1000 in 2013 but returns this year at #928.

Reina- While I prefer the similar Raina, I still love the sound of this Spanish name, last seen in 2010.

Nala- Two syllable girl’s names starting with ‘N’ and ending with an ‘ah’ sound seem to be trending, with at least 11 names fitting these criteria appearing in the top 1000. I think simple Nala is very cute and clearly fits in well, yet she’s far from being too popular, making her debut at only #995.

Naya- Like Nala, Naya seems to fit a growing trend. Naya makes a strong top 1000 debut at #778, likely aided by celebrity Naya Rivera.

Landry- An interesting and out of the box surname choice for girls, Landry makes her debut in the top 1000 this year at #981. I bet we’ll see her advance next year, but I’m not sure I can get past the similarity to “laundry.”

Montserrat- I don’t get the appeal, but I absolutely had to mention this adventurous choice for making such a fantastic debut in the top 1000 at #571, surpassing variant Monserrat, which has ranked since 2000. I really don’t find this place name, which means “jagged mountain,” wearable in the US (though it certainly has a history in other countries), but with over 1000 girls receiving Montserrat or Monserrat in 2014, it seems there are quite a few parents who would disagree!

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Noun Names that Need More Love

Yikes! I’ve just finished my first semester of graduate school and I’m WAY busier than I ever thought I’d be. Namesplash has certainly been neglected over the past few months, but since I have a short break for the holidays, I have the time to give it some much-needed attention! I’ll put an end to the Namesplash drought with some of my favorite noun names.

I, personally, am not a big fan of most noun names. I feel that they often have too much meaning attached to them for the wearer to make the name his/her own.  I do, however, have a soft spot for the nature inspired variety, and I’m sure many of you more open-minded readers can find appeal in others, from flowers to virtues to occupational names. So here are a few unusual noun names I think are lovable:


Atlas– Stemming from Greek mythology, Atlas would make a great alternative for those who love the sound of Silas but find it too common (Silas was #116 in 2013).

Colt– Slick and boyish, Colt is a cool, modern choice.

Flint– Isn’t Flint adorable? He’s a great alternative to Finn, I think.

Justice– One of my favorite virtue names, Justice is a stylish choice, and at #475 in the US in 2013, he’s uncommon but not unheard of. Do you prefer Justice for a boy or a girl?

Reed– My favorite nature name for boys, Reed has a sleek sound and will age well.

Shade– Cool and slightly enigmatic, Shade would fit in with common sounds like those in Shane and Caden.

Thane– As you might have noticed, I love the simplicity of single syllable boys’ names, but simple isn’t synonymous with boring. Thane would make a very unique pick.

Thatcher– This occupational surname has an appealing, on-trend sound.

Warren– A more subtle nature name, I think Warren is perfectly on-trend with his n-ending, and I love that he has more of a classic feel than many modern choices.


Ambrosia– A glamorous floral name that’s a bit over the top for me (I lean toward Iris and Lily), but would sound amazing with a single syllable surname.

Camellia– This frilly flower name is easily balanced out by the tomboy nickname Cam or even sweet and simple Mia.

Echo– An adorable addition to the o-ending trend.

Ember– While Amber is outdated, I think Ember has a completely different feel and could easily take off. The similarity to popular Emma allows Ember to fit in easily.

Joy– Perhaps she’s outdated, but doesn’t the name Joy just make you feel happy? I think she’s ready for revival.

Laurel– Another floral choice, uncommon Laurel combines the sweetness of a flower name with the familiarity of Laura and Lauren.

Magnolia– With the timeless Maggie as a nickname, Magnolia makes a wearable, classic nature name.

Mesa– I think Mesa would make a truly stand-out choice and would age well.

Perry– I think Perry has a uniquely adorable sound, but would you associate it with singer Katy Perry?

What are your favorite noun names?  Would you ever use one?  Share your thoughts here!

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Popular Baby Names: Let’s crunch numbers

The SSA released the top U.S. baby names of 2013 in May. Perhaps you heard, or perhaps this is your first time on the Internet since May.

