And Meanwhile, Down Deep In the Name Mines...

Jan 3rd 2012

The most popular baby names are the ones that make the news. The real action, though, is deeper down the name list -- the names that are used dozens of times each year, not thousands. That's where you see parents' minds churning, watch the seeds of new hit names sprouting, and realize that names we think of as creative, unique, or even shocking are far from unheard of.

I've been reviewing thousands and thousands of these lesser-known names for the next edition of the Baby Name Wizard book. Wherever I let my eyes stop and linger, there are fascinating details. Here's a smattering of boys' names that have struck me in the past week. (The number next to each name is the number of newborns given that name in the U.S. in 2010.)

Ruger (64) : Rising fast, this name is more evidence of parents' increasing interest in naming children after firearms. Colt, Remington, and Gauge have all soared, and Gunner is much more common than the traditional name Gunnar. The name Stryker (67) has also taken off since the introduction of the army's Stryker armored fighting vehicle.

Osiris (68) :  You know how Ryan helped make the name Orion seem usable? Well it seems that the resurgence of Cyrus is doing the same for Osiris, Egyptian god of the underworld. (A skateboarding sneaker name Osiris might have helped.) The familiar Greek underworld lord Hades barely makes a naming dent.

Axl (61) : Guns N' Roses went 15 years between albums, but they clearly weren't forgotten. The number of baby Axls has been slowly climbing. This name may be the answer if you're looking for a baby brother for little Zeppelin (24).

Jebediah (11) : No, there is no Jebediah in the bible. The name was created by the writers of "The Simpsons" for city founder Jebediah Springfield. It's been making appearances on the name charts ever since. (If you're thinking "then where does Jeb come from?" the answer is it's an occasional old-fashioned nicname for Jacob, or in the case of Jeb Bush, initials: John Ellis Bush.)



By Alli (not verified)
January 5, 2012 8:50 PM

Elizabeth T.: I'll give it a try. I'm probably way off:

Val: Sam, Logan, Ashton, Allie, Madison, Kyley, Boston, Grayson, Kyra

Vicki: Joseph, Caleb, Amanda, Laura, Jed, Liesl, Louis, Vanessa

Alina: Sabrina, Kadence, Angelina, Krista, Tavish, Shad, Victoria

Liesl is the one that I had a really hard time trying to figure out.

January 5, 2012 11:52 PM

ElizabethT-I decided to take a chance. Here goes without looking at other guesses:
Val(5+4)=Joseph; Amanda; Laura; Logan;Madison; Ashton;Sabrina;Allie;Krista
Vicki(8)=Sam;Jed;Shad;Louis;Kyley;Vanessa; Victoria
Alina(7)=Caleb;Grayson;Liesl;Tavish; Kadence;Boston;Kyra; Angelina


By William 1 (not verified)
January 6, 2012 12:18 AM


Well, Zebadiah is in the Bible, and so is Jedidiah.... I think people have sometimes combined the two into a single name. In fact, I've seen a different name site refer to Jebediah as being the same historical name as Zebediah due to their similarity in pronunciation. That's what happens with 4-syllable names, i guess.

By estella (not verified)
January 6, 2012 9:12 AM

@TrapperJenn - my Bea's middle name is Lee, but Lee is a family name and that was going to be her middle name well before we decided on the first name.

January 6, 2012 11:32 AM

I love Conrad and Beatrice, both are fantastic names that fit well with your sibset!

With a 1 syllable last name I might lean toward a 2 syllable middle.

Beatrice Marie Hall
Beatrice Nicole Hall
Beatrice May Hall
Beatrice Violet Hall
Beatrice Grace Hall (I think this goes very well with Sophia)
Beatrice Helen
Beatrice Claire
Beatrice Natalie
Beatrix Louise (I like this better with the x for some reason. Modulates the Britishness, perhaps.)

January 6, 2012 2:18 PM

Amy3: How does the Sabella you know pronounce it?

Zoerhenne: Yes, Chinese/Mexican/Biblical is definitely a challenge! Last time, they went for a Spanish middle name, but picked the Biblical name Asher because of the good meaning ("Happy/Blessed"). The Chinese side didn't get a nod, but really, the kid doesn't look Chinese at all. (Of course, that doesn't mean the next one won't look Asian.) So for this time, I'm look for another Spanish middle name with a good meaning first name.