If you’ve sought out this blog, chances are you prefer uncommon baby names. I’ve heard of people who refuse to consider top 100, or even top 1000, names for their children. Many parents (likely parents named Jennifer, Ashley, Michael, or Christopher) don’t want their kids to be one of 3 in their class with the same name. Others want to stretch their creative muscles when picking a baby name, and perhaps others may feel pressure from their baby-making peers to search for the coolest, most unique name that will turn their friends green with envy.

I, too, have my aversions to popular baby names, and I certainly have my beef with the cutesy, the trendy, and the kree8iv. Today, though, let’s take a step back and look at what makes a name ‘popular’ in this era of baby naming, and whether it’s really so bad to choose a top 100 name.

With regard to the argument that kindergarten classes will be packed to the brim with Sophias and Noahs, consider the fact that the number of children with ‘popular’ names has decreased dramatically in recent years. Last year, 137,991 girls and 163,214 boys received Top 10 names. Now, consider the year 1970: 284,440 girls and 499,229 boys received Top 10 names, more than doubling the counts for 2013! Thus, since far fewer children are actually given ‘popular’ names, it seems much safer now to use a popular name and trust that your child won’t be drowning in a flood of Noahs.

To add to this idea, let’s use the -den trend as an example. Last year, 22053 boys received names OUTSIDE the Top 100 but within the Top 1000 rhyming with Aidan (this number excludes other -den names such as Holden, Madden, and Kamden). That’s higher than the number of Noahs! Thus, are Braeden (#710) and Rayden (#747) really that unique?

So, just for today, let’s put aside our notions of popularity and our obsessions with rankings, and let’s appreciate all names, common or not, for their individual appeal. After all, the reason many of these names are popular may simply be that they are strong, beautiful, and versatile!

Without further ado, I’ll share my personal favorites from the 2013 Top 100:


Elizabeth- with her plethora of nicknames, Elizabeth can always be updated, yet she’ll have a solid, elegant name to fall back on.
Aria- a less frilly, more practical alternative to Ariana
Scarlett- vintage chic
Sarah- another classic that will never sound outdated


William- timeless and sophisticated, but not stuffy
Luke- I love 1 syllable names for boys

Many, if not all, of these names are unlikely to ‘go out of style,’ in my opinion. Sydney and Blake may be exceptions, but I just happen to love them anyway 🙂 These are names that will never sound too young or too dated, and have plenty of character and charm. Yes, they’re in the taboo Top 100, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

What are your thoughts on this year’s Top 100? Have you ever crossed a name off your list due to it’s popularity?

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Zippy, Zesty X- and Z- Names

From Xander and Xavier to Zoe and Zayden, X’s and Z’s are all the rage.  They certainly make for quirkier, bolder baby names, but many parents seek names that both have history and aren’t overused (these criteria would exclude recently invented names like Zayden).  While I think there are several names in this category that wouldn’t age particularly well, there are certainly a variety of very tasteful and wearable X and Z names.  Here are some of my favorite zesty X- and Z- containing names:


Cruz- A surname of Spanish origin meaning ‘cross,’ Cruz has a sleek feel to it and could easily fit in with modern trends while paying homage to a Spanish heritage.

Lorenzo- An Italian and Spanish variant of Lawrence, Lorenzo is also the name of a ruler of Florence.  Lorenzo has an older, vintage feel, and would make a great off-beat alternative to the trending Leonardo.

Zadok- Zadok is a biblical name of Hebrew origin meaning ‘righteous.’  Whether you’re seeking a more grounded alternative to the modern invented name Zayden, or an update on the classic Zachary, Zadok seems to achieve the perfect balance of fitting in and standing out.

Zedekiah- Another biblical name, Zedekiah means ‘the Lord is just.’ Zedekiah ranks outside the top 1000, yet I feel he’s just as accessible as Zachariah. Zed is a great simple, slick nickname, just like Zack.

Zuriel– Zuriel is a biblical name meaning ‘stone.’ His sound a bit more ‘out there’ than that of many of the others on this list, but I think Zuriel would make a great alternative to the popular Gabriel.

Lennox- Falling somewhere between Leonardo and Knox, Lennox is on trend, fairly simple, and made super cool by the X ending.

Lex- A diminutive of Alexander, the cool Lex could work well both as a nickname and as a given name.  He’d sound great with a longer surname, I think.