By Amy3
January 6, 2012 3:14 PM

@Tirzah, I don't know her personally, but I think it's said how it looks - sah-bella. Maybe more of an /S/ sound than the /Z/ you hear in Isabella.

January 6, 2012 4:29 PM

Tirzah-Some names to think about for you are the following:
Seth=i think the perfect match to Asher
Samson=like the sun; warrior
Jude=too biblical??

Middle names=Raul, Miguel, Ruben, Luis, Ramon
So combos=
Ephram Miguel, Samson Luis, Ephram Ramon

I'm sure there are many other names of this style but these kinds of names are not my strong suit.

January 6, 2012 8:53 PM

Thanks Zoerhenne! I hadn't thought of Seth before.

By mbtoutlet (not verified)
January 7, 2012 12:03 AM

Well, Zebadiah is in the Bible, and so is Jedidiah.... I think people have sometimes combined the two into a single name. In fact, I've seen a different name site refer to Jebediah as being the same historical name as Zebediah due to their similarity in pronunciation. That's what happens with 4-syllable names, i guess.

January 7, 2012 12:40 PM

Looks like the members of the American Name Society concur with Laura W.:

"...members of the American Name Society voted for
their names of the year. For the Trade Name of the Year they chose
Siri, the almost-human robot personal assistant of Apple's iPhone;
the Place Name was Fukushima, the Personal Name Qadaffi (however you
spell it), the Fictional Name Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson's
Millennium Trilogy and the overall Name of the Year was Arab Spring."

I gleaned this tidbit from the weekly newsletter World Wide Words ( For those of us who are wordies as well as namies, this is an interesting website and newsletter.

By A Rose, nli (not verified)
January 8, 2012 12:51 PM

@ Tirzah: There is a character named Sibella (pron. with the -bella ending) in the movie "Kind Hearts and Coronets," but that's the only time I've heard of the name.

By Jane 7 (not verified)
January 8, 2012 1:03 PM

Hmmm. I have always thought of Colt as a nature name. I mean, sure, when I see it in a list of weapon names, I think of the gun, but if I saw it by itself I would first think of horses. Sort of like the male equivalent of the female name Fawn. Secondarily I would think of the Old West in general. The gun connotation would be a distant third (or possibly fourth after the little boy nicknamed Colt in the kids' movie The Three Ninjas that I grew up watching - I believe that nickname was a reference to the animal, not the gun.)
I'm a little sad everyone associates it with violence, because I like it as a name. Perhaps, like me, everyone is a little influenced by seeing it in a list of violent names? Would you feel differently about Colt if you saw it in this list: West, Colt, Sable, and Sierra?

By knp
January 8, 2012 1:27 PM

I'd like to announce the arrival of Daphne Aurora on Friday Jan. 6!!

January 8, 2012 4:04 PM

Wonderful knp! Welcome to the world Daphne.

January 8, 2012 6:47 PM

Yipee! Congratulations, knp! You chose a beautiful name.

January 8, 2012 7:51 PM

For those who haven't seen, Beyonce and Jay-Z's daughter Blue Ivy has arrived....

January 8, 2012 10:08 PM

@Knp, congratulations!! I love Daphne Aurora :)

@Miriam, I thought it was Ivy Blue? I think it's a relatively sedate name for a celeb and I think it's not too bad.

January 9, 2012 10:08 AM

Blue was the name of the protagonist of the book "Special Topics in Calamity Physics". It is also the name of the author of the children's book "Chasing Vermeer" (Blue Balliett). I read those two books in the space of one month several years ago and picked Blue to crack the top 1000 that year in Laura's annual contest. Maybe it will rise now that Beyoncé has chosen it.

By the way, I will eventually post the answers (as far as I can tell) to the game I proposed about the polygamous family. The book doesn't list which mother belongs to which child, so I'm going to have to do some detective work. But I'll sort it out as best I can and post back soon.

January 9, 2012 2:12 AM

Chimu, the report is Blue Ivy Carter. If I recall, there are several celebrity offspring with Blue as a first or middle name, with Cher probably the first to use the name for her son Elijah Blue.

January 9, 2012 4:57 AM

@Miriam, yep the reports I first saw said Ivy Blue and I've since read more that say Blue Ivy! I take it back I don't like it that way around :)

By Amy3
January 9, 2012 10:57 AM

@knp, congratulations! What a beautiful name for your beautiful daughter!

Re: Blue Ivy ... I would have liked this so much better had it been Ivy Blue. Blue Ivy is too descriptive for me, but I realize she'll probably mostly be known as Blue Carter. Still not sure I like that, though.

January 9, 2012 12:24 PM

I'm not a big fan of color names. When Cher did it it sounded hipster and not so bad. Elijah Blue has a certain ring to it. Ivy Blue isn't so bad for the sound of it either, but Blue Ivy is just off.
The story is that Blue is a tribute to JayZ and Ivy represents Beyonce's love for the number 4 as in the Roman numeral IV. There are worse things for it to represent I suppose. Moroccan decor?

By knp-nli (not verified)
January 9, 2012 12:29 PM

Thanks everyone!

January 9, 2012 2:17 PM

Knp - Just wanted to add my congratulations! And the name is stunning!

Off-topic - DH just told me that August and Simon rank equally in his esteem. Hmmm...don't know whether that's good or bad.

January 9, 2012 4:04 PM

LOL PennyX! I actually think they weigh pretty equally myself. They are in the same style category, are both sophisticated yet quirky, simple to say yet not often heard. I would have to lean to Simon though if it were my decision. People invariably want to nickname and I think I like Sy better than Gus or Augie. However, August is a family name for me so that might weigh a bit too.

By Anna S (not verified)
January 9, 2012 4:26 PM

@KNP - congrats! I think Daphne is a very lovely name, and I love the pairing with Aurora. (The English pronunciation is a little tricky for me because of the double R-sound but I like it nonetheless).

Re: Blue Ivy - I think the flow of Ivy Blue is better, but apart from that I have no objections. (A celebrity baby with a real name... how refreshing. Oops, did I say that out loud?).

@Tirzah - I've heard of Sibella which is related to Cybil, but not Sebella. A creative spelling, perhaps? Also, I'm second'ing Zoerhenne's suggestion of Asher&Seth and Asher&Jude - I think the names compliment each other very well without loosing their individuality (such as e.g. Asher&Archer, which is a bit too matchy for my taste).

In other news, we've got a local new prince/princess coming soon - siblings are Nicolai & Felix (half siblings, modernish names) and Henrik (whole sibling, named after his grandfather, the prince consort). I'm very curious about which name they'll pick for the next one!

By hyz nli (not verified)
January 9, 2012 5:30 PM

Knp, congratulations!! A lovely name for a lovely little lady, I am sure. :) What a way to start 2012--hope you all are getting some rest and enjoying your sweet new addition.

Selfishly, I'm glad Beyonce and Jay-Z's daughter is Blue Ivy and not Ivy Blue. Non-selfishly, I think it works ok as a celeb name, too. I used to know a little girl (gosh, she might be a teenager now) named Blue, the adorable spunky daughter of some scruffy anarchist hipster types, and I thought it had a nice flair--not something I'd ever use, of course, but in that context it reminded me of the song Little Green from Joni Mitchell's Blue album--kind of wistful, hopeful, defiant, and sincere. And I think Carter is one of those surnames (like we discussed with Jones or Smith before) that pairs well with an unusual first name. Blue Ivy does lean towards the descriptive, but it creates an attractive yet non-dopey image for me (i.e. not too sappy, like Summer Dawn, or too subdivisiony like Willow Haven), so I can let it slide. Altogether, not my favorite name ever, but I see some appeal there and I'm willing to defend it. :)

Elizabeth T. -- looking forward to the answers when you get them!

Penny X., maybe you'll be good to go, then, if you have two boys--sounds like a nice pair to me!