Paxton- This English surname has a cute, trendy sound, fitting in with Peyton and Jackson. I think Paxton is one of the few names of this style that could truly age well.


Adaliz- A gorgeous, unusual name to add to the Addie club, Adaliz is of German origin and means “noble.”

Azalea- This floral name is on the rise, ranking #900 in the US in 2012 and #631 in 2013. Azalea is is flowing, special, and I think, pretty wearable.

Aziza- Aziza is of Arabic origin and means ‘powerful’ or ‘beloved.’ She’s clunky but spunky, and if you love the Z sound, she could be just what you’re looking for.

Eliza- Eliza is perhaps my favorite of the names stemming from Elizabeth.  She’s a little vintage and she’s simple and sweet, but not at all boring.

Fiorenza- This glamorous Italian variant of Florence is sure to make a splash. Meaning “flowering,” Fiorenza is feminine and lively.

Hazel- Hazel fits into several trendy categories, from vintage monikers to nature names, and has a delightfully sweet but not-too-feminine sound.  She’s on the rise but hasn’t broken the US top 100…yet!

Nazanin- This beautiful Persian name means ‘sweetheart.’

Zara- This versatile name of multiple origins is sweet and simple with just a dash of quirky.

Calixta- A Spanish variant of the Greek Kallisto, Calixta means ‘most beautiful.’  Calixta is a bold choice, but the girly nickname Callie could make her very wearable.

Xanthe- Xanthe is a beautiful Greek name meaning ‘golden.’ She’s feminine but not excessively girly, and she’s unusual but accessible.

Xylia- Xylia can be pronounced “ZYE-lee-uh” or “SEE-lee-uh” (like Celia). The name may have multiple lineages, but at least one is from the Greek word for ‘forest-dweller.’  I personally think the “Celia” pronunciation is prettier, but if you’re looking for something bold and lively, the alternative pronunciation could work for you!

What do you think of X and Z names? Would you use any of these?

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The Beauty of Japanese Baby Names

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, but I wanted to give this one adequate attention. I love Japanese baby names; these names often have lovely nature and virtue related meanings. But, Japanese baby naming tradition is complex, particularly due to the thousands of kanji (characters) that can be used to spell names. Many kanji have the same sound but different meanings; thus, names that sound the same could have many possible spellings and meanings. Additionally, a single kanji can have more than one sound. Here are some kanji (spelled out phonetically, of course) commonly used in names:

ai = love
hana = flower
hiro = man/husband/hero
ichi = one
ji = two
ken = healthy
ko = child (common in girls’ names)
mi = beauty
rou = son
you = sun

Next are some Japanese names I find most beautiful in sound and meaning. You will see that several of the names I’ve listed have 2 part meanings, representing the kanji commonly combined to create that name. Keep in mind that I have grouped names by gender based on my personal preference or most common usage. Many Japanese names are not considered gender specific.


Aimi- Love+Beautiful
Airi- Love+Jasmine
Akemi- Bright+Beautiful
Akira- Bright+Light
Amarante- Flower that never fades
Aya- Color
Ayame- Iris
Chiyo- Thousand+Generations (eternal)
Emiko- Smiling child (there are a variety of other meanings but this is my favorite)
Hanako- Flower+Child
Kaede (“kah-eh-deh”)- Maple
Kaida- Little dragon
Kanon- Flower+Sound
Kaori- Fragrance
Kazuki- One OR Harmony + Radiance OR Hope
Kohana- Little flower
Maiko- Dance+Child
Miya- Increasing beauty
Moriko- Forest+Child
Shiori- Weave+Poem
Suzume- Sparrow
Tama- Jewel
Tsukiko- Moon+Child


Akio- Bright+Man OR Bright+Hero
Daichi- Great+Earth OR Great+Wisdom
Hajime- Beginning
Isamu- Courage
Kado- Gateway
Kaemon- Joyful
Kazuo- Harmony+Man
Raiden- God of thunder (Rai=thunder, Den=Lightning)
Ronin- Samurai without a master
Ryuu- Dragon
Sora (“so-ruh”)- Sky
Taiki- Great+Radiance
Yasuo- Peaceful man
Yoite- Evening rain
Yori- Trustworthy

What are your favorite Japanese names? Please add your corrections and knowledge of Japanese baby naming!

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