Tirzah, congrats to your sister, too! I've always liked Seth as a traditional but underused name. Other things that may/may not fit the bill: (B) Amos, Asa, Isaac, Isaiah, Jonah, Noah, Silas, Tobias; (G) Hannah/Anna/Ana, Ruth, Salome, Sela(h), Susanna(h), Tabitha, Tamar(a). Not all of them have meanings that are as clearly "happy" as Asher, but I think they have nice meanings and/or nice associations. Looking forward to hearing about their process once they learn the sex!

January 9, 2012 10:05 PM

@PennyX - While I like both Simon and August I so prefer August. Only because I grew up with a few Simons so August is less common to me. Both work well for you though.

@knp - what has been the general reaction to Daphne's name? I hope you have been getting lots of lovely comments.

Re baby Blue. I'm still not sold on it but it could have been worse. It does sound too descriptive too me with Ivy as the middle and blue can have some negative connotations. Interestingly I found Blue quite palatable when I thought it was the middle.

@hyz, not at all selfish of you to like not sharing your daughter's name with celebrity offspring! I feel the same way.

@AnnaS- any predicitons for the name? Do they know whether it's a boy or girl?

January 9, 2012 11:36 PM

Tirzah, I think both Josiah and Josephine go with Asher.

OK, here's what I could glean from the book about Joe Darger and his three wives' children:

Alina (7 kids): Joseph, Laura, Shad, Ashton (boy), Kyra (deceased), Allie, Vanessa

Vicki (8 kids): Caleb, Jed, Louis (?), Logan (?) (boy), Tavish, Sabrina, Boston, Victoria

Valerie (9 kids, 4 with Joe): Sam, Amanda, Grayson (?), Liesl (?), Madison, Kyley, Kadence, Angelina, Krista

The ones with question marks are the ones I'm not sure about.

By Essy01 nli (not verified)
January 10, 2012 11:51 AM

Elizabeth T - fascinating! I had a few siblings together right but a lot wrong as well! Closest entire sibset I got was for Vicki except I thought they were for Alina - I had Joseph, Jed, Liesl, Logan, Tavish, Sabrina, and Victoria for Alina - when Jed, Logan, Tavish, Sabrina, and Victoria are all together just not with the right mom and some other siblings :D that was a lot of fun thanks for sharing!

Tirzah - happy/blessed/good meaning names: Felix (Happy), Benedict (Blessed), Bennett (Blessed), Tobias (God is Good), Evander (Good Man), Darian (Upholder of Good), Declan (Full of good), Tate (Cheerful) [I tried not to include Hebrew names but I like Tobias too much and it fit - but two Hebrew origin names might be too much for a Mexican/Chinese couple]

Spanish/Mexican names: Xavier/Xabier, Dante, Santiago, Diego, Rafael, Ignatio, Oscar, Javier, Antonio, Gael

I like the combos: Bennett Xabier, Felix Ignatio, Evander Gael, Benedict Dante

I really like the sound of Asher and Bennett

By hyz
January 10, 2012 12:38 PM

Hmm, for some reason I thought Tirzah's sister would be looking for biblical names. If not, I do agree that Asher and Bennett sound wonderful together, and I really like Bennett on its own merits, as well.

Elizabeth T., thanks for the answers (or as near as you could get)! Looks like I didn't do too well on Alina (2/7) or Vicki (3/8) and mixed their sets up a lot, but managed to get by passably well on Valerie (6/9), who I think definitely has the most modern/trendy style overall.

By Essy01 nli (not verified)
January 10, 2012 1:02 PM

girl names are not as easy to pick as boy names for me. too many -a endings.

positive meaning first names: Blythe, Jovie, Joley, Bea (I pronounced this to rhyme with Leah), Gwyneth, Eunice, Evangeline, Daria, Agatha, Glenda, Darina, Vera, Lotte, Francine, Francesca, Frances

Spanish names: Carina, Estela, Liliana, Valeria, Jimena, Lucia, Iria, Marta, Aracely

Combos: Blythe Lucia, Jovie Estela, Evangeline Iria, Joley Marta, Francesca Carina, Glenda Aracely, Frances Lucia

I like Asher and Jovie, very cute or Asher and Evangeline with the "Ah" "Ee" sound combo which is nice. I like how depending on what name you pair Asher with, it gives Asher a different feel - it feels very fun with Jovie and very serious with Evangeline.

January 10, 2012 1:33 PM

Elizabeth T-I only got a few right for each women. I did have some of the right siblings together but with the wrong mom. Don't Joseph and Laura just scream siblings to you?

Speaking of siblings, I agree that depending on what it's paired with, Asher can give off a different feeling. I quite like the suggestions Essy01 gave of Xavier, Felix and Tobias. For the girls I like Jolie Marta, Vera Frances, and Evangeline Blythe.

January 10, 2012 3:33 PM

The competition has begun...
Found this while searching the news sites:

By hyz
January 10, 2012 4:54 PM

zoerhenne, fun link--I voted, and noticed I was in the minority on almost each selection, and I generally prefer the names that have already been voted out to those that remain. Oh well.

Looking at the list reminded me, though, that Oliver just moved in with a new group of toddlers, and I was going to share the class list--the other kids are Henry, Jack, Eddie, Sally, and EJ (and one other girl with a more googleable name, which I won't post). Kind of funny, because Henry, Jack, and Oliver seem like the trifecta of antique standard hipster librarian boy names to me. I can just picture them all tipping their hats in a gentlemanly fashion to each other as they drive their horses and carts through the nineteenth century streets. lol. Little Ed and Sally fit in well, too. My daughter also has a Henry and a Jack in her class, though no Oliver at the moment.

January 10, 2012 5:54 PM

zoerhenne, I'm not sure I understand the competition, as Isabella is already the number 1 name. How can it be the name of the future? But it was fun to vote.

January 10, 2012 6:00 PM

knp - Congratulations! Lovely name!

zoerhenne - I was disappointed to find my choices had mostly already been eliminated, but good fun all the same!

In other news - I'm FINALLY in a position to be picking a name for a real life baby! A happy little surprise is due in September! I know it's early days and I'm trying to not count my chickens, but can't help but ask you all for naming advice! My husband shares my interest in less popular names but not in overanalysing them so hopefully you can all help me get a more manageable list! Our surname is that of a famous golfer, 5 letters, 1 syllable W---s. So that rules out my childhood love of flower and nature names to prevent the kid from sounding like a new housing development! We're also in a regional area of the UK so the Times/Telegraph style names (which I love) are much less common. It also means I'm open to Gaelic names, though probably more as middles.

That's the background. Current favourites at the moment are outlined below (and also on my profile here on BNW, although many of them are my guilty pleasures) I'd love your views on how they fit with our surname and any other names you think we should consider:

Philippa (Pippa)
Elizabeth (Lizzie)

Roland (Roly)

By hyz
January 10, 2012 6:23 PM

NJ, congratulations! I have to say, Alistair W__s is really swoon-worthy for me, and works well with so many of the others on your list as middles--I particularly like Elias, Elijah (although this is tricky due to the similarly named actor), Cadogan, Euan, Bennett, Octavian, Barnaby, and Gideon as middles for Alastair ___ W. Sigh--just lovely.

From your girls list, my favorites that I also think go beautifully with your surname are: Philippa (Pippa), Audrey, Fiona, Helen, Matilda, Virginia (although Virginia W__ does sound pretty geographical to my American ears), and Bethan.

I think my top choices from your lists would be something like Alistair Elias, Philippa Bethan, and Mathilda Helen. Looking forward to your name hunt--lots of great options here!

By RoseI (not verified)
January 10, 2012 6:43 PM

I have been writing a story and am entirely at a loss for a name for one of the characters. The names of the other main characters are:
And Morgan
I am looking for a name beginning with a c or a k, not to common but well known, not to serious, and preferably ending in y or ie. I know this is a tall order but would appreciate any advice. Thanks

By Anna S (not verified)
January 10, 2012 9:20 PM

@Chimu - they have not announced the gender (per tradition), and I have no guesses about the name. The oldest two (Nicolai and Felix) are from a (his) previous marriage, and the youngest, Henrik, was named after the paternal grandfather - unprecedented for someone at this place in the succession. Plus, Henrik has his maternal grandfather's name as one of his middle names. So there's no obvious follow-up name for another boy and no established patterns for girl names - and that's why I'm so curious about what they'll pick ;-)

January 10, 2012 11:28 PM

Regarding the competition: I did not create this. I found it and thought it would be fun. My understanding is that it is like the bracket method that Laura has referred to in the past as a helper to pick names. In this case I believe they are investigating the "most liked name" so it is asking you to just simply pick your favorite. It is interesting that many of us here go against the grain.

hyz-Fun facts about Oliver's class. I agree that Henry, Jack and Oliver make a pretty good trifecta.

Rosel-I instantly thought of Lisa. This was before I read your criteria though. After that My thoughts went to Kristy, Courtney, or Cassidy/Cassie.

January 11, 2012 12:41 AM

NJ-Congrats! since it is your first you are pretty wide open for options. Out of the names you've listed these are my favs for you:

Audrey; Felicity; Fiona; Adelaide
Helen; Evelyn; Georgiana; Jane
Juliet; Ciara

Alistair; Henry; Patrick; Isaiah

I also like Colin; Jeffrey; Mitchell
and Theresa; Leisel; Penelope

ETA: I also thought of Owen, and Quentin.

January 11, 2012 2:10 AM

@AnnaS - I do remember now that Nicolai and Felix were the first marriage. I've always liked that pairing too. A girl could be interesting :)

@NJ - big congrats!! Hopefully all goes well.
You have some lovely names there. I agree the nature names are probably a no go (sadly) but still lots of great names to pick from.

for girls my faves would be:
Juliet, Georgiana, Matilda, Adeline
then probably: Phillipa, Bethan and Adelaide

for boys:
Alistair, Theo and Patrick would be my picks

I agree Alistair W.... is wonderful!!

January 11, 2012 11:35 AM

Question: NJ's dilemma has me thinking why some names work and some names don't. So I would probably not use a nature name with that given LN either. However, why are we not fussed with an animal name. Is it because it's a celebrity? Do we just "get used" to some names because we hear them frequently in the news?

By Essy01 nli (not verified)
January 11, 2012 12:06 PM

RoseI - Carlie, Keely, Carmindy, Carrie, Cherry, Charlie, Cobie, Cammie, Katy, Chloe, Cindy

non-"ie" enders that you might entertain: Cynthia, Carmen, Cassia, Cora, Catherine, Calista, Cera, Kathleen, Katrina

NJ - congrats! that's so exciting :)

I'm with everyone else I love the name Alistair esp. with your last name. Alt. spelling - Alastair like English cricketer Alastair Cook. Other boy names I like: Rory, Roland, and Theo. The others sound really popular to me, except Wilson but Wilson always reminds me of the volleyball from Castaway. Rory gets positive points for me because of Doctor Who and Rory McIlroy (what a golfer name that would be)

Girl names I like Georgiana, Felicity, and Martha. I think Virgina + your LN is too close to Virginia Woolf for me.

Other potential you might like
Boys: Arthur, Rupert, Dexter, Benton, Ernest
Girls: Florence, Tabitha, Maxine, Kitty, Elinor

By Essy01 nli (not verified)
January 11, 2012 12:34 PM

zoerhenne - I think your exactly right - there is a psychology phenomenon called the Mere Exposure Effect that theorizes that the more exposed to something you are the more positive and preferential you will feel towards that something. It happens to me all the time especially with top 40 radio. I generally dislike new pop songs, but they get played again and again and eventually I end up singing them all the time and loving them. e.g. every Katy Perry song ever. It doesn't work if you really really dislike something though, then it works the opposite way the more you see/hear it the more you hate it. but if you're in the neutral to positive range, exposure works like a charm.

January 11, 2012 1:05 PM

the grammar police in me wishes I had logged on to post that above post so I could change the your in the first sentence *sigh*

thought of another alt. spelling of Alistair - Alasdair, I think it's the original Scottish spelling.

Also, thought I'd throw Amelia into the pool (or should I say pond?).

January 11, 2012 1:30 PM

Essy-LOL the occasional spelling/grammar mistake is okay here. The only "police" here are unfriendly comment ones. I totally understand that explanation above. It does also happen to me with songs although I have an aversion to Katy Perry based on content.